Hello, Saint & Second in Long Beach, CA

Things have been a bit busy since I arrived at Long Beach a few days ago, but earlier today, we finally had an opportunity to get most of our staff together and enjoy a team dinner. Unfortunately, California is lagging noticeably behind nationwide CDC guidance on COVID-19 response, so we still had to split our group up into two smaller parties in order to comply with state and local ordinances, but it was still a good meal.

We went to Saint & Second, an American restaurant on 2nd Street in Long Beach.

Saint & Second

Saint & Second

To start, we got a dozen West Coast oysters with a side of white balsamic mignonette, cocktail sauce, and lime. My table had four people including my­self, so we each got three oysters.

West Coast oyster

For our main courses, our Producer opted for Skuna Bay salmon with basil brown butter, hazelnuts, green beans, and crème fraîche mash.

Skuna Bay salmon

Our Director of Post-Production went with natural filet mignon with fennel purée, kamut, and rainbow carrots, accompanied with some port wine sauce.

Natural filet mignon

Our Creative Director ordered oxtail gnocchi with prosciutto and brown butter, roasted mushrooms, arugula, and burrata.

Oxtail gnocchi

And finally, for my dish, I got bison short rib with carrot mash, spring onion, peas, and bison jus.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t a fan of my selection. I’m not sure if this is because I just had some of the best melt-in-your-mouth barbecue ribs in Oklahoma not even a month ago and now everything else tastes lacking, but the bison ribs seemed fairly underwhelming. The outside of the cut was overcharred, and the bit­terness of the burnt meat overwhelmed the flavor of the actual bison.

For my beverage, I had a glass of house blueberry lemonade. It was a lot more sour than I expected, but I guess that’s technically a good thing, because that means there was less sugar and more fruit. That also ended up being helpful later on, because the sourness of my drink pierced through some of the bit­terness of the burnt bison. The lemonade came with free refills, but I only managed to down two glasses because of its tartness.

I also ordered a side of truffled thin fries with blue cheese sauce and truffle oil. The fries were sauced unevenly, but apart from that, they were fair­ly straight­forward and satisfying.

Bison short rib

My co-workers at my table ordered alcohol, and there was also an entire second table, so I’m not going to do a full cost breakdown like usual, but here are the pricepoints of the aforementioned items:

West Coast oysters ×12 $  39.00
Skuna Bay salmon $  28.00
Natural filet mignon $  42.00
Oxtail gnocchi $  23.00
Bison short rib $  33.00
Truffled thin fries $   9.00
House blueberry lemonade $   5.00

Our Director of Post-Production seemed to be of the opinion that this restaurant had high-end food, and online reviews for Saint & Second are generally positive, so I think I might have just gotten a little bit unlucky with my choice of dish (or rather, just the way it was prepared).

I selected bison because it seemed like a good balance between “interesting” and “something I’ll probably like,” but I suspect I probably would have en­joyed my meal better if I had just gotten a regular signature burger. Also potentially relevant is the fact that I didn’t get much sleep last night and had been micro-napping throughout the day, so my senses might have been a bit dull.

Overall, this isn’t a place where I would be dying to come back to for a second meal, but the experience wasn’t bad either. If you’re in Long Beach and want to check out some different restaurants, I’d say this place is definitely worth adding to your list of considerations.

 

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Hello, Vast at the Devon Energy Center in Oklahoma City

For my final adventure before flying out of Oklahoma City, I ate at Vast, a restaurant on the 49th and 50th floors of the Devon Energy Center in down­town Oklahoma City. The premise of this restaurant is similar to the Top of the World at the Stratosphere in Las Vegas where you sit atop the city with a vast view while you eat your food (though the main difference is that Vast does not rotate).

With construction starting in 2009 and completing in 2012, the Devon Energy Center stands 844 feet (257 meters) as the tallest building in Oklahoma. It towers over the second-tallest building in Oklahoma City, which is the BancFirst Tower at 500 feet (152 meters). Vast is on the highest two floors of the Devon Energy Center, rising to 726 feet (221 meters) in elevation.

Vast at the Devon Energy Center in Oklahoma City

We intentionally went on a weekday so we could avoid all the people going on dates over the weekend. Downtown was fairly peaceful around din­ner­time, and parking was easy—there was a structure next door to the tower with spaces large enough to easily fit my full-size pickup truck, and the fee was only $5.

