Thursday, January 31, 2013

Oaks Shopping Center 30 January 2013

I stopped by the construction site on Egypt and Mill Rds today to check on the progress.  

That pile of wood was the Oaks Gardens building that was still standing on New Years Day 2013.

There was work being done on the infrastructure. Today it was the sewer and or storm drains.

One worker was remotely operating a small articulated roller. Packing down soil that had been returned to the trench above some pipe that was buried earlier. Using the remote is like using a game controller with two joysticks.

When I was still working in the outdoor advertising industry, I used such a remote to operate a 130' extendable truck mounted crane. After operating the crane from the bed of the truck for over twenty years, it took some practice to operate from the business end of the load line.

Back to the construction site. Earth was moving from place to place.

Digging was being done by both a large excavator and a small shovel.

Other parts of the site has been scraped of vegetation. 

There is a huge change in the site from the end of 2012. Taking the project as a whole however, there is a great deal to be done before the expected opening of the Oaks Shopping Center in the fall of 2013.

©Damyon T. Verbo - all rights reserved

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

US Spring Vegetable Garden Planting Calendar

It is time to start planning and purchasing seeds for your spring and summer vegetable garden. There are some terrific garden tools online. Let me recommend two. Using those two you will be able to create you very own spring vegetable garden planning calendar. Planning season is here. Planting season is near.

National Climatic Data Center - first and last frost/freeze dates by zip code. 
Skippy's Vegetable Garden Planning Calendar - Plan your gardening year by last frost date.

To start you will need the last frost/freezing date for your area.


Go to the National Climatic Data Center and choose your state from the pull down menu.

There you will see a chart. Above is the top of the chart for Pennsylvania. Find the closest reporting station to your town. As an example, take a look at Bradford Regional Airport. The first column to the right of the name of the reporting station contains three temperatures in Fahrenheit(F), 36, 32 & 28. Beside each of those temperatures is a row of dates. Spring frost date is our concern. The third column from 32ºF is, for all intents and purposes, the last frost date. That column designates the date on which there is a 10% chance that the temperature will descend below 32ºF. Which for Bradford is June19.

If you open another browser window and navigate to Skippy's Vegetable Garden Planner you will see Skippy asks for the latest frost date for your area. Residents of Bradford would enter the date, 06/19/2013, into the field.

You will place your last frost date into the field, then click the "Generate spring planting calendar" button to create your customized calendar.


Above is my planning calendar. As you can see I have just about a week to purchase onion seeds before they need to go into the ground. Don't delay, get your calendar today.

©Damyon T. Verbo - all rights reserved

Sunday, January 27, 2013

First Burger at Cheeburger Cheeburger of Oaks

I stopped by Cheeburger Cheeburger in Oaks on Friday, the fifth day the restaurant was open for business. (note: one or more animals were killed to complete this review)

Since my last post about Cheeburger Cheeburger, I ran into a few people anxiously awaiting the restaurant to open. On Thursday I spoke at length with one of these zealots. A man I have been acquainted with for six years on a professional level. I respect his opinion when it comes to house renovations. So after hearing his flowery rant about Cheeburger Cheeburger I began to waver on the prejudgements I made about the restaurant being pricey compared to Max & Erma's.

He told me he has been traveling 25 miles round trip from West Norriton to Cheeburger Cheeburger in Frazer, PA on US 30, the Old Lincoln Highway. With him traveling that distance for a hamburger, I figured the burger must be good. Or maybe it was the fries, onion rings or milk shakes. Then again, it just might be the atmosphere. A 50s diner kind of vibe- hard chairs, formica counter and tabletops, quilted stainless steel, neon lights and chewing gum popping smart mouthed waitress with stiff starched blouses, pleated skirts and tiara type head-wear might be what draws him as a porch light draws moths. The only way for me to tell was to visit the Cheeburger Cheeburger in Oaks, PA.

The very next day at noon, I stood before Cheeburger Cheeburger ready to try their burger and fries. It was already fifteen minutes into the lunch hour. The restaurant was only about 2/3 full. Upon entering, I was immediately greeted, asked if I was eating in or getting food to go. I was shown to a table for four by a waitress that wasn't chewing gum nor was smart mouthed. Not one server was wearing a highly starched blouse or skirt, either. They were all dressed in slacks and black T-shirts with STAFF spelled out across their backs in large letters. The decor was stylized 50s but the staff was styleless teens.

