Thursday, April 28, 2016
Today Mr. Music found himself in Plano at Taste of the Islands with some friends. This is a Caribbean restaurant / bakery / grocery store that has a small quaint room for lunch time and a larger room with a stage for reggae music on the weekends. On Thursdays and Fridays they have a buffet which is a great opportunity to try different things if you’ve never had Caribbean food! They change things up from day to day, but today they had steamed rice dotted with pigeon peas (a bit like black beans) or plain steamed rice. They served yellow curry potatoes, seasoned spinach, spicy cole slaw and seasoned green beans for veggies. There were several meat choices including my favorite, goat curry as well as curried chicken, jerk chicken, stewed chicken and fried fish (with a seasoned corn bread batter). Everything was very tasty and very fresh. It wasn’t crowded, but steady enough for them to be constantly bringing out freshly made food. The curry dishes all had a little heat to them; the Indian influence was very apparent. Make sure you get a fresh homemade roti (on request only). Roti is like a tortilla-like flatbread from India; the whole wheat batter is heated on a grill. Order it early as it is made on the spot and takes a few minutes but the warm, flaky bread enhances the experience with the curries and gravies immensely! You really only need one for every 2 or 3 people as they are huge! I read that in the Caribbean they are often used to make a wrap by stuffing it with some savory dish and that is exactly what we did! Yum! You can shop while you eat because all the spices, canned goods, bakery items and even frozen meats/dishes are on shelves/coolers that surround the tables and are easily seen from your seat. The staff was great; very friendly and attentive. The one thing that I want to make sure to communicate is that it was a little more expensive that I expected; I think it was $13, but it was worth it to me. I’ll be back!
Friday, October 9, 2015
Originally published April 14, 2011 and updated with a recent visit
Food: Fuzzy's are the pioneers in what I call tacos y margaritas, and these kind of places are popular everywhere today. Their tacos (or what they call Baja Tacos) are excellent and feature a wide variety of choices from grilled or tempura shrimp to shredded pork and onto more traditional offerings like shredded beef, chicken, and spiced ground beef. Soft or hard corn shells are offered. They also have breakfast, burritos, tortas (called grilled sandwiches here), salads, and soups. Be sure to try their habanero sauce - it's definitely got a kick. Even their regular table sauce packs some heat. We eat here regularly, and it's consistently good.
Drink: Nice selection of taps, including local craft brewers such as Grapevine Brewing. And their frozen margaritas are as good as most of the Mexican restaurants in the area - and at a fair price. And they're not afraid to put tequila in the mixture. This is definitely an adult fast food place. Nothing beats a good Moose Drool (a brown ale from Big Sky Brewing of Missoula, Montana) with a shredded chicken taco and habanero sauce!
Location: Fuzzy's took over a two time loser Chinese restaurant location (Blue Fish being one of them and something with Eden in the name) off of Southlake Blvd (north side) not far west of Centennial Park. Fuzzy's is a quick serve restaurant, so just order up, grab your flashing ashtray, and enjoy your beverage of choice while awaiting the buzz (so to speak). The corporate decor dictates that they have the look and feel of an old fishing warehouse near the docks. A fishing warehouse with flat screen TV's mind you...
Notes: Fuzzy's Taco Shop first opened near TCU in Fort Worth around 2003 or so and was an instant hit in the area. Today, Fuzzy's is one of the fastest growing chains in the nation, and is definitely one of the better chains at that.
Hours: Sun-Thu 7a-10p; Fri-Sat 7a-11p
Saturday, October 3, 2015
Food: It's soups, sandwiches, and full dinner entrees, as you would expect. On our first two visits, Mrs. RJG and I tried the pho. In fact, on our very first time here, I was beginning to get a cold, and what better way to knock it out than with a big ol' bowl of meatball soup! Their noodles are fantastic, and the broth is somewhat unique (excellent of course), adding to the allure. On a recent visit, I was most curious how their entrees would stack up. I had the lemongrass chicken stir fry, and Mrs. RJG went with the charbroiled chicken. Mine was good, lacking a bit in strong flavor, but a decent variation of the classic dish. On the other hand, the Charbroiled chicken was an absolute slam-dunk instant classic awesome dish. We haven't tasted chicken this well prepared and marinated since our days in Denver and the hall of fame Kim Ba (which we reference a lot). Loved it, and I can see this being a crave worthy dish. Once you achieve that level, you have a loyal customer. We'll see if they're consistent with it. And besides, there's always the fantastic soup. Oh - and the entrees do come with a cup of broth, which is a nice touch (many of the Haltom City restaurants do this as well). Worth noting as well that the rice was expertly cooked (this is becoming something of a lost art it seems).
Drink: Typical Vietnamese drinking fare, including the always great sweet coffee. We actually snuck* in a bottle of wine, which was met with tacit approval. They're not truly a BYOB place in the sense that they don't have anything to support it - but if you bring your own gear (opener, cups/glasses, etc...) you can imbibe. While BYOB/alcohol is common among patrons of Thai food, it still seems foreign in a Vietnamese place. We need to change that! (*- you know - I didn't realize snuck wasn't an actual English word until now. Who knew? Sneaked I guess is proper....)
Location: On the north side of Watauga Rd. (Mid Cities) just west of Rufe Snow in an old strip center. This used to be a Mexican restaurant (you can still see the touches of it), which we never frequented.
Notes: Pho Big Bowl opened roughly a year ago. Interestingly, when Mrs. RJG and I first moved to NE Tarrant in 2003, there was a Vietnamese restaurant across the street (near Tony's) called Red Mango. We liked it, and on a second return it was already closed. Nice to see a decade plus later Vietnamese returning to the vicinity.
Rating: 4.0 We're starting to get excited about Pho Big Bowl
Hours: Haha - see menu above!
Friday, October 2, 2015
Going to bump this entry up. We're doing a little testing along with Zomato here. As well, it gives us a chance to reformat the entry for one of our favorite fast food places!
