Showing posts from November, 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…

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 fo…

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 a…

Malli's Mexican ~ North Richland Hills, Texas

Last visit: August 2016
Last update: December 28, 2017

Malli's is a favorite of Mrs. RJG and her mom. I haven't been in over a year, but they had frequented the place more recently.

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 …

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

December 30, 2017 update: Yucatan are still open on Magnolia in Fort Worth as well as a newer location in Dallas. If we go there, we'll update this post and move forward.

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 ta…

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 perfec…

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 minim…

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 90…

***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 …

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 wa…

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. Insid…

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 prod…

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 lu…

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 …

Esparza's ~ Grapevine, Texas

Last visit: May 2017
Last update: June 17, 2016 

Let's slip in another update here. We tend to frequent Esparza's roughly 3 to 4 times a year. This is one of the few Mexican restaurants left in DFW where I strictly stay with Tex-Mex. I've tried their more "interior" dishes, and remain nonplussed. So, as bolded by me below, Puffed Taco dinner it is. And Mrs. RJG continues to love the vegetarian Chile Relleno.

We mentioned earlier in this blog that Miguelito's in Hurst was one of our go-to places from 2004-2005. But our very first regular Mexican food fix in NE Tarrant was Esparza's. An old Dallas neighborhood buddy first recommended the place to us, and it was an instant hit at the RJG household. From 2003 to 2004, I'd say we went here more than any other Mexican restaurant. But, as with Miguelito's, the Mrs. began to sour on the place for a variety of reasons. That left Mr. RJG going solo, or with neighborhood friends, on a very infrequent basis. …

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 Scal…

***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 "car…

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 "i…