Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Taco Bueno is one of my guilty pleasures

I'm not going to apologize for liking a fast food chain so just move on if you want me to slam this place.  The bold fat man grew up on Taco Bueno so there's a special place in his heart for those wonderful tacos and burritos.  Most people in Austin don't even know about Taco Bueno since it's not easy to find one but in Tulsa they are as prevalent as McDonald's and probably as popular.  There are two things most Tulsans miss when they move away, one is coneys and the other is Taco Bueno.  Neither one is done right anywhere else in the world.  That's just a fact.

Now I will admit Taco Bueno tries to tempt you with their premium offers of brisket burritos or steak fajita tacos.  Forget all that crap.  It's just overpriced and frankly not good.  There are only two things on the menu at Taco Bueno that should be ordered and those are the crispy beef taco and the bean burrito.  I suggest two of each and a big Coke to wash it down.  It'll cost about $6 bucks.  They even make fresh salsa daily and it's very tasty with just a little hint of heat.  Again, don't order anything else or you'll probably be disappointed.

The tacos are a little bit bigger than Taco Bell and have actual tomatoes on them, along with the nicely spiced and slightly salty ground beef, plenty of shredded lettuce and cheese.  I like to add a nice big pour of their fresh salsa on each taco to give it that extra zip.  It's a perfect combination of crunchy shell, spicy veg and salty beef.  The bean burrito is even better.  They come with beans, a flavorful chili sauce and cheese but you must open it up and add some salsa and jalapenos to make it a proper Bueno burrito.  Add some onions too so you have a little crunch with it.  A perfect fast food feast on the cheap.

That's it for today and I hope the rest is muy bueno...

Taco Bueno on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Hoover's eastside is better but this will do

My first experience at Hoover's Cooking was at the eastside restaurant.  I watched Hoover check every order that went out to the crowd and keep an eye on everyone.  I've never met the man but in my head he's a nice version of TV star and chef Gordon Ramsey.  I don't get over to his flagship restaurant very often but I do frequent his second in northwest Austin off 183 near Anderson Mill.  They aren't near as good but over the few years they've been open I can say they have become consistent.

That first year was a mess.  The portions were always different.  One week the food would be great and the next it wouldn't be good at all.  I remember ordering the bbq special and when the food came out I have maybe an 1/8 pound of sliced beef that could only be described as the trimmings picked out of the trash.  Fortunately they've tightened up but Hoover's Jollyville has a way to go before they win any awards.

I like their Meat and Three offering.  You get one meat from a list of favorites like chicken fried steak, chicken, ham, etc. and three sides for a slightly lower price.  The portions are smaller but it's still enough to fill the grumpy fat man.  Tonight I ordered chicken fried steak with jalapeno cream spinach, mustard greens and a house salad.  Oh, before I forget, I ordered a tall glass of sweet tea to wash it all down.  They make their tea very sweet so be prepared for that jolt of sugary delight when you take a big swig.  My salad came out a few minutes after we ordered and I started in on it.  Your standard iceberg lettuce, tomato slices and red onion affair with a couple packs of crackers.  It was fresh and crisp but I didn't even have time to finish it before our food arrived.  And they were pretty busy.  That's one thing about Hoover's Jollyville, they don't mess around.  They must be able to tell I'm hungry.  The chicken fried steak was probably five ounces of meat, double breaded and fried up nice and crispy then covered in cream gravy.  It's plenty salty out of the kitchen but I added a little black pepper.  I just like a little extra pepper, it's not that it's bland.  The jalapeno cream spinach was just a little warm from the peppers and delicious.  I added some sport pepper vinegar to the mustard greens and ate them up too.  I was picky as a kid but you can't stop me from ordering greens wherever I can find them now.  Maybe it's all that Popeye the Sailor Man I watched back then.  They also bring out a little cornbread and sweet potato rolls.  They're good and fresh though the portions are half of what they used to be.

Steph ordered the chicken fried chicken breast with mac-n-cheese, garlic cheese grits and mashed potatoes.  She's all about the starch tonight.  She liked the chicken saying it had plenty of salt and gravy.  She didn't like the mac-n-cheese because it had a gritty texture to it.  I guess it's the cheese sauce?  She liked the garlic cheese grits but made the suggestion they call it garlic cheese grit soup since it's pretty thin, as were the mashed potatoes.  As I noted earlier, they're consistent but not everything is up to the standards of the eastside Hoover's.

We were full so we didn't get any dessert.  They have several pies, cheesecakes and puddings to choose from and those have always been good in the past.  I remember liking the bread pudding with rum sauce but it's been too long to be able to describe it.  Sorry.

The manager said Goodbye and asked how was everything this evening so they do try to keep the customer happy though we did have a little problem with the waitress.  When she came by to check on us she filled my glass of tea with one pitcher of the two in her hand.  Steph moved her water glass over but the waitress quipped, "this is tea" in a rather blunt tone.  Steph joked that she was in trouble and probably wouldn't get anymore water.  She was right.  It wasn't until the waitress checked on us again that she finally filled up the glass and then did the extra nice thing to save her tip.  It was a little too much.  And then she did my favorite tip killing move, she thanked us as she walked away with her back to us.  That's just classy...  : )

Sorry for the rant but it needed to be said.  Take care and I'll see you tomorrow.

Hoover's Cooking on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 29, 2011

Hat Creek takes me back to the simple days of youth

Did you work a restaurant job in high school?  I worked for my uncle at Shaw's Drive In in Tulsa.  We were the standard burger, fries and a chocolate malt place with a few extra items to keep the customers happy and full of delicious food.  Hat Creek takes me back to those times and tastes.  For me it's the real deal for burger joints.

First let's compare the meat.  Uncle John would pick up freshly ground hamburger from the market across the street every morning.  Hat Creek boasts they have fresh, never frozen hamburger.  I didn't ask if it was ground in house or picked up fresh daily but from eating at Hat Creek I'll guess it's ground fresh daily.  But that's just a guess.  If you go remember to ask and let me know.  Their patties seem to be about 2 or 3 ounces each so a double burger is perfect for me.  And if you get cheese on your double meat that's double cheese too!  They keep the ratio right.  The bun is a nice, fresh baked, white bun toasted on the grill just like we did at Shaw's and dressed with whatever you like since they're made to order.  Hat Creek offers the standard assortment of mustard, mayo, pickle, onion, lettuce, tomato and even a few add-ons like jalapenos.  We never offered jalapenos back in Tulsa though I bet it would have sold well.  Uncle John was never one to do gimmicks or specials though.  He was all about traditional burgers.  And I see that at Hat Creek too.  That's why they remind me of home.