After a quick walk into the building (which had very modern aesthetics with lots of glass and marble), we took a dedicated elevator straight up to the 49th floor. We went at 7:30 PM as to time it such that we would get about an hour of daytime view, then the sun would set and we would have a night­time view for the second half of our meal. We didn’t see much of the inside of the restaurant because we were seated somewhat close to the en­trance, but the bar area nearby looked nice without going too overboard.

Vast at the Devon Energy Center in Oklahoma City

The first dish was on the chef, and was something with crab inside. We also got some rolls with butter to munch on while we were deciding on what to or­der for our main courses. The fried crab dish was great; it was greasy enough that it oiled my fingers when I picked it up, but it didn’t leave any un­pleas­ant or greasy aftertastes.

Vast at the Devon Energy Center in Oklahoma City

For her main course, my dinner companion got some herb marinated chicken with root vegetable hash, roasted mushroom puree, fennel, pistachios, and ba­con lardons. I tried a portion of her chicken and it was actually impressively tasty with great texture—the outside skin was very crispy, while the meat was juicy and moist.

Her drink (which I did not get a photograph of) was the 726 Cosmo, an alcoholic drink off the Vast Classics beverage menu containing Charbay blood orange vodka, triple sec, Greenbar hibiscus liqueur, cranberry, and lime.

Vast at the Devon Energy Center in Oklahoma City

For my main course, I decided to go with a feature dish (which wasn’t on the main menu, so I can’t reference back to the online menu to see precisely what was in it). It was called the Surf and Turf, and was basically a medley of small servings of various different dishes they offer. It included 6 ounces of Creekstone filet, shrimp, scallop, asparagus, potato, and something a bit stringy and slightly crunchy that I couldn’t identify.

Vast at the Devon Energy Center in Oklahoma City

For dessert, we had a warm chocolate lava cake with peanut butter caramel, candied peanuts, and mascarpone ice cream. At first it was a little bit o­ver­whelm­ingly sweet, but once my mouth adjusted to all the sugar, it was actually really good. I’m also a big fan of caramel and nuts, so the sauce that came with the cake was extra tasty.

Vast at the Devon Energy Center in Oklahoma City

I was slightly concerned about this restaurant because, for some reason, people kept leaving reviews saying that this restaurant wasn’t worth the money, and that you were basically just paying for the view. But, after I finished my meal, I thought all the food was great, and I thought the price was also very rea­son­a­ble, considering we were eating at a restaurant over 700 feet in the air in the tallest building in the entire state.

Herb Marinated Chicken $  32.00
Surf and Turf $  70.00
726 Cosmo $  13.00
Chocolate Lava Cake $   9.00
Taxes $  12.46
Tip $  40.00
Self Parking $   5.00
Total $ 181.46

The tip that I left was a bit aggressive, but the main reason I tipped over 30% was because I left a note in our reservation stating that I would “pay/tip more for a window seat.”

In case you’re not familiar with how these kinds of restaurants work, there are a lot of tables set up across the entire res­tau­rant floor, but only a few of them are window-side. I don’t know what the rest of the restaurant was like, but the table we got seemed to be the only one left in that area of the res­tau­rant, so I gave them the benefit of the doubt, assumed that they had actually saved the window-side table for us as per our request in the res­er­va­tion, and gave them a generous tip.

This is a restaurant that I think is absolutely worth it for the money… but not necessarily for dinner. Vast has a lunch option that, today, is a flat fee of $22.50 per person for what appears to be a buffet-style meal that also includes unlimited dessert. Considering the quality of food for dinner, if lunch is any­thing close to that, I think $22.50 is absolutely worth it. That might be a bit pricey for Oklahoman standards, but if such a place existed in Las Vegas where I would have a nearly never-ending view while having an all-you-can-eat meal, I would be going there very frequently.

 

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Hello, Nonesuch in Oklahoma City

When I go to a new city, I like to try the best and the most unique things the city has to offer. Oklahoma City is home to Nonesuch, a twenty-seat tast­ing menu restaurant that won an award in 2018 for best new restaurant in the United States by Bon Appétit. Naturally, it was my top pick to try out while I was in Oklahoma City, so I went there for dinner tonight.

Unfortunately, the lighting was a bit dim so my camera had difficulty focusing and a lot of my photos came out blurry, but I still managed to get a hand­ful of good shots. I feel like this restaurant is about the presentation as much as it is about the actual food, so some of these photos might not do justice for some of the dishes.

