Sunday, August 30, 2015

Super Tortas #1 ~ Corinth, Texas

Looks like Mr. Music is back in his own graze land. And he's very enthusiastic about a local place up in the Lake Dallas area. Makes the RJG want to get in the cattle car and go north!

I have been meaning to go to the newest taco spot in Corinth called Super Tortas #1. I finally made my way there and was glad I did! The owners, John and Lucinda were super friendly, big time food lovers and excited to talk about it! The shop is small and in an old shopping strip facing I-35­E on the Southbound access road; just before Swisher. The d├ęcor is nice and simple; the place is spotless!

After looking at the menu for awhile and yakking to the owners, Lucinda suggested the Milanesa. Theirs is a fresh piece of beef that is pounded by hand until it is super flat and thin. It’s very lightly coated with a batter and deep fried?...oh no, they put just a little oil on the grill and cook it right there. It cooks nicely with just the right amount of crunch and keeps it from getting real greasy. It has all the goodies including tomato, onion, jalapeno, sliced avocado, homemade refried beans on a huge super fresh bread. John said I is made fresh every day by his aunt, I believe. I asked for extra avocado and at some places “that’ll be an extra dollar”; not here; just a nice portion of fresh avocado. Actually, everything on the torta was SUPER fresh. Even the cilantro leaves were perky and fragrant! They have a homemade salsa that is a greenish salsa with some fresh habanero. It is very tasty and has a little heat. OK, you guys know I am a heat fiend so it may be hot for some of you out there.

I noticed on the menu, they have barbacoa and it actually said “cheek meat” next to it. I have been plenty of places with quote barbacoa unquote that isn’t made from cachete! They gave me a sample and I mean a good sized sample – like a small molcajete filled with fresh, tender, juicy well seasoned barbacoa. Did I mention everything was really fresh? ;)

OK, on top of the dozen or so tortas they also have tacos, burritos, breakfast items (tacos, burritos and tortas with egg and yummy stuff). They also make ribs on Thursday and offer them through the weekend. I’m ready to try everything on the menu. I think my next item will be the Cubana!

John is from Chihuahua, but also spent time in Nebraska(?) and Southern California growing up and has been cooking for the family since he was young. Oh, Lucinda told me they have plans to expand the menu. The really interesting thing I’m looking forward to is a meatball soup called Albondigas de Jalisco! From what I’ve read, it looks great; I can’t wait! Maybe they will add tinga or birria!

OK, last thing – I had their homemade horchata; it was some of the best I’ve ever had; very creamy (although not too thick) and a nice dose of cinnamon!

Update:I decided to go back over the weekend and ended up there twice! I stopped in for breakfast and John suggested I try some of the dry chorizo has had. So I had a nice big burrito with eggs and chorizo mixed together with beans and cheese on a big flour tortilla. The chorizo was delicious and not greasy at all as he described. It was great, but next time I think I’ll skip the beans to make sure I get all the flavor of the chorizo! Later that afternoon I stopped in and picked up a rack of those ribs he and Lucinda were talking about. The ribs are rubbed with his secret Mexican concoction then finished with a little of his BBQ sauce. I took the ribs to a family birthday party. They were amazing with a nice strong smoke; they were tender and meaty and had an awesome flavor. John said he puts just a little de­seeded habanero in it to give a nice flavor and a little heat; it was beautiful! The ribs were a HIT and gone in minutes. My father­-in­-law, who is one of the best grillers in my opinion, absolutely loved them as did the rest of the crew. Super Tortas is SUPER and I am looking forward to more from them!

Hours: Monday-Friday: 8:00 am – 7:00 pm; Saturday: 8:00 am – 3:00 pm; Sunday: Closed


Click to add a blog post for Super Tortas #1 on Zomato

Pollo Tropical ~ Hurst, Texas

A handful of these restaurants have popped up in the DFW area suddenly. We had a choice between this one in Hurst or Watauga, and it's a bit easier to go here. Let's check it out shall we?

