Showing posts with label Hurst-TX. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hurst-TX. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Potbelly Sandwich Shop, Sandwiches, Hurst-TX

Last visit: August 2013

Rating: Buy

Total DFW locations: ~25

Other locations visited: Irving (Las Colinas)

I was beginning to wonder if Potbelly would ever come to Northeast Tarrant. It seemed the chain was avoiding the area like the plague. They've been in DFW for quite some time, and as you can see above, I've been to the Las Colinas location. That was in 2006 when I had an office nearby working for another company. The situation was becoming almost comical. About once a year, I'd go to their website and click on a map for DFW locations. Dots everywhere, except a huge gap of nothingness West and NW of DFW airport. When I was a kid, we had a cat. A cat that disliked my Dad. So every time he would reach from his easy chair to pet it, the cat would take a wide swath around his chair just to avoid him. It seemed Potbelly's was doing that to us.

But they finally made it here. They're in an area of Hurst that is basically being rebuilt around the construction of 183/121 at Precinct Line Rd. Across the highway is In-N-Out Burger that we've written about. The city of Hurst must be laying out the incentives, as many new chains are coming to the area, including an Outback, Pei Wei, and a newly rebuilt Starbucks, amongst others.

Anyway, was it worth the constant tracking for our own store? Yes. Yes, it was. I love their sandwiches. Potbelly started in 1977 in Chicago, but didn't branch out until about 1996. I first heard of them while walking through Midway Airport many years ago. They're sort of a cross between a traditional East Coast sub shop, a Chicago styled grinder house, and Quizno's. The bread is delicious, and they use the conveyor belt setup to heat their sandwiches. And their prices aren't bad for this day and age. I went with the Italian on this visit, and Mrs. RJG had the chicken salad sandwich. They were executed to perfection.

If you've never tried one, and you live nearby, give them a shot. We'll be regulars for certain. Now that they're here, that is...


Potbelly Sandwich Shop on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

In-N-Out Burger, Hamburgers, Hurst-TX

Last visit: January 2014

Rating: Buy

Other NE Tarrant location: Grapevine

DFW locations: 18

Other Texas locations: Austin (3)

Total locations: 294 (218 in California alone). Other states include Nevada, Arizona, and Utah

January 2014 update: Well, as indicated below, our local In-N-Out Burger is going like gangbusters. So for all the naysayers out there - ain't a no one a listenin' to yo gripin'. Not many places still serve filling meals, with fresh ingredients, for under $6. I try to frequent the local Hurst location about once a month. I should go to the new Grapevine locale at least once, just as a matter of course. But if I'm already over there, it's hard for me not to go to Grimaldi's or Peace Burger. Oh, as an aside, can you believe this post is the most popular on the RJG? Yea, I have no idea why either. Must be tied to some newsfeed.

Original review

I wanted to get a new entry here for In-N-Out.  We had previously written about them, after a visit to the Prescott, Arizona location. I'll leave that post up for the one person who's interested in the RJG's history of eating at In-N-Out in California (and Arizona obviously). And the below review was written for one of the Roundups I penned last summer. I've transferred it here.

So after much hoopla, In-N-Out has finally arrived to NE Tarrant. I waited. I didn't cheat and go to one in Irving or Richardson. We've been featuring the restaurant long before Texas was even a gleam in their eye. We laughed at the false announcement on NBC 5 a few years ago. And on our Whataburger review, we predicted that folks from Texas were going to protect their goofy little brother and attack this "unwanted" California chain. They can take their fancy fruits' and nuts' asses out of here! And bring Del Taco with ya, you ingrates! And as sure as the sun comes up every morning, it came to pass. Look at this! Be sure to read the comments. My goodness, how silly.  As if eating at different burger places is mutually exclusive and one cannot possibly enjoy all of the above. In-N-Out Burger knows exactly what they're doing. These folks can scream to high heavens and suggest they're not going to make it here and be out of business in mere weeks. No way guys. As someone who watched them succeed in none other than the Bay Area (a polar opposite culture to Los Angeles), I'm rather certain they'll do fine in a burger culture like DFW. In-N-Out is a Southern California type place, so for me to see lines around the building for years and years at various San Francisco area locations proves to me that folks like a good tasting burger at a great price. It's a simple pleasure. It doesn't have to be the best ever to be good. Why does everything in our culture now have to rule or suck? Where's the middle ground? We've become Bevis and Butthead in our opinions. I'm just grateful they're here and I can go anytime I want. It sure beats having to wait until I travel out West!