The first course was smoked borscht. The staff would explain each dish in much greater detail than just the name, but they would list off like 25 in­gre­di­ents, so it was difficult to remember exactly what each dish was made out of. What I do recall about the borscht was that it had bison, and it had a very deep and rich taste to it.

Nonesuch in Oklahoma City

The second course was catfish tart. It was far more than catfish tart, though—there was a bit of catfish at the bottom, but had a ton of extra flavors packed into it. I vaguely remember the staff telling me that the shell was actually made with something along the lines of kimchi. I actually ended up having two of these, for a fairly interesting reason…

My dinner companion caught and recovered from COVID-19 back in January 2021, but she still has persisting loss of taste and smell, several months later. Although some of it has come back, some foods still taste off for her. Apparently something in the catfish tart made it taste bad for her, so I had her portion.

Nonesuch in Oklahoma City

Each course had a beverage to go along with it. My dinner companion had the reserve wine pairing, while I had the non-alcoholic pairing.

The non-alcoholic beverage to go along with the first two courses was cu­cum­ber honeysuckle shrub. I’m not the biggest fan of cu­cum­ber, but the cu­cum­ber was a bit more subtle in this beverage, so I still enjoyed it. The beverage to go along with the next two courses was strawberry and tomato. This had a slightly more vis­cous texture (presumably because of the tomato), and was slightly sweeter. Overall, the drinks were definitely made with an intent to com­ple­ment the meal, rather than being standalone drinks.

Nonesuch in Oklahoma City

Course three was asparagus with onion jam. Although this was very simple and straightforward, this was actually one of my favorite dishes, second only to one of the sweet courses later on.

Nonesuch in Oklahoma City

The fourth course was a Spanish tortilla with rillette and blackened fruit. This dish seemed a bit plain at first, but this was my kind of food—I personally like foods that are only lightly seasoned so the true, deep taste of the actual ingredients can come out. The sauce went along great with the tortilla, and the greens provided just enough zest as to add an interesting flavor but not overwhelm the dish.

Nonesuch in Oklahoma City

Course five was fava beans with chicken demi and white wine grapes. This dish literally made me feel like I was a rabbit eating straight out of my moth­er’s garden. The beans were beans, and the flowers had a fragrance that you’d expect from flowers.

Course six was potato with beurre blanc, which I don’t have a photo of because it was deep inside a bowl and the photo ended up blurry, but definitely tasty—the dish managed to capture both the crispy and soft aspect of potato at the same time. The potato came topped with a bit of caviar, but I could barely distinguish the taste of the caviar due to the liberal amount of sauce added to the potato.

The beverage pairing with these two courses was blueberry and sage.

Nonesuch in Oklahoma City

The seventh course was focaccia and butter. This was one of my dinner companion’s favorite dishes, because the bread had a nice texture to it, and with diminished taste, texture becomes much more important in food. I also liked this, and would probably rate it third right after the asparagus. The edges were nice and crispy, while the inside was moist, soft, and spongy.

The eighth course, which is not pictured, was bison with smoked cheddar and pickles. This came out as a small lump of meat covered in cheese, so the photo doesn’t look very interesting, and it didn’t occur to me until after I finished it that I should have probably cut it in half and opened it up to photo­graph it. The meat was cooked medium rare and was very tender and juicy. This probably would’ve been my second or third favorite dish had it not been for the fact that I eat so much high-quality meat that I’m somewhat desensitized to great steak.

The beverage pairing with these two courses was beet hibiscus.

Nonesuch in Oklahoma City

The bison was the final savory dish, and the ninth course was the transitional course from savory to sweet. This also ended up being my favorite dish—it was ginger mint tea with canneles. I find it silly that this somehow ended up being my favorite course, because there were so many other far more intricately-prepared dishes, and this one was so simple. Yet, I think that might have been why I liked it so much—it was some tea that wasn’t too sweet and wasn’t too plain, along with a nice pastry that also wasn’t too sweet and wasn’t too plain.

Nonesuch in Oklahoma City

The final two courses were dessert. Course ten was sorrel ice cream with milk jam. I actually forgot to photograph this prior to taking my first bite, so I left the spoon in so it wouldn’t look weird and have a chunk missing. The actual ice cream was fairly plain, but with the jam, it was the perfect amount of sweet. There were also some greens and flower petals, which, when mixed in with each bite of ice cream, gave a much more interesting texture to the dessert.

