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Red Lobster serves up more than lobster, yummy cheddar biscuits

Published: Friday, April 12, 2013 @ 1:39 PM
Updated: Monday, April 29, 2013 @ 1:51 PM

Grill Master Tommy Cockren whips up a Maheen Shrimp and a Bar Harbor salad with salmon. These are two new items on Red Lobsters menu.

About those biscuits

Never challenge a Cheddar Bay Biscuits baker to a thumb wrestling contest.

As Tommy Cockrell, the grill master at the Beavercreek Red Lobster on North Fairfield Road, tells it, a biscuit baker’s thumbs gets a workout from mixing up and scooping the all-time favorite.

His store alone pumps out about 1,600 Cheddar Bay Biscuits a day. The chain as a whole pumps out nearly 1.1 million biscuits daily. Chedder Bay Biscuit mix is now sold at Sam’s Club.

Felicia Franley, director of operations for eight Red Lobster stores that includes locations in Dayton, Miamisburg, Beavercreek, Springfield, Piqua and Lima, said the biscuits have undeniable powers.

The biscuits that replaced Red Lobster’s hush puppies about 20 years ago have been used to settle tensions in the waiting area on high traffic days like Mother’s Day.

“It is amazing what biscuits will do,” Franley said.

Grilling fish can be a complicated matter.

Christine Hicks, general manager of the Beavercreek Red Lobster, knows this firsthand.

“Most people overcook fish,” she said.

Her restaurant’s cooks received specified training on heat zone before they are labeled “grill masters.”

Hicks, Tommy Cockrell, a grill master the Beavercreek location, and Felicia Franley, director of operations for the restaurant and seven others, shared few grill tips for backyard griller:

Oil on your grill

“That way (your fish) doesn’t stick and you get those nice marks,” Hicks said.

Used a clean grill

Build up should be removed, Cockrell said.

Baste the fish on the grill

“That way it holds in those intense flavors.” Hicks said. She likes to keep it simple, often sticking to salt, peeper and canola oil.

Be patient

Don’t rush your food,” Cockrell said. At 450 degrees it typically takes nine minutes to cook an 8 ounce piece of salmon. Cook it four and a half minutes on each side.

Let the fish speak for itself

Franley encourages home cooks to experiment with seasoning, but said that the natural fish flavor can be overpowered in the processes.

As a rule of thumb, hardier fish like salmon can take more seasoning than a light fish like tilapia.

Red Lobster announced its new menu late last year with a type of lunch and dinner time “voter” in mind.

“We call it the veto vote,” explained Felicia Fraley, director of operations for eight Red Lobster restaurants in the region, which includes locations in Dayton, Miamisburg, Beavercreek, Springfield, Piqua and Lima. “They say ‘Oh, I don’t eat fish.’ We have great burgers, chicken and we have pork chops.”

Read: Chicken pizza at Red Lobster? Restaurant updates menu options.

While still very much a seafood restaurant with meals featuring sweet and buttery lobster, Fraley said that the chain has revamped its menu and look.

The Beavercreek 223-seat restaurant and all others in Fraley’s territory, with the exception of the Findlay location, recently got face-lifts. The Findlay restaurant will be updated later this year.

Gone is the ’80s decor.

It has been replaced with a warm wood and dim lighting that gives the dining room more class.

Images of Maine lighthouse hang on the walls.

Despite new items such as Southwest Chicken Pizza, Seafood is still taken very seriously as evident by the finesse (see grill tips below) grill master Tommy Cockrell showed while preparing Bar Harbor Salad with grilled Atlantic salmon and grilled island mahi mahi and shrimp topped with pineapple salsa served with green beans and rice pilaf ($17.75).

At $9.99, the Bar Harbor with salmon I tried seems to be a steal. It is $7.99 with chicken or shrimp.

Dried berries, blue cheese crumbles and roasted pecans meshed well with juicy salmon Cockrell prepared over a wood grill.

He’s worked at the Beavercreek Red Lobster, 2803 N. Fairfield Road, for six years and has been one of its grill masters for four.

Christine Hicks, the store general manager, said that their grill masters are tested rigorously on recipes and grill temperatures.

