Monday, December 13, 2010

Now, for something disgusting: Worst Foods in America, in Eugene

Yahoo! has released a list of the "Worst Foods in America, 2010" today. It's a list of the most unhealthy things you can eat at a chain restaurant. I thought it'd be fun to see which of these is available in Eugene. First, the list:

  1. PF Chang's Double Pan-Fried Noodles Combo (served with beef, pork, chicken, and shrimp): 1,820 calories/84 g of fat/7,692 mg sodium.
    This is certainly available in Eugene (and even for online ordering!), but... you know, why would you get this, when I'm fairly certain you could burn through 2,000 calories by ordering some similar combination platter at Ocean Sky and racking up at least 2,000 extra sodium "points"? (It would also be cheaper).

  2. Baja Fresh Charbroiled Steak Nachos: 2,120 calories/118g fat/2,990 mg sodium.
    Available in Eugene! I guess the point of this list is that things only make it on here if they're new in 2010, so it's perhaps useless to point out that any number of Taco Bell entries could take this one down in a (sluggish, cholesterol-choked) heartbeat. Then again, this does somewhat throw a cramp into my consideration of nachos as "not really a meal" and therefore "lighter." I still believe that throwing some cranberry salsa on top would make this into a health food.

  3. Uno Chicago Grill's Chicago Classic Deep Dish Pizza (individual size): 2,310 calories/165 g fat/4,920 mg sodium
    Not available in Eugene, but they must have something comparable at BJ's. Also -- holy cow, 165 g of fat, really? Why not throw some deep-fried bacon on top and just get it over with?

  4. IHOP Big Country Breakfast with Chicken Fried Steak and Country Gravy: 2,440 calories/145 g fat/5,520 mg sodium
    Available in Eugene. Yes, but: let me ask you, do those calories really matter at the times in our lives (4 a.m., finals week, post-bar, during a relative's Riverbend surgery) that we find ourselves camped out at IHOP? I think not. No one goes to IHOP for health food, or even for particularly creative tastes. If they wanted tasty fattening breakfast, Addi's is just down the street, and if you ask nicely, they'll make you a chicken-fried-steak skillet that puts this piddlin' little platter of drunk food to shame. Then again, you can only go to Addi's during regular hours (5 a.m. to 2 p.m.), so...

  5. Cheesecake Factory's Bistro Shrimp Pasta: 2,730 calories/78g fat/919 mg sodium
    Not available in Eugene, unless they sell it frozen at Safeway or something. I'd say there's a reasonable alternative to this to be found at The Olive Garden: all the chain taste, half the price, and their little cheese-filled sacchetti things must carry most of the wallop that this pasta does. Plus, free breadsticks! Dipped in fry oil and sodium. YUM.

There's more to this list -- a whole 20-item slide show, in fact, where some guy tells you what to eat instead of each of these items. (Example: Eat the Double Stack with Bacon at Wendy's instead of the Triple Baconator). The entire list raises a few important questions:

1). Does Blimpie still exist?

2). Do people really eat Domino's breadbowl pasta line?

2.5) Seriously? Why?

3). Does anyone want to go to Addi's Diner with me, stat?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Closings, openings, etc.

  • As announced via Cara Eddo's Facebook page and Web site, Eddo Burger has closed for good. If you're looking for a cute airstream trailer from which to make your (and my) dream of veggie burger tastiness come true, you should definitely keep an eye on Craig's list, where it is apparently listed.
  • Fina Taqueria on Willamette has closed, and with its departure, the best chips in town have left the scene.  The West brothers have shuttered the concept of Fina, preferring to focus on Mucho Gusto and Dickie Jo's. Can't those places have the awesome chips, too? C'mon.
  • The Broadway downtown closed its doors... but reopened them at the Oakway Center, which is fast becoming the hub for, hm, things I like to eat before I spend too much money at Borders. (Also, please ignore the information on The Broadway's web site, and The Broadway's name itself, as the restaurant really is no longer located on Broadway).
  • Sabai, a restaurant promising Pacific-Rim-meets-Pacific-Northwest cuisine, will open at the Oakway Center next month. I'm looking forward to seeing what they do with the space that doomed Uva. Here's hoping for more lighting. (Also, Thai at Oakway would complete me).
  • Red Lobster is nearly complete near Valley River Center. Word on the "grand opening" is sometime in February, though every time I pass by, I'm sure it's already serving people.
  • Jimmy John's has opened its doors in Springfield. For those not familiar, get thee to that little corner of Gateway street where the good Starbucks huddles beside the forgotten Cafe Yumm. Or -- order online for delivery!
  • Brewed Awakenings on Willakenzie is now the evening home of Seoul Sushi, which offers karaoke (I believe on its big-screen TV) on select evenings and coupons just about everywhere. This isn't the leap that it seems; the place has been home to Korean food during the day for some time now.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Burrito Chain Wars, Part III: Qdoba is Cheesy (cheesy goodness)

