Something New from Denny’s

Denny’s is a southern US institution, and like a lot of institutions, it has great pancakes, but everything else can be a gamble. In this case, that gamble paid off. After the cruise aboard the Carnival Breeze, I figured anything set before me might be a bit of a letdown. I was happily proven wrong.

I hadn’t been into a Denny’s for a while, and was very pleasantly surprised to find a new “skillet” on the menu: Smoky Gouda Chicken & Broccoli.

“Roasted seasoned chicken with caramelized onions, sautéed mushrooms and broccoli served atop whole grain rice. Topped with Italian cheeses and Gouda cheese sauce.”
– Denny’s Menu


Smokey Gouda chicken & Broccoli Skillet


The dish you receive never looks quite like the advertising photos, but this one was tasty enough that I really didn’t care. the chicken was tender and not overcooked. the broccoli was firm, but not super crunchy. The mushrooms and onions were done to a turn rather than partially raw or blackened. The Gouda sauce, while supported by other cheeses, was well flavored and had just the right thickness to it.

I recommend this dish and it’s companion, the Smoky Gouda Prime Rib & Broccoli Skillet, to anyone who has a liking for cheese!

— Ann Cathey

Raising Cain’s – Hammond, LA

Warhol style dedication to Raising Cane I.

Warhol style dedication to Raising Cane I.

The story is on the wall of how Raising Cain’s was formed and named. It’s rather humorous and involves a dog. This is one of those neat success stories where the guy who started it was told that a chicken finger place “just won’t work” by individuals and lending institutions who reviewed his business plan. Guess what, people – you were wrong!


We first encountered Raising Cain’s in Hammond, Louisiana. We were lucky enough to stumble over another location in the Woodlands, Texas, that upheld all the quality we experienced in Hammond. There is now a location open in Conroe, Texas, too. Each location has had some local flare, but overall the sense of humor and decor follow a distinctive pattern.


Raising Cane’s in Conroe, Texas.



The dining area in each location we have visited has been very open and airy. There’s a lot of red brick, light colored wood, and cutesy local stuff on the walls. Not so much as to be distracting; it’s just enough to be interesting.

Airplane propeller ceiling fans add to the cool temps and the ambiance.

Airplane propeller ceiling fans add to the cool temps and the ambiance.




A 6 Piece Meal

A 6 Piece Meal




The chicken – that’s all they serve is chicken tenders – is outstanding! The breading is light and crispy. The meat is consistently, across three locations, tender and never hard or dry. The fries are crinkle cut, but they are thin rather than thick. This gives them a lasting crunchy texture. The Texas toast is light and lovely, being a very soft bread that’s butter grilled to a crispy outer layer that accentuates the spices and textures of the chicken. The coleslaw is fresh and not pretentious – it’s green and purple cabbage, slivered carrots and a light sauce that doesn’t overpower the cabbagy goodness. It also has a hint of melon that accentuates the natural sweetness of the veggies.



IMG_0239While everything else on the menu is good, the sauce deserves it’s own paragraph. At first glance,it seems to be just another ketchup and ranch dressing concoction. Upon first taste, you will find this to be a gross underestimation. There is plenty of black pepper and cayenne, without being too much. Notably, there is a hint of curry underlying the general sauciness that can make you overlook all the other spices that have been included. No one flavor is strong enough to be overpowering. They all work together to delight the palate and bring together all the other flavors on your plate. It’s so good, it made me forget all about ketchup for my fries.

No leftovers here!

No leftovers here!

A friend of mine in Louisiana has been saddened that she is allergic to coconut, and there appears to be coconut in some form in the Raising Cain’s recipes. Whether it is oil in the sauce or ground coconut in the chicken batter, we do not know, and the employees cannot confirm or deny it for us. If you are allergic to coconut be aware. If you are not, go find a location and try them out!


IMG_0241If you are into supporting your favorite eateries by wearing their gear, Raising Cain’s is ready to oblige with an online store. They offer apparel, koozies, and the ever present gift cards. They do not, however, offer their sauce (yet) or the recipe!






On the 1-5 scale, Raising Cain’s gets:
Cleanliness – 5
Service – 5
Quality of food – 5
Flavor – 5
Pricing – Moderate
Overall experience – 5


Christopher – photo by Ann.

Ann - photo by Christopher

Ann – photo by Christopher



–Ann Cathey

Culver’s – The Woodlands, Texas

While I prefer to write about independent eateries, some chains just have to creep in and be talked about. One of those is Culver’s.

We have encountered this lovely, somewhat upscale burger joint in several locations, including Conroe and the Woodlands. They actually have locations in several US States. It is consistent across the board. The decor, the friendly employees, the frozen yogurt, the quality and flavor of their food – this place has it down. It offers a’la carte items, baskets, dinners, kids’ meals, snack packs, along with a nice variety of drinks and desserts.

