Review - Gaucho Brazilian Steak House

Gaucho Brazilian Steak House Northville, MI

If you say "all you can eat" and "steak" in the same sentence, then you might think of Golden Corral. Really the steak at GC is pretty good if you don't mind big crowds, noise, and bratty kids everywhere. But comparing GC to Gaucho would be like comparing a childs hand painting to the Mona Lisa. There really is no comparison. Here is our experiences, we've been twice.

The first time we went, we went for lunch. Lunch is $20 and the only thing lunch doesn't seem to have is beef tenderloin and leg of lamb. But really you are not missing anything, more on that later. So we go in, place looks great, and they seat us promptly. The table has cloth linens, which is a nice touch. A waitress comes up quickly to get our drinks (drinks not included in meal cost). She explains that the little cardboard circles (remember POGs?) will tell the meat carvers if we want meat or not. The green side says yes please, the red side says no thank you and everyone has there own steak POG. She explains that there is a "salad bar" and suggests we start with that.

Saying it is a "salad bar" really doesn't do it justice.You could easily make a meal with just the salad bar. If you want just the salad bar, you can have it for $15. They had several soups, bread, and all types of fancy salads and cold items. Some of the items we liked were:

  • Cold asparagus, different but tasty
  • Cobb salad
  • Waldorf salad (YUM!)
  • Cold Mushrooms, I think they were marinated
  • Smoked Salmon
When we got back the waitress brought us some piping hot cheese puff rolls. Best eaten hot, they were excellent. So after some sampling of the salad bar and rolls we turned over the steak POGs from red to green.

Quickly the gauchos, which loosely translated means cowboy but here they are meat carvers, start stopping at our table. All the gauchos are dressed in these great flaring baggy pants, a wide leather belt, fancy boots, and a bright white shirt. Love the look. Most of the gauchos are Brazilian so some times it was hard to tell what type of meat they were offering you. But you quickly catch on. They come up with these large skewers, a big chef's knife and a little plate to catch the drippings as they carve tableside. As long as your steak POG is green they stop at your table as they make the rounds and ask if you would like what ever it is they are carrying. If you say yes they will carve off a little bit for you. If you want more then just tell them, you want it medium rare, tell them. You want something different meat wise, tell them. Next to each our plates is a pair of tongs. Which you are supposed to use to hold the meat once they start carving it for you. We had to be reminded to tong the meat more then once. I think you lose some short term memory when a guy walks up with 5 pounds of hot dripping meat on a three foot skewer in one hand and a large chefs knife in the other.

Shortly after we went turned on the green light for meat, we were brought some fried bananas and some mashed potatoes with a garlic cream sauce. Both were excellent. The bananas were almost dessert like. The mashed potatoes went great with the steaks. Our favorite steak was the bottom sirloin. But all meats were good. Just some more so then others. It was nice just to try so many different flavors in a way that is totally different from other restaurants.

Now when we came for dinner, we came on Valentines day. Which looking back was likely a mistake. The place was just too busy. With so many full tables the excellent service during a normal lunch crowd became a chore in just getting a drink refill. Many times the meat carvers just passed us and our empty plates by. Also the couple extra meats they offered just weren't anything special, at least not for $40, double the cost of lunch. The tenderloin and lamb were good, but the bottom sirloin and others offered at lunch were just as good if not better. Even if the service was as good as lunch the cost just doesn't seem worth it. They would have to offer something more or reduce the price to make dinner a viable option in our opinion. I have seen some coupons for dinner like on St. Patty's day they had dinner for $30 plus a free drink. Which seems a little more reasonable.

So the bottom line: Will we go again for lunch? Most defiantly. Dinner? Likely not.

If you go, and we suggest you do at least for lunch:

Gaucho Brazilian Steakhouse
39550 7 Mile Rd., Northville, MI, 48167
Link to map
Website: http://www.gauchosteakhouse.com/
(Coupons can be found sometimes under the new and noteworthy link)


Top 5 ways to recognize a great restaurant before you order

If you are like me, you like to try new food at new restaurants (new to you anyways). If you are like me you also have been disappointed on more then one occasion and wished you had just gone to a good old standby instead of trying that "new" place.

Here are my top 5 ways to figure out if your stomach will thank you or curse you when looking for new digs to eat out at:

1.) Ask the locals: friends, neighbors, co-workers, people you meet, etc. Most people, even non-foodies, have favorite restaurants. Ask them what their favorite dishes are too.

2.) Packed parking lots. A good sign is a packed lot on a Friday or Saturday night. A great sign is a packed lot on a Monday night.

3.) Staying power aka they have been around for a while. Maybe there is that place you have driven by 100 times over the last few years but just never went to. They must be doing something right to still be in business.

