back in jack: billy jack’s. again.

burgBillyJacksIMG_4830When the weather turns colder, I’ll do just about anything to get and stay warm. In the winter I sometimes take three showers/baths A DAY. I wear double socks. I keep my coat on at work. I have an electric blanket on my bed. And I want spicy food.

And since our favorite wings joint had recently experienced some upgrades, Brandy and I decided to do a SECOND post about Billy Jack’s Wing & Draft Shack. That’s right, folks — this is the first time we’ve ever returned to a business for the sake of reporting on it AGAIN. So this’ll be a short-ish little ditty about what’s new at BJ’s.

Of course, I usually start with the backstory. On the way downtown, Cal asked how old he would be when Bree started high school. This led to a discussion about what high school would be like, and whether Bree would be driving herself. And I replied that yes, I would probably get her a car so I wouldn’t have to drive her all over the place. And she said, “Well, I’d really like a VW Bug. There’s so cute, and I bet they get good gas mileage.” My practical girl. And Cal said, “Really?? They’re so small! I want a limo. …Because I’m gonna have LOTS of babies.” And apparently he wants them to travel in style!

So the big news is that Billy Jack’s now has an oyster bar! They had to remove the Donkey Kong arcade game, but I think we’ll be okay. You can order 1/4 dozen, 1/2 dozen, or a baker’s dozen, and you can get them with champagne if you’re feeling really dignified. They’ve added other things to the menu, too. Like a 10-napkin burger with 25 toppings to choose from. And the BJ’s Boxes (which maybe aren’t that new, but I didn’t know about them) — including a Sticky Nuggs box, Fried Pickle box, Fried Mac-n-Cheese box, and a BOX FULL OF JUST APPLEWOOD SMOKED BACON. And of course, they’re now serving brunch, which I haven’t yet tried but I heard it’s off the heezy, so you can just go ahead and count on a third post about Billy Jack’s.

burgBillyJacksIMG_4838 burgBillyJacksIMG_4842 burgBillyJacksIMG_4857 burgBillyJacksIMG_4859 burgBillyJacksIMG_4863 burgBillyJacksIMG_4864 burgBillyJacksIMG_4878 burgBillyJacksIMG_4881Copyright © 2012-14 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

yum sip yum: food bar food.

foodbarfood signThe first thing I asked Amanda when she had a free second: “What’s the story behind the name, Food Bar Food?”

Her answer was simple and clear: she wanted the name of the restaurant to reflect its focus on food and beverages. Nothing more, nothing flashy really… it’s one of those “there’s-food-and-a-bar-and-did-we-mention-the-food?” kinda restaurants. The web site calls their culinary offerings “global comfort food,” which I think is a humble description for truly unique dishes one won’t find anywhere else, at least not in our little sliver of the globe.

foodbarfood bwfoodbarfood barBrandy and I were so excited and honored to be invited to Food Bar Food’s soft opening, and for my very favorite meal: brunch! The brunch menu consists of six “plates,” four “bowls,” four burgers, and a healthy assortment of sides. I don’t thing I’ve ever encountered a menu on which everything – absolutely all the dishes – appealed to me. Usually there are one of two items I wrinkle my nose at, but not this time. I wanted everything, from the Asian spiced fried chicken to the haddock burger with Sriracha mayo.

After deliberation that easily could have stretched us into lunch, I decided on the Pad Thai frittata – a rice noodle egg pancake with shrimp, veggies, peanuts, scallions, and ginger sauce. I noticed a “gf” notation next to the price and dorkily shouted to Brandy, “What’s this mean? Nine dollah, girlfriend?”

“Uh, no. That means it’s gluten free.”

Ah. I’m letting you all know, there are gluten-free options. Woot!

foodbarfood padthaiBrandy ordered the Huevos Rancheros – two eggs with black bean chili, roast poblano chili relish, queso blanco, red chili sauce, and a corn tortilla cheddar quesadilla, all for ten dollah, girlfriend! We each gobbled up half and then traded plates to finish the rest. Both dishes were TO DIE FOR. Amanda wasn’t kidding when she said the food is the focus.

foodbarfood brunchBut wait. I haven’t yet described the BAR part of Food Bar Food. Not only do they have a full bar, with four rotating taps, a dozen bottled and eight canned beers, a wall full of wine, and some enticing specialty cocktails like the Honey Badger and the Hair of the Salty Dog, but they also have an AWESOME Bloody Mary menu. We tried the Rooster (Kimchi spices, Sriracha, ginger, lime, and Thai basil), the Bloody Maria (cholula, jalapeno-infused tequila, chili salt and a pepperoncini), and the Bull, which arrived garnished with a ding-dang pork rind, for heaven’s sake!

foodbarfood bloodymaryWe’re so excited about this new restaurant where our nourishment needs are the number one priority. When you get a minute, check out their dinner menu, too. You’ll see all sorts of unusual combinations created by seasoned chef Jeff Minnich – like sea scallops with avocado mousse, or the braised and crispy duck leg with cranberry balsamic sauce, and somehow the most expensive dish there is just twelve dollah, girlfriend!

