Sunday, December 9, 2046

Why Should You Read My Reviews And Subscribe To My Blog?

I served my country in the United States Air Force for over 20 years and have visited 41 countries over the last 35 years, most without spending over $75 per night for a nice hotel room and dining in excellent restaurants for well under $25 per person. How do I do it? Through diligent research, exploration, trial and error, and local knowledge.
Would you like to stay in a central, 3-star hotel in a major city for under $20 per night? How about a room with a balcony and view of the Himalayas while attending teachings with the Dalai Lama for just $5 per night? Or a beachfront hotel for $13 per night? Maybe a meal prepared by a 5-star chef for less than $20? Well, you have come to the right place ...

Having several popular travel blogs and received numerous accolades from several of the top travel and restaurant websites/apps (Yelp, TripAvisor, Zomato, Tabelog,, you can trust my opinions. 
Unlike many reviewers who are either afraid to tell the truth or have personal relationship with businesses and biased views, I reserve 5-stars (10 Bombs on my blog) for only the most flawless restaurants, accommodations, businesses, attractions and destinations, those where you absolutely and without a doubt get the most “bang-for-the-buck”.

I try to remain as objective as possible in all of my reviews, providing the pros and cons as I see them and a rating based on the overall “value” as compared to similar entities in similar locations. I accept no "freebies" and only identify myself as a critic after having been a customer and paid the bill, so you can trust my reviews.

Here is a breakdown of my ratings both on my blogs (where I use a ten point scale) and on travel and dining websites (that all use 5 point Likert-type scales) ...

If I hate a place, they get 1-2 Bombs (1-star)

If so-so with numerous”issues", they get 3-4 Bombs (2-stars)

If average (the vast majority of businesses fall into this category if you look at the distribution of my ratings), they get 5-6 Bombs (3-stars)

If above average, they get 7-8 Bombs (4-stars)

If they are one of the very rare “best of the best” values in my experience, they get 9-10 Bombs (5-stars – I always round up from bombs to stars because I use a 10 point Likert-type scale in order to be more discernible). 

Now that you understand my philosophy and ratings, on to my reviews …


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Title: Why Should You Read My Reviews And Subscribe To My Blog?

Key Words: combatcritic, travelvalue, travel, value, combat, critic, review, reviews, objective, restaurant, hotel, attraction, destination, Italy, USA, India, Asia, Europe

Friday, June 23, 2017

Live Music, Cheap Food And Drinks - HOOAH!

Spare Room Restaurant and Lounge
4830 NE 42nd Avenue
Portland, OR 97218
Northeast Portland, Cully
Phone number (503) 287-5800
Prices: $$$$

Cheap drinks (Jim Beam and Coke - $3 - All Day/Every Day), food (ample menu and specials), and music (live/DJ/karaoke/free/cover) ... what more could you ask for!

Around the corner from my new temporary digs, I stopped by on Thursday night for a couple drinks and free, live music, unfortunately country on this night, but beggars can't be choosers. The bartender/hostess/server was very nice, well dressed, attractive and, most important, friendly. She also pours a strong drink ... HOOAH!

I did not stay long because I can only handle country in short bursts, but will return soon for one of their dinner specials (surf and turf, prime rib, meatloaf and mashed potatoes, etc.) and, hopefully, some rock and roll, jazz, or blues. The place is big and dark with an old fashioned feel, not extravagant and not seedy, just right. Two bars and dance floors in two adjoining big rooms with other spaces which I did not have a chance to explore. They also have gambling-type machines at the bar although I neither know Oregon's gambling laws nor if these machines are for used betting.

Most people seemed to know each other, but other than the bartender/server, nobody said a word to me or even looked like they wanted to although hugs abounded and conversations surrounded me. Not the welcome I would have liked, but as the new kid on the block, I expected little else.

CombatCritic Gives Spare Room Restaurant and Lounge An Initial 7 Bombs Out Of 10 With Room To Grow ... More Bombs Are Better!

Seven Bombs Equates To:
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Read Chris S.'s review of Spare Room Restaurant and Lounge on Yelp

Title: Portland, OR: Live Music, Cheap Food And Drinks - HOOAH!

