Monday, July 4, 2016

Baja Cantina ~ North Richland Hills, Texas

Baja Cantina is the latest entry for the loosely knit local Baja chain that is slowly proliferating throughout NE Tarrant County. We recently updated the Funky Baja's entry, and if you search further into the blog, you'll find entries for Peace Burger and Dive Bar in Grapevine, as well as Baja Mex Grill in Watauga, both of which need updating. We've also been to Baja's Bar and Grill in Southlake, but that was many years ago, and we never reported back on it. Let's see how the new place stacks up.

Food: If you've been to any of the Baja's elsewhere, then you'll find Baja Cantina is right in line with the others. We've always enjoyed their version of Tex Mex, and we were quite pleased with our first foray here. The chips were good, light and crisp, but not quite as corn tasting as I recall from the other establishments. The default red sauce they bring out is excellent, with a nice kick, filled with garlic, pureed tomatoes, and chilies. We asked for a hotter one (of course we did), and out came this mean looking red, which is their habanero sauce. It didn't look or taste much like a habanero to us, but it was excellent all the same, and made a nice complement to the table sauce. It's a $1 extra, but worth it. Mrs. RJG ordered the Machaca, a favorite breakfast staple of her Sonoran homeland. She loved the papitas (potatoes), eggs, beans, and finely ground meat which is the namesake portion of the dish. Think dried pencil shavings of ground beef, and you have an idea of the texture. I tried the cheese enchiladas with fajita chicken on top (I forget the name of the dish). It was with 2 enchiladas, one topped with a wonderful tomatillo, which wasn't as sour as most in the area, so that was a definite plus. The other was smothered in a creamy queso.  What was so nice about it, is the dish was served sizzling hot, so that by the time I was lapping up the final bites, the cheese still was pliable, and hadn't congealed, which is a common problem with this dish. The fajita chicken was appropriately grilled and flavorful, though a couple of the strips (but not all) were a tad tough, and probably the only demerit for the entire experience. The rice was excellent, with finely ground carrots. And the beans were a cut above as well, with a smoky flavor. And again the hot temperature assists with the quality of these dishes. We're excited to come back and try other entrees.

Drink: Yes! Now this is one of the best frozen margaritas I've had in a long, long time. Smooth, with a whopping tequila kick, and fantastic flavor. Not too sweet, sour, or watery. Just perfect. Mrs had it on the rocks, and claimed a similar high quality. When we got the bill, we realized perhaps why. $10 a pop. That's pretty steep, but you get what you pay for I guess. If they keep the quality up, I'll gladly pay it, but if they don't, they're asking for complaints. Of course they have a full bar as well, and a nice selection of Mexican beers. I didn't think to ask about craft beer, but this isn't really a place that needs it honestly.

Location: On  the west side of Precinct Line, just south of Davis, near the Super Walmart complex. This was originally a Beef O'Brady's, that we frequented a couple of times many years ago, but wasn't very distinct to be honest. When they left town, there was an interregnum period where a place existed called "Sports Bar". Or something dumb. I couldn't find a reason to go with a name like that. Baja Cantina I think is the perfect fit for the area, and should do well in this location, with only Mi Pueblo to provide local competition. They're pretty distinct from each other, so I think they both will thrive. The interior decoration took Beef o' Brady's and "Baja-ized" it. It's more open, and made to feel like an oasis on the beach. There's the hanging light bulbs, stuffed fish, and nets everywhere. And a bar area. There's also the now familiar Mexican wrestling theme as well. Weird culture that one is... Anyway, very welcoming place.

Rating: 4.0. Only one visit so far, but based on prior experience with the other Baja's, the rating is likely to stand.

There's a website domain assigned, but not populated as I write this.

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No Zomato again. Seems all new places are SOL on the hapless site.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Cane Rosso ~ Fort Worth, Texas

Some of you astute readers may recall that Mr. Music wrote about the original location in Deep Ellum, not long after they first opened. We've been thinking of going ever since. Then we heard about a location coming to our side of the Great Divide, and we were all set to go.... and then promptly forgot all about it. In reviewing some old notes, I was reminded that it was due time for a visit. And that time has come. So south on 121 we ventured....

