Category Archives: Review

Review: Takara presents a great touch to Asian restaurants in Monroe

Kendall Sienon, Staff Writer

MONROE, N.C. — You don’t have to go far to get exquisite Asian cuisine. Located on Highway 74 across the street from the Buick/GMC Car Dealership, Takara may be the new go-to place for all sushi, hibachi, and Asian fare lovers!

Nearly everyday of the week you’ll see the restaurant full of hungry guests. However, on Wednesday and Sunday it is extra busy when Takara offers half price sushi on their special rolls. However, the specials don’t stop there. On Thursdays, they have buy one hibachi get one half off.

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Photo Source: Yelp

There are two dining options to choose from: Hibachi or regular dining. At hibachi, guests can choose anything from the menu including sushi and items from the kitchen. There, a chef will cook for the table right in front of you. He will roll out all the tricks, while putting on an entertaining show for diners.

The fried rice is immaculate and the seafood sauce is never ending. The chicken, steak, shrimp and veggies that accompany the extra large portions of fried rice are cooked to perfection.

Each hibachi dinner includes an option of soup or salad, fried rice, veggies and meat. If you’re not in the mood for something so heavy and just interested in the hand-made sushi, the regular dining option may be for you. There, it is like any typical dining experience with average servers.

There is one server there that always remembers me every time I went there with my order ready to be placed. She has since moved on and no server has stepped up to match her enthusiasm and amiability.

Although the service isn’t top-notch, it has not stopped me from enjoying some of the best sushi I’ve ever had. My go to is “White Christmas” but there are some other rolls that are just as incredible such as “Pop-Pop Girl” and “Godzilla”. I promise this sushi will not disappoint.

Takara offers consistent service with a consistent meal. The atmosphere is intimate and soothing while offering an Asian flair. It is a perfect place to go on a first date or with a group of friends. Half price sushi is a must and don’t be surprised if you find yourself there nearly every week enjoying the handmade sushi rolls.

Address: 2515 W Roosevelt Blvd, Monroe, NC 28110

Hours: M-F 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m., 4 p.m.-10 p.m.; Sat 12 noon-8:30 p.m.; Sun 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

Busiest times: Wednesday/Sunday; 6:30-8:30 most days

Phone Number: (704) 289-1127

Dress: casual

Reservations: not necessary but recommended for large parties

Wheelchair access: Yes

Price: $/$$$ (however it can range depending on the day you go and the items you choose)

Overall Rating: ★★★★ (4 out of 5)

Edited by: Brea Childs

Persona 5 takes on a new plot from Persona 4

Danny Stueber, Staff Writer

When Persona 5 was announced back in 2013, I knew it be my top game of the year whenever it came out. Time and time again it was delayed until this past April when it was finally released and what do you know, I was not wrong all those years ago.

Persona 5 is a long-ride filled with great characters, a great story, a plethora of things to do, and even after completing the game after 100 plus hours, I was ready to jump right back in for another play through. Not only is it one of the most stylish games ever made, it’s possibly one of the best RPGs ever made period.

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Photo Source: PlayStation Universe

Presentation

When Persona 4 was released back in July of 2008, you played as a kid who moved to a small town with your uncle for a year in and right away you were the most popular student around. Everyone loved you and everywhere you went you felt like no one could be cooler than you.

Persona 5 goes in the complete opposite direction. You are forced to go live in the big city after being expelled from your previous school and receiving a criminal record for a crime you did not commit (you stopped a man from abducting a woman but it turns out that man was a high-ranking government official and was able to have you arrested for attacking him).

You go to live with a guardian while you serve your probation period and everyone stays away from you thinking you’re a hardened criminal that could snap at any moment.

The complete contrast was very refreshing after Persona 4 and being treated differently and not having a power trip was something I have not really experienced in a game before. You feel like garbage because of how everyone treats you even though you did the right thing in saving that woman and you must work your way to being seen as a good kid through the game.

To do this, you hang out with friends, go to your jobs, read books, take exams, and everything else you’d assume a high school student would do. Half of the Persona series is life management and simulators; that might sound boring but it’s the complete opposite when everything you do has flair or helps make your character stronger.

You also only have a year in the city before you are sent back home and you can only really do two activities a day (one after school and one in the evening), so you need to spend your time wisely.