There is little to no time for mistakes on the grill, particularly during busy times, Hicks said.

Beside offering more non-seafood choices, Red Lobster re-evaluated price points.

Hicks said 60 percent of menu options are less than $15. Forty percent was under $15 before the menu change in October.

People often think of Red Lobster as only a place for special occasions, but Hick said that isn’t the case.

“It is actually really affordable to go to Red Lobster,” she said.

The ultimate guide to a budget-friendly Thanksgiving dinner

Published: Friday, November 17, 2017 @ 4:17 PM
Updated: Friday, November 17, 2017 @ 4:17 PM

Here are seven ways you can trim the Turkey Day budget, yet still enjoy all that Thanksgiving has to offer Shop around for the best deal on turkey, as stores offer steep discounts to entice people in the door The frugal living blog Fun, Cheap, or Free offers up these yummy ideas for appetizers you can whip up in no time Ask a trusted guest to pick up a few bottles of wine Classic Thanksgiving sides are already pretty cheap - potatoes, corn, bread, and green beans will get you pretty far Stick to two or th

Does Thanksgiving make your mouth water, dreaming of your favorite pumpkin or sweet potato pie recipes? Are you ready to pull out your crowd-pleasing stuffing recipe or are you a cautious cook easing into the kitchen for the first time? 

No matter what your culinary skill level, it's easy to make a delicious Thanksgiving meal on a budget. Just follow these simple tips to make these delicious dishes, all without breaking the bank.

RELATED: 8 skinny holiday cocktails you can drink without guilt

Here are seven ways you can trim the Turkey Day budget, yet still enjoy all that Thanksgiving has to offer:

Load your plate with protein and stay away from starchy vegetables. (I'm looking at you, mashed potatoes.) These are among the tips for avoiding that stuffed feeling on Thanksgiving. Photo: The Food Network(HANDOUT)

The Turkey

Shop around for the best deal on turkey, as many grocery stores will be offering steep discounts on the bird to entice people in the door. For smaller dinners, consider getting a couple of game hens - they'll be just as yummy and won't leave you grumbling over leftover turkey sandwiches for weeks. For larger gatherings, plan on getting a turkey large enough to feed each guest about one to one and half pounds of meat. The folks over at The Kitchen have assembled this excellent guide for first-time turkey buyers.

Appetizers

As your holiday guests arrive, you can offer up some cheap but scintillating appetizers with a few basic ingredients and a little pizzazz. The frugal living blog Fun, Cheap, or Free offers up these yummy ideas for appetizers you can whip up in no time that will still impress even the pickiest mother-in-law. 

Baked brie with jam, cranberry salsa, or baked jalapeno poppers are all guaranteed to keep your guests happy while you put the finishing touches on your holiday meal. 

From left: White Lion, Coast of Dufresne and Swizzle FranÁais cocktails, all of which use allspice dram. Photo by Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post.(Deb Lindsey/For The Washington Post)

Drinks

If you're really making this meal on a shoestring budget, consider asking a trusted guest to pick up a few bottles of wine. Southern Living has compiled a great list of non-alcoholic drinks, including some interesting twists on classic sweet tea. Pop Sugar has a perfect seasonal recipe for Cranberry Champagne Cocktails to offer the adults. And don't forget that presentation makes even a store-bought beverage look fantastic. Head to your local thrift store for mason jars or other decorative containers to serve your drinks in. And don't forget that lemon wedge!

Sides

Classic Thanksgiving sides are already pretty cheap - potatoes, corn, bread, and green beans will get you pretty far. Over at the Prudent Penny Pincher, they've compiled over 200 sides that are budget friendly. And with recipes like cheesy crock pot mashed potatoes, scalloped corn, butternut squash gratin, and cranberry pecan stuffing, you are sure to find cheap, easy recipes that will make even the pickiest guest happy. 

Desserts

Desserts are the real reason everyone has gathered for this Thanksgiving meal, so stick to two or three desserts that really shine. Pie crusts are incredibly easy to make and freeze in advance, bringing a little homemade touch to your dessert selection. And, after you've had your first taste of homemade whipped cream, you'll never buy the stuff in the can again. Real Simple offers some easy Thanksgiving desserts - like chocolate bread pudding - for anyone who wants to venture beyond pumpkin pie this holiday.

