Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Prima Pizza Pasta has great pizza

Mix a staff that works hard, is very friendly and a New York style pizza that's delicious and you have Prima Pizza Pasta.  They're off McNeil on the east side near the Wendy's in that strip mall.  What a great addition to the area.  So far Steph and I have only tried the pizza but both times it's been excellent.

Prima offers three different kinds of service; table, counter or carry out.  You can grab a slice and drink and save the tip, you can sit down and get excellent service from a good size menu of pizza and pastas with the expected salads and appetizers.  They forgo all the over the top kitsch I've come to despise in Italian restaurants and just make good food.  And I'm all about good food.

The first time we went to Prima we ordered the The Butcher which is the all meats pizza.  We had them add fresh garlic.  It was great.  The crust was thin, crispy and the perfect amount of chew to it.  There's another Italian restaurant in the area that has good toppings but the crust is always very chewy, not so at Prima so they get the win on crust.  I also loved the taste of the pepperonis.  Somehow they bring out an extra level of flavor in them that I can never seem to get at home.  The Italian sausage was sweet with tastes of fennel and the other ingredients played along well.  Overall it didn't get into that overly salty range some all meats pizza can have.  They didn't say this but the cheese seemed overly fresh, like it was made in the last few days.  As we lifted the first slice off the platter the cheese just stringed up with the pie and we had to do that thing with the knife to pull it over to the plate.  Actually, on our second trip we had pepperoni and extra cheese.  That was a cheese lovers paradise.  That cheesy, sometimes buttery, flavor accented with those extra rich pepperonis just sent it over the top.  I guess the only thing left is the sauce.  You guessed it, wonderful rich flavor but not too much.  It has a little heat to it but just a hint.  Overall this is in my top 5 pizzas in Austin.  Bravo! Prima.

As I mentioned before the staff is great and you can tell they really want you to have excellent service.  Our drinks never ran dry and they made sure everything was perfect.  How can you go wrong?

Oh, did I mention they have cheesecake if you're feeling like a little sweet after dinner?  We ordered the cheesecake on our first trip.  It was nice and rich as you would expect. The slice was big enough for the two of us and we left the restaurant full and happy.

Thanks Prima!

Prima Pizza Pasta on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Cat Mountain Grill is good but pricey for burgers

It was a tough call deciding which way was faster from the house to Cat Mountain Grill.  They're behind the Shell gas station off 2222 and Dry Creek Drive.  It's the same building used by The Hub before they shut down.  Coming from Northwest Austin 360 might be a more direct route but Mopac seems to be a bit faster.  I guess it all depends on how hungry your are when you leave.  I was hungry as Steph worked late and I forgot to eat lunch.

We had tried to eat at Cat Mountain Grill on another occasion but they close early the first part of the week so check those times before you head over there.  This was a Thursday so they were open later.  My tummy was rumbling and I could smell good food cooking on the grill.  We had two overly happy waiters as one was being trained and the other was a bit over the top welcoming us.  They gave us menus, told us the special and took our drink order.  I felt like Craig and Arianna from that SNL Cheerleaders skit were waiting on us and laughed to myself.  I was hoping they would do a little cheer when the food came out.  That didn't happen and really it was probably for the best.

Steph ordered the Cheese Louise and I had the Sweet Baby J.  They were both great.  The Cheese Louise is two 1/4 pound patties surrounding a yummy center of American cheese.  It's billed as a cheese explosion which if you know my wife then you know she's all about cheese.  And explosions of cheese.  And peaceful cheese too.  She loves the cheese, let's leave it at that.  They won't guarantee to cook the Cheese Louise medium rare due to how the burger is constructed but it was still nice and juicy.  Steph ended up taking some of it home to our dog as it's pretty big.  The way a 1/2 pound burger should be.  My Sweet Baby J is your standard hickory burger with a few twists.  OK, it's not really a standard hickory burger.  They take a 1/4 or 1/2 pound burger, I ordered it 1/2 pound medium rare, and pile on hickory smoke bacon, jalapenos, onion strings and pour on their signature bbq sauce.  I had to eat it with a fork and it was great.  Cooked perfectly, the juices of the patty ran out as I cut my first bite.  The cheddar cheese, pickles and all the other ingredients blended well together.  Even the jalapenos played well to allow the quality beef be the showcase and the toppings only enhanced the flavor. 

