Buckeye Beer Engine, Fat Heads & Vieng’s Asian Bistro (Not Necessarily in that Order)

Friday evening, I took Thing 1 to Vieng’s Asian Bistro in Crocker Park.  I’ve only been here twice, and both times I’ve been a bit sad because it occupies the spot that Claddagh Irish Pub used to inhabit.  I loved Claddagh.  I know, I know, it’s a chain.  But it was a chain with a bit of real character.  And the flipping meatloaf they served may be the best I ever had (hey, I’m a girl who appreciates good comfort food.  The kind my mother couldn’t make).  Most of the food really had very little to do with Irish cuisine, but it was all of solid quality.

Anyway, Vieng’s is really pretty inside.   The decor is very chic and the first time I was there, the place had real orchid plants everywhere.  The orchids are sadly gone but the decor is still stunning.  The bar is really cool.  In the center of the bar is this “wall” of water streams.  I don’t know if there’s a name for it, and it’s a bit hard to describe.  Go here and click on picture number 9.   They have a huge patio also.  It’s the best patio in Crocker Park as it’s the only one that offers some privacy and quiet.  Every other patio at Crocker Park is on a sidewalk, which, while quite good for people watching, isn’t necessarily the most romantic setting.  This patio is off the sidewalk and actually has privacy walls.  There’s a nice outdoor fireplace too.

Unfortunately, Vieng’s food is rather forgettable.  I remember having a delightful waiter on my first visit and enjoying the food, but I had no urge to hurry back (and I can’t tell you what I ate).  In fact, the only reason I returned this night was because Vieng’s has sushi, and Thing 1 loves sushi.

So, we ordered the sushi sampler plate and a spider maki roll.  The sushi platter had 2 pieces of shrimp, 2 pieces of yellowtail, 2 pieces of salmon, and 2 pieces of tuna.  It also had 3 pieces of spicy tuna maki roll, and 3 pieces of California roll.  Generally, when I get a California roll, it’s about 2″ in diameter.  This was less than half that size.  And the spicy tuna could not have been more devoid of flavor.  The  sushi, save the tuna, was average.  But, let’s get back to that tuna.  The tuna sushi was really wonderful.  It was a generous slice and of above average quality.  If only the rest of the food was that good.

The spider maki roll rather upset me.  It was wrapped so loosely that it fell apart when I tried to pick up a piece.  I make maki rolls at home.  Mine aren’t the prettiest examples of maki rolls, but mine stay together when you pick them up.  Loosely rolled maki is inexcusable.

We actually stuck around to order dessert.  I only rarely order dessert and I’m not sure why I decided to stick around, it’s not like our waiter disguised his obvious contempt at having to serve us.  You would have thought we were at a French restaurant.  Boo to condescending waiters.

Anyway, we ordered a volcano cake with coconut ice cream.   The cake was average at best.  But the flavor of the coconut ice cream was fantastic.  Too bad the texture did not match.  It seemed as though the ice cream was freezer burned, it had hard ice crystals.  Now I need to find good coconut ice cream.

The only way I would revisit this place is if I wanted to impress someone with the atmosphere.  I would bring someone in for drinks before whisking them away for dinner somewhere else.  I have no other use for this restaurant.

Saturday, I went to my husband’s favorite restaurant (I don’t think I like any restaurant enough to have a favorite right now.  I have several restaurants that I really enjoy but not one favorite), Buckeye Beer Engine.  Absolutely everything I’ve had here has been amazing.  We had potato pancakes that were just incredible.  They were topped with an applesauce that was so thick and rich that is was almost (almost) like an apple pie filling.  Then we had Hog Wings which they call jumbo pork wings.  They’re ribs cut to resemble massive chicken wings.  They were amazing.  And the Bourbon barbeque sauce was totally yummy too.

We split a Marsala mushroom burger.  The burgers here are so well seasoned, and so  perfectly cooked, I could happily eat them plain.  But I don’t have to.  All the toppings that are used are of really high quality.  I used to see the ads for this place and they call the burgers “gourmet burgers” and I thought “yeah, sure”.  The first couple of times we came here, I didn’t even try a burger because I figured with the extensive beer offerings they probably didn’t try (or need to try) very hard on the food.

Then I finally tried a burger. Wow. I am generally not a burger person however, I will not pass on the chance to get a burger here.  It doesn’t matter what else I order, I must have a burger when I come here now.

I love to try beer, but one of my favorite alcoholic beverages is St. Louis Framboise.  So when a place has it on tap, I’m ordering it.  That’s a picture of it up above.  I also had a Steigl Lemon Radler (half beer, half lemon soda).  It was fun to try, but I don’t need another.

My husband had a Dogfish Head Festina Peache that was nice and a Franziskaner that was really, really good.  We also sampled a beer, I wish I could remember what it was called, that tasted a lot like liquid smoke.  It was a bit too much.  It’s so much fun to sit and try all these beers.  I just wish I lived closer to this place.  Actually, it’s probably better that I don’t.

We ended the evening by stopping off at Fat Head’s. I love the beer here.  The food is good, not as good as Buckeye Beer Engine (which is why wee ate at Buckeye Beer Engine and stopped here for a final beer for the evening) but good.  The last time I was in, they had a cask conditioned Elderberry Double Chocolate Monkey Stout.  It was really pleasant.  This time, I stuck with one of my old standbys, Bumbleberry Honey Blueberry Ale.  One of my favorite things is watching the blueberries bob around in the glass. Alas, they were out of blueberries or the bartender didn’t feel like giving me any.  Sigh.  My husband tried the Duke of Lager Fest Bier.  It was really yummy.  The Bumbleberry was too, as always, but it’s just not the same without the blueberries.

This place is always packed, and it deserves to be.  It’s still a little (a lot) more family friendly than I’d like it to be, but it’s close, the prices are reasonable, and the beer is good.  Now if only they’d get St. Louis Framboise on tap.

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