Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Cane Rosso ~ Dallas, Texas


Today we have another restaurant entry from our own Mr. Music! The RJG has yet to go, but we have every intention to do so. We mentioned Cane Rosso in the Cavalli post, as they are the other pizza place in DFW that (currently) has earned the seal of approval from the VPN (Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana). In fact, the RJG hasn't been to any venue in Deep Ellum since my underground radio days in the early 90s. I don't think I've stepped foot in the neighborhood since 1993. And no doubt back then it would have been with Mr. Music and some other running buddies, most likely checking out some new band. My 20 year involuntary holdout will most likely end with a visit to Cane Rosso. Onto the review....

I have always been a big pizza fan (who isn’t?), but it seems like pizza just keeps getting better and better! My most recent love is the pizzeria that claims certification from VPN (Verace Pizza Napoletana) an association which can legally (in Italy) give designation to pizzerias that meet the requirements in respect of the traditional art of making Neapolitan pizza. I guess it’s kind of like German beer makers following the German Beer Purity Law. Only certain ingredients may be used following a specific process. For instance, the dough must consist only of sea salt, water, yeast and imported 00 flour. No, I haven’t gotten hung up in all the details of that - I've just found that the 2 places that I’ve gone to that have this certification also make awesome pizza. And I am hung up on that!

In a recent trip (about 3 weeks back), I trekked from Denton to Deep Ellum to try Il Cane Rosso. It is a haul, but when I first heard about the place and after doing some research, I knew I was going to love it! Mrs. Music and my eldest daughter went to Six Flags, so I packed Baby Music up and hit the road. I decided to call ahead in case it was busy. I knew Baby Music would not sit still for too long so I thought I’d just take it to go. They told me that it only takes about 90 seconds to cook their pizza in the 1100 degree wood fire oven! I couldn’t make up my mind, so I decided on 2 with the thought of leftovers for Mrs. Music and Music Junior. The Regina Margherita, a beautifully simple pizza made with Italian tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella and basil. And the Gus with Italian tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, Jimmy’s homemade sausage (see last post) and mushrooms. When I got there, it was packed! It is a cool layout with a bar in the center - complete with several taps containing great local craft beer choices (Peticolas, Franconia, Rahr, and others) - and a dining area on a side or 2 and a good sized outside area on the other. As I waited, I noticed one of the taps had Blood and Honey, a new brew from Granbury’s Revolver, one of the newest breweries in town. I asked the bartender if I could just have a taste while I was waiting. He was very friendly and upbeat, and poured me about 8 oz. and smiled saying “here’s your taste!”. As I enjoyed the beer, I made friends with a couple of patrons also waiting for pizza to go. When the pizza came, I opened the boxes to take a peek: They looked amazing and the aroma was almost too much to take! I strapped Baby Music into her seat and was about to drive off - but shoot by the time I would get home, my pizza will be cold! I pulled over and had a slice of the Gus right there! OMG, everything hit at once. The spicy sausage was intense and the tomato sauce was so simple and elegant. I tasted the basil, mushrooms and cheese and ohhh Lord, this might be the greatest crust I’ve ever had! It was perfectly chewy and light and flavorful. A slight hint of sea salt was present – I think I just found my favorite pizza of all time! I decided I better try the Margherita too. It was just as I expected - perfect, mellow deliciousness! I ended up eating half of each pizza before I got home. I saved the rest and heated up the next morning on my pizza stone. I followed the directions on the take out box! Heat at 450 for 5 minutes on a pizza stone. It came out perfectly. Mrs. Music and Music Junior was as mesmerized by the pizza as I was. It wasn’t a week later that we were in the vicinity of Deep Ellum with my cousin from New york. We trekked there on a Saturday afternoon and got the same exact pizzas to go! We sat in the parking lot and scarfed them down right there. We all loved them as much as we did the first time, and my cousin, being from NY was amazed! Next time I want to try some of the other pizzas. One of the pizzas high on my list is called the Motorino. It is topped with Burrata (mozzarella and cream - means buttered in Italian), Jimmy’s sausage, Calabrian chilies (red chilies kin to the pepperoncini) , friarielli (a green that cooks up like spinach aka rabe), and basil! I also hope to dine in and enjoy some nice beer while there.

