Check out Smith & Co. Designs

I very rarely do something like this, but I believe pretty strongly in the product — take a few seconds and check out Smith & Co. Designs on Bogue Sound’s website. A senior sales executive for the company, Scott E. Smith, lives here in Kinston and does a fine job with designing and printing T-shirts; in fact, I’m going to have him do our T-shirts for The Free Press dodgeball team that will begin play in the Fairfield Recreation Center league in a couple of weeks.

Scott and his wife Beth have had a tough go at it in the past few months, as she has battled colon cancer. However, things are looking up for the couple as she is in remission.

I know a lot of you are in adult sports leagues and in business; the next time you need T-shirts or caps, take a second and compare Scott’s work — I think you will be duly impressed!

East Coast Wings redux

Remember my initial East Coast Wings review on May 15? Well — our good friend Jon Dawson and I checked it out for lunch today and we both left duly impressed for several reasons.

First, their lunch prices are incredible. They have a whole menu of stuff for $6.99 and less … AND it includes the drinks! It’s hard to go through the drive-thru at McDonald’s, Wendy’s or Bojangle’s and get a whole meal for that. It was my first lunch there — but it certainly won’t be the last.

Secondly — and most importantly, to me at least — the service has picked up big-time. With the parking lot still full at lunch today, we walked in, were seated and walked out in 40 minutes flat. The service was phenomenal (we had Megan as a waitress) and as I mentioned in the first review, the wings were amazing. Dawson had a burger that it looked like was about half a cow and he gave it really high ratings, too.

But here’s the crowning achievement — I asked about Game 1 of the NBA Finals tonight: They’re going to have the sound on for the game! Yes, you’ll see me at ECW tonight, cheering on the Celtics to a certain victory over Charlie Kraebel’s Satan-serving Lakers.

The owner also told me that they’re going to do the same for all big events, including UFC matches.

Updated ratings, with my original score in parentheses:

Atmosphere: 5 stars (3 stars) — the only thing keeping it from being higher last time was the lack of volume for games. Now that they are doing it, it’s almost perfect — I’m pretty excited to see what the atmosphere is going to be like for tonight’s Game 1.

Food: 5 stars (5 stars) — still excellent. The wings are actually better than those at Buffalo Wild Wings and I thought I’d never think that.

Service: 4 1/2 stars (2 stars) — don’t know if it’s just because I had a great waitress today, but it seemed like every table around me (which were all full) were getting great service, too. I’m holding back a 5 to see how tonight goes.

Prices: 4 stars (3 1/2 stars) — the lunch prices are very, very fair. Dinner prices are on par with other restaurants in its genre.

Overall: 4 1/2 stars (3 1/2 stars) — Hard to be perfect, but ECW is getting damned near it.

If you haven’t been yet — and I don’t think that’s possible, since it seems like EVERYONE has eaten there already — check the place out. This is what Kinston’s needed for a long, long time and we need to keep them busy so they don’t leave!

My East Coast Wings review

With East Coast Wings opening this week, I had my first experience there Thursday night with some friends and co-workers.

My first impression was that it needs a bigger parking lot! I ate at Ham’s — which was in the spot before ECW opened — a lot and I never saw the lot as full as it was Thursday at 7:45 p.m. And that’s not just a one-time thing — it’s been that way every night it’s been opened.

But don’t let the full parking lot scare you away; even though we had to park in Greene County, we only had to wait about 5 minutes to be seated. It appears they’ve really done a great job of re-arranging seating inside the restaurant to accommodate customers.

With it being so full, though, the service was pretty bad. After being seated, we didn’t have a server for approximately 10 minutes for our waiter to come to the table. Sadly, the service really only got worse from there; the waiter we had was serving about five booths and he was overwhelmed. I did note other waiters and waitresses, though, and they didn’t seem to have the same problem, so I’m going to chalk it up to inexperience.

We were at ECW for the Celtics-Cavs game and we got the channel changed to it — and that’s when the worst part of the night happened: for some reason, they’re not able to put the volume up for the games! They have state-of-the-art HD flatscreens all over the restaurant … but you can’t hear the game? Not good.