For Urbanspoon purposes, we'll include the NE Tarrant location of Hurst that we go to. If that changes, we'll add other locations. I think they've been eyeballing Grapevine (ed: eyeballing complete apparently), but for us, it's probably easier to get to Hurst.

In-N-Out Burger on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Del Taco, Tacos, Hurst-TX

Last visit: January 2014

Rating: Buy

Other DFW locations: Fort Worth, Dallas (2), Plano, Little Elm, Irving, Denton, Lewisville, Frisco, McKinney

January 2014 update: The larger and nicer Watauga location has now closed. We never went to that one, since the Hurst location was much more convenient. It doesn't seem to me that Del Taco is very popular here in DFW. We still really like their tacos, and they have delicious tacos sauces and even homemade salsas. And they have some heat on each if you desire. The Hurst location isn't exactly packed when we go. I wonder how much longer it will be around? It is now NE Tarrant's only location. We're still regulars, going about 6 to 8 times a year.

Original review

Though I have them listed as a National chain, their presence is almost entirely in the Western half of the US (especially California where they are based). Texas is limited to DFW for now, and they've just recently expanded to a 3 state area in the Midwest and 3 state area in the Southeast. It's clear they are getting ready to compete on a national level with Taco Bell (who have pretty much dominated this space for three decades).

We announced back in October that Del Taco was going to be opening in the area. And I'll quote what I said there: "For those of you who lived in the DFW area in the early 80s, you may recall Del Taco was here before. But like many chains, they grew too fast and eventually shuttered all across the state. It would be nearly a dozen years before I ate at a Del Taco again - on Sunset Blvd in Los Angeles! Fast food tacos are a guilty pleasure for me, so I try to sneak a couple in everywhere I travel - and I would run into Del Taco's in various California locales. Until they finally ended up in Denver." And since we occasionally live in Denver, we no longer felt the need to have a quick snack at Del Taco while traveling. And now, we have one in our home base of NE Tarrant County.

For such a large chain, it's truly remarkable how well managed their stores tend to be - at least the ones I've been too (I'm sure there are exceptions - no need to write in and tell me). It seems they learned their lesson back in the early 1980s, and now they are growing very slowly while not giving up on quality for profit's sake. And perhaps best of all - they're willing to push the envelope a little bit. You want a spicy salsa? OK, they'll give you one. We both love their tacos and at 59 cents a piece, they're a bargain. The hot sauce is dispensed in metal containers similar to how the burger chains now offer up ketchup, mustard, etc... It's a great idea, and very sanitary. As well, Del Taco has just introduced two more traditional salsas - including a truly spicy variety. The latter reminding me quite a bit of Baja Fresh's most fiery option. I love the flavor of their meat, and you can get that in a number of their menu offerings.

I can only offer up superlatives here. It is what it is: A fast food crunchy taco place. But in that category, Del Taco is one of the finest.


Del Taco on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 2, 2012

Thai Thippawan, Thai, Hurst-TX

Happy New Year everyone! We had by far our most active quarter on the RJG to close out 2011. I hope to maintain the pace throughout 2012. Though it won't all be Northeast Tarrant County focused - as I really do hope to add in some restaurants from around the country, and in particular Denver. But we also have plenty of archival material for DFW as well. And if Mr. Music can get on a roll, we should have plenty of Dallas-Ft. Worth content for months to come.

Last visit: December 2011

First time listing in the RJG

We've received a few comments at the RJG to consider Thai Thippawan. And for us, it's actually a reconsider position. We did try Thai Thippawan not long after they first opened in early 2008, and we were not overly impressed. So we were reticent to return, especially considering we're more than happy with Sea Siam, Sweet Basil and Bangkok Cuisine - all featured prominently on this blog. But the RJG feels it only fair to try (or retry) all the restaurants that fit our tastes. And Thai food is at, or near, the very top food group for the RJG. And the fact that the restaurant is still open with a whopping 92% approval rating on Urbanspoon tells us that Thai Thippawan must be doing something right.