Steph had to try their fresh cut french fries which she liked and I had onion strings, even though my burger had some on it.  I thought they were good.  Both seemed to be freshly prepared.

As I mentioned before the staff was nice and friendly and we left full and with a smile.  The only thing I can really complain about is when did going out for burgers start costing over $30?

Cheap skate grumpy out...

Cat Mountain Grill on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 28, 2011

Taqueria El Charro is honest food but I wasn't too excited

We were sad when the previous owners closed up because they had the best flan in town but were excited to try a new place.  Taqueria El Charro is in a little shopping strip on Lamar just south of 183.  They offer a variety of Mexican style dishes as well as Tex Mex favorites.  Overall they are good honest food and certainly a bargain but for me I like my food a bit more bold and spicy.  As I say this I wonder if I could ask for something a bit more spicy?  I'm new to the real Mexican restaurant as most of my experience is TexMex but I do know many Chinese/Hong Kong restaurants tone it down for the uninitiated.  Let me know if this is the case.

I had a plate with a taco, a couple enchiladas and a tostada with rice and beans.  It was good in quality but again I wanted more spice.  I did pour on the salsa, which I liked, but even then I still wanted something more.  Steph had cheese enchiladas and felt about the same.

The service was great and the prices were nice so in the end I didn't feel cheated.  Maybe I should go back and have something more authentic Mexican and ask them to make it as it would be served at home.  If I'm going to try new foods then I should at least try them as they should be eaten.  Perhaps Taqueria El Charro deserves a second try just to be fair.  Can you tell I feel bad for not giving them high praise?

See what Steph thought about them here.

I'll be thinking about this until tomorrow.

Taqueria El Charro on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 25, 2011

Original Pancake House is just another overpriced breakfast

Steph had the day off so we decided to go down to OPH for some good, old fashioned, pancakes.  They are over in the shopping center at the corner of Parmer and Metric.  The first thing we noticed as we walked in the restaurant was the song playing on the radio, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.  "That's our song!", Steph immediately proclaimed.  "Yep", I said knowing our wedding anniversary was only a few days away.  We have odd occurrences like that happy all the time.  We had no idea we were in for a 70's easy listening fest but we had fun playing name that tune.  Steph always wins but I get the obscure stuff.  Even though the place was basically empty it took a while for someone to seat us.  In fact the service was quite slow overall.  I felt like I was in an episode of Friends, they just never got out of second gear.

I went with the Canadian bacon and eggs with buttermilk pancakes.  Everything was nice and fresh and came out hot and delicious.  I buttered my cakes and poured the syrup over them to let it all soak in as I started in on the bacon and eggs.  I'll admit it was all good.  Steph had a meat lovers scramble with potatoes, sausage, bacon and honey ham with plenty of cheese over the top and buttermilk pancakes.  She started picking out the meat by the end of the meal because it became a little too salty and the ham was a little overpowering as to make it a one note dish.  Still she liked it after making a few adjustments.

My glass of iced tea went dry a few times and it took a good ten or fifteen minutes to get our check, in an almost empty restaurant, so I'm not sure how it would be when they're busy.  I seem to remember the service being slow on the Saturdays when they were busy but I assumed it was due to being busy.  Now I'm not so sure.  And in the end a $30 breakfast isn't a very good price given the level of service.  I like them but I don't think they earn their money.

Have a great weekend.

