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Category Archives: Fast Food

Kira’s number 11 1/2: Bajio Mexican Grill

Kira, with a happy mouthful at Bajio.(Update: Bajio closed down last year. It’s been replaced by Gandolfo’s New York Deli. -Erik, May 2014)

The Place: Bajio Mexican Grill

One of the things that I knew I would miss the most when moving to Indiana was good Mexican food. I even had my going away party at Manuel’s, my favorite Mexican food restaurant back in Arizona. We have not been to every Mexican restaurant in town yet, but thus far I have not been impressed, that is until we got to Bajio. Bajio is not in our phonebook since it opened within the last 9 months. I’m always fairly skeptical with Mexican restaurants, especially chains, but we went to Bajio the first time on the recommendation of our friend Neeraj, and found discovered that it was pretty good, not great, but good. So even though this trip doesn’t stay with our alphabetical rule, it’s not in the phonebook, so we figured we’d review anyways. Besides, we needed a break from 5 sandwich shops in a row.

Interior at Bajio. The Time:
Saturday, June 17, 2006 around 7:30pm

The Atmosphere:
They really are trying to get the Mexican feel, although no place that I’ve been to in Mexico looks like this. There are the typical Adobe walls and desert plants scattered around that remind me of home, as well as some hanging iron lanterns and paintings of cartoonish Mexicans eating burritos. The place is very clean and welcoming. There are a few small patio tables if you wish to eat at outside like we did the first time we ate there since we had the dog with us. But this time we sat inside at a table.

Bajio's Burrito Clasico, with refried beans, sweet rice, and a side of guacamole.The Food:
The food is surprisingly better than at most fast food Mexican restaurants chains, and the portions are big, too. I ordered the Burrito Clasico with beef, and you get your choice of 2 types different types of rice and beans for both the inside and outside of the burrito. For me this was a little too much rice and beans, but I guess there is a reason that those are the staple foods of many cultures. Erik got the chimichanga, which is basically the burrito, but deep fried and covered in sour cream and sauce. Both were pretty good, but I think I would rather have had the tacos or taquitos that we had last time.

We also ordered a side of guacamole and some tortilla chips to dip into my refried beans. The beans were a little bland, but what can you do (except write about it in your blog)? And I say you can’t go too wrong with Guacamole.

The food was not very spicy at all, which was good for me since I am definitely a gringa and cannot handle spicy.

The Service:
The burrito making is done assembly-line style, much like when you eat at a sub shop. I was pleased to see that most, if not all of the staff was Hispanic, even the people working the front line. At other places I often see Hispanics back in the kitchen and white people working the front, which has always bothered me. At Bajio, I have at least a little faith that even though they are a chain, that they are somewhat authentic.

The two men making our burritos were a little shy when we asked if we could take pictures, but they finally let us take some of them.

The Price:
Most meals are $5-7, but you get a LOT of food. If you are a student they have a deal where you get your choice of most of the meals and a soda for only $5.50, which seems like a good deal to me. Maybe I should go back to school just so I can get a discount… (Kira did go back to school to get her teaching certificate. She now teaches high school math. -Erik, May 2014)

One of my favorite parts of Mexican food is eating the refried beans with tortilla chips. Here, tortilla chips do not come with your meal unless you order chips and salsa for $2. I figured that since I just wanted some chips to dip with and we had already paid extra for a side of guacamole that they would just throw some chips on the side of my plate for free. But when I asked for just a little bit of chips, no salsa, they gave me a big plate of chips and still ended up charging me the entire $2 for chips and salsa. Since this wasn’t a sit down restaurant, I know that I shouldn’t have expected to get free chips, but I definitely did not get $2 worth. Next time I’ll bring my own bag of Tostitos.

The Rest:
Considering we don’t have much else to go on in this town, Bajio will fill my Mexican food craving until/unless we find someplace better.

How Often Would I Go Back?
Every 2 months. (What’s this?)