Nonesuch in Oklahoma City

And last but not least, the eleventh course was Madeira ice cream with pecan florentine. This tasted pretty much like normal rich, specialty ice cream, but with no greasy or fatty aftertaste. It was served in an edible cone atop an inedible bed of pecan shells. The beverage pairing for the final two dessert courses was spiced Thai tea port, which was unsweetened as to not interfere with the sweetness of the desserts.

Nonesuch in Oklahoma City

I had a great experience and am happy with my restaurant selection, but I think this restaurant is sort of a one-time-visit kind of place. That’s one of the issues of restaurants that base their service heavily on the presentation and experience—the experience becomes less novel the second time around, and you get less value for your money because of it.

I think if I was ever in Oklahoma City again with someone very special and I wanted to treat them to the experience, and several months had passed since my last visit so the restaurant changed up all their courses, then I would visit again. However, if it wasn’t for those two prerequisites, I personally would much rather go to a place that is known for great-tasting food and large portion sizes.

One reason I say this is because of the price. I had originally thought the price listed on the website of US$110 per person was all-inclusive, but after go­ing through the booking process and pre-paying for the reservation, I realized that absolutely wasn’t the case. Here’s a breakdown of what we paid:

Eleven-course tasting menu ×2 $ 220.00
Reserve wine pairing $  80.00
Non-alcoholic beverage pairing $  45.00
Mountain Valley sparkling water (1 quart) $   8.00
Service charge (15%) $  52.95
Taxes (8.375%) $  34.00
Total $ 439.95

A few things to note is that the service charge is basically a gratuity, as the staff does not accept tips. Also, this final total price was not a surprise; None­such requires you to pre-pay for your reservation, so you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into, and you have plenty of time to back out of the reservation after seeing the total price (i.e., there are no surprises after you arrive at the restaurant).

Overall, if this price point is something that is manageable for you and you’ve never been to None­such before, then I’d definitely recommend it.

 

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Hello, Morimoto at MGM Grand in Las Vegas

As a Las Vegas local, I don’t frequent the Strip (even though I literally live directly on the Strip in a high-rise condo, and have been for over two years now). I haven’t been to all the hotels and casinos, and even for the ones that I have visited, I often don’t remember each one precisely off the top of my head. So, usually when I go to a hotel or casino, it ends up being an adventure.

Today’s dinner ended up being an adventure, as we went to Morimoto at the MGM Grand. Morimoto is named after Japanese chef Masaharu Morimoto, best known for his appearance on the Japanese cooking television show Iron Chef. Today, he has 13 restaurants spread across the United States, Mexico, Japan, India, and Qatar.

The environment of the Las Vegas location was pleasant, and it didn’t overimpose a particular vibe; it had nice Japanese touches while maintaining a core feel of being a unique but straightforward restaurant. Today is Thursday, and we’re in the tail end of a pandemic, so the restaurant wasn’t very busy, but I feel like this is one of those places where a high amount of bustling clientele would enhance the mood.

Morimoto

First up was the toro tartare. “Toro” is the Japanese term for tuna belly, the fatty part of the tuna fish. It was spread out as a thin sheet on a ceramic plate topped with some sturgeon caviar, and we were provided with a spatula-like scraping tool to remove the toro from the dish. It came with six condiments: nori paste, wasabi, sour cream, chopped chives, guacamole, and what I believe was just toasted rice cracker balls. It also came with soy sauce on the side.

I thought this was fairly underwhelming, both in taste and in portion size. The fish was nice, but honestly, my favorite part of the dish was actually the nori paste. At US$29, I would’ve much rather just ordered some regular tuna belly sushi.

Toro tartare

Next up were market oysters. The oysters were tiny—about half the size of regular oysters you’d expect from a restaurant. They definitely tasted good though, and something I found very interesting about them was that they tasted much cleaner than usual. Usually, you’ll get at least a little bit of crunch from your oysters, but these almost seemed like they had been pre-shucked and purified, then replaced back into their shell. Half a dozen came in at US$24.

Market oysters

Our third dish was something a lot more simple: tuna pizza. It resembled a crunchy, hard-shell pizza, but instead of the tomato sauce, it was replaced with tuna. Toppings included red onions, tomatoes, olives, jalapeños, and something green that we for the life of us couldn’t figure out what it was, drizzled with some anchovy aïoli.

