Granite City Food & Brewery Saint Cloud – A Review!

April 4th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Granite CityFor my birthday, we decided to try something different. Normally I try to do something like Mexican Village or something unique. I had not been to Granite City Food & Brewery in a long time, so I thought that it would be fun to try it. Now, I am a fair reviewer. I do not review a restaurant to blast them. An average experience only gets an average number (or a three), that said…

We arrived at a busy time on a Wednesday, it was like 6:30 in the evening and I knew that it was going to be a little busy. We had a ten minute wait, which I thought was pretty good. The place was busy and we had a small group waiting for tables. A minor accident in the parking lot seemed to help the time pass as people could not figure out how someone had backed into a car and then still took out a handicap sign. I feel sorry for the employee that parked there. I guess to the employee that parked there, do not pick the first parking spot if you know that the place will be packed?

We arrive at our table and sat down. I never liked tables because I feel that I never have enough room. I did feel comfortable though. The table was nicely set and had room to eat when normally you see so many menus and items on the table that you are not able to add anything to the table. The presentation was nice. Our waitress announced her name and the specials. I did not catch anything since I was at her back.

The people that I was with decided to sample some beer. I had ordered my normal drink since I do not like the taste of beer. My guests had talked me into sampling a beer to see if my taste buds had changed. When our drinks were delivered, we had a different waitress who delivered our drinks and was gone in the second that I looked down to look at the name of the beer that they recommended.

The recommendations that I had were to try the flatbread pizzas, so the three of us decided to split a couple of them. After the order was placed, the pressure was off and we were able to socialize a little even though for a dining establishment, it was a little loud. I guess to be expected as this is typically a bar. Everything was clean and a welcoming environment.

Our pizzas arrived nicely and they looked delicious. Interesting enough, if you order pizzas they typically do not bring plates? We had to call the waiter that delivered them (a third person) back to request them. We thought that it was odd that you had to request them at a restaurant. The dining appeared to be semiformal, so you would think that even a mediocre pizza establishment you would get plates before requesting them.

The food was awesome! While the Prosciutto Olive sounded more appealing, the Pepper Bacon and Tomato was something that I would definitely recommend to others venturing to Granite City. The food was displayed very well and fit the atmosphere.

Before we were done eating, we had the check. I wonder if we were being rushed out so that they could make room for others. Looking around, the place was starting to die down. I was hoping for dessert to round off the night. I thought that I would not ask, since I thought that would be something that they would typically do to try to make the tab a little more expensive (higher tab, higher tip?) so I pulled out the gift cards that I was given for Christmas. The bill was not that high, so it covered the bill. We decided that we would leave only a 25% tip since we were not impressed with the service. Now remember with tipping, 15% is supposed to be customary if you had a good time. The meal was okay but service was not so $7 at 25% is a pretty good tip.

Still deciding to enjoy the night, we stayed for a little longer to socialize. We stayed but the wait staff did not check on us at all. I was doing a little timing and noticed that it was about 45 minutes and nobody stopped to ask if we would like another drink or anything. I wonder if the waitress was mad that she only received a $7 tip. We decided that since the dining room was starting to clear out, we would as well.

I decided to give this experience two stars since on a scale of one to five, three would be average and this was not. I understand a busy restaurant, but the staff can take two seconds to stop and check on how things are going. Every time we were visited it seemed like they were gone before you could open your mouth. I am not sure if this location had a lack of training possibly that they did not visit us more. It seemed like after we had paid, we were forgotten.

Look mom! No phone!

August 24th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Over the last year smartphones have evolved from something small (mini browsers, a word app, etc) to the point where I can just about do anything. Tomorrow I am even going to play with a half tab (a half phone, half tablet) that can do a lot more than the first Motorola Flip Phone I purchased 15 years ago.

Over the last year I have been learning more and more about different applications that would allow me to text from my computer. Originally I thought to search for this solution after seeing that Google Voice allows you to text from a computer. The only vice with Google Voice is that it is not the number that everyone has from me.

Texting has evolved from sending a message to a friend to this is a product that is used in the business world. With more and more people having mobile offices; emails and phone calls have become a thing of the past. When I need something it would take five minutes for the salutations whereas if I send a text I can send the text and get the message if they are on the phone, in a meeting, etc. The same is for the data needed for sending and receiving emails. Text messages are something that has become simple, easy, and free for many cellular carriers.

I have found a few solutions that offer something close to what I envisioned. Nothing seemed to be complete and flawless, but I found a solution that I prefer.

Google Voice would be nice if I had already given my number to everyone. If not I would have to explain to everyone that my number has changed. I also noticed that the Google Voice does not have the best voice quality. Would I tell everyone to call one number but text another? Also I do not get any notification that I have an incoming text on the Google Voice website.

