Friday, December 30, 2011

Flying Saucer Draught Emporium ~ Addison, Texas


There was a time when the RJG had very little use for beer. Unlike many college students, I pretty much eschewed guzzling cheap beer for a cheap buzz. In the 1980s, the US beer industry was all about price. Pale lagers and light beers was all there was to quaff. And at Texas Tech, Coors was the clear winner followed by Budweiser. I didn't dislike the stuff, but I just didn't understand what the big fuss was. Once I started going to Europe later in the 80s, I began to realize what a good beer can taste like. Then my move to Colorado in 1993 opened my eyes up to the craft beer industry. Unfortunately I didn't take advantage of it as much as I should have back then, with only an occasional foray into a brewpub. And I didn't take notes, and I'm rather certain I tried some beers from breweries that are extinct. I finally got serious about beer about 6 years ago, and I've been making up for lost time (especially while in Colorado during the summers). According to my beer database, I've now tried 770 different beers and rapidly consuming more. And, as it turns out, beer is in my blood. My great grandfather on my Dad's side (Irish) was once an executive at the Hanley Brewing Company of Providence, Rhode Island (this was in the late 1800s!) The brewery remarkably survived Prohibition, only to be gobbled up in the 1950s brewery consolidation years. And on my Mom's side, which is entirely German, my Uncle was a huge beer drinker. I can remember him drinking both Olympia and Rainier on our family trips to Seattle in the early 70s, prior to them cheapening their product.

So with that background out of the way, it should come as no surprise that Flying Saucer is a favorite destination of mine. Flying Saucer specializes in having on tap, or in bottles/cans, numerous beers from around the world. And perhaps more importantly, they carry local microbrews, which can be different depending on what location you go to. I love when a chain localizes their selection and product. It gives each one a uniqueness about them. And Flying Saucer has the added benefit of providing a food menu - similar to a brewpub - and for that we can feature them here on our blog! For this visit, I was joined by my friend who lives in Garland. A perfect meeting place. We were here for 4 hours.

I'll start with the food, because even if you don't care for beer, I think it's worth going at least once for that. Sandwiches, sausages, soups and appetizers are what Flying Saucer's menu is about. We each had our favorite appetizer: The Saucer Bratzel, which is one large soft pretzel with chopped up bratwurst buried in melted swiss cheese and a side of spicy mustard. It's really just too good for words. And we also each tried their beer cheese soup made with a brown ale, and is surprisingly very spicy (seriously!). It's served in a bread bowl in case you didn't get enough of that from the pretzel.

As for the beers, I like to try local beers first and then branch out. And I always want something I haven't had before. For this visit, I started with the Lagunitas Fusion VII, which is a seasonal IPA. Lagunitas is from northern California, and is fast becoming one of my favorite breweries. In fact, I'd place them in the Top 5. Next up was the Franconia Winter Wheat, which is a weizen bock (a strong dark wheat). We've talked about Franconia (McKinney, TX) before, as they are one of only a handful of truly local breweries (though more breweries are coming folks - the beer revolution is finally here in DFW! For more info, check the excellent Texas Beer blog). I've liked all of their beers to date that I've tried (only about 4 though). This was followed by the Live Oak Primus, another weizen bock. Live Oak is from Austin, and I don't think they bottle or can their beer (same with Franconia). So you have to get it on draught from places like this. I'm sure they're more common in central Texas, but it's rarely seen otherwise. And finally I wrapped up with a black IPA from Southern Star called Pro-Am 2011, a seasonal competition beer. Southern Star is based in Conroe, outside of Houston. They're one of the newer microbreweries that can their beer rather than bottle. You can find their product at a good World Market store (some are better than others - the one in Grapevine is excellent). This particular Southern Star is only available via draught. I quite like their brewery as well.

Included with all this good beer and food, you also get a cute waitress (well... usually). The girls dress up in Catholic prep school skirts (though with shorter hems of course). So it can be a bit of a male fantasy overload considering the whole. There's also a Twin Peaks right next door, so definitely a magnet area for traditional males. Mrs. RJG likes these places too, though she was still entertaining one of our official nieces that day. Oh, one other comment on the girls. They go through rigorous training on beer - so they should be able to answer most questions. Our gal had no problems keeping up with my questions.

I really wish we had a Flying Saucer in NE Tarrant (or a similar place).

Website for Addison location

Flying Saucer on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

*** CLOSED *** ZuRoma Sicilian Kitchen ~ Keller, Texas


A few years ago, sometime in the 2004-05 range, the Mrs. and I had dined at the original ZuRoma location in Grapevine near 121. We thought it was good Italian food, and had returned at least once. A couple of years later, while planning a return visit, I reviewed their entry on Urbanspoon, and it was clear a major event had taken place. Best I can tell the original owners sold the place, and the new proprietors subsequently ran the place into the ground. I never sampled this debacle, but as is foreshadowed by now, they did close down shortly thereafter. Meanwhile the original owners opened up in the Ice House in North Richland Hills. We never did go to the hockey arena, but now they also have a to-go only place in Keller, so I decided to try their pizza on a recent evening that Mrs. RJG and one of our official nieces had something else going on. "ya on ya own" in Mrs. RJG speak.

ZuRoma specializes in the "Sicilian" styled pizza, which I sometimes refer to as "Dallas style" as first championed by Campisi's Egyptian or Prego Pasta House and further popularized by the I Fratelli pizza outlets. It's an oval-ish pizza that's looks like an outline of a small football. I went for the Hite's Cabin Special which is a combo of Italian sausage, salami, jalapeno, and extra cheese. The sausage is crumbled and non-distinctive, while the salami is finely cut small pieces of Genoa (and again, difficult to discern any flavor). The extra cheese, however, was very apparent and quite excellent in its gooeyness. The crust is uniquely flavored, but decidedly not crispy. Like having a pizza on the crust of old bread from Macaroni Grill. Even after throwing a few slices in the toaster, I couldn't get the crust to change its stale disposition. The flavor of the pizza is very good, but the texture left something to be desired. As well, I tend to like a saucy pie, and this was definitely dry. I'm giving it a thumbs up on Urbanspoon, but I won't be a regular visitor for their pizza. However, they also have a full array of Italian dishes. I'm most curious how they prepare them from the small kitchen. I'll try ZuRoma again just for that.

Even though the restaurant name implies a full service establishment, ZuRoma is strictly a take out joint with nowhere to sit except to wait for your pizza.

Monday, December 26, 2011

*** CLOSED *** Best Tex Burger ~ North Richland Hills, Texas


Best Tex Burger is in the same Shell station that once housed a Billadelphia's** location, and if I recall right was originally a Chester Fried Chicken.

Best Tex Burger arrives with a feel-good story, that one has to admire. This is the American spirit at its finest.

Onto the food we go. Their website talks about a variety of gourmet burgers and a chicken sandwich option. However, they have recently reduced their menu significantly. All they now serve are hamburgers, cheeseburgers (with a double option on each) and fries. And that's it. As you all know, the RJG is very much in favor of the small menu. So my expectation was set to a high level, figuring that they only do one thing - so it will be awesome. I kept it simple and ordered a double cheeseburger and a small drink. The burger comes out with the condiments on the side and include fresh romaine lettuce, pickles, onion and tomato. They also bring a variety of sauces to put on your burger. But other than the usual suspects (mustard, mayonnaise and ketchup), there was only one that appeared unique - a chipotle mayonnaise if I'm not mistaken. So then.... was it the best burger? Absolutely not, I'm afraid to say. Was it good even? Sure, it was and I rated it a thumbs up on Urbanspoon. But the honest truth is the burger is too ordinary to get excited about. The meat was lightly seasoned, the standard bun was barely toasted. The chipotle mayonnaise was decent. Compared to places like Kincaid's or Chapps, Best Tex doesn't cut it (IMHO). Still, I would encourage you all to see for yourself. With the great story behind the restaurant, places like this deserve at least one chance. Maybe I'm just plain wrong? And I'm always up for a revisit if you all disagree. This would be one case I would like to be wrong. But for now, my opinion holds.

As an aside, technically the restaurant is know as Best Tex Burger, rather than Best Texas Burger (despite the website URL name). I did confirm that with the owner.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

***MOVED*** Jalapeno's Mexican Cuisine ~ Keller, Texas

Last update: June, 2013: Jalapeno's moved to the other side of US-377 to Fort Worth. And renamed it Las Pinatas. Review of new location here.

If you live around Keller, the name Jalapeno's can be a bit confusing. There's a taqueria by that name in the old town, with the exact same logo, and yet it's entirely different than this restaurant found on Keller Parkway. Apparently there's different ownership, but obviously they are related in some way. So if you too were confused, as the RJG perpetually is, then I do recommend you try both. We'll cover the taqueria at another time, but today's post will reflect the restaurant only. To the best of my knowledge, this is their only location and not related to other Jalapeno's in and around DFW.