Their fries are hand cut and on the small side.  Maybe a little bigger than shoe string but they fry them up to order so they're always hot and fresh out of the grease.  I like mine with ketchup and they have large paper cups to put plenty of ketchup in so you don't have to go get more.  The cup is big enough to share at the table.  I think that's a nice touch.  But don't go wasting ketchup or they'll change to smaller cups and I'll get all grumpy.

I haven't tried their milk shake yet.  The grumpy fat man tries to watch his intake of sweets but I will soon try one.  Since it's so hot these days I'm not sure why I didn't get one.  The ice cold soda helped cool me off though and they have good sodas.  Not weak and watery like some places and they don't taste funny either.  I've been noticing some places around town have funny tasting sodas.  Like they put lemon in everything.  Have you noticed that?

So that's Hat Creek.  A little taste of home in Austin with great food, great people and even good time rock and roll playing constantly in the dining room.  Did I mention they greeted us with a "Hi!, I'll be with you in just a second" and made sure to say "Thanks for coming have a great evening!" when we left.  That goes a long way in my book.

So until tomorrow what are some of your youthful food memories?

Hat Creek Burger Co. on Urbanspoon

Friday, August 26, 2011

Serrano's is decent TexMex and easy

One of the things that makes me grumpy, as you've probably already noticed, is having to wait in lines.  If we walk in and there's a wait for more than five minutes I'll usually just go somewhere else.  Yes I know it's probably easier to wait than wasting time and gas driving somewhere else but that's just me.  I'm sure you know someone that acts the same way.  Or maybe I'm the only one.  It doesn't matter.  What matters is Serrano's has good TexMex and you rarely have to wait even when they're really busy. So don't do like me and drive on by when the parking lot looks too full.

Serrano's has that standard TexMex flavor with the chili sauce over cheese enchiladas or the slightly spicy and salty ground beef in a crunchy corn shell.  You won't find that odd pepper or keep Austin weird flavor here, it's all about that flavor that made TexMex famous.  And sometimes that is exactly the flavor I'm in the mood to taste.

We ate on a Monday night and they were having a buy one, get one free, enchilada special.  I was in the mood for those tacos I described above but hey free food.  I just can't pass up a deal and Steph was getting enchiladas anyway so it worked out.  I had one beef and two cheese while Steph had three cheese.  OK, the three enchiladas was my fault.  She only wanted two but since I ordered three they gave her three.  I helped finish off the extra one on her plate.  Looking back two would have been enough but I'm like my uncle Gene, my eyes are bigger than my stomach.  The plates came out a little later, they're fast at Serrano's, hotter than the sun so we had to let them cool off for a few minutes.  They didn't let us down.  The enchiladas were nice and cheesy with plenty of chili sauce over the top.  The chili sauce is flavorful with those traditional TexMex flavors you grew up knowing.  The rice and beans are good too.  Not too spicy but not bland either.  They help complement the dish perfectly.

We both left the restaurant smiling and saved about seven bucks overall.  How's that for building a little goodwill with your customers.  It certainly makes me want to go back.

 Have a great weekend.

If you want to see pics and get a different perspective on Serrano's just visit Steph's blog: Serrano's Lakeline Location

Serranos Lakeline on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Fuddrucker's is getting better but is it too little too late?

I wasn't very impressed on my first visit to Fuddrucker's.  They were a chain, had high prices and didn't seem to differentiate themselves from the pack well.  Their combo didn't include a drink but added fries and a cookie.  You can just feel the greed in the menu instead of the love of the food.  That really turned me off.  After closing most of their restaurants around Austin I think Fuddrucker's may have gotten the message.  They've changed the menu a bit, the combos now have a drink though they dropped the cookie and they seem to be focusing on family and children now.  OK, maybe they didn't get the message, they just decided to charge high prices to a different demographic.  Still, the burgers are cooked to order, the fries are always hot and you can load up on all the veg you want.  Then again, why am I paying that much to essentially make the burger myself?  Now on to my gripes.

Fuddrucker's has those new soda machines that can dispense every flavor imaginable.  Two of them side by side.  If you've ever tried one it seems great at first but you really have to know how to use them to get what you want.  Say the person before you drinks Fanta Orange then you walk up and select Coke, we'll go over the learning curve in a moment, you have to remember to run the faucet a bit to clear the orange flavor out.  Unless you like orange Coke.  I personally didn't.  The next thing you notice is the kids like to play at the machine so that backs up the line, and the parents don't care if their little rug rat is in the way anyway, or the adult has never used the machine and just can't make up her darn mind because there are too many choices.  "They all sound so good," she said to me as I waited, and waited.  She didn't know I was the grumpy fat man and I smiled and suggested that you can never go wrong with Coke.  Oddly she took my advice.  I thought she'd go with grape or strawberry to relive some old memory of long lost youth.  And what's up with that big pole right in the way of the drink machines?  And having to play a live version of frogger and racer-x to get to a table.  It seems everyone decides to get up just as I'm walking by.  I survived.

Our burgers were called out so I picked them up from the front.  The proper sequence was right, left, right, down, down, down and then around the game machines, around all the people standing around for their food instead of getting a drink, and guessing which two baskets were ours.  The staff thanked me as I grabbed the two that looked correct and headed to the condiment and toppings station.  A couple squirts of cheese on the fries, a little brown mustard, pickles, relish, jalapenos, sweet peppers and pico de gallo on the burger and we're all set.  Steph eats her burgers plain so she really doesn't get the fun of picking the toppings.

At first glance we noticed the burgers looked small but soon realized that the buns were just huge. Either they ran out of regular size or the bakery sent big ones.  In either case it made the burger look small so they flattened them out a bit to compensate which really took away one of the reasons we chose Fuddrucker's in the first place.  They have a nice, thick burger.  It was cooked more medium to medium well instead of medium rare but given they smashed it down I wasn't really surprised.  The fries were nice and hot.  My Coke didn't have orange in it.  All was good in the world.

In the end I suppose Fuddrucker's still has a long way to go to really earn my respect but at least they're making a noticeable effort.

Thanks for listening to my rant today.  Talk at you tomorrow.

Fuddruckers on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Chosun Galbi, you are the chosen one

My old buddy from the Army came up to visit this weekend so we decided to have dinner.  It's been almost 20 years since we had seen each other so it had to be some place special.  Chosun Galbi fit the bill and delivered in every way.  They are a Korean style restaurant that specializes in Korean BBQ.  To that extent each large booth has an electric hibachi grill built into the middle of the table.  I'll have to say this was some of the best pork and beef I've ever tasted.  Tender, spicy and fresh off the grill.  Literally.