Food: How many of you all been to El Pollo Loco? Or for a more known local option, El Pollo Regio? Pollo Tropical is the same concept, except instead of the cuisine of Mexico, you get the flavors of the Caribbean. Grilled chicken is the primary driver here, but pork loin, ribs, and beef are also available. All with a wonderful marinate made up of Caribbean spices. And the platters come with rice (white, brown, or yellow with veggies) and black beans. On our visit, the portions were more than plentiful. The rice was oh so slightly undercooked (maybe one more minute), but still enjoyable (better than overcooked!). The bottled spicy condiment that is made especially for Pollo Tropical, is excellent when doused on the rice. And the beans were steaming hot and delicious. Worth mentioning that the chicken was very tender. I ended up with the white meat portion, and often times that can be dry. Not at Pollo Tropical. Mrs. RJG had the dark meat, and it too was fantastic. I must try the ribs and pork loin at some point.

Drink: Even though it's a fast food joint, they do sell beer, including the iconic Red Stripe from Jamaica. It was a work day for me, so I stuck to the soda fountain. Guessing alcohol is a location by location choice.

Location: Brand new standalone fast food location with a drive through. Sits on the SW corner of TX-121/183 and Precinct Line right next to the Outback Steakhouse. The whole area has been completely renovated in the last two years.

Notes: Pollo Tropical is a fast growing chain from Miami. Starting in 1988, they have about 180 locations mostly in Florida, but also Texas, Georgia, and Tennessee. They can also be found in the Caribbean and Central/South America. In addition to the Hurst locale, NE Tarrant hosts one in Watauga and one in the Alliance area of Fort Worth.

Rating: 3.5. This could easily go up half a point. Another visit or two will determine. Check back for an update!




Hours: 10:30 - midnight Daily

Click to add a blog post for Pollo Tropical on Zomato

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Jimboy's Tacos ***Irving closed****

September 15, 2016 update: The Irving location has closed. Plano is still open, and it appears the chain's push into the DFW market has ground to a halt. That's too bad.

Well look at this, would ya? The RJG's only prior experience with Jimboy's Tacos was at their Yuba City, California (aka middle of nowhere) location about 4 years ago. Mrs. RJG and I were driving from the wine country (Windsor/Russian River) on our way to Lake Tahoe via a scenic route. I had originally picked out a delicatessen, but as we were driving through town, Mrs. RJG noticed Jimboy's, and the car beelined immediately over without me even steering it. So you can imagine our surprise when we found out that Jimboy's snuck into the DFW area without much fanfare (there's another location in Plano as well). Given their relative close proximity to the RJGs favorite craft beer store (Las Colinas Beverages - say hi to Nick!), Jimboy's Tacos is fighting for our attention with Burrito Jimmy (our favorite burrito place). Why does Irving get these places, and we in NE Tarrant don't? And why do they all have Jim in their name? Questions...

Food: Fried tacos are the name of the game at Jimboy's. Most folks only exposure to the pleasures of this fine culinary delight is via the James Beard award winning Jack In The Box. The infamous 2 tacos for 99 cents, popular amongst the stoner crowd (and even advertised as such by the corporate entity). I freely admit I love those things, and have so since I was about 5 years old (late 1960s!). But they're hilarious really. They are pre-made and frozen, and then thrown into hot vats of grease. Eat too many of those and you'll be a regular visitor to the ER - or a first time visitor to your own grave. My only other encounter with fried tacos is at a delicious place in Kansas City known as In a Tub Tacos. You can guess what the "tub" is. Hot oil. Jimboy's is much more like the latter, but even better. They make the food fresh and onsite. These are not like street tacos or crunchy fast food tacos. This is a new dimension. Technically they are "grilled", but honestly they remind me of fried tacos. In fact, when Jimboy's first opened in the 1950s. they referred to them as "Spanish Tacos" as if anyone would know what that really meant. One pictures Francisco Franco stuffing his face with a fried taco while imprisoning journalists. In any event, their website describes these packets of joy as thus: "Our signature taco. A parmesan crusted grilled corn tortilla filled with lettuce, American cheese and our specially seasoned ground beef. Super classic, Super Tasty." Yes, parmesan crusted is indeed what they are! The ground beef is wonderful, as is their grilled chicken. And I love the way the cheese is melted inside, and gooey. I haven't even explored the rest of the menu. but I'm rather certain I would enjoy the other items. But these tacos are craveable. I made that word up, but when it comes to fast food, nothing can be better than craveable. In addition, they have numerous salsas at the salsa bar including a Red Hot, Spicy Green, and Chipotle, and at least 3 more!