Food: Mr. RJG likes his tacos. We mentioned in other posts that while Italian and Thai probably constitute my favorite restaurant experiences, taco places represent my favorite fast food excursion. And I'll boldly admit that it isn't even the authentic Mexican taco / taqueria stand that has been in vogue these last 25 years (though we like those too!). No, I like the good old fashioned American styled, crunchy taco. Taco Bell may be its iconic image, but it's hardly the best representative. Most taco chains are of the regional variety. And I've been to many of them! I've liked tacos since I was a little kid. There are few pleasures in life better than walking off with a sack of tacos, knowing the great taste sensation that comes with the meeting of spiced mush meat, lettuce, cheese, crispy shell and taco sauce (for some reason, I don't like tomatoes in my tacos). If the bag doesn't have a hole at the bottom with orange grease, then you may have gone to the wrong place... Taco Casa isn't the best taco chain I've been to, but I'd put them in the top group. They load up the tacos, so a bag of 5 really fills you up. Lots of cheese and lettuce, and of course meat. The wife likes them too, but depending on her mood sometimes says they have too much meat (how is that even possible?). For regular RJG readers, that's a recommendation right there! The meat is a bit saltier than most chains, but is extremely tasty. Another crucial element of a good taco stand, is the quality of their sauce (in the bottle or packaged). And they have a simple, not too hot, but very good red taco sauce. I would prefer some hotter options, but it's not going to keep me away. Besides, I can always take them home and add my own habanero sauce if so desired (and I never do that anyway).
Location: When we moved to NE Tarrant in 2003, I was thrilled to find out there was one in Watauga. We went there exclusively for years. You'll find this location on Mid-Cities, just west of Rufe Snow. For years, and maybe even today, if you arrived at prime lunch and dinner times, there was a drive-through line around the building. When folks tell me nobody eats this kind of fast food anymore, I just laugh. Yea, sure. Because of this popularity, a couple of more Taco Casa's opened up in Northeast Tarrant in short order: Colleyville (Hwy 26 and Glade - near the Goody Goody and Whole Foods) and then Keller. The latter is the closest for us, and we've been going regularly there for at least 9 to 10 years. The Keller location is on Keller Parkway just west of Pate-Orr on the north side of the road. Because of the story below, I also added a link to the Durant location. And according to the their website, Taco Casa's newest location is in Hurst!
Notes: Taco Casa is a classic regional chain. They are based in Gainesville in far north Texas at the border of Oklahoma. They continue to be in rapid expansion mode, and now are somewhat ubiquitous - especially in Tarrant County. I suppose it's strange then, that I first discovered Taco Casa in Durant, one of only 3 Oklahoma locations. In the early 1990s once a month, my old man got the bright idea of journeying up to Durant, which is located just over the border from Texas, to buy cigarettes from the Indian reservations. Gas was cheaper then (though lately...) and he apparently saved a bundle (God knows he smoked like a chimney). I'd tag along on occasion, especially on lazy Saturday mornings (there was no Mrs. RJG in those bygone days). Also a compliment about their signage: Taco Casa has the perfect retro cornball look, with the big sombrero and handlebar bigote. Awesome.
Hours: Sunday - Thur 10am - 10pm; Fri - Sat 10am - 11pm
Sunday, September 27, 2015
Food: The first area of much dispute you will read about Benito's is the topic of chips and salsa. Apparently they resisted serving them at all for many years, and now they do so - but at a price. This doesn't sit well with current diners who are used to them being complimentary, and excellent at that. When they sit you down, they bring pico de gallo to the table - for no apparent reason. Then they ask if you want chips. Regulars know the routine of course, but it's an odd regimen for outsiders. When we first saw the salsa, we thought it would be great. But it barely had any flavor at all. And I fear to say, the entire dining experience could only be described as bland. Not terrible by any means - certainly good enough - but bland never left my mind as we continued through the meal. The pico for its part is good, with a nice spicy kick. So I spent more time dipping the chips (also ordinary - likely from a local distributor) in that bowl rather than the salsa. I ordered a trio of chicken items, and Mrs. RJG went with Huevos Mexicana. My meal came with a complimentary soup, which in reality was a consomme with strips of raw tortilla. And again, no flavor. Then this big plate of goo came out, and here were the results: The Mexican rice was good, nothing special though. The refried beans were excellent, with a nice smoky taste. It was the best part of the meal. You don't want the refried beans to be the best part of the meal. The chicken taco is a waste of time - nothing more than boiled chicken inside of a raw flour tortilla. The chicken enchilada had the same boring chicken smothered with an odd sour cream green and heavy cheese sauce. By the looks of it, I thought it would be flavorful at least. No such luck. The chicken flauta, on the other hand, was much better. Crispy and with a better cut of white meat chicken. My only gripe is they smothered it in sour cream, which I don't personally enjoy (and it wasn't mentioned on the menu as such, which is annoying). So I had to rub that off. Mrs. RJG had the exact same reaction regarding the rice and beans. The eggs were well done per her request, but still a bit oily (in her words). Not bad she said. The corn tortillas were from the bag as well.
Drink: They are known for their frozen margaritas, and it's easy to see why. We ended up with large ones (though had intended on ordering regular). Oh well, had to take one for the team right? Out came this globe of lime green goodness, overflowing the rim. No matter what my reservations on Benito's is, one cannot deny they give you all they can for your money (chips aside). At first I thought the margarita to be too sweet, but ultimately grew to love it. Of course, it helped that they tilted the tequila bottle in the right direction. The margarita on the rocks was met with a similar response from the spousal unit.
Location: In a wonderful standalone building off of the lovely street of restaurants known as Magnolia (Benito's is between Fairmount and 7th Steet - north side). Technically in the Near Southside neighborhood, and across the street from the Fairmount neighborhood. The restaurant itself is brightly decorated with the local flavor of real Mexico. It reminded me of the restaurants on Maple in Dallas when I first started getting into Mexican food in the 1980s.
Notes: Benito's first opened in 1981, and has been gathering local awards ever since.
Rating: 2.5. 'fraid so. Can't go above average on this one, sorry folks. Not sure if you agree or disagree? This is where Mr. and Mrs. RJG stand at the current time (always willing to be convinced otherwise). It seems to me that Benito's is a restaurant of a past era's palate, where spicy food (not necessarily meaning fiery hot either) was still a rarity and not expected. It also appears to be more about quantity over quality.