4.) When you walk in you are greeted right away, staff is friendly. The place is clean. Worn looking can be ok, dirty is not.

5.) Ask your server what is popular. I think one of the biggest mistakes is ordering the wrong thing. Most places have a few items they make really good, and the rest are so-so. If you order the so-so chicken, you might never come back and have the awesome ribs.

So stick to these guidelines and you'll quickly find those hidden gems of gastrointestinal heaven.


Steve's Family Dining II - Good Polish Food?

If you have read some of the other posts here you may note that it is my belief that packed parking lots mean good food. So as I have driven down Middlebelt in Livonia I always noticed a little mom and pop type restaurant that had a pretty packed lot.

At first I dismissed the place because of the type of cuisine mentioned on the sign out front: Polish. My mouth doesn't water at the mention of "Polish food". I am thinking that unless you are polish, your mouth doesn't water either. Don't get me wrong I have enjoyed a pirogi or two in the past. But the words "Polish food" never held the magic power of words like say..."Italian food" as far as I was concerned. That was until Steve's Family Dining II. I believe this is their second restaurant. The original is somewhere on Plymouth Rd in Livonia. But I aint been there. So we'll just focus on this one.

We came in and the first thing I noticed was the place was clean and updated. I guess it should be since they opened in 2006. The staff were friendly and competent throughout the visit. We asked what was popular. The waitress said the polish sampler plate was the most popular. So that is what we ordered. The sampler comes with your choice of stuffed cabbage or city chicken PLUS kielbasa, sauerkraut, 3 pirogies (again, your choice: cheese, potato, sauerkraut), and rice. All for the price of....wait for it.... wait for it......... ...... $6.95

We also ordered soup. We had the chicken noodle soup. It was okay. Not great, not bad. Word is the dill soup is good. Warning next few words are kinda gross. Ok, remember how this is a polish restaurant? And remember how if you are polish you might like Czernina, or Duck Blood Soup, a Polish soup made of duck blood and clear poultry broth? Yeah, they got that too. It just aint on the menu. Say the secret password "Czernina" (Czar NEE na) to get it. For 50 cents (with a dinner) you can get a "small" soup or for a $1.50 you can get a large soup. I figured small was like the chinese tea cup size bowls some places give you since it was only $0.50. So I ordered a large, my better half ordered a small. Stick with the small. The large was freking huge. Picture dinner plate size bowl. Small was more like a normal/large bowl, more then enough. So our food comes out and the large plate is packed with food. The kielbasa was the best. After a bad 4 day childhood camping trip where we lost all food but the kielbasa and ate it cold for 3 days, I have never been a big fan of kielbasa. But this was good kielbasa. Way better then that Hillshire farm stuff. Really everything was good. Since we both ordered the same thing one of us got city chicken and one of us got stuffed cabbage and we shared. We didn't get any sauerkraut pirogies. Just cheese and potato. I like the potato she liked the cheese. After all that good food, we had to try the carrot cake for $2 and change. Just about every restaurant you go to now a days overprices the desserts to $5-7. So I figured at $2 I couldn't go wrong. And no I did not go wrong. It was very good, nice size piece, lots of nuts - yum. So all in all, a wonderful experience. The food was very good, the prices were unbelievably low, and service was just great. We will be back, often.

So if you go, and I encourage you to go:

Steve's Family Dining

15800 Middlebelt Rd Livonia, MI 48154

Get directions | View map


Review Mexican Fiesta II - Canton Michigan

Since we recently reviewed Mariachi Mexican Restaurant and it really sucked, we thought it was time to add in a good comparison. In fact it is only a block or two away. If you have driven by the intersection of Ford and Sheldon you have likely seen the packed lot at Mexican Fiesta II. A packed parking lot is always a good sign of good food. And yes, the place is busy in the evenings. But normally wait times are manageable (less the 20 mins). Mexican Fiesta II doesn't disappoint. (At this point you might be wondering if there is a Mexican Fiesta I, and there is. It's in Dearborn Heights, never been, but I expect it is as good as II)

We have been going there for several years and the food is always good. The service is excellent. Another sign of a good restaurant is that the staff has been there for a while. We see the same waiters and waitresses time and again. Everyday they have afternoon lunch and drink specials, there isn't usually a wait time at lunch. You get chips and salsa included as your starter with all meals. For $1.50 extra you can get hot chips. They give you mild and hot salsas in little carafes which you pour into small bowls. I like to mix the 2 and add a little salt. Prices are very reasonable, under $10 per person.