Original Pancake House on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Black Sheep Lodge is good times when the game is on

It was a lazy Saturday morning when Steph said she wanted to hit Black Sheep Lodge.  We finally got around to getting ready and headed south.  The traffic wasn't bad aside from one woman on her phone cutting in and out of traffic like she had some place to go and she was too important to drive along with the rest of us.  She even gave me the bird as I drove along side her.  I guess wanted me to let her pass?  We ended up at the same stop light a few minutes later so it didn't matter anyway.  She didn't seem to get that same bit of truth.  On to Black Sheep Lodge we journeyed just north of Oltorf on Lamar.

It was a little crowded since the UT game was on but we found a table and had a seat.  The waitress came by a little later with menus and to get our drinks.  They really hustle there so service is great even when they are busy.  We split several appetizers and a burger instead of getting only one thing.  Cheese curds, corn dog bites and a Black Sheep Burger with American cheese, medium rare.  All the veg on the side.  I actually at the veg like a salad.  It was mixed greens and tomatoes.  In fact, I've had worse salads.  The veg was nice and fresh.  The cheese curds were those bite sized pieces of mild cheddar cheese that is battered and fried.  They were nice and salty with that just right tooth to the them.  The corn dog bites were pretty good too, especially with the curry ketchup.  If you like corn dogs then you'll probably like these.  In the end I yearned for a proper corn dog but these certainly are good too.

The burger came out a little later.  It was cooked perfectly and the patty was nice and juicy.  They didn't try to over season or over work the meat, it let the natural flavor of a high quality patty do the talking.  Steph really loved it too.  I suppose I could go on and on about it but if you've read enough of my blogs then you already know what to expect.  This burger is well worth the trouble to get out and the price they charge.

UT scored several touchdowns while we were there and the place was high with excitement.  I suppose I should mention they have a large list of beers to choose from and I noticed a few that I'd like to try sometime but not at noon on a Saturday, we had stuff to do.

See Steph's review here.

Go on out to Black Sheep and have some fun.  Why not?

Black Sheep Lodge on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Golden Wok serves up good food and dim sum

I kept hearing about these little Asian bbq pork kolaches that Steph's work friend would bring with her for lunch.  Finally I spent a little time and found the name then a place that served them in town.  You see, Steph's friend had them shipped from California where some relatives live.  I'll have to say they are tasty but in that Asian bbq way so don't get Atlanta pulled pork sandwiches in your head, this is a whole new animal.

Destination: Golden Wok; Goal: Char Siu Bau

First of all these aren't exactly like the treats Steph's friend had but they happen to have the same name.  I have no idea what it means in Chinese aside from delicious treats.  They come on the dim sum menu which was also something new for me.  I've always heard of it but never took the initiative to try it.  We only ordered this one dish from the menu then opted for more familiar ground for our meal.  Maybe next time we'll be more adventurous?  Maybe.  

The Char Siu Bau came three to an order in a little steamer basket.  They tasted fresh and were certainly hot and steamy when brought out.  The pork was flavorful in that Asian bbq way with the curry flavors mixing with the sweet tastes of the dough.  I'd certainly order them again.  Now on to the meal.

Steph tried something new and went with the Crispy Asian Beef.  It was little slices of beef, lightly breaded and fried up nice and crispy then plated with a rather spicy brown sauce, beans, carrots and sesame seeds.  The menu doesn't mention the veggies for those that don't like them.  Steph picked them out and they didn't leave a flavor she couldn't handle so no harm done.  She loved the beef and sauce over steamed white rice and commented that it had a good heat to it.  I liked the texture of the beef with the crispness of the breading and though it came together very well.

I ordered something I wouldn't normally get either, Sweet and Sour pork.  It was great though for me a little goes a long way.  The pork was very tender and cut into big chunks and fried up nicely.  The sauce was rich and flavorful but what you would expect sweet and sour to be.  Just an honest though rich dish.  I ate my fill and had a bunch left over to take home.  Steph did too actually.  Her beef dish was still tasty the next day though just heating it in the microwave made the coating a little mushy but that was just me being lazy.  I should have known to put it in the oven or re-fry it.

As service goes it was excellent.  The waiter helped us understand the Dim Sum menu and kept our glasses filled.  All with a smile.  

I'll certainly be back for more and dim sum.

