Month: July 2016

Denny’s, 101 Wintergreen Drive, Lumberton, NC

We stopped for a late night (around 10pm) dinner at Denny’s in Lumberton on Saturday, July 23. We were seated quickly, and had our menus and drinks almost right away. Three of our four-member party ordered the new and improved buttermilk pancakes, while I opted for the biscuits and gravy (which, for some odd reason, is NOT on the menu).

Our food was delivered a bit later, and dropped off quickly. The waiter who brought it (not our original server) handed out the plates and left so fast we didn’t even have time to mention that we had no silverware, there was no butter for the pancakes, and our drinks needed refilling. No one stopped by to see if everything was acceptable, and when we were finally able to flag someone down, we received the silverware, drinks (without ice) and NO butter. By the time we were able to find someone to bring butter for the one person who really wanted it, everyone else was almost done eating. The pancake eaters said that the advertised-as-fluffier buttermilk pancakes were good, and possibly a bit “fluffier” than the original version. I thought that the biscuits and gravy entree was quite tasty, as always.

Despite the poor service, we took a chance and ordered dessert…BIG mistake. The child in our party wanted the special milkshake advertised on the children’s menu,  but was told that they were using old menus (apparently from the Christmas season) and that some of the items were no longer available (including, of course, what he wanted to order). He chose something else instead, but was very disappointed. We also ordered the family-sized sundae, which was billed as four scoops of ice cream with caramel sauce, nuts, and whipped cream, on a bed of hot fudge. The sundae was delivered without any hot fudge at all. Once again, we had to track down a server for help. Eventually, once we were half-finished with the dessert, someone brought us a small dish of regular chocolate syrup. This is NOT in any way the same as a sundae served on a bed of hot fudge. I was quite surprised that the manager did not intervene and offer to make it right by bringing us a new, properly-prepared sundae. By that point, however, we were too tired to bother.

At no point in our visit did anyone actually apologize for the poor service. Our primary server mentioned that they were “swamped”, although the restaurant did not look very crowded. Of course, perhaps even that small a number of diners was more than is typical for 10pm on a Saturday. Still, swamped or not, the service should have been better. Knowing that there was an issue of too many customers/too few staff, a manager should have been making the rounds to insure that everyone was satisfied, and taken steps to make things right whenever possible. I left with the impression that nobody at the location actually cared about the poor service. Obviously nobody cared that the staff was forced to use outdated menus with offerings that were no longer available. Overall, very disappointing.

So, in spite of some pretty good food, I am forced to give Denny’s #7330 of Lumberton only 2.5 out of 5 cheesy singles.



Captain Woody’s, 6 Target Road, Hilton Head, SC

We had dinner at Captain Woody’s on July 22, 2016. The overall ambiance of the restaurant was exactly what you’d expect from a seafood place in a beach town. There was plenty of wood planking, featuring an indoor “dock”, palm trees with lights, and a wonderful string light display covering the ceiling. There was no AC, but the giant ceiling fan kept the air circulating enough to keep the main dining area at a comfortable temperature.

The food was very good, and mostly reasonably priced. I had a very large salad with grilled chicken for $9.99. The chicken was cooked perfectly and lightly seasoned, and the salad included a variety of greens, onions, two kinds of peppers, carrots, tomatoes, and cucumbers. The highlight, however, was the light tomato vinaigrette dressing. Slightly spicy, with a nice tomato flavor, it was a welcome change from the usual balsamic that every other restaurant offers as the only light option.

Another diner in our party ordered the fish and chips platter (fish, fries, and hushpuppies), and said that everything was delicious, especially the fish. I sampled both the fries and hushpuppies, and thought both were quite tasty. Of note, the hushpuppies had some peppers baked into them, making them a bit different than what I’ve tried at other restaurants. Our junior diner thoroughly enjoyed his grilled cheese sandwich with bacon.

The service was prompt and friendly. All the waitstaff members we saw were dressed in casual shorts and Captain Woody’s t-shirts. I was pleased to see that they all looked comfortable and appropriate, unlike the servers at many restaurants who are apparently required to wear the tightest clothing they can possibly fit into.

A couple of minor points:
1. Our table appeared to have been wiped down, but it was still sticky when we were seated.
2. I thought the hushpuppy appetizer was a bit overpriced compared to the rest of the menu, at $6 for 8 hushpuppies. They were quite tasty, but a few more would have been nice for the price.

Plus bonus points for the awesome autographed photo of Dick Butkus!

Overall, four out of five wheels of gouda!