Location: Standalone fast food joint with a drive through. You'll find it on Belt Line, south of Northgate, on the west side of the road. Pretty easy to get there from NE Tarrant, and worth the drive.

Notes: As mentioned above, Jimboy's started in 1954 in California. Today they are based in the Sacramento area, and have roughly 50 locations, mostly in California and Nevada. So they're a relatively small chain still. However,  they are beginning to branch out, including a deal to open some stores in India (what?). According to a 2013 article, there was supposed to be 4 DFW area stores, and 11 in Texas total. I suspect the concept hasn't caught on yet. I do highly encourage the fast food nation to give this one a shot before they get away too quickly. I don't want to go to Yuba City to eat here.

Rating: 4.0


Menu Be sure to review the Texas (Plano) menu. Not sure all the other items are available in Irving either.

Texas law regarding consumption of alcohol on Sunday before Noon

Here's something I've been meaning to promote here on the RJG, and I forgot about. This probably doesn't apply to the majority of you, but for a borracho like me, I find it very important.

As a rule, we like to eat our lunch early (generally between 11:00 and 11:45), primarily because we've already run 3.5 miles and I don't feel like breakfast. Especially on Sunday's - and Mexican food is usually very high on our list of choices. Well Mr. RJG loves his frozen margaritas with his Mexican food, especially in the summer! Now comes the dilemma - will the restaurant actually serve me the drink without question before Noon on a Sunday? 95% of the time the answer is yes. And those 95% of the times, the restaurant is technically breaking the law. Not that I would ever tell...

The TABC's website is incredibly vague on the topic. They say nothing more than "Sunday: Noon to midnight. (10am-noon only in conjunction with the service of food)". Very well then, so obviously chips and salsa count as food, and that's why no one questions the situation. Right? Well...

The other day, I ended up getting into an argument with a restaurant manager who refused to serve me unless I ordered an appetizer. Like queso. OK, let me get this straight: Chips are not food, queso is? Yea. We like this restaurant quite a bit (they're in the blog), so I'll leave their name out (though Mrs. RJG is holding a grudge and doesn't want to return). I was furious (especially since they always served us before and it never was an issue), but I ordered the queso to solve the immediate problem, and we'll just enjoy our meal - and frozen margarita.

Was the manager right? Somewhat, but not entirely. I felt like he was trying to up-sell me (hence our anger), and it looks like I was right on that front. Was it ignorance or deceitfulness on the part of the manager? This I'm not sure of, but he handled the situation poorly in any event, without a clear explanation of why he suddenly wouldn't serve us. It was a $5 shakedown on a regular customer. Not cool.

Frustrated, I finally called the TABC myself to solve this once and for all. I want to know what exactly is the law so I have it in my back pocket when this situation comes up again whereever I might be in Texas (hopefully they'll repeal this law in the meantime). The gentleman I spoke with was incredibly nice and informative. I was just blown away by his customer service skills. It's not something I expect when calling a government hotline. He was very clear: You must order food when you order your drink. It is true, complimentary chips (or peanuts) do not count. And the restaurant must offer at least 8 different items if they are to serve alcohol before noon on Sunday (Prohibition Laws - don't you just love them?). So I told him my story, and then I asked "So if we had just gone ahead and ordered our meal right there, we would have been fine?" "Yes, that's correct". He went further: As long as you place your order at the same time, you are within the law. Doesn't have to come out right away - or at the same time as the drink itself. There it is. No further explanation needed. He agreed that there was no reason for a restaurant to sell an extra appetizer. But the restaurant was right too: You do have to order food.

Now we know.

Bombay Bistro ~ Austin, Texas

Mr. Music has been hanging out in Austin again, and sent this review in. I believe this is the first Indian restaurant we've ever featured in the RJG.

