Saturday, August 31, 2013

JavaPrimo Coffee House ~ Hot Springs, Arkansas

Our next entry from the adventures of Mr. Music and family while in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

The first time we stopped by this place, Mrs. Music and ChefGirl just stopped in for a coffee drink. We like to try local places over chains for coffee when out of town and the coffee drinks were very good. Mrs. Music was surfing up a different breakfast place to try since we had been to the English Muffin twice. We laughed when we saw that the place we thought was a coffee shop was recommended for their breakfasts too! 

We ventured in to the very small, but cozy place. It was sort of like Café Brazil, or perhaps a little like Panera with a touch of Obzeet in that they had gifts, cards, creams, and soaps for sale. The menu had some nice breakfast and lunch options. They even had brick oven pizza that looked really good and a few beers on tap: Hoegarden and 2 others with some interesting choices for bottles as well. I also noticed they had quite a few bakery items - all made from scratch. The cakes (carrot, Italian crème, and chocolate cream) all looked amazing! I went for the breakfast wrap with eggs, turkey, spinach, and cheese in a honey wheat wrap served with homemade salsa and a bowl of fresh cut fruit – ahhh, fresh fruit. Mrs. Music had a breakfast bagel with ham, eggs, and cheddar which also came with a fruit cup with fresh cut melon (casaba, cantaloupe and watermelon), orange, pineapple, and strawberries – did I mention how happy I was that it was fresh? :) Music Junior got Belgian waffles as did ChefGirl’s two kiddos. Baby Music just got a scrambled egg, but had some of our fruit. ChefGirl got a lunch item - grilled chicken and spicy hummus wrap while BeerBoy got the tortilla chicken soup. My wrap was great! I kept eying Mrs. Music’s yummy bagel sandwich! It was an oversized-everything bagel (big around but not too thick) with the goodies hanging out the sides! She said her taste buds were very happy! ChefGirl said the homemade hummus was great and spicy - her wrap was a hit. BeerBoy’s soup was very thick and more like a stew rather than soup. It was really good, but he was hoping for something with more broth. The Belgian waffles were fresh and tasty. Baby Music’s egg looked like the size of an ostrich egg! It was fluffy and very tasty. 

We all agreed that JavaPrimo was Primo!


JavaPrimo Coffee House on Urbanspoon

Friday, August 30, 2013

Rolando's Nuevo Latino Restaurante ~ Hot Springs, Arkansas

Well apparently the RJG is now going to be a major player in the Hot Springs restaurant blogger community! This is, of course, due to a recent run of reviews that our own Mr. Music just composed for the blog. He sent in no less than 5 reviews while we were away on vacation this week. That vacation, by the way, was to the San Francisco Bay Area, Northern California, and Southern Oregon. I really want to get some reviews out from that trip. We'll see. I had mentioned in July that we had recently returned from a trip, but never mentioned where. On that trip we had gone to Alberta - primarily Banff and Calgary. I did manage to get some thumbnail sketch reviews onto Urbanspoon for about 5 of the restaurants. Maybe I'll flesh those out here eventually.

OK, onto Mr. Music's latest adventure in Hot Springs!

We had taken a fun trip to Mount Ida to dig for crystals and diamonds at a crystal mine. 

But it was here that we found the most precious gem in Hot Springs! As soon as Mrs. Music read that they had Cuban and Latin American dishes, I knew I wanted to go to Rolando’s. One look at the menu and I wondered what we were waiting for! Housed in a building built in the 1800s and just across from the bath houses in historic Hot Springs, this place has character! The décor inside has very interesting artwork. In back, you can climb some stairs, then climb some more, and finally end up on a landing that seems to be in the middle of a jungle! The outside patio is an elevated deck on the side of a large hill surrounded by trees. Yes, of course there is a bar out here! If it weren’t a hot and very humid day, we surely would have eaten out here! We were happy to sit at the long, wooden table in the a/c with the neat artwork to ponder! 

