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MONTEREY’S LITTLE MEXICO

24 Mar

UntitledWay off the beaten path is a cute little gem of a restaurant in Grand Prairie called ….oh just read the headline…I ain’t typing all that again.

Not sure what I was doing on that side of town but once I saw the sign I was craving some food.    As you can see I went tex-mex with fajitas and they were very good.   Nearby tables ordered more traditional dishes and they looked just as yummy.   The staff was friendly and didn’t bother you ever five minutes like some places.   The restaurant was also super-clean.  Like…seriously clean.   Like it was so clean that I was like…wow…this place is super clean!   Bonus points.    I love to support local biz and this place has good food and great atmosphere – check it out!

HIDEOUT BURGERS -MANSFIELD

10 Mar

UntitledNow this is what I am talkin’ about, kids.

Hideout Burgers in Mansfield is the real deal.  It’s a no-frills burger joint and that is all I want it to be. Hideout makes a homestyle burger that is probably the best burger I have had in Mansfield.  Period.   Without exception.

The staff is friendly and the cafe has some speedy services.  Those burgers we ordered slid onto our table by a friendly face in a matter of minutes.   The place was kind of busy that night too.   Families and kid sport teams all chowin’ down.    Family friendly type place.  Just a great all-around experience.  Lookin’ forward to going back for another burger and trying the rest of the menu.

COUNTRY KITCHEN CAFE – PANTEGO

10 Feb

UntitledTexans, Southerners, and hell…most people love “home cookin’ ” type restaurants.    Country Fried Steak, Chicken and Dumplings, etc….. fried…gravy…you get the idea..

So while traveling through Pantego, I saw this NOW OPEN sign on a place called Country Kitchen.   It was early breakfast time…so this sounded perfect.

It’s a family run business and the location is large and very clean and home-y.   The staff were polite enough – but very straight forward.   Polite but not quite friendly I would say.

We were seated and given menus.    Service is a little on the slow side.   I keep reminding myself that the sign outside said NOW OPEN, so maybe they are still working out the kinks of opening a new place.

The Chicken Fried Steak (shown above) was very hit and miss.  The mashed potatoes were light and fluffy, but it and the ‘steak was smothered in some very generic gravy.   The Chicken Fried Steak itself tasted like the frozen kind I could get at the store and make myself.  Not a good sign.

UntitledWe moved on to their version of Chicken ‘n’ Waffles.

The chicken was…again…something close to what I could pick up from the frozen food aisle.  These didn’t taste bad…just not fresh or made to order.

The waffle, on the other hand, was super-light…fluffy with a little bit of crispness to the edges….EXACTLY the kind of waffle you want.   It was sooooo good, actually.

The absolute best part of the entire meal.    Unfortunately as a whole, I didn’t enjoy the experience enough to make it my new comfort food go-to place.  Your experience may differ.

 

 

JUSTICE BURGER – WEATHERFORD

23 Jan

UntitledJustice Burger is the new kid on the block in downtown Weatherford TX.   Buckle up because we got lots of ground to cover here.

This place looks like a lot of fun.  Tons of TVs, what appears to be a stage for music, a huge beer list, and big plates full of the biggest burgers I have ever seen in my life.  I am full-on excited to be here.

I tell the server that it is our first time here and we will need a minute to go over all the beers and extensive menu.  We start with water and some chips and salsa.

She returns with the waters and drops them off.    She returns again and remembers the chips and salsa are missing and walks away.   She comes back and fills up our water and asks if we are ready to order.  I asked about a beer and my dining buddy asked about the burgers because their menu is not clear as to what ingredients is on what burger.   It’s confusing.  Again.  First time here.

My friend wants a basic burger.   This is how they list the first burger on the menu:

THE RED SHIRT GUY

Plain but Tasty Burger with Veggies.  The perfect companion for those weird other galaxy adventures you need a wingman for.

SERIOUSLY?  You had to squeeze in that goofy Star Trek joke?  Why not just list the size of the burger patty and what toppings come on it?

But right above that on the menu it reads “Burgers only include veggies if noted below but feel free to add lettuce, tomato, or onions.

So…the Red Shirt Guy comes with just pickles?  Am I crazy?  Why make this so difficult?

My friend orders the Red Shirt Guy (comes with fries) and he is set.

I order the Bacon Cheeseburger and have similar problems.

The Menu:

BACON CHEESEBURGER- Just like the cheeseburger except with tasty, thick cut, bacon.  No limitations still apply.

OOOOOHHHKAY…. EXCEPT…there is no “CHEESEBURGER” on the menu to refer to.  So when it says “just like the cheeseburger…I don’t know what they are referring to.    And the NO limitations still apply is meaningless because instead of mustard or mayo on the burger, I asked for BBQ sauce and was charged .95 cents for that.

I also ordered the onion ring “upgrade” for a “tiny bit more” ($1.00)…and a beer I never got.

So we finally taste the water….BAD MOVE.    This water is obviously unfiltered or maybe Weatherford tap water is just dirty tasting.  YUCK.  So if you only drink water….be warned.

Our server forgot the chips and salsa again and after reminding her… she finally brought them she told us to be careful because the plate was hot.

Really?  Why?  The salsas were cold and so were the chips, so why was the plate hot?

On the positive side, the salsas were both VERY VERY GOOD.  Unfortunately, the chips have so much extra salt on them that they were inedible.   We asked if we could get chips without extra salt and were told no.  “that’s how they come, sorry.”  So there goes that.