Website

Cane Rosso Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

*** CLOSED *** Taco Villa ~ Benbrook, Texas


You may recall that last week, while awaiting the NFL Championship games, Mrs. RJG and I journeyed a bit NW to Justin for a light lunch. And for this Sunday, it was the off-week before the Super Bowl, so we decided for a longer country drive. So we went 'a Courthousin' and a' Antinquin'. The RJG is very much an admirer of our Texas courthouses. I'm fascinated by the architecture, the isolated locations, and the history. We even own a coffee table book about them, that I've seen our guests look through intensely - and many our natives to Texas and never paid attention until now. Mrs. RJG loves the little shops that hug the square. As long as she comes home with at least one cute thing for the house, then she considers it a fun and successful trip. We didn't go anywhere we hadn't been before, but we took a slightly different route this time. On this trip we headed SW to Granbury, up to Palo Pinto and back through Weatherford. Granbury, of course, is a destination for many - and there are plenty of shops to peruse. Mrs. RJG found a large cast iron door stop, that features an early 1900's lady playing golf. Perfect, since I appreciate not only that it's a nice item - but it's useful! And we enjoyed a little Blue Bell ice cream off the square to wrap up our time there. Leaving the square, we entered FM 4 and headed north to Palo Pinto, which is a new route for us, and a very pretty drive in its own right. And besides, I had to see Lipan. Why on Earth? Because Lipan is what I call a "David Finfrock town". He has all these pet places that he picks from the state to demonstrate what the weather is doing there. And the ones he chooses must of course play to his Texan accent. LIE-PAN. There's nothing there of course, but we knew that. Palo Pinto is a great example of a magnificent courthouse in the middle of absolutely nothing. There's no commerce, but plenty of empty buildings surrounding it. If I were rich, I'd buy the whole thing and make something of it. Maybe a nice brewery? Wouldn't that be fun? Anyway, most of the county lives in nearby Mineral Wells which we went through on the way to Weatherford. Coming in east on 180, the courthouse is absolutely striking, especially as the sun begins to set.

All this to say: What better place to start the journey than to grab a nice fast food lunch at Taco Villa! Benbrook is the gateway to points west, and is the ideal spot for this West Texas chain to poke their head into the DFW market. The below was written this summer on one of our roundups. I've moved (and updated) it here to give it its own space. BTW, this has become Mrs. RJG's favorite crunchy taco place. Or as she likes to jokingly call them "tacos creespy".

Taco Villa is one of the RJG's favorite taco chains. I think I've been twice in recent years, both times while stopping through in Amarillo. Once I heard that Taco Villa was here in DFW, Mrs. RJG and I had to plan a special trip. It's a healthy 40-45 minute drive on a weekend with no traffic to get to Benbrook. So we went on a Sunday for lunch. Taco Villa has fantastic crunchy fast food tacos. I mean really fantastic with great tasting ground beef, and a very good hot sauce (though not very spicy, but great tasting). Lots of cheese and one big tomato slice round them out. Though expensive at $1.29 each, you get what you pay for. Not surprisingly the early reviews are in, and many suggest it's not as good as Taco Bell or whatever. Yawn. I'm so grateful for the opportunity to have a choice! The Benbrook location is new, clean, and the quality is excellent. The fact they chose Benbrook suggests that they are nibbling away at the Ft. Worth market. I really wish they'd make a bold move and quickly jump up here to Northeast Tarrant! Keller / Southlake / NRH / Grapevine / Colleyville / Hurst / Watauga could really use a place like this. :-). So it's not likely we'll visit much. But at least it's closer than Amarillo!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Jimmy's Food Store ~ Dallas, Texas

