Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The iPhone & Urbanspoon

At the beginning of the year, my company issued me an iPhone. Truth be told I'm not really a gadget geek, despite possessing a Computer Engineering degree and that the early part of my career was dedicated to developing technology. In fact, a few years ago my former company sent me a Sprint Pocket PC. What a brick that thing was. In the end, all I ever used it for was to make phone calls presuming it didn't run out of batteries before the end of the one call I could squeeze in between recharges. So when I switched jobs, I just accepted the simplest of cell phones. The kind that have teenagers looking down at you with disapproval. I was behind the times and loving it.

But my boss persuaded me that the iPhone was different. It is, in his words, the "killer app". And after 4 months of use, I can only agree. Its web functions alone make it worthwhile for me. And until now, I hadn't really explored the vast array of applications at my disposal. I still haven't really (believe it or not, I actually use the thing 100% for WORK - imagine that?)

Still, in the back of my mind, I wanted to somehow tie my blog to the iPhone. More and more people will use their iPhone to determine what's a cool place to eat while out of town, or even in town. So I figured I'd look at the most popular free application on the iPhone that recommends restaurants. The answer? Urbanspoon.

I'd run into Urbanspoon multiple times when Googling places while doing my own research. I've noticed over time that its place in Search Engines continues to rise. And now I know why. It's the application most folks on iPhone are using. It's not the only one, but I decided to go with the most popular and stick with it. For now at least.

I starting adding Urbanspoon links on Saturday, and I was alerted today that they are now showing up on the site itself. So I plan on gradually adding more links with my revisits and all new(er) entries.

My Urbanspoon profile is here: http://www.urbanspoon.com/u/profile/271155/RJG.html

Anyone who can guess what that picture comes from will certainly surprise me!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Flip's Patio Grill ~ Grapevine, Texas

If you're a weary traveler staying near DFW airport, there's a good chance that you'll find yourself tempted to dine on the TX-114 corridor in Grapevine (may we suggest Tolbert's instead for a more "local" experience?). The Main Street and William B Tate exits are a shrine to corporate eateries, many of them publicly traded on the stock exchanges back in NEW YORK CITY (get a rope). Other than the Dallas based Tex-Mex institution known as El Fenix (and probably its worst location at that), the majority of your choices are places you've seen in Anytown, Anystate.

The only exception to this, at least for restaurants you can actually see from the highway itself, is Flip's Patio Grill, the lone locally owned* restaurant in the area. It wasn't always that way, as Flip's was once a thriving Tony Roma's - a place that seemed to fit perfectly with the locale.

*- Sort of, as it's owned by industry veteran Steve Hartnett, who also founded the Fox & Hound as well as the Cool River Cafe (and the Bob's Steak and Chop House in Grapevine).

Flip's has a pretty good reputation for having one of the best burgers around. But readers of the RJG aren't likely to be impressed if they've ventured to some of our local recommendations including Kincaid's, Johnny B's (both close enough to TX-114 to at least give them a try instead), Molly's, Freddy's, Five Guys, etc... Still, that doesn't mean Flip's isn't worth trying, and for what they attempt to do, they end up being quite adept. Like many sports bars, their menu has as many choices as the screens have games, so it can be a bit daunting on what to get. Locals swear by the blue cheese burger, and to be fair, the RJG has never acquired a taste for this most moldy of all cheeses.

So if I'm stranded at the local Hampton Inn, and I want a cold one and a big juicy burger to go with my game of choice, then Flip's would most certainly meet that need. We've only been a couple of times, and we haven't even begun to dig into the vast array of choices on the menu, so it's a bit unfair to state that Flip's doesn't have anything special or unique to recommend. We like it, but we don't love it, get it?

As of this writing, they are opening a new Flip's in North Ft. Worth at Western Center and I-35W.

Flip's Patio Grill on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Tommy's Hamburger Grill ~ Fort Worth-TX

As with Kincaid's, you really don't need the Regular Joe's Guide to direct you to Tommy's, as this is one of Ft. Worth's most respected burger institutions (since 1983). Tommy's frequently makes the Best Of lists in multiple newspapers and guides - anything from the widely circulated Star-Telegram to your local Sub Sandwich Times.

Our first visit was anything but a "Best Of" experience. The problem was not the quality of food, for if it had been, there might not have been a repeat visit. No, rather it was the service. Or lack thereof. For we waited exactly one hour to be served our hamburger AFTER being seated. That's an excruciatingly long time to wait when you're hungry - especially for what is basically fast food. It was quite simply a very poorly handled situation. They were busy, that we could see, but no expectations were set. We were just ignored for the most part. I resisted speaking of that experience alone for this blog, because everyone has bad days. How many times do you see these vicious comments about a restaurant on yelp or insiderpages, all because of one bad experience? In the end, it demonstrates sour grapes, rather than a true examination of how a restaurant operates. For the record, the hamburger was delicious on that visit. But it wasn't worth an hour wait (not much is).