Jalapeno's sits in the old Keller Pizza place (itself no doubt once a Pizza Inn). Upon entry, there's a cavernous space filled with booths and tables - and even an old fashioned 1980s styled video game area. I was pleased to see the frozen margarita machine cranking away to my left, so I ordered one. Only to be met with the now familiar "it's not frozen yet" response (it was around 11:30 for lunch). Ya know, I've been biting my tongue on this issue, but this is the third Mexican place in a relatively short time frame that each sprung this excuse. Turn the dang thing on once you get there! We also heard this excuse recently at El Paseo and Tres Jose's on our recent visits. Each time, I ended up settling on water. Anyway, I can honestly say we've never had this problem at Anamia's and we've been there at least 50 times. Alright, with that annoyance out of the way, let's focus on the food. And here, Jalapeno does a very good job - and a bit different, which we always appreciate here at the RJG. The entry level salsa is a chipotle blend. Quite good, but way too thin, and thus it tends to roll off the chips. We asked for the hotter option and we received the hottest (apparently the have a medium heat as well). This one was better textured, with a dark green color. Definitely a jalapeno based sauce, perhaps with some serrano's, and very spicy. So now our palette was set for the main course. The Mrs. went for cheese enchiladas with vegetables and covered with a tomatillo sauce. She says the cheese was very good, velvety in texture, with crisp veggies and the tomatillo was just right, not too bitter. I had 2 chicken flautitas and a ground beef taco. The flautitas were delicious with all white meat chicken crammed into slightly plump, but small crispy fried tortillas with melted white cheese on top. The beef taco was a bit different, the meat being somewhat like a chili mixture, rather than the traditional crumbled beef. One reviewer angrily called it dog food on Urbanspoon, but that's not fair at all. Actually I thought it was delicious and a unique take on a common recipe. The fresh green lettuce and yellow cheese were piled high on the side for me to load up. We both loved the rice, even though I'm not too fond of peas and carrots, but the flavor was excellent. And the charro beans were good, but a bit too fatty on the bacon.

This was only our second visit here, and our first in nearly 2 years, but we should go more often. We give it a thumbs up! Though a friendly reminder to the owners, please turn on the margarita machine earlier....

Saturday, December 24, 2011

El Paisano Taqueria ~ Dallas, Texas

Our first Mr. Music review!

I took a trip to El Paisano last Weds with my friends. I’ve been going to El Paisano regularly for over a decade now. I usually don’t go to any single restaurant that often, but I really love this place! It was the first place that really opened my eyes to what are commonly known as “street tacos”. No matter how many I try, El Paisano consistently remains my favorite place for them. Now I won’t say I’ve tried every place around; there are hundreds of them, but I’ve been to dozens. My friends and I meet on Wednesdays for a night out and make El Paisano at least 3 times a month. Tacos are a pretty simple; you’ve got a tortilla, some meat, toppings and the sauce. All of them are important, but for me the sauce is the key! Of course the meat is very important too, but the sauce can propel a “really good” taco to “OMG!”.

At El Paisano there are 3 types of tortillas: maiz which is a factory bought corn tortilla dipped in manteca (pig lard) for $0.99, then there is harina or flour for $1.15 and if you don’t mind paying a bit more you can get handmade corn tortillas (maiz heche a mano) for $2.00. I love them all, but usually opt for the harina because I don’t want so much lard and don’t want to shell out 2 bucks a pop for heche a mano when you can get an order of 4 fresh made corn tortillas for $1.00. I order mine “con todo” (with everything) which basically means I want fresh diced onion and cilantro on my taco with a slice of lime on the side. I think most taco stands offer this these days but El Paisano also includes some nicely caramelized fried onions as well. There are 3 basic meat choices: pollo, fajita, or al pastor (chicken, beef, or pork). To me, the al pastor is by far the tastiest and although I don’t think the pork is cooked on a spit as is done traditionally, the meat is very nicely seasoned. The chicken and fajita are also very good, but at El Paisano it is ALL about the sauce! They serve 3 varieties here; two in squirt bottles and one that comes hot off the grill in a mocajete. In the bottles are a green sauce which is a very creamy sauce made with green chilies that seem to be something like Hatch chilies (not tomatillo) and a red which is a brutal mixture of dried red chilies teeming with seeds, water, cumin and a dash of salt. Both are delish and can vary from medium to blazing but the real star is the steaming salsa in the mortar. I’m not sure what the exact recipe is (if I did, I’d bathe in it regularly!) but I’m pretty sure they take tomatoes, jalapenos, jalapenos, some sort of chicken stock and oh, some more jalapenos and grill them until they completely break down. This stuff is what dreams are made of! My friends and I shovel this stuff in with basket after basket of chips and reminds me of a shark feeding frenzy; then we smother our tacos with it glopping on as much as we can on each bite. When we are so full, salsa is leaking from our belly buttons, we hunt for cups to take the rest home for our scrambled eggs in the morning (or sometimes pay for a pint to go)! I’ve also tried their gorditas which are awesome, their guacamole which is so simple its beautiful and their rice and beans which are solid. They have a big place (on Lombardy just East of Denton Drive) with 2 sides. To the East is the old, run down side with decrepit bathrooms and on the West is a cleaner, cozier place with very clean bathrooms, table cloths, etc. I go to the West with my wife and kids and to the East (where we know all the waitresses) with my buddies. The food is just as wonderful on either side. If you want to eat outside in front of the original metal shack they started in, you can do that too because it still sits in front of their building.

Tacqueria El Paisano on Urbanspoon

Saturday, December 17, 2011

*** CLOSED *** Panchita's Mexican ~ Keller, Texas

Panchita's is a new restaurant that opened its doors this August. It's housed in the former Windy City Deli location, and is a couple of doors down from Niki's (featured on this blog somewhere). They are a husband and wife run establishment, and you can tell that they use only fresh ingredients. No large platters of enchiladas here - each meal is individually handcrafted. The food is a mixture of Tex-Mex and Mexican from the interior. There's even a hint of New Mexico, and not surprisingly there's a family heritage from there.

The chips are crispy corn and the salsa served is what we typically see in Colorado: A mixture of tomatoes, chilies, onions and cilantro. It was good with a nice kick. As such I wasn't sure they would have a "hotter" one, but indeed they do. It's a tomatillo based green sauce blended with jalapenos and/or maybe serrano's. Definitely contains more heat and thus smooths out the bitterness typically associated with tomatillo. And, as it turns out from a second visit, they also have a blazing spicy butterscotch colored habanero sauce that is outstanding. As for an entree, I went with the super bargain $5.75 lunch special (Tue-Fri only) and had a cheese enchilada, a chicken enchilada and a ground beef taco. The cheese enchilada featured a delicious chili con carne sauce. For the chicken I asked what their hottest sauce was. They said to try the guajillo sauce. The chile itself isn't very hot, but their reddish orange blended sauce had some punch, though I wish there was a bit more of it. The beef taco featured a homemade crunchy shell and the ground beef was well seasoned. The charro beans were delicious with the right amount of bean and bacon flavor. The rice was a tad mushy and the only mistake of the meal, but it tasted good all the same. Perhaps better for the RJG, was the Mrs.' reaction. She had a cup of the tortilla soup which she said was delicious. Perhaps even better was the carne asada gordita, which came in a crispy "pocket". Best she's ever had other than at home, she claims. So a huge hit from our Lady of Sonora.

The restaurant layout has two distinct settings - a darkened lounge with TV screens and a full bar, and then secondly a regular dining area with some natural lighting from outside.

Panchita's is very good and I think it could use more exposure. This is a cut above your usual Tex-Mex restaurant and this is a young couple putting everything they have into it. Tired of the same ole' place? Give Panchita's a try.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

*** CLOSED *** Tres Jose's ~ Fort Worth-TX

Situated at the edge of the tony River Crest neighborhood, Tres Jose's seems an unlikely place to find an authentic Tex-Mex restaurant. We first visited a few years ago while visiting some museums at the nearby Cultural District. And while we await the renovations (and new ownership) to be completed over at the RJG's favorite Ft. Worth Mexican food destination - Fernandez Cafe - we decided to revisit Tres Jose's since we were over in Ft. Worth anyway.

While Tres Jose's is a reliable neighborhood spot, it's not extraordinary. We both enjoyed the blue corn enchiladas with the heavily seasoned chicken doused in a sour green tomatillo sauce. The rice was well prepared, and the charro beans had the right mix of chile's, beans and bacon. The chips are homemade and crispy, while the standard salsa is tomato based with a mild kick, and includes black pepper (something the RJG likes in his hot sauces). We asked for the hotter one, as we often do, and out came a very creamy habanero green sauce, likely mixed with avocado's. It definitely had a nice heat level, though it was far too creamy for my liking. It appears Tres Jose's has a full bar, though we just settled on diet sodas for this lunch visit.

Really not much else to say, other than if you're craving some Mexican food after immersing yourself into some high culture, then Tres Jose's is likely to hit the spot. Much better in our opinion than the Dos Gringos you are likely to have seen on University.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Everything German ~ Hurst, Texas

June 2015 update: Everything German has relocated to Hurst. More to come soon hopefully
Two of the most popular posts from the RJG were about German restaurants. The first post was when we took a trip up to Muenster and visited Rohmer's. But even more so was our visit to Gerhard's in Roanoke. We went there not long after it opened, thought it quite good, and wrote about it here. We haven't been back since, but not because we didn't like the restaurant, rather we just haven't taken the time to do so. Just by reading the comments on Urbanspoon, it appears the restaurant is hotly debated amongst those that seem to passionately hate it - and those who love it. Much of the "discussion" revolves around service issues, which quite frankly the RJG feels gets too much attention in today's world. Believe me, service in Europe is far less attentive (note I didn't say worse). We're just a very restless society I'm afraid. We've had a couple of outrageous examples of poor service that we've reported on here as well. But it really has to be bad for us to mention anything. Anyway, we're looking forward to a revisit to Gerhard's sometime in early 2012.

All that said, I feel rather confident in saying that Everything German should not hold much controversy at all. Hands down, this is the best German place we've been to in DFW, and compares well with the RJG's all-time (in the USA, that is) favorite German restaurant: House of Gerhard in Kenosha, Wisconsin (I hope to one day feature some of the RJG's favorite restaurants in the US based on extensive travels / work sites). Now I should caution we've only been once to date, but this is going to be a regular stop for the RJG. If anything changes, we'll report back quickly. We want to do everything we can to keep this place in business. I feel we need good German restaurants in the area, and they are so seldom around. And almost never this good either. It's a food concept still waiting its audience.

