Monday, August 11, 2014

El Gallo de Oro, Mexican, Granbury-TX


Hi everyone! We're back from an extended break, and hope to update the blog and catch up soon. In the meantime, Mr. Music just sent this one in to get us rolling again.

"The Music's spent the day in Granbury over the weekend.  With a herd of 10+, a round at the local disc golf course, a stop at Revolver Brewery (another great experience in itself) and then some lunch at a local Mexican restaurant. What else could one want in life?

El Gallo de Oro is a cute little place right off the Brazos River.  It is a small, free standing building serving authentic Mexican dishes.  They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. I was originally attracted to it by the name - recalling one of my long gone favorite little places in Dallas on Maple just off Wycliffe owned by a couple from Guatemala.  No relation, but the food here is great.  They serve a wide variety of dishes including enchiladas, quesadillas and street tacos!  Nothing else needed to be said, when I saw it on the menu - and when I saw the picture of the spit aka trompo, I was sold!  Our friends had quesadillas to their delight. Music Junior had chicken tacos with crema and loved them. Ms. Music opted for fresh made (yes, that’s what I said) corn and flour tortillas with fresh made guacamole.  Yeah, she loved it.  Baby Music ate her weight in handmade tortillas (“heche a mano”) with mantequilla (butter). Of course I had the Al Pastor with rice and beans as did 2 of my other buds.  Their Al Pastor was a little different than what I’ve had before, something I can’t quite put my finger on, but they were excellent! The meat was well seasoned and tender.  Oh, did I forget to talk about the chips and salsa?  Well well, they have 4 salsas served with warm, yummy chips. The main salsa they serve is a warm red salsa containing green chilies and had a decent amount of heat although I can tell it is toned down for the masses. The flavor is very good although we all agreed it needed some salt.  Upon request, we received a tomatillo salsa (also warm), and 2 squirt bottle salsas (verde and rojo) much like many of the other good taco places I’ve been to.  My only complaint is they all lacked a little salt (but was easily remedied). The verde in the squirt bottle was a tomatillo avocado salsa which was my favorite and also the fave of a few of the others.  The warm, red (rojo) originally served came in 2nd for me.   Of course I’d like them a bit hotter too. All in all it was a great experience and I WILL be back.  I heard the breakfasts there are great and they are just about to start serving alcohol. I saw a sign that said free margaritas will be available in August. "
 
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El Gallo de Oro on Urbanspoon

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Chelsea Pizza, New York Style Pizza, Grapevine-TX

Last visit: January 2014

Rating: Hold

Other locations: Keller; Crowley

I've been aware of Chelsea Pizza for many years, as reviews and comments alike praised their authentic New Jersey styled pizza. In fact, they first opened in 2009 about a year after getting this blog started. I'd intended on heading west to their Keller location for what seems forever, but there was always some reason why I didn't. At first they were dinner only, which was inconvenient since Mrs. RJG typically doesn't want pizza for dinner. Then by the time they did open for lunch, their website menu didn't indicate they had pizza by the slice, and I didn't feel compelled to order a whole pie.

So it was a month ago while Mrs. RJG and I were dining at the Cafe Italia on Hwy 26 that I noticed Chesea Pizza had opened a new location right next door. I found out they were open for lunch, and they had pizza by the slice, so it was indeed time for me to finally try it. So I finally wandered over recently for a lunch, and had two slices - one cheese and one sausage. The slices are very generous, slightly larger than a traditional portion from an 8 cut pie. The crust was slight crispy, but not very pliable, so there would be no folding down the middle and inhaling. The crust was also fairly uniform, indicating that it may have not been hand tossed. A traditional NY pizza place will have the pies out for viewing, and you point at what you want, but at Chelsea there was nothing on display, they just went to the back and a few minutes later showed up with pizzas on a plate. That's certainly fine with me, but I had no visibility on how they make their pizzas. The flavor of the crust, again, wasn't anything noteworthy. The tomato sauce was not distinctive either, but pleasant. The cheese was wonderfully gooey, and the sausage they use are the crumbles rather than anything homemade.

What's the verdict? Definitely a fine pizza, but not overwhelmingly positive. Hence, the Hold rating which basically means I'll eat there willingly again, but I have no intention of seeking out for regular visits. Thumbs up, but not outstanding.

Website

Chelsea Pizza on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 20, 2014

Update: Mexican Inn is back in Bedford!

Good news here for Northeast Tarrant fans of this venerable local chain. Mexican Inn is back after a two year hiatus. And into nice new digs!

I've updated the RJG Mexican Inn page with our recent visit. Be sure to check it out!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Las Caras, Mexican, Denver-CO

Last visit: November 2013

Rating: Buy

So we continue our trek through the Denver restaurant landscape. We first discovered Las Caras in our recent summer townhome phase of Denver living (2009-2011). Las Caras was conveniently close to our place in SE Denver, and since I worked from home, it made the perfect lunch stop for Mrs. RJG and I during the week. Las Caras means "The Faces", and the name takes on more meaning once you realize the owner (or family member of the owner) is also an artist, and many painted faces adorn the walls.

So what separates Las Caras from the competition? A few things actually. The salsa that comes with the chips is quite good, but if you ask for the hotter one, you'll receive a dark green concoction that has this most unique smoked chile flavor, and packs some heat too. For an entree, be sure to get something with their grilled chicken. It's absolutely delicious. It's always tender, and features a marinate similar to what you might find at a Thai restaurant. It's not exactly that, but it's unlike any charbroiled chicken I've ever had at a Mexican place. And this being Denver, I of course get a chicken burrito and "smother it in green" - or more precisely in spicy green. Always ask for that if you are so inclined - as many of the Denver area restaurants have hotter chiles then they might let on. Fantastic! Mrs. RJG suspects there's some Oriental influence in their cooking, and I have to agree. I think that's one of their positive separators. And really, that's all there is to tell. Great chips, spicy salsa, smothered chicken burrito, and a Bohemia beer to wash it down. Reasonably priced, and a meal that feels healthy. Unlike some Mexican restaurants where you waddle out in regret, Las Caras always makes me feel fit for the rest of the day. The perfect lunch spot.

As such, on my last visit to Denver, I walked off the plane, into the rental car, and made a beeline here for lunch. It was... yea... perfect. Same as I had remembered from 2 years prior. The shopping center itself is completely different though. They bulldozed the Tamarac mall area up front and put up a Target and probably a few other things (it really does look way better). The strip center behind that, though, was given an upgrade and appears to be here for the long haul. This is where Las Caras sits.