Food: As our waiter stated right off, this is "knife and fork pizza". I may have mentioned this before, but while still in my 20s in the late 80s through the mid 90s, the RJG was an avid European backpacker, taking a full month off nearly every year to explore the continent, both west and east. Those were heady days, as the Fall of the Wall spurred on a most exciting environment everywhere. When it came to lunch or dinner, one of the more satisfying meals, on a backpackers budget mind you, was that of the Italian pizza. They were uniformly excellent, and cheap (usually in the vicinity of $5 back then). They were knife and fork pizzas, and whether you were in Norway or the Ukraine, rich or poor, the pizza was superb, and filling. Cane Rosso is that pizza. But taken to the next level with artisan ingredients, and of course the specially made coal oven that they fire up to 900 degrees (getting up to cremation temperatures are we? Not saying they put dead bodies in there or anything...). We split a Zoli, which contains hot soppressata, basil, and "local sausage". The latter sounds funny to me. Locally made sausage or locally sourced sausage makes sense, but local sausage? It's a Union made up of sausages! Anyway, the soppessata is in effect their version of pepperoni, except it's way better. Much spicier and flavorful and absolutely fantastic on pizza. The "local" sausage is crumbled, and not as distinguished as I'd hoped, but it was still very good. The basil is fresh, like you'd get at a Thai restaurant. Most of their pizzas feature homemade mozzarella, and hand crushed San Marzano tomatoes imported from Italy. Sauce, cheese, and crust are the key ingredients to any great pizza, and it's here that Cane Rosso really shines. They have a great formula, can't miss really, and is very satisfying. We did ask afterwards if they can make the pizza a tad crispier. The answer was no, because it would burn. OK, fair enough. The pizza is 14 inches so perfect to split... as long as you also split a salad too! A small salad is gigantic, about the same size as a "small" at Grimaldi's. At $6 to $7, it is an absolute bargain. A large salad, BTW, feeds 5 to 6. We had The Larry, which was superb. I tend to bristle when I see the phrase "field greens", or what I frequently refer to as "backyard salad". However, these field greens were fresh and delicious. The balsamic vinaigrette is a very high grade, as is the shaved parmesan. The tiny rolled Italian meats only add to the greatness. All in all just fantastic, and I'd love to explore the menu further. They need to come to NE Tarrant! And not Southlake either (there's plenty there already)... Cane Rosso also features Italian appetizers, pastas, sandwiches, and desserts. But pizza is why you come here.

Drink: In following modern protocol, Cane Rosso is heavily committed to craft beer. Yaay! They have many local taps, as well as a full selection of cans/bottles. I tried on tap one beer from Panther Island and Martin House, both Fort Worth breweries, and both were beers that you cannot find in bottles or cans. And of course, they have a full wine list as well. The Mrs. had the same IPA I did from Martin House (it's a different hop from their canned version).

Location: Perfectly located on Magnolia, and fits the neighborhood to a T. It's on the eastern end of the strip of restaurants lining the Fairmount neighborhood's most famous road. It appears to be a new structure, and has that post modern industrial 1950's meets the 2010's look. Very spacious, welcoming, and open. They also have patio seating, but you have to be a masochist to do that this time of year. Oh, and they have a special space for a large group, which is good for noise control. Parking is in the back on the east side of the restaurant.

Notes: Cane Rosso is growing fast with 5 locations in DFW, 2 in Houston, and one coming in Austin. It's easy to see why, especially in today's food culture. They're here to stay. This is not trendy food, but as noted earlier, the kind of staple of the diet that has been in Europe for decades. As also stated, one sure would look good in NE Tarrant. Downtown Keller maybe... just sayin....

Notes II: When Mr. Music and I first heard the name, and they initially went by Il Cane Rosso, we immediately thought of Italian prog. Bands with names like Premiata Forneria Marconi, Il Balletto di Bronzo, and Raccomandata Ricevuto Ritorno (and hundreds of others). If you have absolutely no idea what I'm talking about, then you have hours of fun awaiting you on YouTube.

Rating: 4.0. We've only been once, but most assuredly this will rise over time.

