Tuesday, March 31, 2009

***CLOSED *** Molly's Burgers and Ice Cream, Hamburgers, Keller-TX

Closed: April 2011

Last visit: January 2011

If you are a burger aficionado, then living in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area certainly has to be a contender for one of the nation's best cities. And NE Tarrant, in particular, does what it can to accommodate. We've covered many in these pages, as the RJG is a fervent devotee of a good cheeseburger.

Add Molly's to the list of great places to devour a succulent hamburger. Molly's started in Arlington and Keller was chosen as their second locale. A wise choice given the relative distance, so as to not take away from their core base. Molly's is located on Golden Triangle (aka Keller Pkwy, aka Southlake Blvd.), west of US-377 and east of I-35W in far NW Keller.

Definitely one of the best gooey cheeseburgers I've had, with a unique salty blend of spices that penetrate all the way through. And the bun is nice and toasty. And I can also vouch for the milkshake, made with real ice cream (for some odd reason, I didn't ask who made the ice cream - I'll find out). I liked it so much on one Saturday lunch visit, that I insisted Mrs. RJG and the RJG's Mom go the next day. Definitely a big hit with the ladies as well. Saturday was empty, but Sunday was jammed packed, so file that away if you plan to drop by.

If you want to die early, may I suggest the "Molly Burger": A 1/3 patty, topped with a grilled hot dog, bacon, and cheddar cheese, grilled onions, lettuce, tomato, and chipotle mayo. Yea, a real cardiologists delight that is. They also have a Veggie Burger and a "Brendan" Burger, which they shamelessly call their "In N Out" Burger (though they spell it "In and Out"). I haven't tried the latter - need to do that!

Oh, and it's BYOB for you lushes out there (like us!).

Molly's is a cool little place, seemingly dropped in from a university campus area. The decor is a nice blend of heavy woods with a distinct industrial design.

Add Molly's to the ever growing group of the burger A-list: Five Guys, Kincaid's, Johnny B's, Clown Burger, Freddy's, Chapps, etc...


Molly's Burgers and Ice Cream on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 30, 2009

Ojeda's, Mexican, Lewisville-TX, Dallas-TX

Last visit: June 2013 (Dallas)

Rating: Buy

Other DFW locations: Plano, Desoto

February 2013 update: Ojeda's is more popular than ever. And at least two family friends, Mr & Mrs. Cowcatcher and Mr. and Mrs. Chic-Coffee consider the Maple Avenue location their favorite DFW Mexican restaurant. And we've met both of them at that location for dinner, including the Chic-Coffee's last night. I've also met up at the Maple location with The Prowler before a Rangers game. Of all the original Mexican restaurants on Maple, I think we have to conclude that Ojeda's is the most successful. For some reason, the website doesn't list the Lewisville location. But I just called and they're still open!

Original review

In the Avila's and Herrera's posts found on this blog, I spoke of the Mexican restaurants on Maple Avenue we used to haunt back in the late 80s and early 90s. The other two were Rosita's (now closed) and, the focus of this post, Ojeda's.

Ojeda's is old school Tex-Mex, which is a nicer way of saying HEAVY Mexican food. These are places you don't just walk out of, but rather waddle out. Expect lots of gooey cheese, beans with lard, mush meat tacos with filler, thick flour and corn tortillas, and as many chips as you can stuff in your face. Top that off with a few cervezas, and you have instant 5 pound weight gain. Is it worth it? HECK YEA!

No point in walking you through the meal, as Ojeda's isn't that much different from Herrera's. Both places feature spicier than normal salsa's (I detect a strong hint of Valentina Salsa Picante in the flavor), great tasting chips, and combo platters that thin the wallet and expand the waistline. No complimentary bean and bacon soup at Ojeda's though.

As with all the Maple Avenue institutions, Ojeda's doesn't have a presence in Tarrant County. But the location in Lewisville isn't too far for us NE Tarrant citizens. I've been to that location a couple of times over the last year, and makes for a convenient meeting place with friends who live "on the other side". Ojeda's have 4 locations total (the other two are in Plano and Desoto). The Lewisville location is on Hwy 121, a few blocks west of I-35E.

Website

Ojeda's Mexican on Urbanspoon

Ojeda's Mexican on Urbanspoon

Saturday, March 28, 2009

First Anniversary

Somehow we managed to make it one year. The blog evolved a bit differently than I thought it would, and I'm quite happy where we are. The comments have generally been pleasant and enthusiastic, which has motivated me to keep on.

Originally I was going to include more locations from around the country, and maybe one day I will - but it seems that by the time I get around to writing about these places, the memories have faded. And without much chance of a revisit in the near future, I'm not sure how valuable/accurate the reviews are in any case.

So I've been primarily focused on the DFW area, and especially NE Tarrant. Once in awhile, I'll throw in an out of town restaurant (Mama Ninfa's in Houston is one such place I seem to get to regularly).

