Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Mooyah Burgers ~ Southlake, Texas

January 2015 update: We've seen Mooyah go from a local DFW chain to one with stores all over the US, Canada, and now the Middle East!

January 2014 update: An interesting development since my last visit in October: They changed their core product. Mooyah had the 2 patty system, similar to 5 Guys, and now they've gone to a larger single patty, perhaps like Kincaids. That's an odd move for a chain that seems to be doing well (if total locations are an indication). But it also signals there's trouble on the horizon (why change what makes you successful? Images of New Coke come flashing by). To be honest, if Mooyah wasn't so close to where we reside, I'd probably list as Hold. But there are days I don't have but 20-25 minutes for lunch, and Mooyah is one of only a few options for me, if there's nothing compelling in the fridge. Oh, I just noticed they shut the Euless location down too. Along with Watauga, that's two from NE Tarrant that didn't make it in the last couple of years.

March 2013 update: I just recently found out they closed the Watauga store. That's a bummer, since that was my first experience with the chain. My guess is the closing was caused due to a combo of two things: Too much saturation of their own brand. Having stores in Euless, Colleyville, NRH, and Southlake most assuredly ate up their customer base. Plus new outside competition including the popular Smashburger. Our nearest store is the Southlake one, which is very close to the RJG's cow pasture, with Colleyville next. Their shakes are from a machine, rather than homemade, but I still like them.

October 2011 update: I first featured Mooyah in a 2009 Burger update, and figured I should give the chain its own page. Even only two years ago, Mooyah was mainly a DFW chain, but they're rapidly expanding - and apparently there are franchisers ready to open stores coast to coast. One has to figure Mooyah is a play of words on the famous Jim Cramer Booyah cheer when he's high on a stock. Looks like they ditched the Vegan Schmegan line as they try to appeal to a larger clientele. I've been to the Watauga, Southlake and Frisco (which Urbanspoon had listed in the Dallas Park Cities area - crazy! It's fixed now) locations.

Original review

I think the founders of Mooyah saw what Five Guys was doing in Washington DC (and their subsequent expansion), and said "Hey, we can do that!". And do that they have. Plano based Mooyah is growing fast, though still sticking to the DFW and Houston areas. I love their slogan: "VEGAN, SCHMEGAN". Followed by: "People ask us, "What's Mooyah?" We answer: Mooyah is Just burgers. Just fries. Just better. That's it. We want to make the best burger you've ever tasted. Period." Hey - that's the In-N-Out Burger way! Then they talk about the Bun to Meat ratio. These folks are great. Love it, love it, love it. And the burger taste? Excellent. Fries? Excellent. We'll be regular visitors for a long time.


Mooyah on Urbanspoon

Mooyah Burgers & Fries on Urbanspoon

***CLOSED *** Fat Daddy's Burger House ~ Southlake, Texas

Recently I tried another Dallas based popular place called Fat Daddy's Burger House in Southlake. Well, it's... pretty good. I mean it would be wholly unfair to say I didn't like it, because it's certainly decent. But when compared with many other burger choices in NE Tarrant, many featured on these very pages, then Fat Daddy's falls short. Better to spend your dough at Johnny B's, Molly's, Five Guys, Freddy's, Chapps, Snuffer's, plus the ones mentioned in this post alone. Fat Daddy's compares closest to Fuddruckers (they cook the burger and you dress it at the fixins bar), and frankly Fuddruckers is better at this racket as well. Free soft serve is a nice touch though. I'm afraid Fat Daddy's gets squeezed out in the highly competitive burger market. They need something to separate themselves - like a better tasting burger to start.

Tex's Star Grill ~ Watauga, Texas

November 2011 update: I had originally posted about Tex's in a longer Burger update, but it really should have its own write-up. And since that time, Tex's has really played up their Chicago roots - adding many more regional delicacies such as beef and sausage sandwiches, Vienna hot dogs and "Polishes". With that has come a "sub-name" as it were: Tex's Chicago Connection. The RJG, along with many others I'm sure, had called out some confusion about the original name. And the owner wrote in to tell me that he knew he missed out on the name game. Tex's is run by a very conscientious owner, and there's a reason why he's ranked # 4 in ALL of DFW. As for my own designations, you'll see I put Chicago Deli and Greek Diner. Well it's not really a diner, since you do order up at the counter and they even have a drive-through. But the food is very much like the Greek diners found throughout the Midwest. And on this visit, I tried the beef and sausage sandwich - definitely the best one I've had since my last visit to Chicago!

