Bulldog Certainly Does Wish You a Most Happy New Year!

Bulldog Certainly Does Wish You a Most Happy New Year!

This is a quick blog posting to say that I do hope this brand-new year of 2018 has gotten off to a good start for you! You just might feel–as I do–that 2017 was so awful that this year has just GOT to be better! If so, I think we’re both right!

I did not say a word about the new year on Monday when it was new new, but I ushered it in with some perfectly-cooked black eyed peas with onion, garlic, ham and Bulldog’s special seasonings! And some scratch cornbread which also could not have been better!

And, no, I did not have any champagne, but some ice-cold Coors in those awesome retro-looking bottles worked just fine.

So far the new year’s going alright. The best thing I’ve done so far is today’s trip to our Tosohatchee Wildlife Management Area. Had a fine time and got a few good pix; I’ll have a couple of them up here in a new post very soon.

Please accept my best wishes for a safe, fun and thoroughly-amazing 2018! And I hope you get to spend some of it doing some cool stuff outdoors!

My Heart Was Smacked Around Tonight by Joni and Jane!

Note from Ben: I haven’t had a lot to say about music here on da bulldog blog in my first two years, but being a musician and a big-time music lover, it’s a huge thing in my life. So I’m going to have more to say about it moving forward. It’s all about enjoying yourself on your passage through life. And music can be a big part of that!

 

I love to dash off a quick posting when a song I’ve loved for a while crawls through the speakers in my laptop and into my ear and really moves me.

It happened again tonight. It was a Joni Mitchell song; what can I say?

I’ve loved singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell since Court and Spark came out. Yeah, a long time.

To me the J.M. song that’s the most distinctive is “A Case of You”. If you’re not familiar with it, there’s no way to describe it, really.

Here’s the funny thing: even though I practically worship the ground upon which Joni walks, it’s the Jane Monheit cover of this amazing song that moves me the most.

Well, Joni and Jane tag-teamed me tonight; my heart and brain both feel as though they’ve gone a few rounds in the ring with these two hard-hitting queens of jazz.

Last call! If you want to hear a song that captures perfectly the insane passion in a woman’s love for a man, click on this.

 

Blusician “Bulldog Ben” Basile

 

PS: I hasten to add that, though it’s not absolutely necessary, appreciation for this cool tune can be heightened considerably if you’re a beer lover. All the more if said beer lover has had a brew or two by the time the first notes emerge from the speaker…

A Visit to the Hunters Creek Applebee’s

A Visit to the Hunters Creek Applebee’s

Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar
13500 John Young Parkway
Orlando, Florida 32837

Call 407 206-5039

I’ve dined at the Applebee’s location in the Hunters Creek area of Orlando many times. If you’re from metro Orlando or visit much, you probably know that’s very close to the tourist area and only a mile from the Osceola county line. But this one is mostly patronized by locals, many of whom work in the tourism industry.

I’ve eaten at seven Applebee’s locations all total and this one is not very different from the others. I like the crew here, the bartenders especially and go there fairly often. I still have not tried the dining room, opting to sit at the bar. Sean and Ariana and a couple of other crew members have always taken good care of me. They have a decent beer selection and the “always happy hour” thing is awesome. That’s 2 for 1 ALL DAY, but on domestic drafts only. Beer lovers, you gotta love that!

There are seven or eight TV screens in the bar so there’s always something good on. This location has become my go-to spot for sports viewing, especially for games I can’t get at home. However, they don’t carry the pay-per-view events, such as UFC fights or those PPV championship boxing matches.

I like just about everything I’ve tried here and can recommend several appetizers. The Spinach and Artichoke Dip is always good, as are the Mozzarella Sticks; but my fave is the Sriracha Shrimp. Just the right amount of heat, you can’t beat this one!

I usually dine solo so I haven’t had a chance to go the “2 Entrees for $20” route, but it looks like a good value. What I had on my last visit was the Bourbon Street Steak and it was damn near perfect. And their garlic mashed potatoes are to die for!

The one draw back here is that their usual good service is not so good when the place fills up. I don’t like it, but it’s a common thing at chain restaurants. Management in chains are very, very focused on payroll costs and you can’t really staff for the hour and a half of each day when the place “blows up” as you’d have too many crew members for the other 80% of the shift. I get it, but I don’t like it. I hasten to add that it’s no worse here than most places I’ve visited.

This Applebee’s is quite family friendly. If fact, you’ll find many families with school-age kids seated in the bar area on just about every night. If you still have small ones in your posse, you can be seated wherever you like, bar included. (Not AT the bar, but in the bar area!)

Quick summary: moderate prices, great place to watch sports, good service, decent beer selection and very tasty menu offerings.

