The Restaurant That Might Kill You

IMG_5087The first thing you need to know about Colton’s, is that if you have a peanut allergy you’re going to want to stay far away, or risk the very real possibility of dying. The second thing you need to know, is that the food there is absolutely delicious, so if you have a peanut allergy and aren’t willing to risk whether you live or die by going to eat at Colton’s, then it really sucks for you. This past weekend I was in Searcy, Arkansas visiting family, my mom gave us a couple choices of where to go to dinner on Saturday night, Larry’s Pizza, and Colton’s. Let me be clear, Larry’s is by far the better option, and is definitely at the top of my list for all time favorite pizza, but the closest Larry’s Pizza location to Searcy, is in Cabot, which takes like at least half an hour to get there, and we weren’t really feeling like an hour round trip, so by way of default, Colton’s was the choice.

My brothers, wife and I arrived to the packed parking lot of Colton’s Steakhouse a little after six. Upon entering I noticed the multitude of discarded peanuts and peanut shells all over the floor, which is why you’d be wise to avoid going here if you have a peanut allergy. People with peanut allergies are the reason that those aren’t served on planes anymore, and those were the innocent, already shelled peanuts with no sign of peanut debris anywhere in the bag, but at Colton’s, the entire floor is made up of peanut dust and shells that would likely kill an allergy ridden kid within seconds of entering the western themed restaurant. There were quite a few people waiting around the hostess stand, presumably none of which were afflicted with a peanut allergy, because if they were, my verbiage would have been more along the lines of dying around the hostess stand,  so my bother went to go put our names on the list while the rest of us crunched our way to a bench in the corner of the room.

The hostess didn’t give my brother a wait time, and he didn’t ask for one, maybe because the possibility of waiting there on that corner bench in the corner until we eventually all starve to death seems like an unrealistic scenario, but I’m nothing if not an over-reactor, so my mind jumped to the negative aspects of not knowing a wait time almost immediately. We waited for what seemed like a very long time, and it did occur to me that we would have already made it to Larry’s Pizza in the time that we were still waiting to be seated at Colton’s, but finally, the little black coaster lit up and started buzzing, so our party of six was led from the entrance by the hostess station, to the table closest to the entrance, but at least we were making progress towards eating, which is really the important thing. After taking our order, the waitress brought out baskets of bread, which had some of the best rolls I’ve ever had, but I can’t say for sure whether that is factual or if it was just the hunger talking, but regardless, those rolls were fantastic.

It didn’t take long for the food to arrive, and everything looked delicious as plate after plate of piping hot plates were placed before us and an aroma cloud from the various dishes formed overhead. I had the chicken fried chicken, and despite my thinking that the name is kind of dumb because it seems to contain one to many “chickens”, it is one of the few dishes that I can think of that is solid across the board and has never let me down no matter where I’d ordered it. Saturday night was no exception. The chicken fried chicken was perfectly cooked and juicy with just the right amount of gravy on top to compliment the dish without overwhelming it, and the “smashed” potatoes, as they were called were also very good and flavorful. It did seem like a green vegetable would have been a nice addition to the meal to kind of tie the whole plate together, but that is my only aspect of the actual meal that I think could have been improved, and it’s certainly not a major issue.

The portion was very filling and the waitress was very good, always refilling my glass before I even noticed it needed to be refilled in the first place, and everyone else was satisfied with their meals as well. As I sat around the table having finished my meal, I began thinking about Memphis and where I might have seen a Colton’s somewhere in that area before as I drove around. A quick Google search revealed my thinking to be correct as there was won right around the corner from the Wolfchase Mall, and not too terribly far from where I live, so now that it’s on my radar, I’ll definitely want to go eat there again sometime, and I would highly recommend you doing the same, unless of course you have a peanut allergy and you don’t want to die.