So how did we fare the second time, almost a year later? MUCH better. Even though the place was crowded, service was normal - and the burger again was delicious. They certainly earn their Best Of stripes when it comes to the quality of their prize dish - the cheeseburger. The fries, on the other hand, are a bit greasy for our liking - but some may consider that a plus. We haven't tried their other offerings.

There are three Tommy's locations, all in Ft. Worth, and we've only been to the Camp Bowie locale, nearby the original Kincaid's. They're also located in the Cultural Arts District and near Ridgemar.

Website: http://www.tommyshamburgergrill.com/

Tommy's Hamburger Grill on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 2, 2009

*** CLOSED *** Anthony's Place ~ Fort Worth, Texas

Having lived in Colorado for 10 years, the wife and I became spoiled with the abundance of Mexican food that thrived in the area. But you say "We have plenty of Mexican dining options in DFW too - there's practically one on every corner!" Ah, so true, but how many of them have cooked in the fine art of New Mexican food? You can count them on less than one hand.

When we say New Mexican, we do not mean Nuevo Mexican, but rather the type of food that is worshiped in the great state of New Mexico. Any trip to Santa Fe or Albuquerque is not complete until you've devoured a spicy green enchilada.

New Mexican food is all about the shrine to the Great Green Chile that rules the arid plains. That stimulating and torrid fruit that is grown in great numbers throughout the state. Google green chile (as spelled) and see what you get - go on do it. Keyword: New Mexico. Pilgrimages are made to acquire the best chiles around. And many are spicy, almost ridiculously so. And that alone is enough to have the RJG's tongue wagging. For those of you reading this, that have been fortunate enough to have an enchilada verde in Santa Fe, I bet your mouth has a tingling sensation right about now. Maybe a bead of sweat just formed on the forehead. Right?

And here we are in Texas, a state that makes up NM's Eastern border, and what do we have to show for it in the way of cuisine? Not much. Not even enough in Colorado as far as we were concerned, but perhaps a little better.

Hello Anthony's Place!

So here's your chance to see what all the hullabaloo is about. It's a bit of a haul for us folks in NE Tarrant, but worth the journey. Anthony's is all things New Mexican cooking, but it's not perfect by any means. In fact, it doesn't hold a candle to some of Santa Fe's best, but even middle of the road New Mexican cooking is better than many cuisine's best offerings.

My main gripe with Anthony's is that for a place that lives and dies by the green chile, the spice is way too tame. They seem to be giving into the locals. Those that claim it's too hot so they can't taste it - and all that silliness. I've already given that lecture in the Fernandez Cafe posting, so I won't bore you again with it. Note to Anthony's: Blow their head off with some heat! It's addicting, and you'll have junkies at the door begging for more. And that's good for longevity.

So if you already love New Mexican food, you will be satisfied with Anthony's Place. if you've never had New Mexican food, then Anthony's is a good place to start. Make sure you order something with green chile in it, or you might be missing out on the experience.

We've only been a couple of times, spread over two years. I have to fit them into my work schedule, which can be very difficult normally. They have strange hours of operation, so call ahead to see when they're open (817 - 378-9005‎). Generally they're open during the weekdays for lunch, sometimes dinner. No lunch on Saturday's unfortunately. Anthony's is on Meacham Blvd, just west of I-35W, a few blocks east of Meacham Field.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

*** CLOSED *** Al's Famous Dogz & Burgers ~ Hurst, Texas

It's been a few years since my first visit to Al's. I must say that my debut experience was a bit underwhelming, but I was determined to try it one more time. And that time has now come and gone. And little has changed as far as my perception, except maybe the prices.

A few years back, Al's was one of those "everything is 89 cents" kind of places. And it's true what they say, you get what you pay for. It was forgettable. Wisely, they gave up on that concept and have improved the quality of their product, and the prices are still DARN cheap, but no longer is anything under a $1.

So what's the problem then? Well, it's not that there's anything wrong with Al's per se, but their burgers are kind of... well... bland. The meat doesn't have much seasoning, and the bun seems to be added at the end, right out of the bag. So other than the low cost, there isn't a compelling reason to go here, especially considering the stiff competition in the area, places that are well documented in these pages. The fries, on the other hand, were better than expected. Searing hot, crispy and a very salty seasoning (perhaps too much for some folks).

If you're craving some quick, cheap eats, then give Al's a whirl. Look for the double drive through shack at the NW corner of Precinct Line and Pipeline.