One more thing: there is a designated entrance to pick up take out orders on the north side of the building. Your order will be waiting in the bar area.

A little info to help you find it: this A-bee’s is an out building in a very large shopping complex and there’s lot of parking. It’s not all that easy to see from John Young, especially if you’re northbound. It’s across JYP from the Gator’s Dockside which is much easier to spot, so look on the west side of the road. The complex is just a wee bit south of where the 417 exit for John Young cuts through.

 

Bulldog thinks the menu is one of the best things about Applebee’s.  View it here:

 

 

Photo credit Benjamin Lawrence Basile

 

Sunrise Diner in Cocoa Beach is the Real Deal

Sunrise Diner in Cocoa Beach is the Real Deal

I have loved having breakfast at the Sunrise Diner in Cocoa Beach for about five or six years now. It’s my “go to” spot in Brevard Co. for real food at breakfast-time.

You’ll notice as you approach, that’s it one of those diners. You know, one with a simple and undeniably “old school” look. And yes, they have real food. And a real staff. A few of whom have been around for many, many years.

One of the things that sets the Sunrise apart from other places of its type is that you can–and probably should–eat breakfast, lunch and dinner there. Most diners that live up to the name close around 2:30 in the afternoon. Just SOP for these storied establishments. But this one doesn’t stop seating patrons until 9 PM.

To be honest, I have only enjoyed breakfast here; I’m not a good source on those two other times of the day when Americans usually feel like they have to “fill the tank.” But I have eaten there five or six times and always have a first-rate breakfast, receive very good and personable service and don’t ever feel like I’ve had my pocket picked.

The place hasn’t changed in the six years or so that I’ve been going and it looks as though it’s been around much longer than that. Long-time crew member Wendy told me on a recent visit how long it’s been around and I just don’t remember a number; suffice it to say, they’re far from newcomers.

One of the things I like about the Sunrise is that the breakfast sausage featured there are those over-sized patties that are about the size of a sand dollar. That’s the way this pup likes his sausage in the morning and places that have it are few and far between.

I do know that you’ll find quite a bit of seafood on their menu, and Greek fare is featured prominently as well. I tend to get stuck in a rut at many of my fave eateries but that doesn’t mean you should! And though came as a bit of a surprise to me, their beer selection isn’t bad at all.

Let me close by saying that if you’re anywhere near the heart of Cocoa Beach in the future, especially in the AM, you owe it to yourself to stop at the Sunrise Diner. It’s conveniently located on SR 520, aka Cocoa Beach Cswy, just a block from where 520 meets A1A.

Sunrise Diner ~ 365 W. Cocoa Beach Cswy ~ Cocoa Beach, FL 32931 ~ 321 783-5647

 

“Bulldog Ben” Basile

 

Photo credit Benjamin Lawrence Basile

Slow and Low-The Best Damn Barbecue in Cocoa Beach

Slow and Low-The Best Damn Barbecue in Cocoa Beach
Note: this review of mine is taken from a visit in April of 2015 and originally appeared on a well-known travel site. My latest visit to this island of barbecue perfection was five days ago, and they’re still the best on the beach! 

This top-shelf barbecue joint in Cocoa Beach has become my go-to spot when I want to get out-of-town for the weekend. If you’ve ever been to Slow ‘n Low, you know why.

I had the pulled-pork sandwich this time. On their delicious garlic bread, of course. I started with an order of the fried okra for an appetizer, as I often do. It was perfect and their mild horseradish sauce is just the right accent to compliment this often under-appreciated member of the vegetable family. Okra is often over-breaded or under-cooked, but they got it just right.

The green beans and garlic mashed potatoes make great sides with their tasty pork sandwich. I believe I’ve had all their sides over the years, and this is one of the things they do very well. Many barbecue joints have only three or four sides and tiny portions, but you won’t find that sort of thing at Slow ‘n Low.

I rarely get dessert here, as I almost never have room, but I enjoyed their Chocolate Peanut Butter pie on my last visit and went for it again. Yeah, it was scrumptious! My server brewed a fresh pot of coffee to go with this fine concoction; what more could a diner ask for?

Slow ‘n Low has a good variety of beers on tap, way more selection than most barbecue establishments, and a staff that consistently delivers good service. I’ve had their Combo Plate and the Blackened Prime Rib Sandwich many times and can recommend it all. Their patio is jammed with patrons most of the time, though there is also inside seating available. They usually feature live acoustic music on the patio Friday through Sunday nights. Tee shirts and ball caps are also on sale and yes, they do catering. They are also family-friendly and a thirty second drive away from the beach. Check out Slow ‘n Low the next time you’re in Brevard County.

 

One additional note from December 2016 visit: they’ve recently upgraded the TV’s in the bar, making their patio an excellent choice for sports fans who also like great chow!

