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Feb 16, 2011 10:24 PM

Spice Kitchen, new Indian restaurant in Trooper, PA

The Chowhound messageboard webpage did not allow me to respond to my original post on "new places to get Indian food in the Trooper/Audubon ... area" so I had to start this new post. (maybe the latest browser is required?)

What Spice Kitchen does very well - providing a very welcoming and warm ambience.

There are no small tables in this restaurant as is the case with almost every other Indian restaurant I have been to, so if you come as a couple or as a single, you will find yourself sitting at a very comfortable table, which is not necessarily the case at other such restaurants. There was very pleasant relaxing Indian music playing in the background at a comfortable decibel level and of an enjoyable nature (no Bollywood music here).

The couple that appeared to operate SK made it clear that they appreciated customers business and checked up on their wellbeing, as well as welcoming them back, something that doesn't occur at every other such restaurant.

Tables consisted of a sturdy cloth covering and upscale silverware. There is a small area in the entrance to hang coats so there is no need to bring coats into the restaurant unless desired. The ambience is a combination of casual, unpretentiousness, and elegance.

The lunch buffet consisted of a variety of dishes one might expect - a variety of vegetarian and chicken dishes, along with a few side dishes, consisting of appetizers, greens, soup, desserts, and tea.

At two visits I noticed that the soups offered were other than those listed on the menu (vegetable and creamy potato soups). The potato soup I had was of a light consistency and agreeable taste. It consisted of a few strands of ginger and onions. It was more tame and thinner than I had anticipated, which is what I prefer for this kind of soup.

The salad bar consisted of nothing other than iceberg lettuce and sliced tomatoes. Cucumbers and carrots would have been a welcome addition to the lettuce. The raita had too mild a taste for my preference.

Side dishes included pakoras and onion fritters (along with various chutneys).
A nice touch is that you get a basket of fresh naan brought to your table (choice of garlic or plain). The naan was very good - moist and quite different from what is found at some other restaurants in the area. What was interesting is that this naan stayed moist throughout the time of my meal. I had been told that when naan is allowed to sit out in trays, it dries out. This naan didn't loose its moist quality.

The rice at SK is very good - by very good I mean plain. At Taste of India, the rice seems to have an oil coating, and thus has a heavier feel in the mouth (and in the stomach). Lighter rice is a better compliment to dishes that are heavier in taste and have in themselves a degree of oil content. The main rice was called "Jeera" rice, but impressed me as being nothing other than basmati rice. I did not see nor taste cumin seeds or flavor in this rice. The other rice dish was a vegetable biryani which was very good and full of various vegetables and flavor.

Vegetarian dishes on the day of my visit consisted of chopped okra which had been overfried, similar to what I had found at Bawarchi, Navrattan Korma which was very tasty (although not desirable for anyone watching their cholesterol or desiring a lighter tasting noncream based dish), dal tadka which was mildly flavored, and saag channa which looked like the green puree offered at Chinnar but with a taste more similar to what I expect for this kind of dish. For some reason, the chick peas were missing from the saag. (I thought maybe they had sunk to the bottom of the tray holding the green puree, but alas, no chickpeas!

There were three chicken dishes - tandoori, tikka masala (whose sauce looked more tomato based and thicker than I have seen elsewhere - its appearance guided me to just try the tandoori chicken, along with the fact that I had gotten enough cream based dishes already), and some other chicken variety.

Desserts consisted ofl fresh orange slices (hooray for the presence of fresh fruit!), a mango flavored cream of wheat dish (do not recall the Hindi label) and a mango custard pudding. The cream of wheat dish which was warm was enjoyable although a bit on the heavy side, and the cooler mango custard pudding.was refreshing, although being of a thicker and heavier consistency than what I associate with a pudding.

Tea was available at the buffet table. It took me awhile to realize that the tea was, in fact, chai. It was very rich and full of flavor. (The container of the tea was labeled as "Tea," not "Chai" or "Masala Tea." My guess is that the owner wanted to present items in a way that most non-Indians could understand and be as appealing as possible.)

The day that I was at the restaurant, it was filled to near capacity, and a large group near me ordered off the menu and was brought some dishes that were audibly sizzling. I was amazed at how quickly their dish was prepared.

