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  1. A Review of Carl’s Jr.’s Turkey Burgers

    May 3, 2011 by Jill

    Reviewed by Jill Harness on April 14, 2011 .

    Even if you only watch the bear minimum of television, you’ve certainly seen the ads for Carl’s Jr.’s turkey burgers. But just because they’ve been advertising non-stop doesn’t mean the things are actually worth eating, so I went to check it out on your behalf and I’m happy to report these burgers that range from $2.99 to $3.49 are certainly worth the money -or, at least the regular and teriyaki ones are. The guacamole at Carl’s Jr. is pretty bland and the original turkey burger is much better than the guacamole burger and it is $.50 cheaper.

    Strangely, the original burger has the same calories in it as the guacamole burger and the teriyaki burger has 20 calories less than the other. At first glance, this makes no sense, since teriyaki is known for being calorie laden. But the truth is that the teriyaki turkey burger has a light layer of sauce and a delicious ring of pineapple, which is perfect with the juicy, but slightly less-flavorful-than-beef turkey patty. The reason the original has more calories is because they try to give the patty more flavor with extra ketchup -lots of extra ketchup. As someone who likes ketchup, it was still bordering the too much line, so if you aren’t a big fan, or if you want to shave off some easy calories order light ketchup or no ketchup at all.

    Although the patties aren’t as flavorful as beef, they’re still tasty and Carl’s seasoning is just right for the delicate flavor. The patties are incredibly juicy, far more so than the other meats available at the restaurant.

    All in all, if you’re on a diet and still want some good fast food, the turkey burgers are a good call. The teriyaki is probably best, but the original is quite good. You’re probably best off skipping the guacamole version though.

    On average, the burgers deserve a 4 out of 5.

  2. Dining Don’t: Tyler’s Taste of Texas Egg Skins

    April 27, 2011 by Jill

    I have already reviewed Tyler’s Taste of Texas, but while practically everything I’ve had there was quite tasty, I must admit that I was incredibly disappointed when I recently ate there and ordered the “egg skins.” I know the name sounds utterly disgusting, but the concept sounded intriguing: potato skins filled with bacon, scrambled eggs, avocado and bell peppers, all covered in hollandaise sauce.

    Unfortunately, the Frankenstein of breakfast dishes was far inferior to the individual ingredients included therein. The biggest problem was the potato skins. Rather than being crispy and earthy, like a good potato skin, they were too thick, making them too soft and too light in flavor. As if that weren’t bad enough, the texture was terrible, they were almost chewy, like they were reheated in the microwave. I ended up having to scrap the eggs off the skins and eating them alone.

    The egg, bacon and veggie blend was good, but the hollandaise wasn’t particularly flavorful -too heavy on the butter and too light on anything else. All in all, there is a hell of a lot more things I’d rather spend my $9 on than eggs covered in butter and loaded in a half-empty potato.

    I still recommend Tyler’s, just skip the egg skins if you do you stop by.

  3. Reviewing BJ’s Snacks & Small Bites

    April 18, 2011 by Jill

    Reviewed by Jill Harness on April 14, 2011 .

    BJ’s recently released a new addition to their menu, called “Snacks & Small Bites.” The dishes range from $2.95 to $4.95 and include classic treats like macaroni and cheese and tacos, to more exotic fare like seared ahi tuna.

    When I last reviewed the restaurant, one of my main complaints was the price of the food, but with these small dishes, you can pack in a lot of flavor for a pretty small price. I ordered the two mini tacos and since I already ate lunch a little while before that, the portion was great, but if you want to fill up on them, you’ll probably want to order two or three of the dishes. Even so, at $3 a serving, it won’t cost much to fill up.

    My girl friend ordered the $3.95 seared ahi, which was certainly on par with the tacos. Flavorful, perfectly raw in the center and well-seasoned externally, these were quickly devoured at our table.

    The tacos come with your choice of fillings, fajita chicken or barbacoa beef. While I wish you could have one taco with each filling type, both have to be the same. I chose the barbacoa beef, which was moist, flavorful and lean. Paired with a squeeze of lime juice, salsa that lacked the overwhelming chipotle flavor of the nacho salsa and a light sprinkling of cabbage, these are absolutely perfect.

    Head in between 12 and 3 and you can take advantage of the $3 beer deal, which also includes their home-brewed cider. The berry cider is pink and quite sweet, in fact, it might be a bit too sweet for more people. For something a little less sweet, but better balanced, try combining the Jeremiah Red with the cider. The mix is smooth, floral, sweet and all around delicious.

    In the grand scheme of things, Bj’s Snacks & Small Bites are certainly worthy of a 5 out of 5.