Culver’s is the home of the “Butter Burger” and “Fresh Frozen Custard”. They are rightfully proud of their very tasty products. From the “Fried Cheese Curds” all the way across the menu, everything is fresh and delicious. They offer a Reuben sandwich, which can be hard to find outside of a deli. Their fries are thick and crinkle cut, offering a delectable crunch as well as a hearty potato flavor.

DSC_0157On our most recent visit, my partner-in-chow ordered the fish sandwich. They call it the North Atlantic Cod Fish Sandwich. It also comes in a plate version. When first confronted by the sandwich, he wondered how he would get a bit of fish in each bite. it turns out that if you squash the sandwich like you would a tall hamburger that the crispy crust will crack and the meat will flatten out to fill the bun nicely. After that, it was a matter of biting, chewing, moaning, and swallowing, repeating as long as there was sandwich left to bite into. I took this is a favorable sign.

DSC_0159I was able to sneak in a bite before it was all gone. The fish itself has a very light, clean flavor. The breading has a nice crunch, offering a complimentary set of flavor.I may have to order that sandwich next time we are in just to have the pleasure of those flavors again.

Personally, I appreciate their Reuben sandwich a great deal. This is, for me, a comfort food. While not as magnificently built as the Reubens found in various delis, it is crammed full of flavor and of a satisfying size. If you think you want more out of your sandwich, the folks at Culver’s will happily double stuff the darned thing.

DSC_0160I mentioned that they do dinner size portions earlier. We had a few friends along with us and one of them ordered the fried chicken dinner. It comes with a load of chicken, a potato side (he chose fries), and a veggie side (he went for the green beans), and a dinner roll. These dinner plates include fried chicken, roast beef, fish, shrimp and chopped steak among the offerings.

DSC_0158The Culver’s website offers a plethora of information for diners, not just a menu and their locations. They list nutritional information, ingredients, and high on my list, an allergy warning.They also have information available on their sustainability practices for those who prefer an informed, responsible restaurant.

Excellent food and a hometown atmosphere will lead us back to Culver’s again and again. The more we run across it in our travels, the more delighted we are with it’s consistency and outstanding menu.

On the 1-5 scale, Culver’s gets:
Cleanliness – 5
Service – 5
Quality of food – 5
Flavor – 5
Pricing – Moderate
Overall experience – 5

-Ann Cathey

Wendy’s – Austin, Texas

This blog is not just about new and exciting places. It’s also about the tried and true.

Wendy’s is a national chain out of Georgia that’s been around for years. Some of it’s locations are aging badly, and it sadly reflects in the atmosphere and employees. The old saying, “If you’re going to do a thing, do it well,” has gone by the wayside at a particular Wendy’s location in Austin.

We chanced to visit the location at 6428 South I-35 at William Cannon recently. It was disappointing in so many ways. Our order was rung up properly only after several repetitions. The cashier was cute, but her brain must have been on hold.

When the order was ready, we picked up a tray that was missing a few things. I was forced to go back and ask for the chili I had ordered with the cheese and crackers. After receiving the chili, I had to ask again for the cheese and crackers. I received the cheese and a vapid look. I had to ask yet again for the crackers.

The carpet was just gross, being obviously old and quite dirty. The tables had not been wiped down – we had to do that ourselves.  We spread napkins out as place mats. The cashier came out to clean up tables, picking up napkins and straw wrappers left on tables and straightening a few chairs. There was no sweeping, no wiping down tables or chairs, and no consistency in straightening the chairs. She seemed to get distracted and leave the dining area after just a few tables.

Don’t me going about the bathrooms. I’ve seen cleaner bathrooms in truck stops. The roll of toilet paper on the floor between the stalls in the women’s was likely a good indicator of the upkeep on the location. In the men’s room the hand dryer was broken, and the toilet paper was propped on a hand rail.

They were out of things like sweet tea and the little cups that hold ketchup, and made no move to replace them even after having it called to their attention.

The dining area was warm enough to be uncomfortable. This was called to their attention by another patron, but it was quite some time before the air conditioner came on. Whether that was due to human delay or old equipment, I don’t know.

I am happy to report that the food was good, hot, fresh and tasty. I dread to think of what condition the kitchen was in, and don’t want to know about the number of health code violations. My stomach was happy and i didn’t get sick – that’s enough for me at the moment.

On the 1-5 scale, this Wendy’s location gets:
Cleanliness – 2 (including the bathroom)
Service – 2
Quality of food – 3
Flavor – 3
Pricing – Moderate
Overall experience – 2

-Ann Cathey