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Taste Buds: Top Ten of 2011, Part 1

Buds share their favorite eateries of the year

December 23, 2011

IT'S THAT time of year - when the Buds are busying stuffing themselves with Christmas cookies until they explode! It is also the time when they take a look back at some of the top restaurants they have visited the past year.

So, while we sleep off that sugar coma, here is a recap of numbers 10 through 6 of our favorite eateries ...

No. 10: Wild Wild West Sports Bar, Stratford Springs near Oglebay, Wheeling

The menu at Wild Wild West had several mouth watering selections that had the Buds fired up - an array of appetizers that included wings which the waitress informed us are always grilled prior to being fried; "Open Prairie Grub" which includes Fired Chicken with your choice of glaze as well as a variety of open fire pizzas; sandwiches, burgers and cold cuts all served with range cut fries and coleslaw; and finally some yummy sounding salads and sides. Hmmm ... decisions, decisions.

Bud Kay, the crazy outlaw and lover of crab, insisted that the Buds sample the "secret recipe" Kissin Kate Crab Poppers, which are a blend of jumbo lump crab and spicy jalapenos that are hand breaded and served with Thai chili sauce, ringing in at $7.95. The deep fried delights were tasty indeed and the Thai sauce added just the right combination of sweet and spicy to complement the crab. Delish! The Buds enjoyed this appetizer, although they would not have been upset to have gotten more than four of 'em.

Bud Em decided to give the Hickok Pulled Pork sandwich (BBQ'd, topped with red onion, fried pickles and wild mustard) a try.

What a fabulous decision this proved to be! The pulled pork was the real deal, not something already prepared that comes in a plastic tub! The pork was tender, juicy and full of flavor. The sweet barbecue sauce was perfect paired with the deep fried pickles and mustard. The ranch cut fries were a'plenty and rounded out the meal. Overall, a great meal and plenty of quality food for just $7.50. Bud Em would certainly order this again.

Bud Kay decided to top off the yummy crab poppers with a Cattle Kate Cobb salad which came to $8.95. Fresh tomatoes, juicy chicken breast, bacon bits, gorgonzola cheese, onions, candied pecans and sliced egg made this salad a lovely looking meal. The fresh spring mix really came to life with the unique combination of toppings, and Bud Kay savored every bite!

No. 9: Ja-Lin's, Main St., Jewett

The menu at Ja-Lin's has a large variety of appetizers, wings with several different sauce options, a host of sandwiches (burgers, meatball, BLT, hot dog, fish, grilled chicken, cheesesteak, etc.); an array of different types of pizza (DiCarlo's, taco, buffalo chicken, specialty, etc.); and several YUMMY looking salads (grilled chicken, chef, taco, steak). Ja-Lin's also offers many dinner options which are served with choice of potato, side dish and a roll. Among these are a six piece cod meal, a seafood platter, pork chops and steak.

Bud Em, having had a mad craving of late for her old favorite - the grilled chicken salad - was ready to order as soon as she sat down. Guest Bud Kay, on the other hand, kicked around several options before settling on the Buffalo Chicken Pizza.

Bud Em's salad was perfect! The giant creation, ringing in at just $7, was loaded with fresh veggies: lettuce, broccoli florets, cauliflower, carrots, crunchy radishes, tomatoes and a few green olives thrown in for good measure. Topped with strips of perfectly cooked chicken, fresh cut fries and shredded cheese it totally hit the spot. Bud Em was very happy with her order. In fact, having tried a sample of Guest Bud Kay's order, she found it delicious as well!

Kay's 9-inch Buffalo chicken pizza was served hot and spicy - just the way 'ol Kay likes it. The pizza was topped with lots of gooey cheese, wing sauce, diced chicken and even diced celery. The Buds found the addition of the celery on the pizza to be brilliant! With a side of ranch dressing the pizza was a wonderful and filling lunch. Bud Kay even had a few slices left over to take with her for later. Both gals agreed that it was a great value at just $6.50.

No. 8: Grand Slam Pizza, Market St., Yorkville

The menu at Grand Slam offers patrons pizza by the slice ($0.85) or tray ($12.75), and a white pizza with garlic, olive oil, tomatoes and onions is available by the tray only. Pizza comes with pepperoni and additional toppings available for 25 cents each are green peppers, black olives, mild peppers, mushrooms, extra cheese, onion and sausage.

Bud Shaunna decided to go with a couple of slices of regular pizza. This was not your run-of-the-mill, flimsy crust pizza. The homemade pizza dough was thick and crunchy. Topped with the standard cheese and pepperoni, the crust made this pizza anything but standard.

Hoagies at Grand Slam, again - on yummy homemade rolls -include Italian, pizza, Italian sausage, ham and cheese and turkey and most ring in at just $5. Bud Em ordered the ham and cheese hoagie with lettuce and tomato to dress it up. With its toasted bun and fresh toppings, the hoagie was delicious.

