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

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.

Magic is so ‘Yummy’

Published: Friday, June 21, 2013 @ 6:00 AM
Updated: Friday, June 21, 2013 @ 11:52 AM

Michelle Fong and Connie Post are two of the Dayton Daily News’ Dining Divas. They are culinary thrillseekers who search out interesting eateries to save you time and money. Where should they go next? They welcome your suggestions at life@coxinc.com.

The place: White Lotus, Dayton

Menu highlights: Thai cuisine and American sandwiches. Appetizers include springs rolls ($1.50 each or 3 for $4) and chicken or pork satay ($4.95). Thai specialties include Pad Thai and Pad Se-Ew ($7.95 each); Thai Beef Jerky and Lab Kai ($8.95 each); and Red, Yellow, Green or Massaman Curry ($7.95). American sandwiches include Yummy Burger ($4.95), Yummy Bacon Burger ($8.20), Yummy Extreme Double Burger ($9.20); Fish Filet ($4.95) and Pork Tenderloin ($4.95). Sodas, coffee and milk ($1); Thai coffee and tea ($2).

What we tried:

  • Spring roll, $1.50: Crisp and delicious. Served with homemade hot and sour sauce.
  • Yummy Burger, $4.95: At least a half-pound hand-formed patty cooked to perfection. We added cheese ($.25) and fries ($1).
  • Pad Thai, $7.95: We had ours with chicken. The dish comes with rice noodles, vegetables, two eggs and peanuts in homemade Thai sauce.
  • Thai tea, $2: Iced tea with a hint of star anise, also with Half and Half poured on top. Delicious and refreshing.
  • Thai coffee, $2: Iced coffee with a hint of almond and cardamom, with Half and Half poured on top. Distinctive and divine. This could become addictive. The coffee flavor is subdued, so those who do not like traditional coffee may enjoy this coffee.

 

Extras: The incredibly skilled and highly methodical Yang Sloop cooks, cleans, takes orders and handles the cash register all by herself in the tiny diner with only 16 bar stools. Do NOT expect your food in a jiffy. Do, however, expect it to taste wonderfully good.

It’s an intimate dining experience. The kitchen’s only a few feet away. We enjoyed sitting beneath a mobile of red Thai peppers and sipping our specialty drinks while watching Sloop put great care into each motion, from forming the hamburger patties to slicing tomatoes to sautéing chicken in squid sauce.

Her appliances are simple: a small grill, deep fryer, toaster, microwave, rice steamer, coffee maker and blender.

Sloop strives for perfection. While the petite lady is creating a culinary experience just for you, sit back and take everything in — the spices on the shelves, the bright green countertop, the photos of Sloop’s family on the mid-century refrigerator, the smells, the sounds.

We were mesmerized by Sloop’s performance artistry, which included some sort of sleight of hand. While we were watching her every move, our spring roll appeared on the counter, as if it materialized out of thin air. Sloop just looked at us and smiled. We called it pure magic.

The info: White Lotus, 327 E. 3rd St., Dayton; (937) 222-7030.

Hours: Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Closed Sunday.

Restaurant dazzles with donut, bacon burger and smothered chops

Published: Thursday, February 13, 2014 @ 11:29 AM
Updated: Monday, February 17, 2014 @ 3:57 PM


            The Diamond D’s signature beef burger comes with caramelized onions, three slices of bacon and pepper jack cheese on a sliced donut for $6.75. Staff video by Amelia Robinson.

Place: Diamond D’s Diner

Location: 2301 Germantown St., Dayton (Corner of Adelite Ave. and Germantown St.)

Sunday to Thursday noon to 8 p.m. and Friday and Saturday noon to 9 p.m.

Phone: (937) 268-3000

Website and menu

Diamond D’s Diner has a motto that its owner holds close to her heart: “fast food ain’t good and good food ain’t fast.”

Barbara Vinzant of Trotwood says that motto and all it encompasses has made the soul food restaurant at 2301 Germantown St. in Dayton successful.

The 74-year-old 1958 Dunbar High School grad said costumers are more than willing to wait for the made-to-order soul food that comes out of her kitchen.

Speciality include boneless, center cut pork chops that come fried, smothered in gravy (the way most regulars prefer them) or barbecue; peach cobbler and the thick sweet, salty and slightly spicy Diamond D’s Burger.

The signature beef burger comes with caramelized onions, three slices of bacon and pepper jack cheese on a sliced donut for $6.75.

Vinzant, a mother of three, grandmother to five and great grandmother of two, said younger clients gravitate towards the Double D’s Burger.

“They look at the picture and say, ‘that looks like a donut,’ and they try it,” Vinzant said and smiled.

