Sunday, March 31, 2013

Habanero's Fresh Mex Cantina ~ Fort Worth, Texas

Long time readers of the RJG may recall we covered Habanero's long ago. There have been so many changes to the restaurant since we last visited 4 years ago that the former review has been rendered useless. I'll be removing its contents in favor of this review (but leaving the post up as there are 6 comments attached to it). Urbanspoon offers a feature for us bloggers that allows us to update former entries, so this will be my first opportunity to try that.

First off, Habanero's is now a full service restaurant rather than an order-up counter service place. In this way, Habanero's is similar to the Don Taco restaurant in Roanoke that we recently covered. Despite all the changes, one thing about Habanero's has remained the same: That the overall experience is mixed. Some great, some not so great. Let's cover the pros and cons:

Pros: 1) Habanero salsa. It's probably the mildest habanero I've ever had, but it still retains the excellent flavor. For those of you who always wanted to try a habanero sauce but were afraid of the heat, then here's your chance. 2) Chicken fajita tacos. Fantastic flavor and very tender. 3) Corn tortillas. Mrs. RJG opted for these rather than the default flour ones, and she said they were very flavorful.

Neutral: 1) The margaritas. I was initially pleased with mine - it certainly had the right kick, and it definitely had a nice flavor. But it ended up being a bit too watery by the end. 2) Beef fajita taco. Again, the flavor was excellent, but the meat was a bit tough. 3) The flour tortillas were nothing special, but certainly good enough.

Cons: 1) The chips are dull similar to the store bought packaged variety. 2) The cilantro lime rice was terrible! It tasted like lime and a bushel of cilantro, with a little bit of rice in there somewhere. Made me pine for Chipotle's version. 3) The charro beans were too salty, and there was no bacon flavor. It was just a plain bean soup - with sodium. 4) The "taco sauce" they provide is a very watered down "verde" with no flavor whatsoever.

So will we be going back? Yes. We're more enthusiastic about Habanero's now than prior (which is why it's been 4 years since our last visit). I think the margarita and beef tenderness is something that could change from visit to visit. I'll need to avoid the rice and charro beans - unless those were truly an abnormal occurrence (which I doubt). So if you haven't been in a long time, like us, then give them another chance!


Habanero's Fresh Mex on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Duff's Famous Wings ~ Southlake, Texas

The other day we wrote about Rusty Taco, and how they had taken a Texan chain and then chose Minneapolis as their first step outside our borders. Duff's did the reverse: Took a western New York / Ontario chain and brought them here to Texas. So Southlake was chosen as the first step in what would appear to be a large expansion strategy. If omens are to be the barometer, Duff's has an uphill climb. This same location has already claimed 3 victims, all national, or wannabee national, chains: Cheeburger Cheeburger, San Francisco Oven, and Qdoba. Personally I miss the last one, though they are still here in DFW - just a lot further.

Tangent: One of the RJG's life goals was to visit every city that has an NFL franchise. I achieved that milestone by visiting Buffalo in the summer of 2008 (and was covered in these very pages). Not surprisingly, I also wanted to visit each MLB and NBA city, and I accomplished that precisely one day later with a visit to Toronto. So these two cities are not only geographically close, but they share a somewhat similar outlook regarding food heritage. Though no doubt Buffalo appeals more towards the blue collar verse the ostensibly white collar Toronto. As an aside, my final "sports" venture is the NHL, for which I had three cities left after that trip (with Buffalo and Toronto taking me from 5). I wiped out Raleigh, North Carolina in 2011, and I hope to finish the entire quest this summer with a trip to Alberta, with Edmonton and Calgary capping the adventure.

Where were we? Ah yes, Duff's Famous Wings. Duff's is one of the legendary places that popularized the Buffalo Wing craze in the 1980s and beyond. The Anchor Bar is generally credited with its invention, going back to 1964. Saaay - wings are the same age as the RJG! And Duff's claims their heritage back to '69, so they are definitely one of the early adopters.

We haven't covered wings in the RJG to date. Mrs. RJG considers it a snack food, not a meal, so it's hard to generate excitement on the local front. But given the heritage of Duff's, I dragged her along kicking and screaming, as I really wanted to see what the fuss is all about. And it's a full service restaurant, with a nice selection of beer on tap (basic, but wide), and not just a To-Go only place as many wings' restaurants tend to be.