Also curious about the different rolls, Bud Em picked one up to take home. Options are cheese roll, pepperoni roll, pizza roll, sausage roll and deluxe roll. Said Bud ordered the deluxe roll, which the folks at Grand Slam said was one of their best sellers. The roll was the same bread used for hoagies sliced down the middle and loaded with pepperoni, sausage, cheese, sauce, onion, green pepper and black olives. More than a mouthful, this made an excellent late night snack for just $3. Bud Em would order either of these items again.

No. 7: The Buffet at Wheeling Island, 1 S. Stone St., Wheeling Island

Racetrack officials recently unveiled "The Buffet," formerly the Islander Buffet which has gone through extensive renovations totaling a whopping $2 million. In addition to cosmetic improvements, there have also been some additional food choices added to the already popular dining venue.

Naturally, the Buds were eager to check out the new digs, so they hightailed it over there faster than a greyhound chasing a rabbit named Spunky. The hungry duo paid their lunchtime buffet fee of $13.95 and were unleashed on the multi-cultural smorgasbord.

The Buds had but one problem upon approaching the buffet: there were too many good things to choose from. Where is one to even begin? Realizing the best option was to just jump in with both feet, they grabbed plates and headed in.

The first station they passed was the soup/salad bar. Salads of all types were available. Regular salad, spinach salad, Caesar salad, pasta salads, coleslaw, bean salads and etc. There were also three soups to choose from including chicken noodle, broccoli cheese and minestrone as well as corn bread and various types of rolls. Bud Em found the chicken noodle soup to be quite delicious as did Bud Shaunna with the minestrone.

Moving on, the Buds encountered the Asian station where Bud Em quickly snatched up a yummy sushi roll. Bud Shaunna couldn't pass up the tasty General Tso's chicken, and the spring roll was packed with fresh veggies.

Next up was the Italian station where both Buds found quite a few things to rave about! Bud Shaunna was blown away by the meatballs, claiming they practically melted in her mouth. Bud Em concurred. She also tasted the veggie lasagna which was cheesy and delish. Both Buds loved the antipasto bar which was loaded with olives, stuffed olives, peppers, tomato salad and even hummus with pita chips. Pure delight! The hummus was awesome and the tomato salad - a simple mix of tomatoes, red onion, cucumber and fennel with Italian dressing - was something both will likely recreate at home.

Buds opted to bypass the pasta and carving stations (vowing to return for them soon) and moved on to the American and seafood areas. Bud Em, who never turns down a crabcake, was impressed by the ones the buffet offered. Yum! She also enjoyed the butterfly shrimp. The shrimp scampi, sampled by Bud Shaunna, had just enough buttery, garlic flavor to satisfy. Both gals were also pleased with the mixed vegetable combination and the fried cod pieces.

The Buds estimate that they only got to sample roughly a quarter of the available options when they ran out of room.

That didn't stop them, however, from moving on to dessert!

With the huge selection of pies, cakes, soft serve, pastries and more, the absence of the chocolate fountain was hardly noticeable. The Buds relished the lemon bars, banana cream bars, and especially the chocolate and peanut butter dessert bars. To. Die. For. In fact, unnecessary seconds were obtained, which may or may not have been the Buds' best judgment call ever.

No. 6: All American Town Bakery, Belmont St., Bellaire

The first time the Buds hit said bakery, it was closed. The Buds made a mental not to return to the establishment on a Sunday or Monday. The following week - this time on a Tuesday - the Buds again set out to sample the fresh baked goods at All American Town Bakery.

While the second trip was more successful (at least the place was open) , it appeared that the Buds had once again come at the wrong time! It wasn't even noon yet and the bakery was sold out of everything but hard rolls and a few brownies.

Yep. Gone were the long johns, the smearfaces and the doughnuts. Nowhere in sight was there a single pepperoni roll or even a loaf of bread. It was clear that the Buds were just too late! They were astonished to overhear the owner telling another customer that over 400 dozen glazed doughnuts had been sold that day! The numbers don't lie folks - they must be some DELICIOUS doughnuts!

Determined not to be thwarted again by their lack of timeliness, the Buds placed an order right then and there to be picked the next morning. They also grabbed a sack of hard rolls and a couple brownies to take back to the office.

The hard rolls were awesome! Crusty on the outside, light and fluffy on the inside, they sent the Buds into carb-loving paradise. They would be perfect with a bowl of hot soup.

The brownies were off the hook. They were the perfect density - not too cakey and not too gooey. A layer of chocolate frosting on top completed the chocolate fantasy.

The next morning, Bud Kay bounced in with the pre-ordered goods: a dozen doughnuts and a pepperoni roll. The Buds and fellow employees gobbled up every last crumb of the assorted glazed and cake doughnuts. They were outrageously good, and the pepperoni roll made the perfect afternoon snack. The Buds were impressed!

The moral of the story is this: Strike while the doughnut is hot. Carpe Doughnutem. However you want to say it, get there early, folks, you will not be disappointed.

Stay tuned, Bud fans, as next week No. 5 through 1 will be counted down!

The Buds may be reached at



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