Everything German is housed incongruously in an old Taco Bell (and almost next door to the Al Wadi cafe we spoke about recently), which the RJG once knew as an Uncle Joe's Italian place a few years back. Everything German has further renovated it by removing the fast food window (where Uncle Joe's displayed their pizzas), and applied the familiar dark Bavarian timbers. So there's less light and it's very cozy actually. On our visit they were playing soft Christmas music - sung in German.

For our one lunch visit we each opted for the Weinerschnitzel, which comes with pan fried potatoes and a dinner roll. Yes, yes, yes! This is how it's done, just as we know from our various trips to Germany. No sweet sauces or crazy gravy (they have those too, but accurately applied to other dishes). A heavily pounded lean pork loin cutlet, breaded perfectly and came out crispy. And it covered most of the large plate. It had that perfect blend of subtle flavors (and we prefer to put a pile of black pepper on it which is perfect for the dish). The potatoes were cut finely, sauteed in butter and parsley and were delicious. I doubt the roll was homemade, but who cares as long as it was baked correctly. We washed it down on this visit with a Coke Zero. But here's even better news: It's BYOB. We're going to head over here for dinner on a frequent basis, and bring a bottle of Riesling or perhaps a few Warsteiners or Paulaners. Oh, and the lunch price was a complete bargain at $7.99 each (+ the drink). We can't wait to try many of the other dishes here.

Obviously we were very impressed with our first visit. It's a small family owned place. Give them a chance if you enjoy German food like we do!

Note that they are CLOSED on Monday and Tuesday, so file that away.

Website

Everything German on Urbanspoon

Friday, December 9, 2011

Princi Italia ~ Dallas, Texas

While browsing the main DFW page on Urbanspoon, a little blurb caught my eye from the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram: "Homemade Italian sausage". The RJG is always on the lookout for good, high quality, homemade Italian sausage, whether from a restaurant or a local grocer. Unfortunately for us folks on the Ft. Worth side of the house, almost all of the great Italian sausage to be found is in Dallas. And even though it was the Startlegram that brought it to my attention, sure enough the restaurant is in Dallas. Preston Royal to be exact.

I spent a lot of my youth in the Preston Royal area. Not that I grew up here (I wish!), but many times my folks and I would "head east" for a weekend dinner out. While still in high school in the early 1980s, there was a great Italian restaurant called Rodolfo's Colosseo that we frequented often (anyone remember it?). He later dropped the Colosseo moniker, and I can recall my last meal being after college sometime in 1988. I suspect he closed shortly thereafter (there's a sushi place there now). In any case, I had some business to attend to in Dallas and figured the Mrs. and I could try Princi Italia. This would be my first meal to enjoy in the area for some 23 years.

So let's talk about Princi Italia shall we? Nice decor. Very nice decor. Too nice decor. Once in, we saw a large table of middle aged, nicely dressed and well-to-do ladies. Clearly a place for ladies who lunch - and have a spare coin or two. We were stuck in the corner so as to not intrude (not really. Well maybe...). Time to order. I went for the Penne Arrabbiata which they describe as a "spicy tomato sauce, garlic parmesan, basil & chilies." And given the premise for our visit, I asked for a side of sausage. I was informed that it was crumbled, rather than in a tube, which was disappointing to hear, but yes, please mix it in. Mrs. RJG settled on the Tagliatelle Bolognese described as thus: "Classic bolognese sauce, reggiano parmesan, basil". Mine arrived first, due to a mixup in the kitchen (no problem) and my wife immediately blurted out "that's a child's portion!" 'Tis true I'm afraid. The RJG agrees with many that most restaurants serve too much food (though we just take home what we can't eat ourselves). And because we workout everyday, we tend to eat like truckers. But I still prefer a normal portion. This was dinky. How about the food? I thought it was quite good, though terms like spicy and chilies are ridiculous to even consider. Their spicy won't fire up even the most tame of taste buds. But it was a very good light red sauce with basil and the added ground pork sausage was much needed to fill me up a tad anyway. The sausage was indeed very good, but it's sort of cheating. Personally I wouldn't call this homemade Italian sausage. For a great example of what I mean, head over to Pietro's on Lower Greenville (search the RJG, and you can read my love letter there). When Mrs. RJG's food arrives, it was greeted with a frown. She was already bumming about the portion, but when the bolognese came out in a brown gravy sauce, that pretty much soured her for good. There's nothing traditional at all about it. We've spent many weeks in Italy over the last 20+ years, and we never saw anything like this. She just flat out didn't like it. I thought it was good myself. It wasn't a bolognese, but I did like the interpretation. Nice blend of flavors. As well, the pasta was slightly undercooked in places. Tagliatelle is a thin flat noodle (like fettucine but not wavy), and it can clump easily if not stirred properly.

So how to rate Princi then? At the time of this writing Princi has a whopping 4 votes on Urbanspoon and a poor 25% approval rating. One is positive. The other 3 are not. And we're in that latter camp I'm afraid. The problem here, at least for me, is quite simply value. I rarely consider that when rating or evaluating a place, because I have a very large +/- error ratio on that front. But this was a pretty outrageous example. Mine was $10+$3 and hers was $12. For a VERY small portion of food. Ridiculously so. It wasn't an appetizer. The tossed salad was an additional $6, which was about $3 too much (I didn't mention the salad, but we did both enjoy it, and it featured a nice light red wine vinagraitte). I also had a Birra Moretti. That plus tax and tip: $44. And we were still starving when we left.

So it's with mixed emotions, we give Princi a thumbs down. I really wanted to like it. But honestly it looks like another mercurial chef-driven place that will be out of business within the next year. I'm sorry to say :-(

Website

Princi Italia  on Urbanspoon

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Babe's Chicken Dinner House ~ Roanoke, Texas

This is only my second visit to Babe's, the first being about 7 years ago with a former co-worker from my days at Lockheed-Martin in Denver in the late 1990s. Mrs. RJG had been curious about what the fuss was, so we took this day to head over for lunch and get us some fried southern food.

Babe's is a now legendary place in the DFW area and it's not an uncommon sight to see large lines on weekend nights. Babe's first opened its doors in 1993 in old town Roanoke, long before anyone else was there. Due to its increasing popularity, Roanoke is now the town that never was, and is a re-creation of a classic old Texas settlement as one might find at the turn of the last century. Lots of independent restaurants and local chain legends line the streets. It's quite an awesome sight to be honest. I think few would argue against the notion that Babe's popularity was the impetus behind the entire development.

Like many truly legendary places, Babe's offers an extremely limited menu. That is to say, "Wat' you want? Chicken Fried Steak or Fried Chicken?" That's it, though some of the other locations have a slightly extended menu. As we talked about with the "& more" moniker in a prior post, and our general dislike for the term, the RJG loves it when a place focuses solely on what they do best. If you don't want fried chicken, then don't come to Babe's - that's basically the message. Fair enough.

So what do two people typically do when they go to Babe's. One orders chicken fried steak, the other fried chicken - and proceed to split it. It's $12 a person, and along with your main meal it comes with a variety of sides. For openers there is the tossed salad, which is nothing more than crisp iceberg lettuce and a sweet vinagrette dressing (oh and a cucumber and tomato...). Just the way the RJG likes it. Simple but good. Then comes some buttermilk biscuits, which are awesome really, but fortunately they start you off with one each so you don't stuff yourself on bread. Then out comes the half chicken (leg, thigh, breast and wing) and the slab, and I do mean slab, of chicken fried steak. This is not the best fried chicken the RJG has ever had my any stretch, but it is indeed very good - juicy with a nice flavorful crust. I'll be perfectly honest and state that chicken fried steak isn't our favorite meal - but this is a very good rendition of the classic dish. The cream gravy is served on the side, and we sampled a few pieces in it. Good peppery flavor, though not something I'd want to dump on the steak itself. As for sides, you get "Grandma's corn" which is cream corn and whipped mashed potatoes. The potatoes are top tier, so smooth and tasty. I prefer whole corn to cream, but it was good all the same. You can wash all that with a Royal Crown Cola (not something you see everyday).

Babe's is in an old historical brick warehouse with table and chairs that are a mishmash of styles.

A great place to take out of town guests if they're looking for some southern food with a Texas twist.

As of this writing, the original Roanoke location is the #6 highest rated restaurant in all of DFW according to Urbanspoon.

Website

Babe's Chicken Dinner House (Roanoke) on Urbanspoon

Monday, December 5, 2011

San Diego Tacos Shop ~ Richland Hills, Texas

San Diego Tacos Shop proclaims to be the "best Cal-Mex fast food in DFW". I'm not quite sure who the competition is, but based on our one visit, I'm willing to give them the title (for now)!

Set in a day-glo mustard colored old fast food taco joint*, San Diego Tacos provides a wide array of every day Mexican fast food, as one would find in southern California. So what's the difference between Tex-Mex and Cal-Mex? Their website provides one chef's view, to which he articulates the various nuances of the two regional food cuisines. The website also describes their menu in detail - and in English. You may want to familiarize yourself with some of it before heading out, because the restaurant itself does not. However, pictures of the food line the wall for gringos like me.

