Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Sushi Ai, O'Fallon, MO

Post number 100!! Woohoo!!

Alrighty, enough of that.

Next up is Sushi Ai. Sushi Ai has several locations in the area, but the only one I've been to is the one on Hwy K in O'Fallon, MO (so I can't attest to the quality of the others). More specifically, it's located next to Dierbergs at 2981 Hwy K, O'Fallon, MO 63368. Their website offers the menu, ordering online for pick-up or a quick dine-in, and the ability to make reservations.

In addition to a full menu of Japanese food, they offer an all-you-eat sushi special for lunch and dinner. The all-you-can-eat lunch special is just $12.99 while the dinner version is $17.99. Also, it's available 7 days a week. Now, you may be thinking that your selections are fairly limited and it's not very good, but that isn't the case here. You're given a pretty robust sheet to fill out with how many of an item you want. The options include some appetizer items, like miso soup and vegetable tempura, a selection of 7 or 8 sushi items, and a wide variety of rolls to choose from (I'm partial to the California roll and avocado roll).
The all-you-can-eat menu

Here are some shots of some of the food that either I or my dining mates have ordered.
Greg's selection. I don't remember what he ordered, but that's a Missouri roll on the end closest to the camera.

Matt's selection. I don't remember what he ordered, either.

My noms: a cucumber roll, California roll, avocado roll, and avocado sushi.

After we received our order, we put in another for our second round. It took forever and a day to get our second order, so if you're going during the week on lunch break from work, put in everything on your first order. Now, I'll warn you that on the menu they say that if you don't eat all of what you order, they will charge you extra for what you didn't eat. I'm not sure of the truthfulness of this, but we finished all of our orders so it wasn't an issue. Now, I don't eat a lot of rolls or sushi since I don't eat fish, but what I ordered was really good. So good in fact that I made my brother, Wes, and Doug go back with me on the following Saturday so I could gorge myself on sushi-goodness again. The guys ordered off of the menu and I ordered a buttload of sushi.
Why yes, that is seven rolls of deliciousness. And I ate them ALL, bwahaha!

Doug ordered the chicken yaki soba, I think.

Wes ordered the teriyaki chicken.

My brother watching the teriyaki chicken sizzle.

My brother had ordered the Missouri roll and gyoza (dumplings), but I didn't take a picture of them. I think I was too busy eyeing my plate of rolls. Anyway, everyone said their food was really good so I didn't feel as bad for railroading them into going here with me so I could fulfill my avocado roll fantasies. As for my grub, the avocado has always tasted really fresh and creamy, the seaweed doesn't taste fishy, and the rice is, well, sticky :)

The servers here are friendly enough, but I'd watch the floor. The floor is very slippery for some reason. It feels like they've polished it too much or maybe they have too much soap in their mop buckets and it dries with a soapy film. It may also be from humidity, I don't know, but just watch your step when you're walking.

So, if you're looking for some good Japanese food at a reasonable price, definitely check out Sushi Ai. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised with the selection, quality, and price.

Bonus pic from today's lunch (7/16/2013):
Avocado sushi, avocado rolls, California rolls, and a honey roll.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Apartment Hunting in O'Fallon, MO

So, upon coming back to the U.S. in January, I needed a place to live. I had the apartment in Springfield with a roommate still, but driving 3.5 hours to work from there everyday just wasn't feasible. I needed a place in or near O'Fallon, MO. In the interim, I was staying in a hotel. And oh what a joy that was.

Since my new job was in O'Fallon, I wanted to live reasonably close to the workplace (within a 20 - 30 min drive maximum). Unfortunately, a lot of the apartments in the area are crazy expensive and nickel and dime you to death for everything.

"You want to flush your toilet? That'll be 50 cents per flush."

