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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Lawrence, KS: Tres Mexicanos Is Muy Bueno Amigos

Tres Mexicanos

1800 East 23rd Street
Lawrence, KS 66046
Phone number: (785) 830-8415
Prices: $$$$
We tried Tres Mexicanos shortly after moving to Lawrence and were not overly impressed. Because they are so close to our house, in a stirp mall on East 23rd Street, we decided to give them another try recently and I am glad we did.
Even though the service was spotty, the food was pretty darn good and the prices fair. They have Amercanized tacos with pre-fab shells, fried tacos (more traditional), and traditional, authentic soft tacos on corn tortillas with just meat, cilantro and onion as they should have. The tacos, except the pre-fab variety, are very good and their cheese and onion enchiladas tasty. Their guacamole is one of the best in town and one of the best values as well.


The atmosphere leaves a lot to be desired, but the food is good, the margaritas well done and strong, the service OK, and the prices very fair, so we will be returning again soon.

CombatCritic Gives Tres Mexicanos 6 Bombs Out Of 10 ... More Bombs Are Better!

Six Bombs Equates To:

"Good To Go"

Read Reviews By CombatCritic:

Yelp - Elite '14/'15/'16

Tabelog - Official Judge (Bronze)

Zomato - #1 Ranked Foodie

View my food journey on Zomato!



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Tabelog Reviewer CombatCritic
View my food journey on Zomato!



Title: Lawrence, KS: Tres Mexicanos Is Muy Bueno Amigos

Key Words: Tres Mexicanos, tres, Mexicanos, Mexico, Mexican, taco, enchilada, Lawrence, Kansas, 23rd, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, restaurant, service, review, Yelp, Zomato, Tabelog

Translation for Civilians: G2G = "Good To Go"

Read Chris S.'s review of Tres Mexicanos on Yelp

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Lawrence, KS: Pizza Shuttle Stands For ZERO INTEGRITY And Earns A Spot On My "WALL OF SHAME"

Pizza Shuttle

1601 W. 23rd Street
Lawrence, KS 66046
Phone: (785) 842-1212

I will not waste my time reviewing a business that totally lacks integrity, so I will ignore the food, delivery, etc. at Pizza Shuttle and focus only on the matter at hand ... fraudulent business practices.

I ordered two 14" one-topping pizzas online from Pizza Shuttle (through Eat Street - where I was automatically directed) at a price of $15.18 (including $1.38 for extra cheese on my pizza). 

My wife is allergic to tomatoes, so I asked for olive oil on her pizza instead of tomato sauce, a request that every pizza place we have ever ordered from has gladly and "free"ly complied with. With tax at $1.45 and delivery at $1.50, the total came to $18.13 as you can see on my receipt and order confirmations (online and email) below.

As you can clearly see, the online and email confirmations listed a total of $18.13 including tax and delivery, but when the Pizza Shuttle driver arrived he stated the total was $22.25, an additional $4.07 "due to my wife being allergic to tomatoes and substituting olive oil for tomato sauce". Nobody bothered calling to inform us of the ridiculous $4+ upcharge and when the driver called the manager to confirm the discrepancy, the manager merely stated "that's the way it is, it's Eat Street's problem, not ours". 
I paid the driver the extra $4.07 (because it was not his fault and he does not get paid enough to argue with irate customers) and tipped him an additional $1.75, stating "your tip would have been much larger if your manager wasn't such an a**hole. Tell him to read my review on combatcritic.com and on Yelp ... it won't be pretty!"

Never again, Pizza Shuttle or Eat Street, once and I am done. 

CombatCritic Gives Pizza Shuttle And Eat Street 1 Bomb Out Of 10 And A Spot On My WALL OF SHAME FOR ZERO INTEGRITY ... Nuff Said!

One Bomb Equates To:
Read Reviews By CombatCritic:

Yelp - Elite '14/'15/'16

Tabelog - Official Judge (Bronze)

Zomato - #1 Ranked Foodie

View my food journey on Zomato!