My impression of the dish was that it was extremely overwhelming in flavor. All the toppings—especially the raw red onions and olives—were fairly pun­gent and had piercing flavors, and it overwhelmed the taste of the tuna. After eating my share of two slices of the pizza, I felt as if, had the tuna been entirely missing, I probably wouldn’t have even noticed. The tuna pizza cost US$25.

Tuna pizza

Our only hot dish was next: kakuni. Literally translating from Japanese as “square simmered,” our kakuni was a square of ten-hour pork belly atop some rice congee, driz­zled with soy scallion sauce. The pork belly was extremely salty and had a very strong flavor, but after mixing it in and eating it along with the rice congee, the saltiness was diluted a bit, which allowed the richness of the meat to come through. This was US$21.

Kakuni

With three cold appetizers and one hot appetizer out of the way, it was time for the main dish. Considering that this is a famous restaurant under the brand name of a famous chef, we figured that we would do a “chef’s choice” dish, so we ordered the chef’s sashimi combination. It was a 20-piece dish for US$110, so each cut came in at $5.50. The sashimi assortment had salmon, tuna, tuna belly, octopus, mackerel, flounder, scallop, and yellowtail, along with what I think might have been abalone.

As you can probably tell from the photo, needless to say, this dish was extremely underwhelming. No matter how nice the restaurant, there is no way that I can say each bite of fish was worth $5.50. Some of the sashimi cuts were unexpectedly thin. The sashimi was definitely high-quality fish… but it was nothing more than just high-quality fish. I wouldn’t say that any of this would particularly qualify as specialty fish that would warrant such a high price tag.

Chef's sashimi combination

We went to this restaurant as a group of three, and with the very small portion sizes, my companions weren’t yet satisfied, and I was personally just bare­ly getting started. So, we decided to give the chef another chance and ordered the chef’s sushi combination. At US$100, it was slightly cheaper than the sashimi com­bo.

This ended up being a far, far better selection. The rice was obviously much more filling than the fish, but the balance of rice and fish was good enough such that I feel like the fish quantity might’ve been just as much as the sashimi combo, so it’s as if we paid $10 less and got free rice to go along with all the fish. This was also a 20-piece dish, but it appears like each piece of nigiri counted as one piece and each set of six-piece cut roll counted as one piece.

The combo came with eel, shrimp, mackerel, salmon, squid, tuna belly, yellowtail, and tuna nigiri. There were two pieces of nigiri that I had trouble iden­ti­fying, but I’m thinking it might have been parrotfish. The two cut rolls we received were tuna and shrimp tempura.

Chef's sushi combination

As I’ve mentioned throughout the whole review, the prices were pretty steep. But, apart from the tragedy that was my roommate forgetting to bring her ID with her and not being able to enjoy some alcohol, I’d say the overall experience was pretty nice.

I think that, as a local, I was particularly critical of this restaurant because I know that there are plenty of restaurants across the Las Vegas Valley that will reach 95%+ of this quality and presentation for about 40% of the price. But, if you’re a tourist coming to Las Vegas and want to experience eating a meal at a Morimoto restaurant for a special event, or even just to treat yourself, I think that it could be reasonable.

 

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Speak Cheezy by Urban Pie Pizza was the most interesting pizza experience I’ve ever had

I’m usually fairly indifferent about food—I’m someone who just eats to survive—but there is one particular aspect about food that I believe in strongly. This aspect is when someone asks you, “if you could eat only one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?” Yes, I understand that this question is generally asked to gauge what your favorite food is. However, if you take the question literally, I think the closest you can get to an objectively correct answer is “pizza.”

Pizza is so dynamic and flexible in variety and potential ingredients that it can usually be made and personalized to fit anyone’s preference. It also is one of the very few foods where you could theoretically put anything on it, and it will provide you with all the nutritional value you need to survive. Now, if you put it that way, then yes, I guess “pizza” is a cheat answer, because by saying “pizza” you are functionally including infinite potential toppings, and thus, you’re not actually really picking only one food.

Anyway, when I get pizza, I usually go to a build-your-own pizza place and add on some basic meats and basic vegetables as to not make the pizza taste too crazy. Sometimes I experiment with adding one or two extra toppings, but apart from that, I usually keep my pizza straightforward.