If you're in the Tamarac Square area, or wandering Hampden around meal time - definitely stop on in, and grab some tasty and guiltless Mexican food. At least, on the latter point, it feels that way. We've been dozens of times, and it never fails to hit the spot.

Note the high Urbanspoon score on a strong sample size. Denver is a demanding city when it comes to Mexican food, so that's very impressive indeed.

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Las Caras Mexican Grill on Urbanspoon

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Freshcraft, Beer Tavern, Gastropub, Denver-CO

(photo courtesy of beerphxation)

Last visit: November 2013

Rating: Buy

While the RJG awaits to try his next new restaurant in DFW (though we already have 9 revisits as indicated by the 2014 update tag), and I have a little extra time to write, let's get back to our "second home" in Denver. Now that we sold our summer townhome, I tend to get to Denver only about twice a year for family and personal business.

And on both visits to Denver in 2013, I visited Freshcraft, which ironically I discovered for the first time last year. Freshcraft is located in the LoDo section of downtown Denver, right in the heart of the active nightlife section. I typically stay at a hotel in the Denver Tech Center, that is conveniently within walking distance of the RTD (Denver's light rail system). So it's perfect for a dinner. Train in, walk, eat, drink a few craft beers, walk back, train out. On both visits, I went on a Saturday night around 7:30 or so. In June I was able to sit at the bar with few patrons. And in November, it was very difficult to even find a stool for one and I had to wait a few minutes. It's that popular. And it's easy to see why. With a very diverse, and constantly changing beer list, combined with a hearty menu, Freshcraft provides the perfect balance of food and drink. Their beer list does not offer exclusively Colorado only beers, but even the out of state beers are not what you would commonly find at a typical bar. The link above changes on an almost daily basis. As for food, they offer anything from snacks to "large plates". If it fits your dietary needs, absolutely go for a cup of the Ale and Cheese soup made with a Pale Ale. It's creamy and delicious. Along with the soup, I've only stuck with sandwiches to date, and recommend their Cuban (which I'm not seeing on their menu as I type this), though I've had my eye on their Crispy Pork Schnitzel both trips. What I like most about their menu, is that it's not overly chef school fru-fru nor is it heavy on greasy fried "brown food" - which is what a lot of brewpubs unfortunately only offer. Its diversity is perfect for the traditional male and female diet.

Even though I have a long list of Denver favorites, Freshcraft has managed to secure a place near the top in short order. At this point, I plan on going here on each and every visit, where time allows.

Website

Freshcraft on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 10, 2014

Samui Thai Cuisine, Thai, Plano-TX

And here's the final entry from Mr. Music's last batch of reviews. I'm not familiar with Samui, which I could say about almost all restaurants in Plano, but it appears to be a popular place according to Urbanspoon.

Mr Music writes: My boss suggested we come to Samui Thai for lunch last Friday. I had been once before and just didn’t remember loving it, although several of my co-workers speak highly of it. I was looking forward to another visit. Samui is a nice Thai place in the Shops of Legacy. The lunch menu was reasonably priced and had all the dishes I know and love - Thai food is one of my favorite types of food. I noticed they had Lad Na, which a Thai friend of mine told me was a good sign as it is a favorite dish at home. I actually opted for the Spicy Basil Chicken and my boss and co-worked each had a fried rice dish. We could add soup or a spring roll for $1 so of course I went for the Tom Kha Gai. The bowl was a good size for a side and the soup was great. Chicken broth with galangal, lemon grass, a little fish sauce and chili flakes with coconut milk and tender chicken chunks was mixed just right. I ordered 4 of 5 stars (heat level) on the spicy basil and also got the chili flakes and a bowl of my favorite: Pik Nam Pla (fresh Thai chilies sliced into fish sauce). The portion was big and the food hot and fresh. Very tasty – and I made it a 6 or 7 on the spicy scale with the pik nam pla and chili flakes. The fried rice dishes looked great, and one was teeming with big shrimp. My opinion of Samui has changed - it is a solid Thai restaurant and I’d go anytime. I need to go more to find the one dish that makes them shine.

Website

Samui Thai Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 9, 2014

3 Parrots Taco Shop, Tacos y Margaritas, Benbrook-TX

Many of you will remember that the RJG had visited 3 Parrots Taco Shop almost exactly a year ago. We had gone to the Beach Street location. In the latest batch of reviews from Mr. Music, he'd apparently gone to the Benbrook location after some disc golf. So I'll create a new post here, and we can compare notes to our own experience. And it appears he drew a similar conclusion regarding Fuzzy's. As you can see from the link above, we haven't returned, and I don't think that we will unless I hear of significant changes.

Mrs. Music and I were in West Ft. Worth with some friends for some serious disc golf at Z-Boaz Park. After a grueling 3 hour round, we were ready for some chow! One of our friends surfed up Three Parrots and since it was very close, we decided to check it out. I’d never heard of it and didn’t have time to look it up so I was excited to go in blind. Ryo was excited to see they had schooners of beer for $3, but if craft been is your preference, this is not the place for you. The most exciting item on the brew list was Rahr’s Ugly Pug. Aside from that were the usual suspects. The décor was interesting - it has a very commercial feeling, but featured cool tikis, beer signs with guitars and demon heads and guitar necks with skull and tiki bodies. The menu was compact. You pick a taco or burrito, salad or nachos, and then pick the meat you want for it. I decided to get 3 tacos: Grilled fish, grilled shrimp and chipotle chicken. Mrs. Music got fish and a breakfast taco with chorizo. Ryo got beer battered fish tacos and Ms. Cubana had nachos. They had a sauce on the table and offered a hotter, habanero sauce as well. We got both. The tacos all came in double steamed corn tortillas and everything reminded all of us quite a bit of Fuzzy’s - even the sauces. The pluses were the corn tortillas were a bit heartier and the tacos stuffed a little more than Fuzzy’s, although $2.29 as opposed to $1.99. The flavor of the fish at Fuzzy’s appealed to me a bit more and Fuzzy’s habanero sauce is a bit hotter, “better” Ryo chimed in. The food was pretty good and fresh. The place was clean as a whistle, but not sure I need to rush back soon. 

Website And they still don't mention the Beach St. location!

3 Parrots Taco Shop on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Revolver Taco Lounge, Tacos y Margaritas, Fort Worth-TX

Not only is the RJG back in the saddle, but Mr. Music has suddenly reappeared as well with a fresh set of local reviews. Revolver Taco Lounge is a place that has received an enormous amount of press, but we have yet to wander over and try it. Let's see what Mr. Music thinks...