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Tabelog Reviewer CombatCritic
View my food journey on Zomato!
Pizza Shuttle Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato








Title: Lawrence, KS: Pizza Shuttle Stands For ZERO INTEGRITY And Earns A Spot On My "WALL OF SHAME"

Key Words: Pizza Shuttle, pizza, shuttle, delivery, fraud, EatStreet, eatstreet.com, Lawrence, Kansas, 23rd, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, restaurant, menu, review, Yelp, Zomato, Tabelog

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

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Florence, Italy: Stazione Santa Maria Novella (Train Station) ... A Bit Dodgy, But Central And Very Convenient

Stazione Santa Maria Novella

Piazza della Stazione 1
50123 Florence, Italy
Stazione Ferroviaria Santa Maria Novella

Not the nicest station in Europe by far, the fascist design is reminiscent of the days of Mussolini. Like many train stations in Italy, it is close to the historic center of Florence and one of the most beautiful cities on the continent if not the world. 
Well connected to all parts of Italy and beyond, you can get a train pretty much anywhere. Just make sure you arrive at least 30 minutes before your departure of purchasing tickets as the ticket machines have long lines during the day and are quite slow. Also make sure you are not using a "credit card only" machine if you want to use cash. There are also human ticket agents available if you have time to wait in line.
Most trains are "Trenitalia" (state trains) and quite punctual. "Italo" also operates here and has very nice, very fast trains for long-haul journeys (Napoli-Firenze for example) and are often cheaper than Trenitalia. On our trip from Naples, they even offered FREE WI-FI with movies available on their network, also free, in English. Italo "veloce" trains hit speeds of 150-180 miles per hour, making the journey between Naples and Florence in just 2.5 hours.

The station is a bit of a pit and full of seedy characters, so clutch your valuables and avoid crowded areas. Otherwise, it is quite handy if traveling by rail to or from Florence.

CombatCritic Gives Stazione Santa Maria Novella (Florence) 5 Bombs Out Of 10 ... More Bombs Are Better!

Title: Florence, Italy: Stazione Santa Maria Novella (Train Station) ... A Bit Dodgy, But Central And Very Convenient


Key Words: Firenze, Florence, Italy, maria, novella, santa, Santa Maria Novella, station, train, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, stazione, Tuscano, Tuscani

DayTripQuip: Pensione Bencista - Fiesole From Piazza San Marco By Bus (Florence, Italy)

We have spent quite a bit of time in Florence over the years, most recently staying the month of July in an apartment near Mercato San'Ambrogio (don't miss it) in addition to other trips ranging from a few days to over a month.

The ATAF Bus - Line 7 - travels between Piazza San Marco - Via La Pira and Fiesole - Vinandro Osteria about every 20-30 minutes between 5am and 1am. Bus stop: FM0373 (REDRESS) is on the main road to/from Fiesole and a short 10 minute stroll from Pensione Bencista. You can purchase tickets at any tabaccaio (tobacco shop - look for a dark blue sign with a big "T") and the hotel may have some for sale. The stop going to Florence is across the road close to the top of the big bend and the one going toward Fiesole is up the road (to your right) 100 or so feet.

Piazza San Marco is close to the historical center (centro storico) of Florence, very close to Galleria dell'Accademia where Michelangelo's "David" resides and short walk to the Duomo, central Florence, Palazzo Medici Riccardi and the train station (Santa Maria Novella).

From Santa Maria Novella, you can go pretty much anywhere in Italy or Europe for that matter. Nice, short day trips available via rail are to Prato, Lucca, Pisa, Arezzo, Siena and Bologna, all of which leave you close to the city center.

You can read my numerous reviews of Florence restaurants, hotels, museums, and attractions here on TripAdvisor and on my popular blog where there is much more detailed information, including my patented and popular DayTripQuips.

Enjoy Firenze and buon viaggio!

CombatCritic

Read Reviews By CombatCritic:

Yelp - Elite '14/'15/'16

Tabelog - Official Judge (Silver)

Zomato - #1 Ranked Foodie

View my food journey on Zomato!



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Tabelog Reviewer CombatCritic
View my food journey on Zomato!