Mrs. RJG, native of Sonora and a two year resident of Los Angeles, went straight for the Sopes which San Diego Tacos describes as "a traditional Mexican dish which at first sight looks like an unusually thick tortilla with vegetables and meat toppings. The base is made from a circle of fried cornmeal soaked in lime then deep fried. It is then topped with any of the below ingredients. The pinched sides of the sope are its most distinctive characteristic. " What's interesting to me, is the sope is exactly what their family refers to as a gordita. I've been eating "gorditas" almost since the day we started dating 16 years ago. Basically they look like fried ashtrays, with a refrito "soil" base, meat (chicken or grilled beef), lettuce, tomatoes and a Mexican white cheese. Here, that's called a sope. Not sure if it's just a "lost in translation" situation or rather different regions of Mexico interchange the terms - it's anyone's guess.

Whatever they're called, she thought they did a great job with them. The beans in particular she called out as being outstanding. And they used a Mexican cream as well. However, she said those two items dominated the flavors too much to truly appreciate the flavor of the meat.

I went for a carne asada taco, an adobada taco and an order of 3 rolled tacos & cheese. I asked for the hottest salsa they have, and out came the generic red ketchup squeeze bottle right from the fridge. I'm not sure what it is, but I love when salsa come out like this. I can just pour as much as possible onto my unsuspecting tacos. And as Mr. Music says when evaluating taqueria tacos, it's all about the seasoning of the meat and the flavor of the hot sauce. The asada was pretty standard, but I could taste the grilled meat. Good. The 3 rolled tacos are really flautitas by any other name. They came out super crispy, with a fine tasting beef inserted into each. And loaded on top with shredded yellow cheese. And at $1.65 for an order of 3, it's a super bargain. These were excellent. But the best of all was the adobada taco. You don't see adobada much in Texas (or even Colorado), but they're a staple in New Mexico, and it's something I seek out when there. Their menu describes it as "Pork marinated in adobo (chile) seasoning then roasted on a spit." Oh my goodness, it was outstanding! And the red salsa had a really nice kick (not too hot), but with great flavor. And when combined with the abobada seasoning, the flavors went crazy in my mouth. I loved it so much, I had to order another one. This is the kind of food I get cravings for.

I'm all in.

* - I'm almost positive this was originally a Taco Plaza. Do you all remember them? We had one in NW Dallas (on Forest) when I was a kid in the 1970s. My Mom didn't care for them much, so we only went for a couple of times (my Old Man wouldn't go near places like that in the 1970s - "place smells like a fart" he'd grump between puffs on his cigar...). Taco Plaza was bought out by ConAgra in 1977 and later bought out by Taco Bell in the early 80s. Most were converted (as I'm sure this one was).

Rating: 3.5 

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San Diego Tacos Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Red Dog Right ~ Southlake, Texas

Like many folks who live in NE Tarrant, if I have to go to the airport or to the other side, then I must get on Hwy 114 East. Many times I'll do that via Southlake Blvd, and when you do, you'll see on your right a Kirby's Steakhouse, and then Red Lobster and then... whoa... hold up there. What happened to the Red Slobster? It's gone baby. In its place - Red Dog Right. The RJG doesn't shed a tear when the publicly traded company gets replaced with a more local option. In this case, it's still a (local) chain, but I'm guessing Red Dog Right still isn't ringing a bell. And it won't either, as this is a new entry from the folks at Front Burner Restaurants, founded by a Rockfish Seafood guy (guess he knew Kenny too right?).

Front Burner is behind Ojos Locos, Whiskey Cake, The Ranch at Las Colinas... and their most famous brand is Twin Peaks. The name is a wink-wink deal, and what was originally supposed to go into the Red Slobster spot. But hold on there young feller, the good kindly folks of Southlake ain't havin' none of 'dem near nekkid girls here. Oh for crying out loud, really? You have to love uptight people. Anyone who's spent more than a day with gorgeous women will realize that it's less about exploitation and more about the celebration of beauty, confidence and fitness for the ladies. Look, there's a huge difference between a stripper club and a sports bar with scantily clad women. I understand that heavy levels of testosterone, topless estrogen, lots of alcohol and 3 in the morning is a lethal combination. We don't want that either. Contrast that with 8 at night, the Cowboys game and servers that look like the models from Hee-Haw. So what does a enterprising company do - fight it? Naw, too much effort and why bother. How about a new logo? So Red Dog Right was born. Apparently the restaurant is named after the technical name of a football play. Sounds good to me.

The food is upscale bar food. Like our favorite brewpubs in Colorado (where are they in Texas? Oh don't get me started - I know why...), the food is actually quite good and better than you might imagine. Chef's and cooks all over the country are migrating to taverns such as these to create high quality variations of sandwiches, salads, pizzas and burgers. Rather than chips and salsa, the free opener is a box of buttery popcorn. That's a good idea I think! I went with the basic cheeseburger, which was excellent and stands up well against the specialty burger houses in the area. Mrs. RJG went with an individual Hawaiian pizza (always a risky proposition with the wife). But they nailed it - with the right amount of crispness on the crust, tasty sauce, gooey cheese and excellent ingredients.

Red Dog Right also maintains a robust Texas microbrew selection including the Franconia Lager that I just mentioned on the Love & War blurb. First time I've seen it over here. Good frozen margaritas too.

Oh, I should mention that they provide an assortment of board/parlor games to play, including a fully stocked old-school video game area.

I like this place. Though both Mr. and Mrs RJG wish they stocked it with the babes as originally planned. C'est la vie.

Website

Red Dog Right on Urbanspoon

Saturday, December 3, 2011

*** CLOSED *** Cantina Laredo ~ Dallas, Texas

Chain is still open. We'll revisit.

Earlier in the week, we once again had a new project kicking off in Plano, so we had employees all over the country fly in for the start. Sounds like a team event to me! As noted last month, we recently went to Pappasito's, and this time we selected a very similar place with Cantina Laredo. Old time DFW citizens know Cantina Laredo well, as it was one of the first "upscale Tex-Mex" places in the area. I can remember going to the one in Addison as far back as the 1980s.

I've always found Cantina Laredo to be reliably good. On this visit I tried the Tacos Cascabel which they describe as "Sautéed chicken with cascabel sauce on soft corn tortillas with cilantro, marinated onions and queso fresco." I wasn't sure what a cascabel sauce was, but once I heard the words "chipotle" I was in. Whatever they're called, I thought the seasoning and the chicken were great. As for the opening, the chips were restaurant-chain styled light and crispy and comes with two sauces, one heated and one room temperature. They're both chipotle/garlic laced, but I preferred the caliente one. Unfortunately nothing spicy for the RJG. Thumbs up for the frozen margaritas too. I had 4 of them, so yea, I guess I did like them!

A little research shows that Cantina Laredo is part of the Dallas based Consolidated Restaurant Operations chain, the same outfit behind Cool River, Good Eats, Lucky's Cafe, III Forks, Silver Fox... and... and... and... El Chico (euwww, icks!) You don't need a Mensa test to know which restaurant doesn't fit in that group. Oh well. For Cantina Laredo, you will find their restaurants in multiple states as well as foreign locations in the UK and UAE.

This was my first visit to the Dallas Parkway location (near Briargrove). As befits the area, this location was a bit more formal than others around town. It does feature a nice bar / television area to relax in.

Website

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Whataburger ~ Keller, Texas


I know, I know. "Gee RJG, where do you find these obscure restaurants anyway?" To Texans, Whataburger is family. They're the little brother we pick on. We call them gross, stinky, dumb, and goober. But we don't mean it. Now that In-N-Out Burger is here, suddenly we become all protective, and yell back that Californians don't know what a good burger is. Hell, if they could only eat a Whataburger then they'd know!! But it's really two entirely different burger experiences. Whataburger's are Texan BIG. In-N-Out's are Californian fresh.

When I was kid in the 1970s, it was always a treat when my Mom would take me over to the closest one to our house, which was on Walnut Hill in NW Dallas (an old A-Frame building of course) near the UPS depot. They were also there in Lubbock when I attended Texas Tech in the mid 1980s. I loved them then, and I still do. Though they suffer from the same problems that most large franchises do - inconsistency. But if I'm looking for a quick burger at lunch while working, I tend to wander over to my local Whataburger (which is definitely one of their more consistent franchises) and get a double meat with cheese. It's quick, relatively cheap, and usually very good. We didn't have them in Colorado, a good reminder for me at least that we take them for granted. They're far better than the publicly traded companies in this space like McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy's, Carl's Jr/Hardees, etc...

When I first started going to Whataburger 35-40 years ago, they weren't much more than a small Texas chain from Corpus Christi. Today they are ubiquitous throughout the south region. For Urbanspoon purposes, I've included the Keller location, which is the one we frequent the most.

Stop by your local branch if you haven't been in awhile!

Website

Whataburger on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 28, 2011

Italianni's ~ Hurst, Texas


Italianni's started life as a chain concept from Carlson Restaurants (most known for TGI Fridays). Carlson no doubt wanted a piece of the Italian chain dollar and went head to head with Brinker's Romano's Macaroni Grill and Darden's very popular Olive Garden. But the market was already saturated, and they eventually decided to shut down the concept here in the US. The Hurst store however still had a loyal following, and was purchased locally, and has been run independently for close to 10 years now. Interesting to note that the chain is still operating in Mexico, Korea, Colombia and The Philippines - so there's been some discussion about Italianni's needing to change their name. Bud Kennedy on Eats Beat recently reported that was actually going to happen imminently. But on our last visit, they told me that wasn't a concern anymore - and so the name lives on.