Today's post comes courtesy of Mr. Music. He asked that I post this on his behalf. Before we get to that, just a quick note that Mrs. RJG and I love to go to Jimmy's and buy homemade Italian sausage. We usually get 6 pounds, 3 of the sweet/mild and 3 of the spicy. That'll usually last us a few months. We have yet to try their deli for a meal though. Obviously, after reading Mr. Music's description below, we need to consider that pronto. Though it's tough to be that far down in Dallas and not go to Pietro's...

Last Saturday Mrs. Music and I took the kids for a ride to Jimmy’s Food Store. From Denton, it is quite a ride to East Dallas, but it was a nice day and I had not been in that neighborhood for awhile. I’ve been to restaurants all around Bryan and Fitzhugh and have heard about Jimmy’s for years, but for some reason never made it down there. I finally made a solid decision after recently falling in love with their homemade sausage on a pizza at ll Cane Rosso (my next review for RJG)! Mr. RJG told me he went to Jimmy's recently and stocked up on some homemade sausage so I decided to follow suit. Mrs. Music and I decided to make it a lunch/shopping trip, so we wandered around the store for a few minutes and gazed at all the great goodies before heading to the meat market at the back of the store. When we got back to the counter, we met Eric, who works there and assisted us with all sorts of great info. The menu has about 15 sandwiches on it and are listed on a large white poster board with photos of most of them. It was tough making a decision. They had homemade sausage and homemade meatball subs, but I passed since that is what we were going to take home! They had a Cuban, a muffalata, roast pork with broccoli rabe and provolone, chicken with roasted peppers and mozzarella, a few different cold cut subs and a tuna sandwich. Mrs. Music went for the Prosciutto Panino which had prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, basil and olive oil on a roll. I really wanted to try one of everything, but decided this time I had to go for the tuna! Tuna, you say? This is not your average tuna. No, it is tuna with extra virgin olive oil, capers, artichoke hearts, black olive spread and hot peppers! It sounded so unusual, I had to try it! My next choice was the roast pork with broccoli rabe - perhaps next time! Eric advised us that the sandwiches were very big so we left it at that. He also mentioned that we could get a bottle of wine, or beer, or other drinks in the grocery section - and settle down in one of the two seating areas and enjoy our food. In the front of the store is a small area facing the window of the store with about 5 small tables. And behind the meat market is a large room with a dozen or more tables where they also host wine tasting events. We decided to sit in front with the counter on one side, and a view of Bryan on the other. One thing I was a little worried about was the bread; the pictures sort of made the bread look a bit generic, but when we unwrapped our monstrous sandwiches, I was very pleasantly surprised. The muffaletta shaped rolls must have been home baked and were the size of small islands! One bite and it was over! The bread was delicious with a thin crispy crust and a soft, fresh middle. The tuna and all the fixings were sublime! The light tuna with buttery olive oil contrasted beautifully with the tangy capers, olives and pickled peppers and the artichokes just made it better! Huge as it was, I ate every crumb. Mrs. Music’s sandwich tasted as lovely as it looked and sounded. She was stuffed after forcing her 3rd quarter down and I could not help gorging on her last piece. The dense flavor of the chewy cured ham married with the delicate mozzarella, the refreshing flavor of the basil, fresh tomato and pungent olive oil made my taste buds sing! Oh, did I mention these amazing sandwiches were just $6.99 and $7.50? After a couple glasses of wine and our meals, we picked up a few pounds of homemade meatballs, hot Italian sausage and mild Italian sausage to bring home and freeze. The sausage was awesome with some pasta and sautéed veggies. My only regret is buying so much to take home; how will I survive until I need to go back for more? I'm already dying to go again!