And indeed they are. What a difference 4 years makes. We went for lunch, and the specials come with a house soup, an egg roll and a small-ish entree. The soup is delicious, a simple recipe of chicken broth with rice, garlic and pieces of chicken. The egg roll is also very good - fried crispy with a bit of meat in it, which the RJG appreciates. And perhaps best of all is the RJG Thai sample dish: Basil Chicken. And they do it Thai style - that is with ground (minced) chicken, basil leaves, and bell peppers. I asked for it "Thai hot" and that's what I received - no blue-eyed treatment for the RJG, even though I would probably prefer one more notch higher (apparently 3x Hot in the Thai Thippawan vernacular). The sauce is delicious and the small dollop of rice was perfectly cooked. Mrs. RJG had the same dish, though she only went medium and stated it was spiced correctly. She usually prefers regular chicken to the ground variety but was pleasantly surprised by the flavor.

So for the good folks of NE Tarrant county, the RJG now claims we have FOUR really great Thai restaurants. And if you also include Thai Riverside, Magic Springroll and Nipa Thai, then we have no choice but to conclude that we live in a Thai food mecca. Especially considering we haven't really found one great Thai restaurant in all of Denver (some good ones, but nothing great)


Thai Thippawan on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 28, 2011

Italianni's, Italian, Hurst-TX

We won't be going to a new restaurant today, so time to dip into the database for a place we last dined at a couple of months ago.

Last visit: September 2011

First time listing in the RJG

Italianni's started life as a chain concept from Carlson Restaurants (most known for TGI Fridays). Carlson no doubt wanted a piece of the Italian chain dollar and went head to head with Brinker's Romano's Macaroni Grill and Darden's very popular Olive Garden. But the market was already saturated, and they eventually decided to shut down the concept here in the US. The Hurst store however still had a loyal following, and was purchased locally, and has been run independently for close to 10 years now. Interesting to note that the chain is still operating in Mexico, Korea, Colombia and The Philippines - so there's been some discussion about Italianni's needing to change their name. Bud Kennedy on Eats Beat recently reported that was actually going to happen imminently. But on our last visit, they told me that wasn't a concern anymore - and so the name lives on.

Italianni's is one of the few Italian restaurants in the area not owned by families from the former Yugoslavia or Albania. As such, the recipes are all unique, and is in fact a chef driven place. We've tried a variety of dishes, primarily the southern/central Italian classics along the lines of chicken parm, angel hair bolognese, spaghetti and Italian sausage, farfalle rustica, etc... Excellent salad and bread starts the meal off right. And the wine and beer selection is quite robust, and I like that they typically feature one microbrew from Ft. Worth's own Rahr & Sons brewery. Probably the closest restaurant in terms of overall ambiance and menu choices would be I Fratelli in Las Colinas.

Italianni's is a place we go far too infrequently, and surprisingly I have yet to feature it on our blog. It's consistently good - and a great choice for lunch. We've gone probably once or twice a year for about the last 5 year or so. Not sure why that's been the case, but we have every intention of visiting Italianni's more in the future.


Italianni's on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Raising Cane's, Fried Chicken, Hurst-TX, Keller-TX

Last visit: November 2012 (Keller)

NE Tarrant location: Hurst
Total DFW locations: 13
Total Texas locations: 25

So this represents the first entry of a chicken place into the RJG. Mr. and Mrs. RJG definitely enjoy fried chicken, but it's something we pretty much eliminated from our diet over the last few years. But we're slowly adding it back, and we hope to add a few similar entries in the next year.

A buddy of mine who used to own a franchise of 14 Taco Bells, once declared to me "the real money is in chicken!" Of course he had a front row seat to that general ledger, as Taco Bell is part of the Yum Brands, which also happens to own Kentucky Fried Chicken. And this might explain why there's a proliferation of chicken chains throughout the country. Not to mention it's incredibly tasty food, though hardly on any dietitians recommended consumption list.