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Arkansas Eats: Lunch at the Bulldog

IMG_5082I’ve never once in my life looked at a bulldog and thought of food, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it happens going forward, because I had an excellent meal at the Bulldog Restaurant in Bald Knob, Arkansas last weekend. I was off work on a Saturday for the first time in several weeks, so my wife and I went to visit my mom for Mother’s day weekend. Before we got to Searcy where she lives, we passed the Bulldog Restaurant in Bald Knob, and I commented that we should stop there and try it out sometime, because I’ve heard quite a few people rave about it. One time when I was about ten, me and my friends were on the way from Little Rock to the summer camp and one of the parents insisted that we stop for lunch at the Bulldog. I remember absolutely nothing about the meal I had that day seventeen years ago, but I figured it must be good if someone was so adamant that we should eat there.

We were sitting around the living room at my mom’s house and she started suggesting things for lunch, and whether by pure coincidence or something cosmic in the universe aligning with the stars as I spoke the name earlier that morning, she asked what we thought about the Bulldog Restaurant, and of course we were on board. Unless you were specifically looking for the restaurant, it’s probably not the sort of place you would take notice of driving by, but the parking lot was completely packed with cars, which was a positive sign of reassurance that everything I’d heard about the Bulldog was true, because there wouldn’t be that many people at a terrible restaurant after close to two o’clock on a Saturday afternoon. It was the kind of place where you ordered at the counter and then they brought the food to you once it’s cooked, and the menu was perched over the register like something you might find at a little league concession stand, which was kind of cool. Most of the items on the menu were pretty straight forward, but there was one thing where a traditional menu with pictures would have been helpful, because never have I ever heard of a pizza burger, but I was very intrigued as to what it might be.

As the line moved forward and we got closer to the register, I had pretty much made up my mind that I was going to get the pizza burger, because it had to be something pretty unique. I was imagining a slice of pizza between two hamburger buns, or perhaps a regular hamburger patty topped with tomato sauce, cheese, and pepperoni, both of which sounded pretty interesting, but when I asked the cashier what the pizza burger was, my imagination had run wild with possibility, because the reality wasn’t nearly as interesting as I’d hoped it would be. She told me it was a burger with mozzarella cheese melted in the middle, so basically it was a cheeseburger with a different kind of cheese, but even though it wasn’t as exotic as I’d imagined it to be, it still sounded good, so that’s what I ordered with a side of fries, and a strawberry shortcake for my wife and I to split for desert.

Although it was crowded inside the restaurant, we found seats at a high top table by the window with a beautiful views of the parking lot and a shed set off in the distance in the middle of an overgrown yard. The food didn’t take long to get there and the fries looked great, seasoned and not too thick, which are my favorite, but when I unwrapped the aluminum foil with the word “Pizza Burger” written in black sharpie, I was completely taken aback, because it turned out not to be a burger at all, but rather a chicken fried steak patty. I don’t know if they messed up the order or the cashier messed up the description, but I was in a go with the flow type of mood, and it didn’t look half bad, so I just went with it, which turned out to be a great decision. The chicken fried steak was really good and the melted cheese in the middle was an added bonus. The pickles and mustard on the sandwich were unnecessary and seemed a little out of place but I thought that I was ordering a burger, so I didn’t see any need to have those two ingredients left off. It wasn’t the greatest meal I’ve ever had, but the fries and the sandwich were both solid and I would definitely eat there again.

The real star of the show wasn’t the entrée at all, but rather the strawberry shortcake that we had for desert. Apparently the Bulldog Restaurant is kind of famous for this sweet dish, and I can see why, because it is one of the best restaurant deserts I’ve ever had, probably second only to the profiteroles I had on my first trip to Paris. The strawberry shortcake consisted of a bowl filled with soft serve vanilla ice cream and sliced strawberries, topped with whipped cream and nuts, with pieces of shortbread placed around the dish. The varying textures, the smoothness of the ice cream contrasted with the crunch of the shortbread married together well and made the desert and all around delight to eat. I would go back to the Bulldog for the strawberry shortcake alone, and lucky for me, I drive right past it on the way to my mom’s house, but even if you have to go out of your way to get to Bald Knob, it will be well worth it for a taste of heaven.