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

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Los Jimadores ~ North Richland Hills, Texas

We've driven by Los Jimadores a number of times, curious what had taken over the old Antonio's spot, that at one time we enjoyed immensely. When my wife first pronounced it to me, I thought she said something along the lines of "Humidor".  I thought it was some sort of vape place! Or an extension of the cigar bar next door at the very least. Well, apparently not. So finally the day arrived for us to try it. Let's venture in and see what we find...

Food: Can I start with a pet peeve? You know we don't talk about service at the RJG much, because we realize that workers in this industry tend to be transient, and on "any given day" you might get great service or terrible. But what drives us nuts are these waiters who don't write the order down. What is the problem? Are they lazy? Are they trying to be some sort of 5 star restaurant waiter? Are they working on their memory skills? Write it down for crying out loud! Inevitably, as the waiter purposely heads to the kitchen with the full order in their heads, another table will flag them down for a refill on a drink, or something similar. And out of their cabeza goes the change details of our order. The point is to make the customer happy, not to impress us with your cognizant learning ability! OK, I feel better now. The food. Ah yes, chips come out. Decent, but ordinary. Two salsas are brought forth, both hot temperature (plus), One is a red, tangy and slightly spicy. Very good. The other is a black bean dip, similar to Lupe's, that is also very good. With our order, we asked if they had a spicier option? "You mean the green?" he asks. Uhhh... I guess so, if that's the hot one? But bonehead didn't write it down and we had to remind him as our meal was being served. A little late there bubba. Can I just state we were there for lunch and there were only 3 other tables with patrons, so it wasn't like some crazy busy Friday night. Sigh. Food, RJG. Food. I had the grilled chicken with chipotle sauce. It came out on a regular plate, and was warm. This is a dish that needs to be sizzling hot, preferably in an iron tray. The chicken was a little too perfect, as if it came from a Tyson's bag, and warmed over, not grilled. The sauce was a bit dull. Rice and beans were good (only warm though). Mrs. RJG tried the Poblano Enchiladas. They came out with a lime green sauce, as if it were an avocado type sauce. She wasn't too pleased. Her rice and beans were warm too. Needs to be hot fellas. It was good, but it wasn't near the quality of Antonio's in our opinion.

Drink: Had a frozen marg. You can tell they turned the machine on too late, as it was just barely frozen. Had we got there at open, we would have been out of luck. The flavor was excellent, though, so I was happy with the drink. Mrs. had it on the rocks, and she said it was the highlight of the meal. Not a good sign. Los Jimadores has a full bar if so desired.

Location: To find Los Jimadores, I'll copy in exactly what I wrote for Antonio's: On Bedford-Euless Rd. along a "nightmare's row" of boring chain eateries (with a couple of exceptions) that dot I-820 near Davis and Hwy 26. As the crow flies, it's right across the "street" from Northeast Mall in Hurst. That street is the Interstate. To note as an addendum, many of those chain restaurants have closed down, with only Red Lobster and Olive Garden still doing a land office business. The location itself is condemned I'm afraid. Our biggest gripe about Antonio's was the constant smell of smoke. It comes from the cigar bar next door. I think Los Jimadores did a better job than Antonio's in masking the scent, but not enough for either of us. It smells of stale smoke, like an old bowling alley.

Notes: This is Los Jimadores second location, the first being in Bedford. The Bedford location was a former restaurant with "tequila factory" in the name (can't recall it off the top), that we went to once years ago and were not impressed. In any case, Los Jimadores adopted the name for that location, but not the NRH one.

Rating: 3.0. OK, perhaps even a bit generous here. I'm seeing a lot of folks are high on this restaurant, and we even received a positive tip on the blog. Perhaps it was a bad day? It happens. Certainly the food was good, but not exceptional in the slightest, and we saw no hint of it. We'll give it a couple of years, and if the reviews keep piling in at a high level, we'll try it again. Fair?

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Zomato only has the Bedford location. Remember how they were going to stay on top of everything? No "crowd sourcing" for them, no sirree! This location opened in Dec of 2015, so obviously they have given up their quest, and there's no way for the public to help. I swear that Zomato will soon be a distant memory of but a few. So sad that they ruined Urbanspoon. Knuckleheads.