Like I said though, this is only half of the game. The other half is dungeon crawling through the hearts of corrupt adults to make them realize their misgivings. You and your friends are able to go to another world where if you steal the “treasure” of these corrupt adults, you can cause them to have a change of heart and to become better people, even admitting to their crimes.

The game does an amazing job at setting up your opponents and making you want to take them out with some examples being a school coach that physically abuses his athletes, an artist who plagiarizes his students work for his own gain, and a mob boss who uses students as drug mules.

The villains are complete scum and it’s up to you and your friends to take them out while also balancing your real everyday life. This all takes place in what is known as “Palaces” which are all completely different from the previous one before it.  They take the physical representation of the adults desires so a school will look like a castle or a city will look like a bank with the citizens as ATMs.

All of this is held together with the most stylish visuals and a perfect soundtrack. Every menu, loading screen, battle animation, purchase option, etc. has extravagant visual design that continuously impressed me. I even felt anger at some points seeing how much polish went into this game’s design compared to other games.

Additionally, the game is filled with an incredible soundtrack, one in which is full of wonderful compositions and vocals that makes Persona 5 one of the most stylish game I have ever seen in my life hands down. If you ever see me walking on campus, there’s no doubt the soundtrack is being played in my head.

Gameplay

In Persona 5, you fight with personas, physical representations of your inner resolve to rebel against evil adults. In this case, each team member’s persona takes on the look of famous thieves- since you are, after all, stealing the corrupted desires in treasure form from your enemies. For example, Captain Kidd, the pirate and Robin hood steal from the rich to give to the poor.

Every teammates persona has strengths and weaknesses like your friend being strong with fire attacks but weak to ice damage. As the main character, you can use multiple personas though that you collect through the Palaces. It has an almost Pokémon style but not nearly as many compared to that series to collect.

Battles in Persona 5 are turn based. What that means if you have never played a turn based game before, your team and the enemy team each have turns to attack until there is a winner. The main goal of each fight is to find the enemies weakness and if you can do that, the enemy is knocked down.

If they are down, you can attack them with every member at once for a lot of damage, or talk to the enemy to try to convince them to join your Persona team, give you money, or give you items. Every motion of attack whether you’re calling on help from your persona, to firing your gun, or to just straight up attacking, has the same amount of visual flair as the rest of the game.

If you just want to rush through fights, you can just press a button and it will play out for you. The game has thought of everything when it comes to accessibility and making sure no matter how you want to play, you can do it. It even has an option where you can make it so that your character never dies and you can just enjoy the nearly perfect story.

I don’t want to go too much into the story but it plays out seeing your character captured at the start because one teammate betrayed you and turned you into the cops. You then speak to a prosecutor and recall the events of the game trying to figure out who the traitor was while also trying to see the bigger picture in the grand scheme of things.

If there was one flaw with the game, it was that near the end I wanted to just get through battles quickly so I could get back to the story with how engrossed I was in it. Also the combat is a blast but I just wanted to see what was coming next!

Conclusion

Persona 5 is amazing and everything I wanted ever since it was announced. It took years to come out but you can see in the polish and overall design that the developers really put all their heart and soul into their product. I would say the story is slightly less intriguing than that of Persona 4 but that’s probably just because I was so attached to those characters for years and this game is brand new.

The only negative I would say about this game is that, there were times when i just wanted to continue to fight battles, but I couldn’t. Other than that, I loved hanging with friends, making relationships, trying to live a normal life while being a thief in another world, the humor of the game, the times it became dark and you felt for the characters, the design and flare are the strongest of any game I have ever played.

I really like this game and it was completely worth the wait. I cannot praise this game enough. If you like JRPGs or RPGs pick up this game. If you are on the fence about it, trust me and pick up the game. It has something for everyone and by time the credits roll it will be an experience that sticks with you for a long time to come. This will be the first game I have ever given a perfect score to.

Persona 5

10/10

Danny Stueber

Edited By: Brea Childs

Review: El Aguacate adds to Mexican restaurant choices in Monroe

Maggie Smith, Staff Writer

In Monroe alone, there are approximately seven Mexican restaurants. New Mexican restaurants open in Monroe often. I personally am an Mexican food enthusiast, so naturally when there’s a new Mexican restaurant I want to try it out.

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Photo Source: Yelp

Recently a new Mexican restaurant called El Aguacate opened up on E Roosevelt Blvd. and I decided to check it out.The restaurant has two separate entrances, the one on the right is for take out and the one on the left is for dine-in. The restaurant is pretty big on the inside, so there is a lot of room for sitting.