 

Photo credit Benjamin Lawrence Basile

It’s September 1st and I’m Thinking About…

It’s September 1st and I’m Thinking About…

It’s the first of September and I have some pleasant thoughts associated with this particular milestone in our annual journey. It means college football is about to start. That’s a marvelous thing. I look forward to it each year.

It means that Labor Day and cooler temps are right around the corner. Love both of those things, bring it on!

But it’s also true that when I see the first of September roll around, I think of Hitler invading Poland. Yeah, I do that. That reveals two very significant things about me: the first, that I’m a boomer and so many of us had Dads who served in WW II. So that whole “Nazis streaming over the border” thing isn’t as bizarre as it may seem.

Well, that and the fact that I minored in history and have studied that conflict and our Civil War in a serious way; those things factor in, too.

So the second thing that pervasive thought reveals about me is that I do worry about stuff more than most folks and more than I should, truth be told. Not in the sense that I think we’re about to be invaded, but just that I often see the darker side of things in general; I’m more inclined to see the potential for trouble, drama and disappointment rather than the “good stuff” which may happen as I navigate some new juncture on life’s path.

It would have been much better for me if Hitler had chosen the 2nd of September to send his Panzer divisions and Storm Troopers across the Polish frontier; that date would not have bored its way so deeply into my grey matter!

Two things I’m going to do today to get past this less-than-rosy recollection: get focused back on the arrival of those crisp Autumn days, and reach for a beer! That’ll work!

 

The last bulwark against the Nazi Apocalypse, I am,

“Bulldog Ben” Basile

Bubbalou’s Bodacious Barbecue is As Good As It Gets

Bubbalou’s Bodacious Barbecue is As Good As It Gets

The best I can remember, I first visited Bubbalou’s Bodacious Barbecue back around ’85 or ’86… Not exactly sure. What I know for sure is that I’ve gone back about a bajillion times. And I’ll be going back many, many times more.

At the time I made that first killer visit to this Mecca of Florida barbecue, the Lee Rd. location was it. (If you haven’t been there, that’s just west of where Lee Rd. begins at Hwy 17-92.) I didn’t know that one day Bubbalou’s would have five locations. Or that they’d all be way bigger than the original one. And that people from every corner of the Orlando metro area would come to love their chow the way I did.

I prefer cafeteria-style service at barbecue joints, as you tend to have your dinner in front of you faster that way. That’s the system at Bubbalou’s. But their staff will be table side several times while you’re chowing down even though they’re not actual wait staff. You can tip at the time you order. They tend to fill up for lunch and because seating consists of picnic tables, you may be enjoying your selection with friends you haven’t met yet. But that adds to the charm of the place. And they feature a decent beer selection.

I’ve had five or six entrees, all told. I tend to order my faves over and over so it’s true that there are things on their menu I’ve never tasted. Some of my “stand-bys” that I’ve had a thousand times would include the Pulled Pork Sandwich, The Ribs and the Catfish Dinner. I recommend them all. If you opt for a sandwich, you can go with a bun or the grilled garlic toast you find at many barbecue restaurants; yeah, I know that “authentic” barbecue should come with plain white bread, but that is the one thing about old-school barbecue that I really hate. Give me the not-authentic garlic toast every damn day of the week!

Let me say one more thing about the catfish; it’s been consistently good and I go that route fairly often because catfish is not on the menu at most barbecue joints. So that’s one of the reasons I go to Bubbalou’s often.

Their sides are killer; there are many from which to choose. I especially love the collards and the black-eyed peas. But all the ones I’ve had are top-shelf.

I’ve been to four of the five locations; have not made it out to the Apopka store yet. Give me a little time. I’m not out in the UCF area that much, but the Alafaya location is huge and has a full bar and a substantial patio. You can play bean bag toss after dinner and they feature live music on weekends. I’ve visited that one four times in all; its vibe is quite different from the others. And, yes, you’ll see plenty of UCF kids there. Both as patrons and crew.

If you’d like to wrap a train trip around your lunch or dinner, the Altamonte Springs location is the way to go; it’s within easy walking distance of the Altamonte Sun Rail Station. I’ve gone that route and it was a lot of fun. In fact, they have a train rider special but you’ll have to show your Sun Rail pass.

They are family-friendly too. I’ve always seen every kind of diner on my visits. Check them out whether you’re with family, friends or “flying solo”, as is my usual custom.

You’ve gotta love Bubbalou’s. Five great locations. Top-shelf barbecue and very yummy sides. Fast service from an efficient and engaging crew. What’s not to like?

Bubbalou’s accepts most credit cards. American Express is not on that list, however.

I am not going to list the addresses of the five locations here. For that, I recommend their site. To see the locations and their fabulous menu, just follow this link.