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Sunday, November 29, 2015

Tulsa, OK: Nicer Than Expected, But Not The Value Hotwire Led Us To Believe

DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Tulsa Downtown
616 W 7th Street
Tulsa, OK 74127
Phone: (918) 587-8000
Website: DoubleTreeDowntownTulsa
Prices: $$$$

For the price we paid on Hotwire, $55 per night, this hotel seemed to be a good value and likely would have received 4 Stars (8 Bombs). Figure in the taxes and fees ($37), as well as Hotwire's additional unadvertised parking charge ($10/night), bringing the total to $232 ($77.33/night) for three nights, it was not such quite as good a bargain after all, hence my rating.
The reviews I read were not great with many people talking about how dated the hotel is, but we found the exterior, lobby, and public areas very nice, but only the room was a bit dated with popcorn ceilings and ugly carpeting. Otherwise, the room was large and pleasant with complimentary coffee, but no mini fridge.
As in most Hilton's I have stayed in, there always seems to be something wrong. In our room it was the disgusting air intake vent in the bathroom. There was something growing inside and I did not want to find out exactly what it was.
Once you reserve, they nickel ($5) and dime ($10) you, making what looked like a bargain on Hotwire just another expensive endeavor. Unlike smaller chains and independent operators, the big boys like Hyatt and Hilton do not include breakfast, parking, and wi-fi. Slow wi-fi was included at this property, but you had to pay if you wanted to stream video on Skype, Netflix, etc., so my wife could not Skype with her family in Italy unless we paid the additional fees.
The pool and jacuzzi were nice. The pool is reasonably big with a 25-yard swimming lane on one side and the temperature a pleasant 76 degrees. The jacuzzi is a bit small with only one place to submerse yourself to the shoulders, the steps, and the temperature nice and hot at around 104-105 degrees. The only problem being that you have to traverse the lobby in your bathing suit to reach the pool area which is located next to the front desk, a poor design and an embarrassing hike past guests and employees, dry or wet.


Unfortunately, the weather was horrible the entire weekend, raining the entire 5 days with temperatures in the low-mid 30s, so we were stuck in the room much of the time. 

For $80 a night in Tulsa, Oklahoma, parking and breakfast should be included in the price at a nice, but not spectacular hotel. Had it been, they would have received one of my top ratings. However, it was a fairly nice hotel, even at an inflated price over what Hotwire had advertised to lure me into the purchase.

CombatCritic Gives DoubleTree by Hilton - Tulsa Downtown 5 Bombs Out Of 10 ... More Bombs Are Better!



Read Reviews By CombatCritic:

Yelp - "Elite '14/'15"

TripAdvisor - "Top Contributor" 

Tabelog - "Official Judge (Bronze)

Zomato - "Super Foodie"

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

Tabelog Reviewer CombatCriticView my food journey on Zomato!





Title: Nicer Than Expected, But Not The Value Hotwire Led Us To Believe

Key Words: DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Tulsa Oklahoma, OK, DoubleTree, Hilton, Tulsa, downtown, hotel, parking, fee, expensive, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, Hotwire, Hotwire.com, review, Yelp, TripAdvisor

Translation: "Charlie-Mike" - Continue Mission (A-OK)

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Tulsa, OK: Not The Wurst, But Pretty Gut

Margaret's German Restaurant
5107 South Sheridan Road
Tulsa, OK 74145
South Tulsa
Phone: (918) 622-3747
Website: margaretsgermanrestaurant.com
Prices: $$$$
Having lived in Europe for six years and traveled extensively in Germany and other countries where schnitzel is a staple (Austria, Switzerland, Slovenia, Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia, and Hungary to name a few), I have had some of the best and am therefore a bit more discerning than most American customers who have never eaten authentic schnitzel, For example, "Wiener" Schnitzel is made from "veal", not pork, but inexperienced travelers would never know the difference and an authentic German restaurant would not make the mistake of referring to pork schnitzel as wiener schnitzel. Anyway, Margaret's schnitzel, by comparison, was "OK". 
We were greeted by the tall, blonde owner who did not tell us her name, but told us she is actually Polish, having bought the German restaurant in 1989. We were seated at a table reserved for us in the semi-quaint back room furnished with German photos, beer steins, and a large mural of Austria's Neuschwanstein Castle with the phrase "Herzlich Willkommen" (heartfelt welcome) in the center. The service was in-fact welcoming and efficient, as should be the case in any German restaurant, but the music did not fit the theme and it was a bit too loud.


