Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Kirby's Prime Steakhouse ~ Southlake, Texas

Like many local restaurants, Kirby's got its start as a neighborhood steakhouse, a place to meet friends for a casual meal. Kirby's was an institution in the Lower Greenville district of Dallas, and lasted from 1954 to 1987, when the owner decided to retire and close up shop. Though my parents and I would occasionally head down to Lower Greenville for Italian food throughout the 1970s, we never once stepped foot in Kirby's (Dad was a big fan of the Steak and Ale near Bachman Lake), though I remember driving by it each time.

So it seemed yet another classic place from DFW that was dead, gone and buried. Except 6 years later, in 1993, a group of neighbors decided to go into business together and reopen the landmark. This time as a "high end" steakhouse. Kirby's is an ideal place to take business clients or to celebrate a special birthday or anniversary.

Because of my business, I've had the opportunity to try many of these so-called "high end" steakhouses all over the country. In general, I'm usually disappointed with the experience. I generally mumble to myself that I could do better at home with my cheap outside gas grill cooking Kroger steaks. But I never say that about Kirby's. Their steaks are of a better quality, very tender and they know how to cook them. I don't think I, or anyone I've been with, has ever sent a steak back, and everyone leaves happy (except for, perhaps, the person who paid the bill).
As with most of these places, everything is served ala carte (with the exception of soup or salad). Potatoes, vegetables, mushrooms, risotto, etc... are all extra, but one serving is usually enough for the table. All are exceptional, especially the mashed potatoes. I'm also fond of their dinner salad.

If I have a complaint, and Kirby's is hardly alone in this racket, it's the exorbitant prices of the wine list. Three to ten times markup is what you can expect. Very few wines are available for under $75, and you can just feel the squeeze being put on. Fine if someone else is paying for it, but I don't like being fleeced. I love wine with my meal, but it's time to move to beer when at these kind of places. As the Regular Joe's Guide tagline suggests, I'm no food snob. But I'm even less of a wine snob. Maybe that's what keeps these places in business, I don't know.

Kirby's in Southlake is at the SW corner of Texas State Highway 114 and Southlake Blvd.

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

***CLOSED*** Lina's Cocina Cafe ~ Watauga, Texas

October 2011 update: One of the hazards of doing a restaurant blog is that a place can change in a heartbeat, and suddenly your recommendation is met with scorn by those who trusted you, and credibility is thrown out the window. This is what happened to the RJG with Lina's. This is the primary reason why we insist on updating the blog and making sure you know when we last visited. Lina's has undergone dramatic shifts since we last were there. Not least of all is a complete move to a larger location next door. It's now all spiffied up with flat screen TVs and new tables and booths (though fortunately the old bowling alley ones remain). If they're going to go to this much trouble to make you want to stay, then they should offer up a full bar. It's still BYOB - which I like in Italian and Thai restaurants, but not so much in Mexican (perhaps the RJG likes his frozen margaritas? And I like wine with Thai and Italian, where BYOB is more preferable). And they ditched the serving carts!! (a comment below says they still use them occasionally - whew!) Even though Lina's still has the same menu as prior, everything seemed cheaply made - from the rice to the enchiladas. Even the salsa was more chunky-tomato rather than a smooth textured hot sauce. Now the food was still GOOD, but it wasn't great as I implied below. So we vote "likes it" on Urbanspoon, but maybe not enough to go back on any kind of regular visit. Unless someone convinces me different.

I wish Blogger featured the "strike through" font that is available on Microsoft Word, as I would like to demonstrate in the below review what no longer applies. So if you wouldn't mind, please consider everything below that is in italics to be NO LONGER APPLICABLE. Is that cool?  (LOL)

Original review

In September, I mentioned that our favorite Mexican place for enchiladas in the DFW area can be found at Fernandez Cafe in Ft. Worth. That's quite a haul for us denizens of NE Tarrant. If you're looking for a reasonable facsimile of same, then look no further than Watauga and their favorite daughter, Lina's Cocina Cafe.Mrs. RJG and I have been visiting Lina's, somewhat infrequently, since about 2004 or so (not too long after they opened). Hidden in one of those unfortunate 1980s strip centers, where 75% of the space is now available for lease, Lina's provides just the kind of hole in the wall we love. It's clean, colorfully decorated, friendly, and most importantly features great food. In fact half of the booths, in their soft blue and white swirled pattern, look like they were lifted from a bowling alley circa 1962 (I'm sure they were actually). You get mucho points for that.

We notice that everytime we go, there are dozens of regulars and the waitresses chat happily along about their life events as if catching up with old friends. In an earlier era, Lina's would be the town diner.
As if the time warp references already mentioned weren't enough for you, they also bring the food out via the two tiered wheeled cart. This lost invention needs to be brought back - pronto. Years ago, someone thought it was a wise idea to stack dozens of plates and glasses on a tray, held up precariously by someone's nervous hand. Presumably they delight in the occasional dumping of said contents on some random diner. Oh the laughs. The RJG is right now calling for the return of the wheeled cart. We shall petition! We will hit the streets! We will...

...eat enchiladas! Which is why we're here in the first place. Everything here is cooked to order, and the plate is sizzling with melted cheese, the refried beans and rice come out just right and steaming hot. Their chile con carne is seasoned perfectly. Mrs. RJG loves the Enchiladas Verde, a spicier than normal concoction that also happens to taste great. In fact, just ask for the spicy green and let the games begin! Beef, chicken, cheese - it's all good.

Oh, and the chips/hot sauce ritual: The salsa is slightly hot, but has a unique combination of spices that makes us want to keep piling the crispy chips in.

Restaurants come and go, but I get the feeling Lina's will be here for a very long time. It's that kind of place.

You can find Lina's on Rufe Snow between Hightower and Chapman.