The Bad Luck Bears

Last night was supposed to be great. I’d been looking forward to last night for more than a month, ever since the Grizzlies secured the second worst record in the NBA. It was a tough season to say the least, and although it was fun getting to see some promise out of a few of our young players, overall, the games were pretty tough to watch, but the silver lining was always the draft. Sure, we sucked now and lost WAY more games than we won, but at least we would get a high draft pick who might be the next franchise great for the next ten or more years, an exciting thought at the end of a lost season. Our star players now, Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, are getting older, and even though we might have them together for a couple more years, our future, at the moment, looks pretty bleak beyond them. Aside from Jamychal Green and Dillon Brooks, who played really well as a rookie last year, I don’t see anyone else on the current roster who has the potential to have a long lasting positive impact on the team, and I don’t think either of those players, as much as I like them, should be the biggest stars on an NBA team. That’s why I was looking forward to last night, because all that could change with just a little luck.

With the second best odds to win the NBA draft lottery, I had already been dreaming about who the Grizzlies would select in the draft this year. They were bad for much of the year, and after the calendar turned, the team seemed to be in full tank mode for much of 2018 when it was evident that things weren’t getting better, so I watched more college basketball this year than I have in the past, watching and studying the top prospects to decide on who I hoped Memphis would have on their team next season. I was never really in on Trae Young, although he did lead his team to multiple huge wins in the first half of the season, but watching him, he just didn’t seem consistent enough. When he made the long threes he looked amazing, but it seemed, at least to me, that he missed an awful lot of those shots too, and I just didn’t have a good feeling about him. Deandre Ayton was fun to watch as a great defender and big man down low, but the consensus was that he was the most likely to be the number one overall pick in the draft, and as much as I wanted it, I just had a hard time believing that Memphis would actually get that lucky, and even if they did, he wasn’t the player in the draft that I wanted most.

Luka Doncic was playing in Europe so I never actually saw him play a live game, but I’d heard that while he has a great shot, he’s not the most athletic or quickest player, which worried me, so despite there being talks of Doncic going at the second pick, or maybe even leapfrogging Ayton to go first, I really hoped that the Grizzlies would pass on him. The guy I really like is Marvin Bagley the third, and just about every Saturday during the college basketball season, if I wasn’t at work, I made sure to tune in to watch the Duke game so I could see my favorite prospect in the 2018 draft class. Aside from being big and athletic, he can shoot from multiple spots on the floor including beyond the three point line. I think he would be a great addition to the current Grizzlies roster and would create some much needed space under the basket for Gasol, plus I can see him being our star of the future. Out of all the top prospects in this year’s NBA draft, Bagley is the one I want and the one I think has the most potential upside going forward, but I don’t think the Grizzlies would take him with the first or second pick in the draft, so I really felt that the third spot was the ideal place for Memphis to pick.

I flipped on the TV just in time for the Draft Lottery to begin, although it didn’t actually begin when it said it would, because that’s usually the annoying way that sporting events work, so I had to sit through people talking about the draft lottery and making predictions and projections, and multiple commercial breaks. If the Grizzlies didn’t have a chance to get such a high pick, there’s no way I would have continued to sit through that because it was just terrible and pretty boring, but finally the results were announced. The lowest the Grizzlies could possibly pick was fifth, so when their name didn’t get called in that spot I was ecstatic, because I wanted them to pick at number three, remember? Then they announced who would have the fourth pick, and of course it was Memphis, because good things never just happen for the Grizzlies. I’m not going as far as to say that the Draft Lottery process is rigged, but I think they should at least show the ping pong balls being drawn live to eliminate speculation about foul play in the process. It seems like a fairly easy way to end talk of a rigged system by being completely transparent in the process. Initially I was pretty bummed that the Grizzlies ended up with the fourth pick, but after listening to more speculation about the draft order, I believe there’s still a chance that Marvin Bagley is still on the board at four, so the dream, for now is still alive. Hopefully if he’s there, we’ll take him, but knowing the reputation of our general manager Chris Wallace and his affinity for screwing up the draft, I’m not going to hold my breath.