Recommended dishes are Steak Fajitas for 2 @ $17. It might even feed 3 as we always have left overs. One of the only places I know that gives you mushrooms in fajitas - yum. We just order Steak Fajitas, but on the menu it is Chicken and Steak. The chicken is ok, but the steak is awesome. So we just order it as full on steak. And this is not the fajita steak you get at any other restaurant, the steak is thick but tender and very flavorful. Chicken Enchiladas are really good. They must own stock in a dairy because they don't diddy daddle with the cheese. Enchiladas come with a tasty coleslaw and some good mexican rice. In fact I always sub coleslaw for anything that comes with beans there. Not that the beans suck. I just aint a beany person. They have tons more dishes and really I don't think we have ever been disappointed with a dish there. Did I mention the fried ice cream is good too :)

If you go:

Mexican Fiesta II
(734) 981-1048
44401 Ford Rd, MI 48187


Review Mariachi Mexican Restaurant - Canton Michigan

*Sigh* A little background. As a small business owner I realize that a lot of work goes into any new business venture. I have also worked in the restaurant industry, so I also know a little more of what it takes. So I feel bad when someone tries so hard yet fails so bad.

Mariachi Mexican Restaurant has been open a couple weeks now. They are not off to a good start. I heard of it through the magic of newspaper coupons. Buy one dinner get one free. Whee! It even said live Mariachi band from like 5pm to 8:30pm. It also said 100 different types of tequila. Not that I drink much, but I thought it was interesting. I look at my watch it is 6:00pm and we can be ready and there by 7pm. So we'll be sure to catch some music and have a dinner that I hope will be semi good. So we get dressed and go out. We get there and the first thing I see in the window is a sign saying they are having issues getting a liquor licensee and no booze is available. Not that I care, but I did think it was funny since they advertised it in their ad. Then I see the smaller hand written sign on the front door, "no mariachi band". W-T-F! Well, whatever I think. We're here, maybe the food will be good. The place is pretty full.

We go in, give our name and non-smoking preferences and have to wait a few minutes. The first thing I notice is the water fall wall behind the register. Slightly mesmerizing, but kind of white trashy at the same time. So after maybe five minutes they call us and we are seated near the front window. They give us menu's and we start looking them over. The best thing about the table was it was near the door so you could watch everyones reactions as they walk up and read the signs that say there is no booze and the band aint playing. Pretty much everyone got the WTF look on their face. Some left. I wish we had the foresight to leave. But noooo... So we wait for the waiter, and he comes up tosses some chips in a bowl on the table and leaves quickly. Doesn't even ask if we want drinks or says hi. In the chip bowl are three lidded containers and a gravy boat of fresh salsa. Not sure what is in the containers. Two are green and one is red. After another 10 mins pass he comes back and asks what we want to drink we tell him we are ready to order. We order mixed meat fajitas and chicken enchiladas. A note of the fajitas: Chicken was $8 something, Steak was 9 something and shrimp was 11 something. Mixed was almost $13. So I figure mixed has to be all 3 meats and more of 'em. (Ya know, since it doesn't say on the menu, like duh!) I asked the waiter and he said yes, that's what it was. What we got was some steak and chicken. And it didn't come on the sizzle plate. No shrimp, not a lot of meat. Enough for maybe 4 shells if you skimped on the meat. Blah. The chicken enchiladas were worse. It tasted like the red pepper sauce was the same tomato sauce they use on Chef Boyardee. It was pretty nasty. Oh, and did I mention it was cold. The fajitas were warm, but the enchiladas were cold. Slightly warm on top but inside was cold. The paltry amount of cheese they put on top was barely melted. (I really need to start taking pictures of the food.) We eat the fajitas and the enchiladas just sit on the table between us with only 2 bites taken. So we are done with this place. Let us the fuck out. We have been waiting a while for the waiter to show up with the bill, or a gun so we can shoot ourselves. So I have the coupon and credit card out waiting so he doesn't have to make two trips once he decides to show up. Well apparently this just confused the fuck out of him, he finally showed up and he was like hold on let me get the bill. Ok, go get the bill I think, how long can that take... And I am not making this up, 25 minutes later he comes back and says "Is there anything else you need?" Yeah fucktard, the BILL! We tell him we have been waiting well over half an hour to get the bill and we already had asked for it once. He whines "we'll I have all these other tables" as he spreads his arms out to encompass half the restaurant. And this is my problem? He gets the bill and brings the credit card slip. We get the hell out .

So to sum it all up...yada yada yada everything sucked. Service sucked, food sucked, I am guessing if the band was there it would of sucked too.

If you go (you are stupid) but here is the address
1759 N. Canton Center Rd.
Canton, MI 48187
* In Centre Village shopping center
Phone: 734-259-0053

My suggestion is to skip this hole and go to Mexican Fiesta II just a couple blocks away. See the full review here.


