Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Golf Courses: Not Cheap, This Is A Great Layout In Less Than Ideal Condition

Heron Lakes Golf Club 
3500 N. Victory Blvd
Portland, OR 97217
Phone number (503) 289-1818
Website: heronlakesgolf.com
Prices: $$$$

For a Robert Trent Jones, Jr. design the "Great Blue" is obviously a great layout and loads of bunkers, water, and big, undulating greens. Unfortunately, the conditions do not do justice to Mr. Jones creation. I will not elaborate on details from my previous review, focusing more on current conditions and issues. 
The fairways remain rough (pun intended), very tightly mowed and dead in many areas. With all of the water (Heron "Lakes") we have been getting, you would think that they would have filled out, but it appears they do not overseed and the fairways remain a problem (many dead spots). The greens were aerated recently and are obviously less than perfect, but the animals that play here obviously do not understand golf etiquette and refuse to repair divots (fairway) and ball marks (greens), contributing to the problems. Thanks assholes!
Unlike many golf courses, the staff in the pro shop are friendly and helpful, but the snack bar is a different story. The staff are indifferent, rude, and/or lazy. They act like they are doing you a favor by taking your money and do not even bother greeting you much less returning a friendly "hello". Their beer prices are higher than they should be ($5.50/pint) and there is no such thing as Happy Hour. Maybe that is one of the reasons why the place is normally empty.
We finished our round at 6:30 PM last night, at least 30 minutes before dark, and wanted a post-round beer to kill some time and let the I-5 log jam disperse before hitting the road. We stood at the bar for five minutes until, finally, the guy cleaning the grill in the back yelled at us through the serving window "we're closed". Closed, really? There are still people on the course, you have living, breathing customers waiting to spend money and only want a beer, but you cannot take the time to serve them? I get the impression that these self-reported "contractors" do just the minimum and get the hell out of there ASAP. BOOAH!
My original rating was based on the $30 green fee special, but their "standard"prices are out of line for a city course not in great shape. Ranging from $33 (shoulder season/walking/weekday) to $56 (riding/weekend, is is not exactly a bargain, especially in its current condition. Unfortunately, they reportedly are not extending their "Centennial Card" program and do not offer an annual membership, but their MultiPlay Rewards Card ($949/48 rounds) brings the price down to just under $20 (not including cart). For comparison, I paid $1100 for 100 rounds ($11/round for the mathematically challenged) at my previous home course (Eagle Bend) in Lawrence, Kansas, a much better course and in immaculate condition. They have rare "Hot Deals" through GolfNow ($17/Greenback and $19/Great Blue), but do not expect any discounts unless the temperature is forecasted to exceed 100 degrees or rain is expected.

CombatCritic Downgrades Heron Lakes From 7 Bombs Out Of 10 To 5 Bombs Out Of 10 ... More Bombs Are Better!


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Title: Portland Golf Courses: Not Cheap, This Is A Great Layout In Less Than Ideal Condition

Key Words: Heron Lakes Golf Club, Heron lakes, Heron, lakes, golf, club, course, public, POrtland, OR, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, restaurant, menu, business, review, Yelp, Zomato

Translation for Civilians: Charlie-Mike = "Continue Mission"


Copyright 2018 - 3rd Wave Media Group, LLC and CombatCritic - All Rights Reserved

Monday, October 16, 2017

Vancouver: "I Know Nothing" Except That Sergeant Schultz Might Even Like Gustav's

Gustav’s Pub & Grill
1705 SE 164th Avenue
Vancouver, WA 98683
Phone number: (360) 883-0222
Website: gustavs.net
Prices: $$$$

With three locations in the Portland area (two in Oregon and one in Vancouver, Washington), I had no idea that the cuisine was Hungarian/German from the name until we gave them a try. They places look modern and nondescript from the outside, but have warm wood tones and German decor inside. This one is more "German" than the Tigard location with high, beamed ceilings, German state flags, even a mini German street scene in the back of the entry as you walk in.




With Happy Hour, a Portland tradition, Monday through Saturday from 2 to 6 PM and 9 PM to closing and all day Sunday in the bar, two can eat and drink quite well for under $30. They have a nice selection of eats from $4.75 (e.g. potato pancakes or Bavarian pretzels) to $7.75 (e.g. cheeseburgers or schnitzel clubs). Two German biers (Paulaner Oktoberfest and Warsteiner Dunkel) are $4.75 for a .5 liter stein and all other draughts are $1 off.

HAPPY HOUR (See Translations Below If You Don't Sprechen Deutsch)
"Original" Fondue $6.75 ... Sehr Gut! (Best value in the place)
- Decent size cast iron pot (bowl) full of hot, creamy cheese served with plenty o' cubes of pumpernickel and other breads.