Website

Jimmy's Food Store on Urbanspoon

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Smashburger ~ Watauga, Texas

It appears all along that Smashburger was designed to be the next big thing in burgers. Their website is quite telling. There's no history talking about how Mom spent years working in the back kitchen of a bakery working out a special burger recipe, and finally scraped enough pennies to open her first store. And by word of mouth, it was so popular a second location opened up 10 years later. And finally some investors came in, and bought out sweet old Rosie May, and began to franchise the concept. NOPE. What you get to read about instead is their Executive Team and Board of Advisors. Even McDonalds has a good story to tell. Not Smashburger, unless you're enthralled with something that goes along the lines of: "We sat in a boardroom, and came up with a new winning concept regarding the QSR industry. Our return to investors is...". Smashburger is based in Denver, and really that is an excellent locale to seed their idea. Other than the drive-through only Good Times Burgers, there really isn't any major local burger chains in the area. And Denver is a proven stomping ground for chains in the making - one needs to look no further than Quizno's, Chipotle, and Qdoba to determine that. As you all well know by now, the RJG resided in Colorado (mainly Denver) from late 1993 to early 2003. There were no Smashburger's then. We first heard of the chain while spending the summer of 2009 there. I tried the location in the Denver Tech Center (Greenwood Village). It was packed to the rafters, and quite frankly the burger is very good. I vowed to return, but there were just too many other places in Denver to try, and I never made it back.

As mentioned in the premise, Smashburger wasn't meant to be a local or regional chain. And now they're spreading the country like a weed. DFW already has many locations, most opening up in the last couple of years. And Watauga was chosen for our Northeast Tarrant location (technically Ft. Worth for that one guy who gets bent out shape about these things).

Since this is really a Corporate America restaurant, I'd say this location is already on its back heels. Because it's all about money, I don't know if it will be given a chance to thrive. There were only a couple of folks in the restaurant, and it was Noon time. It was nothing like the scene I saw back in Denver. But the reality is this: There's only so much burger dollar out there. DFW isn't Denver. We have tons of burger places already. And with the new genre of burger houses offering up a full array of beers, and other libations, that alone wipes away part of the market. As for strictly fast food options, not only do we have our indigenous Whataburger and Mooyah, but we've been invaded by popular outsiders such as In-N-Out and Five Guys (we've written about all of these in the past). And that doesn't even begin to discuss the megachains, and popular local places. As a corporate guy myself, I'm going to say that Smashburger didn't do their homework regarding this market. We'll see. I'm sure some locations are doing OK, but the Watuaga one is way too lonely of a space. (Update: Cowboy Junkie informs us that dinner time is standing room only, so it appears they are doing quite well!)

Oh, you came here to read about food, and not business? Sorry about that. So there's a lot less to talk about regarding the food. It's a burger joint. Their gimmick? Roll up the patty like a big ol' meatball, and then... (can you guess this part?)... they SMASH it. Wowweeeee. Amazing. Is it good? Heck yea! It has that key ingredient that makes all of our favorite burgers so great: Salt. And I like the egg buns, which are soft and delicious. And be sure to use their spicy chipotle mayonnaise as a condiment. In the end, Smashburger is good at what they claim to do.

But will I be back? Maybe. If I'm in the area, or if I haven't been in a long time. Hopefully they'll still be there, but I have my doubts. There's just too many other choices out there right now. Perhaps if they open a location within 5-10 minutes of our house, that could increase the chances that we'll go.

Rating: 3.5

Website

TripAdvisor

Smashburger Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, January 21, 2013

Taco Mayo ~


May 2015 update: The Justin location mentioned below is closed. The chain is still going, so I just need to find a stable location. Last one we went to was in Wichita Falls.

It was roughly 5 years ago that I first wrote about Taco Casa, and our trips up to Durant, Oklahoma. I mentioned that one day I would write about Taco Mayo. And here we are.

