So That Happened…

Hello, hello!  Back in May, I posted about the upcoming Charmed reboot.  I had my doubts based on the advertising tactics and the push for the whole “feminist reboot” thing.  It all just felt over the top to me, but I said I would give it a try.  And I did.  The first episode aired this past Sunday, so I DVRed it and we (Dad and I) watched it on Monday.  I thought I would share my thoughts on it since I have nothing writerly to ramble about this week.

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The sisters.

First off, my description of it based on the preview was pretty spot on.  The premise is basically the same as the original.  Three sisters find out they’re witches after their mother dies and they have to fight evil!  Okay, it’s Mom instead of Grams who dies and the long lost sister (Macy) shows up in the first episode instead of after killing off one of the others to bring her in, so I suppose it’s not entirely the same.  Also, their Giles (wait, wrong show)… I mean their Leo (known as Harry) appears and explains that they’re witches, which is kind of new.   Then it gets twisty and turny from there.

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Skip the following paragraph if you haven’t watched the episode.

The plot was a fairly standard Charmed plot.  Bad things happen, the girls go after the suspected baddie who turns out to be just kind of a bitch, then they get attacked by a real baddie who is actually a red herring, then they find the big baddie and kill him.  But wait!  With his dying breath, the big baddie insinuates that he isn’t the BIG big baddie.  Dun dun dun… but that’s for the next episode or whatever.  Then there’s the whole thing with the Ouija board at the end that throws doubt on how legit Harry is.  Again, a story for the next episode.  And there’s a sprinkle of romance or something akin to it through the whole episode.

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Of the spoiler alert.

The episode did nothing to assuage my fears, though.  It was super heavy-handed with the whole feminist message stuff, which made the show groan worthy and not in a fun way.  I get it.  The writers are woke (or whatever the kids are calling it this week).  But there’s a difference between sharing your opinions with people and annoyingly shoving those opinions onto people.  There were a few spots where this episode did the latter.  Whether I agree with those opinions or not doesn’t matter.  It’s still annoying either way.  And it makes me wary going forward.

On the other hand, there was some of the good old-fashioned corniness.  I had a few chuckles.  I was able to sympathize with Maggie who just wanted to join a sorority and make friends and be normal.  Macy and her need to scientifically explain everything is someone I can get behind.  Even Mel was okay because she reminded me of people I know (people who will probably yell at me about my vague comments on feminism here, but I love them anyway).  And that’s why I said I was going forward with this show.

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Overall, I still have doubts, but it was cute enough that I set it to record again next Sunday.  It’s one of those shows that could go either way.  I’ll either get fed up with the heavy-handedness after a couple of episodes and give up on it or things will even out and I’ll get into it.

What about you?  Did you watch the premier?  Are you going to keep watching?  Why or why not?  Feel free to share your thoughts and comments here or on my social media pages!

Rainy Day Relaxation

Howdy, howdy!  It’s been kind of rainy and dreary here the last couple of days, which always makes me feel sleepy and blah.  Productivity is the last thing I want to achieve.  So, even though I’ve been adulting and all that good stuff, I’ve also been super lazy.  That’s not going to change today!  Instead of coming up with some random topic related to writing and rambling about that, I thought I would just give you a list of my five favorite ways to relax on rainy days.  It’s all stuff you’ve seen before if you follow my blog regularly.  Otherwise, enjoy reading about my laziness.

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Rainy Day by RHADS.

1. Netflix/TV binge-watching.  This can be done solo or with Dad, depending on his level of productivity on a rainy day.  Sometimes, we catch up on all the stuff we’ve recorded.  Other times, we pick random movies or whatever on Netflix and watch them.  If I’m on my own, I watch stuff Dad would have no interest in or I rewatch old shows (still usually stuff he has no interest in).  The only bad part about binge-watching is that by the time it’s 11 at night, it feels like you’ve done nothing all day.  Which you haven’t, but still.  Where’d the day go?

2. Mindless games.  Yes, I still play mindless games.  They’re a decent way to waste time, but I do get bored after a while.  It’s like I start playing and by the time I run out of lives, I’m sure it’s almost time for bed, but it’s only been like ten minutes.  I guess I should start playing some new games that I’m not bored with yet.  The only problem with that is that I don’t want to fall down the “new game” rabbit hole and get lost.  Maybe I’m just super lazy, even too lazy for games. 