Food Bar Food, located at 126 W. Bruce St., is now open Tuesday – Saturday for dinner, and Saturday – Sunday for brunch.

foodbarfood staffCopyright © 2012-14 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

happy blogiversary, with love: little grill collective.

little grill menusIn case you didn’t know, today isn’t just Valentine’s Day. It’s ilovemyburg.com’s 2nd anniversary! Yep — Brandy and I launched the site exactly two years ago, on a date we felt appropriately expressed our feelings for the Burg. Of course, we all love this city all the time, not just on one day of the year, but it sure is fun to celebrate milestones. In our second year, we published 156 posts, each one a testament to Harrisonburg’s awesomeness. Our readership exploded. Most importantly, our friendship grew in ways that make me ever grateful for my life, my home, Brandy, and the countless loved ones who shared in our experiences… including you. You, who keeps coming back here to read about our shenanigans. We love you!

So a celebration was in order. Brandy lovingly put together an album of our favorite moments from 2013, and we decided to go on a double date at one of Harrisonburg’s oldest and dearest loves, the Little Grill Collective. That place has been a part of my life since I moved here when I was just twenty-one. Brandy and Ben have memories of the Grill that reach way farther back than that. And Michael and I had our first date there. Needless to say, it’s pretty special.

Although it was only Tuesday, we’d all had the sort of week that makes you want to poke yourself in the eye. Thankfully, we were in a place that hugs you as soon as you walk in. Even more thankfully, I was about to smother my problems with all-you-can-eat tacos. Mexi Nite fixes everything!

little grill table foodIf you haven’t been to Mexi Nite (and it kinda scares me if you haven’t), you’re served a lovely plate containing (and these are my terms, so pardon me) two tacos, a potato roll up, a delicious delicacy I like to call “the floppy,” beans, and rice. And when you finish, they bring you MORE! And MORE again! And because the Grill is always conscious about waste, you can order your plate without certain items if you don’t think you’ll be able to eat it all. So I got my plate with no rice. Michael got his with no tomatoes but added a bit of chicken. Brandy added some guac, and Ben ordered his straight up. We also ordered a bucket of Negro Modelo. Yes, a bucket. There was so much love at that table I thought I would pop.

little grill beer bucketThe boys were a bit chatty, so chatty that Brandy and I silently plowed through plate number one and ordered a second lickety split. We were a little more leisurely with our second helping and managed to have a conversation. It had been a couple months since I was in there, and they’ve made some upgrades! First, their gorgeous new tables, made by  Aaron Harper Johnston and Kurt Rosenberger. Also, there’s a staircase near the restroom. I think it goes up to their sound booth, or maybe to a secret fort. They revamped their cash register area (did I see a COMPUTER?) and now bring your tab to your table for you. Fancy! The bathroom’s been painted, and instead of the scrawled graffiti, it’s all been framed and organized.

little grill registerOf course, some of the things we love haven’t changed. Like the Dylan painting. The giant bulletin board of announcements and happenings around town. The Go Ask Alyce (I love that lemon tahini!). BRUNCH. Trivia cards. Yoda. Jesus. Metal lunch boxes full of notes and photos. Beer buckets. And that cute little window into the kitchen.

little grill dylanlittle grill little window2All of it caused us to think about the past and the present. What’s the same and what has changed. All the beautiful things still to come. Then we looked at the time and had to scoot: Team Trivia was starting at Clementine in like fifteen minutes (that post will be up next week!). If you’re still looking for something to do tonight for Valentine’s Day, you can head on down to the Grill and see The Leeroys perform at 8pm! It’s also Down Home Night, so get there a bit early for some good old-fashioned southern home cookin’!

Happy Valentine’s Day, Harrisonburg. YOU ARE LOVED.

little grill sign1Copyright © 2012-14 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

thanks a brunch: taste of downtown at clementine.