For folks who want a very comfortable restaurant setting with standard Indian restaurant fare of a north Indian style, Spice Kitchen is a nice addition . Current lunch buffet price is $9.99.

To summarize, what SP does best, at least for the lunch buffet experience is the ambience, customer care, rice, biryani, and naan. My preference regarding the food, itself, is for lighter quality in the main dishes as well as stronger flavor. Folks who are not familiar with Indian cuisine will not experience too exotic a treatment of dishes at SK's lunch buffet.
I'd recommend this place over some other Indian restaurants for them due to the mild nature of the seasonings, somewhat more similar to a Chinnar than to a Royal India, Taste of India, or Bawarchi.

Taste of India
348 N Dupont Hwy, Dover, DE 19901

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  1. My initial review was also bleeped along with the ad that SK owners posted last month. I have been three times and have always been pleased. My first visit was as an only patron on a dreary December night right after they opened. The pakoras and chicken masala take-out were good enough for a return lunch visit but, again, to an almost empty house. Last week, however, I had to wait in line for a table with the lunchtime full house of about 70% Indians keeping staff scurrying to bus tables and fill the buffet trays. Except for the chicken vindaloo, I also found most a bit on the mild side and would have welcomed spicing kicked up a notch. The cooked carrot pudding and saffron yogurt for dessert were very good and welcome variations from the usual rice pudding and syrupy dough balls. For the price, a tasty lunch and welcome addition to the neighborhood.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Chefpaulo

      Thanks CP! A family member is requesting Indian food tonight and I'm trying to decide between Cross Culture, Saffron and this place, as we are willing to drive to any of the three. They are all about equidistant. I saw that ad, but wonder why your review got zapped. Have you tried Pho and More yet? Been there about four times and they still have that new place enthusiasm vibe.

      1. re: givemecarbs

        Carbs, Rt. 363 takes you almost to the door. Do give it a try tonight. I've never been to Saffron and never heard of Cross Culture. As for my review, I guess the mods erased it when the SK ad was posted.This is probably a necessity or we'd be reading mostly billboards on this site.
        Pho and More. Is that in the Redner's plaza next to Assi? If so, I'll put it on the "to do' list.

        1. re: Chefpaulo

          Thanks CP! Yeah that is the one. Went on the new year and people were popping champagne there!

          1. re: Chefpaulo

            Went to Spice Kitchen and had a wonderful meal at a roomy table by the window. My friend got the chicken tikka masala and really liked it. He said it was more tomatoey than other places he's had it. The staff was very friendly and caring. I was happy with my shrimp biryani and my other friend got the goat. Can't wait to go back for the lunch buffet. We missed the place on the first try, it can be a little hard to find. It's in a shopping center right across from the walgreens. Thanks for the nudge CP!

            1. re: givemecarbs

              Carbs, Glad you enjoyed. And, yes, its not readily viewed from 363. Its next to the Trooper Acme where multiple incarnations of pizza parlor came and went. I hope SK sticks around a lot longer.

      2. felafel boy , a very detailed review from one who obviously knows Indian food. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and comments. Should it ever be possible your comments on other locals Indian places would be of value. (Saffron, Cross Culture, Everest)

        4 Replies
        1. re: Bacchus101

          Not sure if he has reviewed the three places you mentioned, but FalafelBoy has written some great and detailed reviews of many of the Indian restaurants in the area. Click on his name and check them out!

          1. re: Bacchus101

            Bacchus - appreciate being introduced to alternatives outside my area. I explored these (Saffron, Cross Culture, and Everest) online and learned more of them.

            I only rarely go to Indian restaurants for dinner, opting out for the lunch buffets, as well as going to places closer to my residence other than occassional trips into the city where I must get my fix of saag paneer at Minar Palace.

            Saffron appears to have a nicely furnished restaurant. Weekend buffet I see. Interesting that its menu did not list any soups!

            Reviews of Cross Culture appeared mixed! Pictures of the inside reveal a very attractive place.

            Everest Grill has a very interesting menu, including dishes (Everest) from the region not just Indian. Nice that the lunch menu offers a thali selection. Interesting selection of Persian cuisine-inspired dishes.

            These three restaurants look like tasty alternatives to the other Indian restaurants we have posted messages for.

            For making your own thali, you can't beat lunch buffets!

