Pink’s Hot Dogs – Knott’s Berry Farm Location

Pink’s Hot Dogs is a moderately famous place, especially in recent years, with the expansions out in Vegas and in Buena Park. I have not eaten at the original Pink’s, but I have eaten their catering once and their Buena Park location once. Fair disclaimers if they are necessary. Pink’s Buena Park has a pretty standard fast food vibe, albeit with a lot more celebrity pictures than you would expect to see in your average mom and pop fast food place. The line wasn’t too bad but, again, being fast food there was no particular service to talk about.

Pink’s is pretty simple – other than the fries, there are four basic ingredients: turkey dog, hot dog, chili, and cheese. The hot dogs are good but perhaps a bit odd, at least to my palate. This is due to their having a moderately thick casing, enough to pop when you bite through it. This combined with what at least had a mouth feel of better meat, led it verging on seeming more like a sausage dog than a hot dog. I found this good in small doses but the bacon burrito dog, which contains three dogs and thus three times the casing, started to wear me out after a while. Too much work, though the cheese, chili, and tortilla were all quite tasty.

I found myself preferring the turkey dogs – they were tasty and easier to eat, without so much effort in the biting. Now, it certainly isn’t an inherently bad thing to load up on casing and I think a fair number of people actually prefer it, and it’s not really physically difficult to eat – I just prefer a simpler, easier to eat hot dog than the beef dogs at Pink’s, especially when they were packed on top of each other in an appalling but delicious fast food concoction. As a side note, their chili cheese fries were very forgettable. I would definitely take Weinerschnitzel or Tommy’s chili fries instead of these, and I believe they are cheaper, as well.

One warning, though – I am not sure if this is exclusive to the Buena Park locale since that happens to be inside Knott’s Berry Farm’s little shopping area, but the prices were quite expensive for what I would really struggle to call anything other than high quality fast food. On the plus side, Knott’s actually has a handful of free historical exhibits like Independence Hall and a replica of George Washington’s fireplace, so you can make an afternoon out of it. I believe the original Hollywood location may be cheaper, but in the past when trying to go there the line was literally around the block and I can’t imagine waiting that long for hot dogs.

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Steak N’ Shake – Mysteries of the Mid West… SOLVED!

One of the awesome things about Las Vegas is it’s a chance to try restaurants from other parts of the country you can’t find in Southern California. On our latest outing we took the opportunity to try out a burger place often name dropped by gamers who attend a certain mid west convention. Steak ‘n Shake

As it so happens the Vegas Steak ‘n Shake is located at the South Pointe, either on your way in or out of Vegas from all points West and South. Thus it is an easy stop off either to end your Vegas traffic induced fasting or as a preparation for said traffic induced fasting.

What to look for in the casino.

First off, you are warned there may be a line. Go at an off time and you will be spared the wait.

Once you are in, the Steak N’ Shake resembles a 1950’s diner, as mandated by the unofficial All American burger joint code. (See Ruby’s, Johnny Rockets, etc.) Unlike many of our chain diner and Vegas restaurant experiences, however, the service was terrific. The waitress was super friendly and seemed happy to help us navigate the wide array of burgers and shakes available.

Yummy burger! Okay fries.Yes, the “Steak” in Steak N’ Shake does not refer to steak in the traditional sense, as much as it does to burgers made with steak. It also refers to hot dogs made with steak, which we did not try on this go around. However we did try the burgers, and they were very good. I was a little concerned that a steak burger would not be as juicy as I normally like my burgers, but mine was moist and flavorful. There are a ton of toppings to choose from including their own chili, which is also available in little to-go buckets up front, all Tommy’s style. The fries are skinny, which I’m getting more used to, although I still prefer thick cut fries. Still these were tasty and not overly crispy. But the big thing here is the shake.

Side by Side: Chocolate Banana

I was at first dismissive of their shake menu online. It didn’t seem much different than what you could get at Ruby’s or Johnny Rockets. But I was wrong. So wrong. The shakes were thick and tasty, and S&S had a neat “side by side” option where they fill one half of your (GIANT) shake glass with one flavor and the other side with another. The result is you get a much more even blend of flavors than layer usually results in. I had banana and chocolate. It was really really good. I want another one now even as I am thinking about it.

