Friday, Feb 21 2014 11:09 AM

The Dish: Firehouse Subs is in, Tom's is out

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    Dining Out with Pete Tittl

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BY PETE TITTL Contributing writer

Trader Joe's has 100 percent cherry juice ($3.99 for a 32-ounce bottle) that is from the Caucasus Mountains/Black Sea region of Georgia. The juice is a blend of tart, sweet and sour juices, available for a limited time. They're also offering organic brined whole chicken for $2.99 a pound, the poultry brined in syrup, salt, bay leaves, cloves and other herbs. Another amazing item is Pane Guttiau ($2.99), Sardinian parchment crackers made with olive oil. As thin as seems physically possible given the limitations of food science ...

Tahoe Joe's is now offering a four-course dinner for two for $23.99, which includes a shared appetizer, one soup or salad per guest, a slice of cheesecake to share and choice of entrees (8-ounce prime rib, 10-ounce steak or roast chicken) ...

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Sonic is offering indoor dining rooms in new restaurants built up north. The Oklahoma City-based company has 3,500 units in 44 states ...

Large increases in the cost of mozzarella cheese (up 16 percent since Dec. 1) is causing the price of pizza to go up, according to a report in Bloomberg News. That one ingredient, the story says, is 35 to 40 percent of Papa John's food costs. Higher feed costs and more cheese being exported around the world are behind the increase ...

Hot Dog on a Stick , the Carlsbad-based company founded in 1943 and located in our Valley Plaza, has filed for bankruptcy protection, citing declining mall foot traffic in most of its 93 locations. The company is 100 percent employee owned, a move generated by founder Dave Barham. Barham died in 1991...

Tony Roma's is in the midst of a makeover, changing some Florida locations to Tony Roma's Fire Grill & Lounge and adding items like Indian breads such as naan as well as smoked prime rib on the weekends ...

Look for Firehouse Subs to surface in Bakersfield soon as they're advertising for area managers and supervisors. The franchised fast-casual chain was founded by brothers Chris and Robin Sorensen, actual former firefighters. It was ranked the fastest-growing franchise chain by Nation's Restaurant News last year ...

El Pollo Loco is offering Baja shrimp, both in bowls, tostadas and tacos ...

Elephant Bar has added home-style pot roast to its bargain entree list, making it part of the two-course meals for two for $20. They also have some new lunch combos starting at $5.50 ...

Romano's Macaroni Grill is now offering bottles of wine for half price on Thursdays ...

Del Taco is offering two beer-battered fish tacos for $3.50 for a limited time ...

Chick-fil-A will in the future use only chicken raised without antibiotics. The switch will be complete in all restaurants within five years. It fits other recent health conscious shifts such as removing yellow dye from its chicken soups and high fructose corn syrup from all dressings and sauces ...

Rusty's Pizza is now offering a chili verde pizza at all locations with four different cheeses ...

Tom's Famous Burgers closes

Got an email from reader Elaine Olsen that Tom's Famous Burgers on Rosedale Highway near Calloway had closed. "The food was always excellent and the owners super nice. I realize there is more competition in the area with the addition of Freddy's and Juicy Burger. Do you have any information that maybe the owners are opening elsewhere? We miss their burgers!"

We called to check on what the story was, but the phone was disconnected. We drove past and found no information on the door, lights were on but we saw no other signs of life and no "Closed" sign on the window. Perhaps the owner will see this and email us about any future plans. Parking can be a challenge in that small space and perhaps that contributed to the eatery's demise.

Water shortage hits restaurants

Given the desperate water situation in our state caused by the drought, there's a move afoot to cut water waste at restaurants. Santa Cruz, for example, recently passed a law forbidding restaurants from serving water unless a customer requests it, a practice that some restaurants had been voluntarily following, such as F. McLintocks in San Luis Obispo. Legal or not, the gesture is largely symbolic. The EPA estimated that 84 percent of restaurant water use is in the kitchen and bathrooms.

Reader suggestion on Korean food

Earlier this month we ran an email from a reader asking about the best source of Korean food in Bakersfield. Reader Ann Nguyen sent us an email telling us that a new Korean restaurant would be opening on California Avenue in what was formerly The Orchid Thai Fusion Cuisine. She added, "Panda Palace on Oak has an extensive Korean menu. You just have to ask your hostess for it and they will give it to you along with the Chinese food menu. Panda Palace is so much more than a Chinese food buffet."

$100,000 Best Burger contest

Have a home recipe you think is so great it's worth a small fortune? Then enter Sutter Home Winery's annual Build a Better Burger Recipe contest, with the winner taking home $100,000. In May 2013, Sutter Home awarded $100,000 to Erin Evenson of New York for her winning burger recipe -- the 7 Train Caramelized Green Curry Burger. The five finalists have already been chosen for this year's competition, which will be held at the winery on May 17, but you can start angling for the next contest. For more information and to get recipes of past winners, go to

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