Ordering a platter would be the best way to sample a burger and fries and compare it to a platter at M&E's. I noticed on the menu that the Angus Burger Platter included a "Fresh, Never Frozen 10oz. patty." A 10oz. patty is way too much for me to eat. Darn, I eat a Whopper, Jr. at Burger King along with fries and a drink and I am filled. Besides, I usually order a 6oz. burger at M&E's. So, I asked the person who seemed to be the host, if I could substitute a The Classic Burger, 5.5oz. pre-cooked weight, for the 10oz. patty. The answer I received was that I could, but, there would be a $4.00 up charge. I was incredulous! I gave him another chance to redeem himself and reworded the question, "You mean that if I get a smaller burger on the platter, it will cost me more money?" This time I received a positive response. I took that to mean it would cost me more to purchase less. Still not believing there would be an up charge, I figured I would ask the waitress when she arrived to take our orders.

My friends ordered before me - fried pickles, The Serious Burger, tap water, The Classic Burger and lemonade. When the waitress looked to me for my order, I began with my question about substituting a The Classic Burger for the 10oz patty. She, too, was incredulous about the up charge and said she would look into it after I completed my order. So I ordered a Angus Burger Platter with a The Classic Burger, cheddar cheese, mayonnaise and srirachi sauce. Then, being difficult on purpose, I asked who would  decide how much srirachi sauce would be placed on my burger? How would they know in the kitchen how much I preferred on my burger. The waitress then asked if I wanted the sauce on the side. I told her that would be just fine if she would do that for me. I then chose french fries and cole slaw for my sides and a cup of coffee. Off she went to place the orders. She returned almost immediately with an answer that there would be no up charge for less meat. I was liking the place, again.

The drinks arrived quickly. The cold drinks were iced and in mason-like jars with threaded lips. My coffee was delivered hot in a white ceramic mug. 

While we waited for the food, the three of us looked around the place. There were two bulletin boards hanging on the wall. Each of the BBs had photographs pinned to them. One BB was for children who had eaten a 1/2lb. burger. The other for adults who have eaten a one pound burger. CC was only open four days and already there were two children's and fifteen adult photographs on the BBs. I think they might soon need larger boards.

There were no children in CC when we were there. After all it was a school day. There were two obvious groups of diners at lunch hour that Friday. In one group consisted of people in their thirties and probably at lunch from their workplaces. In the other group was made up of women over 50 and there were at least three of them to a table. 

It wasn't long before the food arrived with the fried pickles showing up before the main courses. We all sampled them. My friend thought the batter too thick and held onto an excessive amount of oil. I thought they tasted OK. Tangy and crisp and I agreed the batter was thick and oily. The sauce, Tangy Horseradish, had a vinegar taste but not much, if any, hint of horseradish. There was more of a french dressing taste than anything.

The main coursed arrives several minutes later. My platter had most of the sides and sauces in black plastic soufflé cups- cole slaw, srirachi sauce and an unexpected chili/chunky chili sauce with the french fries on the plate. It didn't look like a large quantity of fries but I shared some with my fellow diners and along with the burger, cole slaw and chili and two mugs of coffee, I was full when I left the table.

As for taste, the burger was good, cooked to my specification. The fries were crisp on the outside and done on the inside. The cole slaw was dry and bland. The chili was darn near cold, tepid at best and tasted canned. The coffee was OK, drinkable. Overall, my platter was OK, not great. In no way did it rise to the level the CC zealot described on Thursday.

As soon as the main courses arrived I requested the checks be totaled individually. The server told me that would not be a problem. We did wait what seemed like a long time before they arrived. Upon their arrival I studied my check. There wasn't much time needed to figure out how the pricing of the platter worked.

The platter was the price of a burger plus $4.99. You can see The Classic Burger is priced at $5.99 then add the $4.99 up charge to bring it up to a platter price. What the host told me was almost correct, but I think he was a little confused. So my total for a 6oz. burger including cheddar cheese, mayo, sriricha, french fries, cole slaw and chili sauce and a bottomless mug of coffee was $13.17 plus PA state sales tax for a grand total of $13.96.

I will readily admit the staff was green and needed to mature. So, before I decide whether a burger platter is not as good a deal as M&E's, I will give CC a bit of time to work out the kinks and return at a later date for another taste.

In the meantime, there are other bars, taverns and restaurants in and around Oaks, Norristown, Phoenixville and King of Prussia that I just might be stopping into for a taste.