It occurred to me as I parked the car and dashed through the rain with my kids that we’ve had a pretty rainy spring and summer. And I have proof of it right here in these pages. It rained when we covered Bongo Restaurant, it rained A LOT at the Rocktown Beer and Music Festival, and it absolutely poured at First Friday in June at the Yellow Button. It rained at Fridays on the Square with the Judy Chops, and when we visited Cat’s Cradle, and for Blake’s LEGO Art in the Park. The rain just barely held off for the Brew-B-Que and for Art Lotto, but the Caleb Stine show was rainy, and so was our latest adventure. As a teacher, I can only hope this moisture continues and translates into feet of snow this winter. !

We decided to go to Clementine Cafe last Sunday because Taste of Downtown was coming to an end and their brunch deal looked really good: one of three brunch dishes plus a carafe of Bloody Mary or Mimosa for $12. The choices were two eggs cooked to order, a frittata, or a burrito, each with side items. We couldn’t choose, as usual, so we got one frittata–it has avocado–and one burrito–it has spicy yumminess. Plus one of each carafe. And the kids split an order of pancakes. It was all delicious–fresh and cooked perfectly and just the right amount.

We gobbled it down quickly and finished up what the kids left behind. They’d brought along a veritable arts and crafts station, what with scissors, paper, tape, markers–and they worked happily for quite some time, but then they got  antsy, and Brandy and I still had lots of chit-chatting to do, so she sent them on a scavenger hunt!

Some of the items they had to find and draw a picture of were
* something blue (a painting called “Jupiter Storms”)
* something green (a skull and crossbones)
* something related to children (some sort of winged, cherub-like angel thing)
* something small (we can’t remember that one, or make out the drawing)
* something related to food but not edible (a blender)
* the names of two people who work there (for this, Bree wrote down “Sit on it!” Ouch!)
* their favorite piece of art (the drawing looks like a fish with giant teeth, but I can’t guarantee that).

That kept them busy and also gave them a chance to explore the place, including the upstairs bathroom. Have you seen it? With its luxurious velvety chair and that sleek sink? That was Bree’s favorite thing in the whole joint. That and the disco ball.

But there’s more about Clementine that we love:
1. The avocado-bacon burger, which is usually what I order when I’m there. It’s the best I’ve ever had, hands down.
2. The portions. They give you just enough food, so that you don’t have to wrap it up or waste it. And then you can enjoy dessert without being “full up to the collarbone.”
3. They use the local-est ingredients they can, and if that means rotating seasonal items in and out of the menu, that’s what they do. Fresh and local are priorities.
4. Music. Between the two of us, Brandy and I have seen zillions of great shows there, from Yarn and Larry Keel and Steel Wheels to Caleb Stine and Andy Friedman and Invisible Hand, and two of my favorite bands I saw first at Clementine: Lake Street Dive and Kopecky Family Band.
5. While we’re on that topic, Brandy appreciates the restaurant’s use of color: the brightly painted stage backdrop unlike no other, and even the use of complimentary colors outside (yellow and purple). Brandy uses a photo of the storefront when she teaches that concept in her art classes.

6. And let’s not forget Ruby’s Lounge downstairs and their awesome specialty nights. Tuesday through Thursday you can find $2 and $3 specials!
7. The beautiful new patio!
8. We also like how they advertise tons of local events and happenings in the lobby. Clearly, they love their burg, too. :)

We finished our carafes and gossip and waited out the rain as long as we could, but it just didn’t seem to stop that day. You can join them for brunch on Sundays from 10 – 3pm. If you don’t want to wait that long, you can come tonight at 9–Chris Howdyshell will be making a bunch of noise with a mess of people… Or Blue Rock on Saturday night… should be pretty fun. See you out and about!

Copyright © 2012 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Photos by Brandy Somers. Written content by Katie Mitchell. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

birthday in the burg!: blue nile.

I was so worried about my birthday curse that for my recent 40th birthday, I considered doing nothing at all. Because turning 40 is bad enough without everything going wrong.

I have a history of bad birthdays. Not every birthday has been a disaster, mind you—there are two or three I don’t remember at all (like my first, second, and third birthdays), so I guess those don’t count. But some stick out as awkward or just plain bad.

For my 18th birthday, my parents got me luggage. Hint hint. But they also got me a plane ride over my hometown, co-piloted by my dad. That was pretty cool. Of course, my birthday always coincides with Father’s Day, so I think the gift served two purposes. Whatever.

One birthday in the mid-1990s (they all run together now), my friends at work planned to take me out to lunch at Indian American Cafe. But they forgot to actually tell me about it, and I was in Nags Head. Here’s a summary of the answering machine messages:
“Hi, Katie. It’s Anne. We’re all down at Indian American Cafe. Since you’re not answering the phone, I’ll assume you’re on your way! Can’t wait to see you!!” <beep>
“Hi, Katie. It’s Anne again. I hope you’re okay. I thought you’d be here by now. We’ll wait a little longer.” <beep>
“Hi. Um, we’re kinda hungry, so we’re gonna go ahead and order, okay? Hope you get here soon!” <beep>
“I’m not really sure what happened, but we’re eating your cake.” <beep> When I got home from the beach, I got all the messages at once. Anne was kinda embarrassed about the whole thing. Apparently the cake was really good.