Raising Cane's started in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 1996, and is the latest success story in fast food. The website has a full story behind the restaurant chain, and it's yet another inspiration tale of a "if there's a will, there's a way".

As for the chicken itself, we've had better, but it's definitely good. Their gimmick is all white meat chicken fingers - so no bones to get in the way. The chicken came out hot and juicy, but I didn't detect any unique flavors beyond the usual. They make a big fuss out of their dipping sauce, but honestly it wasn't an earth mover. It's a mayonnaise based concoction with mild spices mixed in. So mild in fact, you can barely taste it with the chicken. So I dipped the out-of-the-bag Ore-Ida fries into it instead to try to discern the flavor. The Mrs. said the cole slaw was disappointing - too saucy and sweet. The soda selection is lame with only Diet Coke on offer for those who avoid the sugary drinks. Prices were reasonable, considering how expensive chicken can get.

Have a hankering for some white meat chicken fingers? Definitely give Raising Cane's a try. I doubt, however, that it will be a regular stop for the RJG. We rate it "Likes it" on Urbanspoon.


Raising Cane's on Urbanspoon

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Miguelito's, Mexican, Hurst-TX

Last visit: October 2011

First time entry into the RJG

Miguelito's is another restaurant that the RJG discovered via a coupon book I bought in 2003, which helped us discover many of the restaurants in the area (we had just moved back from Colorado). I would say that from 2004 to 2005, Miguelito's was perhaps our favorite Mexican restaurant in NE Tarrant. But then Mrs. RJG soured on the place, and according to my database, we last visited in the summer of 2006. And finally we have returned after a 5+ year exodus, after a complete fall from grace.

The restaurant is a pleasant place, a combination of 60's Tiki and Mexican beach resort. A welcome retreat on this tired segment of Bedford Euless Rd. For the food, the chips are very good, warm to the touch and served in small metal bowls. A server is never too far away to ensure a new bowl is ready when you are. The salsa is stored in a jug on the table, and they provide little serving bowls to pour into. The RJG has always liked this concept, since he tends to over eat on chips and uses an excessive amount of sauce. This way I don't constantly look around for a server to bring more. Oh, and the sauce is delicious.

While Miguelito's does a fine job with combo Tex-Mex platters, I think they do a better job with more upscale dishes. On this visit I tried the chicken diablo, which are cubes of white meat chicken marinated in a very spicy sauce on a bed of Mexican rice. I only wish the chicken itself was charbroiled rather than just boiled. Now Mr. RJG loves to seek out places that have dishes with the word "diablo" (or diavolo in Italian). That always infers extra spicy and that's what I want to hear (and taste and smell...) Years ago, when Mr. RJG was with coworkers in California, we dined at a Mexican restaurant where I made a beeline for the Diablo dish. One of the guys started calling me "Doctor Diablo". The name stuck. Anyway... Mrs. RJG did go for a Tex-Mex plate, and it was lukewarm temperature. Ugh! Now it looks it will be another 5 years before we come back.

As an aside, the frozen margarita I had was weak and watered down. That was unfortunate. Not a dealbreaker, but I need reasons to go back. Maybe the diablo will make that happen. We'll see. Thumbs up from Mr. RJG, thumbs down from the Mrs.

Miguelito's also features a full bar and has flat screen televisions all around.


Miguelito's Mexican on Urbanspoon

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Abuelo's, Mexican, Hurst-TX

Last visit: February 2014

Rating: Buy

Other DFW locations: Arlington; Lewisville; Plano (2); Fort Worth (Hulen)

Other Texas locations: Abilene; Amarillo; Austin; College Station; Lubbock; Midland

Also in 14 other states

February 2014 update: Over the years, Abuelo's has added more and more New Mexican flavored dishes, all to their benefit I might add. Abuelo's is Mrs. RJG's favorite Mexican in NE Tarrant, or at least tied with Anamia's.