Title: DayTripQuip: Pensione Bencista - Fiesole From Piazza San Marco By Bus (Florence, Italy)

Key Words: Fiesole Pensione Bencista, Florence, Firenze, pensione, Bencista, Piazza San Marco, CombatCritic, TravelValue, DayTripQuip, day, trip, quip, travel, value, review, Yelp

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Lawrence, KS: Great Idea, So-So Execution

Pie Five

2500 Iowa St
Lawrence, KS 66046
Phone: (785) 551-7170
Prices $$$$

Had to try Pie Five because I had never heard of it and it looked interesting. Great idea, so-so execution. Skimpy with the "all you want" ingredients and small (10") pizzas for $7.50, about the size of my outstretched hand.


For an extra $3, I got a salad which was decent, but also skimpy on the carrots, onions and tomatoes, and a drink. You can get dessert or cheesy breadsticks ($1 extra) instead of salad if you like.




It's a cheap meal, but don't expect to be too impressed by the quality or quantity. As my Italian grandma would say, it was "mezzo-mezzo" (so-so).

CombatCritic Gives Pie Five 5 Bombs Out Of 10 ... More Bombs are Better!

Five Bombs Equates To:


"Continue Mission"


Read Reviews By CombatCritic:

Yelp - Elite '14/'15/'16

Tabelog - Official Judge (Bronze)

Zomato - #1 Ranked Foodie

View my food journey on Zomato!



... And Don't Forget To Subscribe To TravelValue TV on YouTube
Pie Five Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
Tabelog Reviewer CombatCritic
View my food journey on Zomato!



Title: Lawrence, KS: Great Idea, So-So Execution

Key Words: Pie Five, pie, five, 5 pizza, pizzeria, fast, food, Lawrence, Kansas, Iowa, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, restaurant, menu, review, Yelp, Zomato, Tabelog

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

Monday, September 5, 2016

Split, Croatia: Guest House Vlado Is A Scam And Hotels.com Could Care Less!

Guest House Vlado
Split, Croatia

Guest House Vlado in Split, Croatia is a RIP-OFF!  Do not book a room with this “so-called” guest house. Do not fall for the lies they tell in their description on Hotels.com and don’t expect any help from Hotels.com if you have any problems with a reservation.

I made a reservation from Dubrovnik the day before we left for Split.  Here’s the description Guest House Vlado gives on Hotels.com:

“Enjoying a beautiful Mediterranean climate, crystal clear seas and warm sands, this fascinating area of Croatia is also home to the Guest House Vlado, Split , where guests can take advantage of affordable 3 star accommodation .”

This is no 3-star accommodation and it is not a guest house.  The room we were eventually shown was on the 3rd floor (no elevator) of an old building with a 2-star “Sobe” sign on the front (a Sobe is a private residence in Slavic countries and anything below 3-stars has minimum essentials).

 “A warm welcome awaits you at this attractive property, and you are assured all the benefits you would expect to find in an upscale hotel. Located close to the Diocletian Palace and the beautiful Bacvice beach, visitors have no excuse not to relax and soak up the sun and the culture. Do not hesitate to ask the experienced staff for local tips and advice. Please Note: This guest house only accepts payment made by cash. “

The Hotels.com map locating Guest House Vlado near the bus/train station and Split’s Old City is a total lie.  I booked the room the day prior (and agreed to pay 80 Euros - $103) because we were only staying in Split for one night and needed to catch a train the following evening, so I was willing to pay extra so we didn’t have to drag our bags all over town.  We followed the map as shown on Hotels.com (with all of our baggage in tow), but Guest House Vlado was nowhere to be found.  When I asked several people where 86a Matice Hrvatske (the address listed on hotels.com) was, we were sent on a wild goose chase around Split for the next 1½ hours, finally locating the address about a mile from the station where we had arrived.  In fact, Diocletian's Palace was 1.06 miles from Guest House Vlado, not 400 yards as advertised on Hotels.com.  The “warm welcome” was an old hag (woman I believe) with a beard sitting in front of a worn out apartment building in a very seedy area.  She was extremely rude and condescending, even when I pointed out all of the inaccuracies of her description and the amenities listed on Hotels.com:

Amenities (all rooms include)

·         Air conditioning
·         Balcony
·         Cable television service
·         Ceiling fan
·         Kitchen
·         Non-smoking only
·         Television
·         Air-conditioned public areas
·         Bar/lounge
·         Garden
·         Grocery/convenience store
·         Number of rooms: 15
·         Restaurant(s) in hotel
·         On-site car rental
·         Room service (24 hours)

This is not a hotel, but several (five according to the old hag) sub-standard properties located in some terrible areas.  There was AC in the room we were shown and a very small balcony.  There was a TV on the floor, but we did not stick around long enough to find out if there was cable.  There was no AC in public areas because there were no public areas.  This is a room on the top floor of a building.  There was no ceiling fan, bar/lounge, garden, grocery/convenience store, car rental agency, room service, or restaurant in the “hotel” because THIS IS NOT A HOTEL.

When we finally got to the room (2½ hours after we had arrived by bus from Dubrovnik), the hag said “Everybody always says thank you so much for this beautiful room, is it not a beautiful room?”  I said, “Actually, no it’s not” and proceeded to tell her about all of the beautiful rooms we had stayed in on our journeys, rarely paying more than 50 Euros for rooms directly on the sea.  She became very rude and threatening at this point, so I told her that we were not going to pay 80 Euros for a room which was falsely advertised and misrepresented on Hotels.com in order to trick me into making the reservation.  She showed me a list of about ten names (with prices ranging from 70 to 130 Euros) which she was expecting from Hotels.com bookings, saying “see how much they are paying, you have a very good price”.  I told her that I refused to be swindled or bullied into staying in (and paying for) a room which was misrepresented in the advertisement, so we told her so and left.  She and her friends followed us for a while as we searched for a place to go (it was now around 7:30 PM), but we finally lost them when we got on a bus for the train station. We were very concerned because of her aggressive nature and did not know what their intentions were.

I immediately bought an international calling card (which cost me another $10) and called Hotels.com’s 24-hour “emergency” number, knowing that they would be very supportive and help us out of our predicament.  Wrong!  After getting cut off the first time, I finally spoke with Melvin (Employee # 5262899) at the Hotels.com toll-free emergency number where they advertise their “RISK FREE BOOKING”.  After explaining our situation to Melvin, he said he was sorry, BUT “there is nothing we can do because we are merely a booking site, a middle man, between the property and you.  If you have a problem with the property, you need to work it out with them”.  I asked him how Guest House Vlado could be allowed to lie and cheat people out of large sums of money and Hotels.com doing nothing about it.  He said he was sorry again, there was nothing he could do, the property could still charge us even though we did not stay there, and was going to hand me off to somebody else to try to find us a room.  I had had enough by this point, hung up the phone, and called my bank in the U.S. to warn them about a possibly fraudulent charge on my credit card.  We went directly to the train station and booked the first train out of Split, headed for a much more civilized country, Slovenia.

I have booked many rooms over the years with Hotels.com and never had a problem until now.  They are apparently unconcerned about their customers and allow fraudulent business practices on their site (Guest House Vlado is still advertizing rooms and tourists are getting ripped-off two days after our complaint to Hotels.com).  I tried to post a review, warning other travelers about Guest House Vlado, but Hotels.com does not allow it, even though I have an account and have been a customer for many years.  They make you wait for an e-mail with a link “a couple days after your stay” to submit a review.  I finally received the email 5 days later (Aug 19th), but when I clicked on the link, the message I received was “Sorry, you are not eligible to submit reviews”.   More and more Hotels.com customers are being ripped-off by Guest Housel Vlado as I write this, even after warning their employee (Melvin) on 8/14/2010.  We will never book a room with Hotels.com again and I urge you to consider doing the same!!!
Boycott Hotels.com until they show some concern for their customers and stand behind the “risk-free” booking they so proudly claim!
"We never charge a cancellation or change fee because it's just not fair.  At hotels.com, we understand sometimes your plans fall through. Or, perhaps you just decide you'd prefer to spend your vacation lounging on the beach rather than visiting your in-laws.  Hey, it happens. That's why we never charge you hotels.com change or cancel fees. Other travel sites may charge you a fee to change your plans, but with hotels.com just go online or call 800-2-HOTELS (800-246-8357) to change or cancel your plans. Please note, you may still be subject to change and cancellation fees that the property itself may impose and require us to pass on. So go ahead, be free to change your mind."
It's all a lie!  Guest House Vlado is still listed on Hotels.com, Expedia, and other travel sites, so they could obviously care less about the consumers...US!  READ ALL REVIEWS BEFORE BOOKING ON THESE SITES!!!