I've updated the original post for this blog, and it's worth reading if you haven't seen it before, just as a matter of perspective.

Thanks again to everyone for making this a fun adventure.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Italian Bistro, Italian, Roanoke-TX

Last visit: September 2014 

Rating: Buy

February 2014 update: It looks like we skipped going to Italian Bistro all of 2013, and I haven't updated this since the original posting in 2009. Not sure why that happened, as Italian Bistro is certainly one of the better Italian restaurants in this area, though very similar the others in its culinary approach (the Cafe Italia and 90% comments below still hold). I think we need to make more of an effort to drive up north to Roanoke for Italian. It is very good. Other updates from the below: 1) I never did get a Knoxville/Asheville guide up, consistent with other "good intentions" postings that didn't come to fruition; 2) C&A Deli is long gone, and they moved south Keller and is now called Tirelli's Deli (and is also featured in this blog).

Original review 

More delays to the blog. Mrs. RJG and I just returned from the Great Smoky Mountains. With any luck at all, I'll put together a little restaurant guide from Knoxville, Asheville and points between. ED: Of course I didn't get to it :-( 

One Italian place the RJG hasn't written about, but is quite popular amongst many in NE Tarrant County is Cafe Italia in Grapevine (actually they have two locations in Grapevine). We've been to Italian Bistro in Roanoke twice now, and I could swear this is Cafe Italia's third location. Without having an opportunity to interview the owner, I would be willing to testify there's a connection or shared ownership involved here.

It's been awhile since we wandered up north to Denton County and their little SW outpost of Roanoke. We last mentioned the town in the C&A Italian Family Deli almost a year ago. For the wife and I, it feels like a trip out in the country, and even though the area is truly a bedroom community, Roanoke has gone to great lengths to make it seem like an old, small rural Texas town. Babe's and The Classic Cafe are its most famous daughters, but the other restaurants are well worth visiting too.

Like 90+% of the Italian restaurants in the area, Italian Bistro are Balkan owned and share many similarities with their restaurant brethren. Honestly there's not much about the food I can speak to that I haven't already covered here or here or here and a few others. So it's a matter of location / convenience basically. Even though Italian Bistro might not be the most original of Italian restaurants in our area, for what they do, they do it right. It's a pleasant restaurant, with good service, and consistently good (and hot) meals.

One other observation: On both our recent visits, we noticed at least two separate parties of women (all ages). Italian Bistro seems to be the restaurant of choice for girls-night-out! So ladies, you might want to consider it for your next restaurant venture. Besides, it's nice to get out into the country once in awhile.

You'll find Italian Bistro on Byron Nelson Blvd, east of US 377 (go through old town if coming from NE Tarrant and turn right at the end of the street).

Website

Italian Bistro on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Pho Empire, Vietnamese, Irving-TX

Last visit: February 2009

Perhaps even more surprising than not having recent Thai updates, is the fact that I have yet to write about any Vietnamese restaurants. And the blog is nearly a year old.

Surprising in the fact that when the wife and I were dating, Vietnamese food was the restaurant of choice. Not just any Vietnamese place, but namely Kim Ba, a wonderful little restaurant in eastern Denver near Aurora. This was Mrs. RJG's first food love. It got to the point that she wouldn't eat anywhere else during our courtship. We had to get married just so we could eat Italian food again. After we married, naturally we continued to frequent Kim Ba for the next few years before moving to NE Tarrant. We would still go almost weekly, even after we moved miles away to The Pinery, far southeast of Denver proper.

So is Pho Empire the second coming of Kim Ba? Hardly, but that doesn't mean it's not good, because it is. We've also frequented a handful of other Vietnamese places in Haltom City and Arlington, and none have matched our old Denver favorite. But there are plenty of good places to talk about - and we'll get to them all eventually.

Vietnamese food is almost the perfect Regular Joe's Guide food: It's plentiful, it's flavorful, it's simple and it's cheap. Not necessarily in that order. Vietnamese cuisine is at the meeting place of Asian and European cooking. The French colonization penetrated the local cuisine, and it provided the perfect marriage of taste. If history had taken a different course, Vietnamese would almost certainly be the primary Asian food of choice amongst Americans, rather than Chinese.

There seems to exist three kinds of Vietnamese restaurants: Fast food, soup kitchens (pho = soup) and nice restaurants. Kim Ba was the latter. And so is Pho Empire.

I first frequented Pho Empire with Ms. JW when we both worked at Software Company You've Actually Heard Of in Las Colinas. In those days they were known by the more modest moniker of Pho Republic. Obviously delusions of grandeur have taken over, as they expanded to one other whopping location in Arlington, and now go by Pho Empire. Look out McDonalds - here's your challenger! cough.