Italianni's is one of the few Italian restaurants in the area not owned by families from the former Yugoslavia or Albania. As such, the recipes are all unique, and is in fact a chef driven place. We've tried a variety of dishes, primarily the southern/central Italian classics along the lines of chicken parm, angel hair bolognese, spaghetti and Italian sausage, farfalle rustica, etc... Excellent salad and bread starts the meal off right. And the wine and beer selection is quite robust, and I like that they typically feature one microbrew from Ft. Worth's own Rahr & Sons brewery. Probably the closest restaurant in terms of overall ambiance and menu choices would be I Fratelli in Las Colinas.

Italianni's is a place we go far too infrequently, and surprisingly I have yet to feature it on our blog. It's consistently good - and a great choice for lunch. We've gone probably once or twice a year for about the last 5 year or so. Not sure why that's been the case, but we have every intention of visiting Italianni's more in the future.

Website

Italianni's on Urbanspoon

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Red Barn Bar-B-Que ~ Colleyville, Texas


Nestled in a quiet corner of the very busy Hwy 26 and Glade Rd, Red Barn is a throwback to the rural country barn styled Texas barbecue place. No doubt 35 years ago, this stretch of Hwy 26 was just that - rural country. Once in, you'll notice the all wood interior decorated with signs from the past, and country music blaring from the radio. You order up fast food style and off you go to your wood bench or chairs to savor your meal. The folks working here are consistently nice and will throw in an "extra" if they feel that rib you ordered is a little slight.

We've only been a few times over the years, and to be honest, Red Barn has never wowed us much. I've tried various meats over time, because unfortunately they don't offer a meat sampler platter. The flavors just aren't very bold here, but that's just the RJG's preference. Some folks like their barbecue straight down the middle. No question though, the meats are cooked properly with the right amount of tenderness. The sides are traditional (corn, beans, salads, etc...), but uniformly good. The spicy sauce (I just can't do sweet) is a nice recipe, and doesn't overpower the flavor. Bottom line for the RJG: It's good, and we vote it "Likes it" on Urbanspoon. But it's not a favorite for us, even in the NE Tarrant vicinity.

In reading various reviews from folks more qualified than us, it appears Red Barn has a very loyal following - though there are plenty of detractors as well. Metroplex BBQ, gives it a 5 out of 5 (and linked so you can see a really positive experience), while Full Custom gave it only a 2 out of 5. Based on their scales, we'd be probably 3.5 out of 5.

Red Barn Bar-B-Que on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 25, 2011

Malli's Mexican ~ North Richland Hills, Texas

Malli's is a pleasant little Mexican restaurant situated on a busy stretch of Rufe Snow, north of I-820. It's colorfully decorated, and as you may have noted already, their focus is on authentic Mexican food. Based on the menu alone, it would appear they have Tex-Mex offerings, but we didn't try them (though I will next time). They have a lunch and dinner menu, and we didn't ask if they serve them at all hours.

However, they do serve breakfast all day, and Mrs. RJG decided to go hardcore Mexican today (after all, that is where she's from) and ordered the Huevos con Nopalitos. That is to say, eggs with cactus. Seems like that would hurt don't it? I mean, pulling the needles out of your mouth and what not. No silly, says the wife, it's actually quite delicious and she went on about the process on to which you "harvest" cactus. Whatever you say, dear. Well anyway they were a hit with the wife, cooked with onions and tomatoes and served with either homemade flour tortillas or "out of the bag" corn tortillas.

Now Mr. RJG did something he never does in a Mexican restaurant: Ordered a hamburger. Malli's has a small reputation for making a great Dr. Pepper glazed hamburger, so why not? It ended up being a great choice, though at first I was a bit unsure. See, instead of a bun it comes out between two pieces of toasted white bread. I'd rather see a unique bun of some kind, but we'll let that pass. Otherwise the burger came out well-done (it would be unusual to need to mention this in a Mexican restaurant - they almost always cook ground beef well done) and it was flavorful and juicy due to the seasoning and DP marinade. Best of all is that it comes with two kinds of melted cheese and super crispy bacon. It sort of melts in your mouth. Very, very good.

There are a number of burger bloggers in the DFW area, and I'd be curious what their take on it would be. I'm no expert, but I sure did enjoy it!

Perhaps best of all, is how the meal starts. And that of course would be the chips and salsa. The chips are homemade and crispy. They reminded us of the Mexican restaurants we have in Colorado - especially that they use red corn sometimes. But the salsa was the true highlight. A wonderful roasted chile taste permeates, and it had enough fire in it for me not to ask for a hotter one. It's not overwhelmingly hot though, so I think most everyone can handle it. It's flat out delicious and we finished a rather large bowl of it and a second bowl was delivered without asking.

We'll be back to try their more traditional enchiladas and tacos next time. So far, so great.

Malli's Authentic Mexican Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

*** CLOSED *** Yucatan Taco Stand Tequila Bar & Grill ~ Southlake, Texas


In the early days of the RJG blog, Yucatan was the most requested place for us to visit. This place was all the rage in 2008. A quick check over to the excellent Fort Worth Hole in the Wall blog shows that no less than 38 comments were left for his post. I don't think the RJG has seen 38 comments combined. We never did make it over to the Ft. Worth location on Magnolia, and dallied around long enough for one to show up right here in NE Tarrant. Typical RJG - always a day late and a dollar short. We're sooooooooooo not hip.

This trip represents our second visit, the first was earlier this year. Yucatan is a relatively new "Taco Stand" concept along the lines of Fuzzy's Taco Shop and the various "Baja" designated places. These are gussied up taco trucks, and when you get the final tally, you realize that this isn't your typical Tio Juan's Taco Hut. But it's an easy out to say this place is just for yuppies, and if you want real tacos, you need to hit the bricks in the barrio. There's room for both kinds, and for what Yucatan does, they do it very well.

So high end tacos are the order of the day (they also have burritos and specialty Mexican platters). I think their Tempura fish is outstanding. A large crispy crusted slab of delicious fried batter lay in the layered flour tortillas with cabbage, onions, and a few other goodies. The Tequila Lime chicken is also quite good - all white meat chicken shredded very finely. We had the ground beef on our first visit, but it was kind of bland to be honest. Their tacos are quite large, especially compared to a place like Fuzzy's, so two is plenty if you also get chips and salsa. The chips are lightly dusted with chili powder, and the roasted salsa is delicious with a mild kick. Of course, the RJG insisted on having the "stupid sauce" (habanero) on the side for his tacos. I like that it comes out heated (temperature) - though it's debatable how spicy it really is. It's hot, but hardly "stupid" hot. Believe me, no one knows stupid like the RJG... both figuratively and literally. I also had a frozen margarita to wash it down with. A very potent mixture, and a good deal at $6 (on this front, they destroy Taco Diner).

The downside is this: Yucatan isn't cheap. For the meal I described above (wife had the same two kind of tacos but with a water), it was $25. That's without tip. I mean seriously, it's only a fast food place. A QSR in restaurant speak. I feel funny paying $25 for two at the cash register. I guess I spent a wasted youth at Taco Bell, pulling dollar bills out of my front pocket to cover the $3.50 it cost for 6 tacos and a soft drink. I know, it's hardly the same, but it has a surreal effect when the lady says "That'll be $25". Really? Now to be fair, it's more expensive than Fuzzy's because the tacos are much larger. Are they double the size, like they are in price? No. But they are very good, and dare I say, worth the money.

Maybe Yucatan is not the kind of place we'd go on a regular basis, but it's worth stopping by a few times a year.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Anna's Chicken ~ North Richland Hills, Texas

As promised in the Raising Cane's blurb, the RJG is going to make a solid effort at trying the variety of fried chicken houses in NE Tarrant. Today's visit takes us to Anna's Chicken on Rufe Snow Rd. in North Richland Hills, not far from another RJG haunt - Lina's Mexican Cocina.

Anna's is a classic old convenience store that has been converted into a very bright, fluorescent lighted fast food chicken and seafood joint - where they emphasize that they are a super clean place. Good to know!

Anna's is Asian owned and operated, and they allowed us to try a sample of their butterfly shrimp, which reminded us both quite a bit of the appetizers we've had in some Thai restaurants. For lunch, I chose the 3 piece chicken special with corn and fries while the Mrs. settled on the 2 piece with corn and green beans. Each came with a roll, a pickled jalapeno and a small drink that they dispense for you.

The chicken batter recipe is standard, but they execute it to perfection. Each piece was crispy, hot and the meat juicy throughout. No dryness anywhere nor was it super greasy. The batter was quite light actually, and didn't require an immediate visit to the clinic afterward. The small corn cob was absolutely delicious - clean, crisp and tasty. The fries, beans and roll were standard fare but good all the same. Mrs. RJG really enjoyed the pepper (I didn't try it).

Anna's is a step up from your standard country owned place like Chicken Express, and I presume far more consistent than Church's. But that's the type of fried chicken we're talking about here. No mysterious 11 herbs and spices for Anna's.

Anna's is a good choice if you're hankering for some good old fashioned fried chicken. Stop on by if in the area.

Website

Anna's Chicken on Urbanspoon

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Chef Point Cafe ~ Watauga, Texas

So here we sit in DFW's most highly rated restaurant (according to Urbanspoon). Chef Point Cafe has been featured by both Guy Fiori (DDD) and Paula Deen, as well as numerous DFW area foodie magazines, guides and blogs. The location itself couldn't be more unassuming - a new roadside gas station placed anonymously on a near empty suburban stretch of Watauga Rd. (aka Mid Cities Blvd). A wide expanse of Texas nothingness. A place even Hank Hill would consider dull. And there's no sign to let you know you've arrived. Only a delivery truck sits outside with the name Chef Point. It's an oft told story nowadays: The founders of Chef Point weren't able to secure a loan for a new restaurant, but they could get financing for a new gas station. So up goes a multi-pump / convenience store Conoco with the sole purpose of adding a chef driven restaurant inside. The American can-do spirit thrives once again! The decor could be most politely described as "industrial minimalist" with its bare gray cinder block walls encompassing the red & black interior. Honestly it feels like we're eating at a Firestone Auto Care store. Perhaps that's the point of it all - the surroundings themselves aren't what matters - it's solely about the food.