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Pretty accurate.

3. Reading.  I’ve been reading a lot for the book group and to review on here, but I haven’t really read anything lately just because.  Because I want to.  Because it’s fun.  Because I thought the cover was pretty and bought it.  Rainy days remind me that I have books I wanted to read before I started reading everything I was told I should read.  They’re the kind of days that remind there are things I want to re-read.  And it’s totally okay to read or re-read things for fun.  I need to remember that on normal days as well.

4. Music videos/eye candy.  I haven’t sat around watching random music videos in a really long time (like so long I forgot certain bands existed).  It’s one of those things I always say I’m going to do, but life gets in the way.  Rainy days are a good chance to catch up on old bands’ newer music and looks (because visual kei is awesome, or it used to be. I don’t really know anymore).  I should make time for that.

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One of the last pictures I have of D and I don’t even know what song/album it goes with.

5. Anime/manga.  No, it’s not the same as Netflix and reading.  It’s its own thing and I’ve been slacking on it.  I haven’t read any manga in about a year.  And I don’t watch anime as much as I want because I always save it for after I’m productive, then I don’t have time for it.  Rainy days when Dad is doing his own thing are the perfect time to catch up on anime at least.

What are your favorite things to do on rainy days?  Are you a napper or do you like to catch up on fun things?  Perhaps you’re more productive on gray days.  Feel free to share your own list, comments, or questions here or on my social media pages!

A Look Inside The Schooner Restaurant

Hello, hello!  This weekend, Dad and I went to Port Neches for the book launch of Road Kill: Texas Horror by Texas Writers Vol. 3.  It’s down by the coast, so we were looking forward to the prospect of amazing seafood.  We asked around about the best place to go and the consensus seemed to be a place called The Schooner Restaurant off 69 right where Nederland and Port Arthur meet.  So, after the event (which was cozy, lovely, and hosted by the awesome little book store Fleur Fine Books), Dad and I headed toward the restaurant.  It was a building in the middle of a strip mall parking lot and when we got there around 6:00, 6:30 there was no wait.  On a Saturday night.  Granted, a dreary and drizzly Saturday night, but still.  On to the review!

First, a reminder of my rating system:

MMMMM = Everything is magnificent!
MMMM = Great, but something is off.
MMM = Pretty good, but a couple of things could be better.
MM = The bad’s starting to outweigh the good.
M = Definitely more cons than pros.
… = I couldn’t find anything nice to say.

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A picture of the menu that I borrowed from Google because I didn’t take any.

Accessibility: standard.  There were no steps or ramps required to get in, which was interesting.  We don’t often run into places without at least a sidewalk around them around here, so going to a place even with the parking lot was cool.  It did have two sets of doors, but the hostess was right there holding the inside door open, removing any potential hassle.  There seemed to be multiple paths to a number of tables, so it wasn’t difficult to maneuver around the place.  The tables themselves were not my favorite.  They were the kind with a thick leg at each end, which meant I couldn’t pull in all the way.  It makes things annoying, but not impossible.

Service: amazing!  The hostess greeted me before Dad even finished coming inside.  The waitress, Raven, treated me like a person from the get-go.  She was super nice and helpful when we had questions about the menu.  If she didn’t know something, she was honest about it.  She was attentive, but not overbearing.  It was one of those places where everyone seemed nice and no one ignored my existence just because I’m cripple, so they get some bonus points.

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A neat old picture (1955) I found on Google.  It’s from the UNT website.

Appetizers: pretty good.  We ordered the oyster Rockefeller, which turned out to be cheesy, spinachy goodness.  Pretty sure that was my first time eating cooked oysters and, I have to say, they were really good.  We also got some alligator.  It was fried and tender, so it was also good.

