Dos Hermanos Mexican Kitchen

It’s too bad a small grocery market couldn’t make it in the 222, but having it replaced by a traditional, street-food-style Mexican spot? That’s something we all can gather around, and Dos Hermanos is decidedly a solid spot for authentic tacos.

Their menu is simple, and that’s not a bad thing. Tacos, burritos, enchiladas — you get what you would expect, and nothing more. (Granted, menudo on the weekend might be a curve-ball for some, but it should come as a welcome one.)

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The tacos are as simple as the menu: fresh tortillas, baked in-house, are vessels for suitably sparse, yet tasty fillings. Even the omnipresent chicken has something going for it. Here it comes in stringy, semi-spicy pieces, topped with a decent, if not overly exciting, salsa. Lime wedges are served on the side, though I only got two with my three taco meal, which, at one cent shy of $13, also gets you rice and beans.

The latter is prepared in just the right consistency and properly accompanies the tacos. Not too runny, but thin enough that you can either eat it by itself or on top of the taco. The rice has a bit of a Spanish kick to it as well.

Bonus points go to some well-thought-out interiors. A mural and a color-pop from the bar add a pinch of pizazz to an otherwise austere space. The seating is comfortable enough to warrant a special mention of its own. It’s a good locale, with a view of the market apt for people watching. And everything on the menu can be prepared vegan style to boot.

Now granted, authentic tacos aren’t that out of the ordinary these days, but they’re a bit of a rarity outside of trucks in Oly. Bless spots like the QB for taking their spin on the classics, but once in a while, the real thing is what the heart wants. That’s not what the El Sarapes of the world serve.

Dos Hermanos, then, is in a great location where they serve good tacos. Team OlyCOOL™ emphatically consider it a great addition to downtown.

This post is part of Tortillaphilia, a category for those with a special relationship with anything tortilla related!

Three Magnets Brewing Co

One could successfully argue what there is to like about Three Magnets’s brew-pub — colloquially known as 3-Mag — is what matters. The food is consistently good. It is likely the best brewery in the Olympia area, and the fizzy lavender lemonade is more than an afterthought for those looking for something sans alcohol. On paper, 3-Mag is a contender. In execution, things aren’t quite as rosy.

It’s a rare thing that I find service lacking to the point I won’t return to a spot. 3-Mag is vacillating on the razor’s edge. Misunderstand me correctly — the staff is friendly, but that only goes so far when the service is slower than molasses sliding down a wall of chewing gum. The waiting periods resulted in a meal spanning hours.

If you can live with that, what you get is good.

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In spirit of comparing the food to 3-Mag’s brunch spot, The Magnet (which we thoroughly enjoyed), I decided to try the jackfruit sandwich. It comes as you’d expect — cooked in barbecue sauce in the style of pulled pork, served on a ciabatta bun. And it’s good. It is different enough from The Magnet’s jackfruit hash to make it its own distinct dish, perhaps because of the bun. It’s a tasty, well-baked bread.

The accompanying fries balances out the plate. Maybe not healthily, but certainly tastily. It makes for a great lunch, if you’re OK with waiting an hour to get it served, even during the literal opening hour. I don’t know if it’s due to under-staffing or the lack of training — I’d wager on the former — but for whatever reason relatively newly opened The Magnet runs like clockwork, where 3-Mag doesn’t. It’s baffling.

What 3-Mag delivers, again, are of high quality. A Tasting Panel brought in from Seattle unquestionably enjoyed their beers. The actual meal was fully satisfactory. But sitting around for almost two hours on a Saturday at 11 a.m., not in a leisurely way, but our of necessity? That’s not good.

Which is too bad. The food deserves something better than this.

NB! Photo is of the vegan burger, which also is quite good.

Narai Asian Cuisine

Olympia has a decent Thai-food scene. The Lemon Grass is a perennial local favorite, and while we “might not find it as great as some”/the-lemon-grass, we certainly like it, and Far East is a Team OlyCOOL™ Pick. Narai, meanwhile, was a restaurant we hadn’t tried until now, and I have to say: this could be a contender.

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We sampled the Phad Thai as well as the orange stir-fry. One mild, the other hot.

The stir fry came out quite well, though the spice level could have benefited from a swift kick. Calling it spicy would be using a bit of a misnomer.