The business was very slow for a Sunday afternoon compared to other Mexican restaurants on Sunday afternoons when many people pile in after church for their Sunday fix.

It could be because it’s a new restaurant and business isn’t up to par yet, or it could be that it’s location is tucked away off of the Blvd. in a strip of stores connected to the Food Lion, which keeps it hidden.

So if you’re craving Mexican food on a Sunday afternoon and all the other Mexican restaurants have a long wait, El Aguacate will have a table available. Like many restaurants they bring you chips and salsa immediately when you’re seated, but what I really liked was that they also bring you a delicious complementary dip which is Queso mixed with refried beans.

Typically at Mexican restaurants I order a Pollo Con Crema or something similar to it, so I decided to also order it at El Aguacate to better compare it to other Mexican restaurants. The Pollo Con Crema is a plate that consists of marinated chicken strips covered with Queso and comes with a side of Rice and Refried Beans.

They also bring offer a choice of flour or corn tortilla shells with the meal so you can make your own burritos if you want, which I recommend. The mix of the Chicken, Rice, Beans, and Queso is the perfect mix.

The Pollo Con Crema at El Aguacate was $9.75, which is the average price at most Mexican restaurants. The overall pricing was average on the menu and they have different specials each day of the week.

On Sunday’s the special is the Burrito Acapulco, which is a burrito stuffed with Mexican rice, melted cheese, pinto beans, grilled mushrooms, and a creamy white sauce. On Monday’s, the specials are Enchildas, in which you get to choose an Enchilada from the menu for a discounted price. On Tuesday’s, the special is Chimichangas in which you choose the one you desire from the menu as well. Wednesday’s are taco nights. Thursday is fajita night. Friday’s special is the Pollo Con Crema, and Saturday is the Camarones Diabla, which is a garlic spice marinated with butter, grilled onions, and pepper.

It’s served with rice and salad. The menu also has a varied selection that is not limited to just Mexican food. El Aguacate also serves Seafood, Pork, Wings, and Pizza. They also have domestic and imported beers and tend to have specials on certain days for beer.

For instance, on Thursday’s along with the Fajita’s they also have $3.00 large beers. If you’re a sweet tea drinker and like your tea pretty sweet like I do, you’ll definitely like their tea. They also have other mixed drinks to choose from that run as specials certain days, they also serve smoothies, and of course Margarita’s.

The service was great and the owner even came over to check on us a couple of times as well. He was very nice and wanted to ensure that we had everything we needed.

El Aguacate is open Sunday-Thursday from 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. and 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday’s.

I was very pleased with this new restaurant and really recommend giving this place a shot.

Edited By: Brea Childs

Review: Hilltop brings culinary diversity and family fun to the Monroe-Wingate area

Jackson Kaplan, Staff Writer

MONROE, N.C. – – – When going out to eat for a meal, do you consistently struggle with deciding what to get on the menu? Spiro’s Hilltop Fish Fare and Steakhouse may very well present this challenge; however, any food item you choose is guaranteed to satisfy anyone’s taste buds.

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Photo Source: The Knot website

Since 1930, Hilltop has provided quality American, Italian, Seafood, and Greek dishes to the Union/Mecklenburg county area. When a customer walks in through the front doors, you instantly smell the combination of a very diverse menu this restaurant has to offer. Hilltop has something for everyone during all times of day.

Hilltop features a family friendly, welcoming atmosphere with multiple sectors of the restaurant that appeals to every type of person who prefers a particular dining experience. If you walk through the entrance and turn left, this room provides a quiet, calm atmosphere for small to large parties.

When walking to the right of the hostess stand, Hilltop brings a first-class bar/buffett area which features multiple TVs and a large projector screen to watch sports or the local news. Walk further to the back and down a spiral staircase, you will experience a lively bar area for people who want to watch their favorite sports team in a fun atmosphere. Again, Hilltop has something to appeal to every customer.

First time at Hilltop and looking for its specialties? All you need to do is read the full title of the restaurant and it will provide a clear indication of its best dishes. For steak lovers, try Hilltop’s signature steaks like the bone-in ribeye or the prime filet mignon. The steaks are cooked to perfection and are highly recommended for first-time visitors.

Not a fan of steaks? Customers could never go wrong with a solid assortment of signature fishes including Chilean sea bass, halibut, mahi mahi and grouper. Don’t worry, there are many other different fried, blackened or grilled fishes to choose from if you aren’t a fan of either of the aforementioned options.

