28 Nov

This has been a long time coming.   Five years ago – I wrote about my first time visiting the fountain side of Big State Drug store.    In the years that followed business dwindled and it went out of business earlier this year.

Amazingly, Rick & Susan Fairless (owners of all things Strokers:  Ink, Dallas, Ice House, and RF custom parts) stepped up and announced they would buy the place and turn into a full-time fountain and jettison the drugstore part of it.   The story made every news source in town take notice.

A few months passed and they reopened the joint to much fanfare.   Irving residents and other Big State fans were energized and full-on excited that someone would do something like this.    It was unique and full of heart.   Rick and Susan are both life-long Irving residents and just honestly did not want to see the place disappear.   Their generosity is truly awe-inspiring.

Walking into the joint I was overwhelmed with cool-factor and by the amount of work done to the place.  It is bright and full of color.   Tons of photos line the walls showing the Irving of years past.   The soda fountain bar is easily three times the size of what I remember from my last visit.

It’s lunch time and the place is quite full even though it has been several weeks since they opened.  I am thinking this is a good thing.

I walk in and am greeted by some nice ladies and grab a table and the anticipation I had building has turned into excitement.  I am finally here.  Back to check it out.  Back to celebrate the return of something I had such fond memories of.   I am thinking “They did it!!  They pulled it off!!!  They brought this place back from the dead!”

And then my shake arrived.    Rich and smooth and complete with the metal-mixer-cup with extra shake in it.   To me, $4.50 well spent.    I am loving it so far.  The “fountain” part of this joint is up and running.

And here comes the “grill”.    I order your basic hamburger which comes with homemade kettle chips.   The kettle chips are hardcore crunchy.   Solid texture and are cooked perfectly.   Unfortunately there is absolutely no seasoning on these chips.

I check the menu and see they also sell “Stroker’s Fries” which are fries with cajun seasoning on them.   I think that seasoning on these chips would have taken them from bland to addictive in a heartbeat.

I grab the burger and take a deep breath.   It looks like a well-made home-style burger.    I am thinking that if this burger rocks – it’s gonna be my weekly go-t0 burger stop.  I will be tempted to stand outside the building wearing a sandwich-board shouting the greatness of this place and it’s burger.

And I suppose the weeks I waited to visit has raised my expectations to an unrealistic level.  The burger has everything you want – some tangy mustard, fresh vegetables, and a meat patty cooked to the proper temp.   Unfortunately, like the chips, there is absolutely no seasoning to the meat.  It’s pretty generic and that is heartbreaking.

With Griff’s, Burger King, McDonald’s, and Joe’s Coffee Shop all within blocks of each other the competition is pretty strong.  I was hoping for a Big-State burger that would set the bar above any of their potential competitors.

I have plans to return and try other menu items.   Maybe I just overlooked the best they have to offer.   I have visited their Facebook page and seen some very delicious looking “Blue Plate Specials” but saw none of those dishes on the menu in person.

On my way out I noticed a “notice” sign in the door window.  Like you see when a business is about to get a liquor license.    Does Big State need to sell booze to survive in this day and age?


To sum up:

What I love:

The idea.  The dedication.  The heart this place had, has, and will continue to have.   The classic glass-bottle sodas and candy counter.  The fountain part.   The deco.  The crazy amount of classic Irving pics they have on the wall.  The framed waitress uniform from back in the day.  The potential.

What I don’t:

Almost everything in the “gift” area.   I saw dozens of people look at the greeting cards and kitschy stuff and pass on it all.   I also found it difficult to find (at first) the official Big State merchandise for sale.

What I would like to see:

A revamp of the menu.  Seasoned chips.   Better quality burger meat.   SEASONING.   The Big State merchandise up front and very visible.   Displays at every table that tell you Big State merchandise is for sale.  The shirts and coffee mugs they have are awesome and need to be promoted more.

to be continued….


Have you checked out Big State Fountain Grill?   Share your thoughts below  here and at Urbanspoon!
Big State Fountain Grill on Urbanspoon

Brooklyn’s Pizzeria – PLANO

26 Nov

Okay despite this sorry picture, this is a very good slice.

Plano has got a great little place on its hands with Brooklyn’s.    I like the market style deco and the staff is super-nice.

It was close to closing time when I arrived and I was able to get a slice to go.