Coco’s on the Beach, 663 William Hilton Parkway, Hilton Head Island, SC

We stopped by Coco’s for lunch today, 7/21/16, as we were spending the day on the adjacent beach. I had been wanting to try it out, as it definitely has a nice “local” feel to it. Lots of hand-painted decor directly on the walls, as well as the tables, plus the open air seating within sight of the beach make this a great lunch option.

The menu is limited to burgers/hotdogs/fries, but Coco’s seems to stock a variety of beer, and offers a nice selection of beachy cocktails. We were lucky and managed to queue up to order when there wasn’t a line, and were able to place out order quickly. It took over 30 minutes for our food to be ready, but the wait was worth it. We all had burgers, plus a side order of fries (which can easily be split two or three ways).

What can I say…the burgers were delicious! They seemed to have been hand-pressed, were quite large, and were served HOT and cooked exactly as requested. The toppings were also generous. The price ($8 for any burger, regardless of toppings) plus the side order of fries (split among the group) seems comparable to other casual restaurants in the area.

Now for the negatives…my main complaint was the incredibly bad drink refill service. We were given our (non-alcoholic) drinks when we ordered, and sipped on them while we waited. Issue #1: Coco’s offers ONLY ONE refill. Issue #2: We took our cups with us when we went to pick up our food and were told that, for refills, we had to go to the back of the line of people waiting to place food orders. WHAT? We had to wait in a (fairly long at the time) line to get the drinks we’d already paid for while the food we’d just received sat there getting cold. The only other option was to eat lunch with no beverages. Issue #3: After waiting in line, we finally got our refills, which were served WITHOUT ANY ICE. Obviously more staff is needed to provide an adequate level of service for patrons. While I’d eat at Coco’s again, I would skip the drink and plan to eat on the beach with unlimited refills from my own cooler.

Another (more minor) issue was the Great Ketchup Quest. You’d think that a place that serves only burgers and hotdogs would make sure there was ketchup on each table, but ours was missing. We tracked down a bottle on a nearby table, but it was almost empty. The next bottle we found (on the other side of the restaurant) was runny, but usable. Perhaps the new staffer(s) that Coco’s should hire could make sure that the condiments were refilled regularly, in addition to handling drink refills.

Another issue I had with Coco’s was the smoking. Since the establishment is entirely open-air, I assume it is exempt from the usual restaurant smoking ban. However, this doesn’t require them to allow smoking! Why not at least leave the main seating area smoke-free, and restrict smoking to the back area, if it has to be allowed at all? Even better, let anyone who wants to smoke do so on the surrounding sidewalks or beach area. We were lucky enough not to have any smokers nearby (although I had to walk through a cloud to get to the restroom). But it was pure luck; I would not have been pleased if I’d had to eat while inhaling someone else’s fumes!

Overall, four out of five cheddar chunks, but only because the burgers were so good!


Up the Creek, 8 Simmons Road, Hilton Head, SC

During my travels around town yesterday (July 19, 2016), a local I was chatting with recommended Up the Creek as a great place to eat and watch the fireworks (the town puts on a show every Tuesday at 9:30pm). I followed his advice and have to say that this place is one of the area’s lesser-known gems.

First, the restaurant offers both interior and patio seating, both of which were quite pleasant during the dinner hour. The indoor decor was a delightful mix of directly-on-the-wall painting, hanging art, and unique kitsch. My favorites included the dollar bills upon which patrons had written various messages, and the display of hanging hats (most likely a unique lost and found display?).  Perfect island flair!

The service was prompt and friendly. Everyone working there was constantly on the move, working, chatting with customers, and generally looking happy to be there. The staff seemed willing and eager to pitch in as needed to serve the patrons as efficiently as possible.

The food was also good. As usual, I sampled the meals ordered by my dinner companions, both of whom ordered the burger/fries meal. The burgers were wonderful, juicy, and cooked exactly to order. The fries were particularly good, with just the right amount of seasoning. I ordered an entree salad, and was pleased with it, although (in general) I interpret “mixed greens” to mean more of a variety than just iceberg and romaine. The salad was topped with a generous amount of tomatoes, cucumbers, cheese, and croutons (onions also available, but I opted out). Plenty of tasty dressing was served on the side, to be added to taste.

My one complaint about the whole experience (and the thing that kept me from being able to give a 5-slice rating) was that, for some unknown reason, my personal side order of hushpuppies was served to the table (well before the meal) as an appetizer. As it seemed rude to point out to the rest of the party that the dish was part of my meal, I only had a few bites of my side dish. The hushpuppies were wonderful, but, as a rule, any dish not ordered as an appetizer, or “for the table/for the group” should be served as part of the meal, and only to the person who actually ordered it.