The Musics' were in Ft. Worth on Saturday and decided to check out some local tacos. A good friend mentioned he’d seen a place called Revolver Taco Lounge and had been meaning to check it out.  I saw some good reviews and thought it was worth a shot.  The restaurant is very small with nice décor and the white table cloths help make it seem upscale.  The menu is packed with very interesting items such as mole, ceviche, birria and several yummy looking tacos. Mrs. Music wanted to splurge a little and ordered the Langosta tacos which are made with a half-pound of lobster meat. I opted for Al Pastor - a favorite dish of mine.  Music Junior and Baby Music split an order of tamales.  We were accompanied by 2 nephews and a niece, but they were not interested in eating there. The tacos came 4 to an order so we decided to have 2 of each, each. Amazing handmade corn tortillas wrapped around the goods boded well. Mrs. Music expressed foodgazmic delight as she slowly took down the Langosta which had caramelized red onions, lemon zest and well-seasoned melted butter. I attacked the delicious looking pastor complete with pineapple, cilantro onion and a special salsa.  It was delicious! I think the pork was actually cooked on a spit, as it should be. The tacos were not packed but had a good amount of filling. The tamales were plump and covered with sauce. The pork had red mole on it and the chicken had tomatillo. Both had crema drizzled atop. A third tamale with shrimp would have accompanied the other two but we opted for an extra pork as the kids are not yet into shrimp. Poor things!  We ordered bottomless, homemade limeade. it was tart and slightly sweet and very refreshing! The food was as fresh as can be and everything tasted so good, but it wasn’t cheap.  After tip it was $80 and I was actually still a little hungry afterwards. It’s a very nice place and I plan to go again, but don’t think it is a good place for young kids.  The staff was wonderful and was very kind with the kids even if they did want to climb on all the stools and couches and run to and from the bathroom.  If you are in a rush, you might want to wait before coming to Revolver. It is a great place to hang out for a nice slow evening and since all the food is handmade right there, it can be a little slow, especially if the restaurant is full. I’d love to try just about everything on the menu and hope to get back soon.

Website

Revolver Taco Lounge on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 3, 2014

TPR Burger, Hamburgers, Watauga-TX

Last visit: January 2014

Rating: Buy

So we start the new year not with a revisit, but rather a new entry altogether. TPR Burger was getting some buzz in the local media marketplace, and since it's here in NE Tarrant, I felt I better get over there and report back.

TPR, as you can discern from the photo above, stands for Texas Patty Real. In speaking with the owner, the acronym was born when the cost to replace the sign above the restaurant was too expensive to put the whole name there. Once again it proves the old axiom: Necessity is the mother of all invention.

When I first walked in, I was expecting to see an order counter, and since no one greeted me, I wandered around aimlessly for a couple of minutes. It was clear after awhile, that it's a sit down restaurant, and I was greeted warmly by the owner and she escorted me to my table. I'm guessing they are short on help at this point. Since this is my first visit, I decided to stick with the basics and go with a cheeseburger, and that comes with a side of fries. About 10 minutes later, out comes this wonderful basket with sizzling fries, and a double aluminum wrapped big and awesome looking burger with gooey cheese hanging from the sides. Since the hand cut fries were staring at me, I started with them, and the heavily salted potatoes were excellent. All burgers come with two large and thin patties and topped with what I think is called an Hawaiian bun, which has a slightly sweet taste. It's obviously a key ingredient and impacts the flavor in a positive way. The burgers have an excellent flavor, and the bun was toasted to perfection. Given the size of the burger, plus the fries, the $6.99 price tag is a good value.

TPR replaced one of the many Balkan owned Italian restaurants that have been closing at a rapid rate around the area. It was originally built with a large open window space, and the restaurant can be very bright at the lunch hour. The location is a bit hidden, but it's in the same shopping center as Habanero's which is at Basswood and US 377 (NW corner).

Texas Patty Real Burger is an excellent addition to the DFW hamburger landscape, and complements well with Watauga's other gem: The Burger and Philly Shack. Give them a try!

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TPR Burger on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year everyone! Hopefully 2014 brings happiness to all.

Especially to our taste buds.

And on that note, let's do a quick 2013 in review. We had our most productive year on the RJG to date. Not bad for a silly little project that started almost 6 years ago. I was able to stick with it all year, even though we didn't have new entries for a few months towards the end. But I kept the updates fresh, as evidenced by the 66 updates (see 2013 Update label to your right). That is in addition to the 78 new entries we added. I will leave that label alone, and we'll create a new 2014 Update category for all 2014 updates to entries prior to today. I'll be curious how they compare.

Many of the principle's of the RJG are still intact, and I don't see them changing anytime soon. Amongst those 1) We are not professional food writers and do not want to be. While that should be painfully obvious after reading only one entry, it's worth noting that we do this strictly as a hobby, and its primary function is to call out restaurants "where the regular folks eat". 2) We are not "foodies". We like to go out to eat. There's a big difference. Most restaurant reviewers, especially the professionals, are indeed foodies. That's certainly not a condemnation, as I truly respect these people. It's just not what the RJG is about. We talk about the dining experience and what's good to eat. We do not give detailed dissertations on how the meal was prepared nor hit the thesaurus for new adjectives on how it tasted. And 3) we continue to do this anonymously. The main reason for this is we do not want any kind of special treatment. I have been blessed with good paying jobs for many years now, and I want to spend money at these establishments so they stay in business. I get frequent invitations to go to "grand openings" or "can you try our restaurant - and we'll cover all expenses". No way. We don't want anything for free. We may try the restaurant but they'll never know when. I can't blame these establishments for trying to curry favor, but we aren't for sale. I make precisely $0 doing this. As you can see, I have no advertising (Google Ads) up. I won't say never - maybe one day I will need the money. But I'm working very hard now so that doesn't happen. And this blog is here as a volunteer effort to support the local community.

So what were the positives for 2013?

1. The craft beer movement in Texas has absolutely taken off. This is an exciting development that has had a profound impact on the restaurant industry as well. The most popular restaurant in all of DFW for 2013 had to be Hopdoddy Burger Bar (Dallas), that we covered last January. It's been in the "Talk of the Town" section of Urbanspoon for the entire year, And if you think it's just because of the burgers, then you only understand the half of it. It's the beer selection too. Perhaps the RJG's favorite is Jack Mac's Swill and Grill (far north Dallas), whose beer selection is entirely made up of Texas craft beers - that rotate often. And the food is excellent. Of course both of those places are pretty far from NE Tarrant, and I've only managed one visit each to date. Other similar places are going up in Fort Worth, Dallas, Plano, Frisco, and Denton. Unfortunately nothing here, beyond The Ginger Man (Southlake), which is pretty disappointing from a local craft beer perspective (not terrible, but not as exciting at they could be). They have way too many national and international macro brews to take too seriously. And their menu is an afterthought. Mellow Mushroom (Southlake) and the Baja Grill chain (under various names throughout NE Tarrant) have done an admirable job of supplanting their menus with fine craft beers.