Key Words: Spare Room Restaurant and Lounge, spare, room, lounge, bar, music, live, karaoke, Portland, Oregon, NE, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, restaurant, menu, review, Yelp, Zomato

Translation for Civilians: S&G = "Shits & Grins"

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Petite Provence: On Again, Off Again ... C'est La Vie (That's Life)

Petite Provence
1824 NE Alberta Street
Portland, OR 97211
Phone number (503) 284-6564
Prices: $$$$

Yay! I love French food and am not easily impressed, but I was impressed, at least on my first visit. That visit was for their Happy Hour, so I will reserve a couple of stars for future visits, one way or the other, depending on how dinner, lunch and breakfast pan out. Based on that single experience, I did not think things would digress, but time did tell and I was not nearly as impressed on my second visit.
Visit #1 - I had an IPA ($4) to start things off, then we ordered from the Happy Hour Menu (3-6PM - M-F), all about $5 each. In order to sample as many things as possible, my wife and I shared four Happy Hour plates, a Mushroom and Gruyere Crepe, Macaroni and Cheese Au Gratin with toast, Mussels in a Coconut Red Curry sauce with pom frites (French fries), and a Kobe Beef Slider also with pom frites.

The slider was good, but being only one small burger with aioli sauce on a bun and a paltry amount of fries, it was not the best value on the menu. The Mac and Cheese was plentiful and delicious with sauteed onion inside and baked with cheese and breadcrumbs on top, served with three pieces of grilled baguette toast. The crepes were small, a half each for a total of one full crepe, but savory with a nice white cheese sauce and sauteed mushrooms. Finally, my favorite, were the red curry mussels with 10-12 fresh mussels in a creamy, spicy, yummy red curry sauce with a decent portion of seasoned fries on the side.

Being one of four parties inside, the service was attentive, friendly and excellent. The place is quaint with lots of wood and a European feel and they even have tables on the sidewalk Parisian-style. They also have an array of baked goods (pastries, breads) and a huge display case full of delightful, sweet cakes, pies, tarts and other delectable morsels that dazzle the eye as well as the nose and tongue. My single complaint was the absence of paper towels in both (unisex) bathrooms, having had to dry my hands on toilet paper or toilet seat covers ... YUK.
For $28 and change plus tip ($35), we ate quite well and were stuffed by the time we left. No room for dessert, even though my wife has a sweet tooth the size of Manhattan and rarely passes on the final course. 
Visit #2 - I visited PP for the second time on Father's Day, arriving around 9PM after a round of golf (they close at 10PM). The sign said "please wait to be seated", so I stood there like a gidrulo (Italian dialect slang for "dumb ass", but literally meaning "cucumber") for a good five minutes while employees walked back and forth, ignoring me as if I were not there and not even saying "welcome, we'll be with you in a minute". I was finally approached by a server with a man-bun, taking me to a table outside on the sidewalk on the beautiful, mild late spring evening. 
Everything was going fine. Knowing they were closing in less than an hour and not wanting to waste time, I ordered an IPA and then asked my server for a bowl of French onion soup ($6.95) and the Chicken Cordon Bleu ($16) for my entree. Less than 10 minutes later, man-bun arrived with my soup AND entree ... at the same time! 

For those of you who know me, you know all too well that if you really want to piss me off, bring my entree while I am still eating my appetizer, soup, and/or salad. It is my ultimate pet peeve, so when the soup and entree arrived together, I was far less than pleased, asking the server to please take the entree away until I was done with my soup. Anybody who has been a server for a week or more knows that you never bring different courses together unless specifically asked to do so which I had not.
The soup was very average and I would not order it again at $6.95. Nuff said. The chicken was good, but a tad burnt, a little dry, and extremely hot (likely having sat under the warmer for 15-20 minutes while I ate my very hot soup). Sitting atop a very small portion of runny mashed potatoes with some green beans in between, the tarragon beurre blanc (tarragon, butter and white wine) sauce was tasty, but there was not nearly enough of it either. A little more sauce would have made the dry chicken a bit more palatable.
What a dilemma! Such a good experience on visit #1 only to be followed by a very mediocre experience on visit #2. I thought I had found our new Portland go-to spot on Alberta, but now I am not so sure. 

I look forward to returning at least one more time for happy hour, breakfast, lunch and/or dinner and hope all will be as delightful as it was on our initial experience. If not, we may not be back and may head down the street to Swiss Hibiscus or across town the Chez Machin where I know I will get a good, consistent meal and service.
CombatCritic Downgrades Petite Provence (Alberta) From 8 Bombs Out Of 10 To 7 Bombs Out Of 10 ... A Very Modest And Generous Deduction For Such Inexcusable Faux Pas ... More Bombs Are Better!
Seven Bombs Equates To:
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Tabelog Reviewer CombatCriticView my food journey on Zomato!