On another birthday, someone tried to plan a surprise camping trip for me. Only, I’m not the best camper—I’m bony and pretty much allergic to everything outside. Also, no one was on time. So when I got there, it was just one girl standing in the woods with a balloon. “Surpriiiise…..”

This one takes the cake (ha!). I actually invited a few people over for dinner on my birthday, which I cooked… and one of the guests arrived completely trashed and literally passed out in his salmon filet. Oh ghee.

So I’m sure you understand why I get a little nervous at birthday time. Despite all those wacky experiences, I still love to be surprised. And this year, Brandy and Danielle ended my birthday curse once and for all. At The Blue Nile. They didn’t tell me much about what they’d planned… they just told me to meet them at The Blue Nile at 11ish for brunch and to wear sunscreen. I did as instructed.

Only, they weren’t ready at 11, and Brandy kept texting me, “Not yet, not yet…” So I drove around Harrisonburg til nearly twelve (man, I was hungry!!) when I got the text: “Okay, now would be good.” And when I got there…. look!!

Forty presents. FORTY! FOOORRRTTTY!!! And a Happy Birthday sign Danielle made. Of course, I instantly started crying because I knew the curse was broken, and then I realized what a task I had ahead of me and I pulled it together. Danielle crowned me with a hand-made tiara and we got down to business. First, ordering food. It was Sunday brunch at the Blue Nile, and their menu features several delicious entrees plus an ample buffet. AND, one-dollar bloody mary’s and mimosas. ONE DOLLAR. And let me tell you, their bloody mary’s are the best I’ve ever had. I ordered the eggie grinder while Brandy and Danielle hit the buffet. My meal was excellent—scrambled eggs with rosemary, guacamole, and collard greens served on a honey wheat bun and a side of sweet potato fries. Brandy and Danielle made a couple trips to the buffet. We were all quite satisfied, or as Brandy put it, “full up to my collarbone.”

Then, the presents. OH my goodness, what a treat. I thought it was really cute that some of Danielle’s gifts were wrapped in brown lunch bags with the top folded over three times and stapled. Unbeknownst to her at the time, I was reminded of an old Phil Hartman SNL skit called The Anal Retentive Chef. “And how do we dispose of odiferous waste?” Ha ha! All of the gifts were wrapped in some fashion and accompanied by a note—really, really a tremendous effort by my two friends.

Here are some of the gifts, in addition to brunch and morning cocktails I received:
a bouquet of flowers
a drawing of the three of us by Danielle

two pairs of earrings from Ten Thousand Villages
pumpkin bread from Shank’s Bakery
a pint of blueberries from the Farmer’s Market
a gift card from Pulp
three fortune cookies! One says, “You are going to have some new clothes.” Another: “You will have many friends.” And, “Life is a tragedy for those who feel and a comedy for those who think.” (I personally think that last one is backwards, but I’m getting of track.)

coffee, tea, beer, and wine
a book from Downtown Books called The Disruptive Student and the Teacher
a copy of Virginia Living Magazine and a brochure, both featuring photos from this blog!
beer koozies

who cries over beer koozies? I do, when they’re hand-decorated by friends!

and several coupons: one for babysitting, one for “bitch-free yard work/slavery,” and one for an hour-long photo shoot courtesy of Brandy Somers Photography, “non-blog”

…and several other things… have you been counting??

At any rate, if you are looking to surprise a friend with a lovely birthday, head to the Blue Nile. For me, it was one for the record books and completely disaster-free. The Blue Nile is located at 181 North Main Street, across from Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church.

Copyright © 2012 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Photos by Brandy Somers. Written content by Katie Mitchell. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

harrisonburg outing no. 2: the little grill

On the way to the Little Grill Collective (a Harrisonburg original and LEGEND) with Brandy and my kids, a discussion occurred about superheroes. I’m sure Cal started it because he’s absolutely obsessed with taking over the universe. The super power he would most want to have is to shoot “fire lasers” out of his eyes. Bree wants the power of invisibility; Brandy’s son, Blake wishes he could see a thought bubble over people’s heads so he can literally read their minds. How cool would THAT be? And would the bubbles make that sound like on VH1’s Pop-Up Video? Even better. Brandy touts time travel as her superpower of choice (and to be honest, that’s not a bad idea for me, either). I’ve already named her Brandybot because of her ability to take awesome photos of herself using her Gumby/Elastigirl/bionic arm.