2. Plenty of new restaurants in NE Tarrant opened in 2013 (or close to it). Some of our favorites include:

-Lupe's Tex-Mex Grill (Keller). Already established in Bedford, but the Keller location is much welcomed - and very good.

-Jet's Pizza (NRH) New outlet for the Michigan based to-go pizza chain. I love their Jet Boats and pizza sauce!

- i Fratelli's Pizza (Keller) A new outlet for the classic "Dallas styled" pizza chain. And right near the RJG's Mom's apartment.

-Back Forty Smokehouse (NRH) Perhaps our new favorite BBQ in all of NE Tarrant

-In-N-Out Burger (Hurst) My favorite California burger chain arrives in NE Tarrant

-Apeizza e Vino (Southlake) Best new entry in the Napoletana pizza sweepstakes

-Taco Villa (far north Ft. Worth) The arrival of West Texas' finest crunchy taco chain hits NE Tarrant

-TruFire Kitchen (Southlake) Best chicken parm in NE Tarrant, and it's not even an Italian restaurant. Fine menu, and reasonable prices. Impress your friends.

-Niki's (NRH) Well, hardly new - but a new opulent location right across the street from the dilapidated old one. Same good Italian food - much nicer surroundings.

-Torchy's Tacos (Southlake) Austin's famed taco house comes to Southlake and gets a license to print money. Always packed. But it's "damn good" as they say. Like the craft beer movement mentioned above, the high end "tacos y margaritas" concept continues to grow.

-Freebird's (far north Ft. Worth) They open about one new location a year around here, each about 6 feet closer to where we live. And yet none are close. Amazing. But it's still cool that we now have 5 NE Tarrant locations to choose from, where we had none only a few years ago.

-Potbelly Sandwich Shop (Hurst) After what seemed forever, the Chicago based sandwich chain finally found its way to NE Tarrant.

-Duff's Famous Wings (Southlake) The Buffalo legend expands for the first time out of New York and Toronto - and comes to NE Tarrant. Cool.

-Lee's Grilled Cheese (far north Fort Worth) Food truck gets a brick and mortar, and has created an entirely new fast food category. I think the concept has tremendous potential.

There are many more than this, but these are the ones that most excited us.

3. And with exciting openings, comes disappointing closings. These include:

-Mo' Fish (Keller). Maybe not a full closing, as they renamed it to Baja Grill (same owners). But I liked that Mo' Fish had a Bayou slant. That location has always struggled, and many restaurants there have closed.

-Daddy Jack's (Southlake) This one came and went in a flash. Looks like this location continued to struggle. Too bad as we liked their New England take on seafood.

-Planet Burrito (Southlake) They just couldn't get out of their own way. They had a good concept, but they tried too hard with other ideas and lost their core base.

-Aleda's Pizza (Southlake) The Barry's Pizza Pub legend couldn't handle the competition from the new Mama's across the street.

-Black Diamond Smokehouse (NRH) I was really bummed about this, as I was very impressed with their BBQ on one visit, and was looking forward to many tries. But the location was horrible. Who the heck would even know they were there? Word of mouth was too slow apparently.

-Yourway Burgers (Keller) Another place that abandoned their core idea, and ultimately ended up as a pool hall. And closed for good not long after that.

-Bite the Weenie (NRH) The one and only hot dog place in NE Tarrant, that had a great idea of regional hot dogs. I think it's a tough sell in this day and age of "healthy" eating - even if that's not what anyone actually does. It's just the thought. There are tons of places like this in Chicago, but they never have done well here in Texas.

I know there's more, but those were some of the more notable ones we'd written about prior.

OK, I could probably go for days, but I'll stop here. Let's see what 2014 brings us, shall we?

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Lawry's The Prime Rib, Steakhouse, Dallas-TX

Last visit: December 2013

Rating: Hold

Other locations: Beverly Hills, Chicago, Las Vegas, Los Angeles (The Tam O'Shanter), Corona del Mar (Five Crowns), + 6 locations in Asia.


Barring any surprise discovery, this should be the final restaurant post for 2013. I plan on doing a summary of the year tomorrow or Tuesday if possible.

For those who've been following the RJG, you'll know that Lawry's is not our typical fare (witness yesterday's My Lan entry). But my parents had some history with this restaurant, and because of that, here we are dining elegantly. So what is that history? For a brief time, from 1966 to 1967, when the RJG was just a toddler, we lived in the Los Angeles area, before relocating to Dallas. My father, who was in sales, had been transferred from New York City to LA. For their 5th wedding anniversary in 1966, they had a splurge meal at the Five Crowns, which I believe had only been open a year at that point. While they were enjoying themselves immensely, most assuredly I was eating Gerbers or some such crap and spitting it up on the babysitter. Anyway... My old man loved prime rib more than anything else, and he had fond memories of that night for years to come. I would usually hear about the experience when we had one of their dressings on the kitchen table (remember Canadian Bacon dressing?), or when we pulled out the Seasoned Salt or Seasoned Pepper to bury the cottage cheese (it is the only way to make it palatable - that stuff is gross). To this day, the RJG household uses those seasonings on a regular basis. I love them.

That's the ancient history. The more recent history is, of course, when they opened their location on Maple Avenue in 1982. My parents were hell bent on a revisit, and since I was in high school then, I got to join them (after eating the Gerber's. Oh wait...). It was indeed excellent, as they had said. Formal (jeez, I even had to wear a tie), but very nice. In 1986, I sent them off in a limo (paid for on my paltry college budget no less) as they went there to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. And in 1988 I took them there, again for their anniversary, as the RJG actually had a paying job and could afford the dinner! My folks loved that place. I enjoyed it of course, but I'm not a fine dining nut. And I'm not sure the food is worth the premium. But, hey, whatever... if they liked it, why not indulge them? That was the RJG's last visit to Lawry's. Until...

