Vegas, Spring 2017

Because I go to Las Vegas so much, it’s almost easier to do these posts just by when I go.

As it usually goes with us, we were originally only planning one Las Vegas trip this year – in September, post-IM Santa Cruz 70.3 as we drive back home. However, we know we need to try to stay Pearl (MLife reward level) and since B needed to drive his car out to L.A. anyway … why don’t we just turn it into a mini Vegas trip?

We left town on Tuesday, May 23, and drove straight through to Las Vegas. We took a bit of a circuitous route as I needed to drop my car off at the airport so I could find a way home. As we were taking B’s car … I didn’t actually drive at all, which is a rarity for me on road trips, but I don’t particularly like driving his car, so that’s why. We stopped for lunch at Jimmy John’s in Utah and then, because we were too tired to care otherwise, dinner was at Scooter’s Pub in the parking lot of our hotel.

The next morning, we got up, ate hotel breakfast, and headed off to Red Rock Canyon to get in a trail run.

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Afterward, we grabbed some coffee, showered, packed up, and then headed to a nail salon for mani/pedis. We got word our hotel room was ready soon after, so we drove over to the MGM Grand and got checked in. We dumped off our bags and then headed across the street to America in New York New York for lunch.

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We both had a lunch special chicken sandwich. It was pretty good. The fries? Were not.

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They had a giant 3D map of the country inside. This is Colorado.

We headed back across the street to actually get settled in a bit in our dungeon room with Swiss cheese on the walls.

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See?

Word of advice: if you’re going to stay at the MGM, DO NOT STAY IN THE WEST WING. Ground floor, low ceilings … it was one of the worst hotel experiences we’ve had in Vegas. I put it only above the Pyramid at the Luxor, and that’s only because those diagonal elevators make me nauseous. Blah.

Later that afternoon, after gambling some at the MGM, we headed up to Fremont Street since we hadn’t checked out that part of the city in several years and B wanted to check out the Sigma Derby game at the D. He played the horsies for a little bit while I wasted some money in a slot machine. I also grabbed a lobster roll at the Cousins Maine Lobster food truck. I was going to get one while in town (either there or at Lobster Me in the Venetian) and since the truck was there, I took the opportunity. I think it ended up being cheaper, too, which is always nice.

Dinner was back at America since B really didn’t eat a solid breakfast that morning and he wanted breakfast food. I’d been having a really weird potato skin craving, so that’s what I had.

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They were okay. The sour cream drizzle was a bit odd.

We woke up fairly early the next morning in order to get to the pool as it opened, but also with enough time so we could eat breakfast first, too. We had some free buffets due to playing myVEGAS slots on Facebook, so the MGM buffet was our stop. Not the best buffet, not the worst.

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Pool time.

After hanging out at the pool for about 90 minutes, we went back to the room to get dressed to wander around. We walked up the Strip as far as the Venetian, snagging some drinks at Margaritaville in the process.

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Sign in the Park Las Vegas (what the Monte Carlo is being rebranded to).

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New In-N-Out Burger on the Strip on the Linq Promenade. We did not go in.

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B doing his thing and riding the moving sidewalk.

While we didn’t stop at In-N-Out, we did stop at Wahlburgers in the Grand Bazaar Shops outside of Bally’s. I almost tried them when I was in Boston at the beginning of the month, but didn’t due to … reasons.

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It was pretty delicious, actually. Not comparable to In-N-Out or, say, a Five Guys, but good in its own way. We also tried the frappes (coffee and chocolate) and they were the best I’ve had since Boston.

(NOTE: a TRUE frappe is 100% TOTALLY DIFFERENT than a Frappuccino. Not even close. And so much more delicious.)

A little more gambling and chilling out back at the hotel before venturing back out for dessert (profiteroles!) and some mussels (slightly spur of the moment decision) and drinks at Mon Ami Gabi in Paris. Perfect way to end the trip.