We decided on 5 wings "medium" heat, a cheeseburger, and a Greek salad. Now Duff's makes quite a production that their "medium" is hot, their "medium hot" is very hot, and their "hot" is very, very hot. And it appears they have a "super hot", and even a "death" sauce if you want to keep going with this. Now you know the RJG and his heat tolerance: It's very high. But wings are different... mainly because I've built tolerance on my tongue. With wings, it's your lips that will feel the impact. So with that in mind, and that I was sharing with the lovely Mrs. RJG, we stuck with Medium. It definitely had a kick, so I could see why they provide the disclaimers. Perhaps they overdo the warnings just a tad, but we have to keep in mind the chain is based in Buffalo where tastebuds are generally milder than ours.

For anyone that is crazy about wings, you already know that most places offer all sorts of flavors beyond "Buffalo". Duff's does not. It's all various heat levels on a similar recipe. For what they do, it's very good. I'm not sure there's much else they can offer here, beyond their basic formula. To me, I didn't notice anything radically different than other Buffalo wings I've had in the past. I suppose I could up the ante on the heat, and I just might when I go alone. Mrs. RJG would just roll her eyes at me, knowing I'm just trying to be a he-man, with all that unnecessary verbal jabbing that every married man understands.

Given the above circumstances, I knew it would be best to just sample the wings and then go for some traditional lunch items. Mrs. RJG went for the Greek salad, which was pretty good, with a nice tasting dressing. She felt they should have used a fresher lettuce like romaine rather than iceberg. And they have romaine for their Caesar salads, so it would be easy to substitute. I had the cheeseburger, which comes with two 4 oz patties. I thought it was excellent, well cooked and seasoned, with a nicely toasted bun. It's probably a bit too much meat for the bun size, but for those of you out there where the term "too much meat" cannot possibly exist, then you'll be happy. I also had a Fireman's #4 ale to wash it down with.

I'd like to see Duff's make it, unlike the fate that befell its three predecessors. It's unique to have a place like this here in Texas. Apparently folks from Buffalo, who now live anywhere in Texas, are making a beeline here - since it's a heck of a lot closer than Western New York! They also have a few interesting items on the menu, most notably a fried bologna sandwich, that I most certainly will try someday.

They just opened two weeks ago. Give them a try at least once!

Texas website

Duff’s Famous Wings on Urbanspoon

Saturday, March 23, 2013

*** CLOSED *** Rusty Taco ~ The Colony, Texas

This location is now closed, though the chain is alive and well.

While we await Torchy's and Digg's to come to Southlake, Mrs. RJG and I decided one Saturday to venture onto other cow pastures for a good taco and a frozen margarita. We first saw Rusty Taco while driving on Greenville Ave. in Dallas a couple of years back. I recently came across the name while viewing new restaurant openings on Urbanspoon, headed over to their website, and determined that The Colony's location would be the closest. Once you start heading northeast on 121, and get through the airport DMZ area, it's only an additional 10-15 minutes to The Colony. This would be the first official RJG visit to The Colony, an area I've somehow managed not to roam in prior.

Rusty Taco's setup is familiar to anyone who has ever been to Fuzzy's. It's counter service, with a whirling frozen margarita machine behind. They serve a variety of 13 different tacos, and so on this visit we tried 5 different ones across the spectrum of tastes. Our favorite was the Baja Shrimp taco which is filled with delicious crunchy shrimp and a spicy "Baja" sauce. The fajita chicken was our next fave, and the marinate on the chicken is very good. Following this would be the fried chicken taco, which is basically small chicken fingers in a corn tortilla with jalapeno ranch dressing. 4th was the Texican, which is their variation of the carne molida (ground beef) taco. The meat was seasoned somewhat like a Hamburger Helper, but we found it quite good despite how that might sound. The only miss was the roasted pork taco, which was greasy and left a puddle down below. The meat was somewhat gamey too. But 4 out of 5 is quite a good percentage, especially considering how great the Baja Shrimp and fajita chicken tacos are. And they're a decent bargain at $2 a pop (the shrimp and fish tacos are $2.50). They're not super large like Funky Baja's, nor are they traditional $1 mini-size street tacos. I think they're priced right for what you get. The frozen margarita was a bit too icey (not smooth) and too sweet. But it did pack a punch, so I can't fault them there. I'd probably settle on one of their bottled beers next time, and they have a pretty decent selection.

