On Walkabout Restaurant Review: Mangia! Mangia!

Basic Information

  • Name: Mangia! Mangia!
  • Where: Woodland Park, Colorado
  • Type of Restaurant: Italian
  • More Information: Mangia! Mangia! website

Picture from Mangia! Mangia!

Narrative

Last year I read in the local Gazette newspaper about how celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay was bringing his Kitchen Nightmares restaurant makeover show to little old Woodland Park just up the road from Colorado Springs.  The restaurant he selected to give a make over was an Italian restaurant called Mangia! Mangia! which is Italian for Eat! Eat!  I figured this may be the only time that my family and I would have a chance to eat at a restaurant that was given the Gordon Ramsay treatment, so we made the drive up to Woodland Park to have lunch at the restaurant.  Mangia! Mangia! was very easy to find since it is located inside an old Arby’s building just off of Highway 24 when you first drive into Woodland Park from Colorado Springs:

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On Walkabout At: Drifter’s Hamburgers In Colorado Springs

I have pretty much over the past 2 years eliminated eating any beef with antibiotics or hormones.  This has led to pretty much elimination of fast food hamburgers from my diet.  However, I recently heard about a local burger restaurant here in Colorado Springs that offers hormone and antibiotic free beef.  The restaurant is called Drifter’s Hamburgers and they currently have two locations in Colorado Springs.  The other day my family and I decided to check out their recently opened restaurant near the Chapel Hills Mall on the north side of town.


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This is Drifter’s second restaurant with their original continuing to operate near the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs (UCCS) campus.

The Drifter’s near the Chapel Hills Mall is located inside an old Taco Bell building that could probably use some renovations.  When recently visiting the location we found the building a bit rundown and in need of heat.  Yes it was cold inside and we had to keep our jackets on while eating.  To be fair the next time we visited this location the heat was set higher and much more pleasant to eat in the restaurant.

Drifter’s tries to come across as a In-N-Out type of restaurant and unfortunately at their Chapel Hills location I did not gets this vibe though they had a few surfer pictures hanging up on the walls.  I am assuming since the restaurant just recently opened they have plans to improve the building.  However, it is a good location with plenty of traffic that should attract customers if they renovate the place a bit.  Besides location, good food is another key attribute for a successful restaurant.  I found that at least on the hamburger front Drifter’s is actually pretty good.

The burgers are not very large and not greasy like most other fast food burgers.  People used to large patties may not like the small size of these patties, but I like them because I don’t feel so bloated after eating one of these burgers.  The lack of grease is also much better for the body than what most fast food restaurants provide.  Something else I like is that the buns also are organic and do not use any genetically modified crops.  So compared to its fast food competition Drifter’s provides a quality hamburger.  However their french fries I was not impressed by.  The fries are basically the standard fare you could buy on sale at the Wal-Mart food aisle.  They taste very average which is surprising considering the high quality burgers Drifter’s makes:

Conclusion

Overall, I like Drifter’s, but I think they still need to take the extra step to be comparable to the In-N-Out burger franchise from California they are trying to imitate.  They got the burger figure out, but more needs to be done to improve the fries.  At In-N-Out’s you can actually see them using peeled potatoes to make their freshly made french fries with.  If Drifter’s can continue to improve their product they could really be on to something.  I definitely will be going back whenever I feel the urge to eat a hamburger.  I will pass on the fries though.

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On Walkabout Restaurant Review: Shinsadong Korean BBQ

Whenever my wife and I drive up to Denver we like to go eat at some of the Korean and Japanese restaurants in the city because of the high quality of many of these restaurants compared to their competitors in Colorado Springs.  Our favorite Korean restaurant is a called Shinasadong Korean BBQ which actually was once located in Colorado Springs.  The restaurant was very popular in Colorado Springs, but was located in a very small building in a strip mall off of Academy Boulevard.  Their new restaurant is located in the Denver suburb of Aurora just off of Parker Road in a strip mall shopping center:

[googlemaps https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&ie=UTF8&q=shinsadong+korean+bbq+denver&fb=1&gl=us&hq=shinsadong+korean+bbq&hnear=0x876b80aa231f17cf:0x118ef4f8278a36d6,Denver,+CO&cid=0,0,2429681171719002773&t=m&ll=39.67527,-104.868407&spn=0.007927,0.013733&z=16&iwloc=A&output=embed&w=640&h=480]

The new building they are in is huge compared to their prior location in Colorado Springs.  The building was once home to another Korean restaurant called Korea House which was shut down and the building remodeled for use by Shinsadong:

The inside of the building is actually quite nice with a lot money put into some nice wood working features within the dining area.  There is also a few large flat screen televisions up that allow people to watch whatever sports games are on at the time.  I am not a big fan of the TVs since it takes away from the Korean atmosphere in my opinion and creates more of a sports bar atmosphere.