...until December, 2013 - 25 years later. Now it's the official RJG's Mom's 75th birthday. Dad is sadly gone over a decade now, and we were discussing where she would like to have her celebratory dinner. She wanted one last visit to Lawry's. They've since moved to Far North Dallas off the Tollway, which makes sense, since Lawry's remains a "power lunch" kind of destination. The place is a time warp, and it's like stepping back in time to a formal dining establishment 40 years ago. It's very British in that aristocratic sort of way. Even though Mom was celebrating her 75th, she might as well have been in the Youth Group this night. It's actually nice to see folks in their 80s and 90s get out like this, without needing much help (or any). Hopefully I'll be so fit at that point. Mrs. RJG and the official Mother-in-Law Chula were in attendance as well to celebrate. Mom had one of her traditional "call drink" martini's, and Mrs. RJG and I settled on a couple of craft beers. After having a couple of salads, it was only Mom that went for the signature prime rib (Queen's cut of course), while the rest of us went for variations of fish. Chula and I had the Sea Bass, while Mrs. RJG had the fried red snapper. The Sea Bass was truly excellent, as were the potatoes. I seemed to enjoy the red snapper more than the wife, but she said it was pretty good. They also had a side of mushrooms, which all agreed to be excellent.

During the Christmas season, they have Victorian era Carolers wandering about - though unfortunately they were singing whatever people wanted to hear. Such as those Darwinian era classics "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" and "Jingle Bells" (ugh, really?). Mom picked out something more appropriate. Good thing, as I wouldn't have a clue what to ask for.

Well, anyway, Lawry's is a snapshot in time. I doubt we'll ever go back, unless one of my business partners insists on it. It's very good. It's very expensive. And on both points, they always have been.

Website

Lawry's the Prime Rib on Urbanspoon

Saturday, December 28, 2013

My Lan, Vietnamese, Haltom City-TX

Last visit: December 2013

Rating: Buy

Other location: Garland

You may have noticed that we haven't featured any Vietnamese restaurants in the RJG yet (though Mr. Music did one a few months ago). We rarely eat Vietnamese is the obvious reason. And to be honest, we haven't been motivated to do such, and tend to spend our Asian food dollars on the excellent local Thai restaurants almost exclusively, with an occasional Chinese take-out meal. Strange then when you realize that Mrs. RJG and I, when we were dating love birds in 1996, spent most of our dinner time at one Vietnamese restaurant in Denver. That would be Kim Ba, and it remains, perhaps not surprisingly, our favorite Vietnamese restaurant in the country. We were regular visitors until 2003 when we relocated to NE Tarrant. (And I hope to write about it on the RJG at some point). So when we arrived here, we asked about local Vietnamese food, and were promptly pointed to Haltom City. We tried a couple of the noodle houses from there, and they were definitely good, and perhaps one day we will revisit those places (that are remaining nameless for now) and do a quick writeup. But for whatever reason, we just stopped. We couldn't see ourselves going any further south in Haltom City than Bangkok Cuisine - and we are regulars at that fine Thai restaurant to this day. We've had a couple of Vietnamese restaurants up here in Southlake and Keller, but they either went out of business or they're just not that good.

Earlier this year we had an excellent bowl of pho while in Santa Fe, New Mexico - and that prompted Mrs. RJG to suggest that perhaps we get back down to Haltom City and soon. And finally that moment arrived on a recent Sunday. Mrs. RJG suggested I put away NFL Red Zone for the final half of the second games (sacrilege!) and go for some Vietnamese food. And shoot, the Cowboys had the game in hand. I mean it was 26-3 over Green Bay at home. Surely even they won't screw this up. Ah, the memories.... Anyway I agreed to it. So I went over to Urbanspoon to see what they said was the highest rated Vietnamese restaurant in Haltom City. And up popped My Lan. That wasn't one we'd been to before, and so we pointed the cattle mobile south and off we went. 121 to Beach, head west past Belknap, right turn in the first shopping center, and we're there. We recognize this center for Thai Belknap (an OK Thai place, but there's much better) and Pho Bella, the latter which might be closed now.

Like many Vietnamese restaurants, the inside decor is non-existent. It's like eating inside a gas station convenience store with poor lighting and old booths. Service is just there - meaning when they have time to get to you, they will. Otherwise you wait, and don't complain. My Lan serves the local Vietnamese immigrant community, and they are all about great food and reasonable prices. The Dining Experience is not high on their list of priorities. OK with us! Mrs. RJG and I were joined by my official Mother-in-Law known in these pages as Chula. I had a bowl of Meatball soup, Mrs RJG had the grilled beef on vermicelli, and Chula had the Lemongrass chicken. My bowl was huge, with an excellent broth filled with cilantro and chives. The meatballs were firm and tasty. Mrs. RJG's grilled beef was superb, with wonderful charbroiled tastes. And I quite liked the lemongrass chicken sample I tried, which had a nice zip to it.

Maybe we'll try another Vietnamese restaurant in Haltom City, but we don't need to. My Lan is excellent, and truly all we could want for the style (beyond perhaps a nicer restaurant recalling our beloved Kim Ba in Denver). Need a suggestion for Vietnamese? Give My Lan a shot. Just come with an appetite and no expectations of fine dining.

Note: Closed on Wednesday's.

Website
 
My Lan Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Friday, December 27, 2013

Apeizza e Vino, Neapolitan Pizza, Southlake-TX

Last visit: January 2014

Rating: Buy

Other location: Lafayette-CO

January 2014 update: In addition to the below, I didn't mention they have pastas and sandwiches. We have yet to try them, but we most certainly will at some point. The pizzas remain excellent, and the place is starting to gain a fan base.

Original review 

For the second new restaurant that the RJG tried, after a lengthy cold spell, I had awaited a visit from Mr. Music - a true connoisseur of the Napoletana pizza tradition - to try NE Tarrant's latest coal oven venture. With Campania (Southlake) going completely down the tubes (our last visit was not good, and it seemed to be on its last legs), and INZO (Roanoke) starting to mail it in, there is definitely room for a new pizza place in Northeast Tarrant with a 900 degree oven. Grimaldi's (Grapevine) pretty much owns this market as far as the RJG is concerned (and Coal Vines (Southlake) which is slightly different in my mind). But there's a new sheriff in town! Let me introduce to you all Apeizza e Vino, the second location for the burgeoning Denver based chain. Lafayette is east of Boulder, and it's quite ironic that one of our favorite coal oven pizza places in the Denver area is a small chain called Proto's. And the location we tried was in Lafayette! But I never knew about Apeizza e Vino (with only two votes on Urbanspoon, I have to think it's new there too).