The menu had so many interesting items, I really had a hard time deciding what to get. As we explored the interesting menu, we were served fresh made chips and a salsa that had black beans and corn in it as well as tomatoes and seasoning. It was different and great, and went nicely with our pitcher of delicious, homemade sangria! Mrs. Music and I decided to try the Latin American tortilla soup - a twist on the traditional Mexican version. The broth was light but rich with chicken flavor. It had white cheese, tortilla strips, lime juice, tomatoes, slices of avocado, fresh cilantro, and green onions which was nice with the light broth. It wasn’t that much different, but very good. Mrs. Music decided on Lula’s enchiladas. Choice of chicken or pork wrapped in corn tortillas with their special tomatillo crème sauce! I urged her to get the pork. I’ve never seen pork enchilada’s anywhere that I can remember! She opted for the chicken, which were great! The tomatillo sauce with sour cream was divine and the chicken in the enchiladas was very well seasoned. I went for the Quesadillas de Chivo which were stuffed with what they called EcuaRico pork - a fusion of Ecuadorian and Puerto Rican? Maybe. But whatever it was, it was amazing! Slow roasted, nicely seasoned shredded pork with goat cheese! I don’t really put much stock in presentation, but it was a very pretty arrangement. The 4 stuffed wedges placed in a square on the plate around a large pile of white rice and black beans. Two rivers of sauce crossed the pile in an X - a mango sauce and something called Argentinean sauce which was a little spicy and had a tanginess to it. They worked nicely together and married the gentle flavors of the rice and beans. There were also some marinated veggies with cucumber and onion. OMG, everything was out of this world! The pork was to die for and mixed with the rich goat cheese, I was in heaven! Music Junior got the pork tamales and loved them! I had one and the masa was thick, but was very light and a little more crumbly than traditional tamale masa. It was amazing! The pork was the same pork used in the quesadillas and was plentiful. Baby Music had chicken tenders with white rice and black beans and everything was excellent! BeerBoy aka SoupBoy opted for a bowl of the Ecuadorian Chicken soup - in fact he asked if they could make an extra large bowl he could have as his full meal which they graciously did. It was a simple soup, but he loved the rich chicken brother and nice pieces of chicken in it. ChefGirl had Jose’s Quesadillas which were just like mine but had white cheese instead of the goat cheese. She agreed that the pork was amazing and the dish overall was fantastic. Mrs. Music wanted to come back the next day for lunch to get the enchiladas with pork! I was happy to oblige! ChefGirl’s kiddos had a hamburger and soft tacos which were all gobbled up. In fact they said it was the best food they had on the entire trip! I would love to go to this place again and again and try everything on the menu! Unfortunately we didn’t get back before we left, but I guarantee we will! 


Rolando's Nuevo Latino Restaurante on Urbanspoon

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Don Juan Authentic Mexican Restaurant ~ Hot Springs, Arkansas

(thanks to Urbanspoon for the photo)

Two posts in one day! I've been wanting to get this post out from our correspondent Mr. Music. He's obviously been doing some traveling and sent this in during the week. I had a busy week at the office, so here it finally is! Take it away Mr. Music...

The Music family took a little trip to Hot Springs for a last hurrah before school starts! We got into town a bit late and I was concerned that a sleepy town like Hot Springs might not have anything opened late - even on a Saturday night. We tried a couple places at 9:30 and struck out. As fate would have it, we happened on to a little Mexican place called Don Juan. Ahhh, opened until 10pm! Hmmm, Mexican food in Hot Springs, Arkansas? We shall see. 

As we walked in, the décor was totally 70s Tex-Mex like El Chico or El Fenix. We were seated in a booth and they brought chips and 2 cute little pitchers of salsa. The chips were hot and fresh. The salsa had very little heat, but was VERY tasty. Works for me! 