Samsung has the Kies Air product that allows me to transfer photos, documents, etc. and also allows me to text. The product is nice as in that it is robust, even though the appearance is not quite there. It works but it is not meant for texting. The conversation is not saved as a conversation or by contact. It is all one text at a time. When I was trying to hold a conversation with multiple people, even I would get lost in the conversation. The solution is a free product so who can really complain?

MightyText was the first application that I have found and tested. Some of the things that I was not happy with was that it added a tag into my contact record. Also I noticed that at one point it had also mixed up some of the contact records and to my surprise it was sending my messages intended for one person to someone completely different. That is when I noticed the tags. Also the computer application seemed to not be as functional as what I was hoping for.

BrowserTexting for me has caught my eye. It seems like one of the fastest, most reliable, systems that are out there. This is the system that I would recommend.

The positives are simple! To start using BrowserTexting you just have to download the app from the Google Play store and then scan the QR code on your computer from the www.browsertexting.com website with your phone. You will then get a message that you are connected. The system is clean, easy to use, and I think that I could have someone that is cellphone illiterate using the system in a couple minutes. With how fast the system is I am able to send many more text messages and hold many more conversations than normal. As a result I have taken this application not only as a personal application but also a business application.

I did find a couple negatives though. While they offer a free service, if you are serious about texting (and send 14,000 texts a month) like me you will want to pay the $14.99 for the Premium Unlimited. It is not that expensive, but I think for a phone application it is higher. I have also never really liked subscription services but rather something where I purchase the application. After speaking with one of the developers, I understand that they have taken the payment portion away from Google Play as a result of their fee of 30% profit. Also at times it is really slow using my home internet on my phone. I am not sure if it is a bandwidth issue or if it is something from my internet service provider. I do not have the best internet living in a rural area, but I make due and just turn off the wifi.

Feel free to check out the different applications. I recommend BrowserTexting and will continue to use this application. Enjoy!

Bad Business – Monticello Arby’s Review

June 12th, 2012 § Comments Off on Bad Business – Monticello Arby’s Review § permalink

After a long day at work my coworker and I decided to head to Arby’s for a quick bite to eat on the way back to his car.

Walking into this Arby’s location was nice and pleasant. The fast food restaurant seemed to be very open and inviting. Working out in the sun all day I had wanted to wash my hands. The restrooms seemed to be very nice and open as well. Upon washing my hands though I noticed no paper towels. Notifying the single woman at the front while my coworker was ordering it seemed like she did not hear me. Trying again she did not acknowledge my concern and my colleague and I spoke about her as nicely just saying that she does not appear to really hear us as if she was zoning out.

With him ordering he had said that wanted a military discount. Okay, I see discounts to military as a joke. I have served in government employment without a gun and a bulletproof vest and often thought about whether I am risking my life for a good reason; I receive no discount. My military friends said that they feel safer being deployed than they do walking the streets at night or working in government… where is my discount? Okay fine… I won’t say anything.

The woman working the front counter said that she had to verify such a discount. She proceeded to ask everyone working what to do. Everyone told her to get a manager out of the cooler since they would have to enter a code for the discount. Waiting in line for four minutes just for this discount, I was getting frustrated, and then nothing as to sorry for waiting in line.

Ordering a French Dip, it took the average amount of time for fast food and my tray was delivered to my table after some confusion as if I should have been waiting at the table.

The food was the average fast food, nothing special and it only took about 20 minutes to arrive at the table from the time I had left the restrooms. The French Dip tasted plain and was not appetizing for some reason. It was as if they forgot some seasoning or something and the dip was just water.

The cost of the food was high for fast food and I could have easily went to any other deli, small sit-down diner for the same price and had better service.

In completing the Arby’s Survey on the back of the receipt, I did receive an email letting me know that they would like to offer me a free meal. Sending my address and it being two weeks later, I did not get my free meal (of which I would have given the card away anyhow).

As a result of everything I would have rated them a two (three is average) but thinking about everything with the bathroom incident, the wait in line for a discount that I think should be null and void, the quality of the food and cost. However since not receiving the free meal shows that Arby’s does not care and I feel that a one star is appropriate. Two weeks later, I should have received their card in the mail as promised. With many other options that are close by, I will choose other options in the future.

UPDATE: Card received June 16th for a free meal. Gave it away.

Going a WAZE! A cool smartphone app!

March 10th, 2012 § Comments Off on Going a WAZE! A cool smartphone app! § permalink

To explain it, I thought that I would use their promo clip…

As a result of the social GPS aspects of the application as well as the smartphone fun I have decided to become an Area Manager. I have been working on maps all over the state of Minnesota and hopefully helping GPS maps. I have enjoyed it and it is definitely a great system. I recommend everyone checking it out.

Garmin Nuvi 3490LMT

February 28th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Garmin Nuvi 3490LMT - Front View

With my life now focusing around the Twin Cities, and the life of being stuck in traffic, I decided to purchase a new GPS. After doing a week of research I found the GPS that I wanted to purchase after some small issues, I walked off with a GPS last week. My review…

I have to preface this review with the notation that I have owned many different GPSr’s… makes, models and types. My previous Nuvi was the 765t, but I have experience in four different Nuvis as well.

