Hard Times Cafe

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MikeS.
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2003/09/26 03:20:15 (permalink)

Hard Times Cafe

My wife and I were in Fairfax county (No VA.) Tuesday evening and I convinced Picky Peggy (aka The Wife)to at least look at the menu for Hard Times Cafe. We found the cafe on Elden Street in Herndon, Va w/o a lot of trouble, they had a large delivery van parked out front by the street. The Cafe sits back in a large strip mall. Turns out it is a combo beer joint, pool parlour and cafe.

I had read about the cafe here, over in the chili section I believe. It sounded good, roadside food for sure. When we got there I asked to see a menu first, so that the wife could confirm that they had at least something that she would try. Decent menu selection so we stayed.

They had the fairly ususal chalk board "Specials" menu out and I thought, Cool! 1 dollar beers! and they had chicken fried steak. I like a cold beer every now and again... and at a buck apiece! They even had Rolling Rock, my current favorite. I love CFS and try it wherever we go. Peggy decided on a sirloin steak.

The server was Melissa and she was very pleasent. Peggy ordered a steak, medium, and it came with a salad. I ordered the CFS and a small bowl of Texas style chili. They had corn bread on the menu so we requested 4 extra pieces to be brought with butter as soon as possible, ala appitizer. We both like fresh warm corn bread.

Melissa brought our drinks and bread, we tried the corn bread and it was so-so. Nothing special. We had ordered iced tea and it was good. I had passed on ordering a beer, it had been a very long day for me and I still had a 2 hour drive home, once we headed home.

The place was noisy, mostly because of the dad and his his 2 kids sitting across the aisle from us. But it was also pretty dark in there. They had the lights dialed down pretty low.

Melissa brought the salads and I proceed to tear into mine, only to find out that it is full of red bell pepper and small pieces of cucumber. Ok, I like the taste of bell pepper and cucumber but it doesn't like me later on. So I have to put them aside to avoid trouble later. Only in the low light condition it is hard to tell the red peppers from the diced tomato and it is hard to find the cukes mixed in with the lettuce. Salad, Ok but too fancy for a roadfood cafe. I'll give it a 4 outa 10. The Blue Cheese dressing gets a 7. Peggy picked out a couple pieces of iceberg lettuce and dips them into the dressing. Her usual. She did pick the chunks of blue cheese out and ate them.

Some guy brings our dinners out, he asks "who has the tender foot" I tell him I don't know what that is. He tells me it's a small Texas chili, mine! He sets down Peggy's steak and my CFS. My chicken fried steak came with french(freedom?) fries, I was expecting mashed. So did Peggy's sirloin. The CFS was a nice portion, covered in gravy. It was tender and pretty tasty. I'll give it a 6.5, the fries a 4. They were limp and a bit burned looking.

The chili was as billed, coarse ground beef in a chili sauce and a lot of oil/grease. Back of the mouth, delayed reaction burn. Not real hot but you knew it was there. After 3 or 4 bites I dumped the rest onto the fries and added some ketchup. Perked the fries right up.

Peggy's steak was closer to med-rare but still edible. It had good flavor and was tender. The fries, same as mine.

For some reason Peggy decides we should take the oldest daughter home some ribs, so I order a slab to go. Melissa does well again and brings them to the table just as we finish. By the time we get home it's almost 10PM and the daughter has already eaten. I ate them the next day for lunch. I won't be too critical of leftovers, but...

Melissa really shines, as I'm getting up to visit the facilities I notice the noisy dad next door is slipping his 4ish year old some beer out of his glass. Ok, not something you do in public, if at all. Melissa comes around the corner right then, bringing us the bill, and spots him too. She politely tells him he can't do that and if she sees it again she'll have to confiscate the beer and call the cops. Well done on her part!

Overall, this place was so-so. There are so many other places to eat in Fairfax that I don't see us going back. We spent 50 bucks on 3 dinners and a banana colada for the wife.