They start you with a little bowl of squash soup that is tasty in it's own right.  A nice combination of squash and corn to get the appetite ready so the deliciousness to come.  Next they brought the two different dishes we ordered.  One beef bulgogi and one spicy pork bulgogi and put it on the grill to cook.  While that is happening we sampled a wide variety of little side dishes.  Probably a dozen or more.  Kimchi, tofu, sprouts, squash and many others that I have no idea what they were aside from tasty delicious.  While the meat was cooking we threw on some onions, garlic slices and mushroom tops to cook and caramelize with the meat.  All the time laughing and trying to remember all the antics we had caused back in the day at Fort Riley.  Good times.

When the meat was ready Bonita and Aaron showed us how to roll up the meat and condiments into a lettuce leaf so we could eat it without needing chop sticks.  Steph is still learning and I'm just good enough to get the food near my mouth.  Somehow we both were able to stuff ourselves with those succulent meaty treats.

We finished off the meal with a little sweetened rice milk and put the extra into a box to take home.  I'll be smiling for days.

We even took a picture at the restaurant.  The grumpy fat man with his old sergeant 20 years later...

Until tomorrow, annyonghi kaseyo...

Chosun Galbi on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Stallion Grill a place for good, old fashioned comfort food

On a whim Steph and I decided to hit Stallion Grill over on Airport across the street from House Pizza. Initially we were going to get some breakfast as Steph heard through the grapevine that their breakfast was good. Unfortunately they don't serve it all day and it was after 11 am but the meatloaf was screaming at me to try it. How could I resist?

As you walk in you'll see a line of steam trays. Don't worry that's just a few of their dishes. They also have burgers, catfish and many other things I haven't discovered yet. All made from scratch as far as I can tell. They even make their own hamburger buns. How's that for an old fashioned, authentic diner experience.

As I mentioned I had the meatloaf. It was a big, juicy, delicious hunk of comfort. I can't really say what was in it but it had good flavor and tasted pretty traditional. There weren't big pieces of veg in it so the picky people of the world would probably like it too. I picked collard greens and cole slaw as my sides. The collards were delicious. And, get ready, they make their own hot vinegar to put on it. You know those jars of sport peppers that no one under the age of 30 knows why they're on the table, they make that. Now the cole slaw was nice and creamy like I would imagine Grandma would make but I would have liked it either to the sweet side or the tangy side. This one is right in the middle. I can't say it was bad, they obviously made it fresh from scratch, it just wasn't to my taste. I know, boo hoo. : ) The cornbread muffin was good and corny just like I like it and I also grabbed a slice of carrot cake. YUM! Their carrot cake is good and has just a little extra cinnamon in it which knocked it out of the park for me.

Steph had the catfish with fries, mac-n-cheese and a yeast roll. She was still disappointed by not getting breakfast so she wasn't as impressed overall. She did say the catfish tasted fresh and didn't have that dirty water taste you find at some places but she did mention it was a little salty. The fries were hand cut but probably needed a few more minutes in the frier. I liked the mac-n-cheese but I'll have to agree that the flavor of the cheese was a bit subtle. Steph said she tried salting it to bring out more flavor but that just made it salty.

Overall I thought we had a good experience. The people were nice, friendly and asked us a couple times if we needed anything even though it's counter service. I thought that was going above and beyond. You could tell they were happy to see us and truly wanted to give us a good meal. That's sometimes hard to find in Austin so I really appreciate it when it happens.

So if you're ever near I35 and 2222 head south on Airport a bit and look for Stallion Grill on the left. If you're in the mood for comfort food I think you'll find a bit of comfort there. And at a fair price.

Thanks for readin' and see ya next time...

Stallion Grill on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 22, 2011

Life is just a fantasy with good pizza and rock-n-roll...

There are many questions in life and in fiction.  What's the meaning of it all, did Conan love Red Sonja, did Brigitte Nielsen really dig Flavor Flav?  OK, I watch a little too much TV but those are just a few of the questions our collective conscience has had over the years.  And if you want to take a friend, or group, and hash out the details you could share a pizza at Conan's Pizza.  I just take Steph and we talk about the strategies of each house guest on Big Brother.

If you have plenty of time order the deep dish.  It's much better than the thin, though the thin is still really good, and arguably one of the best deep dish pizzas in town.  We normally get the Meaters, add garlic.  It's just a thick slice of goodness filled with all the meats on top of a spicy tomato sauce and a good amount of cheese.  You can get white or wheat crust, we trade off on that choice.  I can't say one is better than the other, just a little different in flavor and texture.  They also offer pitchers of beer and bottles plus the normal Coke products.  I never got the taste for beer and pizza but I do require a carbonated beverage with pizza. It's just not the same without it.

Conan's Pizza pizza is good but the atmosphere brings me back.  The have a pod of these little booths with fantasy art pictures of Conan plus one fantasy whales and another that's kind of patriotic.  The booths are nice because it makes for a very intimate setting.  You can sit and talk and not be bothered, or worry about bothering, the other guests.  They play a wide variety of music but it's all rock based.  One night might be a radio station, another might be 70's classics and if it's late you might hear something like Tyr.  Whatever they play be assured that the staff will be rocking along with you as they get through the night so they can close up and get to the party.  I guess I'm saying it has a youthful energy about it that is contagious.  Probably why I like to go back again and again.

That's all I got to say about Conan's.

If you want to see pics and get a different perspective on Conan's Pizza just visit Steph's blog: Conan's Pizza on Anderson

Conans Pizza on Urbanspoon

Friday, August 19, 2011

It started out as a peanut butter and provolone sandwich

The other day an old friend from Tulsa posted he was having a peanut butter sandwich with two slices of provolone.  It thought, mmmm that sounds good but a little honey would enhance the sweet to salty ratio.  And I made the suggestion.  He didn't like the idea and suggested he's more of a savory kind of guy.  No problem so I went with the obvious.  BACON!  Then I thought, no that would make the sandwich too salty overall.  The next few hours found me going through the recipes of various regional cuisines to find just the right ingredients.  Instead I found a whole new world of flavors with the venerable peanut butter as it's base.  Here are a few of the better ideas ( In my opinion of course. ).

The Peanut Butter Thai Chicken Sandwich with Creamy Slaw.

On an onion roll spread a healthy amount of peanut butter on one side.  Lay down some deli sliced chicken.  Dress it with a little Sriracha sauce, or a lot if you like, and finish it off with a little ginger.  For the side I'm make a creamy slaw, think peanut butter sandwich and milk, from cabbage, carrots and some kind of pepper.  Sweet or hot?  I think that would depend on the person.  I'm going with a red bell pepper.  If you put the slaw on your sandwich to give it some crunch then I'd make the dressing a little thicker, if it's on the side then it doesn't matter.  But if you put it on the side then use crunchy peanut butter so the sandwich has a few different textures to it.  I get the feeling people will either love it or hate it but I think that would be a good sandwich.