Hours: Mon-Thu: 11-9; Fri: 11-2a; Sat: 10-2a; Sun; 10-9
Saturday, September 26, 2015
Food: We've been visiting Bangkok Cuisine since 2004, and it remains one of our favorite Thai restaurants in DFW, along with Sea Siam and Sweet Basil. It's just simply exquisite. The owner, Manit (who is always there), will make it as spicy as you want (actually the chefs are usually his wife or daughter), and all the dishes we've tried here are excellent. They cook with more of a syrupy (but not sweet) texture than most Thai places, so the dishes tend to be sauce heavy. Mrs. RJG and I both don't typically go for that, but Bangkok Cuisine is an exception. It's that good. I have to say that Bangkok Cuisine tastes like no other Thai place I've experienced in the country. It's very unique, and yet another reason why we venture here often. Personally I love their basil chicken, which they custom make for me, and often times cooked with a few Thai chiles added in (super hot). Mrs. RJG likes their chicken with vegetables or their cashew chicken. In addition, their version of chicken satay makes for an excellent appetizer, though we've generally gone straight to the meal in recent years.
Drink: Good news here as it's BYOB, so a great way to save, and enjoy a bottle of your favorite wine (or beer). Manit (or your server) will open the wine bottle and provide chilled wine glasses for you as well! No one does that for you, except those who charge a corkage fee. They also have, of course, sodas, Thai coffees, teas, etc...
Location: In a strip mall, next to the Hoffbrau steakhouse on US 377, not far south from I-820 and just north of Glenview (west side of 377). The setting is very simple, with about 15 tables, and recently repainted in a light blue color. It's a fairly bright place (though the new paint helps with this), with a TV near the kitchen if you're dining alone. It feels like a casual lunch cafeteria, but we almost exclusively go for dinner, and always enjoy the experience. The parking lot is always crowded, but 95% of the people are at the Hoffbrau. And that's a good place too (we've been a few times), but it's a shame more folks don't venture in to Bangkok Cuisine and give it a try. Note that they are closed on Monday.
Notes: The reviews on the wall point to a heritage that goes back to 1986, when they first occupied a place further south on Belknap (US 377), where there there are dozens of restaurants today (primarily Vietnamese). I believe Bangkok Cuisine is the oldest Thai restaurant in Tarrant County, or at least NE Tarrant.
Rating: 5.0 A time tested place that we continue to rave about.
Hours: Tue-Thu: 11:00 am - 8:00 pm; Fri-Sat: 11:00 am - 9:00 pm; Sun 11:00 am - 8:00 pm; Mon: Closed
Thursday, September 24, 2015
We've been going to Fresco's for many years, and it consistently rates for us among the best of the Mexican restaurants in NE Tarrant.
Food: There are a few things that make Fresco's special, and worth the journey to Watauga. Foremost is their trio of sauces that you can request to supplement the regular salsa that comes out with the chips. Actually, even if you didn't know about the trio, the primary sauce is a medium heat level chipotle concoction that is unique and quite excellent. Amongst the trio, they offer a fiery chile de arbol, a honey jalapeno, and a blazing hot habanero. They added the latter in the last few years, and it replaced their tomato based mild sauce. Apparently everyone liked the hotter alternative. Just like the RJG! And while the chile de arbol made us happy enough, the habanero clinches the deal. This may be the hottest salsa I've ever had at a Mexican restaurant - at least of those that weren't custom designed for me by a sadistic, angry chef. The flavors for everything I tasted later on were flying everywhere - and my senses were alive. As for the chips that we are using to dip into these sauces, I would prefer a more hearty and homemade corn chip. These are of the thin "Chili's" variety, and appear to be bought off the food truck. The sauces are thick (especially the honey jalapeno), and tend to break easily, so I think this would be an easy improvement for them. Another aspect of Fresco's that we both enjoy is the high quality of the enchiladas. Their sauces are uniquely flavored, and aren't run of the mill tasting. And while I have no delusions that each enchilada platter is homemade, I will say that they are exquisitely prepared each time, and they're always ready for the large crowds they seem to get. The fajita meat enchiladas, in particular are quite good, with tender beef and chicken layered on top of the delicious cheese and onion enchilada. The rice and beans are both superb as well, and expertly prepared. And nothing better than that first forkful of hot beans while your mouth is still on fire from the habanero... We've tried many things on the Fresco's menu over the years, and they are all uniformly great, but the enchiladas remain our favorite.
Drink: This used to be their signature line, but they really do have great margaritas. Perhaps a bit sweeter than I typically prefer, but still flavorful and they consistently pack a punch. As I've said many times before, us citizens of DFW are spoiled when it comes to frozen margaritas. Travel anywhere else in the US, and the adult slurpee is almost always a disappointment. We just experienced that disappointment again while in Santa Fe, as you all may have read.
Location: Fresco's sits comfortably on US 377, just south of Starnes, next to the Krispy Kreme. It's a large spacious restaurant, that gets especially crowded on weekend nights. We typically go here for lunch.
Notes: If you didn't know any better, you could be forgiven for thinking Fresco's is a national chain. They have the corporate signage, a rather large restaurant in a prime location, with consistently huge crowds on the weekends. But it's a locally owned small chain (by an industry veteran), and this location is the flagship. They later opened in Burleson, and even more recently in Highland Village. When we first visited Fresco's, sometime after we first moved here in 2003, they were some sort of a hybrid between a quick service restaurant and a full service establishment. To say it was a confusing concept would be an understatement. We never knew what we were supposed to do. Order up front, but they would bring you the food. You were on your own for the chips and salsa, but they got you the drink. In a nutshell, it was a mess. Fortunately they changed their strategy, and we've been regulars ever since! Note that they are closed on Monday.
Rating: 4.5. Consistently outstanding for over 10 years!