Lastly, it’s important that you know that they aren’t kidding about that 4 meals under $4 pricing on the website. I would take a wild guess keeping their pricing that low has kept them out of California, but the prices at Vegas were insanely cheap compared to the unpleasant surprises we’ve had at Johnny Rockets and Ruby’s. We fed 3 very hungry adults and a growing tween on less than $40 – a meal that included burgers, fries, and huge shakes, plus chili spaghetti (not as good as Big Boy’s, but not bad either). Even by Vegas standards, that’s really good. And it was more than enough to sustain us on our long car ride back to the land of $5 shakes. Sadness!

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Slater’s 50/50

Before I explain anything about Slater’s to you, understand that this is a place where you’re going to pay $20-30ish a head to have a burger, a beer, and a side. Now, where I live, there is a lot  of competition. In-N-Out, the Habit, Grill Em All, Tommy Burgers and Red Robin all come immediately to mind as eateries that are at the very least very competitive with Slater’s on a price point basis. I think most people would  agree that Slater’s is better than In-N-Out, for instance, but is it 3-5x as good? This I am not sure of.  But, now that that is out of the way, consider this review to be pricing blind.

I had the Slater’s 50/50, which is a burger patty that is half bacon (really it seemed more like pork belly). Though I had the unfortunate experience of eating one of these patties that had the approximate consistency of a burger / cold cut hybrid, this (new and improved according to a few Slater’s regulars) 50/50 actually hit the spot – it tasted and had the texture of a burger but it also had a tasty, subtle, smoky flavor that I really enjoyed. The burgers came in 1/3 lb, 2/3 lb and full pound sizes, which was a small bit frustrating due to 2/3 being massive and 1/3 being a bit small (why not a half pounder?)

The toppings had good variety, though for comparison’s sake I will mention that gourmet burger rival the Counter seems to have a bit more variety, from glancing over their menu. Now, to step back, this isn’t a big deal for me personally since I like simple burgers anyway, but then again Burgandy wished for more varieties of jelly and I would have preferred some kind of chipotle BBQ. On the other hand, they do have a cheese sauce option, so I went for bacon, cheese sauce, and American cheese.

Slater’s doesn’t seem too big on fries outside of an $5 appetizer – we ate in a group and almost no one had anything but the burger itself. I thought this was a bit of a gyp considering that you already paid for the burger and extra for the bacon and the alcohol isn’t cheap, but I guess it worked considering that the burgers were massive. We did spring for a couple of appetizers – the most notable was a quesadilla with cheese, bacon, and mashed  potatoes that was almost as good as it sounded but a bit lacking in spice.

So, having in mind that the above is a little on the stream of consciousness side, the summary is as follows:

Apple beer. Delicious. I believe it was $9 for a GLASS, though.

Mashed potato quesadilla. I honestly really liked this one. But Burgandy did make a good point that it was very lacking in spice, or at least tasty dipping sauces. It also had to serve as a side since the burgers don’t come with them.

Burger. Expensive. Delicious patty. Toppings expensive yet lacking in two in a couple of things I would have expected. Bacon was good and so was American cheese and cheese sauce. Huge patty (though I tire of the trick of giving you a bigger portion than you wanted and then charging you proportionately but then trying to turn it into a net positive – ‘look at all the food I treated you with!’

That’s… basically it. And though I really liked my burger and it was as big as my daughter’s head, I still felt a bit gypped because given the price point and the wait. The whole thing took almost two hours, a long time for a burger without much else. Seems like you could at least get a soup or salad? Or at least some fries?

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Thing to do in Vegas (When you don’t gamble)

We go to Vegas quite a bit, thanks to the generosity of my parents and their timeshare, but we don’t gamble, and we usually take our daughter. So why go so much? There’s a whole lot to Vegas both on and off the famous Strip that is worth checking out.

1. Hit the Buffet of Buffets – We covered this before, but seriously, this is a great deal for families with picky eaters or who want to introduce their kids to new foods without shelling out for a whole dinner they might end up not eating.