Northeast Tarrant has made a few tries for the Chicago tastebud, but other than Weinberger's in Grapevine (and Westlake), none have managed to stay in business. But Tex's is here for the long run, and is one of the most popular places in town. Funny enough, Tex's isn't even the #1 place (according to Urbanspoon) in Watauga - that designation goes to Chef Pointe Cafe (which is #1 overall in DFW - and a place we hope to try soon). For such a small, humble, out of the way suburb like Watauga, it is indeed very odd they have two of the most popular restaurants in DFW. Something I hope their chamber of commerce is all too willing to exploit. "Come to Watauga - DFW's #1 Destination for Foodies". It doesn't even seem possible.

Original review

Perhaps the most misnamed place in DFW. When I first saw the place as we were driving down Rufe Snow some 4+ years ago, I thought it was a new burrito place, or perhaps a fast food Tex-Mex joint. Well it's really none of those, but rather a good old fashioned Greek diner or, in this case, fast food establishment. So why is it in the Burger section you ask? Those who've spent more than 15 minutes in Chicago already know the answer - the Greeks make some of the tastiest hamburgers in America. And you can get a Greek Salad with that too! And gyros. And souvlaki. And Baklava. You get the idea. I personally love the Golden Burger with pastrami on top! Places like this exist in every village, hamlet, burb, or mafia center in Chicago, which is why it's America's greatest eating town. And now we have one in NE Tarrant too!

The owner made a comment on the original post, which I will include here: "RJG,I'm honored that you have added Tex's Star Grill to your long list of restaurants reviewed. You're right, we missed out on the name game. When I moved to this great state from Chicago, my buddies back home gave me the nickname Tex - and it stuck. Oh well...we're just glad that our customers have done a super job of spreading the word on what we are all about."


Tex's Star Grill on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 23, 2009

Yu's Gold-In ~ Keller, Texas

As mentioned in the September entry, it had been my goal to group similar restaurants for a more comprehensive and useful post. But when it comes to Chinese food in NE Tarrant, we've only found one we like to date - and we really like it - and that would be Yu's Gold-In.

While we certainly haven't been to them all, we have tried many Chinese joints in NE Tarrant including: Golden China (Southlake), Hong Kong Express (Keller & North Richland Hills), New China (Watauga), Pearl (Grapevine), Ying Cafe (Watauga), Bo Bo China (Grapevine) and Szechuan (Hurst). Most are pretty good, with the nod going to Bo Bo China as the best of that lot. But none inspire us to make a special trip, nor have I written about any of them in this blog. Yu's is the clear leader to date.

You won't find the name "Yu's" on the outside, just "Gold-In". From what I can gather, Gold-In was once a small hamburger joint, that eventually evolved into a Chinese restaurant. When I first located the restaurant on Urbanspoon, it was listed as Betty's Gold-In and I later made the correction for them. You may recall our reference to this restaurant in the Little Joe's Pizza post (which is now closed), where we stated "Behind an ancient combo gas station/Chinese restaurant (and, yep, the two sure do go together), is another strip mall, that looks like an afterthought of planning." This is that Chinese restaurant.

Even though Yu's isn't really that close to where we live, we always get the food To-Go. And that's because by the time we get it home, the food is merely blazing hot. Apparently Yu's cooks on the surface of the sun. Most places don't serve the food this hot right out of the kitchen, much less after a long drive home. And what does Mr. RJG like to get? Chicken fried rice. As basic a dish as they come, and yet few do it right. Not only does Yu's nail it, but they may have the best fried rice I've ever had. It's a more seasoned mix, and I believe it's the Szechuan way of making it. And what a bargain - the portion is easily two full dinners PLUS they throw in a skewer of barbecue chicken just because they feel like it. Their wonton soup is of the beef broth variety, with big chunks of pork - and is also outstanding. Mrs. RJG has tried other items on the menu, generally of the vegetable variety, and they've all proven to be worthy.

Absolutely recommended. A classic Regular Joe's Guide kind of place - in both atmosphere and taste!


Yu's Gold-In on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 13, 2009

"Eight Restaurants that get it right" - Response

On the excellent Food and Fort Worth, Texas blog, Francis calls out a US News and World Report business article that praises eight publicly traded companies (or otherwise large corporations) for their growth, sales and profit. I've already worn all of you out with my thoughts about Wall Street and food quality. So I'll put that soapbox away for now. Rather, I thought I'd comment on each of the 8 restaurants listed.