Rusty Taco also features 3 salsas served up in large plastic ketchup styled bottles. The mild red was actually quite delicious, and the medium "tangy green" had a slight sweet taste and is a good variation of a salsa verde. Best, of course you knew the RJG would say this, is the orange habanero sauce. A delicious sweet flavor and plenty of kick to satisfy our palates. It's not really that hot, so give it a try if you have some tolerance for heat.

It's pretty clear now that the big rage in the QSR (aka fast food) market are these kind of taco stands. And while DFW is beginning to see them on every corner, other parts of the country haven't been exposed yet. The race is on, and Rusty Taco has decided that East Texas and the capital of Minnesota is where they would like to branch out first. Obviously Fuzzy's has began to dominate this market on a national scale, so it will be interesting who else becomes the "Burger King" next to Fuzzy's "McDonald's" standing, if you get my reference.

The Colony's location is on Main Street, about a mile north of 121. It's on the east side of the road.


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Twisted Root Burger Company ~ Roanoke, Texas

According to my database, Mrs. RJG and I first went to Twisted Root in January of 2010, not longer after they opened their Roanoke locale. Three years later, I triumphantly return. Mrs. RJG didn't think much of the place on the first visit, and passed on this opportunity.

Twisted Root is a festive place, with a cavernous dining area, and fun little gimmicks like assigning you a name for your order like "Popeye" or "Donald Duck". There are games outside for everyone to enjoy as well. You order at the counter, and at first there appears to be a dizzying array of choices, all handwritten on a chalkboard that isn't particularly easy to read. But they're all variations on the hamburger/fries theme. I stuck with the basics on this visit, going for a cheeseburger and a vanilla milkshake. The milkshake was my personal trade off against the fries.

When I arrived there was no wait, and a few folks sitting down. So I was quite surprised that I waited exactly 20 minutes to get my order. That's seems excessive doesn't it? I mean no one hates it more than me when my order shows up 2 minutes after ordering. But 10 minutes seems about right for a handmade burger. But 20? Obviously there were some screwups in the kitchen on this day. Especially when you consider my shake wasn't ready either. So I stood there, and waited another 5 minutes for that. OK, actually I sat down, ate my hamburger, and then got my shake. Really? The presentation of the hamburger was sad. It just sat there - open faced with lettuce, onion, and tomato sitting by its side in a cardboard box. It reminded me of those cafeteria burgers we'd get in the college dorm. Though they claim their burgers are medium-well, mine came out well-done. Actually I prefer it that way, but if I desired medium well, that would've been a disaster, especially given my long wait. And the shake was curiously flavorless. I don't get that. How do you get a shake without much flavor? Weird.

Alright, enough of the grumps. What about the positives? The burger is very good. Thick with a nice blending of seasonings. The bun is well toasted, just short of crispy. Perhaps best of all is the choice of condiments for the burger. They have a chipotle BBQ, a horseradish Dijon, and a spicy ketchup. I would put a different one on each bite, and enjoyed each one. So that's a major plus in the win column. But it wasn't enough overall to sway my opinion. Twisted Root usually finds itself in those Top 10 of DFW lists for hamburgers. And there's no way I would agree with that. It's barely above average, especially considering all the great options we have here. And it's very expensive for what you get. Yes, of course, I voted "likes it" on Urbanspoon, because I did enjoy it. But will I be back? I can't see why, unless I'm with a big group of out-of-towners that has to go there (and I can't even imagine who that would be actually). Twisted Root seems immensely popular, as not long after I began my 20 minutes of wandering through the desert, a line began to develop and tables were becoming scarce. I don't get it really - but the RJG isn't always one to fall in line with the norm.