Of course, the next day was an adventure and a half for me getting home … B dropped me off at McCarran before continuing on to Los Angeles. I was able to get out of Las Vegas just fine, but getting back to Denver? I’m just thankful we had some miles so that I could book myself a ticket home out of Salt Lake City. Needless to say, I got back to my car about five hours later than we had planned. Silly non-rev travel …

Retirement Trip

Also known as Boston and L.A. May 2017.

But wait, retirement, you might say?

Yep. Thanks to B getting a job with an ACTUAL airline (a mainline carrier as opposed to a regional), he let me quit my soul-sucking barista job so I could finally free myself from customer service hell. My CS shelf life? Waaaaay overdue.

Cinco de Mayo was officially my last day with the company and while it was bittersweet in some respects, I have no regrets about leaving. None.

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My farewell cake.

I was in theory supposed to do a race that weekend, but since I had taken a good chunk of the spring off due to mental health AND B had a Boston overnight … I decided to join him in Boston instead and then go back to L.A. with him to play for a day. Since I could now do such crazy things.

My original plan was to take a red-eye from DEN to JFK Friday night and then catch an early flight from JFK to BOS Saturday morning. Well, all of the latter flights filled up for whatever reason and then my red-eye got delayed … so I left the next day and connected through MSP. Whatever.

I landed in Boston, dumped off my bag at B’s hotel (he wasn’t getting in until much later that night), and immediately met up with one of my old college roommates, Courtney. We hung out for a while before parting ways. I headed down into the city and had quite possibly the worst lobster roll ever (somewhere in Quincy Market. I don’t even recall which stand).

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No lobster roll picture, but found this in City Hall Plaza.

I felt so gross afterward that I headed back to the hotel to sit and read for a little while. My stomach settled enough around 7ish that I felt comfortable heading back out for some dinner. Nostalgia directed me straight back to campus.

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Heh. My kind of graffiti.

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I can fully believe that Target can be the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.

Thai fried rice (and a glass of wine) at Brown Sugar Cafe was awesome on my nearly empty stomach (hadn’t eaten much all day). I felt enough belly space to hop across the street to T. Anthony’s for a slice – where my boy Paul STILL recognizes me, 12 years post-graduation – and then a few doors down to Angora for the best fro-yo on the planet.

That took up enough time for me to get back to the hotel and read a bit more before B’s flight got in. He got in and I got to finally get some WONDERFUL SLEEP.

(I hadn’t gotten a lot of sleep the few days previous.)

Sunday morning, we tried breakfast at some place on Boylston – I don’t recall the name – that had apparently just started a breakfast service. They need to improve on it, for it was highly mediocre. We were considering going for a run after that, but since it was gorgeous out – that weekend was the one sunny spot in Boston in like two weeks – we decided to just put on our shoes and walk around the city.

I took him down through Fenway to the Back Bay Fens, part of the Emerald Necklace. I’d talked about going down there back in school, but had never taken him there, so we did that. We then stopped at the BU Bookstore just because and obviously I walked out of there with some stuff! I found a pair of capris on clearance (workout capris for $30? Yes please!) and a wonderful comfy new Under Armour hoodie while B found a new pair of workout shorts. After that, we strolled downtown where I got to redeem my lobster roll disaster from the previous day at James Hook and Co.

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We were hoping to meet up with our friend Ann at some point, but unfortunately, it was not meant to be. So, we went back to the hotel to shower and pack up. I decided to leave before B and get to the airport a bit earlier just in case.

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Hi husband doing his walkaround!

Unfortunately, the BOS-LAX flight he was flying was oversold, so guess who got to stay behind?

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Airport life. Featuring: new hoodie!

B offered to get me a hotel, but I just didn’t want to deal with it. I treated myself to a ridiculously expensive dinner at the Legal’s Test Kitchen in the airport (chowder, a glass of Pinot Noir, and one of my top-three lobster rolls) before attempting to settle in for the night.

Except apparently Logan doesn’t let you sleep in the concourses; no, it kicks you out pre-security. I went from a quiet, cozy, carpeted corner to a cold, noisy, tiled floor that was being cleaned for seriously two hours. Or so it felt like. Needless to say, I didn’t get much sleep. I managed an hour before I got booted out, maybe another broken 90 minutes on the tile, and then about 75 minutes at what I thought was going to be my gate once I went back through security at 4:15am.