The Worst Thing About Summer

IMG_3212Even though it’s not officially summer yet, the devastating heat has crashed the party, and unfortunately, I don’t think it’s going anywhere. There are some things I love about the Summertime, the fact that it stays light later so I can enjoy doing things outside after I get off of work, the traffic is considerably lighter during my morning commute with the kids out of school which is definitely a plus, and then there’s the vacations I’m fortunate enough to get to go on every year, but while these are all big positives, I still hate summer overall. I’ve always been a man who prefers a cold wintery day to a hot sunny one, and there are a lot of people that disagree with me. I know because most often when I comment on what a beautiful day it is when it’s overcast and in the mid forties, people scoff at me in disbelief, but I experienced one of their ideal days last weekend, a sunny day in the upper eighties, and I have to say, it was pretty awful.

I went to the zoo just to walk around for a bit with my dad, because it was a perfect day as ascribed by the masses, and on a day like that, you really should get outside and “enjoy” it. As the weekend approached, virtually everyone that came into my work was talking about the weekend and how they’re going to get out and enjoy the beautiful weather, which is a positive attitude that isn’t completely meritless, and in fact I was so hyped up by all the talk about the weather that I was actually excited about the possibility of doing something outside. Dutifully, my dad and I set out to enjoy the beautiful day that mother nature had blessed us with, only it became evident fairly quickly, at least to me, that it was already too hot for my liking. Nobody in their right mind would set their in-home thermostat above eighty degrees, yet here we were willingly walking briskly in the heat, which might even constitute as exercise in some states.

Once we were nice and hot and ready to die, we left the zoo, but then, instead of walking a few steps to the car in the parking lot, we had another several minutes of walking ahead of us, because we had the bright idea to leave our car at the park and walk to the zoo, what with it being such a beautiful day and all. Who could have blamed that decision? This day was talked up so much and everyone kept saying how beautiful it was going to be, so we would have been stupid not to walk through the park on such a fantastic day. We get back to the car, which was a level of hell in and of itself because the interior felt like a brick pizza oven, the heat punching me in the face and pulling me inside to drown in it as soon as I opened the door. The windows were rolled down and the air conditioner was turned on, and it only took a couple of minutes to feel like I might actually make it out of this situation alive. As I sat there, suffocating in the heat, I thought to myself a terrible thought, that we aren’t even actually to summer yet, and then I wished for the heat to go ahead and finish me off right then and there, to spare me from the agony that lies ahead in July and August.

The Cost of a Burger

IMG_3328Have you ever looked at a chicken clucking around the barnyard, and thought to yourself, wow that feathery creature would be absolutely delicious dipped in honey mustard? Or have you ever looked at a cow, other than your wife, and thought to yourself how you would just love to gobble it up, hooves and all? You probably haven’t, because that would be incredibly weird to look at a living animal and see something that you want to eat, yet we eat those very same animals every day. So what if they don’t the same or even remotely recognizable as the creatures they were before their trip to the slaughterhouse, they are still the same animal. Maybe their feathers have been plucked and their hides have been turned into leather belts for the very cowboys that raise the cows and chickens just to one day kill them.

It probably happens on a day like today, with rain pouring down and thunderstorms rolling in. You wouldn’t want to waste a beautiful sunny day inside the slaughterhouse, no on the rare April day in North Carolina when the sun fought it’s way through the clouds, as a farmer, you had to take full advantage. When the sun was out there was no time for the animals, because there were much more time sensitive things to take care of, like getting all your crops planted early enough in the year, which took a good bit of skill to maneuver, because if you tried to plant too early, the ground would still be frozen from the winter and would be impenetrable, and if you waited too long the rainy season would appear leaving the ground damp and sometimes under water, for the majority of a month, and by the time it dried out again, you’d be behind schedule.

The animals could be taken care of before the sun came up, like the milking of the cows or the gathering of chicken eggs, tasks that didn’t require the natural sunlight to directly affect the business. If he really wanted to, he could have flipped the switches in the slaughterhouse and got things cranked up and ready to go after the sun went down and he was done working outside for the day, but the one time he’d tried this his kids, as told by his wife, were up all night screaming in terror at the horrible sounds that were coming from out behind the main house where daddy was “working.” In addition to the lifelong scarring of his children, slaughtering the animals overnight wasn’t ideal because once morning came he had to put his current project on hold while he went about his normal daily routine, and if there’s anything that he’d learned during his years as a farmer, it’s that when you start doing something that is very bloody and messy, it’s best just to push through until the end, because once you stop and you get that god awful smell washed off of you, it’s a lot harder to make yourself go back to finish what you started.