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Erik Eats Bajio

Erik, looking smug and satisfied at Bajio.(Update: Bajio closed down last year. It’s been replaced by Gandolfo’s New York Deli. -Erik, May 2014)

Another entry out of alphabetical order. I can only take so many sandwiches before I start craving a chimichanga. Before I discovered Bajio (thanks, Neeraj), this provided some difficulty. Now I never expected to find high-quality Mexican food in the Midwest, but I figured that we could at least find someplace that makes a decent burrito. I’ve eaten some acceptable tacos at a couple super-fast-food Mexican grease pits (back home, these places always seemed to have names that ended in “-berto’s,” but that may be a regional thing,) but so far, none of the full-service Mexican restaurants have been worth repeat business. (Sadly, all of those decent fast-food places have since closed. Good Mexican fast food is harder than ever to find in Bloomington. -Erik, May 2014) We have yet to visit all the Mexican establishments in the area, so I still hold out hope for a hidden gem. But in the meantime, when I want Mexican food, I’ll probably go to Bajio.

Bajio chimichanga, with both kinds of rice.It surprised me to discover that the food at a national Mexican fast food chain tasted as good as the food at quite a few of the family restaurants in the Southwest that I frequented. The chimichangas and taquitos at Bajio go a long way towards satisfying my cravings. Unfortunately, while they do have a large number of items on the menu, they all seemed like variations upon the same theme to me. They take a tortilla of some sort (or several if you want tacos or taquitos), put your choice of filler in it (chicken, beef, rice, beans, etc.), cover it in your choice of sauce (with optional frying if you order a chimichanga, and I recommend that you do), and plop it on a plate with your choice of rice and beans. You read me correctly: “your choice of rice and beans.” This means that you get to choose whether you want refried or black beans (a not uncommon choice at Mexican restaurants) and whether you want Mexican rice or sweet rice (a somewhat unusual choice for Mexican restaurants.) The tasty meats, sauces, and rices make for an extremely wide variety of taquitos, chimichangas, and (I suspect) enchiladas, but they also make for burritos that taste suspiciously like chimichangas that someone forgot to fry. I know that the original chimichanga supposedly arose from dropping an ordinary burrito into a deep fryer, but the flavors have evolved separately since then, and what makes for a good chimichanga does not make for a great burrito. So I’d stick to food items that taste better when you drench them in sauce than those the more portable varieties of Mexican cuisine. Kira really wanted a good burrito, so I think her food may have disappointed her somewhat.

Painting at Bajio of a man eating a burrito while simultaneously cooking something over a campfire.

I dig this painting for some reason.

Bajio has other advantages over other Mexican restaurants (fast food or otherwise) in the area as well. Firstly, they serve very large meals. Although a very large portion of the meals consist of rice and beans, the entrées have a good heft to them as well. (While the founders of the chain probably didn’t care about authenticity, a meal that consists mostly of rice and beans would actually make a fairly authentic Mexican dinner.) Secondly, they don’t charge a whole lot of money. You can pay eight dollars for a meal, but you have to try. If you have a student ID, the “Student’s Special” ($5.50 for almost any meal plus a soda) will save you a lot of money. Lastly, and most importantly, they know how to make pico de gallo.

Pico de gallo has turned into a bit of a pet peeve of mine, so either forgive me for ranting, or skip to the next paragraph. For those of you don’t know, your basic pico de gallo consists of chopped tomatoes, onions, and cilantro. Of course you can make it in any of a thousand different varieties, but you have to use those three ingredients, you have to give it a chunky consistency, and above all, you do not use jalapeño peppers. I have nothing against spicy salsas (though I tend not to eat food that makes my mouth hurt), but I find it difficult to think of many less pleasant dining experiences than loading up a burrito with a whole bunch of cool, fresh pico de gallo (people sometimes call it salsa fresca for a reason), taking a big bite, and burning the roof of my mouth off. For some bizarre reason, every other Mexican restaurant in this Dios-forsaken town seems to think that all salsas taste better when spicy. Needless to say, it made me very happy to discover that somebody knows how to make rooster’s beak. (I am now mature enough to admit that the variation of pico de gallo that has jalapeño peppers has a well-established history and can still be called pico de gallo. But I don’t have to be happy about it. -Erik, May 2014)

Apple Beer dispenser at BajioOther than the fact that it serves large quantities of cheap and tasty Mexican food in the Midwest, I don’t have much to say about Bajio. I do get a kick out of the paintings of stereotypical hombres in sombreros and ponchos cooking tortillas over campfires with their burros. Oh, and their soda fountain has apple beer, which has the flavor I’d expect from carbonated apple juice and doesn’t taste nearly as good as it sounds.