The name is literal, and the restaurant primarily focuses on their pizza and a healthy wine list. A limited scope is always a welcome idea to the RJG, as we know then that they are focused (or should be anyway) on their core product. Beers are fairly basic, and they also have salads and appetizers.  We split a salad, and each went with a pizza. The salad was excellent (and quite large, similar to Grimaldi's in that way). I tried the basic Margherita pizza with added homemade Italian sausage and Mr. Music had the Salsiccia e Funghi (Sausage and Mushroom). We were both more than pleased with the pizza texture and sauce. The Italian sausage is truly divine, and not the "off the truck" variety. In speaking with the owner's wife, she stated that if you want it crispier (the way Mrs. RJG likes it) - then it's just a matter of oven placement. The pizzas are bigger than individual size (except for teenagers on the football team of course), so be prepared to take some home. We thought the prices were reasonable, so the overall value is quite good. As an aside, the oven was handmade in Italy and shipped here, and it has the owner's named spelled out in the tile (Debastiani).

Apeizza e Vino sits in an older Southlake strip center on the south side of Southlake Blvd (a couple of minutes west from 114), next to Duff's Wings that we covered here earlier in the year. This spot has not done well in the past (it's a bit hidden), but definitely give it at least one opportunity. We think you'll want to go back. We definitely plan on adding it to the rotation!

Website

Apeizza e Vino on Urbanspoon

Thursday, December 26, 2013

TruFire Kitchen and Bar, Eclectic, Modern American, Southlake-TX

Last visit: June 2014

Rating: Buy

Other location: Frisco

June 2014 update: This has become my #1 go-to spot for business associate meetings. It's proven to be popular with everyone that has gone. The menu is diverse, and the atmosphere is pleasant to talk business.

Original review

OK, let's see if I can get a few posts out before the end of the year. Obviously I have been absent these last few months (though I did faithfully update older entries as we went). The main reason for that was, as indicated in some earlier posts, my real paying job became all consuming. As such, from the time we went to Burrito Jimmy in late August until the 3rd week of November, we didn't try a single new restaurant in DFW. Mostly we ate at home, or when we did go out, only to our tried and true favorites. We have 4 restaurants we dined at that are new to the RJG (or new to the blog in one case), and I'd like to wrap up the year with those entries, and then I'll conclude with a year-end summary.

So the dry spell ended with a visit from the Tampa Pound, one of my business partners who has graced these pages in the past. I tend to note places like this to try on "expense account" money first, and then if proven to be good, I'll return. Yea, the RJG can be cheap at times... TruFire sits in the SW corner of the Southlake Town Square, near the new Del Frisco Grill. I believe there were a couple of sports bars here prior, which is the wrong location for that kind of venture. TruFire is the modern kind of American restaurant that is chef driven, but not necessarily expensive or overly fru-fru. The menu is definitely Mediterranean focused, with a specific Italian flair. After ordering a bottle of wine, we decided to try the "Paddle Board" appetizer which is a sampler of high quality meats, cheeses, spreads, and breads. Probably they went across the street to Central Market to get the ingredients, but that's not a complaint. It was quite good. The TP went for the Spicy Garlic Noodles, which I would describe as an Asian/Italian fusion with shrimp, chicken, arugula, prosciutto, romano cheese, mushrooms, and crushed red pepper. He loved it (more on that in a bit). I tried the chicken parm. Since none of the official Italian restaurants in NE Tarrant know how to make it, I figured I had nothing to lose. They have a "small" portion and a large. I went with the small. Fortunately. My goodness, it was a full serving by itself and I could not imagine devouring a large. Large, small, makes no difference if it isn't any good. Ah... but it is. Fantastic in fact! Easily the best chicken parm I've had in the area. No longer do we have to venture to Dallas for this dish. A nicely seasoned and breaded mix and then it's baked to perfection. It's actually crispy like it's supposed to be! It's served with linguini. I tend to be a traditionalist, and want something similar to spaghetti, but I was willing to go with the flat noodle. The other issue I have with linguini, is most places don't know how to cook it, and leave it mushy. Not TruFire! It was al dente. And the pomodoro sauce is delicious, very similar to what you would actually get in Italy rather than New York.We passed on dessert and decided to head over to the RJG household for some beers and music (yes, The Tampa Pound is another music head like the RJG and Mr. Music). It was here that The TP starts weaving his tale about dinner to Mrs. RJG, who starts salivating. She looks at me, points her finger and declares "You're taking me there... ... and soon!"

And so it came to pass, about a week later on a Saturday afternoon, Mrs. RJG and I ventured over to the Town Square for some Christmas shopping and a lunch at TruFire. We skipped the appetizer and each had a Flying Dog Doggie Style Pale Ale (a good brewery from Maryland). She had exactly what she came for: The Spicy Garlic Noodles - and "add a little more spice" she said. She absolutely loved it! It was everything the TP described to her. I had to try the Chicken Parm one more time just to see if the dinner the other night wasn't an anomaly. Nope - exact same. Perfect. As we were chatterboxing with a couple of other patrons of the restaurant, as well as the waiters, it turns out the two dishes we each ordered are perennial favorites of many.

With great food and reasonable prices, consider TruFire a regular stop on the RJG tour.

Website

Trufire Kitchen and Bar on Urbanspoon

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Bleu Monkey Grill, Modern American, Hot Springs-AR

On now for the final restaurant from Mr. Music's Hot Springs trip. This one apparently did not live up to its lofty reputation.

Our friend, Ms. ChefGirl had done some research and wanted to try a place called the Bleu Monkey. It looked like a modern, American spot. The menu had some interesting items and they boasted a dozen or so beers on tap so we decided to give it a try. My buddy, BeerBoy and I bolted for the bar, but the most exciting things on tap were Blue Moon and Goose Island Honker’s ale. I opted for iced tea. We sat down and looked at the menu and I actually saw a few things that looked really good. Cuban sandwich? Bleu Monkey Shrimp, a dish made with pan seared shrimp seasoned with a pickapeppa sauce served with Cuban black beans, fresh mango salsa, steamed white rice and fried plantains was a contender as well. But Mr. Music settled on what seemed to be a twist on a Vietnamese specialty: Lemongrass chicken sandwich! Grilled lemongrass chicken with marinated cucumbers, carrots, onion, chilies, and cilantro all on a fresh roll with shallot mayo. Mrs. Music ordered the Crabby patty! Being a huge SpongeBob fan, Music Junior immediately wanted that too until I explained it was a patty made from crab! With that she opted for chicken tenders. Baby Music got some grilled chicken and mashed potatoes. The food came and everything looked really good and the portions were good sized too. The crab cake on the Crabby Patty was huge! Mrs. Music took a big bite of her Crabby Patty. And then another. After a few bites she said the patty barely had any crab and was almost all corn meal! I took a bite myself. It was mushy and didn’t taste like crab at all. My Lemongrass chicken didn’t have much lemongrass or any other seasoning that I could taste either. I noticed Baby Music wasn’t eating her food so I tried the grilled chicken. Dry and bland! The mashed potatoes were as well. How could everything sound so good on the menu, look so good, yet all be so blah? Our friends also said their meals were lacking taste as well. Our waiter was really good and the staff was friendly, but overall what a disappointment! I couldn’t believe this place got “Best new restaurant in Arkansas” by the Arkansas times!