Kids

This holiday offers plenty of fun options, even for picky eaters. Check out this fantastic list from Parenting, for great, kid-friendly holiday foods like "ice cream" mashed potatoes and carrot and pumpkin turkey snacks. 

Leftovers

Don't forget to use those leftovers smartly. Country Living has scrumptious leftover ideas like sweet potato kale frittatas, slow cooker turkey chili, harvest pumpkin soup and cranberry turnovers. Use leftovers in creative ways so you and your family don't burn out on them, and make sure to freeze anything you won't use in a timely manner. 

Whatever delicious recipes you choose, be sure to make a list and stick to it. Do you homework in advance, scoping out the best deals at your local grocery stores. Shopping with a list (and not when you're hungry) is a tried and true strategy for sticking to your budget. With these tips, you are sure to pull off a spectacular holiday meal. 

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This Kettering spot is comfort-food heaven

Published: Monday, August 07, 2017 @ 6:00 AM

Christopher's in Kettering, Ohio has some of the most mouth-watering comfort food around.

For more than 25 years, Christopher’s Restaurant in Kettering has been busy putting out one comforting meal after another.

It’s not easy to be consistently good, but in my time dining at Christopher’s off and on over the last two decades, this is a restaurant that makes it look mostly effortless.

A bowl of chicken and rice soup from Christopher’s in Kettering. Contributed photo by Alexis Larsen

It’s the kind of place where you’re confident in what you are going to get — quality ingredients, comfortable and familiar recipes, affordable prices all with a sizable menu that offers something for everyone, including strict vegetarians and diners with food allergies.

There aren’t many restaurants in town that I can say have never let me down. This is not to say that Christopher’s has never had off night — but if they have, I haven’t been around to see it.

>> 10 of the most drool-worthy Instagram posts from local restaurants

Christopher’s Restaurant & Catering, Kettering. MICHELLE FONG/STAFF

Cool new additions to the menu

The current dinner menu, which was rolled out in May last year, saw the addition of dishes like cedar plank salmon, a seasonal vegetable garden risotto, a vegan soba noodle stir fry, andouille mac and cheese, maple mustard pork chops and a tempura artichokes appetizer. Much of the menu the restaurant is currently operating with featured ingredients sourced locally from Hill Family Farms, Foremost Seafood, KJB Farms, Keener Farm and Patchwork Gardens.

Owner Chip Pritchard said the restaurant originally opened in 1981 in Indianapolis. It was sold in 1989 and moved to Dayton, where it was re-opened in 1991 as a casual soup, salad and sandwich spot with counter service.

The Cobb salad at Christopher’s in Kettering. Contributed photo by Alexis Larsen

“After the first year of operation, we realized that there was a need for a full-service restaurant in the neighborhood and converted to table service. As we grew, we expanded the menu to include many of the favorites of our patrons and offered them on a daily basis. Most of the meats we offer are antibiotic free and we have always looked for ways to present and prepare clean foods. After a review that cited several vegetarian items on the menu, we found great public interest in meatless fare and it has become a solid characteristic of our menu,” Pritchard said.

>> 9 must-eat sandwiches in Dayton

Grilled edamame and carrots over soba noodles. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO(Contributing Writer)

It’s all about great, consistent chefs

“Each chef that has worked at the restaurant has brought something special to the menu — but the solid consistency of our mainstays has been provided by Chef Chris Robinette, who has been with the restaurant for over 22 of the 26 years of operation. More recently Chef Marishah Paddock helped to develop Vegan Wednesdays and many of the popular dinner staples. About a year and a half ago, Chef Don Warfe came on board and has developed many of the new menu ideas and has engaged many of the local food growers and producers as suppliers for menu items.”

Warfe arrived in December 2015 when Zetland Street in Bellbrook closed and he was looking for his next move. He’s a chef with a passion for cooking with local seasonal ingredients.