Title: Portland, OR: On Again, Off Again ... C'est La Vie (That's Life)

Key Words: Petite Provence, French, cafe, bakery, boulangerie, Alameda, outdoor, seating, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, restaurant, menu, Portland, Oregon, business, review, Yelp, Zomato

Translation for Civilians: S&G = "Shits & Grins"

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Ford Retaliates Against Disabled Veteran After Complaints Of Lying And Unprofessional Behavior By Dealer's Staff

Damerow Ford
12325 SW Canyon Road
Beaverton, OR 97005
Southwest Portland
Phone number (503) 644-1131
Prices: $$$$

I usually do not write about businesses without some sort of connection to travel and travelers, but I felt an exception was needed here. You will not believe what this Portland Ford dealer did!
Several Midwesterners I have talked to about our upcoming move to Portland, Oregon and familiar with the area have told me: "they don't like military/veterans out there" and "as a retired military officer moving to Portland, you will not be welcome there, they're way too liberal". I took it with a grain of salt because I have not experienced any negative attitudes during my visits, but I have also not spent a lot of time in Portland and I do not readily advertise my military background. After the experience I am about to tell you about, I am actually starting to have some concerns.

When you see a business on yelp* with 117 reviews and an average rating of less than 2.5 stars out of 5, there is something definitely rotten in Denmark or, in the case, Portland, Oregon. It is called Damerow Ford and here are some comments by their customers ...
"Absolutely the worst customer service I have ever experienced in my entire life."
"I will never return to Damerow Ford for anything. What a bunch of unprofessional, idiots."
"Landmark was very easy to work with and much more trustworthy, don't bother with these guys."
"Damerow Ford is the worst company I have ever dealt with. I regret buying my car from them."
Check their reviews on yelp*, it is all there in black and white. Now on to my experience. As a Ford shareholder, I expected much, much more from a company I own stock in.

Their salesperson and management wasted countless hours of my time over two months while TRYING to buy a car from them. They lied constantly, failed to read my emails or answer my questions, then had the nerve to REFUSE TO SELL ME A CAR because they were afraid of a poor review and retaliated against me for well making well substantiated complaints.

Ford provides incentives for good reviews or docks dealers for bad follow-up reviews from "customers", those who eventually purchase a vehicle. Thinking that I would give them a bad review because of their deceit and unprofessionalism, even though I gave my word on my honor as a retired Air Force officer that I would not if they FINALLY followed through with their promises, management decided not to take the chance and their general manager called me this evening and REFUSED TO SELL ME A CAR, retaliating against me for my complaints of lying and unprofessional behavior by his staff.

After complaints to management about their constant lies, unprofessional behavior, and not reading my emails or answering key questions, sales manager Kiyoshi Tsuji told me that he was hesitant to sell me the car because he thought I would give the dealership bad reviews no matter what happened. As a man of my word, I told him: "That's water under the bridge Kiyoshi. If there are no problems when I pick up my car on 5/13, everything is in order when I get there and I am happy with the transaction, I will absolutely write a positive review." Being deceitful himself (having promised to send me the paperwork by mail to complete the transaction not once, but twice, then refusing to follow through), he is apparently not used to dealing with people of honor, people with integrity. At the end of the conversation, which like all questionable phone calls I record, he agreed to "trust" me. He even offered to pick me up at the airport when I arrived and drive me to the dealership to take delivery of our new car. All he had been worried about was the customer satisfaction survey and yelp* reviews I could possibly write, potentially costing them Ford incentive money, not about making an unhappy customer happy.

Car salesmen and dealers are notorious liars and manipulators and Damerow Ford sits right at the top of the list. I have written many great reviews and a few bad ones, but Damerow Ford has earned the Top Spot on my "Wall of Shame". Shame on you Ali Bulgasem (Damerow Ford General Manager), Kiyoshi Tsuji (Damerow Ford Sales Manager), and June Jermany (Damerow Ford Salesman).

I have over 80 emails and phone recordings of conversations between myself and Damerow Ford employees, so if you doubt what I say, the pertinent ones will soon be published where 350,000 people a year read my reviews and where you will be able to see for yourself that I, unlike Damerow Ford, tell the truth.

I value honor and integrity, values that I live by every day of my life, having done so through 20+ years of military service to our great nation and ever since I retired in 2005. I simply do not tolerate liars, cheats, swindlers or unprofessional treatment of customers. 

