Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Aveda Institute Salon - Love It

Update to the original post dated 1/18/12 (see below for original)
I've been here a couple of times now and have never had a bad experience. This time I sprang for a Master Stylist, which runs $18 and includes a scalp massage, wash and blowdry. My stylist was Lindsey B. who did an amazing job. When I walked in, I looked like I had just emerged from the forest and was hiding an abundance of twigs and wildlife in my hair. Although it's a discount salon experience, they offer you tea or water on arrival. 

I sat down with Lindsey, who asked how I would describe my hair in one word -- my response: "unkempt." She asked what I wanted and I mumbled incoherently about being lazy and low maintenance (which had to be plainly obvious from my appearance -- seriously, I looked like I was about to start throwing cats). She managed to somehow intuit what I wanted and gave me a sleek and simple long cut with layers.

One thing I particularly like about the school is the varied clientele. I normally feel uncomfortable in salons, because I never fit into the target clientele whether its 20-somethings with a minimum of 2 facial piercings or 60-somethings on their way to the club for lunch with the girls. While I was at the Aveda salon, there were several older women, several younger women and a couple of men including one dressed in Army fatigues. I felt completely comfortable. 

When scheduling, keep in mind that this is a school so it does take longer than a regular haircut. My haircut took close to 2 hours (although someone with more reasonable hair would likely be faster) and they seemed to be allotting 4-5 hours for color. But if your time isn't money, then sitting quietly playing Farmville while the stylist has several consultations with an instructor is what I'd be doing at home on my sofa anyways.

The Aveda Salon is located in Mandarin at 10601 San Jose Boulevard, Jacksonville, FL 32257. (and Lindsey B. will be there until March 2015)

Originally posted 1/18/12: 
Today I went to the Aveda Institute for a haircut. This institute is a training facility so your hair is cut by students and the process is supervised by trainers. It's an 11-month program and my stylist, Karlie, was in her seventh month. The process was a little longer than a regular haircut. First, Karlie reviewed what I wanted and went over her recommendations, then a trainer came over an reviewed it with us. Then she began with a scalp and shoulder massage using Blue Oil, followed by a shampoo and deep conditioning treatment, followed by haircut and blowdry. If you're not familiar with Aveda, their products are all natural and they smell like heaven (Really, I'm pretty sure Jesus' hair smells like blue oil).

Karlie consulted again with the trainer on "removing some weight" from my hair, and gave me an awesome blowout. She was extremely competent and I wouldn't have know that she was a student if I weren't in a hair school. She was also friendly and patient while I pelted her with annoying questions. I had a job interview later and I'm pretty sure they'll offer me the job based on my hair alone.

The institute is located right next to Whole Foods in Mandarin (10601 San Jose Boulevard, Jacksonville, FL 32257). It's got a great friendly vibe, was very clean, and well run -- they have a little headphone system for the front desk to notify the stylists so I hardly waited at all before Karlie came up front to get me when I arrived. It's a little sparsely decorated -- the sinks are divided from the rest of the salon by an unpainted cinderblock wall. But I would so highly recommend going here. I've never been to a hair school before. I was pretty snooty back in the day and have paid for some fancy-schmancy haircuts (Red Door Salon), and this cut is comparable in quality. Again, I could spend all day sniffing Aveda shampoo so maybe I have a problem, but the massage/shampoo/condition/style was worth $12, even without considering the haircut. Keep in mind that you may have one or two trainers looking at and touching your hair. And if you have a fear of beheaded dolls, be forewarned -- the stylists that don't have clients are all practicing styles on mannequin heads.

I had a Val-Pak coupon for a free haircut, free pedicure, and $20 off of a color service ( I checked the Val-Pak website and they're not currently offering the coupon anymore. But the PRICES are extremely reasonable (normally $12 for a haircut). Word - the stylists don't get paid per haircut but do get to keep their tips, so be nice.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Trivia at Meehan's Tavern

On Thursday a couple of friends invited me to come out and play trivia at a bar named Meehan’s Tavern. The bar is located on Merrill Road and is a good distance from my comfort zone, but, being a big fan of trivia, I decided to take them up on their offer.

The moment I walked through the front door I noticed a frightening calm and silence in the room. It was odd. A group of people were rolling dice. For an instant I thought I had fallen face first into a nightmare of mine which involves me accidentally walking into prison and not being able to get out. My eyes scanned the room and, instead of finding the tough-as-nails warden with a drawl, I found one of my friends sitting at the bar.