“Using what’s in your own neighborhood gives you fresher, better tasting, healthier food, that also supports your local economy, said Warfe. “(We are) making the food from scratch with pride in what we’re doing. With our motto being ‘Something For Everyone,’ our goal is to continue doing what has kept our guests happy for the last 25 years and also expanding our audience by staying current with upcoming food trends using local and seasonal ingredients.

“In addition to what’s happening in the kitchen, we are also rotating our local craft beer selection as well as doing wine tastings. In the future, we plan on doing local beer and food pairing dinners.”

>> The best go-to comfort dishes around town

Christopher’s Hot Cheese Supreme ($5.50): Delicious, melty provolone, cheddar and Swiss cheese, topped with tomato, mayo and scallions. We added fries for an extra $1.75. (MICHELLE FONG/STAFF)

Keeping the regulars coming back

With changes over the years, the restaurant is cautious to not alienate long-term clientele, maintaining the integrity of classic Christopher’s menu items.

The new menu changes have rewarded Pritchard and his team with increased traffic.

“People come to Christopher’s for a variety of reasons. It’s fresh, it’s fun, it’s healthy and tasty, and we offer a kids menu that is popular with many families. We offer a nice selection of craft beers and wines to accompany the meals and our house made desserts are very popular. It’s always our intent to make each person’s visit a satisfying experience worthy of returning again and again,” said Pritchard.

“The culinary world is wide open these days and that’s true for the Dayton region as well. There are some great independent operators in the area who provide some of the most unique features and ideas on their menu as you will find anywhere. I feel like there continues to be growing interest in locally produced products and healthier options. The chefs in the area are latching on to these things and making them taste delicious.

“Our plan and goal is to continue to put great food on a plate and serve it with a smile. That’s us. That’s Christopher’s.”

One of our all time favorites...chocolate peanut butter pie! Belinda Carlisle wrote a song about this, right?

A post shared by Christopher's (@christophersrestaurant) on

>> This delicious hidden taco place in the Dayton area will change your life

Want to go?

WHAT: Christopher’s Restaurant and Catering

WHERE: 2318 E. Dorothy Lane, Kettering

CATERING: Christopher’s isn’t just a restaurant. It has a catering business that has grown from box lunch orders to a full-time staff with two event planners and a full spectrum of services ranging from in-home private parties and corporate luncheons to banquets, wedding receptions, fund raisers, company picnics, anniversaries and reunions.

WORTH ORDERING: The classic reuben, tuna melt, spicy black bean burger, maple mustard glazed pork chop, tenderloin dinner and grilled edamame and carrots over soba noodles. Christopher’s also offers eight fantastic salads including a roasted beet trio salad and a lemon basil shrimp salad that are dynamite.

MORE INFO: (937) 299-0089 or christophers.biz

Christopher’s Restaurant & Catering, Kettering. (MICHELLE FONG/STAFF)
Christopher’s offers fresh-brewed iced tea topped off with lemon and fresh mint. (MICHELLE FONG/STAFF)

You’re going to fall in love with this cheap late-night Oregon District eat 

Published: Monday, July 10, 2017 @ 6:00 AM

416 Diner is selling a cheap eat you are going to love. Video by Amelia Robinson

Dayton, your new late-night snack of choice has arrived. 

And it will set you back just $3 for one or $5 for two. 

I was into it when Oregon District resident Guy Fragmin said he’d open 416 Diner in that neighborhood and it would feature pepperoni rolls, a treat popular in West Virginia. 

>> MORE: Late-night, lunch, breakfast diner set to open in Oregon District 

I didn’t doubt Guy when he said they’d be good, but boy are they good. 

I can definitely see grabbing a pepperoni roll or two from the restaurant as a nightcap following a night of fun in the Oregon District. 

But pepperoni rolls are far from the only thing at the restaurant.

Oregon District resident Guy Fragmin sales West Virginia-style pepperoni rolls at 416 Diner.(Amelia robinson)

>> MORE: 7 things you should know about the new diner open in the Oregon District 

The diner will be open daily 7 a.m. 10 p.m. with patio service available Thursday, Friday and Saturday 10 p.m. to 1 a.m.

It serves breakfast, lunch and late-night comfort food like hoagie sandwiches, omelets and burgers. 