            1. re: FelafelBoy

              Thanks for your review. We have been to all and have done our own ranking. We have had some experience with Indian cooking here and abroad; thus we know what we like. But I am first to admit this is very personal, of course the intake of food is personal then , isn't it? I was/am interested in matching my humble opinions to those of one who obviously understand the cuisine. If and when you venture out to these places we look forward to your reviews. Thanks FB.

          2. This is practically in walking distance to my home (I'm adjacent to Fairview Village). Although I've eaten in many, many restaurants in my life, I've always avoided Indian food. As a result, I'm quite unfamiliar with the foods and am hesitant. I've always said, "I need to go with someone who knows Indian food and could be my guide." I guess I need to bite the bullet and walk through the doors - this restaurant is close as is the Dosa Chat House.

            6 Replies
            1. re: cheesewit

              CW - I've been to both and SK is the much more comfortable, welcoming and mildly spiced of the two. Dosa Hut is for the spice-hardened who don't mind hot track lighting aimed in their faces and a half-hour between water refills.

              Go for the SK lunch buffet some day and get there early (11:30-ish) before the pharmatech crowd descends from Collegeville. Try a bit of everything and the couple who own SK will be glad to help with descriptions. I'm no expert by far but I like everything I've had there.

              1. re: cheesewit

                Cheesewit - if you have "avoided" Indian food due to your dislike of spices used in Indian cooking, even SK and Chinnar may not be to your liking. My first real experience of well-prepared Indian food involved judicious (as in not tame, but artful) use of spices which struck me as heavenly. If I had eaten food mildly flavored, I may have been left with a memory of a mediocre tasting meal.

                So, if you want to gradually expose yourself to Indian cuisine, for the area you live in, I'd recommend SK or Chinnar, not too far from the Gateway Shopping Center. My preference would be Chinnar due to its greater variety and quality for its lunch buffet. If you like the taste of the food at these places, and want to explore more flavor, I'd recommend you drive an extra 30 minutes and try places like Taste of India, and Royal India (in Malvern). Haven't been to Himalayan in Great Valley in some time (they also serve mild tasting dishes with a very large variety at its lunch buffet - main dishes are sometimes too heavily oiled or creamed, but sometimes just right). If you want to explore very different flavors from these restaurants, then try Bawarchi, but don't judge all Indian food from THAT experience.
                Years ago, my first taste of Indian food was at a restaurant in Manhattan and I didn't touch Indian food for about 7 years after that experience thinking that ALL Indian food was as distasteful as what I had there! Now, I can't believe there is BAD tasting Indian food!!

                Taste of India
                348 N Dupont Hwy, Dover, DE 19901

                1. re: FelafelBoy

                  Thank you for your comments. I don't think my avoidance is due to a dislike of the spices used, it's mostly based on the fear of the unknown. I'm even uneasy saying that as I'm the first to try hole-in-the-wall roadfood types of places. When it comes to Indian, I had a very unsatisfactory meal many years ago and that turned me off. I went alone and probably ordered things that weren't that restaurant's best dishes. I couldn't tell you what I ordered, it was so long ago. I'll make it to Spice Kitchen and I'll re-read the reviews here. Thanks again.

                  1. re: cheesewit

                    Cheesewit, I didn't pick this user name on a whim, my first time they had me at the naan. This was a loooong time ago in Philly at the Taj Mahal so I don't remember what dish I got but I don't think I was all that thrilled. But naan. And it really helped that I love rice, especially yellow rice.

                    1. re: givemecarbs

                      Givemecarbs, I hear you loud and clear. I love carbs (one look at me and you could guess that. Ugh.) and rice. Naan and dishes with rice will ease me into the world of curries and Indian specialties.
                      And I didn't pick my user name on a whim either - I am an Eagle Scout when it comes to cheesesteaks.

                      1. re: cheesewit

                        Heh. When I was helping my one friend on his gluten free quest I could get around a lot of the restrictions in his special diet but we just had to give up cheesesteaks for awhile. /cry. This same friend was skittish about Indian food so I had him start with tandoori chicken which he loved. He got that every time. The turning point came I think when John came too and ordered a lamb dish which he tried and enjoyed.
                        He is off the gluten free quest for now but reports that his palate has changed and he loves all kinds of things he didn't care for before, like bell peppers of all things. He is now much more adventurous and likes every Indian dish he has tried thus far.

