WE’RE BACK!!! Is anybody out there? After a long hiatus to allow us to do some food “research” and build up spots to talk about and work on raising our small family, Pop Culture Cuisine is back on the menu. We’re so excited! I’ll be the first to admit that I sort of let the blog start to die a slow death after the birth of Kherington, largely due in part to not wanting to be creative when I had any moment of down time, but I began to realize that the thought of giving it up completely was kind of sad. PCC is something we’ve always enjoyed…, a little scrapbook of our life and adventures, and while our travels have maybe become less frequent, that doesn’t mean we still don’t like to make trying out new restaurants we have heard about a priority when we are able to travel. Plus, now we have the ability to do PCC as a family and I’m looking forward to how Kheri enjoys these experiences. So here we go…
Given that warmer weather is FINALLY now upon us, my pregnant self (yes… #2 will be here in October) has been craving fruity things like you would not believe. Produce, lemonade, popsicles…, you name it, we have it currently on hand for whenever the mood strikes, which lately is all day every day! So what better spot to highlight and kick off the summer than this next fun dessert/sweet treat shop in Nashville, TN.
Restaurant: Las Paletas (Nashville, TN)
Featured on Food Network’s “Kid in a Candy Store” and “Throwdown with Bobby Flay” (where they beat Bobby) Las Paletas is a Mexican Ice Pop Shop with yummy flavors of popsicles both traditional and many others you have likely never seen or even thought of. They range in flavor from every type of fruit imaginable to even some more savory and even spicy options. It’s a great mid-day or after dinner treat and you will be hard pressed to want to only try one.
Popsicles or Ice Pops as they refer to them here IS the menu at this little shop. I really can’t remember if there is anything else…which wouldn’t matter, because pretty much everyone goes there for the ice pops. They’ve imagined all sorts of delicious and refreshing flavors and have no shortage of things to try. Even if popsicles aren’t your thing, I would still encourage you to give it a whirl. It’s just a light and refreshing treat and I can almost promise you they will have at least one flavor that sparks your interest.
I was extremely impressed with the flavor of each popsicle we tried; and while I stuck with the more standard fruity strawberry, I was blown away by every flavor I got a lick of, which I think was like 7 or 8 with all the people we had with us! J The pops are made with all natural ingredients and I was blown away by how rich the flavor was without needing a ton of syrups or fakey stuff. I even tried a friend’s pop that was a chocolate pop with some pepper flavor infused, and while it wasn’t my cup of tea, I was for sure impressed with its complexity and uniqueness.
Located on a not overly busy street in one of Nashville’s trendy urban neighborhoods, Las Paletas has found themselves a nice little location next to one of the city’s more popular high-end burger joints (which we will feature in the future). While there aren’t really places to sit down per se, it is fun to kind of mingle of the street outside the shop and just enjoy your treats in the warm air. Inside the shop, there isn’t much glitz and glam, but the large blackboard menu and simple set up add to the non-fussy vibe of what they are really all about…just yummy popsicles!
There were two young kids, probably in high school, who were working the evening we went last summer; and while all you really do is wait, order your flavor, pay, and go outside and enjoy…they were very patient as we read through all of the flavors and even went so far as to giving us more information on any that we asked about. It seemed like a genuinely fun and whimsical place to work.
At $2.50 a popsicle, you might argue they are overpriced. But, I don’t think so. Yes…they are seemingly more expensive than buying a whole box of bomb pops or whatever your fancy might be at the grocery store, they are 10 times more flavorful and filled with completely all natural ingredients. Couple that with the WIDE range of flavors they offer and I think they are worth every penny they charge, so much so it didn’t stop us each for getting 2 each .
Overall we had a wonderful time heading to Las Paletas with friends enjoying some good fun and conversation while enjoying some equally yummy sweet treats. And given my current pregnant state I wish I lived nearby, because Momma has a cravin’! Ya…I’d probably be stopping in every day, but in the meantime I will just wait to enjoy those frozen delights the next time we are in Nashville!
So Las Paletas gets us off to a good start this season with a very worthy 4 ½ ‘Little Piggies’…or ‘Cerdito Pequenos’ as I should maybe say.
Restaurant: Tom + Chee (Cincinnati, OH)
Featured on Travel Channel’s “Man vs. Food” and The Today Show, our next feature is a unique Grilled Cheese Shop that offers up a whole variety of sandwiches, soups, and salads…all around one of the best foods…CHEESE!!! Based in Cincinnati, Tom + Chee is a cheese lover’s paradise and they even have a special spin on sweet with one of the most unique dishes we’ve seen yet…a grilled cheese that uses a glazed donut as the bread…, yes a donut! Anyway, we had the opportunity to go with my parents, brother and sister in-law on a quick trip to Cincinnati and we were far from disappointed.
SIGNATURE DISH: If my little blurb above didn’t give it away…grilled cheese sandwiches are this little shop’s forte. But these aren’t your momma’s Kraft singles slapped between two slices of Bunny Bread…not in the slightest. Tom + Chee’s creations are some serious cheesy goodness, from a classic plain cheese, to ones mixed with meat combinations; and as we mentioned…, on a donut! Pretty much any cheesy combo you can think of they are doing it and doing it well!