Luckily, I made the morning LAX flight just fine, watching “Moana” and “Hidden Figures” on the way, being crowded in my middle seat by two manspreaders stealing the armrests.

B had rented a car, so he picked me up at LAX and took me to see his crash pad there (also so I could change). I inadvertently passed out for about an hour while he booked us a hotel room for the night. I woke up, changed, we headed off to our hotel, and then went to the Strand and rented cruiser bikes.

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B biking the Strand.

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Wall of succulents.

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Toes in the sand.

We went back home the next morning. Although it included not a lot of sleep and had a lot of stress, it was a wonderful mini trip to celebrate my “retirement” from coffee slinging.

On the Elm

Every February comes a wonderful little sporting holiday for Boston-area college hockey fans – the Beanpot. On the first two Mondays in February, four schools (Boston University, Boston College, Harvard University, Northeastern University) play each other at the Garden for a literal silver beanpot trophy and bragging rights around the city*. Having gone to one of the schools, I like to try to watch the games.

Living in Denver and not having NESN on my TV package can make it a bit tricky. The alumni association has organized watch parties in the past, but hasn’t for the past few years. The last one they organized, however, was at The Elm.

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Menu.

The Elm, on East Colfax, is a Boston bar and a really fun little joint. Since we’re always there on Mondays, B usually partakes in their burger deal which is a $7 burger and fries/side.

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I’ve stolen bites. It really is a pretty tasty burger.

Yesterday, I actually decided to try their clam chowder.

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They call it a traditional New England clam chowder. It’s … okay. It’s so hard to find good chowder not on the coasts of this country. Brandon thought the base was a little too thin and I found it a bit too peppery for my tastes.

What I usually get, though, is their lobster roll (because of course).

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They diced the celery a little finer on my second go around this February which made it a lot better, but this is definitely one of the better lobster rolls around. Chock full of large pieces of lobster on the proper bun (which, as I’ve said before, makes SUCH a difference), I would definitely recommend it.

Our friend Jeremy joined us and got the fried clams both nights. I didn’t snag a picture, but he says they’re as good as any he had when living back East (I tried them; they were good, but I have no reference point). We got chatting with the Elm’s general manager after the game and she said to try their roast beef sandwich, as it’s apparently really close to Massachusetts legend Kelly’s Roast Beef, which I’ve never been able to try.

If you’re a Boston ex-pat (ex-Pat? Ha …) living in Denver or just love a good lobster roll, check out the Elm.

*The women’s team of each school also participates in a women’s Beanpot, typically held on the first two Tuesdays of February, with the exception being this year due to Valentine’s Day.

Dining in Boston: Part Two

As part one was breakfast, I’m dedicating part two to seafood, because Boston has a lot of it and it is delicious.

However, since this *is* me, eating seafood in Boston mostly means clam chowder and lobster rolls. So y’know …

The seafood started on Day One with a stop at Union Oyster House for chowder. Brandon also tried oysters (missed a picture) and I tried their lobster roll.

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The lobster itself was really good, the bun was accurate; the only thing “off” was the use of lettuce and tomato. Which I generally like on a sandwich, but does not belong on a lobster roll.

On Day Two, we split a lobster roll at James Hook and Co., one of the places I read had a good one. The list was accurate here, as this may have been my favorite lobster roll of the trip.

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We headed off to the Barking Crab next as Brandon said they had good chowder, but I was disappointed (and, so was he). Consistency was all off; it almost felt like a cheese soup as opposed to a chowder.

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Day Three led to a trip to the ever-awesome Legal Sea Foods for dinner. While we enjoyed gluten in our food (chowder, their delicious rolls), our friend Nic, who we went with, has celiac disease. Legal’s went above and beyond making sure everything was gluten-free and wonderful for her. From gluten-free chowder to gluten-free rolls and even a specific extra staff member to help her out, they were outstanding. So, if you have celiac disease and are in Boston (or any of the other cities Legal’s has an outpost in), head to Legal Sea Foods – they will treat you well.

Continuing on, Brandon and I both had a cup of chowder, because of course.