The menu is a strange bedfellow mix of Southern cooking, Cajun and Italian - along with traditional favorites like hamburgers, sandwiches and pizza. Some folks like their chef driven places to be plat du jour, but not the RJG. We prefer the menu, as this way if we do like a dish, we know we can get it over and over again. Mrs. RJG went for one of Fiori's choices - the Blackened Stuffed Chicken which they describe as "hand stuffed with pepper jack cheese & fresh crab meat, smothered in asiago sauce served over angel hair pasta. " The cheese sauce is sublime and the fillings recall some of New England's finest stuffed fish dishes. The cajun element only adds points to an already great idea.

I've seen many reviews that state Chef Point's fried chicken is the best they ever had. So I figured I'd go Italian and try their chicken parmesan, which would most likely have an excellent crispy breading. I was more than pleased when the round dish came out with a crispy chicken breast sandwiched between bubbling cheese on top and al dente angel hair on the bottom. A very good interpretation of a classic dish, and proved to me they could operate solely as an Italian restaurant if they had wished.

The portions were quite large, and we ended up taking at least half of each home for dinner that night. And the lunch price of my chicken parm was $9, so very competitive I think. I also had a glass of the house chardonnay, reasonably priced at $5.

Since we've only been once, and the menu is quite extensive, we cannot comment much beyond our one meal to date. But we look forward to multiple visits over time. And given its popularity, it appears Chef Point is going to be with us for a long while. They've already expanded the restaurant through the back of the gas station. On our weekday visit, we arrived before 11:30 and the main dining room was half full. It was entirely full when we left, but the new extension hadn't yet seen any diners.

Chef Point Cafe is an excellent place that deserves its recognition. Not surprisingly, a lot of naysayers are coming out of the woodwork to claim "it's not all that great... overrated, only clueless people think this good, bla bla bla". This resistance is to be expected when you're at the top. Like the impetus it took to get the restaurant off the ground, it's the American way.

Website

Chef Point Cafe on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 18, 2011

Taco Diner ~ Southlake, Texas


It feels kind of funny to label Taco Diner as a "taqueria", as this is about as far away as possible to the classic little humble street vendor as you can get. But essentially Taco Diner is in fact a taqueria. A high end, upscale taco truck. With chairs... and frozen margaritas. The diners' themselves are laid out in the classic 60's googie architecture style mixed with a tres hip late 90s ambiance. So if you feel so compelled, wander in alone with a newspaper tucked under your arm and instead of waffles, order up a taco la parilla... and a frozen margarita. Speaking of which, actually don't order a frozen margarita. They're average at best, and at $8 for a small glass, a ripoff to boot. And there ends my complaints about Taco Diner.

Because the food is quite good, and perhaps a bit surprising given the relative blandness of their flagship Mi Cocina tex-mex franchise. Taco Diner is yet another wing of the "M Crowd" (to me this sounds like a late 90s electronica group - which definitely fits their persona). The chips are homemade tortillas, hand broken, and comes with two mild salsas (one green, one red). If you ask for more a spicy alternative, you will be brought a creamy green serrano and an orange-ish chile de arbol sauce. The latter is pretty hot, but lacks flavor. The former is the winner of the group, with the same level of spice, and a fantastic pepper flavor. I tried 4 tacos on this visit: chicken and pork al pastor, bistec and fish. Funny enough I had trouble discerning between the pork and the chicken, but the pastor is very good - though not as yummy as Tres Casas in Keller. The carne had a fine grilled meat flavor. And the tilapia featured the most seasoning, though the achiote citrus marinade was a bit too sweet for my liking. All and all a fine selection - and priced well at $10 for the 4 (you'll pay more at Yucatan). Mrs. RJG settled on the Tacos Cancun, and I think her tacos were even better than mine. Excellent shrimp and spices.

Our first experience with Taco Diner was at the Las Colinas location (~2006), but shortly thereafter they opened the one in Southlake Town Square. Along with Five Guys and Snuffers, this is your best bet for lunch if shopping in the area.

Website

Taco Diner on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 17, 2011

*** CLOSED *** Ted E's Burgers & More ~ Fort Worth, Texas

Mrs. RJG told me that I was on my own this day, so that usually means pizza or burgers for moi (as the Mrs. doesn't go in much for those choices). The original plan was to visit CJ's Burgers in Keller. But unbeknownst to me, or Urbanspoon for that matter, it is closed and is now an Asian restaurant (incidentally right next to a Thai restaurant - no imagination I tell ya...). So I decided to revisit Ted E's which was only a couple of miles south from where I was. The RJG has been to Ted E's only once prior to this visit, sometime in early 2010. I thought it was good, worth coming back, but not sure if it was going to be Top 10 crave kind of place. After this visit, I will say that it's good, worth coming back, but not sure if I need to anytime soon.

I've never been a big fan of the "& More" moniker, as it loudly proclaims that this particular establishment doesn't really specialize in something. I prefer the In-N-Out model - basically we serve hamburgers, fries, hamburgers, shakes and hamburgers. Don't like it, go somewhere else. What they call in the business world, in fancy consulting speak, "focusing on your core competency." So with that in mind, Ted E's has a dizzying array of choices for what is essentially a fast food burger joint. As to compare apples to apples, I decided on getting a simple Ted E's Original cheeseburger. Maybe the dish they do best is the fish taco wrap or perhaps the teriyake glaze chicken sandwich? I don't know, and I'm not sure I'll ever find out. As you know, the RJG likes his spice, so I may opt next time for their Mike T's Hot & Spicy Burger, though the only ingredient I can see that has a chance to make an impact is the chipotle mayo. Sliced jalapeno's are fine to add, but they are what they are - nothing homemade about them.

So how is the burger then? Good. Yep, good about covers it. The bun is like an oversized Johnny B's, and in similar fashion, slightly sweet. It's more fluffy than toasty. The meat has a nice favor, a bit unique, but it didn't wow me. Kind of a chewy burger I guess. The "signature sauce" is another variation of the thousand island dressing theme, which is fine. I don't usually get the fries, but the lunch special is a great deal for $5.49 including fries and a drink. So why not? They were hand cut and chewy (there's that word again). I like my fries thin and crispy, but these were... well, ya know... good.

The decor is fast food like, with an overt sports theme and a few flat screens to watch whatever game is on. There's no alky-haul, so not much reason to stay really. It's all pleasant enough*. *Southern speak for dull.

So if you live in the area, Ted E's is worth a regular visit. But I'm not sure it's worth going too far out of your way for. There are definitely better burgers in NE Tarrant. Maybe it's their Monterrey Club that brings down the house. Who knows? & More?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Mexican Inn Cafe ~ Bedford, Texas


"Full menu" locations: Bedford, Burleson, Mansfield
"Limited menu" locations: Ft. Worth (4), Lake Worth

January 2014 update: The good news is that Mexican Inn is back in Northeast Tarrant! They built a new structure only a few hundred feet from their old one that had to be demolished due to the construction. The 121/183 road expansion continues, so it's still a bit of a challenge to get here, so I recommend for local travelers anyway, to take back roads to Bedford Rd. It's nice to see that this  Mexican Inn is continuing with the full menu, and as such, I replicated the meal that I had below, since it's been well over two years since I last had it. The trademark greasy fritos styled chips, house salsa, frozen margarita, and chicken/shrimp dish were excellent, as last time. The rice was very disappointing this time, and was slightly mushy in texture. The beans lacked the sharp bacon flavor, and seemed a bit murky. Mrs. RJG tried the chile relleno and it was a big miss. As such, her rating is Sell, but I'm maintaining the Buy, as the basics here are good. We'll see on our next visit if this was an anomaly or the new normal. 

January 2012 update (Ft. Worth - Lancaster Avenue location): OK, moving this one forward as we have some updates to share. First, I regret to inform you all that the Bedford location is now closed. It appears it may have been a victim of eminent domain, with concern to all the construction in the area. Or it may just have lost its customer base - folks who didn't want to deal with the 121/183 mess.

So we decided to try the next closest location which technically is on Lancaster Avenue just east of Beach. Though honestly, the one on Henderson or Camp Bowie is probably just as quick to drive to. None of these are around the corner, that's for sure.

And what did we learn, that most of you already know? The 4 Ft. Worth locations and one Lake Worth site have much smaller menus than the Bedford one did! If we want Chicken and Shrimp Ole, we're going to have to haul much further south to Burleson or Mansfield. We were told that the old Bedford location may open in the Precinct Line / 183 area in Hurst near the NE mall (probably close to the new In-N-Out Burger I would presume). All speculation at this point.

Anyway, the small menu is not a huge deal, as the chips (fried fritos), salsa, and margaritas are the same. So I tried the arroz con pollo, which is chicken and Mexican rice covered with a chili cheese sauce and a few slices of jalapenos thrown on top. Mrs. RJG and I still enjoyed our respective meal immensely. Mexican Inn is just flat out a good old fashioned Tex Mex place. And this location was very nice and clean on our visit.

Original review

It's been 6 years since our last visit to the Mexican Inn Cafe, a place that originally didn't make an impression one way or the other. And thus it continued to fall further down the stack in the database, and eventually was forgotten. But the RJG is trying to revisit places that were promising at one time and we just haven't bothered to go back. Such is the case with the Mexican Inn.