We surfed the menu for a time. Soft chicken taco with rice n beans for baby Music and chicken strips for Music Junior. Mrs. Music ordered a seafood quesadilla; I ordered the grilled tilapia fish tacos; $8 and $10. The meals came and they were ginormous! The quesadilla was a mountain! A big flour tortilla folded at what seemed like a 90 degree angle stuffed with crab, shrimp and Mexican quesadilla cheese - grilled on each side with plenty of sour cream and fresh guacamole. Mrs. Music said it was awesome as she pushed a big bite in my mouth. Indeed it was! The fish tacos were 3 corn tortillas laid flat and piled high with grilled tilapia, 2 large slices of fresh avocado, plenty of grilled pineapple, cabbage and cilantro. I could hardly get them folded. They came with a habanero sauce. I had asked the waiter if it was spicy and although he said it was, I figured it would be pretty tame based on the super mild salsa. Nope! I spooned a big glob onto my first bite and it lit me up! But it was delish atop the grilled pineapple, avocado and tilapia. What a contrast of great flavors! I’m usually pretty good about figuring out what else is in sauces, but not this time. It was thick and yellow but all I could taste was that lovely musky flavor that habaneros have - and fire! I kept slathering it on with every bite and I could tell my face was getting red but I couldn’t stop. Music Junior commented on how juicy her chicken strips were and begged me to try them. Yum! I tried the shredded chicken soft taco, beans and rice. They were all good, but nothing special. With a very friendly and helpful wait staff, we had a wonderful experience. We would certainly come again!


Don Juan Authentic Mexican Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Lupe's Tex Mex Grill ~ Keller, Texas

Back to our own grazing range, it was time to try the latest Mexican restaurant entry in our area. We'd been to the Bedford location once last summer, and it was definitely good, but we weren't really wowed by it. And since Bedford is a bit of a haul for us, and the 183/121 construction is a bit daunting, we just let the restaurant fall through the cracks of the RJG dining agenda. But now they've moved up our way, right near our own ranch land, in nearby Keller. The competition is stiff around here, with Anamia's (Southlake), Mi Pueblo (NRH), El Paseo (Keller), Fresco's (Watauga), and the Baja Grill mini chain (based in Grapevine) all nearby and all excellent.

So how did the new Lupe's, opened only a month ago, stack up? Quite well actually. Very well indeed... as in we need to go back shortly.

The restaurant setting is very nice, featuring a well decorated interior and a full bar. It sits in a newish strip mall on the west side of Rufe Snow, nearby to the Neighborhood Market.

We started, of course, with the excellent corn chips, which comes with a nicely spiced red salsa. At the same time we were munching on the chips, out came my frozen margarita. What a great flavor - and it packed a wallop too. They're pretty small, so I went for a second one. Weeeeee. I can't even remember the last time I had two frozen margaritas in the same setting. For the main course, Mrs. RJG  had the Mexico City Tacos and I had the Pollo Bravo. These dishes are variations on the same theme: They are both charbroiled white meat chicken slathered in what they call an "Atomic Sauce". While certainly they were spicy, the word "atomic" didn't necessarily come to mind. But most importantly they had a great flavor. I love the charbroiled chicken, just by itself. The Pollo Bravo is a large chicken breast and is buried in the sauce. Whereas the tacos lightly apply the same sauce. The rice and charro beans were excellent as well.

Lupe's makes a fine addition to the Mexican restaurant landscape in these parts of NE Tarrant. Give them a try and let us know what you think!


Lupe's Tex Mex Grill on Urbanspoon

Lupe's Tex Mex Grill on Urbanspoon

Sunday, August 18, 2013

El Gabacho ~ Arlington, Texas

Mrs. RJG and I had a free Saturday, with absolutely no obligations for lunch, dinner, or anything else for that matter. So on days like this, the RJG likes to travel outside of our usual cow pasture here in Northeast Tarrant, and try something new. We've been pretty negligent with Arlington, and so I decided to point our cattle car straight south and see what happens. We both had a hankering for some Mexican food with a beer or margarita, and so with my handy dandy Urbanspoon App at my disposal, we went digging. After a couple of minutes of research, El Gabacho looked like the perfect place to try. And it was.

The first thing you'll notice upon arrival is that it takes a couple of minutes to get your bearings. Even though the restaurant is visible from the street, and there is outdoor patio seating, the actual entrance is inside a nice mini-mall called the Brownstone Village. Once inside the restaurant, you'll be immersed in the world of the Old West - at least according to Hollywood. According to Mrs. RJG, El Gabacho means "gringo", but apparently it is also a nickname for John Wayne, who's mug adorns the restaurant in just about every nook and cranny.

To get started, I had a frozen margarita which was perfect. It's amazing to me how few restaurants can get the balance of slushy ice, tequila, and other ingredients to work. And pack a buzz while at it. Mrs. RJG had a Boulevard (Kansas City) on tap. I tasted it, and it was one of their lighter offerings, but I wasn't able to ascertain which variety they had, and our waiter wasn't sure. Hey, when you order a Bud, it's Budweiser, and when you order a craft beer like Boulevard, it could be dozens of different varieties.

