Saturday, September 10, 2016

Don Julio Mexican Kitchen & Tequila Bar

We had dinner last night at Don Julio Mexican Kitchen & Tequila Bar. I'm glad we got there when we did, because our wait was only a few minutes, but there were a number of people waiting when we left--a testament to the popularity of this place on a Friday evening. 

After our very short wait--only a few minutes--we were seated and quickly given some chips and salsa to start. Our waitress was there in what seemed like seconds to take our drink order. We learned that margarita's were on special for $3 so we opted for those. They were in fact very good, nice and refreshing on a summer evening. They appeared quickly and we were ready to order as well. 

The salsa was a bit of a disappointment. It was not bad, but was also not over-the-top good, either. It seemed to me that perhaps canned tomatoes were used? I could see/taste some onion and cilantro, and it had a bit of heat which I enjoyed. I'd have liked it to have been much chunkier and fresher tasting, that's all. It was just OK. But the "OK" with our meal did stop there, as everything else was very good.

I chose to have the Quesadilla Don Julio, and requested a mix of carnitas and chicken for the filling. I was not disappointed. First of all, presentation is everything, and this was a nice presentation, as you can see. There was a side of yellow rice that was good, and also a side "salad" of lettuce, pico de gallo, sour cream and guacamole that was very fresh and refreshing. I loved the balance that it gave to the savory, gooey, cheesy, meaty quesadillas. The quesadillas were excellent. Both the chicken and the carnitas were way over the top tender and good, and it was a nice and cheesy quesadilla. I loved it and had one piece to take home for another day, along with some rice. 

Tommy had the signature Chimichanga with the shredded beef. And again, presentation is the first impression, and the presentation again was marvelous. Take a look at that picture to the right. The deep-fried chimichanga was uniquely shaped--not a traditional rolled up, burrito-sytle, but was filled and gathered at the top, like a sack of sorts--it really was unique and tasty. The chimichanga was sitting on a pond of queso and salsa. It was accompanied by the same sides I had. The flavor was very, very good as well. This was a good dish and Tommy had some to take home for another day as well. We both agreed, we'd eat here again.

The place when we visited was packed, with people usually waiting a bit for tables. But it was also a bit loud. I think because of the noise level, everyone had to shout to make themselves heard. I'd certainly go back for the food, but would probably try for a quieter time, later at night or a weekday, or perhaps lunch or very early dinner. But again, the food was very good. Hopefully we got their on a "bad salsa" day because the salsa is the first impression. Luckily, great food overcame that. Give it a try, let me know what you think....

Wop's Hops Brewing

Don't let the "brewing" in the name fool you, because a few months back, Wop's Hops Brewing expanded into the space next door and now server some gourmet Italian bar food--and more. Wop's Hops Brewing is Sanford's first (and as of this writing, only) local micro brewery. Wop's Hops Brewing crafts English-style ales and does not use fillers, HFCS, GMOs, or other additives--the brew real beer and that is where they got their start. A popular local place, when the next door restaurant closed, Wop's Hops Brewing took the chance and moved into that space and started serving pub food, but good pub food, along with the beer. We recently gave them a try and did not leave disappointed.

After selecting a beer, I ordered the Chicken Pesto Flatbread. I'd been by before during an outdoor event and saw a few of their flatbreads flying out the door. They looked so good and seemed so popular that I already knew I wanted a flatbread--and I was not disappointed. I was surprised, first of all, by the abundance of chicken, and a nice tender chicken here. Usually flatbreads are a bit lean in the meat department, but this was really loaded. I'd say for my taste, perhaps a bit high on the garlic in the pesto, but it was a great and filling dish--I even had some to take home to enjoy another day. I'd get this again, though there are a few other items on the menu I want to try next time--and I know for certain there will be a next time, soon!

Tommy chose the Meatball Sub, served with a pasta side. The pasta side, first of all, was very good, nice and tasty. He also got a side of "gravy" (tomato sauce) for the sub. Overall the sub was good--the meatballs nice and tender and tasty. I thought it would have been better had some of the sauce been served on the sub itself, but that's a personal preference. There was one misstep here, and that's what I consider a procedural step in the kitchen--the bun was slightly burned when they toasted it. Not terribly, horribly burned, but definitely charred a bit too much, I imagine the cheese burned, so that was just a bit off-putting. Not enough to ruin it or send it back, but it showed a bit of lack of attention to detail--if I were chef, I'd have redone it. Perhaps it was because the chef appeared to have friends in the dining room and spent time with them. But it was a bit of a misstep.

Nonetheless and overall, we enjoyed our meal, and both took some portions home, the food was a healthy, full serving. And of course the beer and cider was also very good. Greg and his staff do a great job, and we felt very well taken care of. We'll be back, for sure. And, by the way, I spied someone having nachos. Not Italian, maybe, but definitely bar food, and they looked way good, too. I'll be back for them sooner rather than later.

Oh, and about being Sanford's first and only micro-brewery so far--well, Sanford Brewing Company is getting set up about a block away and will be opening within a month or two with a full kitchen as well, and a smaller place, Inner Compass Brewing Company, will open sometime in the near future a few blocks away. Along with the downtown Sanford Homebrew Shop which supplies all sorts of brewing needs for beer, wine, cider, cheese, etc., and nearby Celery City Craft which has 51 craft beers and ciders on tap plus hundreds more in bottles and cans (and Celery City is set to expand later this year into a much larger space), Sanford is now truly a craft beer lovers destination. But the granddaddy of them all is Wop's Hops Brewing, they really started it all for those who truly treasure the experience of drinking craft beers and ciders. Come for the beer, stay for the food and fun, you won't be disappointed. They have a great outdoor patio which is fun in the cooler months and evenings, and often have live entertainment as well. You will not be disappointed, I guarantee it!

Dreamy Cakes

I've stopped a Dreamy Cakes several times, and right now I wish I'd taken some photos of their unique interior. It's a very quaint, warm, and inviting place. When you step into Dreamy Cakes, you feel like you've stepped outside an old home that's been converted into a shop/restaurant--you are looking at the exterior of a home they've built inside. It's really worth stopping in just to see it.

We've had their cupcakes a few times, but recently when my husband was working nearby and I had the day off, I stopped by to get lunch for him, to go. First I got the ham and cheese croissant. It was nice and buttery, and we split it, so it was filling. I do wish it'd had a bit more ham (and cheese, since I'm a cheese-a-holic), but it wast tasty. Nothing highly special, but definitely tasty and hit the spot. 

But of course the main draw here is their bakery, and at that they surely excel. Tommy has the sweet tooth in our house, and so I ordered for him a Salted Caramel Chocolate Cupcake. OMG, it was to die for. First, let me apologize for the picture, the top got a bit smushed in the transport. But we've had this and other cupcakes at Dreamy Cakes before, and they really are good--tender, moist, tasty, and above all, highly sugary, topped "mile high" with a light, fluffy frosting. The presentation sure is wonderful, but the tasty very good. 

They have another item on their lunch menu that i want to try, a Walnut Chicken Waldorf salad that I've heard great things about--I'll have to give that a try next time, and I'm sure there'll be a next time. 

So next time you have a sweet tooth, be sure to try Dreamy Cakes, I'm sure they'll satisfy that craving. And lunch is pretty good, too. I think I'd eat in next time, just to enjoy the unique and warm outdoor-indoor feeling.