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Both Brandon and Nic had the Grilled Assortment, which was a chef’s choice of three fish (salmon, swordfish, and tuna), shrimp, and scallops. It was a ton of food.

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I chose something a bit different, and got the Nutty Faroe Island Salmon, which was almond-encrusted salmon sauteed in a lemon-butter caper sauce served with spinach and (which sold me) mushroom ravioli. The ravioli? On point. The salmon? Pretty good, but I don’t know if I’d order it again. Plus, capers? Ew.

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Our next seafood adventure wasn’t until Day Six (we needed a break). I had heard from multiple sources (online, one of the guys at Union Oyster House) that the best lobster roll in town was the hot roll (Connecticut style) at Neptune Oyster. I also read that the place filled up super quickly so we got there before they opened, still waited in line, and barely got seated. The place is a teeny tiny hole in the wall in the North End. We, and most everyone in there, ordered the hot lobster roll.

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To be perfectly honest … I’ve had better. The bun, as you can see in the picture, is incorrect, and it made a difference. The roll also fell apart more than it should have (too much butter?) and the taste? Off. Both Brandon and I wondered if everyone loved it solely for the fact that a hot lobster roll is simply hard to find in Boston. The fries, however, were perfect seafood fries, though I wonder if I think that solely because they’re very similar to what’s served at a seafood restaurant here in town …

After Neptune, we headed to Boston Sail Loft which supposedly has some of the best chowder in town. It might … if you like dill in your clam chowder. Which we definitely don’t.

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Aaaaalll the dill.

We couldn’t even finish our chowder. We could tell the waitress was concerned as she kept asking if everything was okay. I over-tipped her with a note on the receipt saying that nothing was her fault; we just don’t like dill!

There were a few more lobster rolls I would have liked to have tried (including Legal’s, but I would have had to hit them up for lunch for that), but I think I hit my limit on the trip. Next time …

SoCal 2016, Day One

About a week or so ago, Brandon and I decided we needed to get the hell out of dodge (that is, Denver) and go on vacation. Okay, truthfully, we decided that quite a ways back, but we actually only managed it in late February. Brandon had some days off so I just decided to take them as well. We also figured, hell, we have the airline benefits, we may as well use them!

My criteria were as follows:
– warm
– no more than one time zone away (sorry, east coast/alaska/hawaii/world)
– flight preferably no longer than two, two and a half hours.

We ended up narrowing it down to northern California, southern California, San Antonio, Las Vegas, and Arizona (probably Tucson). We really didn’t want to do the latter two, as we always go there. About a week out, Brandon started keeping an eye on flights and we decided on SoCal.

Early Wednesday the 24th, we hopped a flight to LAX and started a mini vacation.

Our first stop, since we were kind of hungry? LA icon, Randy’s Donuts.

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We split two doughnuts – a glazed twist and a chocolate frosted.

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Super sugary and super delicious. We’re still partial to Donut Maker here in town, but they were definitely tasty.

After Randy’s, I remarked that I’d never actually seen the Hollywood sign live (or close enough to get a picture of it), so we decided to go somewhere we could see it. The internet said a great viewing spot was actually on Hollywood Blvd, so off to play tourist it was.

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The old 7-Up machine caught our eye; loved this old motel.

We found a meter off Hollywood Boulevard and then it was off to explore some. As we’re not the most hip when it comes to pop culture, we completely spaced that the Oscars were that Sunday, so a good chunk of the Walk of Fame was blocked off for show setup.

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We were still able to access Graumann’s Chinese Theatre and see the hand/foot prints in cement, though, which was totally awesome.

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Theatre.

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Harry Potter!

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Concrete panels. Plus Bogey’s message is hysterical.

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R2D2 and C-3PO’s “foot prints” cracked me up.

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The “Rocky” nerds in us enjoyed Sly’s message.

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I chose to unrealistically put myself in Donald’s webbed prints …

The internet was also accurate in that the shopping center there did have a great vantage point for viewing the Hollywood(land) sign.

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After that, it was looking at all the stars and finding some of our favorites.