So I asked, “Why are they rolling dice?”

“Because that’s how they do it here,” he said. “It’s not all about the questions.”

Meehan’s trivia is done in-house. Questions are projected on a screen by the host, who runs through a Power Point presentation he created containing the questions and answers. The game is divided into four rounds of four questions. At the beginning of the round, a slide of four hints is displayed. Each hint supposedly helps with a question. I disagree. All the hints do is further complicate the game. And let’s be honest, bar trivia is a drinking game. The less complicated the better. With Meehan’s you have certain point values each round that you can bet. There are two wager questions, one in the middle and one at the end, where you can bet up to a certain number of points that will either be added to or subtracted from your point total. Bonus events other than questions pop up throughout the game as a way to add to your score. The bonuses vary and are doled out based on the results of testing random skills – with rolling dice being a constant for that night.

Unlike larger trivia companies that may host trivia at several locations on a single night, this is truly Meehan’s trivia. The questions being asked are unique to the bar. The host reading the questions to the crowd also writes the questions. Anyone who has played trivia before knows that most hosts highly dislike people questioning the answers to questions they have written, which makes Meehan’s a perfect place for an up-close and personal argument over Wikipedia fact-checking.

The questions are multiple choice. You might think that this makes it easier. Yes and no. It’s nice to have a question asked and know the answer. It’s even nicer to know the answer and then have it displayed among the four options in front of you. The only problem with the format is that it makes it acceptable for questions to border on ridiculous. Such as, “How many dots are on the Domino’s Pizza logo?” This is the kind of trivia question that angers people who like trivia. This type of trivial knowledge is pointless. People with an IQ above eighty like answering questions that make them feel intelligent, not lucky. Knowing the answer to a question about history or music or sports or anything one has dedicated time and effort to learn, despite being as useless in reality as knowing the answer to the Domino’s question is three, rewards the answerer with a feeling of accomplishment. That person answered a question grounded in some kind of historical context relevant to their life. There is an emotional attachment, whether big or small, to that bit of knowledge. It actually means something. The only common feeling and memory shared among people regarding the logo of Domino’s Pizza is the shame and humiliation of ordering Domino’s, eating Domino’s and watching your ass expand thanks to a box with three dots on it.

I don’t want to bash the questions too much. There were also perfectly reasonable questions like, “On which team did Ricky Henderson play the most seasons?” This question feels more legitimate to me. It’s an actual fact some people might care about. And if you don’t care about it, you can still guess. Four options are provided. With a twenty-five percent chance of being correct on every question, you can guess and walk away with house cash.

We didn’t stay at Meehan’s too long. When the questions ended we cashed out and headed on to another bar. During trivia we relaxed with a reasonably-priced pitcher of Yuengling. It’s not exactly glamorous, but it felt right in the circumstances. I think it’s best to try the cheaper beers in a bar before buying something more expensive. It makes sense. From keg to tap, the lines running through a bar can be a lot longer than you think. And the beer inside is just waiting to be poured. Something expensive is bound to sit there longer than the cheaper options.

The scenery in the bar was not what I expected. And by scenery I mean people. I expect bars to be filled with young professionals on a Thursday night, relishing in the fact that there’s only one more workday till the weekend. Not so at Meehan’s. The bar was quiet when we walked in during the game of dice and it stayed quiet until we left. There were people. Lots of people considering the size of the space. But the majority were card-carrying members of AARP. That’s not a bad thing. It’s just surprising. In my life I’ve only been in two public locations where the majority of the people were missing teeth: a Waffle House at 3 A.M. in the middle of nowhere Georgia and Meehan’s at approximately nine-thirty on a Thursday. And that made me want to leave.

Would I go back to Meehan’s? No. I see no reason to make the trip. Bars like Meehan’s are for people who live nearby. It’s the kind of place where the person pouring your beer knows you. There’s something special about that, but it’s not special enough for me to go that far out of my way for trivia and a beer.

Hibachi Grill & Supreme Buffet

SUMMARY: Decent food at a decent price. Far better than McDonald’s if you’ve got the time to sit down for lunch and the appetite of a sumo wrestler.


Has anyone ever been excited about going to a buffet? I know I have. When I went on a trip to Vegas I wanted to go to the buffet at the Bellagio because of all the great things I’d heard and read about it.