But that was the worst part of the night, though. Remember the hand-cut chips Ham’s had? ECW has virtually the same thing — but you can order a bottomless, all-you-can-eat version of it for less than $6! It’s a great deal — especially if you’re at ECW for a while (watching a game, fantasy football draft or checking out the waitresses). The beer prices were very fair, too — a “big-boy” Yuengling (about 24 ounces) was only $3.75, which is considerably lower than at most restaurants, which charge $5 to $6.

The best part? The wings. I ordered two flavors — Kentucky bourbon wings and parmesan wings, and they were FREAKING AWESOME. I love Buffalo Wild Wings — I really do — but I’ll be damned if those ECW wings weren’t as good or better than any BWW I’ve ever had. Anyone who knows me is going to think I’ve lost my mind, but it’s true — those wings were fantastic!

So, let’s break down this review (one to five stars for each category):

Atmosphere: 3 stars (you gotta have sound for games!)

Food: 5 stars (arguably the best wings I’ve ever had)

Service: 2 stars (but I’m going to chalk that up to our waiter being REALLY busy)

Prices: 3 1/2 stars (wings are a little pricey — but worth it. Beer and bottomless soft drinks — for $2 — prices make up for the wing prices. I’m looking forward to the 1/2-price night or 30-cent wing night)

Overall: 3 1/2 stars. But this can move to 4 and even 4 1/2 stars with a little work, i.e., have sound for games, get a waiter who knows what he’s serving.

Oh, I’m going to be back, and probably at some point this weekend (I’ll give you a follow-up here on the blog)! This is a very, very good addition to Kinston and it shows that if you build something people want, it’ll get customers.

Morning News Report; Dec. 4, 2008

BUY GAS AT $1.40 A GALLON AT 5 P.M. TODAY

Start spreadin’ the news: Regular unleaded gas at the Kangaroo across from Bethel FWB Church will be $1.40 beginning at 5 p.m. today. The church is using the reduced prices as a sort of ministry, to pass out information about Bethel.

They’ll also be giving away candy canes and washing the windshields of every car that comes through.

My take: What irritates me is that I filled up yesterday.

Grumble, grumble.

SUPREME COURT TO CONSIDER HEARING OBAMA CITIZENSHIP CASE

The U.S. Supreme Court will consider hearing a case that questions President-Elect Barack Obama’s citizenship on Friday.

My take: Seriously? All this couldn’t be resolved before the election?

And what happens if — and I’d put the percentage at about 0.01 percent that it’ll happen — it’s decided Obama isn’t a true citizen? Does Joe Biden become president? Does John McCain? Nancy Pelosi? (Yes, I shuddered when I typed that last name)

Listen folks, the guy I voted for lost (Bob Barr). The nation needs to come together and this is not the way to do it.

RODNEY ROGERS INJURED, PARALYZED IN ATV ACCIDENT

Former Wake Forest and NBA star Rodney Rogers is paralyzed from the shoulders down after an ATV accident in Vance County over the weekend. He’s been transferred from Duke Hospital in Durham to a specialist hospital in Atlanta.

My take: This one hurts my heart; Rogers was a hell of a basketball player for Wake Forest. I hope they take great care of him in Atlanta.

Please read Barry Saunders’ story in the above link; it has a lot of detail that I didn’t want to simply re-post here.

The iPod shuffle

Like I Love You — Justin Timberlake

Always — U2

Heart Shaped Box — Nirvana

Lonesome Town — Ricky Nelson

Independent (featu. Lil’ Boosie & Lil’ Phat) — Webbie

Mallard’s at Skinner’s Bypass

Periodically — and whenever you want to mention it, too — I’m going to brag about folks and businesses around here that has excellent (or bad) customer service.

Let’s start out with Mallard’s Gas Station at Skinner’s Bypass. Pretty much every gas station in Kinston charges you to put air — air! — in your tires. I’ve seen it as much as 75 cents around town, but it’s typically 50 cents.

I stopped at Mallard’s the other day when I lost 50 cents in a machine at the BP station at the intersection of Hull and Rouse Road. To my shock, the air was free — all you had to do was punch a button on the machine and it came on.

So, the next time you need air, go to Mallard’s at Skinner’s Bypass. It impressed me so much I ended up buying a tire gauge (the machine didn’t have one) and I won’t hesitate to go there and get future snacks and stuff.