TASTE: While I’m not very picky when it comes to a grilled cheese, I now know I clearly have been missing out in this sandwich department all these years. I mean…what’s not to love…buttery thick bread, ooey gooey cheese coming out the sides, and any addition you can possibly think of. These totally hit the spot and although unlike any other grilled cheese I’d ever had, not so weird that I wouldn’t keep going back for more. A bunch of us also tried their soups, and both the creamy tomato and cheese soups were extremely tasty and perfect for those cheesy dips. Finally we all tried a bite of their grilled cheese donut, while although hard to describe, was pretty much the best thing you have ever tried!
AMBIANCE: The location we visited was just a little shop downtown Cincinnati that I would say had no more than 5 or 6 tables and the counter you ordered from. You could literally see their small kitchen. I guess what more do they really need than their flat top? We were there when they opened so we easily snagged a table and it was a perfect cute and quaint city spot to catch a quick bite, but I can’t imagine being there when they are busy.
SERVICE: You order at the counter and from there they quickly whip up your sandwiches and grab your soups and bring them to you. There wasn’t much in the way of service, but nothing to complain about.
PRICE: For six sandwiches and for most of us soups as well, I thought the prices were very reasonable. Often time new trendy places that come in get you with their prices, because well…they can. But I felt that this was really no more or less than you might find at a local deli or something similar, so I found them to be spot on.
Overall, lunch at Tom + Chee was a great way to spend a Sunday morning and we had a really fun time getting to try bites of eachother’s cheesy creations. We also recently learned that a Tom + Chee opened where my parents live in Louisville, so you’ll be sure to hear us talking about it again. I give Tom AND Chee 4 ‘Little Piggies.’
Now that Adam and I are parents and time is no longer something that flows like wine (ummm….wine!), we’ve decided to cut down Pop Culture Cuisine to be more streamlined. We will still be bringing great reviews of some of the most pop culture worthy restaurants in the country, we are just going to focus more on the major points of the review (i.e., Signature Dish, Taste, Ambiance, Price, and Service). There will be some backstory, but we want to make sure we get the the meat and potatoes of what makes this restaurant worthy or our pop culture interest and if it’s worth the hype.
So…with out further ado…this week I introduce you to the new simpler reviews of PCC with our visit to Kuma’s Corner in Chicago. To get a better idea of this place, take a look at the videos below of when Guy Fieri visited for Food Network’s “Diner’s Drive-Ins and Dives” and when it was featured on Cooking Channel’s “Unique Eats”…
This was actually our second attempt to go to the popular Chicago burger bar, being that the first time the wait was 3-4 hours! So, the next time around we decided to show up 30 minutes before they opened to assure us a spot…and we STILL had to wait in a line!
SIGNATURE DISH: Burgers are the name of the game at Kuma’s, but not just any ol’ burger. These burgers are “amped” up to be just as LOUD as the bar’s Heavy Metal theme, which they are true to all the way down to the menu. They do have some other things on the menu (like the ingenious ‘Make Your own Mac & Cheese!), but at their core they are a hard core burger joint.
TASTE: Ok…burgers are one of those foods that is hard to be Amazing! It is either “ya…that’s pretty good” or “ehhh.” What I mean is there isn’t much room between bad and good…kinda like pizza. That being said…Kuma’s is AMAZING!!! Probably one of the best burger’s I’ve ever had. It’s juicy and flavorful and most of all memorable. If I lived in Chicago, this would be the only place I’d want to go for a burger…it’s that good. Plus, all the burgers come on pretzel roll which is probably why Kuma’s has been named the “Best Burger in Chicago!” Really…you gotta have one, and you’ll agree this burger is foodie bliss.
AMBIANCE: Remember…Kuma’s Corner is a bar fashioned after the music of Heavy Metal, and while heavy metal really isn’t my cup of tea normally, there is something about it that really works and lends itself to the whole experience at Kuma’s. While the metal really adds to the whole HARD CORE vibe, it also still has that small cramped old school feeling that is so comforting and familiar in like every bar in Chicago.
SERVICE: This place is so popular and packed that the staff is working their butt off! Although we had some forethought and got in line super early so we would ensure ourselves a spot right when they opened, they were literally packed to the gills within moment of opening that door. That being said, although they were instantly busy and packed, our waitress was as attentive as she could be and friendly, a lot friendlier than I was expecting giving the whole vibe of the place…, yeah I am judgy. She even was patient as we were holding a table and waiting for our friends Jenn & Bob to join us. Overall…great servcie.
PRICE: While these burgers are a little on the pricey side (most priced around $13), they pack a whole lot of fun and fancy ingredients on a bun and you will definitely not be hungry afterwards…that is if you can finish it! So although maybe more than your local drive-in or fast food joint, considering these burgers have a lot going on and are pretty DARN good, I will overlook the price.
So while we have tried our fair share of burgers over the course of the last few years, this certainly ranks up there with some of the best EVVA. I mean yes, a burger is a burger is a burger, but cook it right, throw some outstanding ingredients on, complete its flavor profile with the wonderfulness of a pretzel bun and convince Katie that no burger is now complete without egg, and you have yourselves a true winner in my book. I’m so glad to say we were finally able to try Kuma’s Corner and I happily give it 4 1/2 ‘Little Piggies.’