The best thing about Shinsadong is the food.  Customers have the option of either having the kitchen cook the food for them or have the food cooked Korean style on a grill at your table.  Pictured below is some Korean samgyeopsal being grilled at our table with small banchan around it:

It seemed that when the restaurant first opened the servers provided more banchan, but have since scaled back.  However, if you ask for a particular banchan they will bring it out for you.  Though not every server does it, but some of them setup the table with the banchan and other food in traditional Korean style which almost makes the table look like a work of art.  This is a small detail I really take notice of and like at a Korean restaurant.  Overall the service I have found to be good during my family’s visits to Shinsadong though it seems they do have quite a turn over in staff because it seems like we see a few new servers every time we go there.  The prices at Shinsadong are affordable with lunch costing mostly between $9.00 – $15.00 and dinner from $12.00 – $25.00.  You can see the full food and drink menu at this link.

Shinsadong rates high over at Yelp.com with 4 out of 5 stars and I tend to agree with this ranking.  The food is quite good and of high quality at Shinsadong, but not as good as some of the Korean restaurants I have eaten at in Korea or other places outside of Korea.  However, for the Colorado region Shinsadong has the best Korean BBQ that I have tried yet. Besides the tasty food, the service is good, and the prices reasonable.  So I definitely recommend this restaurant for anyone looking for some quality Korean BBQ in the Denver area.

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Pictures of Western Restaurants In Tokyo, Japan

Basic Information

  • What: Fast Food Restaurants
  • Where: Tokyo, Japan

Narrative

When walking around Tokyo the amount of Western restaurants available is really quite surprising for first time travelers to the country.  In fact I have known western visitors to Japan that live off of the familiar fast food outlets instead of trying some of the local restaurants.  I always encourage travelers to try and eat all of their meals at local restaurants in order to get a true cultural travel experience when abroad.  Unfortunately most people just do not have the stomach to do this.  If you are someone who just doesn’t have the stomach for Japanese food then these below pictures of the western fast food chain restaurants should be of interest to you.

This first picture is of ubiquitous McDonald’s:

I don’t know if this is a fact or not, but to me it seemed like there were more McDonald’s in Japan than any other western fast food outlet:

It is important to keep in mind that the McDonald’s in Japan are slightly different from their Western counterparts with some food items specific to the Japanese taste.  There is also no Western style breakfast for sale either.  Finally the food is more expensive and the portions are smaller compared to the US.

Colonel Sanders’, Kentucky Fried Chicken can also be found in Tokyo:

Here is a Wendy’s:

I never ate at either Wendy’s or KFC in Japan because I do not eat at these restaurants back in the US either.  So if anyone has tried these restaurants out before in Japan please leave a comment.

If you want to try out a local fast food burger restaurant than Lotteria is the chain restaurant that can be found all over Japan:

I have eaten at Lotteria a few times before and do not like their burgers, but I don’t mind eating their chicken burgers which aren’t that bad.  Besides being found in Japan Lotterias are also very popular in South Korea.

If you are not up to eating fast food and want to sit down at a table and order food, Tokyo even has a Denny’s for you to eat at:

If you want to eat some where a little more upscale than a Denny’s than there is the Hard Rock Cafe to try out as well:

I haven’t ate at either of these place either because if I want to sit down to eat I will go to a Japanese restaurant instead.  The way I look at it is that I don’t travel all the way to Japan just to eat American food.

Conclusion

Overall, the food choices in Japan is quite numerous with restaurants for just about everyone’s food tastes.  However, it is important to keep in mind that though a popular chain restaurant may be located in Japan, that doesn’t mean that the food is going to taste the same.