Erik’s Ratings: Yum – 4, Ooh – 3, Ah – 4, Wow – 2.5 (Huh?)

 

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Bajio Mexican Grill

Bajio exterior(Update: Bajio closed down last year. It’s been replaced by Gandolfo’s New York Deli. -Erik, May 2014)

A Mexican fast food grill

3350 W 3rd St (map)
Bloomington, IN 47404

Erik’s Ratings: Yum – 4, Ooh – 3, Ah – 4, Wow – 2.5 (Huh?)
How often would Kira eat there? Every two months (what’s this?)
Reviews: Erik, Kira

 

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Erik Eats Big Mouth

Erik, contemplating a messy meatball sub at Big Mouth Subs(Update: Big Mouth Subs closed down a few years ago. It’s been replaced by an Asian restaurant named Red Chopsticks. -Erik, May 2014)

I find it difficult to review Big Mouth Subs without comparing it to Subway. I don’t view Subway as the epitome of sandwich shops, and while I eat there often, I only do so because they put in a location right next to the math building. But the sandwiches at Big Mouth and at Subway look so similar, that I couldn’t avoid making the comparison. Big Mouth has essentially the same ingredients, sandwiches, and sides, although they do have big pickles. I do like the fact that they have four- and eight-inch sandwiches; my appetite usually sits frustratingly between sizes at other sandwich shops. Unfortunately, the reasons for preferring Big Mouth to Subway, or any other sandwich shop end there. The smaller sandwiches don’t really cost any less, and I find the taste markedly inferior (and I don’t even like Subway that much.)

Meatball sub at Big Mouth Subs

The Big Balls.

Whatever Kira may say, I have eaten there before, but only once almost a year ago. They didn’t impress me then, but I’d had a bad week, so I decided to withhold my opinion until I could eat there while in a better mood. I definitely felt better this time around, and when we got there, the big windows and bright colors sent out happy vibes that grabbed a hold of my brain and made me really want to like the place. (Note: the chairs may look snazzy, but you’ll feel much more comfortable sitting in the booths.)

 Club Big Mouth (turkey, ham, American cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomatoes, and mayonnaise)

The Club Big Mouth.

I guess I do like the shop itself, but the food didn’t make me as happy. The meatballs on my meatball sandwich tasted like meat but lacked that distinctive beefy flavor. Maybe they don’t call them “beefballs” for a reason. The sandwich dripped all over the place, which I mention not because it bothered me but because we got a good picture from it. I also ordered a Club Big Mouth because I like club sandwiches, and most places I’ve eaten don’t screw up club sandwiches. Big Mouth Subs joins the long list of places that don’t screw up club sandwiches, but stays off the much shorter list of places that do them very well. Kira ordered a Cream and Crimson, which bears more in common with the Subway Club than it does with the colors white and red. We thought of quite a few ingredients that would better serve the name. Again, I have no serious complaints about the taste, but I can get similar sandwiches elsewhere that cost less, fill me up more, and taste better. Even though the taste of the sandwiches didn’t impress me, I have to give them credit for naming their meatball sandwich “Big Balls” and their bologna sandwich “Cheap Date.” I wish I had more to say, but Big Mouth Subs just doesn’t inspire much emotion one way or the other.

Oh, I thought of something else to say:

I like cookies.

Erik’s Ratings: Yum – 2, Ooh – 2, Ah – 2.5, Wow – .5 (Huh?)