And in this case the promise was fulfilled. My original notes said something like "great chips, excellent margaritas, so-so tacos and enchiladas." And you know what? I'd still say something like that. BUT... there's more to the story this time. The RJG is no different than most of you I presume - it's all about finding the right dish. My greatest hesitation about writing off a restaurant is that I may have just missed the meal they do get right. And on this visit, already knowing that their Tex-Mex offerings are decent, but not great, I went for the Chicken and Shrimp Olé. Olé indeed! Now this is worth driving many miles for. The shrimp was buttery and delicious, while the tender white chicken breast is covered in a sublime chipotle barbecue sauce. The rice soaked up the shrimp butter, and was perfectly cooked. And the charro beans had a strong bacon flavor. Really.... wow, it was absolutely great. The kind of dish I could see craving. I have no idea if its consistent time in and time out, but I'm certain to find out. The Mrs. went for a more traditional Tex-Mex of a ranchero covered beef enchilada (she ordered chicken and got beef - eh, it happens - we didn't make a fuss) and a beef taco. The ranchero sauce had a nice kick, and she really enjoyed the dried ground beef. For me, the only drawback is the ground beef itself, which seems to be a bit bland to be honest. Which probably explains my original notes from 2005. And speaking of those notes: The frozen margarita (and the Mrs. had one on the rocks) was still excellent. And perhaps best of all - the chips themselves, which are entirely unique. They're fried corn strips that look like fritos basically - and taste delicious on their own even without sauce. I'll be honest here, the chips are seriously greasy. Crispy, but oily. I know plenty of folks that wouldn't eat these. But not the RJG! We don't run 4 miles a day for fun you know. Rather it's so we can enjoy food like this. And live to tell the tale. Oh, and finally the hot sauce is very good - a pureed tomato blend with a medium kick. Only downside is they don't have a "hotter one" for the RJG - oh, pobrecito :-(

Mexican Inn is a storied Ft. Worth legend that traces its roots to 1936. Like many places from the Depression era, the restaurant was founded by a colorful character, who also ran a gambling den upstairs - ensuring profits one way or the other. The original location was torn down only a few years ago. We've only been to the NE Tarrant representative in Bedford, but I suspect they're all well run. The closer you get to the heart of Ft. Worth, the more authentic it will get. The vibe that is. The Bedford location is Disneyland styled Old Mexico. I mean, what else could it be right?

Olé!

Website

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Al Wadi Cafe ~ Bedford, Texas

On the Prince Lebanese Grill post, I asked if there were any good Middle Eastern restaurants in NE Tarrant? I basically fed that question into Urbanspoon, and out came Al Wadi Cafe - a place that seems to be immensely popular judging by the high rating and number of raters, which as of this writing makes it the #90 most popular restaurant in all of DFW (again, according to Urbanspoon). In fact, the only other restaurant labeled middle eastern in the area is Cafe Medi in Hurst, a place we visited many years ago and need to try again (read: it didn't wow us the first time).

Al Wadi is a classic Regular Joe's hole-in-the-wall. On Brown Trail, just south of Harwood in a shopping center that time forgot, or perhaps it never was remembered - Al Wadi sits patiently awaiting its expected crowd. Next door sits a chocolatier and a middle eastern grocery store. They did everything they could do to spiffy the place up, including adding a charming front patio area for outside dining. Inside is clean and pleasant - not ostentatious as middle eastern places are sometimes wont to do.

The menu features dishes of the middle east and, as is common for places such as this, Greek fare is offered as well. I usually like to try Lebanese dishes first. For a first visit, the results were hit and miss - but definitely good enough to warrant a second try and earn our recommendation. I had the beef and chicken shwarma combo dish. The beef was a bit tough, and there was an ingredient standing out that I just didn't care for. I cannot put my finger on it - almost like when food is cooked in red wine. Obviously that's not the case here, but I cannot describe the flavor any better. The chicken, however, was delicious and perfectly tender. Despite being the same dish with separate meats, the results were completely different. The rice had a great taste, but was unfortunately a bit mushy. This can be the death knell for the RJG, but the flavors were too good to ignore. We'll just give them the benefit of the doubt that it was an off-day. The salad was perfect, with an excellent homemade Greek dressing - exactly as expected. Mrs. RJH opted for the kofta kabob, and it was a definite home run. The perfectly spiced balls of ground beef were some of the best we'd tried. She also tried the hummus, which she said was great. Oh, and she wanted you all to know the vegetables on the kebab were excellent as was the pita bread (I agree). Otherwise her comments echo mine in regards to the salad and rice. So not perfect, but the potential is obviously there. We'll be back.

Website

Al Wadi Cafe on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 14, 2011

Cuco's Sandwich Shop ~ North Richland Hills, Texas

For over 20 years, Cuco's has been serving Cuban food to the citizens of NE Tarrant county. The RJG has always liked the Cuban sandwich: Roasted pork, ham, salami, cheese and mustard - then hot pressed. It's basically the same as a classic panini from Italy, though there are some minor differences which I won't get into here. I think the key to a great Cuban is the bread itself, so that it remains crispy, hot and tasty throughout the life of the meal. And Cuco's Cuban is outstanding, maybe one of the best I've ever had. Now to be fair, I've spent zero time in South Florida sampling Cuban sandwiches - but of the few I've had around the US, Cuco's scores well. Mrs. RJG had the same dish but with sweet plantain's on the side, which she said were delicious.

Cuco's is a quaint little deli, painted bright pink, with a few tables and serves breakfast (starting at 10) and lunch only (closed Sunday). They also sell specialized Latin American grocery products, so it operates on two levels. According to my database, we'd only been to Cuco's once - back in January of 2005. So nearly seven years later, we make our grand return. Obviously Cuco's is surviving without us and will continue to do so. Even though we live close to the northern reaches of North Richland Hills, Cuco's is on the southern side very close to Haltom City. It really underscores just how large the land mass is for NRH. It's quite a haul for us to just get a sandwich for lunch, which is the primary reason we haven't been back sooner. But that Cuban sandwich is great and we both would like to try some of their other pressed selections. We're going to make an effort to come back more often. If you live nearby, consider yourself lucky, and be sure to stop on by!

Cuco's Sandwich Shop on Urbanspoon

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Tres Casas Mexican Grill ~ Keller, Texas


In a small white house, nestled away in old town Keller, you can find the flavors of Old Mexico. About 3 years ago, Tres Casas took over the old Enriques place, spiffed it up just a little bit, and brought some recipes back from home. Tres Casas is not another Tex-Mex joint, but rather the cuisine of central and western Mexico, as you might find in Sonora or Jalisco. Mrs. RJG, who is from Sonora herself, noticed the similarities with the rice, beans, and shredded beef flautas - all highly recommended from her. For me, Tres Casas has the best al Pastor tacos I've had since my last visit to Puerto Vallarta (interesting to note that Al Pastor itself was brought to Mexico by Lebanese immigrants). And it would appear the restaurant knows they have something special here as they named the dish Tres Casas. Now I'll admit that I didn't see the spit (though it may be in the back), but however they make it, it's a very good facsimile.

We've been a few times, but only for lunch, and the plates are relatively small - which is fine by us. The chips are clearly homemade, and excellent tasting on their own. The salsa they bring out is of a chunky tomato variety, and is decent - but not great. Ask for the hotter one and out comes a delicious thick orange habanero sauce. The only other place I've had a salsa like this is at Fresco's in Watauga.

Despite the awesome hole-in-the-wall setting, Enriques was always disappointing to us, and I wasn't surprised to see them go. Tres Casas, on the other hand, is well worth the stop. It's one of the better homespun Mexican cafe's in NE Tarrant. And it's BYOB if you're so inclined.

You'll find Tres Casas on Hwy 377, just north of 1709 (Keller Parkway), on the east side of the road.

Website

Tres Casas Mexican Grill on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Pappasito's Cantina ~ Dallas, Texas

Pappasito's, as many of you probably know, is part of the much larger Houston-based Pappas group of restaurants, and most known for its flagship Cajun-styled Pappadeaux's. Beyond those two, they also own Pappas Burger, Pappas Bar-B-Q, Pappas Bros Steakhouse, Pappas Seafood House, Dot Coffee Shop, and Yia Yia Mary's Pappas Greek Kitchen. Many times you will see these restaurants clumped together, as is the case with the Pappasito's we visited on Lombardy and Northwest Hwy in Dallas. A few of these concepts are only found in Houston.

This particular Pappasito's is inside an ample "restaurant row" area, situated between Loop 12 and I-35E, and serves the Stemmons Freeway business sector. Plenty of hotels and office buildings are nearby guaranteeing a non-stop lunch and dinner crowd. And to the west of Loop 12 is the seedier side of the entertainment industry with plenty of strip clubs, massage parlors, pool halls and liquor stores. Makes for a colorful drive if coming from NE Tarrant along Northwest Hwy (exiting from TX-114).

So why are we here anyway? Well, the RJG mentioned that I Fratelli's is where we tend to meet our business partners and vendors. Those get-togethers tend to be more intimate settings with rarely more than 4 at a table. But what about when we have our employees in town (they're consultants) visiting clients? Sometimes we'll have over 10 folks. Well, for that, we've begun to settle on Pappasito's. It's still half-way for us logistically and it's roomier, more festive, and they serve a mean margarita. Works for me!