Hours: Mon: CLOSED; Tue - Thu: 11:00 am - 9:00 pm; Fri - Sat: 11:00 am - 10:00 pm; Sun: 11:30 am - 8:30 pm
Tuesday, September 22, 2015
Food: Gloria's is in reality a Salvadoran restaurant, but serves up Tex-Mex as well, for those who would prefer something a bit more familiar. Veterans of the Maple Avenue/Little Mexico (Dallas) area of the 70s and 80s will recall when Mexican food was still somewhat "cutting edge" for most Americans. There was one restaurant in that area called El Gallo de Oro that pioneered the food of El Salvador. This is the environment Gloria's started with back in 1986 (in Oak Cliff). Today, you would think Gloria's was a corporate creation, rather than one with a humble beginning. I bring this up, because it explains the menu and its backdrop. So while you can get that "same old enchilada", I highly recommend trying something a bit more upscale. I've taken a shine to the Pollo Asado Salvatex, which hedges the bet a little bit I guess. The charbroiled chicken breast is very tender, and wonderfully seasoned and charbroiled. The enchilada (chicken again) allows an opportunity to try their two sauces - the Ranchero and the Tomatillo. Can you tell we just got back from Santa Fe? I think I ordered it Christmas to a confused look... In any case, the Ranchero is a more thick saucy red than the usual thin-and-chunky and is delicious. And the Tomatillo has a tangy rather than tart flavor and is better than most I've had. The rice is very good as are their refried black beans. The Official Mom followed my lead and had the same thing and she lapped up every bite. Mrs. RJG had the salmon which was divine. She claimed it was the best salmon she's ever had. A nice big thick slab of grilled salmon (Salmon Costeno) and it comes with veggies and Gallo Beans - which is a mix of black beans and rice. Going backwards (here I go again) the chips are homemade and flavorful. Each comes with two dipping sauces. One is a traditional tomato and cilantro based red sauce, that has more kick than usual. And they also bring out a black bean dip, which is very similar to the beans that came with our meal. Overall, an excellent dinner for all of us!
Drink: Now this is a frozen margarita! So smooth with plenty of tequila and a great flavor. Were I not driving, I would have had two. Mrs. RJG had a margarita on the rocks, and she was very happy with hers too. The Official Mom had a Shiner Bock, since she can't drink margarita's anymore. They also have wine and a full bar.
Location: Gloria's is in the rather large shopping center on Hwy 26 that houses a movie theater and a Market Street grocery. The restaurant is cool, hip, and elegant. This is a good place for business and special occasions.
Notes: As mentioned in the Food section, Gloria's traces their roots to Oak Cliff in the 1980s. Currently they operate 15 restaurants, primarily in the DFW area, with two in Austin and one in Houston. Our first experience with Gloria's goes back to 2004 and the Addison location, nearby to where the RJG used to office.
Hours: Sunday & Monday: 11:00am to 9:00pm; Tuesday to Thursday: 11:00am to 10:00pm; Friday & Saturday: 11:00am to 10:30pm
Monday, September 21, 2015
Food: BIG is a good word to describe Freebirds' burritos. From our experience, Freebirds was the first burrito chain to offer up more than just a flour tortilla. You can choose between spinach, cayenne, flour, or whole wheat. And they offer a tremendous amount of toppings to get stuffed in those massive tortillas. It's basically Chipotle x10 - which can be a good thing if you want more than just a few items. The rice and beans are delicious (again, they offer more than cilantro lime rice and pinto/black beans), and the chicken & steak have an excellent charbroiled flavor. I also like that they have ground beef, something I always appreciated from Qdoba, since the meat allows for the salsas to penetrate. I love that their signature habanero sauce is on every table. And dousing some of that habanero all over those massive burritos, will result in a truly sublime experience. They sometimes feature different salsas, for example they have a mango chili as I write this. Mrs. RJG speaks favorably of their version of the Burrito Bowl (sans tortilla that is).
Drink: Sodas, bottled drinks, etc... No alcohol
Location: Freebirds is on North Tarrant, a couple of blocks west of US 377, on the south side. It's a spacious restaurant - we remember the days when Freebirds always had a line out the door. They finally have met the demand it seems and is now a comfortable dining experience. The biker theme is prevalent.
Notes: Freebird's growth strategy in Northeast Tarrant has been interesting to watch. They continue to circle around the RJG pasture like vultures awaiting a cow tipping. Our first visit goes back to when the (at the time) College Station based chain first broke into the DFW market with the Greenville Ave. location all the way over in that other galaxy known as Dallas (2003). Then they opened up a store in Addison, just as the RJG was packing up his satellite office in Far North Dallas and heading to Las Colinas (late 2004). Years later, while patiently waiting for them to go through our rusty gates in Northeast Tarrant, they finally made an appearance, but at the far end of the ranch in Alliance. Dutifully I went again. Each location received precisely one visit. And then they opened in Grapevine, then Hurst, and now finally in Ft. Worth just west of US 377. Each location almost precisely 6 feet closer to us than the last. And they're still not close. Close - as in 5 to 10 minute drive and take it back home close. It's just funny. C'mon guys - get it over with and come to Southlake/NRH/Keller would ya? There's not even any competition beyond Chipotle (maybe Costa Vida), and even they aren't less than 10 minutes away. In the meantime, this Fort Worth location is likely to be our home store until then. Freebirds actually has its roots in California, but relocated to College Station when a store manager from Texas A&M bought out the rights.Things have come full circle now, as the chain has gone corporate and is now located in the East Bay region of California. As such, they are rapidly growing. Texas and California remain their base customer areas, but they've expanded to Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, and Utah since - and no doubt will eventually cover the map.
Rating: 4.0 Consistently excellent!
Hours: Sunday-Thursday 10:30am - 9:00pm; Friday-Saturday 10:30am - 10:00pm
Food: While the front of the menu clearly portrays a Mexican taqueria, it becomes obvious quickly this is truly an El Salvadoran eatery. All the same, I stuck with street tacos and tried their carne asada, pollo, and al pastor. Priced attractively at $1.25 and listening to a sizzling kitchen, I felt I could do no wrong. Tacusa features a salsa bar with 3 different sauces, an onion/cilantro mix, lettuce, and other items. So we gathered up a sample of each, sat down, and a few minutes later out came my tacos. Well these are kind of dinky, aren't they? Explains the cost. Double corn tortillas, but extremely small, and packed with the meat of my choice. From there you add the onions, etc... The beef was slightly tough (I have to say this is where most taquerias struggle the most), the al pastor had a very nice marinate, and the chicken was delicious with delicious spices. The salsas were somewhat disappointing. Both the molcajete and the verde were thin and runny - and lacked spice. The spicy chile de arbol was by far the best, but even at that, it was a bit mild for the style. Mrs. RJG had two papusas, one with pork and the other shredded chicken. She didn't enjoy the pork much, but said the chicken was very good. She did like the cheese quite a bit, and the corn tortilla was cooked right. They also serve breakfast.