We didn't go away hungry but we weren't impressed. Sorry Hard Times
guys! Nothing really stood out, good or bad, just so-so.

MikeS.



#1

10 Replies Related Threads

    Poverty Pete
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    RE: Hard Times Cafe 2003/09/26 03:30:38 (permalink)
    I love Rolling Rock. When I teach classes on what can go wrong with a beer, nothing on the market is more reliable with which to demonstrate the presence of dimethyl sulfide.
    #2
    MikeS.
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    RE: Hard Times Cafe 2003/09/26 03:44:44 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by Poverty Pete

    I love Rolling Rock. When I teach classes on what can go wrong with a beer, nothing on the market is more reliable with which to demonstrate the presence of dimethyl sulfide.


    Ok, so explain. Chem classes were a long time ago. dimethyl sulfide is a sulfur compound, right? Sulfur compounds tend to smell, right? And RR beer has these because???

    Hey, I like the taste and the smell.
    #3
    Poverty Pete
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    RE: Hard Times Cafe 2003/09/26 06:04:36 (permalink)
    OK, here's what's up with RR. DMS is a natural compound that is produced during the brewing process. All beers have it initially. During the boil,the escaping steam will scrub this from the wort, providing you have enough heat to produce a good hard boil. When you find DMS in a final product, it is usually due to faulty procedures. Not so in the case of Rolling Rock. After the beer has been made, and all the DMS removed, RR adds back 240ppm DMS, which gives their beer a distinctive flavor, and distinguishes it from other brands. It's not a terrible smell. Lots of people like RR, but when judging beer, one is looking for problems, and DMS is normally seen as a problem, not an additive.
    DMS does indeed have a smell, but it's not like sulfur or rotten eggs. Next time you pop a Rolling Rock, take a good whiff. You'll notice the aroma of something similar to canned creamed corn.
    Mayhaw Man, would you like to made any additions or corrections?
    #4
    Mayhaw Man
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    RE: Hard Times Cafe 2003/09/26 08:36:30 (permalink)
    No Mr. Pete,
    You are right on the money. There is one more small thing. Rolling Rock insists on packing their odd (imho) product in a green bottle (and not a newfangled light blocking green bottle either) and this lets in rays which will cause a reaction with some of the hop compounds, the end result of which is a cardboard/wet grass smell to add to the dms. I have to admit that, with so many beers out there,
    I have never understood the popularity of Rolling Rock

    And since we are on the subject......Sunday's Aint's game in the Superdome is being advertised as a co-op with Anheuser Busch. The hook is that the Bud in the dome will be "Gameday Fresh". Well, that sounded like a big load of hooey to me so I called a friend of mine at A.B. (disclosure-I was involved in a couple of AB projects in the 90's involving Mexico/you figure it out). Turns out I was wrong. The beer is coming down from St Louis straight off of the line into the truck and into the dome.

    This makes me and guys like Pete very proud. Before the microbrewery thing came into the light of day in the eighties, no one ever gave much thought to the fact that beer does not keep well (even pasteurized beer, although it keeps better than un) and unless it is in a brown bottle (or a can, which is, in fact, a fine package, but that's another kettle of fish) it will further deteriorate because of light infusion. Suddenly, AB jumps on the dating bandwagon and when the biggest brewery in the world gives a big old beer belch, all of the other breweries do to. The big guys had to copy the little guys because they knew we were right.

    Now, back to brewery gameday fresh.