 

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Kira’s Number 10: Big Mouth Subs

Kira at Big Mouth Subs, acting as a spokesmodel(Update: Big Mouth Subs closed down a few years ago. It’s been replaced by an Asian restaurant named Red Chopsticks. -Erik, May 2014)

The Place: Big Mouth Subs

Neither of us had been here before. (Edit: After reading my review, Erik informed me that he had been to Big Mouth’s before and he ate a fatty roast beef sandwich. He insists that he told me this previously, but I have no recollection of that. Oh well. -Kira, June 2006) We had stopped by a few days earlier, but they were closed. When will we learn to call first?? FYI: Their summer hours are 11am-7pm everyday.

A wall at Big Mouth Subs, covered with large square tiles painted in garish colors and patterns

The colors!

The Time:
Sunday, Jun 4th, 2006, around 2pm

The Atmosphere:
This place is trying way to hard to be cool. The brightness of all of the colors almost hurt my eyes, and the neon green chairs weren’t even comfortable.

The Food:
First let me tell you that this place does not have avocados. Since I love avocados on my sandwiches, this made me not like Big Mouth’s from the get go. But on the plus size, even though it seems like the portions sizes are smaller here compared to other sub places (4 and 6 inches instead of 6 and 12), they do pile a lot of stuff onto the sandwiches. I was only able to eat about 5 inches of my 8-inch Cream and Crimson (Turkey Breast, Ham, Roast Beef, Provolone cheese, Lettuce, Tomatoes, Onions and Special Big Mouth Sauce, without the tomato and onion).

The Cream & Crimson sandwich, with ham, roast beef, turkey,  provolone, and lettuce.

The Cream & Crimson

When I asked about the “Special Big Mouth Sauce”, the lady working there said it was oil, vinegar, and Italian dressing. I just assumed she misspoke and meant to say Italian seasoning, since that would make more sense. But no, she meant it as she said it. They put oil, vinegar and Italian dressing right on the bread of my sandwich. It tasted good, although made the bread a little soggy.

While this sandwich was good, the Cream and Crimson could have been creamier and crimsonier. Our suggestion: turkey, ham, mayo, ketchup, onions, tomatoes, pepper jack cheese, sun-dried tomates, on sourdough bread. Not that I would ever eat that sandwich…

Erik ordered 2 different 4-inch subs: The Big Balls (meatball and cheese) and the Club Big Mouth (Turkey Breast, Ham, American cheese, Fresh Bacon, Lettuce, Tomatoes, Onions and Creamy Seasoned Mayonnaise, no onions). The meatball sub was extremely messy. Erik didn’t like the balls too much, but I didn’t mind them.

Cookies at Big Mouth Subs. Chocolate chip and macadamia nutFor dessert we got 2 big chewy cookies, 1 chocolate chip and 1 macadamia nut. As much as I love cookies, these kinda sucked. Both were the kind of chewy you seem to get by adding some sort of chemical or preservative.

I took the remaining 3 inches of my sub home, and it was soggy, but not too bad the next day.

The Service:
There was 1 woman behind the counter who took our order, made the sandwiches in front of us, and took our money. She did her job.

Seating area at Big Mouth Subs. Bright orange walls, bright green chairs, multicolored tables, and paint-spattered lighting fixtures.The Price:
For the amount of food, the prices are fairly reasonable: about $4 for a 4-inch sub, $6 for the 8 inch. They have some specials on different days of the week, too. The cookies were over a dollar each, and were definitely not worth it.

The Rest:
There really isn’t anything at Big Mouth Subs that you can’t get at any other sub shop for the same price, except that they do deliver, so I guess that’s a plus. They don’t have much parking, if any, so we had to park semi-illegally in the Jordan Square parking lot.

How Often Would I Go Back?
Every 4 months (what’s this?)