Drink: Mrs. RJG had the horchata, which was creamy, rich, with a nice cinnamon flavor. I sampled a couple of sips. Not something I would drink a lot of, but certainly can appreciate the beverage. They also have homemade lemonade, otherwise it's bottled drinks.
Location: On the northeast corner of Beach and Basswood. This used to house Ted E's Burgers & More that we wrote about many years ago. You order up at the counter, and there's plenty of seating. Comfortable surroundings.
Rating: 3.0. Definitely a good place, but we didn't feel it transcended the genre much. We might give it another try in a couple of years, unless we're convinced to go back sooner.
Hours: Sunday: 8:00 a.m.-10:00 p.m; Monday-Thursday: 9:00 a.m.-10:00 p.m.; Friday: 9:00 a.m.-Midnight; Saturday: 8:00 a.m.-Midnight
Chapps is another place we probably take for granted. We've been coming here since we first moved to NE Tarrant in early 2003. I suspect they had opened not long before us arriving. In any case, we still love their hamburgers!
Food: We feel that Chapps has the perfect recipe for burgers. Excellent seasoning, on the salty side, with plenty of fresh ingredients as toppings (which you can choose from). I tend to break from the norm, and ask for raw onions over grilled, but otherwise I stick to the usual cheese, lettuce, pickles, and mustard. The fresh baked buns are also quite good. A single cheeseburger is more than enough, and I don't even think they offer a double (believe me, that would be way too much). They have a smaller burger called a Baby Chapps, and naturally Mrs. RJG goes for that, plus the Baby Chapps comes with fries as part of the price (otherwise it's extra). I usually eschew fries in general, and eat a handful from the spouse's plate - and they are hand cut, fried to perfection, and very tasty. They also have very good hot dogs and chicken sandwiches that we've tried in the past. They keep the menu simple, always a plus as far as we're concerned.
Drink: Soft drinks, tea, juice.
Location: You'll find Chapps in a strip center fronting the Keller Town Center, at the southeast corner of Keller Parkway and Rufe Snow (next to the Starbucks and Pizza Hut). The restaurant itself is a throwback to the 1960s diners, with vinyl booths and checkered floors, and is quite pleasant. It's quick service, so order up, grab a drink, take a seat, and they'll bring it out usually in about 5 minutes. You can hear them grilling your burgers!
Notes: Chapps first opened in downtown Arlington in 1984 (back when the RJG was still a college lad!). They currently operate 7 locations, mostly in Tarrant County. Us denizens of the northeast portion can choose between Keller and NRH. The Keller locale is more convenient for the RJG.
Rating: 4.0. As noted, we've been coming here now for almost 13 years, and it has yet to let us down. Easy recommendation.
Hours: 11a - 9p Daily
First published February 20, 2013 and updated with a recent visit
Well it's football season again (hooray!). After returning from Santa Fe last week, what better way to relax than to spend a lazy afternoon watching NFL Red Zone, and enjoying a Jet's Pizza!
Food: We love their Jet Boats, which is basically an inverted pizza. Not a calzone, only in that they use mozzarella rather than ricotta cheese, which is more preferable for our tastes anyway. You get two of those bad boys with every order, and one alone makes a full meal. And their meatballs are fantastic (which are made in Detroit and flown in - inquire first as they don't always have them in stock). But so are all the other ingredients, and I absolutely love the sweet tomato sauce they use. And the outer bread is garlic and parmesan encrusted, and is baked to perfection. Jet's is the latest to utilize the "conveyor belt" style of baking a pizza - similar to how Schlotzsky's and Quizno's toast their sandwiches (except the oven is much larger of course). We also really enjoy their thin crust, which remains crispy even after taking it home. As stated above, the key ingredient to Jet's pizza is their tasty sauce, which is slightly sweet, and penetrates the flavor no matter what the topping. As well, while the Mrs. was out, I had the deep dish (not her favorite style), and was impressed that the pizza was more about the toppings and less about the doughy crust. That's the secret to a high quality Chicago styled pizza. Seems many lose focus on that point. They also have wings and subs which we have yet to try.
Drink: Whatever libation you have at home. They do sell liter bottles of soft drinks if needed.
Location: On Davis between Precinct Line and North Tarrant Parkway, on the west side inside of a newish strip mall (across Davis from the Super Target and Super Wal-Mart basically). There's an enormous amount of construction going up in the area, but when they opened a few years ago, it was a relatively isolated strip center. It's a take-out only spot, and of course they deliver, but we always pick it up to ensure we obtain the pizza as hot as possible. It's pretty close to our graze land.
Notes: If you want to start a burrito chain, then you might consider beginning in Denver. And if you want to launch a new pizza chain, may I perhaps suggest you do so in Detroit? Both Dominos and Little Caesar's trace their roots to the Motor City. And now they have a third major player: Jet's Pizza. Their first expansion into the DFW area was the location on North Tarrant in far North Fort Worth, and that was our first exposure as well. Since that time, they've exploded in the area, with at least 8 DFW locations if not more.
