Review: Margaritaville: The Cookbook: Relaxed Recipes For a Taste of Paradise

Boy, where to even begin. Let’s start with the easy part: I was beyond pleased with Margaritaville: The Cookbook. I bookmarked darn near every recipe in it. By the time I reached the last page I was excited, chomping at the bit, to get started making everything I had tagged. What I thought would be a boring restaurant copycat cookbook couldn’t be farther from that. This is great stuff.

One of the authors of Margaritaville, Carlo Sernaglia is the Concept Chef for the Margaritaville brand. He’s not fooling around. What’s in the cookbook is often the same food you can get in the many Jimmy Buffet-owned or licensed restaurants. And we’re not talking 10 or 15 recipes here either. There’s page-after-page of them, from breakfast to appetizers to desserts to drinks. Everything.

As you’d expect, many of the recipes have an island theme. But not all. I found the ingredient lists to be very accessible. No need to scour the internet to find some bizarre ingredient and have it cold-shipped to the house.

The breakfast section has some nice island-y twists on classics, like huevos rancheros, omelets and pancakes. For example, the South Florida eggs Benedict. What’s different? The Key Lime holandaise, which has, yep you guessed it, key lime juice mixed in. A nice refreshing citrus variation that I cannot wait to make.

The appetizers have a seafood theme, from crab dip to lava lava shrimp to fried oysters. I am pretty sure i bookmarked every recipe to make and make soon. There are a ton of appetizer recipes. Since I’m a big appetizer kind of guy, this was my favorite part of the book. I consider appetizers to be side dishes and often serve them instead of sides.

The list of salads and soups were all light, refreshing and include the steps for making the same dressings you’ll find in the restaurants.

The section on burgers, sandwiches and hot dogs reminded me of the appetizers: I bookmarked everything. Specially the Cheeseburgers in Paradise with Paradise Island Dressing. We live near (but not near enough) the first Cheeseburger in Paradise restaurant. Having a copycat of their delicious namesake burger is a win. A big win.

Next up, main dishes. Everything from fried chicken, to tuna steaks to jambalaya. Something for everyone, and each with a nice twist from the normal versions you’d expect.

You gotta have sides (or at least, appetizers!), and this book has lots of great ones. At the top of my to-do list: JWB (as in James William Buffett) creamed spinach, Yukon gold loaded mashed potatoes, and spicy red onion rings. Yep, onion rings made with red onions. Where have I been that I haven’t made those yet?

You knew that the dessert section would have a recipe for Key Lime pie. And it does. How could it not? And also crispy bananarama. No, they don’t serve the band Bananarama. It’s a flour tortilla smeared with Nutella and topped with nuts and cinnamon, then rolled around a banana and deep-fried. Yes, I bookmarked it. Of course I did.

Last up, the drink section. Like the book (and song) says, it’s 5 o’clock somewhere and this book doesn’t leave you looking somewhere else for good tropical drinks. No matter what your indulgence, there’s a drink in here for you. Don’t forget the little umbrellas.

Margaritaville: The Cookbook wraps up with 3 non-recipe but totally useful sections. ‘Party Menu Suggestions” gives you menus for different theme parties, like ‘backyard beach bbq’ or ‘dockside dinner’ and ‘build-your-own burger paradise’. All
the work has been done for you including suggestions for decorating. ‘Recipes Organized By Fun’ gives you menus for different activities. Going on a boat ride? Tailgating? Looking for some menu ideas for a grill-out? This section, like the party menu suggestion section, does all the work for you, giving you a full menu no matter the activity. Last up, the ‘Party Tips’ section, although short, contains some ‘why didn’t I think of that?’ ideas for your next party. Little time savers and things that will make your next party a lot easier and a lot less stressful.

On my ‘Mater Rater scale Margaritaville: The Cookbook gets top scores across the board. I don’t even have to think about it.

'Mater RaterOne of the first recipes I made from this cookbook was the BBQ Island Club sandwich. It’s a wonderful spin on the classic, and something I’ll make again.