Twisted Root Burger Company on Urbanspoon

Friday, March 15, 2013

Cristina's Fine Mexican ~ North Richland Hills, Texas

RJG's primary page for Cristina's

Back on home soil again, let's cover off on the newest Cristina's location. We've already written about Cristina's before, primarily their Southlake and Trophy Club locations. As such, please follow the link above to read more about the chain, and their other locations.

The newest Cristina's has already hit the Top 10 of hottest restaurants in DFW according to Urbanspoon (Talk of the Town). And given that this is the chain's 12th location, that says something about the power of the Cristina's brand.

Cristina's did the smart thing here, and took over a fully loaded former Mexican restaurant, that had been recently redesigned. Therefore that limited the amount of decor overhaul that is normally required to reopen a restaurant. The former tenant, Anejo's House of Tequila, was an elegant place, with a superior bar that suits the moniker "house of tequila". We went once a couple of years ago, and while the drinks were solid, the food was lackluster. Still, the place seemed reasonably popular, so I was a bit surprised to see it closed. But not disappointed. When Cristina's stepped in, it looked to be a stroke of genius. And I think it is, given its early popularity. Though I have to wonder if they aren't starting to eat their young. Southlake isn't that far, and most certainly former patrons of that location will just head over to the NRH store for convenience.

So for this lunch visit, the RJG started appropriately enough with a frozen margarita. I'm on a roll here, as this was yet another excellent concoction, with a great flavor and the right smoothness. I went with the 10 ounce (instead of 20), and I was still pretty knocked out. Hooray. Mrs. RJG abstained from the sinful liquids, and started digging right into the chips. Their chips continue to be boring, and their table salsa (tomatoes, cilantro, and onions) is quite frankly dull as ditchwater. But they still have the heated habanero sauce if you ask for it, and it's absolutely delicious! It's not that spicy, and the flavor is miles better than their normal offering, so definitely ask for it. I went with the puffed tacos, which were just OK. The ground beef needed more seasoning, and while I appreciate the homemade crispy fried shells, the fact remains they aren't strong enough to hold the ingredients - and it collapses on the plate for a taco salad. As I read my former review of the rice and beans, it appears they aren't as special as they once were. The rice was slightly mushy. The beans were good, but nothing extraordinary. Mrs. RJG had a ground beef taco, that they placed in the beans, so that the shell would disintegrate quickly. Her verde chicken enchilada was cold and lifeless.

So there you have it. Final conclusion: Better than Anejo's, about par for Cristina's. Which is to say they are good, not great, middle of the road Mexican. Exactly, I think, what they are striving for. Appeal to the masses - which is good business honestly. Mrs. RJG has pretty much written off Cristina's, which means I'm resigned to going there if I'm craving a frozen margarita and a taco or two (they have upscale tacos that look pretty good actually). That translates into very few, if any, further visits. Oh well.

The current rating as I write this on Urbanspoon is 45%. But that's only based on 11 votes so far. This number will almost assuredly go up. Despite the rather harsh review, I continue to give them a thumbs up. But it's not exactly a ringing endorsement.


Cristina's Fine Mexican Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Campisi's ~ Dallas, Texas

Continuing on with our annual meeting, Campisi's was selected as our next lunch. The Garland Troublemaker (TGT) and I consider Campisi's the perfect local institution to take out of towner's, but in a casual QSR type setting. Thus not ideal for clients and vendors, but perfect for internal lunch meetings. Ideally we'd be able to dine at the original Egyptian, but of course the distance isn't practical. But their other 8 outlet shops are ideal for a quick lunch. And, I should highlight, at a great price.

I'd actually covered Campisi's before in this blog, way back in the summer of 2008. It was the downtown location, and I had just met a former co-worker there. But inexplicably I never linked it to Urbanspoon. As such, I'm going to wipe the record clean, and start fresh here. And for my most astute observers, you may recall we took our new employee SoCalGal here at the Richardson/Far North Dallas location for a lunch last year.