In the order Francis listed them:

Buffalo Wild Wings- I know people who feel that you shouldn't have to pay for wings - that they're a free appetizer to go with your adult beverage of choice. Certainly this is how it all started in Buffalo. In this way, they're similar to Spain's tapas. Tapas were originally heated up leftovers from the day before, and served up prior to your meal as appetizers. That was my personal experience touring Spain in 1990 and again in 1996. I've long felt that tapas, in today's current interpretation, is for yuppies who can't spell hors d'oeuvres. But I digress... Wings are a pretty limited food choice, and there's a multitude of fast food chains out there like Wing Stop, that satisfy the need for late night munchies (and terribly expensive for what you get - give me a taco anyday!) Where I give points to Buffalo Wild Wings is that they are basically a sports bar that focuses on wings. Sports bars are not cheap to run, and require some investment - so for this concept, I can see the need for a place like BWW. And for what they do, we feel they do it right. So thumbs up from the RJG!

BJ's Restaurants - BJ's is really a brewpub, and this is one area where the RJG can completely understand the need for public investment. You know, it really doesn't take much to get rolling with an Italian restaurant. A few good pots and pans, a reliable stove / oven and a boxful of closely guarded family recipes is all you need (theoretically of course - I know there's much more than that - but at its core, this is it). But running a little private brewery is not something your 70 year old grandmother is likely to sign up for. And it costs a fortune - which is why the brewpubs tend to be fine establishments rather than little hole in the walls. Besides there aren't that many brewpubs, especially here in Texas. In our other home in Colorado, there are many more, but they too are well funded (Rockbottom Brewery and Wynkoop Brewery are corporations with many outlets). I've only been to BJ's once, and it was a long time ago - but since we're back here in Texas, it is for certain we'll go a couple of times. Besides, the RJG loves brewpubs!

Chipotle - We remember when Chipotle was a small independent in Denver. They really were ahead of the curve on the whole burrito as fast food concept. So I'll say something here that should astonish you if you've read more than two posts from the RJG: When McDonald bought them, they actually IMPROVED the quality and added more bold options. And I know very few people in Denver who disagree with me on this point. Qdoba was right behind them (and in this case Jack in the Box picked them up). Since then, McDonald's spun them off to their own corporation. Chipotle suffers from the same fate that almost all national chains do: Inconsistency. This is a not a family owned business where the owners are constantly around to ensure the best quality (or working there themselves). No - most of these are owned by Business School executives who pick third tier first-line managers to run the show. Sometimes these third tier managers are awesome and could easily run far more than a fast food restaurant. Others are not up to the task at all. So sometimes you get an awesome chicken burrito that's blazing hot and fresh - and other times you get undercooked chicken with bitchy service. There's enough alternatives nowadays, that there's no reason to go to Chipotle. But back in the day, one would drive a long way to check them out!

Olive Garden - I'm in full agreement with Francis here. Though I don't necessarily think Olive Garden is bad, it's just that I can't understand why people go here. I don't know anyone who thinks Olive Garden is better than other Italian restaurants in the area. When the RJG had a long term contract up in Racine, Wisconsin back in the 1990s, I was in paradise. There are Italian restaurants on every corner, many of them literally in old homes in old neighborhoods with Pabst Blue Ribbon signs on the window. Some of my co-workers, also traveling from other parts of the country, would still go to Olive Garden. I said "WHY ON EARTH?". The answer? "Because it's a marquee name". There it is folks. Like voting for the same dirty scumball congressman year after year - because you know his name.

Panera Bread - I think the artisan bread schtick has already played itself out. And Panera Bread is pretty generic in that category, even when compared to other yawner places like On the Corner Bakery or Atlanta Bread. Hell, Subway is about on par - for a heck of lot less bread (haha). You want a sandwich? Look for a local place - or for God's sake at least go to Jersey Mike's first.

Peet's Coffee - A friend of mine owns a Peet's franchise in West Texas, and he swears by them - which is why he invested in it. He personally works the store too. Peet was the founder of Starbucks, so he definitely was one step ahead of the others. His second venture won't be as successful, only because the idea is known. For my money, the best coffee chain is Tully's, but hard to find them outside of the Pacific Northwest. I think coffee is more about convenience than quality. What I mean by that is most folks aren't going to drive 10 miles out of the way to get Peet's if Starbucks is around the corner. But for a good meal, they most likely would.

PF Changs PF Changs is a popular choice amongst my business friends. Reluctantly I will go, but I don't get what the big deal is. I'll give points for taking what already existed - the Chinese restaurant - and bringing it national with a huge marketing campaign. The things they're famous for, like lettuce wraps, are good - but it's not unique nor breathtakingly good. Like with the Olive Garden - is it really that hard to find a locally owned Chinese restaurant that isn't already better? People go here because it's a safe choice, and no one will criticize them for taking them to a place where the Tongs are gambling in the back. I'll go the latter every time.

I haven't been to Texas Roadhouse, so can't comment on the concept or viability.