  4. Pho Fusion Is Pho Heaven

    April 14, 2011 by Jill

    Reviewed by Jill Harness on April 14, 2011 .
    With amazing boba drinks and great food to match, Pho Fusion just might be my new favorite Vietnamese restaurant in San Diego. Pho and noodle dishes are all around $6 and they are totally filling and delicious. The rice dishes, which are usually served in small portions at other restaurants are big and flavorful, served with a variety of veggies and a number of sauces. The pho was meaty and the broth was rich.

    Perhaps the greatest thing about Pho Fusion though, is their impressive selection of boba drinks, all of which are fantastic. To make things even sweeter, any of the teas, which can be served with boba or jelly, are only $1 with any entree. The almond black tea is sweet and refreshing and the green apple green tea is a perfect blend of cloyingly sweet apple flavor with slightly bitter and mellow green tea. Both my boyfriend and I agreed that these were certainly some of the best teas we’ve ever had and we will be coming back for more.

    I’d say they certainly deserve a perfect 5 out of 5.

    Image via Winnie S. [Yelp]
    Fusion Cafe on Urbanspoon

  5. T-Mobile: Why Don’t You Want My Money?

    March 31, 2011 by Jill

    With the exception of a brief, very unsuccessful, experiment with Straight Talk, I’ve been a loyal T Mobile customer for years now. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that it’s been all smooth sailing.

    It all started when my boyfriend and I decided to separate our family plan and get new, separate plans that would also give us new, fancy phones. This meant we had to cancel our old plan completely and get new individual plans. The company was able to transfer our old numbers onto our new phones, so everything was going smoothly, until our last family plan bill was due.

    Unfortunately, T Mobile’s online site uses your phone number as your user log in id, so as soon as the company canceled our old plan, we could no longer access our old bill online. To make matters worse, I was on their paperless billing system, so they didn’t send me a paper version of the bill either.

    I call them on the phone and ask if they can send me a copy of the bill, but they have their system set up in a way that prevents them from changing an account’s settings after the account is closed. Essentially, if you have paperless billing, you continue to have it, even after you can’t access your account. The customer service rep tells me she absolutely can’t send me a paper bill.

    Instead, she tells me to visit a T Mobile store in person and have an associate print it out for me. This is already getting to be a pain in the ass, but I just want to pay my last bill and get this over with, so I head to the store and the associate quickly prints out my bill. Only then do I realize that I canceled four days after the billing cycle ended and they haven’t added those four days of charges to the bill she just handed me. Instead, I have to drive to their store in order to get another printout, this time for my bill of four days worth of service. I ask the associate if she can arrange the final bill to be mailed to me or if she can just tell me what it will cost, but she says no on both accounts. Like the woman on the phone said, they can’t change account settings and mail bills after accounts are closed so if your a paperless customer, your bill ends up in paperless limbo.

    I just want to be able to pay off my bill, but don’t want to spend more money gas driving to their store to get the bill than the partial bill total. But that seems like it’s way too much to ask for here.

  6. Losing Weight? There’s An App For That

    March 20, 2011 by Jill

    Reviewed by Jill Harness on March 20, 2011.

    Everyone knows it’s hard to lose weight (if it weren’t, America wouldn’t have an obesity problem). The trick is to find what works for you. What works for me, and may benefit you as well, is the Calorie Counter app on my Windows phone. In fact, it’s working so well that I lost six pounds in my first week.

    The app was created by FatSecret and is available on all of the major smartphone operating systems, but if you don’t have a smartphone, you can always go ahead and use the FatSecret webpage instead.

    Essentially, all you have to do is track what you eat every day and how much you exercise. The system will be able to tell you how many calories, carbs, etc. you’re taking in and compare your calorie intake to the amount you should be consuming if you want to lose weight. If you slip up one day, it’s easy to stay motivated, because the diet calendar can still show you how many calories you have lost in an average day since you started using the program. There are a handful of foods and restaurants that aren’t on the list, but you can always look them up online and add them to the app where it will be available from there on out.

    And of course, the service is one of the Cheapskate’s favorite adjectives -free!

    I give the Calorie Counter app 4.5 out of 5.

  7. Can Round Table Pizza Still Compete?

    September 11, 2010 by Jill

    Reviewed by Jill Harness on March 20, 2011.

    When Dominos redid their formula, I was extremely skeptical and hesitant to try the new recipe. But I did like what I had, and at $5.99 for a large two topping, their price simply can’t be beat. In fact, it seemed to spurn a race with most pizza chains trying to have the best value for the price. Both Papa Johns and Pizza Hut have turned to offering unlimited toppings for $10 (although Papa Johns has since canned this promotion). And Little Cesaers has continually been pumping out $5 cardboard circles for mass consumption.