Entrees: this is where things go south.  I ordered the Schooner deluxe platter, which was a bunch of fried things (shrimp, scallops, trout, stuffed shrimp, stuffed crab, a frog leg, and crab).  But I asked for everything that could be grilled to be grilled.  Nothing was grilled.  The shrimp and scallops were lightly breaded and pan-fried instead of deep fried, but that’s not grilled.  And the trout coming out deep fried made me wonder if perhaps it was a pre-made and frozen thing, because why else couldn’t they grill it?  And don’t get me started on the fried crab.  They fried it in the shell!  What was the point of that?  It appeared to be a dungeness crab, so you can’t eat the shell.  And frying it made all of the meat stick to the shell, which meant if you didn’t want to sit there for hours picking at it, you couldn’t even get half the meat out.  It was all super disappointing.  Plus, the stuffed shrimp tasted like it had soap in it.  Dad ordered grilled flounder (came out pan-fried) Greek-style.  The seasoning was good.  That’s about it.  Everything, including our sides, was over-cooked.  I never thought seafood could become shoe leather.  I was wrong.

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Picture stolen from their website.

Dessert: not bad.  All of the desserts looked delicious (even the carrot cake), but we decided to split a chocolate eruption.  Needless to say, a lot of chocolate erection jokes were made.  But it was pretty good.  A chocolate mousse cake with chunks of cheesecake in it.  Worth a try.

Price: for good seafood, the price wasn’t bad.  For the seafood we got?  Totally not worth it.

My rating:
MM

If it had just been a crappy appetizer or a bad dessert, I’d say a MM was harsh, but when it’s both entrees (and not just a small part of them, but all of it), I’m okay with this rating.  If that’s what passes for the best seafood so close to the coast, I’d rather stay in Dallas for fish.  And that’s really sad to me.

Thoughts on TRAIL OF LIGHTNING

Howdy, howdy!  It’s the last Wednesday of September, which means it’s time for another book review.  I failed to get approval from NetGalley for a book this month (it happens, no biggie).  So, I decided to use one of the books we are supposed to be reading in the book club I’m in.  Trail of Lightning is the first book in Rebecca Roanhorse’s The Sixth World series.  It was released in June of 2018 by Saga Press.  Without further ado, let’s get to the review!

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Pretty standard cover for the genre, but still neat.

Trail of Lightning follows Maggie Hoskie, a monster slayer, on her adventures through post-apocalyptic Dinétah (or what was the Navajo reservation).  She fights a new kind of monster, visits old allies, gets a new partner (Kai Arviso) thrust upon her despite her skepticism, deals with old foes, and has to face down her past in order to solve all the mysterious problems that keep cropping up.  All the while, she’s being jerked around by various gods.  Sounds cool, right?  It really is.

First, I have to admit that I had some trouble getting into the voice of the book.  It’s in first person, present tense.  That has never been my favorite POV, though I can’t really explain why.  I just have difficulties getting into it.  But once I got into the story, I didn’t mind it so much.  Maggie’s a fairly reliable narrator, except when it comes to Neizghání.  He’s a much bigger douchenozzle than she makes him out to be.  Even when people and other gods try to tell her how bad he was/is to her, she basically idolizes him because he took her in and trained her.  I wasn’t sure who to believe, then he shows up.  Yeah.  He’s not a great guy.  It was disconcerting at first, but then I remembered it’s in first person, so her view of everything doesn’t have to be accurate, it just has to be hers.

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The proper reaction when Neizghání shows up and you believed Maggie’s version of him.

As far as the plot goes, I really enjoyed it.  My knowledge of Navajo mythology is sorely lacking, but apparently I know more than I realized.  A basic grasp of some of the main players in Navajo myth is super helpful, but not necessary to enjoy the book.  Roanhorse does a wonderful job of explaining things without it feeling infodumpy.  She also focuses more on the growth of Maggie and Kai as people than the mythology, which makes for an engaging read.  The gods and monsters are there, but the focus is the characters.  That’s not to say the gods and monsters aren’t kickass.  They are.  I’m partial to Coyote despite everything.

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Me when I finished the book.

About the only real complaint I had was that Kai’s second power was so obvious.  I know nothing about the clan stuff and how it works or what all the clans are, but I had his power pegged from the beginning.  And since it’s first person, all the information I had was the same information Maggie had.  He never told her to ignore the clues.  There was no reason for her not to notice it.  It made her seem willfully dense.  Maybe I missed something.  Maybe there was a reason she couldn’t put two and two together.  Maybe she just didn’t want to acknowledge it.  But it wasn’t a big revelation for me, so the climax lost some of its power.