The Music clan is on the move again and down to Austin for a last getaway before school starts.  After a nice morning hike at the Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve, our appetites were ready for a treat! Indian food was the consensus!  After doing some research, it looked like Bombay Bistro was a good choice with a recommended buffet. Mr Music is usually drawn towards little hole-in-the-wall spots, but Bombay Bistro is an upscale eatery.  The eight of us (the Musics and another family, the Vespas we were vacationing with) piled in the already bustling place. The Bistro is a smallish place, but very nicely decorated.  The buffet was nestled in the back with a station for salads and condiments and the back wall lined with pans of North Indian goodies.  They served some of the usual suspects like saag paneer, dal makhani, chicken tikka masala and tandoori chicken.  None of them were really exceptional, but all were very good. Everything was extremely fresh.  Music Junior and Baby Music went to town on the tandoori chicken as did young Vespa junior.  The pieces of chicken were big, plump, and seasoned nicely. Little miss Vespa wasn't feeling that great and was interested in just buying a plate of naan to munch on.  When Mrs Vespa asked the server how much it would be; they insisted that she should enjoy all she wanted from the buffet at no charge. Little things like that say a lot!  Now to the good stuff! What made this restaurant shine were the few unique dishes they offered on the buffet. The first item was the soup; they served a lemon coriander soup that was so yummy!  The soup was not thick, but not like a broth either. The lemon was very bold although you could clearly taste the coriander. I loved it for its uniqueness and combination of flavors.  Mrs Music and the Vespas really liked it, but thought the lemon was a little overpowering. The next item was a veggie dish with chick peas and kale in Indian spices.  They offered a house specialty of chicken tikka jalfrazie; chicken that is first cooked in the tandoor then finished off with a nice gravy with bell peppers and onions. Very nice! Very unique, healthy and yummy!  But the real treat was Goan Curried Mussels. They were phenomenal - drenched in a curry with coconut, tomato, ginger and lime! The mussels were big and fresh and soaked in the luscious bath; an amazing combination of flavors! None of us had every had anything like this, but can't wait to have it again!  The buffet was $10.95 for adults and $6.95 for kids. Baby Music was free!  The service was spectacular!  The staff was really tentative and kept our drinks full and table clean.  All in all it was a  wonderful experience and we plan to come back before heading back home.



Hours: MONDAY - THURSDAY: 11.00 AM - 2.00 PM; 5.30 PM - 10.00 PM; FRIDAY: 11.00 AM - 2.00 PM; 5.30PM - 10.30PM; SATURDAY: 11.30 AM - 3.00PM; 5.30PM - 10.30PM; SUNDAY 11.30 AM - 3.00PM; 5.30 PM - 10.00 PM

Click to add a blog post for Bombay Bistro on Zomato

Friday, August 28, 2015

I Fratelli ~ Irving, Texas

First published November 28, 2008 and updated with a recent visit.

When I wrote the review in 2008, that represented our first visit. Since then, I Fratelli has become my go to place for local business in the area. Since all of my DFW co-workers are based in the Plano-Richardson-Garland region, while I'm here in Northeast Tarrant - we needed a meeting place that is halfway. I Fratelli is about 30 minutes away for each of us. As well, the DFW airport location makes it ideal when we meet with partners, vendors, and clients. I Fratelli is absolutely perfect for business: It's local; popular; has a nice bar; easy to get to; plenty of parking; and most importantly - great food. Everyone from out of town asks if we can meet there again.

Food: Like many locals in the DFW area, we first discovered I Fratelli via one of their many pizza to-go portals throughout the area. I Fratelli makes what I'd call "Dallas styled Italian pizza". It's a cracker thin crust, cut in tiny bite sized pieces, and served via an oval plate. Closer to the St. Louis style of Imo's (though no provel cheese) than the thick gooey, but crispy, New York variety. In effect, I Fratelli is the equivalent of the Dallas based Campisi's, which we covered earlier in the RJG. And like Campisi's, the pizza outlets are an extension of the anchor store as it were.

The I Fratelli restaurant on MacArthur is their Campisi's Egyptian. The menu, old and crinkly, also points to an earlier era (darn - they updated it recently!). And they're quick to point out that everything is homemade. That's music to my ears. Homemade meatballs, sausage, sauces, and salad dressing. No reheating what they bought off the Lisanti truck. They bring out a bowl of parmesan cheese, and actually leave it there. "Go ahead and dump the whole thing on your plate, that's fine". How many times does the RJG have to wait around and ask for cheese, and after they put one tiny teaspoon on, they seem irritated you might actually want more? Regular readers of the RJG know that I like my food spicy. At best, you might get the shaker with crushed red pepper (usually the wrong shaker, with holes meant for cheese, rather than the slat top for red pepper). And the kind of filtered, tame red pepper flakes you can buy at the grocery store. I Fratelli provides freshly ground red pepper, that will light you up. And they leave a bowl of that too. "Go ahead, dump the whole thing on your plate - we'll call 911 for you".