As the wind blew the rain in sheets that rattled the high window of the slaughterhouse, the cows stood in a line, not perfectly still, but as still as you’d expect a herd of bovine to be in a fairly tight and confined area without much wiggle room. Moos could be heard filling the space that was growing warmer by the minute as the cows exhaled, sending a small puff of steam floating purposefully up towards the ceiling. The clucking of the chickens were gone before the cows entered, and the furry beasts had no idea what was waiting for them on the other side of the door. One by one, the line moved forward slightly, and the cattle behaved like cattle, following the cow in front of them. Now all the animals are dead, but at least we get fried chicken and hamburgers. Seems like a fair tradeoff.

The Worst Part of Bowling

IMG_0061I was watching bowling yesterday, not because I wanted to watch bowling, but because it happened to be on the big screen television in the restaurant where I happened to be eating lunch yesterday. Whenever I’m at a restaurant with TV’s, it’s like I can’t help but to look over at them every twenty seconds or so, and it doesn’t even matter what is on. Of course if there’s a good football game on I’ll be looking at the television with more interest, but even if it’s an infomercial, I can’t help but continue to look over at it because that’s just the kind of focus that I have, the kind that can be derailed by moving shapes on a TV screen that I can barely see out of the corner of my eye. It demands to be noticed, and never the biggest advocate for self control, I give in.

So there I was sitting at a restaurant with my dad, and after some hillbilly country show that featured a room with a depressing amount of wood, the walls, tables, and chairs all made out of the stuff that looks like the decaying rot where you might find a wasps nest, bowling came on. I think USA was having a shows nobody cares about weekend marathon, and from what I saw, they were doing a bang up job with the lineup. If it wasn’t bad enough that I had to watch bowling, I had to watch bowling while eating lunch, and there are few things I can think of as unsavory to see while eating a smoked sausage dog than out of shape sweaty men lunging forward to roll their yellow jaundiced looking ball down the lane with disgusting grimaces of intensity.

As I kept watching, unable to pull my eyes away no matter how much I would have liked to, I noticed that surrounding the bowling teams were bleachers filled with hundreds if not thousands of apparent bowling fans. Due to my lack of focus and the big screen TV in the restaurant where I was eating, I was basically forced to watching bowling, but here were these people, these fans, who more than likely paid human money to be there, were not only willing to watch one of the most boring activities you will ever witness, but they’re willing to throw away their Sunday afternoon to do so.

Maybe you think I’m being a bit harsh about bowling, that it’s not really as boring as I’m making it about to be, but have you ever been bowling? Bowling itself isn’t so bad, and I actually enjoy going every now and then, but the worst part about the whole experience is having to watch everyone else your playing with while waiting for your turn. Am I wrong? Of course not, you bowl and then have sit in agony on the uncomfortable plastic chair bench while you have to pretend to be interested and excited for everyone else who is bowling with you, all the while you’re really counting down the frames until it’s your time for your thirty seconds in the stoplight before getting two gutter balls and starting the process all over again. And god forbid there’s a child present. Sure kids are cute and all blah, blah, blah, but have you ever been bowling with one of the little brats? The whole game has to shut down while the sixteen year old manager of the bowling alley brings out one of those special converted old people walkers that have now been twisted and reshaped to resemble metal ramps that the kid can push the bowling ball down to make the experience easier, and over all more fun for them. But what about the rest of us? Your three year old isn’t going to remember this two years from now, but I’ll take to my grave the hatred I have for that little punk who is drawing out an already unbearably long bowling game. Any way, my point is, I can’t believe people choose to watch bowling, and that they actually pay money to watch it. For me, it would have to be the other way around; if I’m going to waste my Sunday afternoon being bored out of my mind watching bowling, someone’s going to have to pay me to do it.

