Saturday, July 5, 2008

El Paseo ~ Keller, Texas

When the RJG first started discovering Mexican restaurants in the 1980's, one of the logical axioms was that the more fancy the place seemed to be, the more bland the food proved to be. I felt this to be 100% true until sometime in the late 1990s, and suddenly one would find themselves in restaurants you would feel comfortable taking anyone to, and also would feel completely satiated. Such were my thoughts when I entered and exited El Paseo for the first time in 2003. And ever since...

Like many such nice Mexican restaurants, El Paseo possesses a heritage that is far more modest. In fact, the Keller location seems to be the pinnacle of achievement for the local chain, that also has locations in west Ft. Worth, Azle and Mineral Wells. With multiple large rooms, a Spanish courtyard, a full bar area, and windows overlooking a city pond with views to Keller City Hall, it would seem that El Paseo will be an anchor of the community of Keller for some time. I haven't been to any of the other locales, but have driven by the Ft. Worth one on Jacksboro Highway, and the outside appearance seems night and day.

As mentioned in prior posts, one can usually get a read on a Mexican restaurant based on the quality of their chips and salsa. Here the chips are excellent, very crisp, with a strong taste of corn while the salsa had more of a kick than expected. It's a tomato based sauce with garlic and chiles, reminding me most of the Herrera's chain in Dallas, though not quite as fiery. El Paseo seem to excel in the basics, and we here at the Regular Joe's Guide always admire that. Tacos, enchiladas, tamales and fajitas are all excellent, though not exceptional. They claim a wide variety of spicy dishes, but none so far have proven to be that hot, though still good. As for drinks, the frozen margaritas are very good, typical of the area.

With Mi Pueblo, Anamia's, Cristina's and El Paseo all within a few miles of each other, the northern sectors of NE Tarrant have little to complain about when it comes to Mexican food for the whole family.



El Paseo on Urbanspoon

Friday, July 4, 2008

Grapevine Subs and More (fka Cero's Heros) ~ Grapevine, Texas

July 2013 update: They've now torn down the dilapidated strip center behind Grapevine Subs, but fortunately left the 1950s era structure as a standalone. I'm sure Grapevine will build something much more appropriate in the empty lot.

February 2012 update:  These photos are from the old Cero's Heroes, but as noted below, the quality has remained the same. On my last visit, I had the Italian with the spicy mixture. Grapevine Subs exclusively uses Boars Head meats. Now to me, a sandwich is only as good as the toppings and the bread. Anyone can put Boars Head meat between two slices of bread. And here's where Grapevine Subs exceeds. The soft chewy French Roll and the spicy mixture are very good, adding the right amount of tartness to the sandwich.

April 2011 update: Cero's Heros is now called Grapevine Subs and More. It's the RJG's opinion that the sandwich is pretty similar to before, though not quite as large and messy. One reviewer on Urbanspoon has already expressed their disappointment (though they hadn't tried the original to be fair). We still give it a thumbs up!

Original review

Since we're on a roll (so to speak) with Grapevine destinations, I thought this would be a good time to slip in Cero's Heros, a Regular Joe's Guide mecca if I ever saw one.

You may recall that Mr. SS and I were bemoaning the dearth of quality submarine places in NE Tarrant, which gave us the perfect justification to head up to Roanoke and go to the wonderful C&A Italian Family Deli (now closed). In that post I mentioned Weinberger's and Cero's Heros.

Cero's Heros sits at the entrance to old town Grapevine at the corner of Northwest Hwy and Main St. The place is over 40 years old, and looks every bit of it (see photos). The building is nothing more than an aluminum siding circumference, with a window in the middle. A rickety awning sits over it to protect customers from the oppressive heat and other weather, and there are a smattering of old Grapevine Independent School District desks to sit in. You of course could take it to your car, but that will require an extra trip to the carwash afterwards. Yep, the sandwiches are that big, and that messy. They only offer a handful of sandwiches, all piled high with meats, lettuce, tomatoes, dressings and condiments. I usually end up with the spicy Italian, which lives up its name. And ensures garlic breath the rest of the day. The bread is thick and chewy, the ingredients all top notch, and the flavor is distinctly Cero's Heros. This place is a must for you followers of the Regular Joe lifestyle. I try to journey here at least once a month during the work week, but usually fall short. This is not a Mrs. RJG kind of place, so while in this part of town, Tolbert's gets more of our attention during weekends and evenings.