>> MORE: 9 must-eat sandwiches in Dayton

The restaurant officially opened Friday, July 7 ,and I popped in to try out a pepperoni roll. 

The portable snack can be split open and filled with a list of toppings that includes provolone cheese and sweet peppers.

Being a novice to the pepperoni roll game, I elected to have my first one plain with ranch dressing and marinara sauce for dipping.  

Oregon District resident Guy Fragmin sales West Virginia-style pepperoni rolls at 416 Diner.(Photo: Amelia Robinson)

>> MORE: 6 reasons we love all the construction in downtown Dayton

The bread was fresh, soft, yeasty and crusty in the right spaces. 

The two pepperoni sticks contained within were slightly spicy. The dough soaked in the grease in the magical way dough on pizza soaks in grease.

Rating:  🐖🐖🐖🐖🐖

>> MORE: Nightclub owner considering closing after 45 years

 

Oregon District resident Guy Fragmin sales West Virginia-style pepperoni rolls at 416 Diner.(Photo: Amelia Robinson)

Oregon District resident Guy Fragmin sales West Virginia-style pepperoni rolls at 416 Diner. It also sells a variety of sandwiches like this cheese steak hoagie pictured with potato twists.(Photo: Amelia Robinson)

Oregon District resident Guy Fragmin sales West Virginia-style pepperoni rolls at 416 Diner.(Photo: Amelia Robinson)

Bet you can’t take down this ginormous, MONSTER of a burger 

Published: Monday, September 25, 2017 @ 6:00 AM

Wandering Griffin will sell a Monster Burger Sept 29 to 30 to coincide with Monster Jam at The Nutter Center. Video by Amelia Robinson

A Dayton-area restaurant has a monster double dare that involves a heap of meat, cheese and more meat and cheese between two grilled cheese sandwiches. 

Yup, we totally said meat and cheese and even more meat and cheese between two grilled cheese sandwiches. 

The Wandering Griffin will  offer its brand new Monster Burger  11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday  Sept 29 and Sept. 30 to coincide with the Monster Jam tour stop at Wright State University’s Nutter Center. 

>> MORE: Find out what it’s like to drive a 10,000-pound truck

Jonathan Price, the chef and manager of the restaurant at  

3725 Presidential Drive in Beavercreek, is challenging Wright State students in particular, but thinks his creation will take down mostly any  burger.   

“I dare you to  eat this,” Price said. 

The Monster Burger includes: three 7-ounce beef patties, six strips of bacon, a Sahlen hot dog, two slices of ham, BBQ pulled pork, pepper jack, cheddar and swiss cheese, a giant pile of fries, a fried egg, lettuce, tomato, pickles, a massive onion ring, and two grilled cheese sandwiches as the bun.

The Monster Burger costs $29.99 and is recommended for two people. There also will be special Monster beers on tap.

Those who take it on by themselves and finish within seven minutes will win T-shirts and bragging rights. 

>> MORE: Your ultimate guide to the best burgers in Dayton

“It’s a hands on experience. We want it to be fun and interactive,” Price said. “You go to McDonald’s, you get a tiny burger, and it is gone in three bites. Ours, it is all about having fun with food. It’s supposed to be socially a talking point.”

>> MORE: Here’s where to get killer chicken wings for 59 cents in Dayton

The burger weighs in at more than 2.12 pounds and is eight inches long.  

Price recommends those who try the burger to flatten it down first. Still it is hard to take a bite out of this monster. 

>> Four great burgers worth the drive

Can you handle this Monster? Wandering Griffin's Monster Burger is more than 2 pounds of cheese, meat and more cheese and meat.(Photo: Amelia Robinson)

Can you handle this Monster? Wandering Griffin's Monster Burger is more than 2 pounds of cheese, meat and more cheese and meat.(Photo: Amelia Robinson)

Can you handle this Monster? Wandering Griffin's Monster Burger is more than 2 pounds of cheese, meat and more cheese and meat.(Photo: Amelia Robinson)

Can you handle this Monster? Wandering Griffin's Monster Burger is more than 2 pounds of cheese, meat and more cheese and meat.(Photo: Amelia Robinson)