For any old timer from Dallas, Campisi's Egyptian is an institution. Prior to the 1970s, the Campisi's on Mockingbird (still there) was one of only a handful of places in town to get EYE-talian food. According to Mr. RJG's Mom, her and Dad made a beeline there immediately upon moving to the Dallas area in 1967, being the recent transplants from the New York City area that they were. Apparently it was a thumbs down affair, and they vowed to never return (I was all of 2, so of course have no recollection of the event). To this day, the RJG has never stepped foot into the original Egyptian (not because the parents wouldn't go, but because I keep wandering a bit further south to Pietro's when I'm already that close to Lower Greenville). And the irony here is that if I was traveling from out of town, it is highly likely this would be my first Italian experience in the DFW area (the old institutions are an RJG magnet).

Fast forward to sometime in the early 1990s and Campisi's was just beginning to expand, with a more casual / quick service format. I had music friends up in Planet Plano, and they decided we should dine at Campisi's one evening. One taste of their salad and pasta entry - and I realized I missed a lot growing up. Delicious. It's completely old school red sauce Italian. Yuppies, or those into authentic Italian, can check their noses at the door. Real deal here folks: New York styled American Italian.

As mentioned in the prelude, we introduced SoCalGal to Campisi's last year. Her mother is Italian, and she said that she's always on the lookout for a great homemade meatball when she dines out. She's the same age as the RJG, so she's a bit of an old schooler herself. After one bite, she said the meatballs were awesome, just like she remembered from her youth and immediately earned her seal of approval.

And with this visit, everyone had a fantastic experience. I stayed traditional and went with the spaghetti and meatball with a side salad. TGT had a meat pizza that he devoured faster than anyone you know (for context, he's the size of an NFL offensive lineman). The Boss (who's basically been my supervisor for the last 6 years) went with the Bolognese. Even though he lives in Phoenix now, he grew up in Washington DC proper - and stated that Bolognese was his favorite dish as a kid. Huge thumbs up from him. We had one gentleman with us who resides in St. Louis, and those in the know will recognize that St. Louis has some of the best Italian restaurants in the country (especially on The Hill, from which the RJG has had many memorable meals). All in all, we couldn't have picked a better choice.

Unfortunately for us denizens of NE Tarrant, Campisi's, despite having some 9 locations, have traditionally eschewed anything this side of DFW airport. However, they have finally broke down and opened a Ft. Worth location. So perhaps Northeast Tarrant is in the cards soon?

And that concludes this annual meeting as far as new entries go. For dinner that night, we went to Casa Milagro, which continues to be the RJG's favorite Mexican restaurant in DFW. And for lunch next day, we went to The Boss' favorite hangout: Love and War in Texas. This was followed by 24 hours of exercising straight through....


Campisi's on Urbanspoon

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Silver Fox Steakhouse ~ Richardson, Texas

About 7 years ago, Mrs. RJG took me to the Silver Fox in Grapevine for my birthday. And it was a total fiasco. They couldn't manage to get the steak cooked right for her (after 4 tries), and subsequently her mood turned sour and the evening was a total disaster. To their credit, they comp'd most of the meal. And I did enjoy my steak. But needless to say, Silver Fox was not on our "top destinations" list. We're not big steak eaters anyway, and when we do get in the mood, Mr. RJG will grill one of his famous habanero seasoned steaks for the two of us.

The tide turned in favor of Silver Fox last year, when The Garland Troublemaker (TGT) and I met with one of our vendors who flew in to see us (and a few other customers no doubt). TGT suggested Silver Fox, and I relayed my story, but we both decided let's give this location a shot, since it's close to our office. And the vendor brought a contingent of three, so it would be  a good cross section of folks. The evening was a big hit. Literally, as we watched Josh Hamilton hit a home run to win the game, and we screamed like we were at a sports bar. Much to the chagrin of the other diners in the restaurant, who cast evil eyes our way immediately. We went into library mode after that. Well maybe. OK, we didn't.