That changed for the first time yesterday when we had a company event and got catering from Urban Pie Pizza.

Urban Pie, which you can find on Instagram at @UrbanPieLA, has a mobile pizza truck named Speak Cheezy, which you can find on Instagram at @Speak_Cheezy. Long story short, they literally built a pizza oven inside a Chevrolet Express van and cook pizza on site when you call them out for a catering session.

Speak Cheezy by Urban Pie Pizza

Speak Cheezy by Urban Pie Pizza

While the oven was heating up and they were preparing the ingredients, we had a Caesar salad to start, with romaine, baby kale, parmesan, anchovy bread­crumbs, black pepper, and lemon. It was a little bitter for my personal taste, but the general consensus among our staff was that it was one of the wildest and best salads they’ve ever had.

Speak Cheezy by Urban Pie Pizza

The first pizza was the most basic and straightforward, which they call the Margherita, with tomato, parmesan, fresh mozzarella, basil, olive oil, and sea salt. This closest resembled the kind of pizza that I usually have. (One of our employees was very hungry and managed to grab a slice before I could take a photo.)

Speak Cheezy by Urban Pie Pizza

Next up was the Black Garlic with fresh mozzarella, parmesan, smoked ricotta, basil, black garlic-infused olive oil, and black pepper.

Speak Cheezy by Urban Pie Pizza

Our third pizza was the Brooklyn Bee with tomato, shredded mozzarella, Calabrese salami, basil, Grana, and Calabrian chili honey. This was the most interesting-tasting pizza, and the most flavorful in a non-traditional way. They left some of the toppings on the side so we could use our own discretion when it came to deciding how deep we wanted to go with the extra flavors.

Speak Cheezy by Urban Pie Pizza

Next was the Potato Pie with Yukon gold potatoes, shredded mozzarella, parmesan, Fontina, red onion, and rosemary.

Speak Cheezy by Urban Pie Pizza

The second-to-last pizza was another topping-packed and flavorful one, called the Bon Chovy, with tomato, tomato jam, black olive spread, capers, gar­lic, Sicilian oregano, anchovy, Grana, and burrata cheese.

Speak Cheezy by Urban Pie Pizza

And finally, my favorite one was last, the Carbonara with guanciale, shredded mozzarella, smoked ricotta, scallion, pecorino, garlic, and egg yolk.

Speak Cheezy by Urban Pie Pizza

Speak Cheezy by Urban Pie Pizza

I thought this was an amazing experience. The three chefs had great personalities and added to the fun and excitement of the environment with their own positive attitudes. I wouldn’t say that all the pizzas were perfectly to my liking, but I’m very glad that I tried one slice of each type, and I did find a few of them exceptionally delicious. That, mixed with the novelty of them bringing a pizza oven on-site in a van, and I’d say this was one of our best com­pany events we’ve had.

If you’re also interested in ordering Speak Cheezy by Urban Pie Pizza for catering for your own event, I imagine you want to know how much it would cost; here’s how much we paid for a party of 12:

Pizza ×14 $ 276.00
Salad ×12 $  81.00
Labor $  74.00
Gratuity (22%) $  94.82
Sales tax (10.25%) $  53.90
Total $ 579.72

(Disclaimer: These are the prices that we paid, and might not necessarily reflect the prices quoted to you on a future date. Keep in mind that they reserve the right to adjust their pricing based on changing costs of ingredients, levels of demand, and any other reason at their discretion.)

For the purposes of simplifying the calculation, I consider 3 salads to be equivalent to 1 pizza. This means that we received a total of 18 “dishes” or “items.” Divide the total cost by 18 and we ended up paying $32.21 each.

That does sound like a lot for a single pizza, considering they were fairly thin and resembled the size of a personal pizza around 8-10 inches in diameter. However, this is Southern California with inflated prices, and I’ve seen gourmet pizzas at restaurants go for $25-30 each without even including taxes or dine-in gratuity. So, with that in mind, the price of Speak Cheezy by Urban Pie honestly wasn’t really that bad. We also got an experience unique from any regular restaurant, where we got to see a mobile pizza oven inside a van and enjoyed a company dinner on the patio of our own oceanside office.