The Peanuts in my Coke Sandwich with Potato Salad.

This one will take all day but it should be good.  Start in the morning by putting beef ribs into a crockpot and filling it with Coke.  Regular, not Diet.  Let that cook all day.  Or you could start it at night and it would be ready by lunch if you like.  Either way, when the ribs are ready and falling off the bone just pull all that delicious Coke flavored meat off the bone and chop it up a bit.  Take a kaiser roll, butter and toast it, then put down a big helping of those chopped ribs on that bun.  Take the lid of the roll, spread on a thick layer of peanut butter, and top off that sandwich.  In this case I'd use creamy peanut butter.  I just think it sounds better.  Since the sandwich is going to be a little sweet let's make the potato salad more savory to add balance to the meal.  Do your standard boil the potatoes until they're tender then add some dill pickle relish, a little pickle juice, salt, pepper and maybe a little rosemary.  And mayo of course.  Mustard might work but mayo seems a little safer for this one.


And there you have it folks, a couple ideas for peanut butter sandwich fusion.  Thanks for the idea Chris!

Until tomorrow...

Thursday, August 18, 2011

I loved the fair when I was a kid, and nothing has changed

Every year around my birthday a distant cousin, one of grandma's sisters, would send me a dollar to spend at the fair.  She remembered my birthday every year until her death and even gave me a raise to five dollars at some point.  Mom called her Aunt Cloy, yes that's how they spelled it, though I never knew her given name.  Seems rather appropriate for someone encouraging a kid to go to the fair and eat too much, ride all the rides and generally live it up.  Thanks Aunt Cloy!

You probably already know my favorite fair food.  Corn Dogs!  Those golden sticks of goodness, covered in mustard and hot out of the grease are one of my many visions of heaven.  To a lesser degree my stomach's hell but it's worth the pain.  That's why the fair only comes to town once a year.  Over the years I've seen the vendors get more and more decadent with their offerings. Deep friend snickers and twinkies sit beside old standards like funnel cakes and cotton candy to tempt my senses and twist my belly.  Then you wash it all down with a big fresh cup of lemonaide and the world, if only for a moment, is a better place.

Who could forget the first time you ate a turkey leg while walking around acting like a caveman, or that first slice of greasy "New York" style pizza.  The joy of biting into a fresh hot giant pretzel and then trying it with some mustard.  Even the mainstay hot dog in a steamed bun with a little sourkraut.  Yes, they all bring back a smile of simpler times when the world was full of wonder as they say.

Since I was feeling rather nostalgic this evening we ran down to Man Bites Dog for a couple corn dogs and a coke.  They didn't let me down.  If only they had a few flashing lights, side show barkers and the music blasting some Boston while the Himalaya DJ screams, "do ya wanna go faster!!!"

I miss being a kid sometimes.  Then I realize I never really grew up. : )

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Taqueria Arandas. Honest food that's muy bueno.

Now that I've exhausted most of my Spanish let's talk about some honest Mexican food.  Not Tex-Mex, not fast food, but Mexican food.  At least what I call Mexican food.  I'm just a visiting gringo learning the ropes.

Taqueria  Arandas #3 is on Burnett north of 2222/Koenig.  Kind of across the street from that farmers market.  It's kind of a hole in the wall but still very clean and fun.  They had the futbol match on and several people were getting into it.  Gooooooooooooooooooal, Gooooooooooooooooooal, Gooooooooooooooooooal I'd hear coming from the TV every now and then.  People would cheer a little and go back to eating.  And you can tell it's a popular place.  They only had a couple people waiting so they had to clean off some tables before we could be seated.  The business was brisk but the service was good and it only took a short time to get our food.

Steph had a couple tortas filled with pork and avocado.  I tried a little and it was delicious.  Now don't expect the same flavors as TexMex, this is what I imagine home cooking is like.  If I'm wrong just let me know in the comments.  As I said before, I'm just a visiting gringo.  The pork was nice and juicy but not overly fatty and had a subtle spiciness to it.  The bun looked like a giant hamburger bun cut in quarters.  Steph ate it all so she must have liked it.  She didn't get any sides with it.

I ordered the Carne Asada dinner.  In Tulsa I used to go to a place called Cancun and they made the best burrito in town.  My buddies and I would go down there for lunch and get the Carne Asada burrito.  A giant tortilla filled with beef, rice and beans then covered in cheese and the most flavorful red sauce I've ever had. But that's Tulsa let's get back to Taqueria Arandas.  My dinner came out piled high with salad, avocado, rice, beans, cactus, grilled onions and a giant piece of beef.  The beef was pounded down pretty thin then fried.  It was still juicy and seasoned very well.  The cactus and onions added a new dimension to the meal since I'm not used to cactus.  It's very tasty and came across with just a little heat.  I don't know if that was from a spice or the cactus itself.  Either way the meal as a whole was delicious.

So add a couple drinks and the bill was only a little over 12 bucks!  I couldn't believe they served such good food for that price.  No wonder they stay busy.  And they even include chips and salsa.  Another thing I liked about their menu is you can buy tacos and burritos individually.  They had five or six different meats to choose from too.  Aside from the breakfast taco selections.  I didn't notice if they served breakfast all day so you'd have to check.

Well, I can't say that was my first try at real Mexican food but I don't know why I don't eat it more often.

Manana amigo!

Taqueria Arandas on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

It's all about the specials at Cafe Java

The first time I went to Cafe Java was on a Saturday morning.  They were busy and had a dozen people waiting.  We waited.  And I'm glad we did.  I think they're known for their breakfast with the imported specialty coffees and it's true but my favorite time to go to Cafe Java is in the evening.  It's not as hard to get a table and they have some of the best specials in town.  Now what do I mean by best specials in town?  Well, you know those days when you just can't decide what sounds good?  That's the day you go to Cafe Java.  They'll have two specials up on the chalk board. I usually pick the one on the right.  Can't say why but it's usually the one that sounds better to me.  Tonight the board had fish tacos with all the things you'd expect on the plate and on the right side they had the Mean Green Burger.  Of course I picked the special on the right and it was delicious.

The Mean Green burger is 1/2 pound of fresh ground beef.  They'll cook it medium if you don't ask but you can get it cooked to order.  I had mine medium rare.  They put that big meat patty on a fresh kaiser roll and dress it with a jalapeno mayo and finish it off with grilled serrano and poblano peppers to add some heat and extra flavor.  Did I mention the pepper jack cheese?  YUM!  Now you might think that many peppers would make it too hot to eat.  No!  They're grilled so the heat is knocked down a few notches to let the flavor of the pepper shine through.  Like all of the items I've had on their menu this burger has a very balanced flavor.  They really think about what they put on the plate.  And what would you think they put as a side?  Some corn chips and salsa.  They perfect match to this TexMex fusion burger.

