Friday, August 17, 2012

Bowie Restaurant Project: (55) Jersey Mike's

For an explanation of the Bowie Restaurant Project, look here.

For a list of all the Bowie Restaurant Project reviews, look here.

Jersey Mike's, 6844 Race Track Road
Most Recent Foursquare Check-in: 8/17/2012
Total Foursquare Check-ins: 2
Pre-Foursquare Visits: No
Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5 stars
Jersey Mike's Menu

I had never heard of Jersey Mike's until the Bowie location was announced, but apparently it's one of the five biggest sub chains in America. Huh.

I first went there on the day of their grand opening. The place was packed, and somebody at the door asked me if I was familiar with their offerings, and then suggested I order a #13 Mike's Way. Or maybe he suggested a #7. Anyway, despite the scripted nature of the pitch, I appreciated the attempt at friendliness and ordered a #7. When I got it back to my office, it was surprisingly tasty, particularly the meat.

A little Internet research determined that they take pride in slicing their meat fresh for each sub, rather than breaking out pre-sliced meat, like Subway. I was impressed.

The Bowie Living blog reported a less positive experience with employee banter. On the one hand, that's too bad. On the other hand, if you're preparing a blog entry, you really hope for that sort of thing to punch up your writeup. Anyway, go read it, it's entertaining.

Christina stopped by there around the same time. She said that the employees were actually fairly far off-script and were complaining about the manager, who had just stepped out. She was less impressed with her sub and noted the lack of toppings choice compared to Subway. She also remarked that she had seen better-decorated gas stations.

For today's visit, I decided to try something different, the cheesesteak. A guy took my order before I got up to the sub-prep area, and it wasn't ready when I paid, which was kind of weird. They were still pretty busy, so I had plenty of time to notice the other patrons as I shuffled past the toppings.

The woman behind me pointed at the lettuce and asked if she could get something fresher, because it looked "terrible". Indeed, it was brown enough to have gotten tossed from my fridge at home. The worker behind the counter hesitantly pulled the lettuce and started to take it towards the back. The manager noticed what she was doing and told her to put it back and serve the rest of it.

The worker explained the woman's complaint, which led to a conversation between the customer and the manager. As far as I could tell, the lettuce was eventually yanked, but not without some sort of explanation being offered up. I didn't hear it, and as a customer, I don't really care.

I used to think that you shouldn't speak up about things like that -- just don't get the lettuce, and don't come back. Now I believe there's enough things going wrong that could be pointed out -- let's see if they fix it, and if I have to police the quality of the ingredients every time. So kudos to that woman; I hope she got some fresh lettuce.

As for my cheesesteak? I was so hungry, and it smelled so good that I ended up eating it in the car. The taste however, was not thrilling. Certainly not as good as the turkey sub.

Which leads me to my overall evaluation of Jersey Mike's. I'm glad it's not a Subway. Bowie has enough of those. In some ways it's better than Subway, and in some ways it's worse. But it provides variety.

On the other hand...just walk a few doors down to Chesapeake Grille & Deli. For $6.95, Jersey Mike's will sell you "Jersey Mike's Famous Philly"; for $7.99 you get Chesapeake's "Sirloin Cheese Steak" -- chips included. For $6.99, you can get the "Chicken Cheese Melt", whereas at Jersey Mike's you're still paying $7.99 and not getting chips. Across the board, the prices are fairly similar, though at Jersey Mike's you have a slightly different selection of sandwiches. At Chesapeake Grille, you get a much more diverse menu, though.

So although I'll skip Jersey Mike's in the future and just go to Chesapeake Grille, I give them some points for making Bowie's chain-sub restaurant selection slightly more interesting. So two-and-a-half stars.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Nebula Update: Fountains of Paradise

Last night I got around to watching Discovery Science's "Prophets of Science Fiction" episode on Arthur C. Clarke. One of the problems with this episode is that it gives Clarke as much credit for the space elevator concept as it does the geostationary satellite. From what I can tell, he helped popularize the former, but is often credited with the idea for the latter (though there is of course some debate as to the extent of his contribution).

The episode talked about the novel Fountains of Paradise as introducing the concept of a space elevator. I thought, "That's weird; I didn't realize he had written two books about space elevators. I haven't read Fountains, but I read the other one." Well, as it turns out, they're the same book, and they both won the 1979 Nebula award for Best Novel.

As I recall, it was an interesting book, but I was bothered by the fact that it altered Earth's geography to create a Sri Lanka-like island at the Equator. It's almost alternate-history science-fiction, but it felt too much like changing things around to make the story work. I probably would have enjoyed it more if it were the first novel I had ever read about a space elevator.

So I now have 35 out of 48 Nebula-winning novels read. 13 left doesn't sound too tricky, does it? When I started this project, I had only read 11.

I'm currently reading Kim Stanley Robinson's 2312, which I suppose might be nominated for this year's awards, and I have some library e-books on hold, but I also have one Nebula winner on my Kindle to return to when these other, more exciting ones run dry.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Bowie Restaurant Project: (54) Dunkin' Donuts (Bowie Plaza)

For an explanation of the Bowie Restaurant Project, look here.

For a list of all the Bowie Restaurant Project reviews, look here.

Dunkin' Donuts, 6796 Laurel-Bowie Rd
Most Recent Foursquare Check-in: 8/6/2012
Total Foursquare Check-ins: 1
Pre-Foursquare Visits: No
Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5 stars

It's a Dunkin' Donuts. With a drive-thru. Five minutes away from Bowie's other Dunkin' Donuts.

This place has been open for about a week. Christina picked up some donuts right after they opened; they tasted slightly stale. I grabbed a bagel this morning. I think it was slightly better than the ones I've gotten at the other location.

I gave the other location two-and-a-half starts partially by virtue of its being the only Dunkin' Donuts in Bowie. With that gone, I would be tempted to knock this one down to two stars, but the drive-thru is a nice perk for parents of small children, so you can pick something up without leaving the car.

I'll definitely head here rather than the other DD, but only because I'd have to drive past this one to get there. The older DD was one of the few places open the morning after the derecho, and I'm grateful for that.

By the way, I was at a meeting recently where someone supplied Panera bagels (from a non-Bowie location). I may have to try that when I'm craving a bagel, though I still find it sad that Bowie doesn't have a dedicated bagel shop.

Bowie Restaurant News

There are lots of happenings these days in the Bowie restaurant scene. The other day I spotted a "Freestyle Fish N Chicken" sign going up in Bowie Plaza. They appear to have a Baltimore location that's already open. The menu looks rather...fried. I think we'll have to take a wait and see approach to the whole thing.

Bowie Living reports that Main Street's Brasserie has closed. I was not as big of a fan of it as others were. I think their limited hours mean that it's not too big of a loss. Maybe something interesting can replace it, though with the out-of-the-way location a restaurant would have trouble gaining traction.

Jersey Mike's has opened in Hilltop Plaza. I went there on the 1st for their grand opening, but I need to make another visit for a full evaluation. My first impression was surprisingly positive, but I have to think about when I'd rather patronize them versus Chesapeake Grille a couple of doors down. I had never heard of Jersey Mike's, but apparently it's one of the five biggest sub chains in the country.