Since my Dad was a traveling salesman (he sold industrial uniforms to large laundries), I spent many a time in the car with him - especially in the summers before I was old enough to get an off-school job. Oklahoma was one of his prime states, and we'd probably travel to Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Enid, or Clinton at least 3 times a summer. According to their website, Taco Mayo started in 1978, and that's within one or two years of when I recall first going here. Dad was a big breakfast eater, and felt lunch was optional. I held the exact opposite view, so on those days he didn't have a client to entertain for lunch, I could usually arm twist him into taking me to the local taco establishment (he hated tacos - as long as he was allowed to smoke, he was fine - and you could do that in those days!). And the local option in Oklahoma was usually Taco Mayo. Since we didn't have them at home, I wanted to take advantage of the situation (and some 35+ years later, I haven't changed one bit).

Slowly, but surely, they are starting to penetrate the DFW market. A few years ago, they opened one up in Bridgeport, which makes for a nice getaway drive, but is entirely too far to grab fast food. And now, starting last summer, they've entered Justin. While not exactly around the corner, for those of us in Northeast Tarrant, a pleasant 25 minute drive up 114 (and further north on 156) awaits you if you're so inclined. And on this past Sunday, with the NFL Championship games starting at 2:00, Mrs. RJG and I were looking for a light lunch as well as a bit of a country drive to pass the time. Taco Mayo was the perfect solution.

Taco Mayo is from the old school of fast food crunchy styled taco stands. They have the usual menu that also includes soft tacos, burritos, nachos, and quesadillas. For places such as these, it really gets down to two things: How is the taste of the ground beef and how good are their hot sauces? Everything else is a variation on that theme. And it's on this front that Taco Mayo makes it worth the journey. Their meat has great flavor, with cumin standing out as a seasoning. Lettuce and shredded cheese are piled on top. The shell is appropriately crunchy. Like many of the taco chains, they provide the salsa bar that includes everything from a verde to a hot taco sauce. I'm quite fond of their hot - not so much for the heat level but the overall taste. I think the overall taste of the tacos are great. They're light and delicious. And for drinks, they have one of those newfangled Coke machines that allows you to mix and match different flavors for some 125 plus combinations.

If you're looking for a traditional taqueria or one of those fancier margarita fueled taco joints, then this isn't it. If you want a better alternative to Taco Bell - then give Taco Mayo a shot wherever you see them. If Justin isn't in the cards, there are at least half a dozen locations up and down I-35, right off the freeway, throughout Oklahoma. A perfect roadfood.

Website

For purposes of Urbanspoon, I think I'll just add the Justin locale. I've been to many of them in Oklahoma, in particular the Paul's Valley and Oklahoma City (SE 44 and I-35) locations. But with a Taco Mayo so close now, I probably will look for another roadside locale to try next time I'm passing through the great state of Oklahoma.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Hopdoddy Burger Bar ~ Dallas, Texas

(I took/borrowed/stole this photo from the D Magazine website, so credits go to them.)


Many of you will probably remember my series on Keller Goes Burgers and Beer last January and February. In the timespan of a month, downtown Keller ended up with four new establishments cashing in on this concept. Namely: Yourway, Keller Tavern, Bronson's, and Bottlecap Alley. We liked the burgers at all four places, and while the beer selection was certainly better than average, they all could have used improvement in this area. I recall having a distinct conversation with the bartender at Yourway promising new beers would be introduced regularly. About two weeks ago, I snuck into Yourway and took a look at their taps. Nothing has changed in one year. Now to be fair, none of them claimed to be fully stocked beer bars (like Ginger Man does), and I thought they did a fine job on their core product, which is the hamburger. But...

...but if I were owning one of these fine restaurants, I would start looking over my shoulder at what's coming on the horizon, and perhaps get ahead of the curve. You don't have to beat all the competition, just the local ones. There's an old story/joke that gets passed around in leadership/management training, that no doubt some of you have heard. So the story goes that there's two guys camping in a tent deep in a National Forest. In the middle of the night, into the tent comes a black bear for a night of snacking - preferably on the campers themselves. One guy starts freaking out, and screams "What should we do?". The other camper, meanwhile, calmly puts on his sneakers. The first person gasps "You can't out run the bear!" And he replied "Yes, that's true, but I can out run you".