Bavarian Pretzel $4.75 ... Gut 
Soft and hot with spicy mustard. $5 is the standard price at most places for similar pretzels, so not a super Happy Hour value - make it $3.75.
Sausage of Your Choice $5.75 (Nürnberger Brat) ... SoSo (Tasty, but very small for price)
- Thinner than a hot dog, but longer, this sausage tasted good but was unsubstantial for almost $6. $4.75 should be the max price for this weiner.
Potato Pancakes (3) $4.75 ... Sehr Gut!
- Thin, crisp and yummy, served with small sides of apple sauce and sour cream.
Shepherd's Pie $6.75 ... SoSo
- An English staple, not German, this atypical dish is small with cubes of beef in a goulasch-style sauce then covered with mashed potatoes and cheddar cheese (?) and baked.
Cabbage Roll (2) $6.75 ... Gut
- Cabbage stuffed with ground meat, rice and spices, then baked in a savory sauce with chunks of tomato, carrot and onion.

MEALS

Hungarian Veal Jäger ($18.95) ... Gut, but not a stupendous value
- Could be served with a salad, cup of soup, sauerkraut and/or red cabbage for this price and be perceived as a much better value. The veal scallops were small and the mashed potatoes underneath almost imperceptible. The sauce was delicious and topped with an abundance of fresh sauteed mushrooms.
Pork St. Moritz ($15.25) ... Sehr Gut!
Kinda like cordon bleu, but with the ham and cheese on top instead of inside. The two large, pounded and breaded pork scallops were sauteed then topped with Emmentaler cheese and Black Forest ham, served in a delicious Madeira sauce with creamy mashed potatoes and vegetables. A good value, adding a house or Caesar salad for an additional $3.95 makes it a meal at just over $19.

1. Sehr Gut! = Very Good
2. Gut = Good
3. SoSo - So-So
4. Nicht Gut = Not Good
5. Scheisse = Shit
We have tried both the Tigard and Vancouver locations. The buildings and decor are slightly different, but the menus and food seem identical. The service has been friendly and efficient on all three visits thus far.
My sole complaint was the Oktoberfest I ordered last night (above) that came looking like someone had taken a huge gulp out of it with well over an inch missing from the top of the mug. German (and English) bartenders take pride in filling glasses to the brim, either with beer or a head rising to the rim. This one had either been sitting for quite a while (so the head disappeared) or was a short pour. In any event, it should have been repoured or at least topped-off before being served.

CombatCritic Gives Gustav's 7 Bombs Out Of 10 ... More Bombs Are Better!

Seven Bombs Equates To:
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Title: Vancouver, WA: "I Know Nothing" Except That Sergeant Schultz Might Even Like Gustav's

Key Words: Gustav's Pub and Grill, Gustav's, Gustav, pub, German, Hungarian, Portland, Oregon, Vancouver, WA, OR, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, restaurant, menu, review, Yelp, Zomato

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

Copyright 2018 - 3rd Wave Media Group, LLC and CombatCritic - All Rights Reserved

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Second verse NOT same as the first ... I'm NOT Henry the 8th I Am

Mama Mia Trattoria
439 SW 2nd Avenue
Portland, OR 97204
Downtown Portland
Phone number (503) 295-6464
Website: mamamiatrattoria.com
Prices: $$$$

Second visit, not same as the first and I was not nearly as impressed as when I took my youngest son to Mama Mia (see review dated 7/18/2017). Here are the reasons why:

1. When I heard our server was "Kelly", I was quite pleased because of the wonderful service "blonde" Kelly gave us. This Kelly had dark hair and was not nearly as friendly or customer oriented ...
   a. I asked if it was still Happy Hour when she first arrived at our table (5:45PM on Tuesday), but was told that we had to move to the bar five feet away and sit on uncomfortable stools if we wanted to order from the Happy Hour menu. I told her "no thanks". Absurd.
   b. As a member of their VIP Club, we were entitled to "free garlic bread". This Kelly brought one small loaf (between three of us), then told us we would only be getting "regular" bread from that point on (beside the complimentary calamari, Kelly #1 kept bringing garlic bread throughout the meal).
2. The water is still room temperature.
3. They still do not validate parking, so you have to pay outrageous downtown Portland parking rates if you want to dine there.
4. They raised their prices by $2 a pop on the veal dishes - $25.95 for an ala carte dish is pushing it, but $27.95 (the new prices) is NOT a good value.
5. My wife ordered the Penne with Pancetta and Mushrooms ($18 - no soup or salad) and, being Italian born, was not at all impressed. The pasta was obviously not made in-house, was lukewarm, and they had added red bell peppers. She is allergic to tomatoes and does not like anything that resembles tomato in her food. The dish was bland, she did not like it.
6. My son (my oldest this time) ordered the Fettucine Alfredo ($18.95 - no soup or salad), but by the time he added a little (very little) crumbled sausage ($4) and a house salad ($7), the total was close to $30. He liked the flavor, but was not impressed by the serving size for the price.
7. The side of pasta I got with my Veal Marsala was tiny. The veal was flavorful, but, like the pasta, not very hot and not a very good value at $28 ($26 was pushing it).
Bread (no garlic)
Even though Barry, the owner, sent me a very nice note after my first review, he obviously did not take my comments and suggestions to heart because nothing had changed except the prices and the service, both a disappointment.
Fettucine Alfredo with Sausage ($22.95)