I know there’s nothing quite up to Bellagio buffet standards in Jacksonville, but I also know there’s nothing quite up to the Bellagio price. And this is where a place like Hibachi can shine. At $6.99 for the weekday lunch buffet, it’s a deal.

Meg: I was super-pumped about this place. Since I haven’t been working, cheap food has become very important to me. As has having a reason to change out of pajama pants. An additional motivator was this coupon are available from Mint Magazine making the buffet $5.99 at lunch and $7.99 at dinner (savings of $1 and $1.60 respectively).

The only way to eat at a buffet and not feel let down is to have reasonable expectations. It’s wholesale food. And price provides the only indication of what level of wholesale. When you buy a bucket of shrimp for cheap from a man on the side of the road, who just so happens to store his product in an Astro van next to his mattress, it is reasonable to expect that you may end up in the hospital. When you buy expensive shrimp from an immaculately clean grocery store, it is reasonable to expect something delicious.

Meg: You’re right, unless you’re going to the Bellagio, you don’t expect Beef Wellington at a buffet. You’re looking for a good selection of food that doesn’t taste like asphalt.

When first going to Hibachi, the price made me
wary. On top of that, I was familiar with the location before when it was the Wing House. I know they’re not the same restaurants, and once you’re inside it’s clear that they are not under the same ownership, but Wing House left a pretty bad taste in my mouth. I don’t think I’ll ever forget having two different pregnant waitresses covered in spandex waiting on me on two separate occasions. Coincidence? Or brilliant attempt to corner an untapped fetish market in Jacksonville?

Meg: Now this area was home not to just one or two wing houses. There was the Wing House, RJ Gators ( which went out of business and became ANOTHER wings place), and Dick’s Wings within about 50 yards of one another – not to mention Wild Wings Café and Hooters just around the corner. It was like the Duggars started having chicken wing restaurant babies. So having some variety here is nice.

When I walked through the doors to Hibachi, it was obvious that a lot of things had changed since the days of scantily clad mothers-to-be. They dressed up the walls with Asian décor and ambiance, going so far as to have one of those creepy cats with the waving arm positioned near the hostess stand, and replaced a significant portion of the seating and bar with their buffet. According to Hibachi’s claims, they have over two-hundred different items on the buffet. They have the typical Asian buffet foods resting in hotel pans behind sneeze guards underneath the warm and unnatural glow of heat lamps along with desserts and fruit. On top of that, there are sections for sushi and Mongolian barbeque. Based on the space and the number of people constantly running food out, two-hundred items is a reasonable claim.

We didn’t take any pictures. So here’s a cat.

The booths and tables are set up in a fashion meant for maximum occupancy. The top of the tables are spare. Salt, pepper, napkin dispenser and soy sauce. It’s simple by design. Everything else you need is located at the buffet. The servers each appear to have a large number of tables to set, bus, clean and tend to the needs of their diners. Our waiter looked like an Asian version of David Bowie. A simple bleach job and some extensions and the awkwardly androgynous Bowie of Labyrinth would have been brought to life right before our eyes.

Meg: I was impressed – the place was packed. There were families, college students, besuited business persons, and retirees. Sitting behind us was an entertaining table of about ten Russian seniors emphatically yelling “Da!” which gave our little room a festive air. We were one of the only tables in our little room speaking English which gave me a nice warm melting-pot feeling.


If you walk up and down the line to examine the food, it becomes apparent that many items are prepared en masse and altered before being put on the buffet. For example, the chicken in the Hong Kong Chicken, the Pepper Chicken, the Hot and Spicy Chicken and the Sesame Chicken all appeared to be the same chicken pieces with different sauces and accoutrements. Unfortunately, the size of the chicken pieces were inconsistent. Frying big pieces and small pieces together results in a lot of overcooked chicken. And the time spent under the heat lamps didn’t help, but it still was comparable to any fast food Asian chicken. The total cost of the lunch buffet is about the same as buying orange chicken at Panda Express. And I feel that Panda Express overcooks their chicken as well, so I’d choose Hibachi in a heartbeat. It’s a matter of choices and Hibachi has plenty. The chicken dish titled ‘Chicken on Stick’ was surprisingly tender. My assumption is that the time saved on thinking up an original name for the dish was spent wisely in its preparation. The Prime Rib was beef floating in a brown sauce. It looked and tasted like something they used to serve us every Thursday in the cafeteria at my middle school. The Baked Salmon dish I tried was coated in a sweet and sour sauce. The salmon’s texture was mushy and the top was covered with albumin (a white, naturally occurring protein that oozes out of salmon when cooked). The flavor of the fish was decent, but the texture and appearance left a lot to be desired. The faux crab dishes were about as good as anything with faux crab can be. The texture was stringy and the toppings, whether cheese or sauce, could not cover up that fact.