And the bear in this story are the new generation of burger and beer places. In December, we visited Rodeo Goat, one of our most popular entries, and a restaurant that is getting serious attention over at Urbanspoon - and has been rated in the Top 10 of all places in DFW for the last two months. And now we have those Austin black bears sniffing around our good town with their own creation: Hopdoddy Burger Bar. And they're not even messing around with the Bud, Bud Light, Michelob, or even Shiner thing. Only "Craft Draft from Local, Small Batch, Artisanal Brewers". Where do I sign up? Who do I need to influence to get one here in Northeast Tarrant (same for Rodeo Goat actually)? Now their website lists some droolworthy beers, but does caution that selection varies by location. That's fair, but I sure hoped they would've "imported" more of those delicious Austin beers. They did bring two along, that we've also seen in places like Flying Saucer - that is (512) and Live Oak. Otherwise they celebrate our local brewers and I'm all for that too! So if you're looking for a place to try Lakewood, Deep Ellum, Franconia and Peticolas, Hopdoddy is a great place to do so. Their website also lists Circle, Thirsty Bear, Austin Beerworks, Ranger Creek (San Antonio beer), and Independence, but I guess for now you'll have to go to Austin to try them. The RJG has managed to try at least one from each of those except Thirsty Bear and Austin Beerworks.

So, RJG, talk about the burger - you lush you! And for those that drink Sprite with their meal, you will be no less excited, as the burgers here are delicious. I tried the Terlingua burger, which is their chili burger (I'm sure you already figured that out). Most chili burgers are a complete mess. And I was prepared for it. Our waitress even asked if I wanted a fork with it, and I said yes. But I didn't need it. They put just enough on, to get the flavor, but not to dominate. The chili is meaty, and they also add in some Fritos to give it the consistency it needs. The burger flavor itself is delicious, with plenty of good seasoning provided in the beef mixture. The overall combination is divine. My old buddy had the Buffalo Bill since he's been on a blue cheese kick of late. He said it was awesome. We each enjoyed a couple of beers with our meal - I had the Peticolas Golden Opportunity and Lakewood Rock Ryder, while he had the latter along with a Franconia Kolsch.

The service is a bit odd. When you walk in, you will be assigned a table on a ticket. You take that ticket to the front counter to order your meal and first round of drinks. Then you find the table that you were assigned. From there on it becomes full table service so if you want more drinks, they attend to that, and bill you separately. Weird idea, though I suppose if you don't get any more to drink (or eat), it adds to the efficiency. And if nothing else, the RJG is proud to make the experience inefficient. As well, it ensures folks don't snag tables until it is their turn.

We arrived early at 11:00 am and had a choice of seating. By 11:30 there was a line out the door. So file that away. As an alternative, especially for solo travelers, is that you can just sit at the bar - if there's room. Hopdoddy is situated in Preston Center, a perfect spot for such a place. I predict it will be here for many years to come, if they stick with their core principles. As for us folks in Northeast Tarrant, it's a destination place, and well worth the 30-45 minute drive.

Website

Hopdoddy Burger Bar on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 4, 2013

Lone Star Bar-B-Que ~ Fort Worth, Texas


Lone Star Bar-B-Que is seemingly a mix of my last two posts: Barbecue - but near the intersection of Western Center and N. Beach in far north Ft. Worth. We have two of our official nieces (ages 20 and 13) in from Denver today, and so Mrs. RJG took the girls out to clean out our bank account for a day of shopping, thus leaving Mr. RJG on his own for lunch, perhaps the last one until I head over to a loan officer. Seeing that my meeting schedule was wide open, I took advantage of the situation for a completely "new to the RJG" place. And I let Urbanspoon be my guide today. And as a random choice, none other than Lone Star Bar-B-Que popped up. It seemed very popular with prior visitors, and 'cue sounded good, so off I went to points west.