For more of my reviews of cookbooks available for the Amazon Kindle readers, visit Kindle Thyme.

96th Street Steakburgers, Indianapolis, Indiana

Sadly, 96th Street Steakburgersm, like Boogie Burgers, another favorite burger joint, is now closed. For diner-style burgers in the Indy area, visit Stookey’s in Thornburg, the Broadway Diner in Fortville,and Triple XXX in Lafayette. If you find yourself in the Knoxville, TN area, you have to stop at Scotty’s.

I visited 96th Street Steakburgers once before, long ago, right after they opened. I can’t remember the meal as being overly great or bad. I’ve been on a steakburger kick lately, so I decided to drop by for lunch with Anita and a co-worker of hers.

96th Street Steakburgers, Indianapolis, IndianaFrom the outside, 96th Street Steakburgers makes you think “steakburgers”. It has that old diner kind of feel. Inside, it is fairly sparse, with a cold concrete floor that makes a horribly loud noise when people drag their chairs across it. But hey, I’m not there to marvel at the floor, I want a burger.

96th Street Steakburgers, Indianapolis, IndianaOrdering is easy. Just walk on up to the counter. We were there early so there wasn’t a line. Most likely you’ll order like we did – from the combo menu. I ordered a #2, which is a double cheese burger with fries and a drink. I supersized it so I got more fries and a bigger drink. Anita had the #1, which is a single steakburger with fries and a drink. You get a ticket with a number and wait for it to be called when your meal is ready.

96th Street Steakburgers, Indianapolis, IndianaAt first glance, everything looks great. The fries look inviting, and they are tasty, but they were a bit soggy. The burger toppings were fresh, and the patty was cooked perfectly, but it could’ve used some seasoning. I’d have to say that the best part of the burger is the secret sauce. Without it, the burger wouldn’t have been much different than one from Steak ‘n Shake. With it, it’s not bad, just not anything to make me dream about it eating it later that night.

I found the restaurant to be in need of a decent cleaning. Being the first customers of the day I would’ve expected the tables and floors to be sparkling clean from the night’s cleaning, but they were not.

I was a little disappointed with our experience. With just a little effort (cleaning, seasoned patties, and crispier fries), 96th Street Steakburger could easily be on our regular dining rotation.

On the ‘Mater Rater I had to zing 96th Street Steakburger for the reasons I mentioned.

'Mater Rater

Gumbo A Go-Go, Indianapolis, Indiana

Sadly, Gumbo A Go-Go has closed. But, you can still make my take on their Drunken Cajun Chicken Po Boy.

If you follow this blog at all you know that I love spicy foods. Not burn-my-mouth I’m-in-pain spicy, but food that is flavored well and has a kick. I like spice and I don’t like bland. The pox on bland! Spicy is exactly why I love Gumbo A Go-Go.

Gumbo A Go-Go, Indianapolis, Indiana I’ve eaten at Gumbo A Go-Go several times now. I am completely addicted to the Datwich. I could eat a Datwich every day. In fact, I have a tub of Datwich chicken in my fridge right now, just screaming “have me for lunch”. The Datwich is a po’boy topped with shredded chicken that has been slow-cooked in all sorts of good spices, garlic and beer. Spices (lots of sage!), garlic and beer… You can’t go wrong with that. It is messy. It drips yummy goodness. I love it. Make sure to snag a bag of Zapp’s potato chips, too.

I also tried a little of the Ya Ya chicken this time. Yowsa, that Ya Ya chicken has some kick. A lot of kick. I loved it!

Gumbo A Go-Go, Indianapolis, IndianaGumbo A Go-Go isn’t your black tie kind of eating establishment. It’s simply decorated. And it can get busy at lunch time. Get there early, order up a few dishes (at the counter) from the menu (on a chalk board behind the counter), and enjoy!

Gumbo A Go-Go, Indianapolis, IndianaI can’t wait to return to Gumbo A Go-Go. I’ll try something new, and grab me another pint or so of that Datwich chicken and bring it on home for dinner!

'Mater Rater