Ultimately, I was really happy with the book.  It left me at a point where I wanted more, so I’d say that’s what really counts.  I’m just a little ticked off that I have to wait until April for the next one, but that’s what I get for starting a series when it first comes out.

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Overall, I gave it four out of five stars.  My problems with it weren’t major and I loved the characters enough to want more.  If you’re into monster hunting and post-apocalyptic fun, definitely give it a shot.  Even if you’re not, try it anyway.

A Little Shameless Self-Promotion

Howdy, howdy!  First and foremost, I want to thank David Simms for his awesome guest post last week.  If you haven’t read it yet, you can do that here.  Part of Dave’s post discusses the necessity and difficulty of marketing our babies (stories).  So, I thought I would use that as an excuse for a bit of shameless self-promotion!  For those of you who haven’t stalked my social media pages lately, I have a short story coming out in Road Kill: Texas Horror by Texas Writers, Vol. 3.  It’s edited by E. R. Bills and is being published on September 29th by Hellbound Books.

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When I received the acceptance notification, I had to read it a few times to make sure I wasn’t fooling myself.  I have to admit, I was super surprised and beyond happy to be chosen as part of this anthology.  Especially when the previous volumes contained stories by the likes of Joe. R. Lansdale and fellow Stonecoast alum, Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam.  Also, being included alongside all of the amazing authors in Vol. 3 is fantastic and a little terrifying (in the best possible way).  Unfortunately, I don’t have links to all of their websites and social media pages, so you’ll just have to buy the the book to learn more about them.

If you’re in Texas and interested in meeting some of the authors, I’m aware of two events at the moment.  Saturday, September 29th, Fleur Fine Books in Port Neches is hosting the official release event.  The following Saturday (October 6th), Murder by the Book in Houston is hosting a signing event.  You can find more information at their websites (linked above).

And if you want to buy the book, you can order the paperback version here.  The U.S. Kindle version can be ordered here.  The Canadian Kindle version is here.  And the U.K. Kindle version can be found here.  All of these links can also be found on Hellbound Books website (linked above).

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What better way to start the Halloween season than with a collection of Texas-sized horrors?  Everything is creepier in Texas, after all.  If you’re not into Halloween, maybe it could be a stocking stuffer for all of your creepy friends (or from the creepy friend).  Anyway, if you do buy it (which would earn you my undying love because I’m weird like that), remember to let us know what you think with a quick Amazon review.  I, for one, would love to hear all your thoughts or comments, so if not on Amazon, at least come back here or go to my social media pages and write to me.

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I think I’ll leave it at that!  Thank you for putting up with my shameless self-promotion.  I hope it has inspired you to check out Road Kill: Texas Horror by Texas Writers, Vol. 3.  If it has, please share this or any of the images and links with others who might be interested.

Next week, we’ll return to our regularly scheduled randomness!  Actually, it’s book review week next time (already?).  I will see you then!

Guest Post: Raising a Novel – Writing and Marketing in Today’s Publishing Climate

Hello, hello!  Welcome to another guest post.  Today we welcome my friend and fellow Odd Stones Alliance member (the writing group we’re in), David Simms.  Between parenting, playing in a band, teaching, and many other awesome things, he’s managed to complete and publish his second novel.  Here, he shares some of his experience with the whole process from writing to publishing to marketing.  Read on!

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Raising a Novel – Writing and Marketing in Today’s Publishing Climate

The birth of a novel in 2018 is a vastly different experience than it was just ten years ago. It begs the question, when you spend years toiling over your story and nobody cares, or reads it, does it count? With the market today, too many authors take the route of simply dropping the book into a forest where nobody will see it, hear it, read it, or know about it. The gestation and birth is easy – barely anyone teaches writers how to raise the damn thing. When I embarked on the adventure to pen my second novel, Fear The Reaper (Crossroad Press), I knew it would be a different experience. My first novel was a blast to write. Sure, it was painful at times, but the writing was pure bliss. The research was 90% imagination and the rest drew from experience.