Starting with the prerequisite German dark wheat beer, a Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier Dunkel (17 oz - $5.95), we ordered a pair of the German pretzels ($4.95) to share. The bottled beer (they have no drafts) was cold and good, the pretzels hot and salty with a spicy German mustard to add as needed. So far so good, but it is difficult to mess up a bottle of beer and a couple pretzels.
For our main courses, my wife ordered the Jägarschnitzel ($15.99) with spätzle and red cabbage and I the Klosterschnitzel ($16.99) with fried potatoes, saüerkraut and a side of Jäger sauce, both coming with a bowl of goulash soup. 
The goulash was tasty, but unlike any I have had before. Accompanied by two slices of German pumpernickel, there were croutons and a sprinkling of cheddar cheese on top and instead of the customary cubes of beef there were chunks of sausage, beans, peas and other veggies. It was spicy and pretty good, but not quite what we were expecting, particularly because my wife dislikes beans.
Both schnitzels were a bit on the small side, but well prepared. The Jägerschnitzel, a breaded, pan-fried pork loin, was topped with a typical hunter's sauce (brown gravy with mushrooms) that was not great, not tasting like it was made from scratch. The spätzle was decent and the red cabbage sweet and sour, but a bit soggy. The Klosterschnitzel, basically cordon bleu, a breaded pork loin stuffed with ham and cheese, then pan fried was also pretty good. Unfortunately, the fried potatoes looked more like frozen steak fries than any German fried potato I have ever had and the saüerkraut was unremarkable.
Overall, the service very good, the ambience decent, the food fair and the value average. Some German or Austrian background music would contribute to a more authentic atmosphere, the schnitzel could be a tad bigger, and the Jäger sauce definitely needs some work, but otherwise, Margaret's does a pretty good job with an uncommon cuisine south of the Mason-Dixon.

CombatCritic Gives Margaret's German Restaurant A Respectable 5 Bombs Out Of 10 ... Bombs Are Gut!






Read More Reviews By CombatCritic:

Yelp - "Elite '14/'15"

TripAdvisor - "Top Contributor" 

Tabelog - "Official Judge (Bronze)

Zomato - "Super Foodie"

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

Tabelog Reviewer CombatCriticView my food journey on Zomato!



Margaret's German RestaurantMargaret's German Restaurant
Margaret's German Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Title: Tulsa, OK: Not The Wurst, But Pretty Gut

Key Words: Margaret's German Restaurant, Margaret's, Margaret, German, Tulsa, OK, Oklahoma, South, Sheridan, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, restaurant, menu, review, Yelp, TripAdvisor

Translation: "Charlie-Mike" - Continue Mission (Keep up the good work)

Friday, November 27, 2015

Tulsa, OK: Nice Place, But Pushy Service Was Very Annoying

Mondo’s Ristorante Italiano
3410 South Peoria Avenue
Tulsa, OK 74105
Phone: (918) 561-6300
Prices: $$$$  
Italian
We arrived 30 minutes earlier than our 6pm reservation because it was cold and rainy and we ran out of things to do in Tulsa on the day after Thanksgiving. There was plenty of room in the near empty restaurant and we were quickly seated. Twenty seconds after sitting down, our server, Amy, asked if we wanted anything to drink. She did not introduce herself (I had to ask for her name before we left), did not greet or welcome us, only saying "what would you like to drink?". The words "we'd like to start with ice water" were barely out of my mouth (I was about to order a glass of wine) when she cut me off saying "the wine and beer menu is right there". I then proceeded to order a glass of the house red wine ($6) when she asked, "Are you ready to order your dinner?", to which I replied, "we just sat down, can we have a few minutes please?".
Our water soon arrived, then my wine a minute or two later, when again we were asked, "have you decided on your order?". "Not yet", I said, but Amy was back less than five minutes later, asking again and hovering like a helicopter apparently hoping to move us along so she could fill the table as many times as possible in one night. Finally, on her fourth pass we were ready to order, veal Marsala ($18.95) for my wife and veal parmigiana ($18.95) for me. After ordering, we noticed a board with specials listed behind us by the bar which Amy had failed to tell us about, but by then it was too late so we let it go.
Dinners come with soup (minestrone or clam chowder) or salad (house or Caesar) and bread, and not surprisingly our house salads and what Amy called "garlic bread" soon arrived. The bread was toasted and good, but I could locate little if any garlic. The salads were of decent size and the best I have had in recent memory, with romaine and iceberg lettuce, sliced olives, shredded mozzarella, pepperoncini, artichoke heart, grape tomatoes, croutons and bleu cheese dressing. My wife eats faster than I do and finished her salad a few minutes before I did with Amy quickly scooping up her plate and looking at me like "aren't you done yet?.
Once again, with little surprise, our meals quickly followed my salad plate being whisked away. My veal parmigiana looked quite nice, a good size portion of breaded veal covered with tomato sauce and baked mozzarella cheese and a side of spaghettini (not spaghetti as posted on the menu) with meat sauce. The veal was tender and very good, the pasta with a bit too much sauce as is the norm in many stateside Italian restaurants. The sauce was fair, nothing special, with little "meat" visible to the naked eye. Overall, I was pleased. My wife's veal Marsala was probably one third the size of my portion, maybe half when you factor in the breading on my parmigiana, and the sauce was creamy unlike any Marsala sauce I have ever seen. Although unconventional, it was also pretty good with a fair number of sliced mushrooms accompanying the four ounces or so of sauteed veal and a side of spaghettini also with the creamy Marsala.
I had not even come close to finishing my meal when Amy swooped by again, taking my wife's empty plate and asking if we wanted dessert. "Would it be OK if I finish my meal first?" I thought to myself, but by then I was so fed up with the pushy service that I kept my mouth shut and went about eating my dinner. Amy was never unpleasant, only overeager to move us along and with a fake friendliness and forced smile, never once treating us like fellow human beings but more like cattle being led to slaughter. "Git along little dogies"!