So this past week, it was time for our annual meeting, and the boss and our other peers from around the country (and world actually) came to our Richardson office for 3 days of meetings, food, and drinks. In reverse order naturally. And what was our first choice to kick off the revelry? Silver Fox of course, followed by further drinks across the parking lot at Ye Shire Tavern. There was 5 of us for this night (all dudes, sorry ladies), including one vegetarian who allows for chicken, and everyone enjoyed themselves immensely. The wine and other libations were excellent. I'll be honest and state I didn't pay that close attention to what everyone had to eat, so I'll just discuss my choices. Besides that's all that matters anyway. At least to me... Anyway, almost everyone had a steak. I had the 10 ounce baseball cut filet mignon, cooked medium, with a side of mashed potatoes. And I added a Caesar Salad, to open with. The salad is a good Caesar, with the right mix of ingredients. Sometimes Caesar's can go overboard with items like anchovies, or even avocado, that just don't appeal to my taste. The steak was cooked to order, which is not as common as you'd think. Many steakhouses will bring it to you one degree less, so that if you do send it back, they just have have to cook it a little more. I don't mind a medium rare steak, so I'll just eat it that way, but I prefer it medium. I'd rather not send a steak back, and given out history with Silver Fox, I wouldn't necessarily recommend it anyway. My baseball cut looked like Hamilton took a Louisville Slugger to it, and definitely didn't pass the shape test. But who cares about that? It was delicious. And we all passed around an excellent cheesecake to finish the evening.

On an expense account, or visiting with someone who is? Need to impress a client? Silver Fox checks that box admirably.


Silver Fox Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Los Molcajetes ~ Roanoke, Texas

May 2013 update: Unbeknownst to me until now, Don Taco was a concept from the same people behind Los Molcajetes and Mi Pueblo, but I think due to brand confusion, they renamed it Los Molcajetes. As stated below, Don Taco is counter service (in Ft. Worth) and Los Molcajetes is a full service restaurant (like this one).So I'm leaving it here, and just changing the name. Everything is the same otherwise (phone number, etc...) . Though they did change the menu to the same as Los Molcajetes. This now explains to me why the margaritas are so good.... We have also been to Los Molcajetes' Ft. Worth (Western Center) location within the last year.

Original review

A few years ago I first visited the Ft. Worth location, and was somewhat underwhelmed to be honest. But as I was reviewing Urbanspoon, Don Taco continued to be at the top of the list for most recommended places to eat. So last December I was in the area for a little Christmas shopping, and stopped by for another chance. On this visit, I was much more impressed. As I was about to write the place up for the RJG, I'd recalled seeing a new location up in Roanoke. A perfect opportunity to bring along Mrs. RJG and then report back here. Since the Ft. Worth location is counter service, I thought we'd stop in, grab a couple of tacos, and be on our way.

So imagine my surprise when we walked in and saw the sign "Please wait to be seated". Huh? Well, apparently Don Taco has decided to go from fast food to full service. As such, I'll just report on this location, and eventually discuss the Ft. Worth one on our next visit.

Since my intention was to enjoy tacos, I stuck to the game plan. As did Mrs. RJG. But of course the big bonus here is the complimentary chips and salsa. The chips are excellent, with a real corn taste. The red salsa is a pretty standard cilantro, onion, and tomato recipe. The green is the spicier variety, though I would've preferred a more pureed sauce, rather than chewy chunks of green chiles. It did have a nice kick though. As well, we imbibed a frozen margarita. As with Fogata's, we were quite pleased with the drink mixture. So I'm gaining my taste for them again!

As mentioned, we stuck with tacos, rather than dive into their platters. Don Taco has their roots in the taqueria business, and I think they're quite good at it, so if you're unsure what to get, this would be my recommendation for a start. And having said that, I think their fajita tacos are splendid - both the chicken and beef. They're tender and fully loaded! I also tried their "street taco" al pastor, but it isn't their strength I'm afraid (it was tough, and I didn't care for the seasoning). Mrs. RJG had two chicken fajita tacos with the rice and beans - of which she gave a thumbs up as well. Though she did state that the charro beans were too thick. Oh - and they provide a taco sauce if you ask. Definitely better than their table salsas - it's a thick and smooth red, with a strong spicy flavor.

Don Taco is at the intersection of 114 and 377, not too far from the Speedway. Definitely a welcome addition to the "unique dining capital of Texas" family of restaurants.


Los Molcajetes on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

*** CLOSED *** Fogata's Cocina Mexicana ~ Haltom City, Texas

We first visited Fogata's last summer for a weekend lunch, had a wonderful experience and...... never went back. Yea, I don't know how that happens either. Too many good places, and more convenient (for us) locations I suppose. But that's not a good excuse. Fogata's fell through the cracks, and so we made up for it recently with this dinner visit.