Steph likes a little heat but was a little scared of the serranos so she ordered a bacon cheeseburger.  They don't offer fries at Cafe Java so you can choose from chips, tomato slices, potato salad, and other sides.  Just check the menu or ask.  They'll be happy to tell you what they have to offer and it sometimes depends on the day since they made things fresh.  The bacon on the cheeseburger was high quality and thicker than I usually see served these days though a little salty so be sure to order the burger with avocado or tomatoes to balance out the flavors.  Steph usually gets her burgers plain and dry so she can taste the meat.  Sometimes that doesn't offer the best balance but that's how she likes them.

Since we were at Cafe Java we had to get dessert.  Chocolate Eruption cake!  Imagine a caramel topped cheesecake wrapped in a rich chocolate cheesecake wrapped in a brownie and topped with chocolate curls and sliced nuts.  This is the stuff you say I'm sorry with if you get into trouble with the wife.  A little secret from me to you. : )

That's all for today.

If you want to see pics and get a different perspective on Cafe Java just visit Steph's blog: Cafe Java on Metric

Cafe Java on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 15, 2011

Bow down to the Nan King!

Steph and I were tired and wanted something easy so we decided on Nan King.  It's a little Chinese restaurant in the shopping center on the southwest corner of 183 and Anderson Mill.  Near Reale's Italian if you know where they are located.  The first thing you'll notice is just how nice they treat the customer.  A warm smile, a how are you and you're off to your table.  You can tell it has a ladies touch with pink table clothes but that just adds to the gentle and happy fell of the restaurant.  I order iced tea and Steph has water.  Now to crack open the menu and decide what sounds good.  They have a traditional menu of American Chinese food.  The sweet and sour this and that, the sesame whatever you want, tender fried surf or turf with a big plate of veggies.  I think their strong point is the vegetables have always been fresh and crunchy but cooked and their sauces are very flavorful.  Dare I say BOLD.  But in that delicate Chinese food way.  You get the idea.

I decide on the Twice Cooked Pork, Nan King style dinner.  It comes with egg drop soup, egg roll, wanton and steamed rice.  I usually get their hot and sour soup but egg drop came with the meal so I gave it a try.  It had plenty of flavor as egg drop soup goes though I did add a little salt.  The little slices of green onion add just the right touch of texture and flavor.  Next they bring out the egg roll and wantons.  I thought the egg roll was good.  Nice and hot on the plate it had a slightly salty taste combined with the cabbage and carrots inside.  Again, the veg was cooked but still had a bit of crispness to it.  The wantons were fine, nothing really to say about them.  Now to the entree.  The plate was full of pieces of pork that were hot, tender and juicy with a whole chopped up green bell pepper.  Everything was fresh.  The sauce was something like a brown gravy with a bit of heat to it from little pieces of red pepper.  They all played nice together as I enjoyed my dinner.

I also stole some of Steph's dinner.  Sesame chicken.  Basically the only thing she ever orders at a Chinese restaurant.  So if you want to know the subtle differences between that dish for most every place in town then she's the one to talk to.  In true Nan King style her plate came out hot, fresh and steaming from the kitchen.  They serve their sesame chicken with broccoli which seems to be traditional.  The meat is all white and not even a hint of gristle, lightly battered and fried then sauced with a very flavorful sweet sesame sauce.  I'll have to admit that I ate a few more than I should because it was so good.  Don't worry, I haven't gotten a fork in the back of my hand yet.  Yet...

That all I can say about Nan King.  The nicest restaurant in town.

Until tomorrow great things will come to those with positive outlook.

Nanking Chinese on Urbanspoon

Friday, August 12, 2011

They'll Scholz you some good food at Scholz Garten, but at a price

It's a lazy Saturday afternoon and Steph wanted some potato skins.  She found just the place to try.  Scholz Garten.  This restaurant has been around since 1866 and is even on the National Registry of Historic Places.  We were hit by a bit of BBQ smoke when we walked in.  We knew we were home.

They offer mostly BBQ but have a few German entrees on the menu with a nice selection of German and local craft beer on tap.  Steph said the place is known for it's huge crowds during Longhorn football season so keep that in mind if you're looking for a crowd or staying away from the crowds.  They're fairly close to the stadium too at the corner of San Jacinto and 17th.  Might be a little walk but on game days you're lucky to find a place to stand within a mile of the stadium.

Steph wasn't very impressed with the portion sizes.  They charge basically the same as other BBQ places but you don't get a very big plate of food.  Don't get me wrong, it's enough to fill you up but not enough to have any left over to take home.  She ordered the one meat plate.  Chicken wings with corn on the cob and pinto beans.  They only put three little chicken wings on the plate.  I'm talking the "hot wings" style now.  So a wing and a half if you're thinking fried chicken.  And if you wanted you could buy the six wing appetizer plus two sides for 27 cents less.  Needless to say they need to think about that portion choice because it didn't sit well with us.

I had the two meat plate and did a little better.  One bratwurst which was a decent size I guess, kinda on the small side really.  It was kind of bland but lean.  I always think bratwurst should have more flavor.  My other protein was brisket.  It had good flavor and was very lean also.  No complaint there.  My sides were sourkraut and potato salad.  The sourkraut came out warm and was a little on the mushy side but had good flavor though toward the bland end.  I like my kraut bold, as Don the Polish sausage man in Tulsa used to say, "Like a Tiger!" so I'm used to something a bit different.  I thought they only had one potato salad on the menu so I ordered potato salad thinking I'd get the hundred year old recipe German potato salad.  Oops.  They served me some mustard potato salad.  I was really good.  Half mashed potatoes with little bits of veg here and there with a nice hint of mustard.  I really liked it but was a bit disappointed I didn't get to try the German style.  It's more of a twangy experience.

We finished up the meal with a piece of brownie pie.  Again, it was tiny but very flavorful.  Steph called the texture crispy and I called it dried out.  Whoever was right we both agreed a scoop of ice cream would have gone a long way to making that little slice of pie a little slice of heaven.

In the end we thought the prices were reasonable with the $10 off coupon but I don't know if I would be happy paying full price.  I suppose they want you to pay a premium for the history and that's if it still makes the customer happy.  I'll have to see how I feel after a week or two.

Do you think it's fair to judge a restaurant by it's service, price and food quality or do you just focus on the food?  I prefer to rate the overall experience.  Tell me how you rate a restaurant.