Beside the pushiness, Amy was efficient for fairly obvious reasons and we were never left waiting for anything. In fact, we were in and out of there in record time considering we had to eat a two course meal. The food was actually pretty good overall and the prices reasonable, probably meriting an additional star (or a bomb or two) in my rating had it not been for having felt so rushed. I would likely return again if in the area, hopefully in the seating area of a more personable and patient server.

CombatCritic Gives Mondo's Ristorante Italiano 6 Bombs Out Of 10 ... More Bombs Are Better!


Read Reviews By CombatCritic:

Yelp - "Elite '14/'15"

TripAdvisor - "Top Contributor" 

Tabelog - "Official Judge (Bronze)

Zomato - "Super Foodie"

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

Tabelog Reviewer CombatCriticView my food journey on Zomato!



Title: Nice Place, But Pushy Service Was Very Annoying

Key Words: Mondo's Ristorante Italiano, Mondo, Mondo's, ristorante, Italiano, Italian, Tulsa, OK, Oklahoma, Brookside, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, restaurant, menu, review, Yelp, TripAdvisor

Translation: "G2G" - Good To Go

Tulsa, OK: WORST THANKSGIVING MEAL OF MY LIFE ... Thanks Hard Rock!


Hard Rock Casino (Tulsa) Buffet
19250-19254 Timbercrest Circle

Catoosa, OK 74015
Phone: (800) 760-6700
Website:HardRockCasinoTulsa
Prices: $$$$
At $22 a pop for the Thanksgiving buffet, I expected more, much more.


We had to wait in line for 30-40 minutes just to get in. The selection of entrees was dismal and what they had was poorly prepared. The turkey was obviously from turkey rolls, not whole birds, the pork loin was overcooked and dry, and the "prime rib" was bloody. I asked the carver if I could get an end cut or something medium-well or well, but he told me "no". Really? You don't have another piece of meat in the back with two ends on it at 3PM when the buffet is open for another 6 or 7 hours? I passed on the prime rib, one of the main reasons we drove 30 miles out of our way to eat there.


I know the mashed potatoes were mashed from real potatoes because there were massive un-mashed chunks of potato throughout and they were extremely dry, not creamy as they should be. The brown gravy, there was no "turkey gravy", had little chunks in it, so I asked if it had giblets. The nice lady told me "we were thinking the same thing, so let me ask the chef" who just happened to be passing by. He confirmed that they were giblets, so I asked if they had gravy without giblets, to which he replied "no, we made 80 gallons and they all have giblets". I passed on the gravy as well.

The salad bar was decent, the pizza was OK, and the desserts abundant, but of poor quality. I have been to many buffets in my lifetime and large casinos usually have good ones. Not the Hard Rock Tulsa. Turkey roll, dry pork, bloody beef, dry, half-mashed potatoes, and nothing but giblet gravy ... WORST THANKSGIVING MEAL IN MY LIFE ... thanks Hard Rock!


CombatCritic Gives The Hard Rock Casino (Tulsa) Buffet 2 Bombs Out Of 10 ... More Bombs Are Better!









Read Reviews By CombatCritic:

Yelp - "Elite '14/'15"

TripAdvisor - "Top Contributor" 

Tabelog - "Official Judge (Bronze)

Zomato - "Super Foodie"

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

Tabelog Reviewer CombatCriticView my food journey on Zomato!



Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Buffet Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Hard Rock Casino BuffetHard Rock Casino Buffet

Title: WORST THANKSGIVING MEAL OF MY LIFE ... thanks Hard Rock!

Key Words: Hard Rock Casino, Hard Rock, Hard, Rock, casino, Tulsa, OK, Oklahoma, Thanksgiving, buffet, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, restaurant, menu, review, Yelp, TripAdvisor

Translation: "Tango Uniform" - tits-up; dead; awful

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Wichita, KS: By Georges, This Wichita Bistro Is La Bombe!