Original review

We first visited Abuelo's in the summer of 2004, but for whatever reason Mrs. RJG didn't care for it, and we didn't return for a half-dozen years. Then one day last year we were talking with our neighbors about Mexican food, and they said their favorite place was Abuelo's. I figured that may be because they're hardcore West Texas folks and the chain is based in Lubbock. But we gave it one more try shortly thereafter... and we've been going back ever since. In fact, I'd say the consensus at the RJG household is that Abuelo's has moved into the #2 spot behind Anamia's for the Mexican restaurant crown in NE Tarrant. Pretty amazing for a national chain!

The first thing you notice about Abuelo's is how stunning the restaurant looks - on the inside and out. It's like a Mexican vacation resort. Generally that's a red flag for the RJG. When the money is put into the decor, we fear that's at the expense of the food budget. But that's definitely not the case at Abuelo's. And in fact, Abuelo's offers some pretty unique items that one may only find in a dive. For one they may have the best habanero salsa I've ever had. It's a blazer, but extremely tasty, with that fire roasted chile taste (I just got that feeling in my tongue - I feel like going there right now!). They also have a chipotle medium hot and a tomato based mild. Both are very good, but do not compare to the habanero. Funny that they serve it in a tiny little tin with the other two other salsas in larger bowls. But I'm sure most folks would rather only have a taste. But not the RJG - he asks for a BUCKET of it. And the chips are tasty enough without salsa. The Tex-Mex dishes here are a mix of staples and more authentic Mexican (for example, you can get fried eggs on the enchiladas, that sort of thing). I liked their baked overstuffed burritos, loaded with melted cheese, tasty con carne and whatever meat filling I'd like. Mrs. RJG says their crunchy tacos are the best! Oddly enough, I haven't got that far down the menu yet... Rice and beans are delicious and beyond the norm.

Abuelo's has a full bar, and their margaritas (frozen & au natural) pack a punch.

This is a good place to take guests, or business associates. Though for the many times we've been, it's just been the wife and I. Overall a great Mexican restaurant.


Urbanspoon lists the restaurant as Abuelo's Mexican Food Embassy, but it doesn't appear they still use that tag.

Abuelo's Mexican Food Embassy on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 20, 2011

News: NE Tarrant to get a Del Taco

As I was driving down Precinct Line in Hurst today, I noticed a new fast food place going up. And no, it wasn't In-N-Out Burger, but rather a Del Taco. And that's welcome news for the RJG. Del Taco is reemerging in the area. For those of you who lived in the DFW area in the early 80s, you may recall Del Taco was here before. But like many chains, they grew too fast and eventually shuttered all across the state. It would be nearly a dozen years before I ate at a Del Taco again - on Sunset Blvd in Los Angeles! Fast food tacos are a guilty pleasure for me, so I try to sneak a couple in everywhere I travel - and I would run into Del Taco's in various California locales. Until they finally ended up in Denver while we still lived there. And now they're here at our main home in NE Tarrant!

Welcome back.

Monday, March 7, 2011

News: In-N-Out Burger coming to NE Tarrant

About three years ago, we made fun of NBC5 News for their silly lead-in about In-N-Out Burger coming to North Texas. NOW it appears the chain is ready for expansion. While this isn't a news flash (it's apparently been known since November), I thought I'd mention it in case you didn't know.

The popular chain will be located in Hurst on Precinct Line, just north of TX-183, next to the Quik Trip.

Thanks goes to Food and Fort Worth, Texas for the heads up.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

2010 NE Tarrant Pizza Summary Pt. 2: Jet's, Marco's, Pazzo, Ti Amo

One of the truisms that the RJG learned while working in SE Wisconsin and Chicago, is that while the area is more known for deep dish pizza, the reality is the thin crust still rules the taste buds of the local populace. And the RJG fondly remembers some great pies he devoured in Racine, Kenosha, and Chicago throughout most of 1997.