There aren't too many surprises at Pappasito's. But it's definitely a cut above "big chain" food. They're mainly a Tex-Mex shop, and for that they're reliable, if not necessarily newsworthy. I've tried a couple of other "upscale Mexican" dishes here, and once again they were good. But it didn't make me forget about Oscar's (Haltom City - review coming one of these days) either.

The one area where Pappasito's really does shine, however, is where you might least expect it. And that's in the hot sauce for the chips. The chips themselves are typical, pretty similar to what you'd get at Chili's. And the sauce they serve you is also standard - a chipotle based recipe that is delicious, but somewhat typical. You know the RJG right? You guys have a hotter one? I honestly thought the answer would be no. I mean, you don't come to Pappasito's looking for a hole-in-the-wall experience. You're there for good times, drinks, sports and laughter - and some bar food to go with it. But he said "yes". But I figured they'd cut up a couple of jalapeno's and throw it on top or something (we've all witnessed this before). Wrong again. Out came this blended sauce with habanero's mixed in! It was outstanding. Brilliant in fact. I don't know if that's standard at Pappasito's or I just got lucky - but that sauce is a MUST! Of course I was the only one of our party (this time we had 6) who could eat it - so maybe not for everyone. But I was happy anyway...

Good Mexican place to go for a group.

Website

Pappasito's Cantina on Urbanspoon

Saturday, November 5, 2011

La Scala ~ Westlake, Texas

The evening plan was to head towards Westlake and go to Diego's Tex-Mex, a place we first started going to earlier this year. But the bar scene there was definitely happenin', and you know what that means right? Cigarette smoke. Heavy. And it carried to the next door restaurant - and even though the bar is sequestered behind closed doors, it didn't matter. Now Mr. RJG grew up with that unfortunate smell from his parents, so I tend to ignore it, though even I admit it gets harder as the years go by. But Mrs. RJG would have none of it. Plans scrapped - now what? Well, I said, there's an Italian restaurant right around the corner by foot, so let's just go there. And here we are at La Scala.

La Scala is adjoined by a Joe's [Pizza][Pasta][Subs] fast food place. I put that in brackets because Joe's is a loose franchise (with various combination of the names provided) somewhat like Ray's in New York City (and famously sent up in a Seinfeld episode). So La Scala shares the same kitchen with Joe's, and despite the fancy surroundings of the restaurant, just know it's window dressing to the same place. As folks in DFW know, if you've been to one Joe's, you most certainly have not been to all the Joe's. I think they start out with a standard recipe book, but each franchiser can do what they want after that. There is no denying this is one of the many Albanian owned Italian restaurants in the area. At least they don't hide from that fact - their website is proud of it. And good for them, they should be. I'm not Italian either, but that shouldn't stop me from enjoying the food.

The meal started off with a delicious toasted bread roll, combined with a decently priced glass of house Cabernet (most NE Tarrant Italian restaurants offer BYOB, but not here in alcohol / business friendly Westlake). The salad was a fresh, crisp lettuce and tomatoes with the familiar tomato based vinaigrette - though this was definitely lighter and more pleasant than usual. I ordered the Penne Arrabiata with Italian sausage. It's amazing how many restaurants get this simple dish wrong. Arrabiata means angry, and it's meant to be a spicy marinara sauce. I've been to places that cook it with anchovies and all other sorts of ingredients that don't belong. I mention this because La Scala gets it exactly right. I only wish it was a bit more spicy, but I'm pretty hard to please in that category. The sausage was definitely not homemade, but I do like they served it sliced and spread throughout the dish. Mrs. RJG went with another test dish - chicken parmigiana. Unfortunately it wasn't very crispy, though the flavor was quite good. The side of spaghettini, however, was a disaster. It was overcooked and mushy! (my penne however was fine). That's a bozo no-no in the RJG world. They should have thrown it away and started with a new batch. I'm sure they had a pile sitting on the counter waiting for the hot water. But overcooked spaghetti is like serving a raw hamburger. Gross. Sooo... it was the only real misstep of the meal, so I'm cautiously giving it a "likes it" on Urbanspoon, but it's not a place that we plan on going to much in the future. Hopefully next time Diego's bar will be empty. But that's for another time in the RJG future...

If you're out of town on business and staying at the nearby Marriott, this is a good place to walk over to and enjoy a nice Italian meal.

Website

La Scala Italian on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 4, 2011

*** CLOSED *** Aleda's Pizza ~ Southlake, Texas

This visit represented only my second time to Aleda's, the first being right after Christmas last year, not long after they opened. Or "reopened" as it were. See, Aleda's has a built-in cult following since they previously owned a place in Arlington called Barry's Pizza Pub, which closed in 2004 after the family relocated to Southlake. Apparently fans of the place begged them to reopen, and in 2010 they gave it another whirl.

I would say that Aleda's style of pizza is definitely unique, and that's a good thing in the RJG's book. The crust is ample on the side and very thin and crispy on the bottom - somewhat like a classic dessert pie. The ingredients are stacked up from there, almost giving it a deep dish like appearance. It's heavy pizza to be sure - this is miles away from the Napolitana wood fired oven pizza craze (which the RJG is a big fan of). I like the sauce taste and the cheese they use is classic for pizza. I went for a 7 inch "carnivore" which was loaded with Italian meats. This is the perfect size for one individual. They have a decent beer selection, so I went with a Sierra Nevada to wash it down. Overall, not my favorite style of pizza, but certainly wouldn't hesitate to go back. Thumbs up from the RJG. (The Mrs., generally speaking, doesn't care for pizza - so I go to these places when she tells me "you're on your own").

Aleda's is a nice little place, with flat screen TVs, a few alcoholic beverages, and even a pizza buffet for lunch (I usually pass on buffets). I suspect a big portion of their business is take-out. Aleda's is just south of Bicentennial Park on FM 1709 (Southlake Blvd).

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Raising Cane's ~ Hurst, Texas

So this represents the first entry of a chicken place into the RJG. Mr. and Mrs. RJG definitely enjoy fried chicken, but it's something we pretty much eliminated from our diet over the last few years. But we're slowly adding it back, and we hope to add a few similar entries in the next year.

A buddy of mine who used to own a franchise of 14 Taco Bells, once declared to me "the real money is in chicken!" Of course he had a front row seat to that general ledger, as Taco Bell is part of the Yum Brands, which also happens to own Kentucky Fried Chicken. And this might explain why there's a proliferation of chicken chains throughout the country. Not to mention it's incredibly tasty food, though hardly on any dietitians recommended consumption list.

Raising Cane's started in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 1996, and is the latest success story in fast food. The website has a full story behind the restaurant chain, and it's yet another inspiration tale of a "if there's a will, there's a way".

As for the chicken itself, we've had better, but it's definitely good. Their gimmick is all white meat chicken fingers - so no bones to get in the way. The chicken came out hot and juicy, but I didn't detect any unique flavors beyond the usual. They make a big fuss out of their dipping sauce, but honestly it wasn't an earth mover. It's a mayonnaise based concoction with mild spices mixed in. So mild in fact, you can barely taste it with the chicken. So I dipped the out-of-the-bag Ore-Ida fries into it instead to try to discern the flavor. The Mrs. said the cole slaw was disappointing - too saucy and sweet. The soda selection is lame with only Diet Coke on offer for those who avoid the sugary drinks. Prices were reasonable, considering how expensive chicken can get.

Have a hankering for some white meat chicken fingers? Definitely give Raising Cane's a try. I doubt, however, that it will be a regular stop for the RJG. We rate it "Likes it" on Urbanspoon.

Website

Raising Cane's on Urbanspoon

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Miguelito's ~ Hurst, Texas

Miguelito's is another restaurant that the RJG discovered via a coupon book I bought in 2003, which helped us discover many of the restaurants in the area (we had just moved back from Colorado). I would say that from 2004 to 2005, Miguelito's was perhaps our favorite Mexican restaurant in NE Tarrant. But then Mrs. RJG soured on the place, and according to my database, we last visited in the summer of 2006. And finally we have returned after a 5+ year exodus, after a complete fall from grace.

The restaurant is a pleasant place, a combination of 60's Tiki and Mexican beach resort. A welcome retreat on this tired segment of Bedford Euless Rd. For the food, the chips are very good, warm to the touch and served in small metal bowls. A server is never too far away to ensure a new bowl is ready when you are. The salsa is stored in a jug on the table, and they provide little serving bowls to pour into. The RJG has always liked this concept, since he tends to over eat on chips and uses an excessive amount of sauce. This way I don't constantly look around for a server to bring more. Oh, and the sauce is delicious.

While Miguelito's does a fine job with combo Tex-Mex platters, I think they do a better job with more upscale dishes. On this visit I tried the chicken diablo, which are cubes of white meat chicken marinated in a very spicy sauce on a bed of Mexican rice. I only wish the chicken itself was charbroiled rather than just boiled. Now Mr. RJG loves to seek out places that have dishes with the word "diablo" (or diavolo in Italian). That always infers extra spicy and that's what I want to hear (and taste and smell...) Years ago, when Mr. RJG was with coworkers in California, we dined at a Mexican restaurant where I made a beeline for the Diablo dish. One of the guys started calling me "Doctor Diablo". The name stuck. Anyway... Mrs. RJG did go for a Tex-Mex plate, and it was lukewarm temperature. Ugh! Now it looks it will be another 5 years before we come back.

As an aside, the frozen margarita I had was weak and watered down. That was unfortunate. Not a dealbreaker, but I need reasons to go back. Maybe the diablo will make that happen. We'll see. Thumbs up from Mr. RJG, thumbs down from the Mrs.

Miguelito's also features a full bar and has flat screen televisions all around.

Website

Miguelito's Mexican on Urbanspoon