Hilltop offers the same menu at lunch and dinner time, but the lunch crowd can enjoy a variety of sandwiches, paninis, wraps, soups and salads. The possibilities and combinations of menu options are almost endless.

Hilltop is one of those unique establishments that has you covered for all three meals of the day, including a delicious breakfast. The lunch and dinner crowds are much more popular (especially on weekends), but Hilltops provides all of the classic breakfast time favorites. Pancakes, omelettes, french toast, waffles, eggs and biscuits.

There are also many unique offerings like country ham biscuits, chicken biscuits, country fried steak, country fried ham, toasted bagels, and many more. The food options for all three meals are too many to list, so it’s best to check out the menu yourself because chances are good that you’ll find everything you’re looking for.

Personally, there are very few negatives with Hilltop because of the many food choices, friendly service, family environment and the southern atmosphere. One downside is parking. If you decide to dine at Hilltop on a Friday or Saturday night and arrive at around 5:30-6:00 p.m., good luck finding a parking space. Sometimes customers get lucky and someone is leaving their space as they arrive,  but there is very little parking to accommodate everyone who comes to Hilltop.

However, the parking lot of nearby Southern States provides additional parking if the Hilltop lot fills up, but it’s quite a hike from there to the restaurant. Other than the bad parking options for vehicles, Hilltop is sure to be a satisfying experience for every customer looking for quality and southern fun.

Stars: 5

Reservations?: Yes. Reservations are required for parties greater than 15 people.

Atmosphere: A combination of noisy and quiet depending on what section of the restaurant you sit in.

Hours:

Breakfast – 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. | Saturday and Sunday until noon.

Rest of the day – 12 noon to 11 p.m.

Prices: Low to high depending on the food item.

Busiest times?: 6 to 9 p.m.

Time spent: 45 minutes to 1.5 hours.

Size: Very large

Edited by: Brea Childs

NCG movie offers a great movie experience to the Monroe area

Andrew Elliot, Staff Writer

You open one of the many doors available, and you are greeted by the smell of delicious popcorn. The friendly staff greets you from across the room over the hum of the icee machines; “Hi! Welcome to NCG!” they call. Now this, is a movie theater!

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Photo Source: NCG Movies website

Many of the locals have taken the opportunity to go and spend the day at the new NCG (Neighborhood Cinema Group) Cinema Monroe. The first run theater is located at 1911 Dickerson Blvd. in Union Square; where the old theater was when it closed in 2012. In 2015, the wait was over for people looking for a place to catch the latest movies as NCG opened its doors on December 12th.

NCG Monroe is a place the whole family can come and enjoy the latest blockbusters; NCG is wheelchair accessible and hosts birthday parties. The theater has eight screens and is open seven days a week; NCG is open 365 days a year.

The ticket prices are $8 for adults and $6 for seniors, students, with valid I.D, military, and children under 12 years of age; $6 matinee tickets are available before 6 p.m. and $5 tickets on Reel Deal Tuesdays. The theater accepts credit cards and cash; as well as reward vouchers from the NCG Club Card, free on purchase.

If you decide to go to see a movie, be sure to arrive early, should your movie be a popular hit. Parking is available in front of the theater.

When you enter the theater, you will buy your tickets at the registers on the right; there are plenty of concession items to choose from such as popcorn, candy, nachos and pretzels; all items are discounted on Reel Deal Tuesdays as well.

After buying your tickets and concessions, you will take your popcorn bucket to the popcorn counter; where you can get unlimited refills throughout your movie.

The popcorn is best when you ask for the popcorn server to fill the bucket halfway, so that you can apply butter and flavoring to make your already tasty popcorn even more delicious; the popcorn server will then fill the rest of your bucket while you fill your cup with either a coke product drink or an icee from the frozen and Coke Freestyle machines on either side of the popcorn counter.

On your ticket, there will be a number for the theater, ranging from one to eight. On the far side of the theater, are theaters one thru five; on the side nearest the counters, are theaters six thru eight.

After you give your ticket stub to the ticket taker, if there are any the day you go, you are ready to enter the theater and sit in there comfortable reclining seats; just make sure you don’t fall asleep and miss your movie!