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On Walkabout At: The Black Bear Diner In Colorado Springs

When I first moved to Colorado Springs the first restaurant that was recommended to me by people I knew was the Black Bear Diner located near the Citadel Shopping Mall on Academy Street:


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According to the Black Bear Diner’s website the restaurant is in fact a chain that had its beginnings in California:

In 1861 a gold prospector by the name of Sisson fell in love with Strawberry Valley – a quaint mountain meadow at the foot of Mt. Shasta in far northern California. He opened an inn near the town now called Mt. Shasta City. This inn overlooked the wild berry patches nearby that were frequented by both black bears and people alike. Tired travelers soon became aware of Sisson’s fabulous hospitality and the inn became a well-known stopover. Large portions of quality food in an interesting and friendly atmosphere became the standard that people expected on their visits.

In 1995, Bob and Laurie Manley, along with their partner Bruce Dean, opened the first Black Bear Diner on the site of the old strawberry patches near Mt. Shasta. They were determined to rekindle the level of hospitality that was lavished upon early guests to Strawberry Valley. The menu, service and decor were designed to remind the guest of a time when life was a little more simple, and service and quality were the cornerstones of business. The owners feel great satisfaction that after one hundred years, the black bears again look over Strawberry Valley.

Although the family of restaurants called Black Bear Diner has grown from the single location at Mt. Shasta, to over 50 restaurants in the Western United States, each restaurant is still dedicated to the same simple concepts that made the original inn at Strawberry Valley famous.  [Black Bear Diner website]

Everyone I talked to that had eaten there raved about how good the breakfasts were there, so it didn’t take my wife and I long before we decided to go check it out.  The place was easy to find considering that there is a huge wooden bear located in the front of the diner:

My little 2 year old absolutely loves bears and so now every time we go to the Black Bear she has to spend some time playing with the wooden bears outside:

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Picture of the Day: BBQ Bacon Smashburger

This is a picture of one of my favorite hamburgers. It is a BBQ Bacon burger from Smashburger. It may not look like much but it is delicious.

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On Walkabout At: The Flying-W-Ranch Steakhouse

Basic Information

  • Name: Flying-W-Ranch Steakhouse
  • Where: Colorado Springs, Colorado
  • Prices: Adults $25.00+, Kids $13.00
  • More Information: Flying-W-Ranch website

Narrative

I had see a brochure about the Flying-W-Ranch a couple of months ago and thought it would be a fun place to take my wife and daughter to.  During the summer the entire ranch grounds are open and they have a number of shops, shows, and other activities for the whole family to enjoy.  During the winter time the ranch is only open on Saturdays and occasionally Fridays for dinner service at the ranch’s steakhouse.  To dine at the steakhouse you have to call or make a reservation on their website.  So I called and spoke to a really nice lady who took my credit card information to reserve our table.  So on the Saturday we had our reservations we drove to the steakhouse which is located a couple of miles to the north of the Garden of the Gods in northwest Colorado Springs.  It was kind of interesting to be driving to the ranch because the road goes through a very nice residential neighborhood which had us thinking is there really a ranch over here?  Then the residential neighborhood ends and the road exits into the ranch.  Into the below Google Maps image you can see how the ranch is nearly completely surrounded by residential communities now:


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As we drove into the ranch there was a gentleman dressed in cowboy attire that directed us where to park and from there we walked into the ranch:

The grounds of the ranch were quite nice and it looked like it would be a fun place to checkout during the summer time:

The grounds even had a church on it that is used for anyone who would like to use the ranch as a venue to get married at:

The ranch also had a number of Old West memorabilia on display as well such as these wagons:

Something I found interesting is that the Flying W Ranch is an actual working mountain cattle ranch that has been in operation since 1953.  In later years the entertainment and steakhouse were added to supplement the ranch’s income. During the winter and spring just the Steakhouse was open to visitors so we really didn’t have much of a chance to checkout the grounds of the ranch.  We definitely plan on visiting the ranch again during the summer and then we will get to fully experience the ranch.  From the grounds we walked over to where the steakhouse is located.  At the entrance we were met by a nice gentleman dressed as a cowboy who confirmed our reservation and took us to our table which was on the 2nd floor of the restaurant.  The inside of the restaurant we found to be elaborately decorated with various Old West artwork, memorabilia, and animal heads.