This time, I decided to take on the behemoth of a mental hospital down the hill from my new house. After learning its dark history and discovering that no other writer had ever published a novel on this topic, I dove in headfirst and cracked my skull on the task of writing a historical thriller. A true historical fiction piece scared me bad enough, but wrapping one of America’s darkest, dirtiest secrets around a fast paced story sounded much more enticing. After poring through several nonfiction texts, studying the town’s historical society while fending off dusty spiders, and interviewing former doctors, nurses, and relatives of patients, I had my story.

Writing the beast of the novel felt like bliss. Getting every detail of clothing, cars, food, drink, and sports team correct felt just right. By the time I hit the finish line, 109 thousand words glared back at me, daring me to edit them. No problem. It took several months, but editing it happened. Mostly, it was a pain-free experience.

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Postpartum (a term meant sarcastically, as I’d never be able to handle that experience), the book sat in my hands and I realized that books need to be raised, like petulant children. In this literary age where it seems a million books are published every week, writers must become warriors to get anyone to read it. Unless he/she is blessed to be with paired with a god/goddess of a publicist with endless funds, the writer must go ballistic and strategic if success is going to hit.

Without an agent or army, I hit the trenches alone and launched the second career of an author – the marketing. This is just as time-consuming as writing, yet without the fun. Thankfully, I’ve met and/or befriended many of my favorite writers, which helps networking – tremendously. Most of this has occurred because of the band I’ve played for. Follow that up with reviewing for four high profile venues and even more doors open. When it came time to secure blurbs for Fear The Reaper, I reached out and nailed down four out of six quotes. That’s better than most newer writers but it happened solely because of connections, not because I’m an amazing writer (I’m not).

My advice here: bite the bullet and social anxiety. Go to cons. Friend fellow authors on Facebook. Talk to them. Ask them for advice – most of them will happily oblige.

The second round hit harder. With a million books out there multiplying like germs in the Oval Office, how could I get my novel to stand out? My publisher is great but doesn’t do much marketing, which is normal (wish I would’ve know that earlier). So I reached out to people who know marketing best. Surprisingly, some self-pubbed authors really nail this aspect of the career. “Run a Facebook ad,” said one. So I did, and it sucked. Then I ran another but was bright enough to share it with a few who had much more experience with it. When I began receiving comments from across the globe, I knew it worked. Leading with one of the blurbs from a NYT best-seller obviously helped. Comparing my book to others (Shutter Island crossed with The Firm with a touch of The Shining – not my words) drew in even more readers.

Does this mean I’ve sold a ton of books? No, but it does mean I’m free from eating cat food for a few months.

I noticed that several of my “successful” writer friends kept posting news of their book tours, multiple signings, and interviews (online, radio, television).  How does one accomplish this on a budget, I pondered. An extreme, teacher budget. Some suggested a publicist. Sure. Once I learned that most of them only asked for my first born and random organs, I decided not to go into deep debt. Upon further investigation, I discovered that much what they offered wasn’t substantially different than I could accomplish on my own. I asked about television. They countered with radio. Does anyone still listen to talk radio anymore? If so, how many would purchase a novel after hearing an interview? Not many.

Yet the other avenues still appealed and seemed within grabbing distance. I sent out swarms of press releases to newspapers, television stations, colleges, libraries, bookstores, and that creepy guy who stands on the corner downtown. Even he ignored my requests. For a book of this importance (the subject, not my writing), one might think there would be interest, especially since it was a local book tackling a horrible part of history that most aren’t aware of. After so many cold shoulders, the offers did trickle in – at glacier speed. But still, I persisted. 

Five interviews later, most reaching across the world, I’m pleased. An invite to a black tie event where I’ll be paid? Sure. A dual signing with an author from California in NYC and DC? Definitely. Selling books by the side of the road before my ghost tours? Awesome.

It seems that there’s a course for just about everything in writing, except for how to actually get people to notice that your book is alive and out there in the wild. The ones that are in existence, that are legit, are harder to find than a unicorn riding a leprechaun. Maybe that should change. For those of us who spill blood on the pages for years to conceive these extensions of our souls, getting the world to notice them would be pretty nice.

But it’s possible. I’m proof of that. Keep reaching out in the dark. Eventually, you’ll find something. Hopefully, it doesn’t bite.