With that in mind, the RJG was thrilled to see a couple of Midwestern regional chains sprout up here in NE Tarrant - both in Keller in fact. Remember the RJG is pro small/regional chain and anti Public Company (when it comes to most restaurant concepts). First and foremost is Jet's Pizza, a Detroit area chain now making its way to various states in the Midwest and Southeast. I've only tried the Jet's Boat on the two occasions I've been, which is their version of the calzone. Two large inverted pizzas come with each order. I've tried the meatballs and the sausage, and both are excellent. Great tasting sauce, cheese, meats and, most importantly, crust. They're excellent, and a great deal for $7, considering it's two full meals. For my next visit, I'll try a traditional pie to see how it holds up against the competition. Jet's is take-out/delivery only and can be found on North Tarrant, about a mile west of US-377 (it may be considered technically in Ft. Worth, the border with Keller is a bit blurred over there). Now if we could only get a "Coney Island" chain...

2/20/13 update: There's also a Jet's location in North Richland Hills

*** 4/17/11 update: Marco's is moving to the west side of US 377 on North Tarrant. ZuRoma has moved into the former location ***

In a similar fashion Marco's, from Toledo, Ohio is another recent addition to the area. Toledo is less than an hour south of Detroit, so the region shares many similarities (in fact, the RJG worked in Toledo for a couple of weeks in 1998). We've only been once, and tried a traditional large pie with Italian sausage. This is some of the best sausage I've had on a pizza. Not the usual "crumbles" or sliced Sysco sausages, but rather homemade heavily seasoned rolled up sausages. I presume they're not made on site, but shipped in, but for certain these are made with much more care than the usual pizza sausage. Now I'm dying to try their meatballs! The sauce and cheese are delicious and very similar to Jet's (slightly sweet). If I had a complaint, it's that the crust was "doughy" on the bottom. Since I've only been once, I'm not sure if that's how they cook it, or it was a mistake. But to me it says the oven wasn't hot enough to obtain the crispness needed (though the pizza itself was plenty hot). Not a problem... after eating one slice in the car to test, I brought it home, stuck in the toaster oven - and voila - crispy crust! Marco's is on Rufe Snow, just south of North Tarrant, next to the Neighborhood Market. Like Jet's, it's also take-out/delivery only.

In part 1, we mentioned a recent revisit to Palio's, one of NE Tarrant's finest purveyors of the Italian styled individual pizza. But our first experience with this type (in North Texas that is) goes to Pazzo, over in Flower Mound (Denton County), about 15 minutes north of Grapevine. I want to say it was around 2004, based on a recommendation of Mr. Music. In fact, we went with him and his wife on the first visit. Subsequent visits were all outstanding, and we'd go 2 or 3 times a year. However, the original owner sold out, and it seemed to go downhill a bit, and we stopped making the journey. But Mr. Music (who lives closer to the restaurant) said it was getting better again, so the Mrs. and I headed over one recent Saturday for a nice lunch. I went for essentially the "meat lovers" pizza (though it has a fancy Italian name), and the wife tried the pasta (as you know, Mrs. RJG is rarely in the mood for pizza). Mine was very good, certainly on par with Palio's. The wife's pasta was a disaster. Over cooked and mushy, and she didn't eat it. The owner came out and apologized and didn't charge us for her meal. That's all he could do to be fair, and we were satisfied. Bottom line - stick with the pizza if you go. The RJG gives the thumbs up and we'll be back at least one more time this year.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Ti Amo, over in Hurst (off of Harwood a few blocks east of Precinct Line). Like many of the restaurants in the area, they are what I call "pizza pasta", rather than "Italian". And the pizza is of the New York variety. However, I was very disapppointed with their pie. Cheap ingredients, weak sauce, thin cheese, and a limp crust. There really wasn't anything good about it. To add insult to injury, I had to pay cash because they don't take credit cards. I understand why a taco truck can't take a credit card, but a restaurant in NE Tarrant? Sorry, no excuse, and it wasn't like the pizza was heavily discounted to compensate. We do not recommend Ti Amo, and it's not likely we'll go back.

OK - this post arrived about a month later than planned, but during the delay I added Marco's and Pazzo, plus we've been back to Jet's to ensure the consistency. I removed one place in Dallas, that I hope to eventually write about.