My maxim during my many years of military service was to provide "outstanding customer service" to those who had no choice but to come to my squadron when they needed a car, to have it fixed, borrow (rent) a car or get a ride somewhere on base, or ship something anywhere in the world. That attitude earned me MAJCOM-level awards and my squadron the honor of being chosen "Air Force Transportation Squadron of the Year". 

I basically ran a car dealership, taxi/bus/car rental company, and FedEx hub all in one ... in a combat zone ... and it was much larger than Damerow Ford, with 1,300+ vehicles, 100+ mechanics, 70+ drivers, 40+ freight specialists and several administrative staff members. So, I know a little bit about running an efficient, customer-oriented organization. Ali Bulgasem, General Manager at Damerow Ford and the person who called me to tell me that he refused to sell me a car, and his employees at Damerow Ford could all learn quite a bit from my beliefs and service.

Why would a car dealer refuse to sell a car to a customer? Because they had something to lose, that is exactly why. Their "perfect" customer review rating and that Ford incentive for positive reviews were more important than following through with their promises and treating a customer professionally and with dignity and respect. They also do not like people who complain about their poor service and unprofessional behavior, so Ali Bugasem retaliated against me by refusing to follow through with a deal in which I had put more than 15% ($3,500) as a down payment on the vehicle.

Am I a demanding customer? You can bet your sweet ass I am. I demand professionalism, honesty, integrity, compassion, and to be treated with dignity and respect when I spend my hard earned money, nearly $23,000 in this case, at a business. Don't you?

I am still waiting for the $3,500 refund on the down payment I made on my credit card, having promised me they would hold the car until I got there next Saturday. That would be considered breach of contract in a court of law, but I will not even go there. Now I have to rent a car when I arrive in Portland instead of picking up the vehicle I put a large down payment on, costing me hundreds of extra dollars unnecessarily as well as more wasted time looking for a non-Ford to buy. Military Appreciation ... what a joke!
The last Ford I owned was a 1960 Ford Falcon station wagon, my first car. I have purchased mostly foreign cars over the years (Honda, VW and Nissan - all great cars), but decided to buy American-made this time, being a patriot and having heard that Ford has improved their products, safety, and reliability. Their cars may be better than they once were, but their customer service is the poorest I have seen in recent memory. Is it a coincidence that Ford's stock has tanked over 20% in the past year?

Complaints have been filed with the Oregon Attorney General, Federal Trade Commission and Better Business Bureau (Northwest) for breach of contract. I also sent a letter to the Ford Motor Company Board of Directors which, based on previous experience, will likely be ignored. I could sue Damerow Ford and win, but it is not worth my time, money or energy. I will just buy a new car from another dealer and manufacturer, unfortunately probably a Japanese or Korean company. So much for my attempt to buy a domestic car ... "Made in America". Do not say that I did not try.

What a nice "welcome" to our new home, Portland, Oregon. I hope this is not a sign of things to come, but in my 60 years on Earth, I have never experienced such flagrant unprofessional and aggressive behavior at a business, particularly one where I was trying to spend $23,000. Is it a fluke or were my Midwestern friends right? I hope it is the former because we have invested a lot of time, money and emotion in a cross country move to a place we hope to spend the remaining years of our lives ... feeling welcome and happy in our new home. Welcome to Portland?

CombatCritic Gives Damerow Ford 0 Bombs Out Of 10 ... The Lowest Of The Low ... But The TOP SPOT On My "Wall Of Shame" ... Shame on you Ali ... shame you Damerow Ford ... Shame on you Ford Motor Company!

0 Bombs Equates To "Lower Than FUBAR" ... Look That Up In Your Funk And Wagnalls Or Simply Visit My Blog. Just Google "CombatCritic"!

Read Reviews By CombatCritic:

Yelp - Elite '14/'15/'16/'17 - 650,000+ Views A Year

Tabelog - Official Judge (Silver)

Zomato - #1 Ranked "Verified" Foodie - Over  1,890,733 Review And Photo Views

View my food journey on Zomato!

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Read Chris S.'s review of Damerow Ford on Yelp

Tabelog Reviewer CombatCriticView my food journey on Zomato!

Title: Portland, Oregon: Ford Retaliates Against Disabled Veteran After Complaints Of Lying And Unprofessional Behavior By Dealer's Staff

Key Words: Damerow Ford, Damerow, Ford, Portland, Beaverton, Oregon, 97005, lies, liar, lying, unprofessional, disabled, veteran, TravelValue, travel, value, product, business, review, Yelp

Translation for Civilians: FUBAR = "Fucked Up Beyond All Repair"