What you first notice about Lone Star Bar-B-Que is this isn't some dive in the hood, or a country shack where a 5 toothed guy named Otis asks "Whadya hav'?". It's actually pretty nice. You could take a young family here and not feel guilty about it. So it's more Spring Creek than... well... Black Diamond.

I went with the 3 meat platter and 2 sides. For this visit, I chose the sliced brisket, pulled pork and sausage. They asked me what kind of sauce I wanted, so I chose the spicy out of a choice of 3. Unfortunately they dumped it right on the meats. My bad... I meant to ask for it separate. Oh well, too late. And for sides I chose macaroni & cheese and corn on the cob. Pretty much my staple "start up package". I stuck with the soda fountain, but they do serve beer, but nothing out of the ordinary. All of this was served with a fluffy dinner roll. I'm set.

The pulled pork absorbed most of the sauce, and that was probably a good thing. It was a bit fatty, and not really that flavorful... below average on the whole. I was already regretting not getting the pork ribs, which I will insist going forward to be an essential part of my original tasting. The sliced brisket was very good, though not overly distinctive. It was tender with a nice smoked flavor. The sausage, on the other hand, was delicious. I loved the flavor and texture. Just the right amount of spices. As for the sides, the mac & cheese was also excellent (hey, that's two in a row for me!) with a nice gooey cheese taste. The corn was... well, it was corn. I need to at least pretend to eat something healthy.

Will I be back? You betcha! I want to try the pork ribs (as recommended by the manager) as well as the chicken, turkey and.... yep Bologna! I'll be certain to bring Mrs. RJG as well. It's OK - it's safe!

Website

Lone Star Bar-B-Que on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 3, 2013

3 Parrots Taco Shop ~ Fort Worth, Texas


And this will be our final restaurant to report on from 2012. And while on that topic, I'm going to attempt to keep up throughout 2013 (ohhh... I've heard that before!), something I've failed to do since I started this blog in 2008. So I needed a solution to this dilemma, as I know my schedule will not always allow for blogging. After some thought, one way to keep up is to update posts as I go, rather than get plowed under from a mountain of paperwork. And with that in mind, I plan on doing updates to each former post, on their original post date. This way I can clean the site up as I go - very slowly. So how do I accomplish such a feat? By adding a tag/label. If you want to keep up where the RJG goes to eat, then click on the 2013 update label that you see on the right column. And then of course there will be new additions as we continue to try new restaurants, and/or revisit places that for one reason or another I've never written about here on Regular Joe's Guide.

With that administration out of the way, let's talk about today's restaurant: 3 Parrots Taco Shop. This was a recommendation from regular reader and fellow blogger Cowboy Junkie. So Mrs. RJG and I headed west to check out the latest Taco Shop. The RJG loves these kind of high end taco places, so if we hear about a place, it's usually an easy choice for a quick visit (and yes we've been to Don Taco too. I need one more visit before it gets into the RJG).

To make this easy for you all, I will summarize quickly: 3 Parrots is a carbon copy of Fuzzy's Taco Shop. The only difference is that their tacos are larger, and only slightly more pricey, thus making them a good bargain. Otherwise, we are talking a step by step re-creation. Beach bum aesthetic? Check. Full bar with frozen margaritas? Check. A full range of tacos? Check. A habanero sauce option? Check. Taco sauce on the table in a glass container with a fun label on it? Check. Televisions with sports? Check. Surfboards on the wall? Check. Whatever else you just thought of about Fuzzy's? Check.

If you're going to copy someone, you could do worse than Fuzzy's. And while imitation is the greatest form of flattery, I imagine that Fuzzy's may be looking, or have already looked, at legal options here. It's a bit too close for comfort if you ask me.