I was not offered nor did I receive any food or compensation during or after this visit.

©Damyon T. Verbo - all rights reserved

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Progress Marches On in Oaks, PA

Progress at the two building sites in Oaks, PA is marching along.

The Chicago Grill site has a level pad and a berm near the cemetery wall at St. Paul's Episcopal Church. 

There is pipe on site that will undoubtably be buried as part of the infrastructure.

Concrete sewer castings are waiting to be placed.

The larger site across Black Rock Road also has signs of progress.

The Oaks Gardens building has been ravaged.

 A broken shell.

The lot has been defoliated, partially graded and rolled. It looks large. Much larger than before the work began. 

To defoliate, whole trees were eaten in one shot by an enormous piece of equipment.

There are graders, rollers, excavators, back hoes, dozers and other heavy construction behemoths on site waiting for their shot at progress.

The train tracks that ran along the western edge of the site were ripped out along with the trees on that grew alongside. 

Houses are now clearly visible along that edge of the site. I am guessing that the owners of those houses have a new clear view of the site, also.

Progress marches on.

©Damyon T. Verbo - all rights reserved

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Cheeburger, Cheeburger Opens Jan 21 in Oaks, PA

Adding to the food scene, I can only guess, is spawned by the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks will be +Cheeburger, Cheeburger. The space was originally Dolce Italian Restaurant, a failed upscale restaurant complete with hostess station. +Cheeburger, Cheeburger will be a closer match to the needs of the movie crowd and employees of nearby large box stores.

As you can see, the opening is scheduled for Monday January 21.

It appears to be designed like a 50's malt shop. Lots of formica, chrome, neon and quilted stainless steel. The table and chairs remind me of the kitchen with which I was raised. I can clearly hear my mother and father telling me to stop leaning back with the chairs. They had their point. Once the rubber tips are worn off the legs the hollow tubes cut through the linoleum on the floor. Another thing I clearly remember is that those kind of chairs are uncomfortable.

Each table has sitting on it, what seems to be, a roll of paper towels placed in a chrome holder. I wonder if the food is messy by design? It won't be long before I know.

The Cheeburger, Cheeburger menu was taped to the glass beside the front door. Just a quick look at the headlines. Seems the place might have been named Invent. Invent your shake, fries, cheeseburger, platter, drink and salad. I wonder if I can invent a cheeseburger without the cheese. Nah! That would just be uninventive.

As for price, $6.95 for the (yellow highlighted on the printed menu) Semi-Serious Burger, 7oz. of meat, precooked. I am confused as to whether fries are included at that price. If not, a 6oz. burger at Max and Erma's is a better value. Fries are included there. Max and Erma's entrance is but a few hundred feet away. A short walk if either place is crowded. The consumer wins again. At least if you want a burger.

©Damyon T. Verbo - all rights reserved

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Where to Get a Drink / Cocktail When At the Greater Phila Expo Center

If you are involved with a show or visiting the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center sooner or later you will need a meal and or a drink. The following bars, all serving food, are within four miles of the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center.

Starting with the closest and working out.

#1 The Water Tower
#2 The Perky
#3 Max & Erma's
#4 The Turf Club
#5 Garden Grill and Bar

#6 Buffalo Wild Wings
#7 Uno / Chicago Grill

#8 Alex's Tavern
#9 Audubon Ale House

#10 Chadwick's at Shannondell
#11 Chickie's & Pete's

#12 Fitzwater Station

#13 Bertucci's Italian Restaurant
#14 Applebee's
#15 LongHorn Steakhouse
#16 Valley Forge Beef and Ale
There was a fire at the Valley Forge Beef and Ale on Feb. 16. It will be closed until further notice
#17 Pickering Creek Inn
#18 P.F.Chang's China Bistro
#19 Olive Garden Italian Restaurant

#20 Champps Americana
#21 Firebirds Wood Fired Grill
#22 Movie Tavern
#23 The Pub at Wegman's