So I made a list in my mind of requirements for the apartment:
  1. Pet friendly
  2. Two bedrooms
  3. First floor
  4. Under $800/mth preferably
  5. Clean, quiet neighborhood

I found that this list was workable, but the price point was going to be higher. Every complex that I looked at in the O'Fallon area between Hwy 64 and Hwy 70 was nice and in a good neighborhood, but finding a two bedroom under $800/mth was impossible with my salary. I did find several complexes that were based on income that had 2 bedrooms available for around $600 or $700, but my salary was too high for those. Most of the 2 bedroom/1 bath places I found ranged from $850 - $1000 as the base cost. You may be asking why I would want a 2 bedroom apt since I'm single and just live with my cat. That is reasonable. I wanted a place with 2 bedrooms so I could have some storage space and have an extra bedroom if anybody wanted to come visit. I looked online for places in St. Peters and St. Charles, but the prices were about the same if you figure in how much I'd spend in gas each day going to and from work, so I stuck to O'Fallon.

It also seems that the few companies that own the apartment complexes are about even on the prices for extra amenities and deposits. An odd thing that I found was that some complexes would quote you a price for rent, but that rent amount would only be locked in for a few days: they adjusted rent based on supply and demand. I don't know if other places do this, but it's the first time I had ever heard of apartment complexes doing that and was very surprised. Every complex that I looked at also had a crazy-high, non-refundable pet deposit ($250 - $400) in addition to the regular deposit. They also have application fees when you apply to live there and will run background checks at most of the places. Due to this (yet another) extra fee, I only applied to one place. If I was rejected, I would've applied to another, of course.

As far as the nickel-and-diming you to death that I mentioned earlier, tons of things cost extra. Want a car port to park under? That'll cost extra each month. Have a pet? That'll raise your rent a bit each month. Want a garage to park in? That'll be more. Want a storage place? Well, that's not free. Need a washer and dryer but don't want to buy a set? We have some available, but that'll cost ya. By time it's all said and done, you could potentially raise your rent by $200/month if you have a pet, want to rent a washer and dryer, and want a covered place of some sort to park your car. Not to mention that this doesn't include any utilities or cable/internet.

So, did I finally settle on a place, or did I decide that Bessie and I should just live out of a tent along the river? Well, I'm horrible at fishing and don't eat fish, so we finally found an apartment. It met most of my criteria: it's pet friendly, has 2 bedrooms, and is in a good neighborhood. Unfortunately, I'm on the third floor (ooohh, my poor bad knee) and not exactly close to any of the parking areas, and it's definitely not under $800/month. But, I suppose the good outweighs the bad: friendly staff, nice clubhouse (gym, pool table, business center, and a movie theater room), swimming pool, tennis court, sand volleyball court, a trash compactor instead of open dumpsters, gated community (granted, the gates aren't working), package holding at the office, large bathroom, spacious other rooms, easy access to the highways and to work, and it's in a nice subdivision (Winghaven).

The bad would be that ants are horrible (but I've heard they're bad everywhere this year for some reason), stairs kill my knees, a parking spot is difficult to find near my apartment, sidewalks by my apartment flood when it rains, I can hear everything going on outside as if I'm on the first floor with my windows open, and the trash compactor is on the back side of the complex, so I have to chauffeur my trash there. I suppose the "bad" things would be a problem at most places in general, so eh.

Overall, the apartment hunting experience in this area was eye-opening and very different from apartment hunting in Springfield, MO. The extra fees and much higher rent were probably my first major shocks. If you're looking in the area for an apartment (or anywhere), here are my recommendations:
  1. research online first to try to weed out some places.
    Check,, or Google apartments in X city to get a starting list of potential places.
  2. Have a list of must-haves to narrow down the search.
  3. Read reviews.
    The apartment websites and Google will both have review sections from people that have lived there. It's been my experience that the majority of the reviews are negative reviews, so check those out for any potential red flags. It just seems that most people that are happy with their apartment complex don't take the time to post a review.
  4. Scope out the neighborhood.
    Do a drive around the area to check it out, look at crime maps available online, and check the school ratings (if that's important for you.
  5. Finally, go look at the apartment and talk to the staff of the complex.