To start out with our waiter another gentleman also dressed as a cowboy brought out some appetizers for us:

The chips were just your typical store bought nacho chips but the cheesy pepper dipping sauce was outstanding.  We also had honey butter that was good for dipping the popcorn in as well.  I asked the waiter if the dipping sauces were homemade and said they were.  We then placed our order with myself ordering the 13 ounce Kansas City Strip Steak ($28.00) and my wife ordering the BBQ Chicken ($25.00).  Something different about this steakhouse is that the meat is not brought out to you.  They have a loud speaker that says your table number and then you have to walk outside to the BBQ area to pick up your meat.  It is kind of cool to be able to see how your meat is cooked outside on a charcoal BBQ grill.  After walking back with the meat to our table the waiter then brought out all the side dishes which consisted of baked potatoes, bread, and beans:

Both the chicken and the steak was outstanding.  The baked potatoes were just your standard baked potato, but the bread was delicious especially when eaten with the honey butter.  We ate the bread pretty quickly especially our toddler daughter who loved it and our waiter brought out some more for us.  I am also not a big eater of beans, but these beans tasted great and we ate the entire kettle of baked beans.  We ate so much of the appetizers and main course we were too full to order dessert which also looked quite good.  Maybe next time.

Sufficiently full we then sat back to watch the western musical show that follows dinner.  The Wranglers as the band is called was quite good and I think even people who do not listen to country music will enjoy the show.  The band does more than just play music they also mix some cowboy humor in with their performance with some of the lines being quite funny:

Conclusion

Dinner lasts about an hour and the music show lasts another hour, so it is a two hour experience at the steakhouse.  Our bill for the evening came to over $50 which is a bit pricey, but considering the quality of the food and the good time we had watching the western show we thought the dinner was worth every penny and want to visit the steakhouse again when some friends visit in the future.  In short if you don’t mind spending $50 for nice dinner then the Flying W Ranch is well worth checking out.

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On Walkabout At: Hamachi Sushi In El Paso

Where I live in El Paso, Texas the quality of the Japanese restaurants here is pretty poor compared to other places I have lived.  So I was a bit excited to see that a new sushi restaurant opened up in the northeast which I hoped would be better than the other Japanese restaurants I have eaten at in El Paso.  The restaurant is named Hamachi Sushi, which is located on north Dyer Street right before where Dyer intersects with Loop 375.  When my wife and I walked into the restaurant we were impressed by El Paso standards with the interior, which was nicely decorated and most importantly clean:

Picture from Hamachi Sushi In El Paso

The menu was typical Japanese restaurant fare though we were able to order some Korean BBQ ribs as an appetizer, which was a dead give away that this restaurant was run by Koreans:

Picture from Hamachi Sushi In El Paso

The BBQ ribs were a bit chewy, but were actually quite good.  Not the best BBQ ribs I have had, but I would definitely order them again the next time I visit.  We did end up finding out that the restaurant is Korean run, which I have found in El Paso is a good thing since the Koreans tend to not modify their food to meet local tastes, which gives it a bit more authenticity.  So I was eager to eat some more food and soon enough my order arrived:

Picture from Hamachi Sushi In El Paso

The chicken teriyaki with my order was really good, the salad tasty, and the California rolls weren’t too bad, but for a restaurant with the word sushi in it, I found the sushi to be quite poor.  In fact I couldn’t even finish eating it because it was so dry and was obviously not fresh and I wouldn’t be surprised if it wasn’t left sitting out for awhile.  I actually worried I would get food poisoning if I continued to eat it so I stopped.

My wife ordered a bento box with beef teriyaki, which she found to be quite tasty as well:

Picture from Hamachi Sushi In El Paso

This place can definitely cook up some good teriyaki.  My wife like me enjoyed the salad and the rest of her meal as well.  As far as the service we found our waitress to be average, but not bad.  Overall we left with a positive impression of the place because of the good food despite the bad sushi.  It may have been a one time thing, but that was the worse sushi I have had in El Paso and trust me there is some really bad sushi in El Paso.  Despite its faults my wife and I will definitely give the place a try again in the future and hopefully the sushi gets better.

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