The first positive aspect I'd like to call out about Fogata's is their margarita's. Lately the RJG has been having a hard time finding a good frozen adult slurpee. They're either too sweet, too sour, not enough alcohol, not frozen, not... ad infinitum. But on our two visits here, they've been absolutely delicious. First class margaritas that remind me of Mi Pueblo, Anamia's, or Casa Milagro. Mrs. RJG had one on the rocks and she too was enjoying every second of it. Plus I like that their default is the large size. I'm tired of wimpy margarita's honestly. That's not a problem at Fogata's!

The second kudos goes to their food selection. I consider Fogata's more "interior Mexico" rather than Tex-Mex (though the usual combo plates are an option if you so desire, but I suggest you take advantage of the situation since Tex-Mex is everywhere else). So again, Fogata's compares favorably with Anamia's - and perhaps closest to Oscar's in Haltom City (which is no surprise given they share a common owner). We've written about all these places in the past. Now it's time to add Fogata's to our list of great Mexican restaurants in DFW.

The chips are light, and a little bit generic. The salsa provided has a good flavor, but is mild. On our first visit, the manager took pride in his ability to provide us a spicy alternative. On this trip, we were advised they didn't have anything hotter. So that's a bit of a bummer. That can be a deal breaker for us, but not this time, as everything else came up aces.

We each opted for the creamy chipotle dishes (Cozumel). I went with the chicken, and Mrs. RJG settled on the shrimp. The sauce is absolutely delicious, with a strong spicy kick. I probably would prefer it to be just a tad drier, but it's not a major deal. The shrimp is of the jumbo variety and very flavorful. The rice is excellent, and the refried beans were just the right texture and flavor. The shrimp dish comes with a bowl of black beans instead and she enjoyed them as well.

I don't think I've ever had room in my life for dessert after a Mexican meal, and this night was no different. Which is why I never mention it!

Fogata's is a nice, spacious place. You shouldn't have any trouble getting a seat, and they also have a really nice bar area if you're flying solo or meeting up with friends for a drink.

I was surprised to find out that Fogata's is in Haltom City. I didn't realize the suburb came up this far north, but a quick review of Google Maps shows that Fogata's is at the far northern border.

Highly recommended - and we'll be back more often for certain!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Snooty Pig Cafe ~ Keller, Texas

According to my database, the RJG hasn't been to the Snooty Pig since August of 2005, when they were in the location that now houses Tacos y Mas (and you can read more on that post about the history of these locations). The main reason we haven't been in nearly 8 years is, as I've mentioned in a couple of other blog posts, the RJG isn't much of a breakfast eater. Truth be told, from a health perspective, I should be more of one. Not to mention that breakfast is typically easier on the wallet than the other meals of the day.

But even if I were to suddenly be all about breakfast, the Snooty Pig is probably not the place that's going to motivate me thus. In fact, as I was ogling over their menu, I realized that I should try their extensive lunch options instead. But on this morning, I wasn't feeling particularly great, and so Mrs. RJG and I decided on a rare breakfast. And so we went about ordering a somewhat typical breakfast. It should be noted that Snooty Pig themselves claim to be famous for their wide variety of low calorie muffins. We didn't partake, but if nut or fruit flavored muffins is your bag, then I would suggest a visit promptly.

We both settled on your basic pancake, scrambled eggs, and protein breakfast. I went with ham and the Mrs. settled on crispy bacon. I also ordered orange juice. That was a mistake. If you're going to focus on breakfast, then I think the juice should be fresh squeezed. C'mon. Instead, it was watered down juice. I should have got water instead (I kind of did anyway, except it wasn't free). We'd already had our one cup of coffee back home, so we didn't try theirs. As for the meal, the pancakes were standard, and they only provide maple syrup. We asked for the eggs to be well done, and they weren't - sort of medium. Fortunately they weren't runny, or Mrs. RJG would have walked out on the spot! The ham was awesome. Whatever brand they buy, is the kind I like. Plus I love that they sear both sides. But it's hardly "homemade". And the bacon wasn't anything special, but at least it was crispy.