The menu also includes a variety of sandwiches, chicken pieces (legs, breast, gizzards etc.) and collard greens, candied yams, chitterlings, buttered rice, BBQ rib tips, salmon patties and whiting fish.

The restaurant can seat up to 16. Vinzant said it delivers to as far away as Jefferson Twp. Many customers call in their order on the way home from work and pick up the meal. Senior citizens are one her chief demographic.

Vinzant said she and her son, Derrick, the business’ manager, have work hard to provide a quality serve to customers.

Some questioned Vinzant’s decision to open in the struggling neighborhood.

She said she would have it no other way.

“These are my roots. We try to make a difference in the community,” Vinzant said. “Just because I am in the ghetto does not mean I have to be a ghetto business.”

Vinzant also the owner of Vinique’s Beauty & Nail Salon and her family owns B&D Entertainment Store and Barbe’s Boutique. All three businesses are located near restaurant housed in a former Church’s Chicken.

The eatery was given Derrick Vinzant long-time nickname, his mother said. He has a diamond in one of his teeth.

Vinzant considers the decision to open the restaurant a leap of faith.

The building had not been used for 16 years.

Read: Restaurant that closed 16 years ago poised to reopen

She used advice from local contacts in the business from JJ Chicken and Fish and Moe’s Fish & Chicken when she opened and still sings their praise.

The retired federal courts manager said says she centers herself when times get tough.

Walk-in traffic has been slower this winter due to to the cold temperatures. Diamond D’s has relied more heavier on deliveries.

“Lord, you didn’t say it would easy, you said you would be with me,” Vinzant said.

This Fat Cat Burger is totally pounce-worthy

Published: Wednesday, June 22, 2016 @ 6:00 AM
Updated: Wednesday, June 22, 2016 @ 6:00 AM

You don’t need deep pockets to afford the Fat Cat Burger.

At McNasty’s Mobile Food Truck, you can get your paws on one for $8.50.

>>RELATED: The burger you’ll want to finish, but shouldn’t

The burger starts with a thick, hand-shaped patty. Add to that a half-inch slab of pastrami. But we’re nowhere close to done at this point. A blanket of oozy-melty Swiss cheese is so thick it starts running down the sides, covering up the double layer of meat. Then, a generous layer of caramelized onions adds a pleasant sweetness, purr-fectly counterbalanced by a final topping of Dijon mustard.

>> RELATED: No wimpy nachos at this food truck

This is a mountain of a burger – not enough to feed a small litter of friends, but at least enough to share with a buddy. I spilt the Fat Cat with my colleague Michelle Fong, and hours later, neither one of us could entertain the idea of eating a bite of anything, not even leftover office doughnuts. Nada.

“Eating that burger has made me sleepy,” Michelle said, grabbing her empty coffee cup and heading to the breakroom.

Indeed, a cat nap would be good about now.

>> RELATED: Dayton food truck events you simply cannot miss

And let us add one finicky little quibble: The Fat Cat is the equivalent of two normal-size burgers, and the structure of the bun is compromised by the sheer weight of the goodies. If there has ever been the need for an industrial strength bun, this is the sandwich, which comes with a generous side of chips. We admit we're being picky -- the bun issue is nowhere close to cat-astrophic.

Want to go?WHAT: McNasty’s Mobile Food Truck
WHERE: McNasty’s food truck travels throughout the area
INFO: https://www.facebook.com/McNastysMobileFoodTruck or 937-367-1518

You MUST taste this under-the-radar food truck’s crispy, delicious tots for yourself

Published: Wednesday, May 24, 2017 @ 6:00 AM

Call us “Crazy,” but these tots just may change your life.

We may have stumbled upon some of the most AMAZING tots you’ll ever taste.

We stopped by the Crazy Redhead Canteen food truck during the Miami County Food Truck Competition and Rally last weekend and discovered deliciousness. 

>> MORE: Your guide to Dayton food trucks

>> MORE: Food truck events to add to your calendar NOW

The food truck specializes in gourmet grilled cheese and sandwiches made on fresh grilled Italian bread. 

But we heard people raving about the tater tots, and decided to try for ourselves.

We tried the Trailer Tots ($7), which are a large order of the most crispy tots you’ll find loaded with delicious pulled barbecue pork, cheddar cheese, sour cream and chives.

Three of us, each with our own fork, inhaled the basket of tots literally in a minute.

Another option for tot devotees? The Hot Totties ($7), which are topped with mozzarella cheese, homemade spicy ranch dressing, tomatoes, green onion and buffalo dust and topped with barbecue pulled pork for $1.99 extra. 

More info: Facebook | (614) 499-4552

>> MORE: The best tater tots you’ll find around Dayton

>> MORE: The best pulled pork around town