The chips and salsa were also a hit. The chips were better than average homemade corn. The red salsa comes out heated (I always like that) and has a nice garlic like flavor. A bit different from any other salsa I've tried. I would call the heat level medium hot. We asked for a hotter salsa, and they said they don't always have one, but they did on this day. Out came this thick blended green and red chile sauce. Ah, it was delicious and definitely packed more heat. It's of the add-up variety, so it took awhile to kick in.

Two items leaped off the menu for us: Enchiladas Verdes and the Tex Mex Tacos. Each with rice and refried beans. Mrs. RJG got the former, which of course I tried as well. Right away, I could tell it was going to be delicious, given that the chicken looked heavily seasoned with red chile before it was even rolled into the tortilla. The chicken, cheese, and spicy/sweet green tomatillo sauce was excellent. We both agreed it was just a tad dry, so we probably will opt for more sauce on the next visit. By deduction, I of course tried the Tex Mex Tacos, which are not exactly what you might think with a moniker such as that. These are not ground beef crunchy tacos, but rather charbroiled white meat chicken stuffed into homemade fried corn shells - and loaded with cheese, lettuce and tomato slices. The chicken by itself was delicious enough, but with the fried corn shell it ended up being sublime. Add some of that spicy salsa on top for the perfect symphony. We both agreed that the rice was excellent and flavorful, as were the creamy refried beans. Perfect texture, excellent taste.

Obviously we were quite impressed with our one visit to El Gabacho. For certain we will try for an annual visit... or more, if we can get to Arlington often enough. Moo.

El Gabacho on Urbanspoon

Friday, August 16, 2013

*** CLOSED *** Daddy Jack's ~ Southlake, Texas

Every time the RJG travels to New England, I like to frequent a seafood chain from Boston called Legal Seafood. They're famous for clam "chowda", New England styled crab cakes, and baked fishes amongst many other things. Daddy Jack's is clearly aiming for that market. Right down to the red and white checkered tablecloths - which is not strictly an Italian tradition.

So is Daddy Jack's really as good as Legal? Well, no, of course not. Legal has the distinct advantage of having the Atlantic Ocean right next to it. But Daddy Jack's is certainly very good, and one of the best seafood houses in DFW.  More casual and less pricey than Trulucks, which the food is on par with.

Nearly 9 full years ago, we took Mr. RJG's official Mom to the Daddy Jacks in Coppell for her birthday. In doing research for this entry, it appears that particular Daddy Jack's is run completely separate from the locations listed here. Perhaps it started as a franchise entry, and later decided to go solo.

On this visit, I was joined by one of my business partners that we will name for this blog as The Tampa Pound. He's been in these pages before, but we just didn't name him. And besides, he just moved from Raleigh to Tampa, so he gets a new name. It seems seafood is where we tend to gravitate, and since he's the one with the expense account, I let him lead the way on food choice. I just pick the restaurant. The Tampa Pound also arrived with fantastical tales of his recent journey to Alaska, so the setting was appropriate.

And on that topic, that's exactly what he ordered - Alaska King Crab legs. At one point, I asked him how they were, but his face was buried into the claws, and all I could hear was a "hmm-mmm" and his head nodding up and down. OK - so that worked out it would seem... Meanwhile, I ordered the Baked Stuffed Shrimp (which was on the Specials Board). I wouldn't necessarily call it "stuffed". What they do is mix Ritz crackers and crab meat, roll it up, and lay the ball on top of each shrimp. It's a very rich dish, as it all sits in a light cream sauce. It's very good, though again the stuffing aspect of it should be questioned. The flavors didn't mesh as you might expect. We each opened the meal with Lobster Bisque with added claw meat. Super creamy, rich, and delicious.

Daddy Jack's has a fine selection of bottled beers, though nothing on tap. I enjoyed an Anchor Steam and an Alaskan Amber, and the Tampa Pound had a few Blue Moon's.

Not sure why the Urbanspoon grade is so low. This was our first visit to this location, and perhaps they fixed what ailed them.