The house salad is delicious - pre-tossed and mixed with just the right amount of oil, vinegar, and Italian spices. Reminds me of the salad at Prego, also written about on this blog. As for the main course, many of the dishes are slathered in an old fashioned red sauce which is thick and smooth, with a unique recipe that goes beyond the usual flavors. The meatballs are delicious. Old school all the way, thick, meaty, and spicy. I had the chicken parm, again superb, though not quite as crispy as I like (update: On recent visits, the chicken parm is indeed crispy!). Honestly, I want to try everything on the menu, though I keep finding myself going back to the chicken parm. And it's good value on the lunch menu. I've seen my friends devour everything in sight with glee, whether it's Lasagna, Fettuccine Alfredo, or anything else.

Drink: Full bar with a couple of local craft brews usually on tap, plus a real Belgian once in awhile.

Location: I Fratelli is in a fine stand alone building that once housed Jack Astor's, a Canadian chain that has since exited the market. It sits on the west side of MacArthur between 161 and I-635, in front of a massive strip mall, and has its own street light to enter to and from. As you enter, it becomes apparent this is going to be a trip back to the 1960s and 70s. Open the door and you get a darkened waiting room (sans chairs) with a handful of plaques containing various newspaper clipping and other accolades. Facing you is another door. Open it up and there's the hostess table. Looking around, the restaurant is dark, with candlelit tables, dark woods and the air of spirited conversation. A welcoming place to be sure, and besides, everyone looks good. The RJG has long complained about restaurants that look like supermarkets with bright overhead lights. Save that for the fast food takeout joints. When I'm dining, I want to focus on food, drink and conversation, rather than noticing scars, wrinkles and spider veins for the first time - my own, that is... In general, I prefer the bar area, which has full table service, and is actually more comfortable than the restaurant proper.

Notes: In 1987, the Cole brothers first opened up I Fratelli just north of where they are located now (note comment and correction from Mervis - their first restaurant was not far from Jimboy's Tacos actually!). At that time, if you wanted Campisi's, one had to go to Dallas. Why not open a similar restaurant near the DFW airport? It was a hit, and the restaurant is enormously popular throughout the area, as evidenced by the proliferation of I Fratelli pizza stores that dot the landscape. This location, however, remains their sole restaurant.

Rating: 5.0. It rarely gets better than this!




Hours: Sunday - Thursday 11 a.m. - 10 p.m; Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. - 11 p.m.

i Fratelli Ristorante Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The RJG and Zomato - Round 2

Well, folks, there's been major changes since I wrote my scathing review of the restaurant website two months ago. What I would have never imagined to happen in my lifetime, I actually received an emailed letter from Zomato and an invitation to speak with them. It did not occur because of my review above, nor because of any supposed status I may have had (or not had) at Urbanspoon. It happened because while I was testing their "spoonback" feed that Urbanspoon used so successfully, it appeared to not work (like everything else it seemed to me by that time). I figured maybe I lost my status as a blogger, so I reapplied (it turns out I was still listed as a blogger). That's when a note showed up in my e-mail box from a one Alyssa, who is what they call a "Community Director", and she has DFW as her domain. She offered to speak with me by phone, or even meet for coffee. So I setup a conference call last week, and we chatted for about an hour about Zomato. She was incredibly enthusiastic which was quite refreshing honestly. I felt like I was speaking to one of my nieces, and they are all about the same age (early 20's I suspect).

I learned a lot about Zomato and their philosophy. And while nobody questions the switchover was somewhat of a disaster, it seems the website has made great strides since then. The primary difference between Urbanspoon and Zomato is that US was "crowd sourced", meaning in effect, folks like you and I provided the data. Zomato, on the other hand, actually employs people to do just that - maintain the integrity of the data. They visit the restaurants, or call them directly. I applaud this approach, as long as the company sticks with it. I put an enormous amount of effort into Urbanspoon in the past, to try and keep their data clean, and so I was entirely frustrated that I no longer had access to do that. But the good news is, I now have a channel to Alyssa (and hopefully any other Community Director), and she will assist me in making these changes, I just sent over about 15 errors this weekend, so we'll see how effective the system works.