 

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Big Mouth Subs

Exterior Big Mouth Subs(Update: Big Mouth Subs closed down a few years ago. It’s been replaced by an Asian restaurant named Red Chopsticks. -Erik, May 2014)

A submarine sandwich shop that also delivers

 

1420 E 3rd St (map)
Bloomington, IN 47401

Erik’s Ratings: Yum – 2, Ooh – 2, Ah – 2.5, Wow – .5 (Huh?)
How often would Kira eat there? Every 4 months (what’s this?)
Reviews: Erik, Kira

 

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Kira’s Number 5: Arby’s

The Time:
Friday, May 5th, 2006 (Cinco de Mayo!) around 9 PM

The Place: Arby’s
I love Arby’s. It has always been one of my top 3 favorite fast food restaurants (along with Wendy’s and Jack in the Box, if I had to choose). Since there are multiple Arby’s locations in Bloomington, we decided to go to one that neither of us had been to before, located at 3601 W State Road 46. But I have to give you a warning: If you try to go to this particular Arby’s, it is farther than you think. It is not where Google Maps, Google Earth, Mapquest, or Yellowbook says it is. So we had a little adventure trying to get there. To help explain, here’s a map. (Link rot has destroyed the original map. -Erik, May 2014)

The green is where Google maps says that the address of the Arby’s is, but the red is where we actually found an Arby’s restaurant–a difference of 1.6 miles.

Now 1.6 miles isn’t really that far, except when it seems like you are in the middle of absolute nowhere. There was absolutely nothing at the point where Google thinks that the Arby’s is. If it had been another mile down the road, we would have turned around before we had gotten there. The phone book says that this location is in Bloomington, but I think they are dreaming. According to the boundaries that Google sets for the city of Bloomington, this Arby’s misses by a few miles. Oh well, I love Google even with it’s faults, and this Arby’s is still much closer than most of the places we would’ve be willing to go to in Phoenix.

Arby's interior near closingThe Atmosphere:
They said they weren’t closing for another hour, but half of the chairs were already up. Still, we felt comfortable enough to stay there for almost an hour just talking and enjoying eachother’s company, with no pressure from the staff to get out.

The Food:
In case you don’t know (Erik didn’t know, so don’t feel too bad), Arby’s sounds like R.B’s which stands for Roast Beef. But is it really roast beef? There is something about it. It doesn’t taste like any other kind of roast beef I’ve ever had, but for some reason it tastes sooo good. It makes me not even care if it is real roast beef or not. And I like that they now have different sizes of the roast beef sandwiches. You can choose from Regular, Medium, or Large. I opted for the Medium that day. Erik got a Beef ‘n’ Cheddar Combo with curly fries to share, and we also decided to try their new Market Fresh Roast Beef Gyro. The sandwiches were yummy as usually. I had never tried the Arby’s Sauce, at least not in a long time, so I thought I’d check it out. It is basically BBQ sauce, which was good, but I didn’t think it belonged on my roast beef sandwich. And of course the curly fries were great. (Kira is crazy. Arby’s sauce is awesome. -Erik, May 2014)

Arby's roast beef & cheddar with curly fries

Arby’s roast beef & cheddar with curly fries

We were a little skeptical going in about the gyro. It was their regular roast beef with some gyro spices, tomato, lettuce, onion, and white gyro sauce (usually called tzatziki, or something like that), all in a pita. We got it without the onions, and I only ate some without tomatoes. I thought, how could a gyro made with roast beef be any good? But you know what? I liked it. It wasn’t authentic or anything, but I would consider getting again. The sauce was a mild, but the pita was good and soft. Somehow their “roast beef” almost works in a gyro. For some reason Arby’s tends to make things taste good that you wouldn’t expect them to.

The Service:
Some lady and some guy were the two main people working there. The fries weren’t ready for a few minutes, so the lady was nice and brought them to our table when they were done. Yay hot fries. The other guy working there had all gold teeth. He was nice, too.

The Price:
They do things right. We were trying to figure out if it would be cheaper to order a combo with the gyro or with the roast beef. But it turns out that it would be exactly the same. They just add $2 to each sandwich to make it a combo. Smart people. At other places it ends up being a few cents cheaper one way or the other. But nope, not here. I think our total was around $12 for 3 sandwiches, 1 fries, and a drink. Not too bad.

The Rest:
I’ll say it again, Arby’s one of my favorite fast food joints. And the adventure getting out there was fun, too.

How often would I go back?
Once a week. (what’s this?)

 

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