Ceros Heros on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Tolbert's ~ Grapevine, Texas

August 2013 update: Nice to see that Tolbert's has a great selection of Texas craft beers (and Texas made wines and hard liquor as well). They've added 32 micros on tap - including 16 Texas ones! None are real obscure, but it's just cool they have a good selection of beers on tap from Real Ale, Saint Arnold, Franconia, Rahr, Revolver, and Spoetzl. And their selection of out-of-state micros is also well researched. In fact they give full descriptions of everything they serve.

Original review

The Love and War in Texas post had me thinking about Tolbert's, and as timing would have it, my neighbor Mr. SS and I agreed to meet there for lunch soon after.

Simply put, Tolbert's is my favorite place to bring out of town guests who are looking for something uniquely "Texan". Originally started by Frank X. Tolbert, the legendary journalist who co-founded the Terlingua Chili Cookoff. In 1976, Tolbert opened a chili-themed restaurant in Dallas that eventually closed down. Fast forward a few years later, and his daughter and her husband reopened the place, but in a far more appropriate locale: Downtown old Grapevine.

The setting simply could not be more perfect. The restaurant is set as the cornerstone of one of the many old buildings lining the old town, this one from 1911. Tolbert's is a large space, with a fireplace, full bar, multiple open rooms, and now a concert stage (though I personally preferred the old closed room, which presumably was for rehearsal dinners, conference gatherings, and the like - guessing business for this wasn't brisk). One can just imagine riding in on horseback, roping it to the post out front, slamming through the saloon doors, ceiling fans whirling above... and demanding some chili and a beer.

The food, naturally enough, has a traditional Texas focus with chili, Tex-Mex, chicken fried steak, beef steak and hamburgers dominating the menu. I always get a bowl of red, and ask for it 5 alarm. Sometimes it really is spicy and other times it's medium. Today's chili was a bit mild for me, but it's always delicious. As well, I'll get a Henderson County burger. Mrs. RJG will tell you that Tolbert's has the best burgers in town, and while I might not go that far, it does underscore how good they are. Mr. SS went for a bowl of 5 alarm red and a chicken fried steak. We both enjoyed a couple of rounds of Shiner Bock, the perfect Texas beer complement. Though for a time they used to have $1 Lone Star's, and while it's a yucky industrial beer, there was something highly appealing about it considering the setting. But those days are gone I'm afraid...

Have family from out of town, and not sure where to take them? Start right here with Tolbert's. You'll be known as the family know-it-all who has the "in" on all the good places in town.



Tolbert's on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Love and War in Texas ~ Grapevine, Texas ; Plano, Texas

Restaurants that sound like 19th century novels is a dicey proposition at best. When I first heard that our team dinner meeting was at Love and War in Texas (LWT) , my first reaction was "what the hell is that?". I had visions of a touristo trappo, with slide shows, dancers, costumes and other annoying gimmicks. But much to my surprise, the only gimmick here is that LWT focuses on the various culinary traditions of the diverse regions of Texas. And not only that, but everything is grown or made here, including the wine. And my response quickly went to "what a great idea!"

The five regions LWT define are: The Border, Texas Gulf Coast, Hill Country, The West Texas Plains and East Texas Piney Woods. And that's a pretty good designation, especially considering that the Texas state constitution has a provision to break into 5 different states. Each one naturally has a culinary theme: The Border focuses on Tex-Mex; West Texas is steak; Hill Country mixes wild game with German food; East Texas gets the BBQ, burgers, catfish and the like; And finally the Gulf Coast has a seafood focus - of course. I went with the Border menu and tried the Spicy Chicken and Shrimp Platter, which was served fajita styled on a bed of sizzling onions. Everyone at our table had something different including what looked to be some fascinating habanero tacos. Mine was excellent, and I heard similar sentiments around the table.

LWT is located near the Grapevine Mills outlet mall (Gravepoint Wills) and housed in the former Trail Dust Steakhouse. And according to the bartender, they've been there for 3 years. I'm always looking for places to take out of town guests, including business associates, and I'd rank this along with Texana in Arlington (now sadly closed) and Tolberts in Grapevine as a truly Texan experience.



I'll add both locations for Urbanspoon since we've been to both and there are slight deviations between them.

Love & War in Texas on Urbanspoon

Love & War in Texas on Urbanspoon