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Taste Buds: Top Ten Part 1

December 19, 2013

It's a week before Christmas and the Buds are busy as could be doing their holiday shopping, wrapping, baking and visiting.

It's also very likely we will be doing our share of holiday eating as well. But, for once, you won't have to hear about it. Instead, we are sharing our highly coveted Top Ten list of eateries we've visited this year. And we know EXACTLY how excited you are about this so we won't keep you waiting! Here goes:

#10 - Pizza Milano

Pizza Milano, located on W. Main St. is the first business venture of owner Engin Guler, who has 13 years of experience in the business of Italian cuisine as an employee of Vocelli Pizza in downtown Wheeling.

The pizza shop offers a large selection of food and free delivery that will reach a large territory, covering St. Clairsville and much of the surrounding area, from the correctional facility near the Flushing exit, to Fairpoint.

As the Buds studied the extensive menu, it wasn't hard to realize that making a selection would be no easy decision! With a vast array of appetizers, salads, hoagies, calzones, wings, pasta and - of course - pizza, there is sure to be something for everyone. What pleased the Buds was that there were some unique (and tasty-sounding) items that one won't find at just any pizza shop such as bruschetta (we LOVE that stuff!), Gyro salad, garlic spinach hoagie, chicken parmesan and shrimp alfredo. They also have 12 gourmet pizzas that sound fabulous including Mediterranean, Garden Vegetable, Buffalo Chicken, Milano Deluxe, Garlic Spinach and Broccoli Chicken. Umm, we'll have one of each!!

Bud Em, who is definitely a creature of habit, is a real sucker for a good calzone, so she opted to take advantage of a lunch special featuring a calzone and a drink for $6.99, which is a great deal considering the calzone alone is regularly priced at $7.99. She had hers stuffed with tomato, mushrooms, onions and pepperoni.

The large zone was absolutely delicious! It was loaded with toppings and warm, gooey mozzarella and ricotta cheeses and the top crust was brushed with garlic butter and dusted with parmesan cheese. Served with a side of marinara for dipping, the calzone easily wound up on Em's 'favorite' list!

Bud Shaunna chose a different route, primarily because she had her fill of dough at the Italian Festival. Therefore, intrigued by the 10 different salads on the menu - that's right, 10! - she opted to give the Chicken Caesar Salad a whirl. A bed of romaine lettuce was topped with tender, seasoned sliced chicken and sprinkled with grated Romano cheese. A packet of Caesar dressing came on the side. Bud Shaunna chose to forgo the croutons at the suggestion of the friendly server since the salad was also served with two breadsticks.

Bud Shaunna was quite pleased with the freshness of the salad, and she was even more thrilled with the garlicy breadsticks topped with Romano cheese. This lunch special combo of the large salad and a drink only set Bud Shaunna back $5.99. The Buds were very happy with their selections, and they didn't even tap in to the pizza! We'll reserve that for our next trip.

#9 - Houston's Smoked Chicken

Located at 69784 Main Street, the folks at Houston's are busy every Thursday through Sunday preparing their delicious smoked chickens and ribs. Yummy! The menu is simple and to the point - in addition to the chicken and ribs, they also offer sides of baked beans, macaroni and potato salads and homemade bread and dinner rolls. Heck, what's not to love?!

Bud Em, who definitely prefers chicken to ribs, dished out $7.50 for the lunch special which included half a chicken, a small side and a dinner roll. Folks - the chicken is delicious tender, juicy and perfectly seasoned, there's just nothing quite like it. Bud Em would eat it any day of the week. Or EVERY day of the week for that matter! Along with a side of macaroni salad and the roll it made the perfect lunch. In fact, with the amount of meat on the chicken, she took half home and it served as dinner too.

Bud Shaunna decided to order the half rack of ribs. For $11, there was certainly enough meat for two people to share! And share Bud Shaunna did, with Bud Hubby, of course. These large, dry-rubbed ribs were seasoned nicely (Bud S detected some rosemary among the seasonings - YUM!) but to a rib newby like Bud S, they were a little difficult to eat. Bud Hubby, however, didn't have any problems!

In addition to the ribs, the Buds also split an order of a dozen rolls which rang in at 4 bucks. Oh. My. Goodness. These rolls were off the hook! Bud S, not usually a bread-eater, ate FOUR of these suckers! Not all in one sitting, but still, they were just that yummy. They had a slight sweetness to them and were soft enough without being too mushy. No butter needed - just eat these right out of the bag!

#8 - Lou's Fish

Lou's Famous Fish has quite the extensive menu, offering a bevy of fried appetizers (including their homemade sweet potato balls which Bud Shaunna specifically remembered), soups and salads, a fried fish menu featuring sandwiches and dinners of their signature Icelandic cod, Pollock, Jack fish (for those who prefer a good "fishy" taste) or catfish. Other dinners available include broiled seafood, shrimp, crab cakes, and even chicken. For those not feeling particularly "fishy," Lou's offers chicken sandwiches, burgers and dogs.

Bud Em, who wavered between Maryland Style Crab Cakes and Shrimp Scampi, finally settled on a small order of the shrimp. The dinner included two side items and rang in at $9.20. Deciding on sides proved to be almost as hard as picking the entree, but she finally opted to go with their fresh made cole slaw and breaded mushrooms. Ummmmmm.