Until tomorrow.  Prost!

If you want to see pics and get a different perspective on Scholz Garten just visit Steph's blog: Scholz Garten

Scholz Garten on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Fill'er up and Phil's and cool it down at Amy's

I grew up on burgers and dogs working for my uncle at his drive in restaurant.  Shaw's Drive In in Tulsa, OK.  We offered the standard burgers, fries, onion rings, chocolate malts and the like.  I have no idea how many burgers I dressed over the years but I'm sure it was in the tens of thousands.  And we checked every single one of them twice before they went out.  Just like it should be.  Phil's isn't quite the same but I leave there with that feeling I had many years ago.  Happy, full and satisfied. Again, the way it should be.

It's always lively at Phil's since they're so family oriented.  You'll see kids running around, climbing the walls, scurrying under your feet.  Well it's not quite like that but it is lively.  They have a playground to wear them down after dinner so you can get some quiet time and Amy's ice cream is next door in case it's the grandkids and you want to wind them up before dropping them off.  Either way they have good burgers, dogs and even offer sweet potato fries.

I had the Phil-a-Buster.  It's a double meat with all the goodies on it.  Lettuce, tomato, mustard, pickle, onion and mayo.  And double cheese too! I thought I was hungry but this burger was too much to handle.  Next time I'll get a regular size with bacon or chili instead.  Did I mention they come on those sweet kolachi buns?  That really makes the burger stand out.  I went with the mix of regular and sweet potato fries.  They're good and compliment the meal but at Phil's the burger is the star.

Steph had the Brentwood burger.  It's a single patty with bacon, all the goodies and cheddar cheese.  I'm pretty sure that's the only burger she'll order at Phil's.  And she leaves smiling every time so no need to fix it if it ain't broke as they say.

When you're done with your meal, and this is another reason to forgo the double meat burger, it's time to walk over to Amy's ice cream.  YUM!  All I really need to say is it's cold, rich and you can feel the fat on the roof of your mouth.  This is by far the most decadent ice cream I've ever had.  If that doesn't peek your interest then writing another paragraph won't matter.  : )

That's it for this episode of This is Your Life.  Until tomorrow I'll be dreaming of Dixieburgers and chocolate shakes.

If you want to see pics and get a different perspective on Phil's Icehouse just visit Steph's blog: Phil's Icehouse on Burnet

Phil's Icehouse on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Go for the beer, and in the afternoon

Steph wanted to try Whip In the other day so we took the drive down south to see what it was all about.  They're off I35 just north of Oltorf.  It's another example of a bar trying to be a restaurant.  Urbanspoon rates them a $ but from what I saw on the menu they're $$.  And that's for counter service.  And if you haven't been there and it's crowded know this, you order your food at the counter by the front door.  You can't see the whole menu from this location so drop your shoulder and push on in to see all of the Indian dishes they offer.  It seems that the menu changes daily too but I can't say for sure.  Probably some staples and then a few specials each day  They have a HUGE selection of beer on tap but when it's 100 degrees outside and you have to sit on the porch I don't go for beer.  You may have a different opinion on that and well that doesn't bother me a bit.  Have at it but I'll drink water.  I also noticed the guy at the counter was trying to play the I don't care I'm hip game when he threw the pen on the counter and then the credit card recipe down.  No big deal there either, I threw them back.  He noticed and said thank you so all is still right in the world.  We took our number and found a place to sit outside.

They were piping the music from the live band out to the porch so you could still hear them.  It was a cover band that did a rather eclectic mix of covers.  Some were better than others.  My personal favorite was the really bad version of Cherry, Cherry by Neil Diamond.  He was off key the whole time but sang the song with such enthusiasm you'd think you were in Japan.  We waited a little more and sipped on our cold water.

The food came piping hot and we dug in.  I had the red curry chicken.  Plenty of light and dark meat, potatoes, a little bit of other veg, rice, all in a big bowl with a little curry in it.  I didn't think it was particularly spicy and nothing really stood out to me.  Steph had a Whip In version of chili pie.  It had big chunks of beef that would string out as you cut into it, a cilantro chutney, black beans, beer, cheese, sour cream and of course fritos.  Steph seemed to like it but didn't comment much about the flavors.

Back to the beer selection.  I think they have every craft beer in town plus many more on tap.  I know my beer loving friends in Tulsa come down to Austin just to go to the Whip In.  They rotate their selections to check before you drive down there to make sure they have it.

I think I would have liked Whip In much better if it wasn't 100 degrees so take my experience with that in mind.  They have limited seating inside so your best bet is to go in the afternoon on a weekday.  That's when they say the magic happens.

Until next time...

If you want to see pics and get a different perspective on Whip In just visit Steph's blog: Whip In Parlour Cafe

Whip In Parlour Cafe on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

You really can make a silk purse from a sow's ear...

Have you ever been to a restaurant that makes everything in house?  That' what you'll find at Noble Pig.  They serve the best sandwiches and absolutely everything is of their own creation.  It's a little hard to find them the first time since they're in a little strip center on 620 and El Salido.  Just look for the gas station kinda next to them.  OK, enough about where they are let's talk about their food.

They only do breakfast and lunch normally though you can sign up for their 4 course dinner offered about once a month.  I haven't had a chance to try the dinner so if you have let me know what it was like.  I have had breakfast and lunch and I have to say they are good at their job.

Let's start with the Duck pastrami reuben.  I'm not a big fan of the duck, it's just too greasy for me.  Well that all changed when I bit into the reuben.  It was quite delicious having the same familiar tastes of beef pastrami but also that unique duck flavor.  And it didn't come out greasy so that was a plus.  They serve it on their own bread which is cut a little thick and toasted.  It stands up well to the rich flavors inside and doesn't fall apart before the last bite.  Add a nice portion of sauerkraut and Russian dressing to round out this delicious sammie.  And yes they serve the reuben proper with Russian dressing not the 1000 island you normally see.  A tip of the hat to authenticity.

Their signature sandwich is the Noble Pig.  It's certainly pork friendly with a spicy smoke ham and pulled pork heading the charge.  Then they add even more flavor with bacon and a little provolone cheese to round out this symphony of goodness.  Hopefully you'll go with several people so everyone can get a different sandwich and share.  Because good friends share the good things in life like this sandwich.

I've also tried their Knuckle Sandwich.  It's filled with roast beef so tender you could.  Hmm.  Love me?  I got nothing but this sandwich has it.  Why is it a Knuckle Sandwich?  Well when you bite into it the roast beef, onions and cheddar cheese combine for a flavor explosion and then you get knocked out, in a good way, with their horseradish sauce.  Not too spicy but not afraid to stand up and get your attention either.  A must have for those macho types.