So, the final verdict. Would I recommend this? … It depends:

  • If you’re an in-house corporate event organizer looking for a fun team activity for your employees and you have some street space in front of your office for the van, then absolutely yes. You’re saving money by using your own office that you’re paying a lease on anyway, so you don’t have to go pay extra to rent out a party space. Even if people are familiar with food trucks, I imagine not many have seen a literal pizza oven in one, so it’s a good way to do something new and exciting with your employees, as opposed to just going to a traditional dine-in restaurant.

  • If you’re having a special celebration and you have the money to spare, then probably yes. Similarly to the corporate event scenario, your friends and family likely haven’t seen a mobile pizza oven, and if you haven’t noticed yet, the recurring theme here is that this is about the unique and special experience as much as it is about the food.

  • If you’re on a tight budget, then no. I don’t know what the minimum order is because we had enough employees to pass it, but if they’re going to come out on-site to cook pizza for you, I imagine there definitely is a minimum order. If you’re not in a place where you’re willing to pay premium prices for food, especially considering the fact that we’re in the tail end of a global pandemic, then this is something to keep on your list for later. There’s nothing wrong with getting build-your-own large pizzas for $15 at a chain pizza store for now.

Side note: You may have noticed that the chefs are not wearing face coverings in the photographs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is be­cause we invited them to enjoy drinks with our staff while they were cooking, all three chefs were fully vaccinated, and the event took place ex­clu­sively outdoors in our patio area. If you plan on ordering Speak Cheezy while the pandemic is still ongoing, rest assured that they arrived with face coverings, and only removed them after our consent and invitation to do so.

 

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I tried Mr. Beast Burger

Yesterday, Mr. Beast uploaded a video on YouTube titled “I opened a restaurant that pays you to eat at it.” At the end of the video, he announced that he opened 300 restaurants across the United States so everyone can try Mr. Beast Burger. Of course, all the other restaurants didn’t pay you to eat at it—in fact, you actually had to pay quite a bit to buy the food, which I’ll cover later—but I still ordered some anyway so I can say I was a part of Mr. Beast’s restaurant launch.

The Las Vegas location was at 412 East Flamingo Road, which is the address of the Buca di Beppo Italian Restaurant. That explains how Mr. Beast was able to open so many restaurant locations all at once (and is probably the only possibly way he could’ve realistically done something like this in the first place)—he partnered up with existing restaurants and used their kitchens to make the food. Naturally, this meant that Mr. Beast Burger is take-out only, so it was only available for order on delivery apps.

To place my order, I opened up Postmates and searched for Mr. Beast Burger. I ordered a combo plus an extra entrée, and my total came out to:

Beast-Style Triple Burger Combo w/ Seasoned Fries & Canned Diet Pepsi $ 13.49
Crispy Chicken Tender Sandwich $  6.99
Sales tax $  1.72
Postmates service fee $  4.11
Delivery fee $  2.99
Delivery driver tip $  5.00
Total $ 34.30

Before I even get to the food, ordering this on Postmates made me realize/remember how absolutely ridiculous delivery apps are. Having to pay $2.99 to get your food delivered from less than 3 miles away is still palatable, but after you realize that the delivery app charges a 20% “service fee” and you have to tip your driver because Postmates doesn’t pay them enough, the “true” delivery fee ends up being $12.10, which is insane.

Why did I tip my delivery driver $5, which is 24.4% of the order total and considered fairly high? Well, apparently Mr. Beast Burger was backed up with so many orders, and the app didn’t account for the actual food prep time of the over-capacity restaurant, that Postmates made my delivery driver go to the restaurant way too early, and she had to wait literally 50 minutes before my food was ready.

I put in my order around noon, and Postmates’ “latest arrival time” estimate was 12:40 PM (meaning, if everything possible goes wrong, I can still expect my food by 12:40 PM)… and my driver showed up past 1:20 PM. Luckily for her, she was able to pick up two other orders in addition to mine from the same restaurant and perform a chain delivery, but still, it’s disappointing that the communication between the restaurant and the app was so bad that she was waiting for 50 minutes.

As for the food… it was passable.

Mr. Beast Burger

It tasted exactly like extremely generic fast food. It wasn’t bad, but there wasn’t anything special about it either.

It’s definitely not better than McDonald’s or In-N-Out, but if I’m feeling fast food but want something different than usual, I would definitely get it again… if there’s ever an option for me to order and pick up myself without having to pay an extra $12.10 in excess costs.

 

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