The single, unisex bathroom was well-stocked and remarkably clean, given the amount (virtually constant steam) of use it got while I was in the restaurant. It also sported nice decor in keeping with the overall theme of the establishment.

I highly recommend trying this restaurant, especially on a Tuesday night around 7 or 7:30pm (to allow plenty of time to catch the fireworks from the nearby dock afterwards).

4.5 out of 5 provolone slices!




Red Roof Inn, 1902 Cedar Creek Road, Fayetteville, NC

My family and I spent the night of 7/15/16 at the Red Roof Inn at 1902 Cedar Creek Road, Fayetteville, NC. My first overwhelming impression upon entering the room was the incredible HEAT. Now, I understand that it tends to be warm in NC during July, and that the hotel management would not want to run the AC at full blast in an empty room. However, the AC should not be turned off completely so that the room heats up like a sauna. Knowing guests would be arriving, surely someone could have turned the unit on to a balmy setting of 80 or 85 degrees?

In any case, it was entirely too hot to remain in the room, so we cranked up the AC and went out to dinner. By the time we returned, it was slightly cooler, but still uncomfortably hot in the room. I could only stand to remain inside at all by sitting right beside the AC unit, with the air blowing in my face. By around 4am, the room had cooled enough to be tolerable (although still too hot) for those sleeping in the bed furthest from the air conditioner. Even with the door left open, the bathroom never cooled off enough to be pleasant. The AC did seem to be working fine, as cold air was coming out of the unit. However, it was obviously inadequate to cool the entire room on short notice. Also, it was incredibly loud. As cutting it off was NOT an option, nobody slept well that night. Depending on the time, we were either too hot to sleep (and kept awake by the loud AC unit) or moderately comfortable and able to doze off (while being regularly awakened by the loud AC unit).

On the positive side, housekeeping had done a very impressive job. I didn’t notice any part of the room that wasn’t thoroughly cleaned, the room smelled fresh, and the beds were made with the tightest hospital edges and corners I’ve ever seen in a hotel. The shower was also quite good…the water pressure was strong enough, and once the water temperature was set to where I wanted it, it stayed there for the duration of of the shower. As mentioned previously, however, it was entirely too hot in the bathroom to even dress in there after getting out of the shower.

On another negative note,  the toilet clogged up. When we called the front desk, we were told that our only option was to walk down to the desk, get a plunger, come back to the hot bathroom in the hot hotel room, unclog the toilet ourselves, then trek back to the front desk to return the plunger. Very poor customer service!

Also, the mini-fridge in the room did not have any sort of temperature control. We put some just-purchased fresh fruit in the fridge (to protect it from the heat) and woke up to find it frozen. We had to throw it away.

Honestly,  I wish I could give this Red Roof Inn a better review, as I imagine not all rooms were as bad as ours. The two smaller incidents (toilet and fridge) would not have been nearly so bothersome if not for the heat problem. Unfortunately, because of the unbearably hot room combined with the loud yet inadequate AC unit, I am forced to rate my experience as:

2 out of 5 provolone wedges (and the management should give the Housekeeping Team a HUGE thank you, as without their efforts, the hotel would be looking at 1 wedge (or maybe less….)






Ruby Tuesday, 1936 Cedar Creek Road, Fayetteville, NC

I had dinner at the Fayetteville, NC Ruby Tuesday on 7/15/16. Overall, my experience was excellent. Our server, Christian, was exceptional. He was polite and friendly, greeting us shortly after we sat down, and taking care of everything we needed with speed and a smile. He was talkative enough to be personable, without being over-the-top (a rare quality in a server). I honestly can’t say enough good things about him. Excellent service!

The food was good also. I personally had a chicken entree, which was very tasty despite a bit of gristle along one edge. My first side was fresh green beans, made even better by their proximity to the delicious sauce from the chicken. I opted for the salad bar as my second side, and was very pleased. There were four types/mixes of fresh greens to choose from, as well as plenty of toppings, two cheeses, wonderful fresh croutons, and lots of salad dressing choices. My one suggestion would be more lite/low-calorie dressing options, but all-in-all, a most excellent salad bar experience.

Other members of my party ordered a different chicken entree (with lots of cheese, which looked wonderful) and a burger/fries combo (which I sampled, and look forward to ordering in the future).

The temperature in the restaurant was perfect, every staff member I saw was friendly, and I highly recommend this location.

Five out of five cheddar slices!