Rating: 4.0 (well, it's true, we like to eat Jet's pizza often - primarily during football season)
Hours: Sun-Thu: 10a-10p; Fri-Sat: 10a-11p
Sunday, September 20, 2015
Food: On our first visit back in 2013, Mrs. RJG and I just stopped by to try one of their handcrafted beers before dining elsewhere. While there, we noticed they had a special on green chile chicken noodle soup. I can honestly say it was the best chicken noodle soup we've ever had! And very spicy! It's too bad it's not a menu item. They offer a similar green chile chicken stew, but it's a bit different (still very good though). In any case, we vowed to come back for a full meal on our next visit to Santa Fe (we were wrapping up our trip at that point). In 2014, we decided to have a mid-week lunch here. I tried their grinder, which was outstanding. And I want to say they had the chicken noodle soup again, which I had along with the sandwich. Their version of the classic grinder, is very much like an "Italian sub" or "hero". I remember loving the bread and the seasonings, and of course you can't go wrong with mortadella and capicola. And the homemade potato chips were excellent as well. So it was with much anticipation that we returned for our final meal in Santa Fe for 2015. This time we ventured for dinner. It occurred to me that we had yet to try their New Mexican food, beyond the soup. So along with the green chile stew (as mentioned above), I tried their New Mexican Style enchiladas. Ummm.... yea, this isn't Casa Chimayo or La Choza that's for sure. They were OK, and the red/green chiles were decent recipes, but to be brutally honest, this isn't Second Street's forte. I suspect they have it on the menu out of obligation more than passion. I think pub fare is where their heart is. The whole black beans were good, but the rice was a BIG MISS. They weren't cooked - like waaaay undercooked. Crunchy and down right annoying as I kept eating it by accident since it was sprinkled into my chile sauce. We were fortunate (or unfortunate depending on one's perspective) to be seated at a table next to the kitchen. And the wife and I noticed that about 75% of the dishes coming out of the kitchen were Fish and Chips. Big blobs of brown food. And we were salivating just looking at it. I'm sure each meal comes with a co-pay card to the nearest clinic, but you only live once, and you might as well go down happy. Mrs. RJG for her part, was wise and stuck more to traditional brewpub offerings. She had the Patty Melt made with buffalo meat. She let me have a couple of bites, and I have to say it was absolutely delicious. And the fries were great as expected. This is exactly what Second Street is good at. I really love this place, so now I know better on what to get. Rule: Avoid New Mexican food at Second Street. Get Pub food instead.
Drink: Like we said about Blue Corn, I'm sure they have other things to drink, but unless you are alcohol intolerant or the designated driver, one really should sample their crafted beers. We've tried about 5 each now over the last 3 years, and every one of them was delicious. This time we stuck to the APA/IPA tradition, as that was their specials brews at this time.
Location: No prizes for guessing they are on Second Street. The restaurant comes up suddenly, but you'll know you're there once you hit the railroad crossing. In the grand tradition of Santa Fe restaurants, parking is limited. Basically the street east of the railroad, and the dirt road along the rail tracks are your next option. Don't be fooled by the lot across the street, which says in somewhat small letters "Parking for Second Street Studios only". Keyword: Studios. We made that mistake, fortunately realizing it prior to leaving the lot, and getting towed away no doubt. The restaurant itself is very spacious, and gets crowded in the evening. It's very popular. Also worth noting is that on the evening we were there, they had live music, which featured a very fine jazz trio and was perfect for the setting.
Notes: Second Street first opened in 1996. Second Street has another location at the Railyard/train depot, which isn't far from here, and I suspect represents an overflow option.
Rating: 4.0 (I ordered the wrong thing. I have faith this is a place we'd go often to)
Hours: HOURS: MON - THUR 11AM-10PM; FRI & SAT 11AM-11PM; SUN NOON-9PM
Food: It's burgers and fries, and all made with strictly fresh ingredients. They also have burgers beyond the usual beef, including lamb, turkey, and portobello mushroom.We each went with the traditional "Junior Foundation" which is a simple cheeseburger (and good size for lunch) and jack cheese with... green chile. The chile is added similar to a condiment, so it's not overly sloppy. The buns are buttered (a Midwest tradition) and lightly toasted which is another differentiator. Just a superb tasting burger, and the chile is very hot (spicier than the norm for Santa Fe). Which works for the RJG! And that spiciness continues to penetrate, and thus opens up the flavor of the burger that much more. Also, special mention goes to the fries, which are of the super thin shoestring variety, crispy, and delicious.
Drink: Given the name, it should come as no surprise that handmade shakes are also a specialty here. Mrs. RJG and I were very tempted to share one, but since it was near the end of our trip, and we were not feeling svelte by this point (witness the prior reviews), we decided to pass. Next time we will most certainly indulge. The reviews are very positive, and their shakes have a variety of flavors.
Location: On Cerrillos between Guadalupe and Paseo del Peralta (east side of the road). Apparently this location housed a gas station for many years. As such the lot is large, with plenty of parking (finally!). Order up at the window and sit on any of the picnic tables, under the big trees. Very pleasant outdoor dining.
Notes: The owner/chef of Shake Foundation has a long history in Santa Fe. Like our own Tim Love, he wanted to create a high quality alternative to what is usually considered "fast food". Shake Foundation opened in January 2014.
Rating: 4.0 (only one visit so far. We have high hopes for repeatability)
Website (with menu)
Hours: MONDAY-THURSDAY 11-7; FRIDAY AND SATURDAY 11-8; SUNDAY 11-6
Friday, September 18, 2015
Food: Casa Chimayo's fare is solidly in the New Mexican camp. Perhaps a bit more upscale than the usual New Mexican breakfast/lunch hybrid house. Casa Chimayo offers complimentary chips and salsa, which isn't always a given in New Mexico. The chips were very thick and crisp, clearly homemade, and taste fantastic on their own. The salsa is a thick and smooth red, with garlic and chiles, and very satisfying. For entrees, we both settled in on the Blue Corn Enchiladas, which they proudly state were featured on Fiori's DDD. We weren't feeling diverse this evening, so we both went with the chicken and Christmas chile and it comes with whole beans and rice. WINNER! Without a doubt, Casa Chimayo holds its own against the formidable local competition. Both the green and the red were excellent, and definitely a bit spicier than the norm in Santa Fe (though not like Horseman's Haven by any stretch). I use the word "velvety" often when describing the red chile, and I struggle to find another adjective, and so once again I'll use it here. The beans and rice came out piping hot and were delicious in their own right. Oh, and they even served us a couple of their famous bizcochitos (cookies) for dessert. They were excellent too.
Drink: Nice selection of beer, wine, and margaritas. We had the latter, which were tasty, though perhaps a bit more tequila would have been nice. I regretted not trying a glass of the New Mexican Chardonnay they had on the menu.