Jet's Pizza on Urbanspoon

Marco's Pizza on Urbanspoon

Pazzo Woodfired Pizza on Urbanspoon

Ti Amo on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Al's Famous Dogz & Burgers, Hamburgers, Hurst-TX

Last visit: April 2009

It's been a few years since my first visit to Al's. I must say that my debut experience was a bit underwhelming, but I was determined to try it one more time. And that time has now come and gone. And little has changed as far as my perception, except maybe the prices.

A few years back, Al's was one of those "everything is 89 cents" kind of places. And it's true what they say, you get what you pay for. It was forgettable. Wisely, they gave up on that concept and have improved the quality of their product, and the prices are still DARN cheap, but no longer is anything under a $1.

So what's the problem then? Well, it's not that there's anything wrong with Al's per se, but their burgers are kind of... well... bland. The meat doesn't have much seasoning, and the bun seems to be added at the end, right out of the bag. So other than the low cost, there isn't a compelling reason to go here, especially considering the stiff competition in the area, places that are well documented in these pages. The fries, on the other hand, were better than expected. Searing hot, crispy and a very salty seasoning (perhaps too much for some folks).

If you're craving some quick, cheap eats, then give Al's a whirl. Look for the double drive through shack at the NW corner of Precinct Line and Pipeline.

Al's Famous Dogz & Burgers on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 2, 2009

Sweet Basil, Thai, Hurst-TX

Last visit: February 2014

Rating: Strong Buy

January 2014 update: And Sweet Basil completes our NE Tarrant triumvirate of excellent Thai restaurants (along with Sea Siam and Bangkok Cuisine). We've been going approximately once a month for the last year or so. Their Thai Styled Basil Chicken (ground chicken, super spicy) is, as they say on the window of the restaurant, the "Best in Town". 

February 2013 update: Mrs. RJG had one of her official sisters in town along with her husband, and the meal was a big success. Hopefully we'll be visiting more often now!

October 2011 update: Mr. Music was in NE Tarrant recently and was looking for some good Thai food. He'd been to Sweet Basil before with us, so we headed over there for our first visit since returning from Colorado for the summer. Sweet Basil remains Mr. RJG's #2 Thai place behind Sea Siam in the NE Tarrant area, primarily because of the outstanding traditional spicy basil ground chicken. Mrs. RJG has backslided from the below review and can't seem to find her dish here. She ranks it below many others, so there you have it. Mr. Music also rates Sweet Basil very highly.

Original review

For those of you who read my blog from last summer and before, you will recall that Mrs. RJG's favorite food is Thai, so it may be a bit surprising that we haven't written of any since then. And the answer to that puzzle is quite simply because we tend to always eat at Sea Siam or Bangkok Cuisine, places we've already covered. There are others in NE Tarrant we've been to, that we think are pretty good, but haven't been to in the last year. These include Thai Chili (Southlake), Magic Springroll (Watauga), Belknap Thai (Haltom City), Thai Riverside (Grapevine) and a few others I can't recall off the top. I don't think there's any Thai restaurants in NE Tarrant we haven't tried.

But there's a third place I've been pushing the Mrs. to add to the rotation, as I've been a fan for a long time, but she's been surprisingly hesitant to go back for reasons unknown - and that's Sweet Basil in Hurst. Now, after this visit, she is finally ready to make this a regular RJG stop.

Not long after the RJG relocated from Denver to NE Tarrant in 2003, we discovered a place in North Richland Hills called Top Thai. It quickly became our favorite, and remained so until they closed sometime in 2005. To set the stage, my first exposure to Thai food came in San Francisco sometime in the early 1990s. It was love at first taste, and most of the Thai restaurants I tried on the Left Coast were of a similar style. Unfortunately Denver seemed a wasteland for Thai food. Oh sure, we had Thai restaurants, but none reminded me of the flavors of Northern California. Then we found Top Thai and that was it! The taste I had remembered so fondly.