Penne Pancetta and Mushrooms ($18)
I found a place in Beaverton (Aloha actually) where the Veal Parmigiana is as good, if not better, than Mama Mia (it is actually spelled "Mamma" Mia by the way Barry) and for $1 less than Mama Mia's old prices ($24.95) you get antipasto, soup AND salad, generous portions of veal and pasta, and spumoni ... now that is a great value!
Veal Scaloppine alla Marsala - $27.95
I do not think we will be going through the hassle of navigating downtown traffic and parking to eat here again any time soon. If they make some changes (Happy Hour is Happy Hour, wherever you sit, lower prices and/or include soup/salad, put ice in the water or at least cool it before serving, etc.), I may consider going back, but I seriously doubt they will. In the interim, we will be driving 37 miles (past Vancouver and Portland) to Aloha to get a decent Italian meal. 

For such a great food town, Portland (and surrounds) is sadly lacking a decent selection of homestyle Italian restaurants, something I hope changes very soon because if someone can figure this out, they will be extremely successful.

CombatCritic Downgrades Mam(m)a Mia To 5 Bombs Out Of 10 ... More Bombs Are Better!

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Mama Mia Trattoria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Title:  Portland, OR: Second verse NOT same as the first ... I'm NOT Henry the 8th I Am

Key Words: Mama Mia Trattoria, mama mia, mama, mia, trattoria, Portland, downtown, Italian, veal, Italy, Oregon, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, restaurant, menu, review, Yelp, Zomato

Translation for Civilians: Charlie-Mike = "Continue Mission"


Copyright 2018 - 3rd Wave Media Group, LLC and CombatCritic - All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Vancouver, WA: Solid, For A Chain, Breakfast And Service ... The Decor Is Another Story

Biscuits Cafe
1801 SE 164th Avenue, Suite 103
Vancouver, WA 98683
Phone number: (360) 718-2293
Prices: $$$$

The place ain't much to look at, but the service was great, the food pretty damn good, and the prices fair. What more could you ask for ... ambiance?
In a strip mall, the floor is bare, the tables and chairs unimpressive, but functional and the decor nearly non-existent. Fortunately, we were not eating the decor. I was a bit concerned because the staff all looked very young, but they were actually quite impressive ... very friendly, efficient and professional. The also have a few large wrought iron tables out front, but being a cool Fall morning, we decided to eat in.
One Biscuit & Gravy Combo ($8.95*)
We arrived about an hour before my son needed to be at the airport (15 minutes away) for his flight home and there was a short wait when we arrived, but the hostess quickly seated us when I told her about our dilemma (we were next on the list BTW). She even brought us water and had our server Holly stop by post haste.
Country Fried Steak and Eggs ($12.99*)
My son had the Country Fried Steak and Eggs ($12.99*) and it looked pretty good, a fact he confirmed as he wolfed his breakfast down. My wife went with the Keeping It Simple ($8.95*), where you pick three items from a choice of 27 items, selecting French toast, hash browns and apple juice. She seemed pleased and was full when we left, so problem there you have it. I had the One Biscuit & Gravy Combo ($8.95*) , coming with a biscuit and gravy (obviously), two eggs (over-medium) and three slices of bacon, adding a side of hash browns for an additional $2.49*, a bit pricey I thought, but it was a massive portion. With a name like "Biscuits" Cafe, you would think the biscuits would be big and awesome, but mine was rather small although it was light and flaky as it should be. The country gravy was good, not great, the eggs perfectly cooked, the bacon just a tad too crispy, and the hash browns big, crisp (I ordered them that way) and tasty.
Keeping It Simple ($8.95*) - French toast, hash browns and apple juice
Holly was a delight, keeping us apprised of our order's status, keeping our coffees topped-off, delivering our food relatively quickly, even bringing the check ASAP so we could pay and get to the airport as soon as needed. Which brings me to my main concern, the reception/cashier's station which created a bit of a choke point at the entrance/exit. I think things would flow quite a bit better, especially when busy, adding a touch of sophistication if you paid your server vice having to walk up to the cashier to pay while they are trying to simultaneously take the names of customers coming through the door.

CombatCritic Gives Biscuits Cafe 7 Bombs Out Of 10 ... More Bombs Are Better!



Seven Bombs Equates To:
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Biscuits Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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* All Prices Are Approximate Because They Do Not Publish Menu Prices Online And I Did Not Get A Copy Of The Itemized Check

Title: Vancouver, WA: Solid, For A Chain, Breakfast And Service ... The Decor Is Another Story

Key Words: Biscuits Cafe, biscuits, biscuit, gravy, breakfast, eggs, bacon, Vancouver, WA, POrtland, OR, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, restaurant, menu, review, Yelp, Zomato

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


Copyright 2018 - 3rd Wave Media Group, LLC and CombatCritic - All Rights Reserved