  1. The Water Tower - an independently owned bar open 'til 2am - Part of the Arnold's Family Fun Center barely 100 yds from the Expo Center in the Marketplace at Oaks.
  2. The Perky - an independently owned bar open 'til 2am - formally known as the Perkiomen Cafe. Located 0.7 miles from the Expo Center just outside the Marketplace at Oaks complex in Oaks at 400 Brower Avenue. 
  3. Max and Erma's - a national restaurant franchise whose bar is open 'til around 11pm. Located 0.7 miles from the Expo Center at 180-B Mill Road in the Marketplace at Oaks complex.
  4. Valley Forge Turf Club - an off track betting parlour that offers alcoholic beverages. Located 0.9 miles from the Expo Center at 600 Cresson Boulevard, visible from US 422.
  5. Garden Grill and Bar in the Hilton Garden Inn - an international hotel franchise whose bar is open 'til around 11pm. Located 0.9 miles from the Expo Center at 500 Cresson Boulevard adjacent to the Valley Forge Turf Club. Also visible to US 422.
  6. Buffalo Wild Wings - Opened 22 September 2014 -  a national restaurant franchise whose bar is open Mont-Wed 'til midnight, Thurs-Sat 'til 2am and Sunday 'til midnight. Located at the intersection of Egypt and Mill Roads, Oaks, PA. 1 mile from the Expo Center just off the US 422 Oaks exit.
  7. Uno/Chicago Grill - Opened 16 December 2013 - a national restaurant franchise whose bar is open 'til 11pm Sunday, 1am Mon thru Thurs and 2am Fri and Sat. Located at the intersection of Egypt and Black Rock Roads, Oaks, PA. 1.1 miles from the Expo Center at the US 422 Oaks exit.
  8. Alex's Tavern - an independently owned bar open 'til 2am. Located 1.6 miles from the Expo Center towards Phoenixville at 667 Egypt Road.
  9. Audubon Ale House - an independently owned bar open 'til 2am. Located 2.4 miles from the Expo Center towards Norristown at 2819 Egypt Road in Audubon Village Shopping Center.
  10. Chadwick's at Shannondell -an independently owned bar open 'til about 10pm. Located 2.7 miles from the Expo Center towards Norristown at 2750 Egypt Road.
  11. Chickie' and Pete's - a small local chain of bars started in Philadelphia open 'til 2am. Located 3.6 miles from the Expo Center towards Norristown at 675 Shannondell Drive
  12. Fitzwater Station - an independently owned bar open 'til 2am. Located 3.7 miles from the Expo Center beside the Schuylkill Canal at 264 Canal Street in Mont Clare
  13. Bertucci's Italian Restaurant - a national restaurant chain whose bar is open 'til around 10pm. Located 3.8 miles from the Expo Center towards Norristown at 711 South Trooper Road.
  14. Applebee's - an international restaurant franchise whose bar is open 'til around 11pm. Located 3.8 miles from the Expo Center towards Norristown at 555 South Trooper Road.
  15. LongHorn Steakhouse - a national restaurant chain whose bar is open 'til around 10 pm. Located 3.8 miles from the Expo Center towards Norristown at 690 South Trooper Road.
  16. Valley Forge Beef and Ale - an independently owned bar open 'til 2am. Located 3.9 miles from the Expo Center towards Norristown at 827 South Trooper Rd.
  17. The Pickering Creek Inn - an independently owned bar open at 4pm 'til 2am. Also located 4 miles from the Expo Center at 37 East Bridge Street just over the Schuylkill River in downtown Phoenixville.
  18. P. F. Chang's China Bistro - a national restaurant chain whose bar is open 'til about 10 pm. Located at the extreme edge of the four mile limit from the Expo Center on the way to Pottstown just off US 422 at 10 Town Center Drive in the Providence Town Center, Collegeville.
  19. Olive Garden Italian Restaurant - a national restaurant chain whose bar is open 'til about 10pm. Located in the Providence Town Center at 1 Town Center Drive, Collegeville. 
  20. Champps Americana -  a national restaurant chain whose bar is open 'til about 1am. Located in Providence Town Center at 51 Town Center Drive, Collegeville.
  21. Firebirds Wood Fired Grill - a national restaurant chain whose bar is open 'til about 10pm. Located in Providence Town Center at 51 Town Center Drive, Collegeville.
  22. Movie Tavern at Providence Town Center - a national chain of movie theaters that serve food while you watch a first run movie. It has a full service bar in the lobby that is open until about midnight. Located in Providence Town Center at 140 Market Street, Collegeville.
  23. The Pub at Wegmans - a family owned US regional supermarket chain. It has a full service bar that closes at 9pm, 10pm Fri and Sat. Located in Providence Town Center at 600 Commerce Drive, Collegeville.
©Damyon T. Verbo -  all rights reserved