For more information on tickets and birthday party hosting, go to https://ncgmovies.com/monroe/ or call them at (980)-313-8503

Edited by: Brea Childs

Wingate University Celebrates Women’s History Month with debut of Maya Angelou documentary

Nick Anta, Staff Writer

Wingate University kicked off Women’s History month Tuesday by screening Maya Angelou’s documentary, “And Still I Rise” with a discussion lead by producer/co-director Rita Coburn Whack.

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Photo source: Rogerebert.com

The film, which took over 6 years to make, showed a very intimate side of the singer, dancer, author, producer, playwright, poet and civil rights activist.

Mrs. Whack admitted that she felt “drawn to Maya” at a very young age. “I remember reading this book of poetry with a black woman on the back. I remember because it was the first time I’d ever seen a black author on the back of a book, let alone a woman” said Mrs. Whack.

She had begun sending candles and letters to Angelou’s representatives around that time in an attempt to show her how much of an impact she had. “As cheesy as it sounds, I’d go pick out these little candles and write her letters talking about how much she influenced me and my little lines of poetry along with them” said Mrs. Whack.

Years later, she would get her chance to finally interview Maya Angelou, while working for the Oprah Winfrey show. She wouldn’t know it at the time, but that was the start of a relationship that would ultimately allow her to complete the documentary, years later.

“That interview, along with a few other times that we met, showed Maya that she could trust me. That I wasn’t out to make a buck” said Mrs. Whack. The documentary proved the trust, as Maya gave details about past marriages, the feelings she had on her son’s possible paralysis, the assassination of MLK and many other sensitive topics.

Ultimately, the lyceum event left many students with feelings of admiration for the accomplishments of Maya, a woman of color in the civil rights era. “It was really powerful to see how she could accomplish all of that after being abandoned by her real family and sent away” said Zarron Harvey, a Senior at Wingate University.

“I think she’s a great example of just how much a woman can accomplish if she fights through what life throws at her” said Katie Bludau, a Junior at Wingate University.

The documentary will be airing on PBC intermittently throughout the month of March and will be available for purchase soon.  

Edited By: Brea Childs

Food Recovery Network founder sheds light on Food Waste and Ugly Produce

Sydney Walker, Staff Writer

Wingate, N.C. – “Food waste is not one problem, but a collection of hundreds of problems that need to be solved–especially if the growing population wants to be fed,” said Ben Simon to Wingate University students. “The only way to feed the estimated 9 billion people in 2050 is to reduce the amount of food waste. Reducing just 15% of food waste could feed 25 million Americans.”

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Photo source: Food Recovery Network

Ben Simon, the CEO of Imperfect and the founder of the Food Recovery Network, first realized how much food was wasted in his college’s cafeteria. “At 9 p.m. just before closing, there would be stations full of food,” Simon said.

Simon asked a friend who worked in the dining hall what happened to all of that food. He found out it was just thrown away. This sparked the Food Recovery Network. The Food Recovery Network “is the largest student movement against hunger and food waste,” Simon said.

It wasn’t until Simon got a segment on the Melissa Perry Harris show that the Food Recovery Network took off. “That day and week we got applications from college students to spread the program to other campuses,” Simon said. “Starting this program locally with friends and growing it to a larger size is one of the greatest experience I’ve ever had.”

Simon said that is the government’s goal to reduce food waste by 50% before 2030. About 40% of food is wasted per year which is about 197 million pounds of produce. Simon said most of this food is wasted on farms because they are too ugly.

“Cauliflower that has a slight yellowing to it from the sun aren’t even considered for market. Heaven forbid the sun shines on produce and gives it a little sun tan,” Simon joked. “Let’s sell some ugly produce and love imperfections.”

Simon’s company Imperfect has about 15,000 to 16,000 subscribers in CA where they originated. The subscribers receive a box of ugly produce to their doorstep.

Simon was a government and politician major in college. He encouraged students to get involved with different student organizations. “I’m doing something completely unrelated to my major because of different student organizations. I found myself through work outside of my major,” he said.

Freshman Erin November said “I found it interesting that he was a government student like myself but changed paths. It makes me think about what I can do to improve situations on campus dealing with food waste and environmental studies.”

Freshman Katie Garrett said “it was very inspiring that he could start his own company at such a young age and be so successful.” Simon said fighting food waste can help with hunger problems. “One in six Americans struggle with food insecurities,” he said.

Garrett said she found the statistics shocking. “We could easily fix our hunger problem if we weren’t concerned with a standard of how things should look in advertising,” she said.

Edited by: Brea Childs