In the Fall...

Or summer.

2. Mt. Charleston – You cannot get farther from the neon lights of Vegas than to find yourself surrounded by miles of beautiful wilderness to explore. Although the mountain does have a ski resort, I’d recommend taking a break from the heat of summer to enjoy the trails – the mountain is often about 10 degrees cooler than the valley. Or go in fall and enjoy the snow like we did on our recent trip. At only about an hour drive from the Strip, it’s a great day trip.

3. Hit the fair or a sporting event – There is much more happening in Las Vegas than just what’s playing at the casinos. Take the time to look up local events before you go, and you might find an expected game or event going on that is right up your alley. The last time we went to Vegas we got to visit a Renaissance Faire being held the park across from Sam Boyd. Way more fun and educational than wandering around the Excalibur Hotel.

5. See a show – Although many shows in Vegas are Adult Oriented Content, a little homework can reveal more than a few magic shows or Broadway style musicals that are perfectly kid friendly. Like “V, the Variety Show” at Planet Hollywood. Just remember, never pay full price. “Family friendly” shows tend to be afternoon shows with light attendance, and discount tickets can usually be easily found in one of the many, many Vegas coupons books you are likely to be handed during your trip.

6. Visit a museum – Vegas is actually home to more than a few museums, some of which are on the educational end and some of which are just fun. We visiting the Museum of Natural History a couple of years ago – while small compared to the one in LA, it had plenty of rooms to explore including some cool hands on exhibits. Or you could get in a game or two or two hundred of pinball at the Pinball Museum.

7.  Meet a furry friend – Nevada is much more exotic pet friendly than California, and as such, it also has some pretty awesome pet stores with much more to check out than your usual kittens and puppies. Visit Pet Kingdom and you might find yourself being nuzzled by a piglet, quietly observing sugar gliders while they sleep, or getting ready to write the governor about repealing California’s ban on ferrets after they climb all over you in the most adorably aggressive way possible. Or if you prefer something you won’t be tempted to smuggle over the border, you could just visit the Las Vegas Zoo. Which also has exotic animals, but in a less up close and personal way.

 

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Three Musketeers: the (newest) movie review

Well, by luck and happenstance we ended up seeing a screening of the Three Musketeers today.

Now, I am going to disclaim my feelings about this movie a little.

I am a big fan of the Milla Jovovich / Paul W S Anderson Resident Evil movies, which this basically serves as the steampunk version of. If you’ve seen those movies, you know of what I speak – wild technology, slow motion fighting, action that every once in a while is actually really good but can also get really campy, etc. If you like that, you will like this.

Also, if you’ve ever hummed Abney Park’s “Airship Pirates”, you’ll find some goodness in here. I don’t want to get spoiler-ish but there is some really, really great fan service in here for those who like airships.

Paul W S Anderson has a habit of making movies that look like the exact movies my inner 13 year old would film if he could. This is definitely one of those movies.

I am a bit sad about the PG13 rating – other than a bit of language here and there the movie was almost kid-oriented, with a very high wacky factor, relatively nonviolent fights (especially compared to the R rated Resident Evil movies). There are some quite funny character / comic relief characters.

Another important note – the movie was shot in 3D and the 3D was quite good, unlike quite a bit of bad 3D I saw this summer. Pirates 4 comes to mind – the 3D was super disappointing in that one in particular (and they both had a lot of 3D swords, so I think it is a fair comparison).  I’m not thinking I’ll see any oscar noms for the effects, but they were really pretty good and not entirely dependent on CGI.

So, in summary – if you like Steampunk, slightly westernized martial arts movies, slow motion fight scenes, Milla Jovovich, airships, anachronistic technology, or any of the Resident Evil movies you should catch this one for sure! If not… maybe not? It did have a bit of a B movie vibe, just one that I happened to really like.

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This is Halloween… Haunt.