If I had a complaint, it would be the location itself. This was originally an old southern home cooking restaurant (which sits conveniently on the edge of the Southlake Town Square), wonderfully re-purposed by Daddy Jack's. But the windows face the setting western sun. As such, the interior is extremely bright for the dinner hour especially during the summer. While they do of course have window coverings, I think they might do well to invest in some drapes. I'm not too keen on squinting my eyes throughout the meal.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Taqueria Burritos Locos ~ Grapevine, Texas

(thanks to Polyonax for picture)

...And so after returning from my cattle drive, I spun tales to Mrs. RJG about my day with Mr. Music in the far off land of Denton. Most of the stories were met with an eye roll, or "better you than me", but it was my description of Taqueria Guanajuato that had her salivating. Mrs. RJG, born and bred south of the border, is always up for a true taste of the homeland. With that backdrop, we decided it was high time to finally try Taqueria Burritos Locos, a very successful taqueria that we once remembered being a Chicken Express.

The first thing you will notice is that Burritos Locos is not a small, fast food place. It is in fact a full service restaurant. And as such, they cater to a much larger audience than a traditional taqueria would. But we were there for tacos and sopes, and so we stuck with the game plan. One advantage of the sit down restaurant, of course, is the complimentary chips and salsa. They provide two, both with a pretty good spice kick. Mrs. RJG and I enjoyed the green slightly over the red. The chips were of average flavor.

I went with my standard trio of al pastor, pollo, and carnitas. The Missus also went with the al pastor taco as well as a carne asada sope. The carnitas, as is typical for the RJG unfortunately, was not very good. The textures and flavor just aren't there, making me pine for the wonder that is Taqueria Guanajuato. The chicken, although all white meat, lacked flavor. We asked if they had a special "taco sauce", which they did. But unfortunately it was one of those lime tomatillo sauces, that are always way too sour, with no fire at all. It was frankly terrible. On the flip side, Mrs. RJG very much enjoyed her carne asada sope, so there's one for the plus column.

Doesn't sound that great so far, huh? Well, the main reason for us to revisit Taqueria Burritos Locos, is for the al pastor. It's one of the best al pastor tacos we've had outside of Mexico. And why would that be? Because they actually have the spit with the pineapple on top (hmm... sounds funny doesn't it? - anyway, hopefully you know what I mean by spit!) Now I'll be the first to admit that I've hardly sampled even a small fraction of the taqueria's in DFW, but for the ones that I have, this is the first one to feature that. It makes all the difference.

Service was not Taqueria Burritos Locos long suit either, and it seemed there were many impatient diners on our visit. Since we've only been once, it's too early to gauge if that's a trend or one-time unfortunate event. I mention it simply because I think if we're to revisit Taqueria Burritos Locos again, we would forgo the restaurant experience and take a bag of al pastor tacos for the cattle drive home...

Taqueria Burritos Locos on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Oak St. Drafthouse & Cocktail Parlor ~ Denton, Texas

As mentioned in the Taqueria Guanajuato post, Mr. Music and I also dipped into Oak Street Tavern for one or two craft beers, before heading back over to the Taco Lady. This is a frequent hangout for Mr. Music, and I was eager to try it. Oak St. Drafthouse sits in a truly a cool setting that they describe as thus: "Being the third oldest house in the City of Denton, we’re making sure to keep the history and integrity of the house alive by making minimal changes inside the house.  (and also not to piss off the ghosts). All of the decor inside and surrounding Oak St. Drafthouse were found at local vintage and antique shops around Denton.  Our extremely large patio beer garden allows for a great time. On the weekends, we open the back bar for your enjoyment.  We have a very relaxing environment where people can carry on a conversation without getting distracted by loud music or tv’s."

Our plan for one to two beers turned into 3 as we met and chatted with Ben from The Beer Drinker's Society (see website link to your right) and Daynor from the Best Little Brewfest in Texas. We sat in what would have been the family room, and compared notes on the Texas craft brew movement that has really taken hold in the last 3 years.

From my personal experience, Oak St. Drafthouse is the finest pure beer tavern in DFW comparing favorably to similar places in Denver or Portland. They have 72 taps - 48 inside and 24 outside (and the outside is generally not open until the early evening). Of those taps, many of them are local to Texas craft beers. And some of them are hard to find elsewhere. So they have the robust selection of a Flying Saucer or Ginger Man, combined with a laser focus on local product. All in an authentic late 1800's setting. Doesn't get better than that.