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Bio: David Simms lives in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia with his wife, son and trio of furballs after escaping New Jersey and Massachusetts. A special education teacher, college English instructor, counselor, music therapist, ghost tour guide, and book reviewer, he moonlights in the Slushpile band on lead guitar after co-founding the Killer Thriller Band with several best-selling authors. He gives workshops in three states on using music to help students of all ages to learn and de-stress, getting teens to write, and combating burnout for teachers in schools. He has sold several short stories which have been published in various anthologies, such as TERRIBLE BEAUTY, TRAPS!, and DARKNESS RISING and academic publications on music therapy, creative writing for teens. DARK MUSE was his first novel, a YA musical dark fantasy. FEAR THE REAPER is a thriller that’s mostly true story about the eugenics movement in America – basically, how we directly influenced Hitler and began a truckload of horrors right here in the states.

A Look Inside Seafood Shack Mariscos

Hello, hello!  Welcome to September.  It seems like forever since I’ve posted a food review (since January 2017 actually), so I thought it was about time for one.  Dad and I were going to go to Zenna  on Sunday, but they are temporarily closed due to fire damage.  So, we ended up trying a place called Seafood Shack Mariscos.  You can find addresses for all three of their locations on the website linked above.  It has a Big Shucks vibe.  Honestly, it’s super surprising to find a seafood place in Mesquite that isn’t a huge chain (Red Lobster, Joe’s Crab Shack, etc.), so Dad and I decided to check it out.

First, a reminder of my rating system:

MMMMM = Everything is magnificent!
MMMM = Great, but something is off.
MMM = Pretty good, but a couple of things could be better.
MM = The bad’s starting to outweigh the good.
M = Definitely more cons than pros.
… = I couldn’t find anything nice to say.

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Didn’t think to take pictures, so I borrowed this one from Google.

Accessibility: not bad, not great.  Cripple parking is sparse, but it’s a small lot so what do you expect?  There’s a spot on either side of the loading zone right out front.  And it’s a loading zone that’s actually large enough for me to get unloaded in (yay!).  Getting in is easy enough.  But the tables are pretty tightly packed, so when it’s busy, you have to rely on the kindness of people moving and pushing chairs around so you can reach an empty spot.  It’s embarrassing, but you do what you have to do for the sake of food.  The tables themselves are easy to fit under and a good height.

Service: good.  You order at the counter, they give you a flag, someone brings your food and booze out.  Fountain drinks, tea, and condiments are serve yourself.  The cashier smiled at me when we approached, but seemed a little apprehensive to assume I would order anything.  After she realized I was going to order, she talked to me normally.  Some wires got crossed because I speak softly, but Dad helped straighten them out.  She also messed up some stuff with him, though, so I didn’t feel too bad about my mumbling.  The person who dropped off our food just asked if it was ours and put it down in front of whoever responded, which was perfect.

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Again, no pictures.  So here’s part one of their Mesquite menu from the website.

Food: fan-freaking-tastic!  We got a bowl of gumbo and a shrimp and octopus cocktail to share.  Both of which were amazing.  I had a little trouble chewing the octopus, but it’s supposed to be chewy.  I knew that going in.  Dad had the salmon, which came with rice and veggies.  Aside from the fish being a bit more well done than he usually eats it, he said it was really good.  I had the enchiladas de camaron.  Three shrimp and cheese enchiladas in a creamy sauce with a side of rice.  They were wonderful!

The only (not really) problem with the food was that everything came out at once.  It’s one of those things that happens when you have to order everything up front.  Is it inconvenient?  Yeah, a little.  Especially for those of us who enjoy eating at a slow pace.  Is it a deal breaker?  Nope.

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Part two of their Mesquite menu from their website.

I didn’t notice any desserts on the menu.  Sadness.  But they have mango margaritas (as well as other drinks).  Those things are addictive.  They coat the rim in Tajin (a seasoning containing lime, chili peppers, and sea salt).  It goes really well with the sweetness of the mango.  They also have tamarindo margaritas.  I want to try that one too, but it’s going to be really hard to beat the mango.

Price: normal.  Seafood is never going to be cheap, but the prices here are pretty good.  We walked away with around a $60 bill (not including tip).  That’s not bad considering all the yummy food we got.  We’ll definitely be going back and I suggest you give it a shot as well if you’re in the area!

My rating:
MMMM