Growing up in northern Orange County, Knott’s annual Halloween Haunt isn’t just something fun to do in October, it’s an institution. You didn’t just go to Haunt, you went with friends, you made plans around it, when you were older you would work there, or you would at least know a bunch of people that worked there, then eventually, like all teenage obsessions, you would get over it, then not go for a few years until nostalgia began nipping at your heels and some friend of yours says “Hey, you know what we should do? We should go to Haunt!” And filled with memories of your glory days, you figure out babysitting for the kids, realize you are stuck going on a Saturday because you don’t want to leave early from work for haunt, but you don’t want to go to work after being up until 2am either. Or maybe that’s just us. But it WAS us, and for the first time in a decade we made our return to the land of mazes and mayhem.

First off, it may have been worth it to try to pull off Haunt on a weekday. We dropped off our daughter with my parents at Beach and Main at 6:45. Knott’s, for those unfamiliar with OC, is about a 15 minute drive up Beach from there. Usually. Or it might be 8:30pm before we are FINALLY pulling into the parking lot. And it might then be another half hour braving a line to get in the gates and searching through wall to wall obnoxious teenagers to find our friends. (Cell service, at least for us, was quite spotty throughout the night.)

Once that nightmare was over we were more than ready to hit the mazes. Killer clowns have nothing on a gaggle of teen girls looking like they got lost on the way to a Ke$ha concert and squealing about every roving monster they come across. (Must… restrain… fist of death.)

*Ahem* So, the mazes. Lines were pretty long here, unsurprising at this point, so we didn’t get to hit every maze. We visited Dia De Los Muertos (in 3D!!! Which is weird because isn’t EVERY maze in 3D? WTH Knott’s?), which was pretty fun, if not particularly scary. The sets were drenched in every color of glow in the dark paint, and the halls were actually really roomy, so the whole thing had more the effect of visiting a Hispanic museum in October while seriously tripping on acid than a frightening maze. The sugar skull decorated pole dancer in the “cantina” set was more hot than fright inducing, although she didn’t seem to appreciate this assessment. (Dude, I didn’t put the pole there. I’m just calling them as I see them.)

Working our way clockwise around the park, we next visited the Big Top maze. Apparently the killer clowns did not get the memo they are supposed to be IN the maze. More clowns seemed to be running around outside menacing people around the “Carnevil” scare zone than were actually working the maze. My sister, who once upon a time worked Haunt tells me this is unusual, but it seriously undermined the maze when it became just walking from one goofy room to another, constantly seeing spots where, clearly, someone was supposed to be pretending to be scenery before jumping out at us. Not cool guys. We waited freakin’ 45 minutes to get into the maze, I expect more than just some attempts at off color humor of the circus variety. And again – HUGE hallways. Where were the claustrophobia inducing mazes I remembered from my ill spent youth?

We wandered over towards the Necropolis scare zone, lured by tales of vampire steampunk monsters, and discover some of the best mazes of the night – Virus Z and Fallout Shelter were both very well done, and very old school mazes. Lots of monsters, some surprisingly good special effect, and really detailed set pieces. While most of the monsters so far had managed to do little more than be boring or downright piss me off, the guys and gals working the two zombie themed mazes got us good more than once and by the time I was near the end of the Fallout maze I was getting that fun but creepy paranoid feeling any good maze should give you. Honestly, there were some moments in the Fallout shelter maze that actually felt like some kind of Resident Evil LARP (so much so I had to remind myself that if you punch these zombies, it gets you kicked out of the park), and I consider that high praise . If there was any downside, it was that we were shuffled along so fast by the crowd we didn’t get as good a look at the awesome sets as we wanted to.

Rounding out the night – Cornstalkers was fun, although a couple of the monsters were a little too aggressive, and our friends had high praise for Dollhouse and Delirium, although we did not get to experience them ourselves. Invasion (in the mine ride) was just… lame. Just skip that one.

Highlight of the night was not actually a maze at all – if you go to Haunt, you MUST check out Ed Alonzo’s Psycho Circus show in the far corner of the park – it was a ton of fun. Great magic, funny jokes, and some neat dance numbers with hottie girls, topped off by a topless (male) fire dancer. Really awesome show. Much higher production values than I was expecting after wandering the mazes. (Some of which are populated by costumes that appear to be nothing more than thrift store clothing and a cheap mask.) Very Vegas-ish. Well worth checking out and not a bad way to get off your feet after walking what must be miles of mazes.