CombatCritic Gives Guest House Vlado And Hotels.com 1 Bomb Out Of 10 And A spot On My 'WALL OF SHAME"

One Bomb Equates To:
"Fucked Up Beyond All Repair"

Read Reviews By CombatCritic:

Yelp - Elite '14/'15/'16

Tabelog - Official Judge (Bronze)

Zomato - #1 Ranked Foodie

View my food journey on Zomato!



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Tabelog Reviewer CombatCriticView my food journey on Zomato!



Title: Split, Croatia: Guest House Vlado Is A Scam And Hotels.com Could Care Less!

Key Words: Croatia, guest house, Guest House Vlado, Hotels.com, problems reservation book, RIP-OFF, room, scam, Split, CombatCritic, travel, value, TravelValue, hotel, review

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Kansas City, MO: Pretentious, Rushed, Cold, Dark, Cramped, Pricey - Garozzo's Was Mezzo Mezzo (So-S0)

Garozzo’s Ristorante 
(Downtown)

526 Harrison Street
Kansas City, MO 64106
Phone: (816) 221-2455
Website: garozzos.com
Prices: $$$$

First, let me apologize for the quality of the photos in this post. Garozzo's is so dark there was not enough light to take a photo without a flash or the external light source I normally use and I did not want to disturb our fellow diners so that I could take a decent photo ... sorry!

We have been to Garozzo's several times, but this was the first in about four years and since I started this blog. The food was always good, a bit pricey, but solid Italian food in a nice, but too dark and pretentious atmosphere. I say pretentious because the food screams "mom and pop" Italian restaurant, not upscale, fancy shmancy with servers (mostly waiters) dressed to the nines and with attitudes to match. 
This visit was no different. Good food, a room too dark to read the menu, a table too small to hold our food and drinks, and a waiter that was courteous, but all business, and a bit too eager to get rid of us and earn some extra tips. When you drop a C-note for dinner for two, you should not be rushed through your meal. We were.

I will not use the server's name, but we were quickly welcomed, being the first diners at 5:30pm on a Tuesday after attending the closing for the sale of our home and celebrating with a nice dinner out. My wife and I were talking, but the server seemed eager to take our order, interrupting our conversation to ask what we wanted to drink. I asked for water and a bottle of their house cabernet sauvignon ($24).

After bringing our drinks, again interrupting our conversation, I ordered a stuffed artichoke as an appetizer (antipasto) and for entrees my wife requested the Tortelloni Gina and I the Veal Parmigiana. I asked the server if the dinners came with salad and pasta (in my case) as I seemed to remember salad coming with the entrees the last time we were there. I was either wrong or they had changed their policies because the server told me that a salad was "an additional $4". The veal did come with a "small serving of pasta with Maggie's Sugo" I was told.

My wife and I returned to our conversation, but about five minutes later I realized that we had not ordered our salads, my mistake, so I asked my wife to get our server's attention, which she quickly did. I said, "I'm sorry, but we forgot to order salads", to which he replied, "well, I already put you dinner orders in, but I can take care of that with the kitchen". My wife ordered the Insalata Caesar ($4) and I the Insalata Santa Teresa ($4).