So this was my wife's first encounter with Pho Empire, and it had been at least 4 years since my last visit. They have the usual array of soups and rice dishes and we both opted for the latter. The soup bowls are enormous! I tend to go for lemongrass chicken over a bed of rice and subsequently squeeze Sriracha sauce all over it. The Mrs. will mix it up and on this date she also went for a variation of the lemongrass chicken theme. Good thing she did, as Pho Empire broke the cardinal rule as far as I'm concerned: My dish is not what was advertised. It was a stir fry with everything from the backyard. It didn't say that on the menu! It said chicken, spices and chile's - which is what I wanted. Fortunately Mrs. RJG got more of what I wanted and mine was more to her taste. So it worked out. All dishes come with a beef broth pho, which works perfectly as an appetizer. Despite the ambitions of the name change, the food has taken a step back from what I remembered.

Pho Empire is a nice, and quite large, restaurant with no less than three dining areas. If you've never had Vietnamese food, you will feel very comfortable here.

This location of Pho Empire is located at the SW corner of Belt Line and Northgate, just on the "other side" of DFW airport.

Website: http://www.phoempire.com/

Pho Empire on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 2, 2009

Sweet Basil, Thai, Hurst-TX

Last visit: November 2014

Rating: Strong Buy

January 2014 update: And Sweet Basil completes our NE Tarrant triumvirate of excellent Thai restaurants (along with Sea Siam and Bangkok Cuisine). We've been going approximately once a month for the last year or so. Their Thai Styled Basil Chicken (ground chicken, super spicy) is, as they say on the window of the restaurant, the "Best in Town". 

February 2013 update: Mrs. RJG had one of her official sisters in town along with her husband, and the meal was a big success. Hopefully we'll be visiting more often now!

October 2011 update: Mr. Music was in NE Tarrant recently and was looking for some good Thai food. He'd been to Sweet Basil before with us, so we headed over there for our first visit since returning from Colorado for the summer. Sweet Basil remains Mr. RJG's #2 Thai place behind Sea Siam in the NE Tarrant area, primarily because of the outstanding traditional spicy basil ground chicken. Mrs. RJG has backslided from the below review and can't seem to find her dish here. She ranks it below many others, so there you have it. Mr. Music also rates Sweet Basil very highly.

Original review

For those of you who read my blog from last summer and before, you will recall that Mrs. RJG's favorite food is Thai, so it may be a bit surprising that we haven't written of any since then. And the answer to that puzzle is quite simply because we tend to always eat at Sea Siam or Bangkok Cuisine, places we've already covered. There are others in NE Tarrant we've been to, that we think are pretty good, but haven't been to in the last year. These include Thai Chili (Southlake), Magic Springroll (Watauga), Belknap Thai (Haltom City), Thai Riverside (Grapevine) and a few others I can't recall off the top. I don't think there's any Thai restaurants in NE Tarrant we haven't tried.

But there's a third place I've been pushing the Mrs. to add to the rotation, as I've been a fan for a long time, but she's been surprisingly hesitant to go back for reasons unknown - and that's Sweet Basil in Hurst. Now, after this visit, she is finally ready to make this a regular RJG stop.

Not long after the RJG relocated from Denver to NE Tarrant in 2003, we discovered a place in North Richland Hills called Top Thai. It quickly became our favorite, and remained so until they closed sometime in 2005. To set the stage, my first exposure to Thai food came in San Francisco sometime in the early 1990s. It was love at first taste, and most of the Thai restaurants I tried on the Left Coast were of a similar style. Unfortunately Denver seemed a wasteland for Thai food. Oh sure, we had Thai restaurants, but none reminded me of the flavors of Northern California. Then we found Top Thai and that was it! The taste I had remembered so fondly.

Of all the Thai restaurants in the area, Sweet Basil reminds me most of Top Thai. That is, what I would consider more traditional Thai cooking. Thai style means ground chicken, not cut up chicken breast. Spicy means spicy, not "are you sure?". Thai style means simple ingredients, not stir fried with whatever you can find in the garden. Sure, Sweet Basil has those kind of dishes as well, but you have the option here. And the spice levels here are serious. They say 4 stars is "super spicy" and indeed it really is! I've gone hotter than that in the past, but 4 stars is enough for even the most adamant of fire seekers (which includes me).

We've been going to Sweet Basil on and off for nearly 5 years, and that includes a change of ownership. The new owners did away with the bar, and that means BYOB - which is great news for those with an eye on the budget! The new owners also brought about more consistency, and I've always been happy with my meals here. And now I have the Mrs. on board too, so we have a third place for our "Thai rotation".

Sweet Basil is also one of the nicer Thai restaurants in the area. Mood lighting and sleek furniture add a sophisticated ambiance, rather than the usual divey fast food feel. That is, a good place to take a date or have a romantic dinner with a loved one. Just don't forget to bring your own wine!

Sweet Basil is on Melbourne, near Pipeline, tucked into a small strip mall, near Northeast Mall.

Website

Sweet Basil Thai Cuisine on Urbanspoon