So, there you go. Haunt from a middle aged perspective. It was fun, but maybe aimed at a younger audience than me. But, you know, it’s TRADITION!

(I’ll fix this later, but for now, visit their pretty awesome website here: http://haunt.knotts.com/

and if you are going to go, I’d recommend getting discount tix from AAA online if you have a membership – it was the best deal going when we got ours.)

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The new 52 – DC Comics Reboot

The background – Burgandy and I decided to get pulled in by a publicity stunt and pick up some of the DC reboot. See, we used to read comics back in the day, mostly stopping after the mid 2000s when DC finished one Infinite Crisis whilst raring up for another one. We did, actually, miss them and were not entirely happy with only seeing comics through the prism of movies and cartoons, so when we heard DC was cutting some of the crud and aiming for a more newbie friendly event we signed up!

Due to the huge number of comics released (52, plus some #2s by now, some of which we have read and some of which have not) I will probably be posting impressions over a few different posts. So, here are some quick takes.

Good–

Stormwatch. I mostly missed this title the first time through and so I enjoyed the reboot, especially with a meaner-than-before Martian Manhunter grounding things a bit. Fair disclaimer – I know almost nothing about this title, save a vague familiarity with the main characters left over from reading one of their trade paperbacks ages ago, so as far as I know this whole issue was a complete rehash. Still, liked the art and the story seemed super-epic without being too confusing.

Action Comics. This was great! Grant Morrison brings it – we have a Superman who is younger, a bit weaker, but still super fun to read. Unlike some of the other comics, I genuinely got the feeling that something new and exciting was being created – it didn’t seem at all like a rehash. The first meeting of Superman and Lex was especially fun. The character was contemporized a bit but nothing too jarring – plus a more populist / less law and order friendly Superman is both a new idea and a return to the character’s roots. Lois and Jimmy seemed fun, too.

Demon Knights – This was pretty much the comic book of the ultimate DND game – Conan mixed with Superheroes! I didn’t expect anything at all of this but ended up totally loving it. I am a bit of an Etrigan fan, but it was actually the little things that I liked – a part where a bunch of marauders invade the city thinking they’re going to overthrow it only to run into five very annoyed superhero / warriors who just wanted a drink was one of my favorite comic moments of the whole set.

Eh–

Green Lantern. For all that this issue has a #1 stamped on it, it seemed to just be another Green Lantern story, no hint of a reboot whatsoever. (Internet research shows that they did not, actually, reboot this comic… why the new #1, then?). I actually enjoyed it, given the premise – Hal losing the Ring, the Guardians deciding to reinstate Sinestro for some reason – but Burgandy, who is less familiar with the Green Lantern Mythos, was completely checked out.

JLA / Justice League – Uh. This seemed like the first third or maybe even fourth of what would actually be a pretty good comic. But as it is, two characters meeting, and debating a bit, then running into a third character, who is only in a splash and has one line of dialogue, isn’t too exciting. Especially with no particular overarching threat or villain – it’s literally one guy visiting another guy and then the two of them deciding to take a road trip and see a third guy. Not too epic so far – nothing was bad about it, but nothing really happened, either.

Bad –

Red Lantern Corps. I think this probably made sense to someone, but to me (who is not familiar with Red Lanterns beyond an understanding that they are the embodiment of rage) it carried basically no information whatsoever. Just a lot of weird looking creatures and critters foaming at the mouth and sometimes punching each other. Considering the implied promise of slapping a #1 on a cover to make a story a new person could actually read, I was super disappointed.

Batman – Detective Comics #1. Think it would be fun to see a new take on Batman? What about if it was his first fight with the Joker? Great, right? Well… unless Joker is basically a sideline to some weirdo family take on Texas Chainsaw Massacre who likes to cut people’s faces off (probably for some fiendish reason or another). Oh, and Joker gets his face cut off. Which of course is obviously some sort of weird stunt and also bizarrely out of place in one of the theoretically non-dark books.

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