Sunday, August 11, 2013

Taqueria Guanajuato ~ Denton, Texas

Saturday was a day of music, beer, and dining with Mr. Music and family. After absorbing a few vinyl albums, Mr. Music and I plotted our lunch and afternoon activity. We decided to go to Taqueria Guanajuato for some tacos, followed by a stop at Oak St. Drafthouse for a local craft beer or three (more on that in another post), and then we'd stop by The Taco Lady for some more tacos. And then off to hit Denton's record stores, and perhaps another bar or two. Back to Casa Mr. Music for tunes, and then to dinner with the whole Mr. Music brood (which turned out to be Dough in North Dallas. I'm not ready to write about it though. Need another visit). That was the plan anyway, and for the most part we stuck to it.

I'm not going to write about The Taco Lady. It was definitely good, and I gave it a thumbs up on Urbanspoon, but we weren't wowed. But we were both absolutely floored by how good the upstart Taqueria Guanajuato is. This is exactly how a taqueria should be. We each settled on 3 small tacos. I went with a basic trio of carne asada, pollo, and carnitas. Mr. Music had asada, pastor, and tinga. I started with the carnitas, as that seems to always be the riskiest of the offerings. Best carnitas I've ever had. Or close to it anyway. Crispy, tender, and extremely flavorful. I could eat 10 of 'em easily. The carne asada was no less mindblowing. So tender was the meat, with a wonderful charbroiled taste. And the chicken was icing on the cake - tender chunks of seasoned white meat chicken. No rooster strips here! Mr. Music raved about the tinga and al pastor. We also decided to get chips, as we had to sample the mortar and pestle red sauce staring us in the face. Fiery and delicious. The green bottle sauce was no less fantastic.

This is a typical taqueria, so it sits in an old building, and is very small with only a few tables. You order at the counter. For hardcore taco eaters, they do have lengua and sesos. Also gorditas and sopes and many other authentic offerings from south of the border.

OK, taqueria heads: Head to Denton, and tell me what you think! Are we wrong?

Taqueria Guanajuato on Urbanspoon

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Niki's Italian Bistro ~ North Richland Hills, Texas

We've spoken of Niki's before on the RJG, but there have been some changes since our last update. For one, it appears our loving duo of Northeast Tarrant County Niki's Italian Bistro's are no longer together (aww). The website, and the menu, are very clear in stating that the NRH Niki's is no longer associated with the one in Keller. And the other big change is they have moved across Davis to a beautiful new Tuscan structure that they painstakingly built for well over a year. The strip center location that Niki's had been in, for God knows how many years, needed an update badly. The place was, quite frankly, miserable. So rather than gut the 80's style strip mall, they purchased the Catfish Tucker's Haven across the street. And subsequently bulldozed it (I'm sure it was in worse shape than the original Niki's! One can only imagine all the fried fish - and cigarette smoke - pew). And proceeded to build a very large Medieval Italian styled building. Bravo! The interior is relatively modest, and that's fine with the RJG. No need to go opulent - especially for what is in effect neighborhood Italian food. BTW, the day we went, the parking lot was packed, and yet there was still plenty of open tables. I think it will be a rare night when Niki's will have standing room only crowds.

What hasn't changed is the type of Italian food Niki's serve - which is very typical of most of the Italian restaurants in Northeast Tarrant. I've carried on about it many times before, and won't repeat myself here. Just click on the Italian label, or just read the original Niki's review, and you'll figure out what I mean. Now we had bad luck at the old NRH location, and noticed the Keller one was much better (which I suspect may have been behind the divorce). But on our one visit to the new location, everything was fine - and in wonderful surroundings to boot. They still have a full bar, with more selections than before.

Being the cheapies (and lushes) that the RJG happens to be, Niki's is usually an alternative option to the just-as-good-and-similar Italian places around that allow BYOB (Tony's, Cafe Sicilia, Joe's, Italian Bistro, etc...). But if we had guests in town, and didn't want to go overboard at Patrizio's or Brio, but wanted good, solid Italian fare, then Niki's is the perfect spot to take them.

Niki's Italian Bistro on Urbanspoon