Usually I would pass on this because most likely that slice has been sitting there for hours and ends up tasting awful.

Not here.  Fresh tasting.  Nice and thin crust with a slight crunch.   Great sauce.  Gooey cheese.

This place is on my short-list of Plano spots to go back to and get a full pie and try other items.


Lay’s Kettle Cooked: Sea Salt and Vinegar

25 Nov

I like these chips.  They are a nice break from the normal boring potato chips.

They have just a hint of salt and that vinegar “tangy” flavor that I enjoy so much in different dishes.

And of course because they are “kettle style” they are very crispy and crunchy.

Me likey crunch.   Except in peanut butter.  I like smooth when it comes to peanut butter.

Is that weird?  That most things I want crunchy but my peanut butter I want smooth?  Actually crunchy isn’t all that bad now that I think on it.

Like I said.  These chips are good.

A & W Restaurant

24 Nov

UntitledBack in the day, when I lived in the upper mid-west there was a battle between drive-ins.    Sonic vs. A&W.    I loved both but A&W always edged out sonic because they served their root beer in frosted glass mugs.   That root beer was so ice-cold and fantastic.    Burgers and onion rings were seriously good too.

Well something obviously happened over the years because Sonic is still going strong as a drive-in.   A&W has partnered with Long John Silvers and now they are a two-in-one restaurant.

There are a few A&W’s left that are still actual drive-ins….but nowhere near me.   I drive by the LJS/A&W locations all the time but never stop.    Most locations were simple LJS and they added the burger joint – so in my opinion – they aren’t equipped to make great burgers because they are mainly a fish-fry-place.

But as I drove by one today, I decided to stop.   See if the quality had changed.   Okay..get hushpuppies and a root beer float also.

The hushpuppies were standard LJS and are just as I remembered them.   The root beer float was awesome.  The fries were actually better than I remember.   Sort of like smaller “steak fries” type.

The burger was meh.   No other way to put it.  It has been years since I been to LJS/A&W and after today that clock resets.  It will most likely be quite awhile before I return again.

ROMANO’s KITCHEN COUNTER: Chicken Milanese Panzanella

20 Nov

I don’t often visit Romano’s Macaroni Grill – but after today that might change.

They have this new thing going on called “Romano’s Kitchen Counter”.

It’s a limited lunch menu that is ready to eat in seven minutes- at a cost of seven bucks per dish.

What you see is the Chicken Milanese Panzanella salad.   It’s a HUGE breaded chicken breast that is covered tomatoes, arugula, pickled onions, olives, parmesan, and a mediterranean vinaigrette.

This was hearty and very-very filling.   I got it to go and the idea of being able to walk in and ….by the time you pay and sit down… you get a dish like this is pretty slick.   With no shortage of Italian restaurants – it must be murder trying to get and keep the attention of loyal customers.  For Romano’s this is a step in the right direction.   This lunch was so filling I couldn’t even polish it off in one sitting.    And more than being a satisfying lunch…it make me curious and interested to check out Romano’s more often.


14 Nov

Rasing Cane’s has some fantastic chicken tenders.   I love that they just focus on making some killer chicken….not  try and serve 20 products that are sub-par.

And while I am a big fan of the chicken…I am equally impressed if not slightly more so with the toast.

Oh good Lord the toast….it’s buttery and garlic-y…and just fantastic.

It’s so good they could open a “Makin’ Toast” drive-thru and I bet people would line-up.

Chips and Salsa

13 Nov

Here is a fun travel trip for you.

Go to any tex-mex restaurant in the DFW area and just order a soda.   Sit there and munch on a couple of baskets of chips and salsa for half an hour and ask for your check.     TOTAL?  Two bucks or so.   The price of the soda.

Do that same thing in New York?  TOTAL is twenty-five bucks or so— that being the cost of  two sodas and two baskets of chips and salsa.

They do not have “complimentary” chips and salsa in other cities like we do here.   We are sorta spoiled in that regard.

So when I passed an On The Border the other day and saw this silly sign that read “Endless chips and salsa FREE with every meal” …I was like…uh…yeah!!!!  DUH!!!

But it also made me wonder what if I am having drinks with some friends and not dinner?  Do I NOT get the chips and salsa like I have in the past?

Are time so hard that OTB can’t afford to give away chips and salsa?      Or is this some dumb corporate move to save 9 cents a year….and secure his yearly bonus?



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