Website

Bleu Monkey Grill on Urbanspoon

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The English Muffin, Diner, Hot Springs-AR

(photo courtesy of Urbanspoon)

Oh where have thou gone RJG? Well, believe it or not, we haven't been to a single new restaurant since Burrito Jimmy in late August. You can always tell when the RJG is in work hell by my total absence from this blog. My last two months have averaged 75 hours a week (some closer to 90). I use the weekends to catch up on stuff a normal person would do during the week. When I'm cooking on this blog, so to speak, I'm at a usual 45 to 50 hour a week pace. And even better are the stay at home vacations. We have been eating out some - certainly not near as much as normal - but mainly to our favorites around NE Tarrant. I do sense the clouds are breaking some. November might be my re-entry point. For certain in December we should be back on pace. I have been diligent in keeping up with the updates, which keeps me tethered to the blog in some form or fashion anyway.

Just because the RJG stopped doesn't mean that DFW did. There are a lot of new restaurants in the area that we are anxious to try, plus some new breweries coming along such as Grapevine Craft Beer, Shannon Brewing (Keller), and Cobra Brewing (Lewisville - and a personal friend of our own Mr. Music).

And speaking of Mr. Music, we still have two more entries from his Hot Springs trip back in August. Time to get these out there!

This restaurant got some of the most promising reviews of any place we read about, so we were excited to go. Nestled in a corner spot that overlooked Lake Hamilton, we got a nice long table by the window. The menu was pretty basic: This is for certain a breakfast diner. I ordered a spinach omelet with Swiss cheese and a side of fruit. Mrs. Music ordered Eggs Benedict. Music Junior got pancakes and Baby Music had some scrambled eggs and a sausage patty. The omelet was really good - lots of spinach and the eggs were whipped or something as they were so fluffy! The cheese they used was processed Swiss cheese food, not real Swiss cheese. I would have preferred real Swiss, but it was still good. The biggest disappointment for me was the fruit. I was expecting a bowl of fresh fruit, but it was canned fruit in syrup. My dish also came with a sourdough English muffin. I’m not sure what brand they used, but it was thick and sour and really, really good! Mrs. Music loved her eggs Benedict. She asked for the yolks to be fully cooked and they were perfect. ChefGirl got the homemade corned beef hash with hash browns and said it was fantastic. She gave me a bite and I agreed - some of the best corned beef hash I’ve had. It was very meaty with almost no filler. Overall, it was a good experience. So much so that BeerBoy wanted to go again to try the corned beef hash. We did and I had the same omelet but went with home fried potatoes instead of the fruit. They were great! They sautéed fresh onion, bell pepper, and diced potatoes on the grill for a tasty companion to my omelet. Mrs. Music had a seafood omelet and loved it. BeerBoy loved his corned beef hash and gave me some - again I concurred. We had read the coffee was very good and so we all had it and agreed. On each of our visits our waitress was friendly and attentive. Two good experiences!

The English Muffin on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Rocky's Corner, Italian, Chicago Pizza, Hot Springs-AR


(excellent photo courtesy of Robby Virus)

I've really been slammed at work in the last few weeks. I have so many things I want to cover here in the RJG - plus more on our vacation trip to Northern California, as well as my working week in Santa Fe. Not to mention the ever continuing reviews of our favorite Denver restaurants. And there's plenty of new places here in Northeast Tarrant we need to try. To be honest, I don't see a break in my schedule for at least another month. But I'll hold out hope that the 70 hour weeks will subside again.

In the meantime, let's continue to wrap up on Mr. Music's Hot Springs journey. Here's his next submission:

Our friend, Chef Girl said her kids would really like some simple, Italian pasta. The waitress who tables for an excellent restaurant called Rolando’s, told us she really liked Angel’s In The Park for Italian food. We looked it up online and saw it received decent reviews, but with 4 kids under 10 with us, we were not really up for a $$$ restaurant that only got decent reviews. We decided to surf up some other Italian restaurants. We saw that Rocky’s Corner had hundreds of visits and the highest ranking for Italian food in the area at multiple sites. Best of all, it was a very small hole-in-the-wall with $ - all the right ingredients for a great Italian place! They specialize in Chicago style pizza and Chicago beef sandwiches! Wooohooo! Several reviews had indicated that the chicken parmesan sub was the dish to get, so Mrs. Music said she’d have that. Just as ChefGirl and I were saying we’d have the same, the waitress said they have not had that on the menu for a long time. I kept eyeing the Chicago beef, but it just wasn’t calling my name. We ended up getting a couple pizzas, pasta with meatballs, and BeerBoy got some Fettuccine Alfredo. The pizza was not anything like any Chicago pizza I’ve ever seen. It was a thin, crispy crust on the bottom and fatter crust around the edges. The crust was brushed with garlic oil which was nice, but aside from that the toppings were very sparse. The sauce was decent but overall the pizza was just OK. It would rank it higher than Pizza Hut or Pizza Inn, but not by much. The pasta dishes were pretty good, but nothing special. BeerBoy said his Alfredo sauce was a little plain. Our waitress was nice and did a fine job, but I don’t think we’ll be back.

Rockys Corner on Urbanspoon

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Freebirds World Burrito, Burritos, Fort Worth-TX

Last visit: July 2014

Rating: Buy

Other NE Tarrant locations: Fort Worth (Alliance); Grapevine; Hurst

Total DFW locations: 18 

Other locations visited: Dallas (upper Greenville); Addison; Fort Worth (Alliance); Grapevine

(I was very close to finishing this, when suddenly my real job became crazy busy. It still is, but I wanted to get this out. Lots of great places to talk about still... and we'll get to them as soon as I can.)

And continuing on with the RJG burrito theme, time to address the elephant in the room. We've referenced the chain long enough, how about giving this fine burrito place an entry of its own?