All the sandwiches are served with chips and homemade pickles.  So when you start feeling a bit peckish and the hour is close to noon head on over to Noble Pig and taste some real home made food.


Noble Pig Sandwiches on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 8, 2011

Didn't even get seated

Steph bought one of those pay $10 and get $20 worth of food coupons for Joe's Italian Restaurant. We were excited to try a new Italian place and didn't mind driving over to Burnett and 183. As soon as we walked up to the door we noticed a sign that said they don't honor coupons. I thought well maybe since we paid for the coupon that's not what they mean. Nope, they didn't take the coupon. So wasted trip and disappointment all around. Luckily the coupon place gave us a refund but we're still out for gas and Joe's wasting our time. Thanks for nothing Joe.

Joe's Italian Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Friday, August 5, 2011

Why yes I'll have dessert.

It's funny that some restaurants have a dessert menu but just don't push it.  Sometimes a dessert will grab me as I look over the menu and I'll save some room.  Then the waiter will bring the check without asking about "anything else" and I'll be a little sad.  Sometimes I'll go ahead and order the dessert and sometimes I'll mark that down on the checklist in my head.  I get that from my mother, she keeps those Santa lists too.  Dad taught me how to erase things on the list so I'm still pretty balanced.  Just don't ask my mom about that basketball game back in 1964. : )

Back to dessert.  Steph and I agree that there are three places where we like the venerable chocolate cake.  I'm more of a cake person than Steph so it took a while to even sample this many cakes due to sheer need to campaign for the dessert.  They're all a little different in presentation but the one thing they do have in common is decadence.  The sheer amount of chocolate in these things would turn a pound cake into a two pound cake.  Well, maybe not to that extreme but you get the idea.  The other thing about these cakes is they aren't cloying.  Rich?  Oh yeah, but not that sickeningly sweet stuff they throw at you for the office birthday party.  And well, I like that too but I'm not going to write about that anytime soon.  So in no particular order my top three chocolate cake desserts in Austin.

Cafe Java has the Chocolate Eruption.  This is just a big slice of rich chocolate cake and a scoop, or two, of ice cream.  It's been a while since we had it but now that I think about it I'll have to drop by and order a slice with a nice tall coffee.

Buca di Beppo has the Chocolate Vesuvius, now more generically called Double Dark Chocolate cake.  The cake itself is about the same as the Chocolate Eruption but you get Italian gelato instead of regular ice cream so it's a little more decadent but costs much more.

Old School Grill has the Chocolate Malt Cake.  This cake is so dense it's almost a brownie.  They cover it with chocolate and caramel sauce and serve it with some whipped cream and a sliced strawberry.  Again, it's rich but not overly sweet so you get that warm, happy feeling inside instead of a headache after eating it.

They're all just a little slice of heaven and they make my wife smile so how can it be bad.

Until next time you try a dessert and tell me what's good...

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Milto's surely isn't milquetoast

I've always heard the phrase, "What am I milquetoast?", and like most kids I wondered why milk toast was a derogatory term.  To be honest while I did wonder about it I didn't bother to consult a dictionary or ask anyone.  Hmm, remember when dictionaries were printed on paper and bound into a book?   Well, before I start in recreating those "too much information" commercials lets get back to food.  Pizza to be exact.  And even more specifically "Sicilian" pizza.  Since all the college kids are home for the summer we try to venture down to some of the restaurants that cater to them.  As you know I don't like crowds.  This evening we hit Milto's.  It's on Guadalupe across the street from Toy Joy so you can make it a two'fer if you're so inclined.  And to my non-Austin friends Toy Joy is a local toy store so you can get your mind out of the gutter right now.

We ordered the medium Sicilian style Lone Star.  That's their meat lovers pizza with pepperoni, Italian sausage, imported ham, onions and extra cheese.  We substituted garlic for the onions.  It didn't take very long to cook, at least not as long as other deep dish pizza restaurants in the area, and came out piping hot and ready to eat.  The pizza isn't exactly round but more oblong which I didn't expect and the medium didn't look that big.  Don't let that fool you, we had plenty left over to take home.  The crust was nice and crisp on the outside but soft and slightly chewy on the inside.  I'd say it was just right for this style.  The toppings were generous and seemed to be of good quality and the sauce was flavorful if not a little spicy.  As pizza goes I rank them in the top half of the list especially for the deep dish style.

The restaurant itself is a rather eclectic collection of styles that somehow works to give this place a warm and inviting atmosphere.  The staff will greet you as you walk in and motion you up to the counter.  They're very friendly for counter service so that's a plus in my opinion.  Oh, back to the decor.  You can pick from two rooms and a patio.  Each has it's own charm so I can't say one is better than the other.  The main room has a mirror wall for those that enjoy looking at their reflection, the smaller side room is a little more intimate and the patio seems to be where the smokers go.  I don't know if they actually permit smoking on the patio but I have noticed, and smelled, people enjoying a cigarette out there.

If there is one complaint I have about Milto's it's the sodas.  They always seem a bit watery to me.  I think it's because they serve them in pint glasses that are hot out of the washer but if that's the only nit I can find then this place is well worth the trip.

Until tomorrow, ta leme...

If you want to see pics and get a different perspective on Milto's just visit Steph's blog: Milto's Mediterranean Cafe

Milto's Pizza on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A Tex Mex version of Hooters?

Steph and I were laughing at ourselves as we waited for dinner last night.  The girl we had as a waitress was wearing those little black short shorts and, while it made me feel like a creepy old man, Steph was worried that she was cold.  Obviously we weren't a good fit for Senorita's, a newish Tex Mex place on Anderson Mill, and light and a bit north of 183.  The hostess was friendly as she greeted us with a smile and showed us to our table.  It sort of went downhill from there.  We looked over the menu and waited.  Then waited a little more and finally our waitress, a nice looking girl with a big smile, came and took our drink order.  Then we waited.  And waited a little more.  She came back with our drinks and again asked if we wanted an appetizer.  Nothing grabbed us on the appetizer menu so we just ordered our entrees.  Build your own combo plate.  Steph ordered two cheese enchiladas and I ordered one cheese and one beef enchilada plus a crispy beef taco.  And then we waited...

Oh chips, they brought us a big basket of chips and salsa.  We're now about 30 minutes since we sat down.  And they didn't seem busy.  Is it just me?  The chips weren't very fresh and the salsa was spicy hot but not very flavorful beyond that.  This thing is going downhill fast.

Someone from the kitchen came out a little later to ask us how we wanted our enchiladas sauced.  We went with chili which it turned out was something that tasted like the salsa but a little thicker.  We envisioned that brown chili gravy famous in Tex Mex cooking.  I guess that's their twist?

