Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year everyone! Hopefully 2014 brings happiness to all.

Especially to our taste buds.

And on that note, let's do a quick 2013 in review. We had our most productive year on the RJG to date. Not bad for a silly little project that started almost 6 years ago. I was able to stick with it all year, even though we didn't have new entries for a few months towards the end. But I kept the updates fresh, as evidenced by the 66 updates (see 2013 Update label to your right). That is in addition to the 78 new entries we added. I will leave that label alone, and we'll create a new 2014 Update category for all 2014 updates to entries prior to today. I'll be curious how they compare.

Many of the principle's of the RJG are still intact, and I don't see them changing anytime soon. Amongst those 1) We are not professional food writers and do not want to be. While that should be painfully obvious after reading only one entry, it's worth noting that we do this strictly as a hobby, and its primary function is to call out restaurants "where the regular folks eat". 2) We are not "foodies". We like to go out to eat. There's a big difference. Most restaurant reviewers, especially the professionals, are indeed foodies. That's certainly not a condemnation, as I truly respect these people. It's just not what the RJG is about. We talk about the dining experience and what's good to eat. We do not give detailed dissertations on how the meal was prepared nor hit the thesaurus for new adjectives on how it tasted. And 3) we continue to do this anonymously. The main reason for this is we do not want any kind of special treatment. I have been blessed with good paying jobs for many years now, and I want to spend money at these establishments so they stay in business. I get frequent invitations to go to "grand openings" or "can you try our restaurant - and we'll cover all expenses". No way. We don't want anything for free. We may try the restaurant but they'll never know when. I can't blame these establishments for trying to curry favor, but we aren't for sale. I make precisely $0 doing this. As you can see, I have no advertising (Google Ads) up. I won't say never - maybe one day I will need the money. But I'm working very hard now so that doesn't happen. And this blog is here as a volunteer effort to support the local community.

So what were the positives for 2013?

1. The craft beer movement in Texas has absolutely taken off. This is an exciting development that has had a profound impact on the restaurant industry as well. The most popular restaurant in all of DFW for 2013 had to be Hopdoddy Burger Bar (Dallas), that we covered last January. It's been in the "Talk of the Town" section of Urbanspoon for the entire year, And if you think it's just because of the burgers, then you only understand the half of it. It's the beer selection too. Perhaps the RJG's favorite is Jack Mac's Swill and Grill (far north Dallas), whose beer selection is entirely made up of Texas craft beers - that rotate often. And the food is excellent. Of course both of those places are pretty far from NE Tarrant, and I've only managed one visit each to date. Other similar places are going up in Fort Worth, Dallas, Plano, Frisco, and Denton. Unfortunately nothing here, beyond The Ginger Man (Southlake), which is pretty disappointing from a local craft beer perspective (not terrible, but not as exciting at they could be). They have way too many national and international macro brews to take too seriously. And their menu is an afterthought. Mellow Mushroom (Southlake) and the Baja Grill chain (under various names throughout NE Tarrant) have done an admirable job of supplanting their menus with fine craft beers.

2. Plenty of new restaurants in NE Tarrant opened in 2013 (or close to it). Some of our favorites include:

-Lupe's Tex-Mex Grill (Keller). Already established in Bedford, but the Keller location is much welcomed - and very good.

-Jet's Pizza (NRH) New outlet for the Michigan based to-go pizza chain. I love their Jet Boats and pizza sauce!

- i Fratelli's Pizza (Keller) A new outlet for the classic "Dallas styled" pizza chain. And right near the RJG's Mom's apartment.

-Back Forty Smokehouse (NRH) Perhaps our new favorite BBQ in all of NE Tarrant

-In-N-Out Burger (Hurst) My favorite California burger chain arrives in NE Tarrant

-Apeizza e Vino (Southlake) Best new entry in the Napoletana pizza sweepstakes

-Taco Villa (far north Ft. Worth) The arrival of West Texas' finest crunchy taco chain hits NE Tarrant

-TruFire Kitchen (Southlake) Best chicken parm in NE Tarrant, and it's not even an Italian restaurant. Fine menu, and reasonable prices. Impress your friends.

-Niki's (NRH) Well, hardly new - but a new opulent location right across the street from the dilapidated old one. Same good Italian food - much nicer surroundings.

-Torchy's Tacos (Southlake) Austin's famed taco house comes to Southlake and gets a license to print money. Always packed. But it's "damn good" as they say. Like the craft beer movement mentioned above, the high end "tacos y margaritas" concept continues to grow.

-Freebird's (far north Ft. Worth) They open about one new location a year around here, each about 6 feet closer to where we live. And yet none are close. Amazing. But it's still cool that we now have 5 NE Tarrant locations to choose from, where we had none only a few years ago.

-Potbelly Sandwich Shop (Hurst) After what seemed forever, the Chicago based sandwich chain finally found its way to NE Tarrant.

-Duff's Famous Wings (Southlake) The Buffalo legend expands for the first time out of New York and Toronto - and comes to NE Tarrant. Cool.

-Lee's Grilled Cheese (far north Fort Worth) Food truck gets a brick and mortar, and has created an entirely new fast food category. I think the concept has tremendous potential.

There are many more than this, but these are the ones that most excited us.

3. And with exciting openings, comes disappointing closings. These include:

-Mo' Fish (Keller). Maybe not a full closing, as they renamed it to Baja Grill (same owners). But I liked that Mo' Fish had a Bayou slant. That location has always struggled, and many restaurants there have closed.

-Daddy Jack's (Southlake) This one came and went in a flash. Looks like this location continued to struggle. Too bad as we liked their New England take on seafood.

-Planet Burrito (Southlake) They just couldn't get out of their own way. They had a good concept, but they tried too hard with other ideas and lost their core base.

-Aleda's Pizza (Southlake) The Barry's Pizza Pub legend couldn't handle the competition from the new Mama's across the street.

-Black Diamond Smokehouse (NRH) I was really bummed about this, as I was very impressed with their BBQ on one visit, and was looking forward to many tries. But the location was horrible. Who the heck would even know they were there? Word of mouth was too slow apparently.

-Yourway Burgers (Keller) Another place that abandoned their core idea, and ultimately ended up as a pool hall. And closed for good not long after that.

-Bite the Weenie (NRH) The one and only hot dog place in NE Tarrant, that had a great idea of regional hot dogs. I think it's a tough sell in this day and age of "healthy" eating - even if that's not what anyone actually does. It's just the thought. There are tons of places like this in Chicago, but they never have done well here in Texas.

I know there's more, but those were some of the more notable ones we'd written about prior.

OK, I could probably go for days, but I'll stop here. Let's see what 2014 brings us, shall we?

2 comments:

Francis Shivone said...

RJG -- Good post. I like to read how the blog writer thinks and approaches his blog. I look for god food blogs when I travel but find few that give a solid opinion about where you can find a good taco or burger or slice of pizza.

Yours does, thanks.

I love all the new restaurants but have some concern that that is all we're getting development-wise. Well not all but you know what I mean.

have you heard about the craft beer event coming to town:

http://untapped-festival.com/

RJG said...

Hi Francis - Happy New Year to you! Thanks for the comment, I really appreciate the sentiment.

As far as new businesses, I completely agree. Well, that, and "Vapor" stores. Wow, they're starting to pop up up like weeds (probably ought to watch my phrasing - that will be next, like my beloved Denver. Ugh.)

Not sure I'll make the festival due to schedule conflicts, but I'm really grateful craft beer has taken off. And to think we're not even half of the breweries (nationwide) we were pre-Prohibition!