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 (then) 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 I think). 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 our roam land 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. 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're beginning to expand into Oklahoma, Kansas, and Louisiana. And I'm sure they won't stop there.

So what's the big deal anyway? Well for starters BIG is a good word to describe their burritos. And then Freebirds is the first burrito chain, that I knew of anyway, to offer up more than just a flour tortilla. While that's become a common practice today, I believe we have Freebirds to thank for that concept. Or at least popularizing it.

The only bad outing I've ever had at Freebirds was at the Grapevine location, and it was a holiday, so probably they weren't as prepared as they should have been. Otherwise, I've always been pleased with the quality of the burrito chain. The rice and beans are delicious, and the chicken & steak have an excellent charbroiled flavor. I love that their signature habanero sauce is on every table. The burrito's here are huge (and can be "huger" if you so desire) - so douse some of that habanero all over it for a truly sublime experience. Mrs. RJG speaks favorably of their version of the Burrito Bowl (sans tortilla that is).

They keep inching closer to us, but perhaps they're even closer to you. Be sure to stop by!

Website

Freebirds World Burrito on Urbanspoon

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Burrito Bandito, Burritos, Redding-CA


Last visit: August 2013

Rating: Buy

Other locations: 4 other Northern California locales

OK - where were we before I was so rudely interrupted by my official job? Ah yes, we were munching on burritos. And we were sporadically choosing locations from our last vacation a week ago.

On this day, we were taking the drive on I-5 south from Medford, Oregon back to the San Francisco Bay Area. I had done this trip in reverse way back in 2002 - at that time I had a 2 week business trip from San Diego to Seattle, with one week at my satellite office in Pleasanton. But Mrs. RJG wasn't with me, so this would be her first time to experience. The trip from Medford to Redding, through the Mt. Shasta and Shasta Lake area, is beautiful. One of the more attractive Interstate highway routes you will ever encounter outside of I-70 in central Colorado. Redding is either the gateway to the beautiful Shasta area -or- boring agricultural land depending on which way you're going.

As you may have read here before, the RJG has been to all 50 state capitals at one point or another (having gathered Olympia, Washington last year to complete the task. Ah yes, good observation by you - why didn't I get it in 2002? Because dummy here didn't stop. That doesn't count). However, while watching the show "How the States Got Their Shapes" on the History Channel a couple of years back, I learned that we were supposed to have a 51st state (or 49th at the time). The state was to be called Jefferson, made up of about 5 counties in northern California and southern Oregon. And the capital was to be Yreka. But something called Pearl Harbor got in the way, and it all fell through the cracks from there. I never knew that! Since I only drove through back in 2002, I ensured we stopped and got the proverbial T-shirt. Might as well cover that base while we're here - it may surface again! But the timing wasn't right to eat in Yreka, and off to Redding we headed for lunch.

Burrito Bandito is just the kind of dumb name that is a magnet for the RJG. Urbanspoon had the chain rated very highly so we decided to stop at one of the two Redding locations (Placer) for a big ol' fat burrito. I went for "Juan's favorite" Pollo while Mrs. RJG had the carne asada Burrito Bowl. The burrito is GIANT, which was fine by me as I was starving. The chicken was delicious as was the rice, cheese, and everything else. I even went for the refried beans instead of black beans, which gave the flavor a whole new texture. Mrs. RJG's carne asada tasted truly like a charbroiled steak, rather than the steamed meat we've come to expect. She loved it. And each table had their own bottle of "Burrito Bandito Habanero Sauce". Ah - load me up with that! Overall, Burrito Bandito makes a fantastic burrito. After our wonderful meal, we walked next door to the grocery store and picked out a couple of local to northern California craft brew micro bombers (that we can't get at home of course) and we were set for the patio seating in the Bay Area later that night :-)

Website

Burrito Bandito West on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 2, 2013

High Tech Burrito, Burritos, Windsor-CA

Last visit: August 2013

Rating: Buy

Other locations: 11 (primarily North and East of the San Francisco Bay Area)

And while on the topic of burritos, how about I cover off on a couple of those California chains I referenced?

If you've never had the pleasure to drive the 101 north out of San Francisco via the Golden Gate bridge, then it's surely something you should strive for one day. I've done it dozens of times in the past, and I never get tired of it. Over the years, we stayed in various areas in and around Napa and Sonoma. In the last couple of years, we've made Windsor our base camp for exploring the wine country, specifically the Russian River Valley. There's a very nice and newish Hampton Inn there, with well stocked grocery stores and restaurants nearby. And a State Park with running trails, which is perfect for the RJG couple, as we need to run off all that wine, beer, and food! And Windsor avoids the hustle and bustle of Santa Rosa just to the south - so it's truly an ideal retreat. On this trip, we drove by many wineries, but we didn't stop this time and do the whole wine tasting, order a case, ship to Texas routine - rather deciding to continue our focus on beer rather than wine. But just the drives themselves are pleasant. And we went all the way to the Pacific Coast this time, which is about an hour away. It was typically foggy and dreary - absolute perfect weather for a sun baked Texas couple looking to get out of the heat. It's always such a strange concept to me - but the words California, summer, afternoon, and 57 degrees Fahrenheit never seemed to go together. And yet there we were.

Rather than have a full lunch, with alcohol, and then start driving through the countryside, the concept of fast food with soda is far more appealing. And on the last couple of visits to Windsor we've become fond of High Tech Burrito, a regional chain based in Northern California. Perhaps not the most interesting nom de plume they could have selected, but when it comes to the food, High Tech has one of the better burritos around. They have a variety of traditional and exotic options to choose from, as well as tacos and quesadillas. I tend to stay traditional and go with grilled chicken. It's a pretty basic rice, beans, onions, cheese, mild chili mix - but everything they do is excellent and great tasting. If that's all there was, I'm not sure I'd return. But I absolutely encourage all of you to get the homemade chips, which they serve in a bag, with the (oh, you know it's coming don't you?) NUCLEAR salsa. It's a thick mixture of smoking hot green and red chiles. I can't stop plowing chips in my mouth with a big ole scoop of that scary looking heap of wonderful green. Or throwing it on the burrito while I'm at it. They charge extra for it, but it's worth it and they give you plenty. Mrs. RJG went exotic and had a Cajun Burrito Bowl, and loved it. Oh, and she recommends the Guac as well.

Want a quick lunch, but filling enough to absorb all the wine you're about to try? Go to High Tech Burrito first and you'll have plenty that will need soaking up!

Website

High Tech Burrito on Urbanspoon