Meg: I prepared for this glorious event by having only a banana and almond milk smoothie for breakfast. Then I made the same mistake I always make – I hoovered down a huge plate of food and immediately felt nauseous. The food offerings are ambitious, with sushi, Mongolian barbecue, a variety of Chinese-style cuisine, plus an entire table of food like chicken tenders and pizza for the kids and picky eaters. There were three types of soups offered: hot and spicy, egg drop and dumpling soup. I tried the first, and it wasn’t spicy enough for my taste but was fresh and warm. I ate a full plate of the Chinese-style food, which has several types of rice and noodles as accompaniments. All were on par with any other Chinese-style fast food restaurant .There were several seafood dishes: the baked salmon and crab with cheese that Seth mentioned, but also shrimp cocktail, treasure shrimp (coated in a seafood mixture), buttered triple (crab meat, shrimp and octopus – slightly overcooked due to the heat lamps and a little salty), and a cold squid salad on the salad bar.

The sushi bar was filled with several different types. For the cost, they were good. The rice could have used a little more vinegar, but that’s an issue of preference. The main problem was that nothing described what each roll contained. I’ll try my best to summarize and identify.

The majority of the sushi was urumaki, which is sushi with rice on the outside rather than nori, the traditional seaweed wrapper. Easy to spot. Among the urumaki, the California Roll was the most conspicuous … and because it was so easily identifiable, I’m sure it does not come as a surprise that it was like every other California Roll I’ve tried. I stayed away from the rolls with cream cheese inside and gobs of dressing on top. I’m not a fan. The roll featuring a combination of hot sauce, mayonnaise and what I thought tasted like canned tuna was not all that great. The roll featuring carrots and hamachi (an assumption I’m making based on the color, texture and flavor of the fish) stopped me after my first bite. If it was in fact hamachi, then the quality was low. The fish was mealy and had an odd sandy flavor. There were only a couple of hosomaki rolls, ones with nori on the outside of the roll. The only memorable one was a teardrop-shaped roll with a piece of tempura shrimp, some cucumber and a small dab of sriracha. The other hosomaki rolls were all covered in tempura and fried. It’s a shame. All of them were laden with various sauces and didn’t appeal to me. The final group of sushi, and the first I reach for in these situations, was the nigirizushi. This sushi is the hand-formed oblong balls of rice with pieces of fish, crab, etc. on top. There were only three types plated during my trip to Hibachi: salmon, faux-crab and hamachi. The salmon was the best of the three. The slice of salmon was thin and a little more vinegar in the rice would have really made it much better. That said, this was my favorite piece of sushi. The only problem was that they disappeared as soon as they were set out and only by luck did I end up with a piece. The faux-crab was like it was on the buffet, a little stringy. The hamachi had a sandy flavor and texture.

When it comes to food, I prefer salt over sugar any day of the week. The desserts looked nice, and I watched as a group of older Russian women divvied up a chocolate cake and other desserts amongst themselves, but nothing struck me as a must-have.

Meg: Impressively, there was a full table of fresh fruit near the desserts. It was all perfectly ripe and recently cut. To me, this alone made it a far better deal than any other fast food lunch at a comparable price (anyways, as everyone knows, if you eat fresh fruit for dessert, it cancels out the plates full of deep fried chicken that you just ate.)

The moment David Bowie returned to our table with the bill, I was more than happy to pay … and tip well. Maybe some lingering memory of the two pregnant waitresses influenced my decision to tip within the walls of the former Wing House, but I think it all came down to watching Bowie bust his ass to provide a decent customer experience while cleaning and bussing his own tables. The food quality alone would be worth the price of admission to Hibachi, but the quantity of diverse menu items makes it a good lunch option for groups both large and small. It is important for me to restate that I went to this buffet with the lowest of expectations. But I will happily admit that this is one of those moments where the bucket of cheap shrimp from a shady van actually turned out to be fresh from the water.