It’s a good thirty minutes until the burgers arrive.   We are both pretty tired of our “experience” here at this point.   I am thinking of just not reviewing this place at all….. but then those burgers arrive.

Despite the server NOT knowing the menu.

Despite the menu being too cutesy for its own good.

Despite having horrible tap water.

Despite having crazy-over-salted chips.

Despite ordering a beer and not getting it.

Despite thinking most of the entire menu is OVER PRICED.

This was one of the BEST burgers I have had in a LONG time.   It was thick and hearty and had great cheese and bacon.  The BBQ sauce was nice and flavorful.

UntitledThe ONION RINGS were also some of the best Onion Rings I have ever had.   They were huge and crunch and the breading was like…three times the thickness of the actual onion.  So filling!!!! It was also $11, which seemed pricey for a burger and onion rings.

My friend’s Basic Burger looked and was just as delicious.   They loved it.  They don’t know if it was worth $7.50…but they enjoyed it.

They did NOT…however…like the generic frozen fries.  Weird.  Why would you go to all the trouble to do all these fresh and homemade items and then skimp on the fries???

Was all the drama worth this ???

Well…. Slow down.   We asked for flatware and napkins and had to wait five minutes as she went and rolled us each a single fork in a napkin.   When asked if we could have knifes to cut these massive burgers…she responded… “sorry we are out of knives right now”.

Ohhhhhkay…   So we make our own way through this grub.  Loving it.

Then I notice something at the table next to us TWO minutes later.  A lady takes a drink of her water and says it is disgusting and orders a tea instead.    She also asks for a knife….and gets one.   We both have the same server.   So that pretty much ends the adventure.

After paying the tab we are in the parking lot on the way to our cars.  Both of us are suddenly hit by the fact that we are both so full that we need naps.  Like immediately.  I felt pretty sluggish all afternoon after that feast….so be warned not to chow down like I did.

I take one last look back and notice the “NOW OPEN” banner outside.   Maybe they have only been open for a few days/weeks and are still working the bugs out.   I hope so.  Those were some great burgers…but the experience with that particular server is enough alone to make me skittish about ever going back.  Despite the kick-ass food.  To be continued…..

Your mileage may vary.

MERCADO JUAREZ

29 Apr

UntitledThere is a little place off I-20 in Arlington in a very nondescript building that I have passed a hundred times.   Mercado Juarez is the name and despite the plain building — the inside is filled with fantastic food and a great atmosphere.

I am so glad I finally got around to trying this place.   I see it is busy several nights a week.   It’s easy to know why once you walk in the joint.

It’s spacious and has several dinner areas and a great little bar area off by itself.  Everyone at each table are chatting up and laughing while chowing-down.   You can just tell everyone is relaxed and having fun in their favorite place.

The food was hot, fresh, filling, and super-tasty.   We had some fajitas and despite that filling us up, once we saw someone at the nearby table having the gorgeous dessert you see….we had to have one.  Yum yum yum.   Good Lord I was so full and happy.

Great food.  Fun Atmosphere.  Friendly staff.   Don’t wait around to try it like I did.  Go for it!

BIG STATE FOUNTAIN

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

DINO’s SUBS: Meatball Sandwich

28 Oct

I know this family that lives in Arlington and they absolutely LOVE their weekly visit to Dino’s Subs.   They rave about how great the food is and how I am missing out.

So I finally get around to trying their meatball (my first taste-test of any good sammich shop) and I am less than impressed.  Not just with the sammich…but the place in general.

I am there during lunch hours and it’s already pretty busy.  I have plenty of time to read the menu but it doesn’t tell me sizes of these sammiches.   Are they six inch?  Foot longs?  What are my bread choices?   I tell the first assembly person (the meat cutter) it’s my first time and he sort of shrugs and asks what number I want to order.   Each item is assigned a number.   Meatball is a #20.  He asks if I want cheese and what kind of bread.   I ask what kind do they have and he looks back at me like I am stupid.   “White,I guess”.    He nods and then disregards me.

The line slides down and so do I.  I meet two friendly girls that are “in the weeds” making these piled-high cold-cut sammiches.  Those monsters look real good.

Damn.   “Here I go ordering the wrong thing again”…..I am thinking.    But while I was waiting in line I noticed they offered pasta dishes and chicken parm…so the meatballs gotta be pretty good right?     Why am I the only one in line ordering a meatball sammich?   Oh boy….

I am looking at chip selection and asked if I want anything else on my sammich.   Up ahead I see another lady in glasses and wrist-guards that seems to be slowing this train down.    She is talking to each customer and trying to be friendly, but she is also complaining about having to “find this” or “make that because it slows me down!”  Maybe it’s the pressure of having now almost a dozen people in line.  She is trying to do too much.   The girls and meat-cutter guy should be handling most of the heavy lifting I should think.

I order it to go but then decide to stay and eat.   What you see is what I got.   By the time I sat down, the bread was mushy and soggy from the sauce.   Luckily they gave me a knife and fork.   I am tasting some good provolone on this boy but not much else stands out.   The meatballs are swallowed up in this loaf of bread I got.   The meatballs are also very tender yet flavorless.   No seasoning whatsoever.

I can’t even finish it.   I fully plan on asking for my money back but the line is still long and the guy in the suit has been standing there looking for someone to refill his tea…as long as I have been eating– so let’s just call this ballgame and go home.

I look around and everyone else is chowing-down on their cold-cut sammich and having a good time.   I guess I should have brought the “Dino’s Specialist” I know and have him teach me the ropes and order for me.