Location: Yet another restaurant in the artsy district on North Guadalupe. And once again, parking is a challenge. There are two pay lots surrounding the restaurant, and metered parking was a breeze on this one mid-week evening. And it would have been free, if we had arrived after 6, but we went earlier per our custom. The restaurant itself is very pleasant, as if eating at someone's spacious villa. Plenty of both outdoor and indoor seating. We were surprised to see the restaurant nearly empty for the course of our dinner. Folks, if you don't feel like standing in line at one of the more established restaurants, can I recommend a quick pop over here? One other point I'd like to make. We don't usually fuss about service, bad or good. That can change with a single visit. But I have to say everyone from the bus boys to the hostess to the servers were incredibly friendly. That points more to quality management. And friendly service is not always a given in Santa Fe, where often times the staff seems more bothered than pleased to see you. So kudos go to Casa Chimayo! Oh, and one other thing. We loved the background music of Spanish guitar as well. How many restaurants fail on this front? Soothing and sophisticated is how you'll feel while dining here.
Notes: The name of the restaurant comes from the name of the small town north of Santa Fe, and halfway to Taos. This is where the family originates from. I believe the restaurant first opened in 2011.
Rating: 4.0 (I expect this to go higher on repeat visits)
Hours: Lunch: Monday, Wednesday - Saturday, 11:00am - 2:00pm, closed Tues.
Dinner: Served Daily: 5:00pm - 9:00pm
Sunday Brunch: 10:00am - 3:00pm
Friday, September 11, 2015
Food: Traditional American and New Mexican breakfast is the primary draw at The Pantry. They also have a full menu of burgers, sandwiches, Mexican entrees, and comfort foods. There was no question at all what the RJG was going to have: A smothered breakfast burrito with Christmas chile. And it comes with "pantry fries" (potatoes in the vernacular). Out comes this wonderful and large skillet, with a steaming fat burrito and incredible looking cheese and chile staring me in the face. I always start with the green chile side first (rarely do I mix the two). First bite into the fluffy egg burrito ...oh... mmmm... wow.... next bite... oh....mmmm...wow. Yes, the lines out the door do indeed signify there is "a somethin' a happenin' here" For as great as the green chile was, I even enjoyed the red more. Certainly in the same league as La Choza on that front. I also devoured the potatoes as they helped me ensure not a drop of chile was left on the plate. Mrs. RJG beelined in on the Chile Relleno Omelette. I heard similar sounds of happiness on her side of the table. By the time I looked up her plate was as clean as mine. Yes, the RJG household is actually made up of two vultures in human clothes... Doubt I need to state the obvious about coming back here again, etc....
Drink: No alcohol. Diner styled drinks, with coffee well in the lead position.
Location: On Cerrillos northeast of St. Michaels. And they actually have a parking lot! Wow, what a concept. The restaurant is very much an old school diner, with stool seating and a dining room. Places like this (the atmosphere, not the food) were dime a dozen 40 years ago, but rare to find anymore. As indicated above, The Pantry is "known" and as such, coming here for Sunday brunch will have the same result as waiting to buy tickets to a Madonna concert. Plan wisely or prepare to starve for a bit.
Notes: This is worth pasting in from their website: "The Pantry was founded in 1948 by George Myers, he set the standard of quality and excellence that has been associated with the Pantry for over sixty years now. With such storied roots in Santa Fe, it is impossible to say how many business deals, political decisions, and relationships have been started in the dining rooms at the Pantry. Since its inception there have been seven different owner operators or stewards of the Pantry, who have nurtured it and brought it to where it is today, including its current owner the Singley Family who plans to continue the Pantry tradition for many years to come." Love the reference to politics, business, and relationships. These type of eating establishments are the centerpiece to a society.
Rating: 4.0 (I suspect this will go up on repeat visits)
Hours: Monday thru Saturday: 6:30am - 8:30pm; Sunday: 7:00am - 8:30pm
Food: Though BBQ is in the name, barbeque is only one portion of their rather large menu. They also have steaks, burgers, seafood, and yes, New Mexican cuisine. We went here to add a bit of diversity to our diet, and so I settled on the Pulled Pork BBQ sandwich. Apparently the smothered in Salsa Diablo was featured on the "Heat Seekers" show. They brought mine on the side, and it's definitely a sizzling red chile blend. But nothing overwhelming. In fact we thought it was quite tasty, and I dipped my wonderfully cooked fries into it throughout the meal. Couldn't really tell you if the Pulled Pork was any good on its own, because it was completely drenched in the chipotle barbeque sauce - just as advertised. The brioche bun is perfect for handling the moist sandwich, and managed to stay firm. Overall, an excellent barbeque sandwich. Mrs. RJG, despite the premise of why we were there, ended up ordering the chile relleno with the Christmas chile. She reports that the cheese was fantastic (asadero she suspects), and both the red and green had splendid flavors and a nice kick. Our first meal here was clearly a success!
Drink: We were there before 6, and took advantage of the excellent Happy Hour specials, and each ordered two margaritas. They were small, but flavorful, with a nice punch (not overly - to be expected though). They also have 24 taps, with a nice selection of craft beers, though surprisingly a bit light in the New Mexico department. Which was the primary reason I indulged in margaritas instead.
Location: Very close to Fire & Hops that we just reported on. On Guadalupe, except south of Alameda this time. And once again, parking is a challenge. We found street parking with meters. Since we were there before 6, the cost was only about 50 cents. So bring a little change with you if you go early, otherwise it's free after 6. The restaurant itself is pretty spacious with a large courtyard for those who like to dine outdoors. The interior is decorated with Cowgirl memorabilia (vintage posters, signed autographs, that sort of thing). It's really quite cool. Oh, and they have live music (country/roots/folk/bluegrass, etc...) every night usually starting at 8/8:30.
Notes: You may be surprised to find out that the Cowgirl BBQ heritage comes from New York City ("get a rope"). It was a purposeful concept restaurant, but working closely with the Cowgirl Hall of Fame in Hereford, Texas. They opened the flagship restaurant in 1989 (or 1988 depending on which website you wish to believe) in the West Village and it's still active. It was approximately 5 years later that one of the partners decided to open up in the "real west", and they've been in Santa Fe ever since.