Anyway, to the Grill we went, camera and notebook in tow. MexiNite. Oh, baby. Two-dollar Dos Equis and all-you-can-eat authentic Mexican food, prepared with authentically fresh ingredients, by deliciously authentic people.

We were a bit early–Mexi nite doesn’t actually start til 5pm. We were greeted by two employees prepping the food we’d be privileged to soon devour; one other occupied table; and Dr. Dog on the stereo. You know, it’s good it was not crowded when we arrived. Brandy was able to move around and photograph things without awkwardly dangling her strap in someone’s face, and Cal was full of himself and a bit annoying. I mean “enthusiastic.” No matter; by our second beer, the place was slammed.

Our waitress was Camille, and I had what I thought was a senior moment/deja vu because I could have sworn she worked somewhere else and NOT at the Grill. I checked my surroundings: bike, Gonzo, Yoda, Trivial Pursuit cards… yes, this is the Grill.

Turns out she also works at Jack Brown’s and USED to work at Clementine. Of course! She’s served me many a beer there. Funny how you only recognize people in their “original environments.” Anyhoo, in talking with Camille, we learned that not only is she working two jobs, but she’s also involved in a documentary about the Maasai culture and the change it’s undergoing. You can find information about it here. If you like what you see, you can attend the fundraiser Camille’s organizing to raise money for farming initiatives in Kenya, being held at the Blue Nile in March. Talk about super powers—someone give this woman a cape.

It was nice chatting with Camille, and her service was great. The food, as always, was excellent. My favorite is the potato roll-up. But honestly, any food that delivers sour cream to my mouth is a favorite.

I could go on and on about why I love the Little Grill so much. I’ve been going there since I moved here in 1993 and it’s one of my favorite places in the entire world. Just being in there makes me grateful to have something so unique and humbly special in my town. So here are just a few reasons why we love the Grill.

1. Sunday brunch. ‘Nuff said. There are no words; just go and try it. It’s religious.

2. The people who work there are just cool. As Brandy put it, “this place is full of slashers.” Take Camille. She works at the Grill/Jack Browns/Kenya. Ashley Hunter, who was also there tonight: LGC employee/fantastic singer. Chris Howdyshell, whose face was notably absent the day we were there: LGC employee/musician/Open Mic host/happy guy. And the list goes on. And they’re all worker/owners, too, which is why the food and the service is always perfect.

3. They are socially conscious. From the food quality to the shirts they sell, the Grill cares about the planet, the local economy, and you. They buy as much locally-produced food as they possibly can, and organic/cruelty free to boot. They make everything from scratch so you know what you’re eating is wholesome and nutritious. They buy fair trade items so you know your purchase is not exploiting someone somewhere. Many of the shirts they sell are actually re-purposed—they buy shirts at thrift stores, then screen print the LGC design on them.

They operate a soup kitchen and hold lots of community events at Our Community Place, which opened a few years ago (BTW, I tried to link to their website, but it doesn’t appear to be working). They’ve just been a peace-loving, forward-thinking part of our community for a very long time and I can’t say enough about them. Go there. You’ll feel it when you walk in.

4. They promote the goings-on in Harrisonburg. Whether it’s an art show, a local band, a benefit, a museum exhibit, a film festival… you can find it all on their giant bulletin board. They are truly community-minded, and most of the folks who work there are also heavily involved in these community events themselves.

5. There’s so much to do in that teeny, tiny place. While we were there, we (obviously) ate a great meal and had lots of laughs, but I also played Crazy Eights with my kids (Cal kicked our butts pretty soundly).

Brandy and I looked through the Muppets lunchbox stuffed with random notes people have left over the years. Bree and Cal played with the big bucket of Potato Heads. You can also enjoy trivia, look through old photo albums, and write in the “Book of Alternative Commandments,” or whatever it’s called—it was missing tonight when we were there. Has anyone seen it??

And…
6.The Elvis picture. It speaks for itself. I won’t even try.

Obviously, you HAVE to go to the Little Grill as soon as humanly possible. It’s on North Main St., north of Chanello’s where Main and Liberty meet, and just past the (garish) NAPA Auto-Parts store. Park on the street. Sunday brunch starts at nine, but you better get there at 8:30 if you want to make the first seating.  Don’t worry; you’ll have great conversations with other Harrisonburgonians while you wait. Just wear your sidewalk shoes. I promise you’ll feel good when you come out of there.