    Many of you may poo poo Bud as a plain generic product, but I will be happy to tell you that unpasteurized Bud , gotten as close as possible and as soon as possible after it is finished, is a fine thing. Sublime. I have had it straight from the tank in St Louis, Los Angeles and Houston and it is pretty darn swell. Nothing like the stuff that has been sitting on the shelf at the zippy mart for 6 weeks. Not that anyone is going to notice when it is being served in a paper cup, in the dome, while the Aint's get run over by hometown favorite and son of local hero (deservedly so), Peyton Manning. But at least they are trying to get it to the consumer quick these days
    #5
    tamandmik
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    RE: Hard Times Cafe 2003/09/26 11:09:56 (permalink)
    Mayhaw Man,

    I concur with your synopsis based on the following experience: when we visited Prague, Czech Republic, we were drinking Staropramen and Pilsner Urquell out of the taps at the drinking halls in the city. According to the proprieters, the tap beer served there was almost as fresh as your experiences in St Louis and LA, because Prague is basically surrounded on 4 sides by hop fields. The origin to destination lifespan is so short, it is almost like eating a fresh caught fish, or drinking orange juice that was just squeezed from an orange. Contrast that to a Pilsner Urquell bottle here in the states, or even a tap, and it's like drinking an entirely different beer. That visit in Prague is the only time I can ever recall drinking unlimited quantity of beer without feeling the slightest bit hungover the following day, no doubt due to the lack of preservatives needed to ensure quality through lifespan. As for the beer itself, it was the greatest week of beer experience in my life. The beer was as crisp, biting and flavorful, on another level from anything I can find here in the states. Unless, of course, like you said, you are right at the brewery itself. That is what prompted me to respond to your post. I can definitely see your point about the AB Brewery beer being sublime.
    #6
    EliseT
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    RE: Hard Times Cafe 2003/09/26 17:35:56 (permalink)
    While we're on the subject, I was once told that Miller Genuine Draft contains formaldahyde. I was told that since it it is a clear bottle (which lets in those hops-damaging rays) the formaldahyde prevents problems. I notice alot more clear botles these days. Is that true?
    #7
    Poverty Pete
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    RE: Hard Times Cafe 2003/09/26 18:02:19 (permalink)
    Actually, because of the way Miller utilizes hops, they are able to use clear glass without encountering the normal problems that that would create.
    As for AB, I recall a day many years back, I did a quality control tasting with Klaus Zastrow, in his St. Louis facility. I thought I had an educated beer palate, but that man was astonishing. In a blind tasting, he could identify which of his 14 or so plants each sample came from. I've never seen anything like it, before or since.

    BTW, Mike, I apologise for derailing the topic.
    #8
    MikeS.
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    RE: Hard Times Cafe 2003/09/26 23:49:08 (permalink)
    "BTW, Mike, I apologise for derailing the topic."

    Ya know, here I was expecting some great discourse on why I was wrong on HTC, and why the wife and I should make a hasty revisit.

    Instead I get slammed for my taste in beer, namely Rolling Rock. Well Double Phooey on all ya beer snobs, if I wanted snobs I'd goto a wine forum and be snobbish with the best of them. You dont' get 12 units in enology from Cal State University Fresno without learning a little something about wine!

    Ha! I got you guys!

    It's cool Poverty Pete, I actually learned something. Like it probably isn't best for the beer if I buy a case and let it sit in the garage all summer while it takes me three months to drink it. Maybe I'll move it to the wine cellar with the good stuff.

    MikeS.
    #9
    signman
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    RE: Hard Times Cafe 2003/09/27 01:14:52 (permalink)
    Mike,

    I kinda like Hard Times. I stop at the one in Laurel mostly. Good burger and fresh cut real fries. Sorry your fries weren't up to snuff.
    #10
    rbpalmer
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    RE: Hard Times Cafe 2003/10/08 09:36:09 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by MikeSh

    My wife and I were in Fairfax county (No VA.) Tuesday evening and I convinced Picky Peggy (aka The Wife)to at least look at the menu for Hard Times Cafe. We found the cafe on Elden Street in Herndon, Va w/o a lot of trouble, they had a large delivery van parked out front by the street. The Cafe sits back in a large strip mall. Turns out it is a combo beer joint, pool parlour and cafe.

    I had read about the cafe here, over in the chili section I believe. It sounded good, roadside food for sure. When we got there I asked to see a menu first, so that the wife could confirm that they had at least something that she would try. Decent menu selection so we stayed.