There are two major differences between Qdoba and its closest competitor, Chipotle: cheese sauce and breakfast. Qdoba offers both; Chipotle offers neither. This may not be a point in Qdoba's favor, if you're some kind of chain burrito purist (and if you are: WTF?), but for me, it's often the winning move in an otherwise even chess match.

Part of my affection for Qdoba comes from one simple fact: I've eaten a lot of it, and I've paid almost nothing for it. Just over two years ago, I entered one of those drop-your-name-in-a-fishbowl contests at Qdoba and, soon after, won a year's worth of free burritos. That's 52 free burritos, credited to one of their Qdoba loyalty cards. C and I have eaten out on that card ever since -- not every week, clearly, but often enough.

Qdoba was always my second choice before I got The Free Burrito card. However, with that in hand, I've felt free to try more things -- and among these things, I've found some I really enjoy. Take, for instance, Qdoba's "Mexican Gumbo." Set aside the ridiculousness of the name and focus on what this is: rice and beans with a tomato-broth soup poured over, with cheese, crispy chip bits, salsa, and sour cream. It's the best burrito-like bowl that I have ever had, and on a mildly cool day, it's pretty much the perfect lunch. Pair it with an order of chips and cheese dip -- there's almost always a coupon for a free serving of this in those Student Coupon books they hand out at the bookstore every start of term -- and you've got a perfectly over-satisfying meal that's made for you in less than five minutes and costs about $8.

Yes, this is a place that serves nacho cheese sauce. Why not? The authenticity that any chain burrito restaurant aspires to is only a very commercialized, American version of fast Mexican cuisine, anyway, and, well, Americans love their processed cheese. Qdoba goes two better, making a "three cheese queso" (I know, that's "three cheese cheese," but this is the level of cultural knowledge we're dealing with). What are those three cheeses? I have no idea, nor do I particularly care. They make an orange sauce that's absolutely pleasing on chips and, better than that, makes a welcome, tangy addition to one of their signature burritos: The Queso Burrito. That one, which is cheese sauce and meat of choice, is neighbors to another Qdoba signature, the Ancho Chile BBQ Burrito, a dish that C is generally pleased with. "It's a nice smokey tangy barbecue sauce that goes over pork well for that kind of thing," he says. "It's something I can eat fairly often."

That kind of describes everything at Qdoba: nothing will burn you, or overexcite you, or bring you to some kind of burrito epiphany, but it's good. It's fine. None of the food at Qdoba is particularly challenging. It's plain chain burrito fare: meats, sauces, rice, two kinds of beans (both vegetarian), four kinds of salsa, and a few special features like the queso, the bbq sauce, the soup, and, hey! Breakfast.

Breakfast has been the main way I've experienced Qdoba for the last year. It is, to my knowledge, the only of the three chains in town that even bothers with the breakfast burrito. You have only a few choices: 10" or 13" flour tortilla? (10 for me; 13 for C). Egg, spiced potatoes, and cheese? (Yes). Meat? (No for me; sausage for C). Salsa? (Depends on the day). Coffee? It's Allan Bros. (No thanks -- coffee + burrito = disaster).

You can get a breakfast quesadilla with eggs and cheese, too, or substitute shredded chicken for the sausage, but these are your options. Breakfast burritos are served until noon on weekends, which is absolutely perfect (when does McDonald's stop serving? 10:30? That's practically dawn). Matched to a Coke product of your choice and scarfed down while sitting at a could-be-ripped-from-Chipotle wooden bench seat over a shiny metal table, it's exactly the breakfast one needs before wandering to the bookstore for a re-up on homework materials.

Location: 13th and Kincaid

Hours: Monday-Wednesday 8 a.m. to midnight; Thursday-Friday 8 a.m. to 3 a.m.; Saturday 9 a.m. to 3 a.m.; Sunday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Notes: The Qdoba loyalty card, in combination with a coupon book you can pick up at the bookstore for free, will generally supply you with a free burrito, chips, or drink every couple of visits, even if you don't win the contest that I did.

Qdoba Mexican Grill on Urbanspoon