Rating: 4.0 (only one visit, so it's tentative)
Hours: Monday-Thursday 11:30 am – 11:30 pm; Friday-Saturday 11:30 am – 12:30 am; Sunday 11:00 am – 11:00 pm
Thursday, September 10, 2015
Food: La Choza has to be considered one of the gold standards for New Mexican cooking. We've smothered a few items in their famous chile's, and never have we left without huge smiles of happiness. In general, regarding the chile, I've stuck with the Christmas standard. Their green is slightly spicy and I would consider it good to very good in flavor. Their red chile is quite simply the best I've ever had - and one of the best food items I've ever had. It's so velvety in texture with flavors that continue to explode as time goes on. It's not particularly spicy either (though hotter than the green on average - it's seasonal). Remember my comment on the Horseman's Haven review about "It's not about the heat, it's about the flavor"? I think they can't get La Choza out of their head. And, yea, I can understand that too. Chips and salsa are an extra purchase, which we've done in the past (recall being excellent but too long ago), but eschewed this time around. All meals come with a sopaipilla (or garlic bread or a tortilla - c'mon get the sopaipilla), that they deliver steaming hot at the end of the meal. I darn near burned my face opening it up this time! Can't really recommend anything beyond this: You must order something that is buried in the red chile. I'm salivating as I write this.
Drink: Tequila, margaritas, wine, and even craft beer on tap. Like a total dope, I ordered the frozen margarita. When will I ever learn that no one does frozen margs better than what we have in Texas? Of course, it was watered down. My fault. I knew better. Mrs. RJG, on the other hand, being the smart one in the marriage, ordered a house margarita on the rocks. I had one sip and was envious all night. Delicious, and plenty of tequila in there too!
Location: As mentioned at the top, La Choza's reputation is well earned, is featured in every magazine imaginable, and as such, it fills up quickly. Reservations are recommended, or you can do what the RJG does and show up not long after opening (we always go for dinner). As well, it seems that all great New Mexican restaurants in Santa Fe come with difficult-at-first parking. The restaurant is hidden behind the Santa Fe Railyard at the mobbed intersection of St. Francis and Cerrillos. Get your trusty Google Map App out, and wind your way to the back roads. There is a parking lot behind the restaurant and through the fenced area. Like the restaurant, it fills up quick. If you go early, easy breezy. Otherwise, it's street parking. The restaurant itself is the old headquarters of a former ranch. It has many rooms, and outside seating as well. And a bar area, which you can dine in as well. Very comfortable surroundings.
Notes: La Choza opened in 1983, and has been gathering awards ever since.
Rating: 4.5 (ready to christen it a 5 soon!)
Hours: Mon-Sat: 11:00 - 2:30 & dinner 5:00 - 9:00; Closed Sunday
Food: New York Deli is an old fashioned Jewish delicatessen, with a strong Italian slant. Well that just about covers the Mob of the 1940's eh? Whether it's fat kosher deli meat sandwiches, Italian hot subs, or a traditional breakfast with the best homemade bagels you've ever had, New York Deli is the elixir to the New Mexican food hangover. And since we overindulge on the local cuisine, we welcome the diversion. As I presume the locals do as well. Their portions are hearty, at a fair price. and very good. The hot pastrami on NY Rye with brown mustard and a kosher pickle is the best I've had outside the 5 boroughs. Mrs. RJG loves their omelettes, and is always one of the highlights of her trip. This is a place where you schmear your butter on your bagel!
Drink: You have to ask? What? You don't know?
Location: This particular New York Deli is in a strip center on the NE corner of Rodeo and Cerrillos - across the same parking lot as the Blue Corn that we covered recently. The interior is bright and cheerful. And how refreshing to hear the quaint instrumental muzak tones of the 1960s. Everything here is a throwback. How we tire of pop music in a restaurant!
Notes: Though the sign says "since 1931", that refers to their heritage in New York City and Long Island. They also once had a Bagelmania in Florida in the 1970s. Ultimately they ended up in Santa Fe in the early 90s. The New York Deli Upper East Side is the other location and apparently was a Baglemania originally.
Hours: 7a - 3p daily
Food: Fire & Hops is a classic Gastropub, with focus on locally grown ingredients, small and large plates, and of course, craft beer. Seems as if these places were designed specifically with the RJG in mind! The definition of "small plate" wildly varies from place to place. In San Francisco, it means a small appetizer, whereas at Fire & Hops it means a full meal. And a large plate means we couldn't finish it. And what was my massive dinner? A Cubano sandwich. It was giant! I was expected a regular size sandwich with a handful of homemade potatoes. Well I got a bushel full of those as well. And they were delicious! The sandwich was almost perfect, especially the bread, but the pork was unfortunately a bit tough for a sandwich, and I ultimately pulled it out and cut it with a knife. But the flavor was fantastic. Mrs. RJG went with the Ground Burger, which received a huge thumbs up and the hand cut fries were out of this world. She did comment "I'm eating and drinking like a guy" as we both waddled out. Somehow I sense we're dining on salad all next week... There are many other mouth watering items on the menu that we're hoping to try in the future.
Drink: New Mexico doesn't have the most robust craft beer culture, but it's rise has been slow and steady. As such, many of their beers are brought in from Colorado and California. But we were defiantly going all New Mexico, and I had my first beers from a brewery in Albuquerque called Bosque Brewing. Both the Scaletipper IPA and the Riverbank Brown were superb for their respective styles. In addition to beer, Fire & Hops has a fine selection of wines and ciders.
Location: Fire & Hops is in a trendy area of central Santa Fe on Guadalupe, north of Alameda and south of Paseo del Peralta. Not far from the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum. As usual with places such as this, finding parking is a pain in the butt. Just drive around until you find something that isn't prohibited. The earlier you go, the better your chances. The restaurant itself is in an old house and is very comfy and charming. Patio seating is also available.
Notes: More about Fire and Hops can be found here on their website.
Rating: 4.0. We've only been once, so this is as high as we can go. As well, we have no idea how consistent it is.
Hours: Monday through Friday: 5pm - 11pm; Saturday and Sunday: 2pm - 11pm