On the plus side, their tacos are bigger, and maybe... just maybe, a little better than Fuzzy's. They are similar to Fuzzy's no doubt, but perhaps I'm getting more of the flavor because there is... more of it. And 3 tacos will fill you up. In fact, 2 may be enough. I definitely need 3 at Fuzzy's - sometimes 4. On the down side, the frozen margarita's are not very good. They lack tequila, and are pretty sour. I'll get a beer next time.

I've already read on Urbanspoon a prediction that these guys will close quick, since no one is being fooled by the Fuzzy's-in-disguise act. And they may be right, I dunno. But I can't possibly say it isn't good. That would be the same thing as saying we don't like Fuzzy's. And we do like Fuzzy's! We'll keep an eye out on this one.

My advice to 3 Parrots is to get a more distinctive concept and food variation out there - and quick. Before it's too late.

Website (which oddly doesn't list this Far North Ft. Worth location)

3 Parrots Taco Shop on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

*** CLOSED *** Black Diamond Smokehouse ~ North Richland Hills, Texas


And now we finally get to the end of the RJG Restaurant week ('bout time!). Well... actually we closed it out on the weekend, appropriately enough, with our bi-annual visit to the RJG's all-time favorite restaurant Pietro's.

I'm usually a bit reticent to write about barbecue, since there are many proclaimed (and self-proclaimed) experts on the topic roaming around the blogosphere here in DFW and environs. One of the blogs that we have linked to the right of what you're reading here is actually a published author on the topic (Full Custom Gospel), from no less an authority than Anthony Bourdain. And barbecue has never been my specialty, so what do I know right? And besides, Full Custom hasn't written about this yet, so maybe I can sneak one in...

Whatever my street cred may or may not be, I can honestly assess what I personally enjoy. And after one visit, Black Diamond skyrocketed to the top of my barbecue list. I'll need a few more visits before I can declare it "my favorite" and all that kind of hoopla, but suffice to say Mrs. RJG and I quite enjoyed our first acquaintance with Black Diamond, to which I expect there will be many more. Over time, I also plan to visit some of the more acclaimed BBQ establishments so I can lay a proper foundation for comparison. I think I'm honing in on what I want from a barbecue place, and cannot wait to embark on the journey. Whether Mrs. RJG joins me is another story. She has a tendency, when I suggest going for BBQ, to simply state "it's too much meat". Sigh.

But for this visit, she was game. Mrs. RJG went for a loaded baked potato with chopped brisket. I may have helped her a bit, and we both thought it was great. I went in for a 3 meat platter. They were running out of pulled pork, one of my test dishes, so I settled in on sliced brisket, jalapeno cheese sausage, and something you don't see everywhere: Bologna. Of the staples, the brisket had that wonderful smoky taste. The sausage was the biggest hit with the Mrs. and I. What a great flavor, with a little kick as well. And the bologna was sublime. It's probably not something I would choose on a regular basis, but I really did enjoy it! I'm anxious to try some of their other meats on the next visit. We also sampled both of their sauces, one hot and one standard. Both were excellent, though honestly the meats don't require much help. I'm also trying to focus more on the "sides". I went with the macoroni & cheese, as well as corn on the cob. Both were great, but especially the mac & cheese. That's something that many places completely mess up, and it ends up as some gooey cold mess. But at Black Diamond, it was creamy, tasteful, and at the correct hot temperature. The corn too was excellent, each kernel coming off cleanly.

Black Diamond, for us anyway, is pretty far south and it's surprising that it actually sits in North Richland Hills. Black Diamond can be found just north of Hwy 26 (on Rufe Snow), near the border of Richland Hills.

The restaurant is a good sized place, and it features a full bar. Just walk in, head to your right, order up some meats and sides, grab a table and you're all set! There's long picnic table style seating as well as a few individual tables.