    While there is still plenty of room for gourmet pizzerias and even neighborhood spots, can a massive chain that refuses to drop prices even hope to compete for value? Round  Table better hope so.

    To review the chain, the BF and I ordered two large pizzas from the Round Table in Santee last night, both of which were on special. Even though they were on sale, the total still came out to $30 without any tips. At more than twice the cost of two large Dominos pizzas, the chain seemed to be losing right away. But then we looked at the sizes. The Round Table pizzas were at least two inches larger in diameter and they were significantly thicker, so realistically, you are getting more pizza at least.

    But when it comes to toppings and flavor, Round Table blows the competition away. We ordered their Italiano pizza for $11, which has a slightly different crust than usual and comes in either cheese or peperoni. The crust was good, well seasoned and thick. Both my boyfriend and I probably could have ate no more than a third of the pizza each, which is a lot less than the full Domino’s pizza it takes to fill us each up.

    Then came the BBQ chicken pizza. This had their traditional cheese-laden crust and an array of toppings, including chicken, bacon, green onions, garlic sauce, BBQ sauce and red onions. It was just as filling as the other pizza and $5 more, but the flavor was incomparable. The combination of toppings blended together perfect, it was sweet, savory, tart and heavenly.

    After a full investigation, I think it’s safe to say that Round Table certainly holds its own against other chains, even if the price is significantly higher. So next time you’re ordering, consider more than price, consider the fillingness of the pizza and the flavor. Round Table just might be the best value for your dollar.

    I’d give it a 4.5 out of 5, because, hey, it could still be a little cheaper.

  8. Straight Talk: When It Is Better to Pay More

    March 15, 2010 by ruetheday

    Reviewed by Jill Harness on March 20, 2011.

    In November, I made the regrettable mistake of trying out WalMart’s Straight Talk Wireless A $30 plan for 1000 minutes sounded like a great deal. Unfortunately, this is most certainly a case of “you get what you pay for.”

    I started out by heading to WalMart and buying my phone (you can only use a phone purchased specifically through their service) and the phone service card. Then I set about activating it. My first issue was with the fact that the company does not tell you that it is a prepaid phone plan. Yes, they say “no contracts,” (by which they mean no time commitments although you are still required to agree to a contract) but there are certain month to month plans through actual cell phone companies that don’t have time commitments either.

    Personally, I hate the idea of a pre-paid 30 day contract because that means if you forget to pay your bill by even one day, you lose service immediately. I had to subscribe to their auto-pay system to ensure I wouldn’t lose service, which also meant that I risked forgetting the bill was coming and over drafting my bank account at the end of every month.

    Then came the terrible customer service. When I registered, my T-Mobile phone number was supposed to transfer over to my new phone…but it didn’t. Instead, my phone number stopped working, but I could still somehow make calls from my new Straight Talk phone. When I called the outsourced customer support, they used my phone number as the account number, which meant that they couldn’t find my account. When they finally did look it up using a bunch of wonky work arounds, they finally got my phone to receive incoming calls, but the internet still didn’t work on the device, which was supposed to be included in the plan. I ignored this problem because I didn’t really need the internet, but I still find it odd that no one could help me to get the internet working, nor did they even care.

    Later on, I couldn’t access my account on their website because you can only log in with your phone number. I called support again (went through the complex work around to get them to find my account without the phone number) and found out the number was still somehow not in their system. Until the number was in their system, I couldn’t get online with my account –even though I had originally signed up to the service online using that phone number!

    Within a month, I found out that I still had a few months left on my T-Mobile contract and I wasn’t particularly impressed with Straight Talk, so I opted to switch back. Enter nightmare ordeal #2. To keep my old number (which was fairly important since I just sent out a bunch of resumes with the number on it), I had to have Straight Talk release my number. Big problem.

    Remember how they couldn’t transfer my number at first? Yeah, it turns out they never actually fixed that. Somehow my phone number was sitting in limbo and although I made and received calls, they never actually activated the number. So in order to get my number back, they had to release it, but they couldn’t find it in the system to do so.

    The representative at the T-Mobile store spent an hour on the phone with them trying to get them to figure this out and fix the problem and eventually I was instructed to “call back next week and we should have it fixed.” So I did, and the woman who answered the phone had no idea what I was talking about, even when I told her from the beginning, “I need to speak to your elevated level of customer service.” Finally, after the eighth explanation, she says “ok, let me put you through to the elevated level of customer service.” When I got through to someone who actually knew what they were talking about, they told me “call again next week.” A week later, the phone number just transferred on its own.