Of all the Thai restaurants in the area, Sweet Basil reminds me most of Top Thai. That is, what I would consider more traditional Thai cooking. Thai style means ground chicken, not cut up chicken breast. Spicy means spicy, not "are you sure?". Thai style means simple ingredients, not stir fried with whatever you can find in the garden. Sure, Sweet Basil has those kind of dishes as well, but you have the option here. And the spice levels here are serious. They say 4 stars is "super spicy" and indeed it really is! I've gone hotter than that in the past, but 4 stars is enough for even the most adamant of fire seekers (which includes me).

We've been going to Sweet Basil on and off for nearly 5 years, and that includes a change of ownership. The new owners did away with the bar, and that means BYOB - which is great news for those with an eye on the budget! The new owners also brought about more consistency, and I've always been happy with my meals here. And now I have the Mrs. on board too, so we have a third place for our "Thai rotation".

Sweet Basil is also one of the nicer Thai restaurants in the area. Mood lighting and sleek furniture add a sophisticated ambiance, rather than the usual divey fast food feel. That is, a good place to take a date or have a romantic dinner with a loved one. Just don't forget to bring your own wine!

Sweet Basil is on Melbourne, near Pipeline, tucked into a small strip mall, near Northeast Mall.


Sweet Basil Thai Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 16, 2009

Rosa's Cafe & Tortilla Factory, Mexican, Hurst-TX

Last visit: January 2013

Rating: Sell

9 total DFW locations

January 2013 update: Some quick updates here on Rosa's. First off, interesting to note that Taco Villa itself is now in the DFW area (in Benbrook). This is my first revisit since I wrote the below review - almost exactly 4 years ago. I decided to go back because the place seems to be popular still, and maybe I'm just not ordering the right thing? So this time I tried a chicken fajita burrito. What a joke. It was practically the size of a taquito, with a mushy tortilla and tough chicken. Seriously I would've needed 4 of them to fill me up. But I passed on that temptation since quite frankly it wasn't good. At all. The salsa bar is still there, and their chile de arbol sauce remains the only thing I can recommend about Rosa's. Their ground beef tacos mix in potatoes to cheapen the product (I know it's authentic, but authentic doesn't always translate to the best experience). There's only one thing I can say about Rosa's: It's cheap. Cheap. Cheap. That's all it is. I'm done with this place and I vow not to go back unless I hear of significant changes.

Original review

One of the staples of my diet while attending Texas Tech in Lubbock in the mid 1980s was Taco Villa. They always had more to offer concerning taste and spice than the competing Taco Bell (there was also Taco Mayo, but that's for another day). Bobby Cox opened his first Taco Villa in Odessa in 1968, and built a regional empire of taco stands throughout West Texas and Eastern New Mexico. As the crunchy fast food taco fad eventually subsided, Taco Villa fell on hard times, and eventually lead to a split of the company. Today the original Taco Villa still exists in the Midland-Odessa area as well as Amarillo. The Lubbock franchise is completely separate but about equal in size. I haven't been to either in years, so no idea how one stacks up against the other (they were one company in the 1980s).

All of this leads up to Rosa's Cafe & Tortilla Factory, Bobby Cox's next venture. The company was bought in after the concept had already begun, but it's clear the franchising expertise has been put forth. Whereas Taco Villa competed against Taco Bell, Rosa's Cafe is a direct response to Taco Cabana. That is, the second generation of the fast food Mexican experience.

Truth be told, there's nothing exceptional about Rosa's, except one very critical point - the price. Nowhere else can you get a complete Mexican meal with beans and rice for under $4. Everything here is average, but certainly decent enough, I guess. And one other aspect of the franchise that is to be commended - the salsa bar. While they have the usual array of mild and medium sauces, not too many offer a chile de arbol as a regular item, and it even has a bit of a kick to it.

When we first moved to NE Tarrant at the beginning of 2003, we gave Rosa's a few tries. But this was my first visit in nearly 5 years. Nothing has changed. And the place is still mobbed. So much so, I couldn't grab a table and had to have mine repackaged to-go. Times are hard, but people still like to go out and eat. Given their popularity, one has to conclude that Rosa's provides the right food at the right price. It's a winning combination for the current economy. But it's not a restaurant I'd recommend.

Website isn't working. No doubt they were too cheap to pay the fee.

Rosa's Cafe & Tortilla Factory on Urbanspoon