Georges French Bistro
4618 East Central Ave, Suite 50
Wichita, KS 67208
Phone: (316) 831-1325
Website: georgesfrenchbistro.com
Prices: $$$$
When we arrived, the young hostess ignored us for a few minutes until she finished bussing a table. She finally asked if we had a reservation and I told her that I had been emailing back and forth with the owner who had confirmed our 6:30 reservation even though we were a bit early. There was no reservation listed, but she said "no problem" and asked if we wanted a high-top. I told her we did not, so she proceeded to take us to a table for four.


The place is not huge, having 20 or so tables and high-tops, but was full on a Wednesday night and just a couple weeks after opening, so they must be doing something right. 

We ordered a bottle of "The Dark" ($29), a deep, red wine, but our server could not tell me the varieties of grapes included. She guessed "Cabernet Sauvignon?" and "Pinot Noir?", but it would have been nice to know if it was 100% Cabernet or a Cabernet/Syrah blend. I prefer Syrahs first, then Cabernets, so blends are fine, but this one ended up being a very good choice. The color was a deep red and the flavor robust with fruity and peppery overtones. The wine menu is limited and glasses start at $8, bottles at $27, so it would be nice to have a "value option" at $6 per glass or under $24 per bottle for those on a budget.

The food was wonderful and very reasonably priced. We shared the Parisien Cheese Dip ($9), a blend of warm ricotta cheese, olive oil, spices, olives, and halved cherry tomatoes served with six small slices of toasted baguette. The dip was very tasty, but the bread quickly disappeared, so I asked the server if we could possibly get some more, un-toasted. I then noticed there were no bread baskets on any of the tables, quite odd for a French restaurant where bread is normally the first thing they bring out. We waited patiently for our bread and after ten minutes or so our server returned, looked at our dip, and asked if we wanted some more bread. I told her that we never received the bread we originally asked for, so she went in the back and returned five minutes later with two small pieces.
My wife had the Crêpe Diane ($9), a crispy, square shaped crêpe with smoked ham and Gruyére cheese inside and topped with an over-medium egg on top, accompanied by a bit of salad on the plate. It was savory and delicious as well as being a very good value.

I ordered the Steak Frites, about six ounces of grilled sirloin topped with L'Entrocôte de Paris sauce and accompanied by frites (French fries). The steak was perfectly cooked and tender, the sauce tasty, but not overbearing, and the fries hand-cut, crispy, and hot.
Georges, the owner, stopped by twice during our meal to introduce himself and ask about our meal. He is a very nice and obviously talented man in his 30s whose two lovely young children arrived during one of his stops. I told him that our meal was very good and the prices fair, but that the bread situation was a bit of a concern. French cuisine is known for its sauces and those sauces, escargots in particular, require bread to mop up the leftover sauce. He told me that he does not want to serve bread unless he bakes it himself, an admirable intention, but there has to be a bakery in Wichita where he can get decent baquettes until he acquires the capability. I know the local Dillon's supermarkets have decent baguettes and even they would do over no bread at all. I am sure he will figure it out because he seems intent on creating a positive customer experience.

My wife and I were discussing sharing a Crème Brûlée and just a few minutes after Georges' final visit ... voilà ... a complimentary Crème Brûlée ($6) arrived! It was not necessary as we were very pleased with our meal and the service, but a nice touch nonetheless. It was delicious - thank you Georges!

At $65 ($78 including tip) for a shared appetizer, two entrees, and a bottle of wine, Georges French Bistro is an excellent value. The food was outstanding, the environment comfortable, and the service quite good. A bit more attention to detail by the staff (reservation problem, inability to explain grape content in the wine, extra bread for dip), a good basket of bread on each table, and a larger wine list with a couple value options will make this a FIVE STAR (10 Bomb) restaurant very soon. Next time we are in Wichita, Georges will be our first choice for dinner.

CombatCritic Gives Georges French Bistro 8 Bombs Out Of 10 ... More Bombs Are Better!


Read Reviews By CombatCritic:

Yelp - "Elite '14/'15"

TripAdvisor - "Top Contributor" 

Tabelog - "Official Judge (Bronze)

Zomato - "Super Foodie"

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

Tabelog Reviewer CombatCriticView my food journey on Zomato!


Georges French BistroGeorges French Bistro

Georges French Bistro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Title: By Georges, This Wichita Bistro Is La Bombe!

Key Words: Georges French Bistro, Georges, French, bistro, wine, escargots, cheese, Wichita, Kansas, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, restaurant, menu, review, Yelp, TripAdvisor

Translation: "WTFO!" - What the F@%$ ... Over! (In a good way)

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