The meal was fabulous! Eight nice sized shrimp were sauteed in garlic herbed butter and white wine and lemon sauce and cooked perfectly. If there's one thing Bud Em hates it's overcooked shrimp.

The seasoning was delicious and not too overpowering. The sweetness of the fresh and crisp cole slaw perfectly balanced the saltiness of the scampi. The breaded mushrooms were abundant and yummy. Said Bud would definitely order this again.

Bud Shaunna decided to go with what makes Lou's "famous" - their fried, breaded fish. She ordered the fish sandwich dinner at $8.25, which seemed a little pricey, but it did come with two sides - Bud S chose cole slaw and the sweet potato balls. Several thick chunks of fried fish were served on a regular bun, and Bud S added some tartar sauce. However, that's really all the sandwich needed, as it was good without any extra embellishments. And like Bud Em, Bud Shaunna also enjoyed the cole slaw, remarking that it reminded her of Elby's Big Boy cole slaw.

The homemade sweet potato balls, however, stole the show! Bud Shaunna ate one of the four that came with her order first. Tasting somewhat like a sweet potato casserole, each sweet potato ball was rolled in crunchy cornflakes and then topped with powdered sugar. Even though you can order these as a side with your meal, Lou's really could sell these for dessert, as they are quite sweet. What a delicious ending!

#7 - Chapz Bar and Grill

Located at 42478 National Road in Belmont, Chapz Bar and Grill stunned Bud Shaunna (who had never been and was expecting a run-of-the-mill biker bar) with its clean and orderly interior. When menus were delivered it became even more apparent that this was far more than your average watering hole. Sure, Chapz menu has wings and burgers, but make no mistake: standard bar fare it ain't!

As the Buds browsed the menu, it became increasingly more difficult to make a selection. In fact, they didn't get beyond the "Kick Start" section before deciding that an appetizer WOULD be ordered. Both Buds were intrigued with Dips & Chips, described as homemade potato chips smothered in creamy Alfredo sauce, topped with feta cheese and chives. Whoa Nelly! Not wanting to be overly gluttonous, they sprang for a half order which rang in at $4.99 as opposed to the $7.49 full order.

The odd-sounding mixture of components proved to be one of the tastiest concoctions the Buds have ever encountered. Wow! This highly addictive appetizer was off the hook! In fact, if you plan on sharing you may want to consider a whole order!

With taste buds properly warmed up from the chips, the Buds looked forward to the main course. Bud Em opted to try one of Chapz signature burgers. While enticed with such creations as the Fat Boy, the Pizza Burn Out and the Texas Twister, Bud Em decided to keep it simple and go with the Stacker Burger.

The 1/4 lb. patty, which said Bud got topped with cheese, lettuce, onion and mayo, came with a side of their hand cut fries and rang in at $5.99. Additional patties may be added for an additional dollar each - thus making it the "Stacker." The juicy and delicious burger was amazing and the fresh fries were dusted with a yummy blend of seasoning. The meal proved to be the perfect lunch.

Bud Shaunna, in a rare move, ordered a meatless sandwich - the Pepper Melt. Don't be fooled, though. Next to meat, bell peppers are Bud Shaunna's second foodie love. Roasted red bell peppers, thick provolone cheese and tons of fresh basil (yum!!) were stacked between two thick slices of toasty, buttery bread. On the side were more of the homemade chips, but these, sadly, did not have the accouterments of the appetizer - but they weren't any less tasty! For only $6.99, this lunch was definitely a keeper!

#6 - El Patron

Located at 2213 First Street in Moundsville, El Patron features real Mexican cuisine at reasonable prices. The menu includes the typical Mexican fare of fajitas, enchiladas, tacos, burritos, quesadillas, chalupas and more. They also have an variety of house specials and a long list of hot and fast lunch combinations AND a "buffet" option where they will serve endless amounts of items from a select menu.

The Buds also noted that El Patron had a nice selection of salads and soups, and even burgers and sandwiches for those who may want to stick with more American dishes.

Bud Em settled on one of the house specials - the Chimi Fajita with chicken as the choice of meat or seafood. Every bite was delicious! Strips of grilled chicken and sauteed onions, peppers and tomatoes were wrapped in a tortilla and deep fried until crisp then topped with their amazing cheese sauce, lettuce, pico de gallo, sour cream and guacamole. With sides of both rice and beans the bountiful meal rang in at just under ten bucks! Nothing was too spicy or salty and Bud Em will surely order this again.

Because it was a Friday, Bud Shaunna had to forego the meat option, but with a large selection of vegetarian and seafood items, this was not a difficult task! She immediately zeroed in on and ordered the spinach enchiladas. Four corn tortillas were stuffed with tender spinach and mushrooms, topped with enchilada sauce and served with a side of lettuce, sour cream and pico de gallo. And of course, Bud Shaunna cannot make a stop at a Mexican restaurant and not order a side of guacamole! Over all, the enchiladas were so tasty and after filling up on tortilla chips, salsa and guac, Bud Shaunna had to package up half her lunch to take home. The enchiladas rang in at just under 9 bucks - definitely well worth what amounted to two meals!

Stay tuned for a second helping next week when we reveal our top five eateries!



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