The cabernet was actually quite good, from a California winery they prominently feature on their wine list. The artichoke ($10), stuffed with seasoned breadcrumbs, steamed, and topped with garlic butter, quickly arrived and we dug right in. My grandmother used to make similar stuffed artichokes, except she used olive oil instead of butter and added small chunks of salami, but these were very good with tasty stuffing and large tender leaves. We were not even halfway through eating our artichoke when our server arrived with our salads. As a former waiter myself, there is nothing that pisses me off more than a server who brings the next course when we have not even finished the last, but I bit my tongue because it really did not matter that much because the salads were not going to get cold while sitting on the table, which they did for another 10-15 minutes while we finished our antipasto. The table, by the way, was so small (like all of the tables for two) that the server had difficulty finding space for our premature salads.

My wife then started eating her Caesar salad, waiting for her favorite part, the heart, while I polished off the last few leaves of the artichoke. She finished her salad, which she said was "nothing special", in the interim and I, after the server cleared a few plates, then started eating mine. About halfway through my salad, which was good, with Romaine lettuce, red onion, chunks of goat cheese, Dijon vinaigrette, and topped with sliced roasted red peppers, but unremarkable, the server arrived with my wife's Tortelloni Gina. That was the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back, so I asked our server: "Are we in a hurry?", to which he replied, "oh, I'm sorry, let me take that away". I proceeded to finish my salad.
Hovering, waiting for me to finish, when the server saw my salad plate was empty, he quickly swept the plate away and returned a few minutes later with our entrees. My wife's Tortelloni Gina ($19) was filled with chicken and prosciutto, and served in a very traditional creamy Alfredo sauce with mushrooms and peas. It was hot, very large, extremely rich, and my wife, who was born in Italy, enjoyed it very much. Bravo! The server had tried to sway me away from the Veal Parmigiano (veal parmesan to you Olive Garden lovers), recommending the Vitello Spiedini Sophia Marie ($27) instead. Because I have had every other veal dish at Garozzo's, including the veal Sophia Maria and Saltimbocca ($27), which are both excellent by the way, I wanted to try the Vitello Parmigiana ($24), my failsafe in Italian restaurants and a good indicator of the quality of an Italian-American kitchen (you will not find veal parmigiano in Italy unless the restaurant caters to Americans).
The veal was lukewarm at best, with three very small medallions topped with the house red sauce and fontina cheese, a bit odd as "parmigiana" is usually topped with mozzarella, baked or broiled, and sprinkled with parmigiana (parmesan cheese), hence the name. The sauce was very good in comparison to most stateside Italian restaurants, but the dish would have been much better had it been served hot, warm even, and with a bit more veal. The accompanying pasta was negligible and obviously came out of a bag or box. At $24 for just an entree, $30 including salad, it would have been a poor value, even if it had been served at the appropriate temperature.

I understand that it was my mistake, asking for salads five minutes after our order was taken, but our server said he would "take care of it", as he should have. There is no excuse for bringing multiple or mixed courses, particularly in an "upscale" restaurant such as Garozzo's. There is also no excuse for serving a $24 veal dish cold, no matter what the circumstances.

I like the place in general, but Garozzo's would be much better if they dropped the pretenses, brought up the lights, bought some bigger tables, and lowered the prices a tad. I also believe that customers should NEVER be rushed, especially when they are paying $50 a head and up for a meal.

CombatCritic Gives Garozzo's Ristorante 5 Bombs Out Of 10 With Deductions For Unprofessional Service, Cold Food, Darkness, Small Tables, And Questionable Value ... More Bombs Are Better!




Five Bombs Equates To:



Read Reviews By CombatCritic:

Yelp - Elite '14/'15/'16

Tabelog - Official Judge (Bronze)

Zomato - #1 Ranked Foodie

View my food journey on Zomato!



... And Don't Forget To Subscribe To TravelValue TV on YouTube


Tabelog Reviewer CombatCriticView my food journey on Zomato!


Garozzo's Ristorante Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato




Title: Kansas City, MO: Pretentious, Rushed, Cold, Dark, Cramped, Pricey - Garozzo's Was Mezzo Mezzo (So-S0)

Key Words: Garozzo's, Garozzo, Italian, Kansas City, Kansas, city, Missouri, CombatCritic, Italy, TravelValue, travel, value, restaurant, menu, ristorante, review, Yelp, Zomato, Tabelog

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