What the Cowboys Need on Draft Day

If there’s nothing of any significance about today, April the 26th, then you must not be a football, because tonight is the opening round of the NFL draft, and it’s one of my favorite days of the year. It’s not like national holiday and get the day off of work level of favorite day, but as far as regular days that I do have to go to work, it’s definitely near the top of the list. It’s always so exciting, the draft, because it’s a night when you get to witness all of these athletes achieve their lifelong dream of the NFL, which is nice I guess, but more-so than that, there is new life breathed into your favorite organization that one of these young guys might be the next big star that will elevate your team to new heights. There’s a genuine feeling of excitement that surrounds this event, at least for me, as I speculate about who the Cowboys might get, and see where some of my favorite college football players will start their professional careers. Today I want to talk about what the Cowboys need in the draft and who I hope they pick. If you don’t care, you can stop reading now and I won’t be offended. I’ve already got your click, and that’s really all that matters.

At least for the time being, the Cowboys look set at the quarterback and running back positions with Dak and Zeke locked up for the next couple of years, but I wouldn’t necessarily be opposed to drafting a quarterback in a later round. Dak looked great during his rookie season, but I saw a lot last year that made me not as enamored as I once was with having him as the quarterback for the future. His accuracy just seemed very hit or miss, with too much of the time being miss, especially when he’s just standing in the pocket, which is what you generally have to do to be a great quarterback in the NFL. I’m not ready to toss Dak to the side yet, I want to see what adjustments and improvements he makes this year, but I don’t think it’s such a terrible idea to have another quarterback learning behind Dak just in case things don’t work out the way that we hope with him. Our offensive line has been the calling card of the Cowboys for the past several years, often heralded as one of the best units in the league, but we’re quickly approaching a time where some of these guys are going to be free agents, so while it wouldn’t be that exciting of a pick, it would be beneficial to take an offensive lineman or two who can learn behind the best line in the league.

I love Jason Witten, but it’s no secret that he’s getting older, and before you know it he’s going to be retiring. It will be the end of an era, and while it will be a bit sad to not see number 82 out on the field anymore, we can’t sit around crying about it forever. That being said, I really think the Cowboys need to look into drafting a playmaking tight-end, either this year or next, a guy who can make blocks and make big catches like a receiver. There’s no doubt that Witten would be a fantastic mentor to his replacement, so we definitely need to get someone in there before it’s too late, and I just don’t think the guys we have currently are going to cut it. As for defense, I’m pretty happy with our lineman and linebackers if they can stay healthy and not get suspended, although adding another pass rusher can’t be a bad thing, but I think the biggest need is in the secondary, which seems to be the case more often than not on the Cowboys defense. With Orlando Scandrick out of the picture, the Cowboy are even more desperate now in the secondary. It seems like every year we spend a high pick on a corner or a safety, and while not all of them are busts, it just seems like they aren’t all that spectacular either, but maybe that’s just me. Maybe I’m a bit biased from all the games I’m watching in disbelief asking “how in the world did he get open,” but it’s a problem that if we want to be in the running for a championship, it needs to get fixed.

While these are all things that the Cowboys need to consider going into the draft this weekend, I think the biggest thing that needs to be addressed is at the wide receiver position. With Dez Bryant being released earlier in the month, that leaves a vacancy in the number one receiver position. We did bring on Allen Hurns from the Jaguars and Brice Butler or Terrance Williams might be able to step up into that role given the chance, but I really think we need to draft a receiver in the first round that has the potential to be a superstar. The Cowboys have had a long tradition of superstar wide receivers, and now that Dez is gone, it’s time to draft the our next game changer. Personally, I would love to see us draft Calvin Ridley from Alabama in round one, and if he’s still there when the Cowboys draft on day two, I want Anthony Miller from Memphis so bad. Having watched him play the last couple of seasons and seeing him make huge plays for the Tigers makes me really excited to see him play at the next level and I really want to see him wearing the star. If the Cowboys draft Anthony Miller, there’s a one hundred percent chance I’m buying a jersey, and I don’t buy jerseys willy-nilly. The last Cowboys jersey I got was Tony Romo, and the one before that was Emmitt Smith, but I would buy an Anthony Miller jersey this season. Whatever happens, I’m just excited that the draft, and some semblance of football is finally here. It’s going to be a fun season