Author Archives: Evan

The Great Bus Battle: Greyhound vs. Megabus

megabus_double_decker_frontview229154405_991d62934d

I recently took a little three-day getaway trip from Minneapolis to Chicago. Since driving through Chicago is a major pain, I figured this would be a good time to test the two big Midwestern bus companies – the oh-so-trendy Megabus, and the eternally derided Greyhound.  So how do the two stack up?

Stations:
Despite the scuzzy reputation, Greyhound’s stations are actually pretty nice.  Security guards, remarkably clean restrooms, and a solid selection of vended goods. Megabus, on the other hand, picks you up and drops you off on an unstaffed, poorly-marked street corner.  This one isn’t even close.

WINNER: Greyhound

Bus Quality:
Megabus’ fleet is newer than Greyhound’s, which means the buses come with fresher upholstery, cleaner aisles, and free Wi-Fi, although the latter is frequently broken.  The buses on the Minneapolis-Chicago run are double-deckers, which has a certain UK touristy appeal to it  – but it also means that they don’t have overhead storage space for luggage.  Greyhound had more legroom and significantly more storage space for baggage.  When you’re 6’3” that last piece means a lot.

WINNER: Draw

Ride Quality:
Bboth the Megabus and the Greyhound I rode were quiet.  Megabus seemed to have a few overchatty students and a driver intercom that must have been turned to 11, while Greyhound had a crying baby and a very smelly guy.  Nothing too traumatic in either case.

WINNER: Draw

Fares:
On Megabus, if you buy 2-3 weeks in advance, you can get a Minneapolis to Chicago ticket for $5-10, especially if you take the overnight bus.  Greyhound doesn’t go below $25.  But if you’re buying even a week out, it’s pretty much a wash – Megabus’ fares quickly rise to match Greyhound’s.

WINNER: Megabus, if you’re the plan-ahead type.  Otherwise, draw.

Speed:
Megabus covered the trip in eight hours – ahead of schedule, and including a generous half hour rest stop.  Greyhound’s overnight trip took eight and a half hours, but their day trips take up to nine and a half.  More stops means more time on the bus, and although Greyhound has cut down on the number of dull Wisconsin cities where buses stop, Megabus clearly takes the “Express” mantra more to heart.

WINNER: Megabus

The Verdict:
If you’re planning well in advance of your trip, and it’s a quick getaway, Megabus is probably the smarter ticket. You can get a lower fare (although probably not that much lower), it’s a bit quicker, and you might get Wi-Fi if the gods are smiling on you.  That being said, although Greyhound is a bit less efficient and probably an hour slower, there’s more legroom, a much more generous luggage allowance, a wider range of destinations, and legitimate stations.  All in all, either is a cheap and reasonably pleasant way to get away.

WINNER: On points, Megabus.  But it’s close.

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Food Friday: Shrimp Ceviche

Shrimp Ceviche

A sassier way to get your seafood

On a hot summer day, nothing beats the taste of seafood to make us think of rolling surfs and cool breezes – even if we’re stuck in an overheated apartment in the middle of the city.   But for those of us who don’t live on a coast, good seafood can be hard to come by.

Fortunately for those of us surrounded by amber waves of grain, frozen shrimp is plentiful, high-quality, and best of all, cheap.  But it’s often hard to prepare it in a way that doesn’t involve deep-frying or result in limp crustaceans arranged around a questionable container of cocktail sauce.

Ceviche, a traditional Latin American dish, is a refreshing alternative.   Everything marinates in a citrus mixture, which magically “cooks” everything so that it is crisp, and provides a satisfying tang to each bite.  It’s just what the doctor ordered for a steamy summer’s night.

This recipe is remarkably flexible – switch up the vegetables, change the seasonings.  You can even use a flaky whitefish like tilapia instead of shrimp.  All that matters is that you keep the citrus base and use good, fresh ingredients.  For that reason, it’s best if you use actual lemons and limes and squeeze them yourself, although bottled substitutes do a decent job and are much less time-consuming.

SHRIMP CEVICHE

1 pound raw and deveined frozen shrimp
1 cup lime juice
1 cup lemon juice
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1/2 cucumber, very thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small hot pepper, minced
1/4 pound thin asparagus, cut into inch-long pieces
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1. Bring a large saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil.  Pour in the shrimp, and immediately turn off the heat.  Let the shrimp sit in the hot water for about 90 seconds.  Immediately drain and immerse the shrimp in cold water.  When cool, drain shrimp.
2. Arrange the shrimp, onion, bell pepper, cucumber, garlic, hot pepper, and asparagus in a shallow pan.  Mix together the citrus juice, and pour over the pan.
3. Allow to sit in the refrigerator at least one hour – more time means more flavors mixing.  To serve, drain the excess juice, garnish with cilantro.  Superb with freshly baked bread.

Yields 4 servings

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