Saturday, November 29, 2008

2008 DFW Roundup Pt. 1: Fish City Grill, El Fenix, Mi Cocina, La Playa Maya, Bosses Pizza

There are many restaurants that Mrs. RJG and I dine at that do not grace these pages. Many times they represent a lackluster visit, or even if the food is quite good, it does not inspire me to write down my thoughts. Sometimes a restaurant is perfectly fine, but what can I say really, other than "good food - nice place". And as far as the mediocre places go, I'm always hesitant to write a few discouraging words - except for those places that go out of their way to deserve my wrath. At the same time, it does help paint a picture of our own peculiar tastes, and even if you the reader disagree, at least I'm providing you the data from which can choose whether to follow the RJG advice or not.

With that preface out of the way, I think the best way to handle this situation is with a "roundup" of sorts. Not detailed reviews of our experience, but rather short capsules, that may inspire a decision one way or the other.

Fish City Grill, Seafood - Southlake. We'll start out with a positive one. For those of us in NE Tarrant, finding a good piece of fish is quite a challenge. Sadly, Clear Creek Seafood of Keller closed down earlier in the year, which pretty much left us with the National or Corporate chains such as Red Lobster, Copeland's or Trulucks. Fish City Grill is a locally based chain with Corporate ambitions, and have started to open around the country. But the concept is a good one - a neighborhood fish joint. Lunch portions and prices are not too bad, and I recommend the blackened fish dishes. You can find the Southlake location on Southlake Blvd, just west of TX-114 in a new strip mall, anchored by Michael Anthony's Steakhouse. Regular RJG readers will know the area, as Johnny B's is right across the parking lot.

El Fenix, Mexican - Grapevine. El Fenix is a Dallas institution and is arguably the place where Tex-Mex can trace its beginning. Growing up in Northwest Dallas, we occasionally went to the location on Webb Chapel and Forest throughout the 1970s and 80s. That location, fortunately, is still open and we'll still take my Mom over for dinner. Unfortunately for us in NE Tarrant, we get stuck with the Grapevine location, which isn't up to the standard of their Dallas brethren. It feels more like a Dennys than the Old Mexico of the original downtown Dallas location. Everything is served quickly, not cooked to order, and quality is uneven. It services the DFW airport crowd, and it doesn't appear the denizens care much what they're eating. Bottom line, we heartily recommend El Fenix when in Dallas, but avoid the Grapevine locale. Ironic note: The classic oval neon sign was missing the "e" and "n" in Fenix, leaving "El Fix". Indeed it does need that.

Mi Cocina, Mexican - Irving (Las Colinas) or Southlake. Corporate chain from the "M Crowd". Just the name M Crowd alone reeks of insufferable yuppiedom. Like most corporate chains, the quality from visit to visit is uneven, but if pressed to take business clients to a place, this is a safer bet than having them gulp the "extra hot" from Fernandez Cafe, while they look over their collective shoulders for fear of their life. Straight down the middle, boring Tex-Mex, that tourists seem to enjoy. Perfect for the Southlake Town Square that it resides in. The Las Colinas location is on MacArthur, just south of I-635. Be prepared for a long wait at either location, especially on weekend evenings.

La Playa Maya, Mexican - Ft. Worth (South Side). As mentioned in the El Rancho Grande entry, we had first ventured to this Ft. Worth local chain's North Side location, known simply as La Playa, as far back as 2003. It didn't inspire a repeat visit, but after writing the El Rancho Grande review, we felt compelled to try it again. So we ventured down to south Ft. Worth for a visit. The decor of the place is nothing short of awesome. And we were escorted to the small upstairs dining room, which is very quaint. Unfortunately the food just doesn't do it for us. The Mrs. says the seafood/shrimp soup is tasteless. I went with a traditional Tex-Mex combo of enchiladas and tacos. All bland. We both liked the salsa, but it's heavy on the Valentina Salsa Picante. This place has loyal fans, and I have no intention of trying to talk someone out of that. It just isn't our place. Too bad, we really wanted to like it.

Bosses Pizza, Pizza - Keller. This is another legendary place, for those that live in the Lake Worth area. Bosses recently opened in the former spot of Bellisimo's, their failed attempt at a second location. The general scuttlebutt is Bosses makes a pizza very similar to the original Mama's Pizza. Not being a true Ft. Worth guy, I can't say, since I've never been to Mama's (well.... I haven't!). If this is indeed what it's all about, then that's OK, I'll pass. We both enjoyed the ingredients, heavy on the cheese, and the toppings all were well done, tough nothing extraordinary (for example, I doubt they make their own sausage). But for the thick, chewy pizza dough - nope, that's not for us. Bosses did a nice job with the building, as they converted it into a traditional pizza parlor, giving it the character that the Bellisimo location sorely lacked. One other note - Bosses is the rare pizza place that doesn't serve any kind of pasta. Despite not being a huge fan of this style of pizza, I do hope Bosses makes it - it's the right kind of place for the area. Old Town Keller needs all the help it can get. You can find Bosses on US-377, just north of Keller Pkwy.

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