              2. Well i really hate to be the one lone negative review....and it wasn't about the food....
                My husband and I had been waiting for weeks to try Spice Kitchen...and tonite was the nite...
                Arrived around 5:40 (Thursday nite) and when we entered the first little alcove...rug was in a pile with chair in the midde....We moved the chair back into postion and continued through the next door into the restaurant itself. We were passed by a young man walking toward us as we were walking in...
                Once in we were met with a pair of shoes in the middle of the floor of the narrow passageway...and when I looked to my right along the bench I was surprised to see a youngster (maybe 10ish) laying on the bench covered with a blanket looking chilled The man who had passed us on the way in...came back in...gave us a funny look and then tried to shake the child awake. All we could think was that it was a sick child maybe of the owners...
                But sadly, it was JUST too odd for us...and the restaurant was totally empty we turned and left....
                Saffron, though more than forty minutes further for us, will continue to be our destination of choice for Indian food...
                Again...didn't get to try the food...but the "strangeness factor" was too much for us to get past!!!

                7 Replies
                1. re: ilovesummer

                  Too bad, arriving early can sometimes present some fairly strange things including being subjected to hearing the previous nights adventures of the wait staff who choose to convene in a grouip in what should be a customer area., which had recently occured at an early side dinner at Harvest in Deco. 5:45 on a weekday evening in a strip mall does not qualify for the "too early" defense. Unfortunately I always extrapolate this type event to other undesirable behavior or lack of standards. Even more so after reading Bourdain's book.

                  1. re: ilovesummer

                    I would have bailed too ilovesummer. No need for you to feel uncomfortable while you eat. Whenever I want that I just go to my friend John's house for dinner. :)

                    1. re: ilovesummer

                      Hmm, I have been wanting to try this place. Think I'll go at an early time and see what's up. Frequently, owners of these small places have to have their kids there with them and I don't have a problem with that at all. I'll report back.

                      1. re: gardens4me

                        I agree, oft times small places have their children with them.....What put me off was this was AFTER 5:30 and shoes kicked off in middle of floor and someone fast asleep on the bench covered with a blanket as you first walk in?????? Not the first impression I want from ANY restaurant.......I always think that if that is happening where we can see it....WHAT is happening in the kitchen!!! Just my opinion....hopefully you have a better experience!

                        1. re: gardens4me

                          Sure hope you do not find the same thing. It would be most unlikely that you would. The point made here by ILS and in my previous comment referencing Bourdain's comments in his book is if this is allowed to happen in the front of the house what is allowed in the back? It is not a very auspicious first impression and is a non-starter for me just based on a standards issue. As far as kids in the business goes there are both regulatory issues as well as personal standards for behavior. Our friends in the business with kids are very careful so as not to created an appearance of a day care location. Based on comments regarding the food , I am sure they will do well unless others need to step over sleeping children, shoes and circle chairs and piled up rugs on their way to dine.

                          1. re: Bacchus101

                            I have been in this restaurant at least 10 times since it opened. It may have been a one off incident. After reading this post, I went there yesterday at 5:15 to see how things were...The door was closed..someone from inside saw me and opened the door for me. I asked if I should wait for 15 more minutes to open the restaurant but the waiter that I usually see there said, no I can order my take out... I have seen how the owner of this restaurant have improved the service since it has opened. I personally find this place one of the best Indian restaurant that I have been into in terms of service and food. Food has been excellent from day one and service has improved...I should say best at this time.

                            I am a frequent customer at SK and glad to see this place has open near my house. I live just 2 blocks from this place...Keep it up SK...

                            1. re: rj2003

                              Most pleased that you enjoy SK and took the opportunity as a first time poster to share your pleasure with us. We also love Indian food and may need to give it a try again based on your objective comments. thanks

                      2. Its been a while since someone provided an update, so thought I would say that the food and service have improved in the past few months.

                        What I like about Spice Kitchen compared to the other places is that the food is good, not overly oily like other restaurants and ... this is the key point... they serve fresh / heated Naan bread tableside. This is how they do it in India and it makes a big difference in your dining experience.