That aside, it was still a flavorful dish. The citrus came through well, and the vegetables were fresh. Water chestnuts are welcomed in pretty much any meal, and here they had a good bite. The same went for the snow peas, and the broccoli had absorbed the sauce well.

Pro tip: Get a side of peanut sauce. Orange sauce mixed with peanut butter is a nigh-unbeatable combination. You will thank me.

The Phad Thai also passed with high marks. The noodles were well cooked, and even though it was ordered mild, the dish still had a bit of a zing to it. I can’t help but wonder if they stuck with a 2 out of 4 stars for everything.

That’s all short and sweet, I suppose, but why get too flowery? Narai does its thing well. We consider it a competitor to Far East. That’s a good thing, and we’d fully support a slap-fight down to the bone between them to find which one ranks supreme.

Apple AirPods

Headphones are fickle, yet necessary, friends. Be it a fifteen-hour flight to Hong Kong, or a bus ride to the grocery store, they are accessories many of us use frequently. Packing them, though, is a pain. Be it in pocket, purse, or portmanteau, more often than not you end up with a wadded up mess. Worse, the strain on the cord can significantly shorten the lifespan of the headphones.

Wireless, then, is the way to go, and Apple’s AirPods have won over many converts. Mostly iPhone users, naturally, though the buds reportedly work well with Android, too.

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Having used AirPods for a good half year, I firmly stand behind them. Life altering might be a bit of a hyperbole, but they sure have made life easier. Right from the start, pairing them with an iPhone is a breeze and a revelation for anyone who has messed with Bluetooth in the past. You open the charging case, and that’s about it. The AirPods fulfills that stock Apple promise of magical ease of use.

The design of the of the buds is well thought out, with the Bluetooth chip and batteries located in the short stems where the iPhone EarPods would connect to the cord. The buds contain the sound reproduction hardware. In that sense, you will find more compact headphones than the AirPods, but these tend to compromise sound- and pairing-quality. The AirPods rarely give out, and when they do, the glitches last only for a fraction of a second.

Initially, reviewers compare the AirPods’ sound quality to the EarPods. My guess is the notion was based on trying them for a short amount of time in a preview environment. I’m not a hardcore audiophile, but I know good quality, and for $159 — not a price to sneeze at, granted — the AirPods reproduce audio very, very well. The bass is deep, without hitting the Beats overkill, and ambient music, like that of Christopher Willits’s excellent Horizon, comes across in soundscapes the EarPods never could reproduce.

Don’t get me wrong. A $350 set of wired, over-the-ear Sonys deliver higher quality sound. With the AirPods’s mix of convenience and audio, I’d instead take the extra $200+ and apply it to a high-quality turntable/Sonos/HomePod/whatever for the house.

There are some downsides, of course. The AirPods come with four hours of battery life, so a handful of charges are required on longer flights. Luckily, the included charging case means you won’t have to plug anything into the wall to keep the buds going: Twenty minutes in the case will get the headphones back in action. I don’t know how long the actual case stays charged, but based on my use; I would be surprised if it died during flight. Plus, as most planes have USB charging, you could just plug it in for ten minutes, if so needed. It doesn’t take much longer than that for a full charge.

I should also mention how well designed the case is. It fits perfectly in your pocket, nearly unnoticeable. The lid has a satisfying click when it’s opened, and I sometimes find myself idly fiddling with it while ruminating about whatever is happening inside my head.

Things get a bit more muddled with the in-flight entertainment. Airplanes generally do not support Bluetooth, and the AirPods will do you little good with in-flight movies. Of course, the current EarPods require a Lightning Adapter to connect to auxiliary ports, so that is an extra piece of hardware to carry around (small as it may be). With free in-flight headphones, one could argue all of this is a minor issue, but the availability of those seem to be a gamble these days.

The solution might be to bring an iPad or whatever, with some Netflix movies downloaded. Or read a book. It’s good for you!

So, yes, $159 is an investment, but with its ease-of-use and surprisingly decent sound quality, I consider the AirPods my headphones of choice. Should you additionally own an LTE Apple Watch, you can travel untethered with streaming music. The future Minority Report promised us is here!

Special thanks to Erick Doxey Photography for kindly providing To The Landing with AirPods. Erick Doxey is our photographer of choice: Check our Great Burger Chase for examples of his work!