Review - Lai Thai Restaurant - Good Thai food in Canton

If you like Thai food, you likely know it is hard to find a good Thai restaurant. So here is our endorsement of where to go in the Canton area. Lai Thai. Pretty much everything is good. Spice amounts are consistent. About the only thing we have issue with is the soups. They basically suck. But it isn't called Lai Soup, it is called Lai Thai. We have tried pretty much every Thai place around Canton / Plymouth / Westland and Lai Thai is the only one we go back to time and again. If you go: 44928 Ford Road Canton, MI 48187 (734) 459-8424

The only thing to add is if you happen to live near Oak Park, MI check out Sukhothai Restaurant 25226 Greenfield Road Oak Park, MI 48237 - They even have a website www.sukhothai-restaurant.com - another good Thai place, if you're near it.


Service Rant - Just keep the drinks filled

Good help is hard to find. Why is a good waitress or waiter so hard to find? We don't think of ourselves as unreasonable people, we don't make lots of silly requests or demands. Just semi-competent service is all we ask for. This is the first rant in what will be a series on wait staff and service.

Keep the drinks filled! (non-alcoholic). How hard is that? If it is below the half way mark bring another drink. Don't ask me if I want another drink just bring it. The only time to ask would be if we are done with the food, maybe then we don't really need any thing else to drink. The worst is when it is totally empty and they have the nerve to ask. Here is a typical conversation:

Waitress: "Would you like another Coke?"

Me: "No thank you, I have the salvatory glands of a Saint Bernard and will be able to produce all the saliva I need to consume this dried fish on my own. In fact could you bring me some extra napkins I am drooling on myself already"

Now most times this isn't really the fault of the server. This can likely be attributed to poor training by the establishment. But both will pay, or at least won't get paid, in the end. The tip will be lowered for the waitstaff and the establishment won't see us again. You ever notice how some places you ALWAYS get good service? While others can be hit or miss? And then some are just always miss? Well the management of places where you always get good service know that service can make or break a meal. Off the top of my head I almost always get good, if not great service at Red Lobster and Steak and Ale. Why? Because these places have chain wide training systems for their employees. If they don't you are left to fend for yourself and pray that you get a competent waitress. And if you do find that diamond in the rough, tip her well and request her next time you go.

Review - Ten Yen Restaurant - Chinese food at its best

I have to open this blog with a review of Ten Yen, one of our favorite places to eat out. There are so many good aspects of Ten Yen.

I think first and foremost is price. Well, honestly the food is really good so maybe that should be first, but we'll start with price. If you don't mind sharing, a couple can eat a good full dinner for about $14. Lunch for two (sharing) can be had for less then $8. I say sharing because Ten Yen has a small issue with portion control. I don't know why and I am not gonna complain. Maybe the chef grew up poor and hungry and is making up for his lack of childhood food abundance. Maybe they don't care about making a profit on their food. I don't know, this is one of the great mysteries that is Ten Yen. An order of the lunch special almond chicken for $4.95 gets you soup (go for the Won Ton soup, it is GOOD), and egg roll (and yes the egg rolls are good, almost a meal by themselves), fried rice, and a heaping pile of chicken and gravy. If you order this by yourself you will need a to-go box. You might need a to-go box if you order this as a couple. They give you that much food. When you order as a couple they will add on $1 to share, you'll want to add $1 for soup and another $1 for a 2nd egg roll. For a grand total of $7.95 with tax and tip you are walking away for a sit down, full service lunch for two at only $10.

Ok, so know you know the prices are LOW and the amount of food is HIGH. I did already tell you the food is good. I didn't tell you it is fresh and prepared perfectly. Yes, Virgina there is a Santa Claus.

So what are the cons to Ten Yen you ask? Well the worst is that the interior could use some updating, it looks like an older restaurant. It looks like the last time they updated the place was when they updated the prices. 70's? 80's? Who knows? Who cares? It is clean and the food is great. And if they did update they would likely have to raise the prices, so I say keep it the way it is.

Another thing, we don't like the sweet and sour stuff. Other people do, I see them order it all the time, but we personally don't like it. Any other cons? Not really.

So what should you try if you go: Almond Chicken, Cashew Chicken, Steak Kow, Beef Peapods (add mushrooms for $1), Sesame Chicken, Shrimp fried rice and you have to try the Ten Yen Hong Kong Special (shrimp, chicken, and pork with veggies in a light white sauce over noodles - yum!) Everything is well under $10, except for the Hong Kong which is right at $10. All with more then enough food for two people. It is actually quite funny to watch a new couple order food. When it comes to the table they gasp at the size of the portions.

How to get there: 8997 Wayne Rd, Livonia, MI 48150-3622 Phone: (734) 425-8910

It is located off of Wayne road in that quasi area that is Westland/Livonia/Garden City/Plymouth. Directions via yahoo maps here. If it is your first time there, order a couple things and grab a to-go box :)