                        9 Replies
                        1. re: percyn

                          Thanks percyn! John said he enjoyed our recent dinner at Saffron at the time but now he seems to be fixating on the one piece of lamb korma that was all fat and he won't go back. I tried his dish and I didn't get any fat and the sauce was rich and delicious. His birthday is coming up, maybe we will go to spice kitchen.

                          1. re: givemecarbs

                            My wife and I went a few Fridays ago, after a review from The Artful Diner. We enjoyed it very much. One of the few places you can get fish at an Indian restaurants. Out here (West Chester / Exton) the best you'll do is shrimps. Nothing remarkable, just tasty Indian food, reasonably competent service, and a pleasant enough atmosphere.

                            1. re: FrancisdeR

                              Spice Kitchen or Saffron? Went to spice kitchen last winter and enjoyed it once we found it. :)

                              1. re: givemecarbs

                                Spike Kitchen. Sorry, I should have specified.

                              2. re: FrancisdeR

                                Regarding the fish, this is one of the few restaurants where I have seen "Koliwada" fish on the menu outside of India. Have not tried it yet at Spice Kitchen, but it is on my mental list.

                                1. re: percyn

                                  Get back to us when you do please percyn. I'm intrigued.

                                  1. re: givemecarbs

                                    OMG.. I just came back from my few weeks overseas trip. SK has completely new look. I am amazed to see the new decor. SK has been my favorite place for Indian food since they opened however more I visit this place, I find it interesting. I have taken a screenshot of their interior design from their website There is a link for photo gallery on the site but it doesn't seems to work.. Also they have new wait staff. Extremely professional and they take order on iPad and waiters shows picture of each item you order. Very good addition on the technology side and best food in the area. Keep it up SK.

                                    1. re: rj2003

                                      I didn't believe SK had changed to the extent you posted. But I heard another person remark positively on SK and how it had a different chef and management. That second opinion reinforced yours and motivated me to give SK another chance. I did learn that the chef had changed, not the management.

                                      First, my overall impression of the different experience from last visit -
                                      very pleased. Overall, the food quality was better than average, the service was very attentive (although due to the crowd, a bit delayed, especially with the check), variety of food, although not as extensive as TOI, Bawarchi, or Chinnar, diverse and satisfying, flavor (spicyness) very appealing, and freshness of food was better than average.

                                      I would compare the style and flavor of food to be that between south Indian and north Indian, with a strong bias toward south Indian. The spice flavor is decidedly different from that found at TOI. Also, there is much less cream in the sauces. If I had not had the chicken tikka masala (I went for the lunch buffet), and the strawberry custard, I would have left with a lightness and no sinus congestion!

                                      The buffet I was at included a surprise to me - sambar - which was VERY good (and different from what Bawarchi does) and giant-sized
                                      idlis. Fresh naan was brought to the table - the choice on this day was plain or garlic. I chose garlic and it was among the best I have had at this kind of a buffet (the other great naan was had at Royal India in Malvern). It was freshly made, warm, and stayed moist throughout my meal. The pakoras were very good, and although I try to stay away from such deep fried food, I indulged. The coating was pretty thick around the inside filling/vegetable, and was the only dish I had among everything at the buffet's offerings that bordered on being "oily," though I would not call the coating excessively oily. (Chinnar does a good job at pakoras that are not oily at all. Bawachi's pakoras, along with some of its other fried vegetarian dishes, like its bhindi dish, are oily.).

                                      I don't recall the name of the kind of dal served at the buffeton this day.. It almost looked like dal makhani, but its look was more of a creamy brown lentil kind - though it wasn't masoor dal. It had a very nice flavor. The sambar, idli, dal, and naan, were satisfying in themselves alone, to override anything else that followed that may have been less satisfying..

                                      The buffet included a small salad bar that consisted of iceberg lettuce tomatoes, finely cut carrots, and red onions. Raita and chutneys were very tame. TOI uses sour cream in its raita to make it taste richer and be thicker.