    They had the fairly ususal chalk board "Specials" menu out and I thought, Cool! 1 dollar beers! and they had chicken fried steak. I like a cold beer every now and again... and at a buck apiece! They even had Rolling Rock, my current favorite. I love CFS and try it wherever we go. Peggy decided on a sirloin steak.

    The server was Melissa and she was very pleasent. Peggy ordered a steak, medium, and it came with a salad. I ordered the CFS and a small bowl of Texas style chili. They had corn bread on the menu so we requested 4 extra pieces to be brought with butter as soon as possible, ala appitizer. We both like fresh warm corn bread.

    Melissa brought our drinks and bread, we tried the corn bread and it was so-so. Nothing special. We had ordered iced tea and it was good. I had passed on ordering a beer, it had been a very long day for me and I still had a 2 hour drive home, once we headed home.

    The place was noisy, mostly because of the dad and his his 2 kids sitting across the aisle from us. But it was also pretty dark in there. They had the lights dialed down pretty low.

    Melissa brought the salads and I proceed to tear into mine, only to find out that it is full of red bell pepper and small pieces of cucumber. Ok, I like the taste of bell pepper and cucumber but it doesn't like me later on. So I have to put them aside to avoid trouble later. Only in the low light condition it is hard to tell the red peppers from the diced tomato and it is hard to find the cukes mixed in with the lettuce. Salad, Ok but too fancy for a roadfood cafe. I'll give it a 4 outa 10. The Blue Cheese dressing gets a 7. Peggy picked out a couple pieces of iceberg lettuce and dips them into the dressing. Her usual. She did pick the chunks of blue cheese out and ate them.

    Some guy brings our dinners out, he asks "who has the tender foot" I tell him I don't know what that is. He tells me it's a small Texas chili, mine! He sets down Peggy's steak and my CFS. My chicken fried steak came with french(freedom?) fries, I was expecting mashed. So did Peggy's sirloin. The CFS was a nice portion, covered in gravy. It was tender and pretty tasty. I'll give it a 6.5, the fries a 4. They were limp and a bit burned looking.

    The chili was as billed, coarse ground beef in a chili sauce and a lot of oil/grease. Back of the mouth, delayed reaction burn. Not real hot but you knew it was there. After 3 or 4 bites I dumped the rest onto the fries and added some ketchup. Perked the fries right up.

    Peggy's steak was closer to med-rare but still edible. It had good flavor and was tender. The fries, same as mine.

    For some reason Peggy decides we should take the oldest daughter home some ribs, so I order a slab to go. Melissa does well again and brings them to the table just as we finish. By the time we get home it's almost 10PM and the daughter has already eaten. I ate them the next day for lunch. I won't be too critical of leftovers, but...

    Melissa really shines, as I'm getting up to visit the facilities I notice the noisy dad next door is slipping his 4ish year old some beer out of his glass. Ok, not something you do in public, if at all. Melissa comes around the corner right then, bringing us the bill, and spots him too. She politely tells him he can't do that and if she sees it again she'll have to confiscate the beer and call the cops. Well done on her part!

    Overall, this place was so-so. There are so many other places to eat in Fairfax that I don't see us going back. We spent 50 bucks on 3 dinners and a banana colada for the wife.

    We didn't go away hungry but we weren't impressed. Sorry Hard Times
    guys! Nothing really stood out, good or bad, just so-so.

    MikeS.






    I'm sorry that your experience at the Hard Times Cafe was only "so-so." When I go there, I tend to stick to the things that I know they do well, i.e., chili and chili-related dishes such as chili dogs, chili burgers and spaghetti topped with chili, and onion rings, and I've never been less than fully satisfied. Based on your experience, I'll probably continue with that tendency. Also (as I'm sure you've realized, but others who read this may not) $50 for dinner for three in this area qualifies as cheap eats.
    #11
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