Finally our food came out.  Steph got two cheese enchiladas and a crispy beef taco.  I had a plate of one beef and one chicken enchilada with a crispy beef taco.  Refer to paragraph 1, last sentence.  OK it was close and they just gave the extra taco to Steph so no harm done.  And the waitress read back our order so I can't say where the miscommunication occurred.

By now you're probably feeling like I was, let's get on with it and try some of their food.  The crispy taco was OK.  Plenty of beef, cheese, lettuce and tomato stuffed inside.  It wasn't particularly big and given the price of the plate I was a little disappointed.  The enchiladas were a little better.  They were pretty big as enchiladas go, covered in melted cheese and sauced with that rather bland sauce I mentioned earlier.  Both the beef and the chicken seemed to be fairly good quality though the chicken seemed a bit better actually.  The refried beans were very salty too so they did have some salt in the back.  I didn't notice anything about the rice that stood out.  Standard Spanish style.  Steph was less impressed with the cheese enchiladas saying the sauce was too spicy for her and the tortillas didn't seem fresh.  OK, that's over.  Let's get to some positives.

Senorita's had live music in the form of a solo country artist.  As far as I could tell he sang covers and asked for requests.  Someone yelled "Back in Black" but he didn't oblige.  I did notice Steph singing along to a few songs so she enjoyed it.  I'm not a big modern country fan so I didn't recognize anything.  Give me some Johnny Cash or Waylon Jennings and I'll sing along too.

They also have a huge bar and claim to have good margaritas.  The bar was full by the time we left but I didn't notice many margaritas in hand but everyone did have a nice cold beer while winding down after work.  And I think that's a good fit for them.  This is another example of a bar with food over a restaurant with a bar.

So if you're looking for a crowd of 30something people to hang out, listen to live music and enjoy your evening then you might find some new friends here.  Just don't go only for the food.

Until next time let's hope to find some food that's muy bueno...

Senorita's Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Man Bites Dog almost takes me back to Tulsa

If you've ever been to Tulsa then you know about their world famous coneys.  Places like Coney Islander, Jim's, Carl's, they all take me back to times when I was young and happy.  I don't know why Austin thinks you have to serve just one giant dog, cover it with bowl chili and call it something it's not.  They just don't know the joys of ordering two, three, four or more dogs depending on how hungry you are.  Maybe that's just an old fashioned concept but it still works in Tulsa.  One day perhaps I'll be able to bring that joy to Austin but until then Man Bites Dog gets as close to perfection as I can find.

They started as a food trailer but now have a brick and mortar in the shopping center at the SW corner of Burnett and North Loop.  Their food trailer was, or is, in the Trailer Park and Eatery on 1st but their web site doesn't show it as a location.

I've tried the chili cheese dog, greek dog and corn dog.  All the dogs have a 1/4 pound wiener of some sort so they're big.  That means I really can only try one at a time.  And that's too bad  And given my experience growing up, hot dogs are supposed to be three or four bites.  Not something you have to eat with a fork.  OK, OK, enough with the griping.  The chili dog has some good chili that was almost a greek style which is traditional in my coney world.  So I give Man Bites Dog props for flavor just not for authenticity.  The greek dog came with a lamb wiener, feta cheese, olives and such greek flavors.  I completely enjoyed the flavors but again, had to eat it with a fork.  And I have a big mouth.  At least my wife says so.  Now to the corn dog.  If you love the corn dogs they server at the fair then you will love these.  Big, juicy, crunchy, corn breaded goodness on a stick.  In fact, the thing is so long it's hard to hold it just by the stick and eat it.  I just grab the thing by it's girth and have at it.  Hey, it's a corn dog not fine French cuisine.  Add a little mustard on it if you like, and that's how I like'm.

Steph had the spicy pulled pork mac and cheese.  She loved it but said it was a little too hot.  The guy working said it depended on the day.  They try to follow the recipe but sometimes it's hotter and sometimes it's not.  I'll give him props for honesty and really since she loved it no harm done anyway.

Maybe I'll post my coney chili recipe sometime and show everyone how to make a proper coney.  Until then and when I don't have time to cook down a pot of chili I'm heading over to Man Bites Dog.


If you want to see pics and get a different perspective on Man Bites Dog just visit Steph's blog: Man Bites Dog

Man Bites Dog on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 1, 2011

You can fill your tummy and your growler at this place.

We went to North by Northwest the other day. It's in the Arboretum area at the corner of 360 and Stonelake.  Just look for the big NXNW on the water tower facade sign.  The restaurant is pretty big and they're usually a little busy so don't let that dissuade you from going in.  We've better there a few times and were always seated immediately.  At least on lazy Saturday afternoons.

They have a wide range of flavors to choose from but I'll call it comfort food.  Steaks, pastas, fish, burgers, I'm sure you can find something you like on the menu.  Steph had the chicken sandwich and I had a pasta.  They brew their own beer at NXNW so you may as well give one a try.  I had the German wheet beer, hefe, but Steph just had water.

The dining rooms are broken up into 3 sections.  The foyer where they great you shares space with the bar area a little further back.  Then two dining areas.  One seems to be mostly big booths, finished in dark woods, that tend to larger parties or families.  The next area opens up into a room that reminds me of some kind of hunting lodge in the mountains theme.  We've always sat in the second area.  The furnishing and such are fine but I've always gotten the impression they could use a little sprucing up.  A little paint and a good old fashioned spring cleaning would go a long way.  Not that it's dirty, it's just showing a little thread and not in an aging well way.

On to the food.  My pasta dish was a traditional Italian fare of peppers and sausage over linguini with a nice spicy red sauce.  The vegetables were cooked nicely and not mushy, the sausage was very savory and seemed fresh and the pasta was a proper al dente.  I was very happy with it.  And the serving was plentiful.  My beer was light and crisp with a little hops.  It was quite refreshing on a warm spring day. 

On a side note a growler is a half gallon glass bottle that they will fill with your favorite NXNW brew to take home.  It's capped so the beer won't go flat for a long time just like a regular sized bottle.  So get the party started and keep it going with a take home growler.

Steph's chicken sandwich was pretty standard with a generous portion of chicken breast topped with bacon and avocado. She said, "This is really good!"  Mostly due to the quality bacon and basil mayo.  She also like the "albino buns" they serve the sandwich on which is very soft and doesn't overpower the subtle flavors of the sandwich overall.

Since we've only eaten at NXNW for lunch I can't speak to their dinner but for the price I think this restaurant is well worth their reasonable prices.

Until next time, prost!

North By Northwest on Urbanspoon