                                      The buffet included four different vegetarian entrees - the dal, channa masala, an okra dish (bhindi ... piazza), and a vegetable paneer dish(Kadahi Paneer I think - according to the menu, this dish contained certain vegetables that were in addition to those listed on the menu for this dish, though I may be incorrect in my memory). Two of these dishes were the only significantly subpar foods I had on this day, at least to my taste and preferences. The sauce in the chana masala was very thin, and the dish impressed me as being little more than chick peas in a thin sauce. I don't remember having such an unadorned chana masala at any other Indian restaurant I have been to. The chana masala at TOI, Bawarchi, Chinnar, and Royal India all make a more interesting and satisfying chana masala. For my taste, the paneer dish was in a sauce that was too sweet and may have had a small tinge of vinegar, both of which made the dish shifting back and forth between pleasant and unpleasant, although I did like the freshness of the vegetables in it.

                                      There was no tandoori chicken at the buffet. The chicken dishes consisted of chicken biryani and tikka masala (chicken pieces were tender). There was also another kind of chicken appetizer type dish next to the pakoras. The chicken tasted and looked like dark meat chicken.
                                      The tikka masala was pleasant - not as rich as you would get at TOI.
                                      I passed on the goat dish.

                                      Desserts consisted of freshly cut orange slices, galub jamun, and strawberry custard. The custard appeared to have canned fruit cocktail in it, which surprisingly complimented the custard very well.

                                      The main entree area featured lemon rice which included nuts. (Bawarchi makes a vey interesting version of this kind of rice - this was good, although not as elaborate as Bawarchi's version.) Off to the side next to the desserts was a small tray of basmati rice that was displayed in a matter that appeared to present it as an afterthought. The basmati rice was displayed not in a tray like the lemon rice but on foil in a smaller area that impressed me as just being odd. I had wondered prior to seeing that area why basmati rice wasn't offered. I would think that unless the restaurant patron had viewed the entire buffet area, he/she would have assumed lemon rice was the only choice to go with the entrees.

                                      The server (American) was very extraverted, engaging, and attentive.
                                      The owners presented a pleasant demeanor while they helped to keep the place humming.

                                      I did not get the decor. It consisted of the white curtains hanging everywhere as shown in the picture provided by the previous post by
                                      rj2003. Patrons whose groups consist of two or fewer people are seated off to the side in a fairly secluded and intimate space bordered by a wall that extends up about four feet, but still allowing them to feel a part of the restaurant. It was an odd feeling being secluded away, but on the other hand, it allows a person dining alone or part of a two member group to have more privacy while eating. (The small side area helps to create the illusion of more space and complexity in the restaurant, whose space is quite different from that of the other Indian restaurants. Due to the space of the restaurant being fairly small, any group that is overly loud can be easily heard by others. On the day I was there, although it was filled to near capacity, the background noise was manageable except for two men who laughed repeatedly at a level with abandonment more appropriate for a bar setting.

                                      Upbeat pleasant Indian music was played in the background.

                                      On the way out, I was greeted with an "opinion" card to fill out, with the chance of winning a free lunch. I don't recall any other Indian restaurant in the area, in all the years I have eaten there, ever displaying an interest in customers in this way. I remember from years ago, the owner's wife greeting me in a friendly way to return and they would be happy to see me.

                                      With the exception of the two dishes previously mentioned not up to my preference for taste and consistency, almost everything else I experienced will motivate me to return and strongly recommend SK as one of the better Indian restaurants in this area.

                                      Overall, the buffet makes up in quality and service with the slighly smaller offerings (no mango lassi included with the buffet) one would find at the buffet of some of the other local Indian restaurants (Chinnar, TOI, Bawarchi, Royal India). Fewer desserts, but the delicious sambar and freshly made naan, Idli, and other tasty vegetarian dishes. If you want fresh-tasting mild-tasting and flavorful Indian food in a pleasant environment (served by upbeat folks), SK will satisfy.

                                      With the kind of food quality offered, this area should be able to support a larger SK. (on the day I was there, with the large crowd, the staff had to hussle to keep up with check dispensing and customer's needs). I would guess that an SK in the Devon/Wayne area near the other Indian restaurants would do very well. Glad that we have SK in the Trooper area. I hope this restaurant thrives and expands its buffet offerings.

                                      1. re: FelafelBoy

                                        Note that the restaurant's main phone number area code 610 exchange 910 - ....
                                        is not located in the Trooper, PA area as is the restaurant - it is for an Avondale, PA. location. For those folks whose phone plan is zone-based, the charge for the call could be other than a "local" call. If you have local regional calling and are calling in an area close to Trooper to this restaurant, you will be charged for a long distance call, believe it or not!!