Honestly... I prefer IHOP to Snooty Pig for breakfast. So why even bother to write about it here, since I usually save my average to negative reviews for Urbanspoon? I dunno - I have faith that their lunch will be excellent. Also, this location is always mobbed with diners. And it's been that way for the entire time we've lived in NE Tarrant (2003), which is why they moved to this much larger location. And we still had to wait about 5 minutes. So that tells me that your average breakfast eater thinks this place is really good (though the 71% rating on US with lots of votes isn't a compelling story for them). As such, if you're not familiar with it, then why not give them a chance? Just don't get the juice, and try a muffin maybe?


Snooty Pig on Urbanspoon

Sunday, March 3, 2013

*** CLOSED *** Fred's Downtown Philly ~ Grapevine, Texas

June 20, 2016 update: Fred's has just recently closed in Grapevine. Not the best location honestly - from a logistics perspective. They are still in NE Tarrant, so I'll seek them out and create a new entry.

Going to the Burger and Philly Shack the other day, and a recent visit to Billadelphia's, reminded me that I never wrote about Fred's Downtown Philly. One of the RJG's favorite beer stores is Grapevine Beer and Wine (craft beer aficionados should make a beeline here if you haven't already). And Fred's is conveniently in the same strip center, so what a perfect excuse to drive on over and have a Philly!

I must really be in the mood for cheesesteaks lately, as my last trip to Billadelphia's was somewhat of an epic experience. And now here too. I went with the 10 inch Po Fred Cheesesteak which is sliced steak, Italian sausage, sauteed onions and cheese. Now there's something you can only eat about once a week - or month! Whew, my body was still shaking hours later. I could have sworn in the past they used Cheez-Wiz, which believe it or not, is authentic. Wiz-Wit is Philly parlance for the famous fake cheese and onions. But now they use white American cheese, which melts wonderfully into the imported Amoroso roll. It came out piping hot, the beef chopped perfectly, and the sausage in mini-bit size chunks. I was munching right through the basket!

Fred's is all about the Philadelphia food experience. So if you're looking for Tastykake's, Hanks beverages, Peanut Chews, and Utz potato chips (as shown on "Mad Men"!), Fred's is your place to load up. Of course you have to endure annoying photos of Terrell Owens in an Eagles uniform making fun of our beloved Cowboys.

I still need to try the Philly from the Burger Shack, and now I'm being told that Chelsea's in Keller has a great cheesesteak - so we have quite a race going here. The RJG considers himself fortunate to live in a food city as interesting as DFW.


Saturday, March 2, 2013

I Fratelli Pizza ~ Keller, Texas

We've previously written about the i Fratelli restaurant over in Irving / Las Colinas, and it's a favorite of the RJG household, as well as my business partners. But I haven't discussed the pizza outlets yet, which are exclusively take-out. I'd been to the Southlake location a few times since they opened, but I think the last visit was before I had this blog - or close to it. Now they have one in Keller in the same shopping center with Funky Baja's (next door actually) and Mo'Fish. In fact, I think this was a Little Caeser's prior that didn't make the grade. Anyway, that's good news for the RJG since his official Mom lives in some apartments nearby and she's somewhat of a pizza fanatic. So we did something the other night that I imagine will be habit forming: Show up to Mom's with a i Fratelli large pizza in hand! Works for me.

I would describe i Fratelli's pizza as "Dallas Style". It has its roots in the type of pizza served over in central Dallas since the 1950s. Namely Campisi's and Prego's. i Fratelli has direct ties to the Campisi family so this isn't all that much a surprise. Basically it's a very thin crust pizza, served in an irregular shape, somewhat like an oval - or a football. Mrs. RJG likes the crispy crust, and I like the generous toppings. Personally I wish they'd use more sauce, and a higher grade of cheese, but those are minor grumps. The official Mom is just happy to have pizza, though secretly she still desires a sloppy slice like she remembers growing up with in Long Island.

So far the Keller location has been a hit, as the parking lot was a traffic jam of pizza delivery cars! Good to see folks spending their hard earned money on the local boys rather than the national chains. I think they'll be around for a long time in this location.


i Fratelli Pizza on Urbanspoon

Last Update: August 28, 2015