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Not a star, but loved the sign.

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Best. Graffiti. Ever.

I’m not sharing all my star photos, but the ones I snagged were Sylvester Stallone (Rocky!), Harrison Ford (Indiana Jones is my spirit animal), Alex Trebek (Jeopardy! for life), and Al Michaels (Do you believe in miracles? YES!).

At that point, we were pretty hungry, so off to In-N-Out it was. I think the dinosaurs were more excited for it, though …

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After lunch, we decided on something slightly more high-brow and headed to the La Brea tar pits. Thanks to our Denver Museum of Nature and Science membership, we were able to get in for free (much like the Natural History Museum in Vegas we go visit). Hooray for reciprocity!

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Flowers in bloom near the pits.

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For some reason, “Asphalt and People” cracked me up. However, this also shows an atlatl, which are freaking cool as hell.

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Husband pulling up metal rods through the asphalt.

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Cross-section of the pit.

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Active dig site.

After La Brea, we made Santa Monica our next stop.

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There was a tiny, cheap aquarium at the pier, so we stopped in.

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If it’s on a pier, is it really the last burger *on land*?

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After that, it was off to the Pacific Coast Highway and Santa Barbara for the night.

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Sunset in Santa Barbara.

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On the pier.

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Not dinner, but loved this place aesthetically.

We did end up eating at a place called Longboard’s Grill, also on the pier. It … was okay. The clam chowder just reaffirmed my decision to not eat it outside of New England (or maaaaaaaybe San Francisco/Seattle). Brandon’s swordfish
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was over peppered. Really, good swordfish just needs a bit of lemon (and perhaps a dash of butter) to be delicious. My lobster roll, well …
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… I’m realizing how important the proper bun really is for the enjoyment of a good lobster roll. Longboard’s? Did not have it.

After that long day, back to the hotel …

(day two coming soon.)

On Steuben’s

Over the past … year, probably, I’ve developed somewhat of an unhealthy obsession with lobster rolls. I’ve eaten several of them at Lobster Me in Las Vegas (warm lobster rolls are the BEST) but have been trying to find good ones in the Denver area.

Fresh Fish Company? Is okay.

Everything I’ve read, however, says go to Steuben’s.

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Steuben’s, located on 17th Street in the Uptown neighborhood in Denver in a former garage, is almost like a retro diner on crack, recreating, as the website says, “American Regional classics.” The decor is all in chocolate browns and sky blues and is richly gorgeous. The owners named the restaurant after a restaurant/nightlife hot spot their great uncles owned on Boylston St. in Boston back in the 1940s through 1960s.

After learning of the Northeast heritage/roots, I wasn’t surprised they had the best lobster roll in town.

I went one Thursday afternoon about a month ago. I had tried hitting up Civic Center Eats for the lobster roll food truck, but the truck wasn’t there, so I said screw it, and drove over to Steuben’s.

I loved the aforementioned decor. I enjoyed how the water jugs came in re-purposed liquor bottles.

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I ordered the lobster roll (of course) and treated myself to a chocolate shake. It came, as all good shakes should, with a tin of the extra on the side.

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It. Was. Delicious. I know I said above that I prefer warm lobster rolls (lobster and butter in bread as opposed to essentially lobster salad), but Steuben’s roll was on point. The fries were wonderful (if not a tad under-salted) and the shake was rich, thick, and everything a chocolate shake should be.

I raved about it to Brandon later and as a result, we found ourselves there a few weeks later.

We happened upon happy hour and I noticed they had deviled eggs for $.50 each. Clearly I had to try some, because seriously, who has deviled eggs on their menu?

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I will say that I prefer my mom’s or my brother’s over Steuben’s, but they were totally worth the dollar.

Brandon tried the Monte Cristo, and it was as rich and artery-clogging as you’d expect of a good Monte Cristo.

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I probably should have tried something different, but that would just be insanity.

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Loooook at the lobster!

I should probably go back and try more of the menu – everything I saw being delivered to the other diners around me/us looked fantastic – but I can’t guarantee I won’t just order the lobster roll again, because I am weak. Still, tasty place, highly recommended.