The fact I only had about 15 errors to send over demonstrated to me just how much they've accomplished in a short time. In June the site was a complete mess. You couldn't search it, and it just seemed completely broken. But now it works reasonably well, though I find I have to double load pages on occasion, which is frustrating, and a few other things are still in a state of disrepair. So if Zomato is really going to commit that many dollars to this project (it can't be cheap employing people all over the country), then I can at least try and help. It was always charity from me, and will continue to be so. My blog notes are now filtering through the site again, just as in the past. And that's why you'll have noticed I put back in the Zomato links on newer reviews.

I will continue on with Facebook as well. What I have noticed is that Facebook will yield me immediate results, and then it pretty much dies on the vine. This is why I liked Urbanspoon. Some of my posts have 1000's of views over the years, making it well worth the effort. With Facebook, you might get 40 or 50 out of the gate, and then it just ends right there.

OK, so we're back in with Zomato. Stay tuned. Perhaps there will be a Round 3.

In other news, I'm trying to get more disciplined around blogging on the RJG. I'm regimented in all areas of my life it seems, except this. It's too much "last minute" thinking about what and where to eat. So often times we end up going to the same places, which is good too - but perhaps not always good. And then I stop writing for the blog, and complacency settles in. The weekdays have been too volatile, because of my real job of course. And I've just given up trying to squeeze in a restaurant lunch here or there. I have a good routine for lunch at home during the week (pasta, pasta, pasta...) and it works well for my non-stop conference calls. So I think if I can commit to the weekends, or vacation days, for this blog, we might have some consistency. We'll see. Worth a try.

Feedstore BBQ ~ Southlake, Texas

First published June 29, 2008 and updated with a recent visit.

It's been awhile since we headed over to the Feedstore in Southlake. How about some good old fashioned barbeque?

Food: Well it's barbeque, so it gets down to how they do with the marinates and the smoking. To date, we've tried the ham, hot links, beef brisket (chopped and sliced), turkey, pork ribs, chicken, and pulled pork (though it appears their hamburgers are popular as well). We've been pleased with most of these selections, and at this point, I think the chicken and pulled pork comes the most recommended. They have a nice variety of sides, including what I think to be the best dirty rice I've had at a barbecue place. The Feedstore also has two sauces, one spicy and one mild... the former has a small kick to it. On a January, 2014 visit, I noted: "On this visit I tried the smoked chicken and pulled pork in addition to the hot link. The chicken didn't quite measure up to the Cousins/Back Forty standard, but it was still very good. The pulled pork is some of the best I've had in a long time. And the dirty rice and spicy beans continue to be amongst the best sides served in all of DFW. Mrs. RJG had a chopped brisket sandwich, and it too was quite good." While I really enjoy Feedstore, there are better barbecue joints in the area. But definitely worth a visit now and again.

Location: The Feedstore location on White Chapel Rd could not be any better. On a winding two lane stretch, with magnificent estates on either side, comes a wide place in the road that houses an old wood store, circa 1950. These aren't the typical McMansions that dot the area, but rather opulent palaces, many of them a visual definition that the TV show Dallas portrayed in the 80s. Add to that a large open grazing land for cattle, and you have the picture perfect setting for an outdoor BBQ roadhouse. In this setting, the Feedstore BBQ is as anachronistic as one could possibly fathom. It really was an old feedstore, that served the local ranches and farms that for many years were predominant in the area. And major credit should go to the owners, and the town, for having the foresight and vision that an old barbecue stand sitting in a field of stately mansion ranches is an attractive feature. If you have guests from out of town, and they are looking for some place "distinct and local", I would make a beeline over to Southlake and its historic Feedstore BBQ.

Notes: The new Feedstore is now also open in Keller! They completely gutted and remodeled the old Up n' Smoke location in the old town, that we featured here prior. I have been once, with the RJG's official Mom, and we enjoyed it, but we prefer the atmosphere of the Southlake location.

Rating: 3.5



Hours: Mon-Thu 11:00am - 8:30pm; Fri-Sat 11:00 am – 9:00 pm; Sun 11:00 am – 8:00 pm

Feedstore BBQ & More on Urbanspoon