    After the whole experience, I decided to sell my Straight Talk phone because I had no intention of ever working with the company again. So I put it on Craigslist, thinking the people could just activate it and that will be the end of it. Unfortunately, Straight Talk won’t activate it for someone else without all of my personal info, so the strangers I sold it to had to keep calling me back, asking for my old address, my mother’s maiden name and my birthday. If I had known that selling my phone could have opened me up to identity theft, I would have just sent the phone to the recycler.

    Every single step of the way my experience with Straight Talk was horrendous. I hope that sharing my story will at least dissuade a few people from trying their service, at least until they improve things dramatically.

    On a 5 point scale, they get a 1.

  9. BJ’s, A Bit Pricey, Quite A Bit Delicious

    March 10, 2010 by ruetheday

    Reviewed by Jill Harness on March 20, 2011.

    It’s been years since I stopped by BJ’s in La Mesa, but I always knew they had a great happy hour, so we headed out there yesterday to see if it was still around. As luck would have it, the restaurant’s happy hour hasn’t changed a bit. All of their mini pizzas are half price, drinks are a dollar off and appetizers are two dollars off. Of course, the prices for everything are on the expensive side, so this just means everything is reasonable instead of over-inflated.

    We went ahead and ordered the piranha nachos as an appetizer and I ordered their Irish Root Beer. The nachos were good, but a few chips were burned and their salsa has always been a bit strange. The smokey chipotle flavor is just a bit off when paired with the sweetness of the rest of the flavors. Unfortunately, you can’t have nachos without salsa, so we just tried to go light on the salsa. While the chili, cheese, olives, sour cream, tomatoes and other toppings were tasty, I think I’d skip this $9.25 appetizer ($7.25 during happy hour) in the future, unless they get a new salsa.

    As for my drink, the Irish Root Beer was pure heaven. With the restaurant’s own root beer, Baileys, BOLS butterscotch schnapps and Jameson whiskey, it was the perfect blend of sweet and bitter. Over all, it had a taste of a root beer float, but the sweet bite of the Jameson made it all the more delightful. At $7.75 per glass ($6.75 during happy hour) it’s a little on the pricey side, but the size and flavor made it worth the expense.

    For dinner, we went for the mini pizzas. BJ’s specialties are its beers and pizzas, so I knew we’d be in for a treat no matter what we ordered, so we went for the exotic and tried the Mediterranean, with Kalmata olives, grilled chicken, tomatoes, sun dried tomatoes, pesto, feta cheese, peperchinis and garlic, and the bacon cheeseburger, with ground beef, red onions, bacon, pickles, tomatoes, cheddar cheese and thousand island dressing.

    Both of the pizzas were tasty, but the Mediterranean had quite a few less toppings than one would expect, although the taste was still an excellent blend of all the ingredients. The cheeseburger pizza was a treat for the tongue as the flavors of the pickles and dressing were unexpected, but entirely pleasant. I would highly recommend either pizza, particularly for the price of $5 each during the happy hour special.

    I ended up with enough left overs to have lunch the next day, which meant I was too stuffed to try the pizzokie, which looked quite tasty. But, to correct that omission in our meal, I’ll be making home made pizzokies later and then sharing the recipe with you all soon.

    If you get the chance to stop by BJ’s, give it a try. You won’t be disappointed.

    I’d give the restaurant a 3.5 out of 5 right now, but if they reduced their prices a bit and got a better salsa, that could easily become a 5 out of 5.

  10. Fast French Food For About the Same As A Carl’s Jr. Meal

    June 10, 2008 by Jill

    Reviewed by Jill Harness on March 20, 2011.

    I like Mimi’s. While many of the reviews in this blog will be based in one local area or another, Mimi’s is all over the USA. Best of all, if you’re a poor sucker like me, it’s one of the best semi-French places you can afford to eat at.

    They have great to go options. Their food is inexpensive and you get a good quantity. So it’s awesome to run over and pick up some Mimi’s on the run rather than hitting a drive thru and it’s way healthier.

    The muffins, French onion soup and fruity bread are fantastic. They are all exceptionally rich and flavorful.

    My favorite dinner dish is the scallop ratatouille ravioli. It has a few huge scallops, salmon, multi-colored ravioli with an excellent ratatouille filling of tomatoes, eggplant and other yumminess.

    For breakfast, they have a mind-blowingly awesome stuffed French toast with a cream cheese and orange marmalade filling. The whole thing is covered in a selection of fresh berries and powdered sugar.

    Considering most of items are under $15 a person, this is a good safe bet for lunch or dinner whatever metropolitan city you are in.

    I’d happily give Mimi’s a 4.5 out of 5.
    Mimi's Cafe on Urbanspoon