I decided on this model as a Nuvi can last forever if you treat it correctly, but I was looking on something with different traffic routing. The Garmin Nuvi 3490LMT has the new traffic Guidance 3.0, but also lifetime map updates. With this being the new 2012 line, I figured that it would last.

After opening the package, I was extremely shocked to see such a small device. In comparison to the previous Nuvi models, this was extremely light and also much thinner. With my previous Nuvi side by side, I was excited. Mounting this on the stand in my car I actually chuckled a little as it made the stand look huge. Nice!

Garmin Nuvi 3490LMT - Side View

Turning the unit on I was not excited to have to start all the updates. After attempting to update this device I was not excited to see it fail after two hours of having this device sitting here idle.  After the second try the map was pushed to the device. Still I was told on the Smartlink app (the new Android application) that I had a voice update that I had to complete. So as a result the Web Updater application was not functioning correctly and I had to reinstall it. Now thinking about some of my family members, would they be able to do this all themselves? No! Fail by Garmin for not being user friendly when updating.

After applying all the updates, I was trying to figure out how to do some things. I am extremely tech savvy. How do I import stuff from my old GPS? Where is a manual? How do I set the security? Why do I feel lost? Garmin does not provide any type of manual for their GPS units anymore? Wow.

So I was able to figure everything for the most part but still spent a couple hours trying to do some research on this device only to find NOTHING. This device is too new to find anything online.

Garmin Nuvi 3490LMT - Angle View

I was able to learn a lot about this device playing with it, but I can only imagine others failing. The 3490 is much like a smartphone. Extremely easy to use and very touch friendly compared to the previous models that I have had. I did like the voice command feature and found this to be the best device as far as voice activation and recognition. STARS! Congrats Garmin. I was able to freely navigate the GPS without touching it.

I love Android as most know, so seeing an app on the Android Market for my GPS put a smile on my face until I seen what it can do. Garmin Smartphone Link… nothing. It really does not do anything other than show me my saved / recent locations. If I could click on an address / set of coordinates from a browser or contact and be able to select that I wanted to navigate from there, I would be impressed. It seems that the Garmin Smartphone Link is simply for the added features like live traffic, traffic cameras, and fuel prices. So is this useful? I guess it does tell me when I should update my GPS.

Garmin Smartlink Phone Application

Premium subscription services also were made extremely confusing. How long do these last? What is the cost for the life of the GPS? Doing research I was able to find out that these were a yearly subscription for what I would consider a lot of money. The Fuel Prices subscription is $10. I would have to save a lot of money for $10, and since this is using my own phone data plan would it not just be better to use GasBuddy? Weather? I can see that on my phone as well… also I have the NAVTEQ navigation (or from what I can tell, Garmin Live Traffic) on my Epic 4G Touch free from Sprint, so really why do I need a GPS at all then? Well I like the ability to talk on the phone while driving, otherwise I would have no need for the GPS at all.

The traffic guidance system does seem to be a little better and more responsive and will hopefully get me out of some traffic. I did notice that it does seem to take a bit to respond… 30 seconds? I don’t know about that.

I did login to my Garmin MyDashboard only to see my device listed there with a link that says “Located Device”… hmmmm…. really? Can I track my device? Maybe they ditched the idea of a pin and for security purposes would allow me to login and track my device? Calling the Garmin Customer Service department I was on hold for a while and was able to speak to someone that did offer some help.

As it turns out, Garmin did remove the security pin feature that was with the previous Nuvi devices since they did not want to have to reset devices when the pin was forgotten. In my years in information technology I have always found that it is never good to remove a feature but only to add. Well, I guess Garmin did not get that memo. Well at least we have tracking still… right? NOPE! This link is not supposed to be here. The developers gave me a glimpse of a feature that they are still creating. Now it prompts more questions… What is the cost going to be for this? Will it be free as a result of no other security features? Will it be a yearly app? Monthly rate? If I have to pay to track a stolen device….

I do have to say that I like the pedestrian mode on the GPS. Being able to use the GPS for other things, like subways, bus routes, etc was something that is nice. Like I said to a coworker, this is just like a smartphone. I am hoping that the battery is better though.

Garmin Nuvi 3490LMT - Turned

Well I am happy that I have lifetime map updates, I like the features, and the new design. Would I recommend someone purchasing this GPS as a first time GPS. I would give this a 4 star rating for a GPS. I am not sure that I would give this a 4 star rating though if they are upgrading from another perfectly fine GPS, I think that it would be a 3 star GPS for an upgrade because I was expecting more. Going from the Garmin Nuvi 765t, which was fine, for $400 I would have been fine just keeping the old GPS.

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