Until tomorrow have a great day.

Golden Wok on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Vivo and those crazy paintings

As soon as you walk in the first thing you'll notice about Vivo are these crazy paintings of naked women with no nipples.  I guess that makes them inoffensive?  I don't really mind, nothing wrong with the female form, but those missing nipples just burn inside my brain.  Rather like the time we shaved the eyebrows off this guy when I was in the Army.  He'd drink too much and start fighting so we had to get him back for the random fat lip or bruise.  You'd be surprised how funny it can make a guy look.  Let's get back to the restaurant.

Vivo has a happy wait staff.  More happy than normal and certainly to notice.  They are young and energetic and really move.  I was a bit winded just watching our waitress run around the room to keep up with all her tables.  And the whole time with a smile on her face.  I'm assuming they were short handed that night but maybe they just like it that way.  Steady and busy makes the night go by fast though we didn't feel rushed.  They still gave us a casual, laid back dinner and I for one enjoyed every minute.

We started with a cup of queso which was tasty.  Steph admitted it was just melted processed cheese loaf with seasoning added but we both agreed we loved it.  The cup was empty before the entrees arrived if that's any indication.  Steph ordered her standard cheese enchiladas with chili sauce, they call it something else, and she was very happy with it.  Leave off the onions of course.  I had the Emma's Choice.  One puffy taco and one enchilada.  Both beef and both delicious.  I'll mention now that the enchiladas are bigger than usual at Vivo.  One thing I remember that was a little let down was I had to eat my puffy taco with a fork.  Perhaps I caused the problem but when I went to pick it up the shell tore in half.  It didn't make the thing any less delicious.  Plenty of beef and lettuce and tomato and cheese in every bite.

We ended the night with a slice of flan.  It was a little odd since it looked like it was cut like a sheet cake.  It was rich and dense but perhaps a bit lighter in texture than some of those more traditional flans.  The slices of strawberry and other berries were a nice touch to regulate the sweetness of the custard.

Vivo may not be for everyone but Steph and I always enjoy ourselves when we chose it so that's something.

See Steph's Vivo story here.

Have a great day!

Vivo Cocina Mexicana on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 21, 2011

Hill's Cafe has good food and inconsistent staff

I love Hill's Cafe, then I hate them, then I love them again. The food is pretty consistent but the staff can be downright bad some days.  One the good days it's great.  They great you at the door and welcome you in, take you to your table or booth and get your drinks while looking over the menu.  The food comes out quickly, hot and fresh and you know it's going to taste great.  On the bad days the waitress will just talk to her friends for 20 minutes, get your order wrong so you have to wait while your wife goes ahead and eats her food so it won't go cold then when you finally get your entree she also brings the check, doesn't bring any refills and to top it off adds on a tip to the check.  Luckily the very worst of the bad only happened once and the bad seems to have been clustered in a phase they were going through.  Let's hope so because like I said the food is good.

Over the years both me and Steph have gone through a few phases at Hill's.  Chicken Fried Steak, Fried Chicken, Fat Bob, Monster Chopped Beef Sandwich, Truck Stop Enchiladas, and probably a few I've forgotten.  I'll swear by all of these items as well cooked, traditionally seasoned and ready to comfort even the grumpiest of men.  Today we ordered the Fat Bob and the Monster Chopped Beef Sandwich.  They didn't disappoint us at all.

Steph loves that Fat Bob burger.  It's a 1/2 pound of quality ground beef cooked to order, medium rare of course, and they cook it right every time.  On top of that huge patty comes a big slice of cheese and a fried egg.  Let's just say they push it somewhere into the decadence territory with this burger.  You get fries with the burger but Hill's offers something hard to find in Austin, corn nuggets.  Those little deep fried bundles of sweet corn goodness wrapped in a nice batter and cooked to a golden brown.  Those things are addictive.  If you've ever tried them you'll know what I mean.

My Monster lived up to what I expect in this sandwich.  It's called chopped beef but really the meat is brisket cut into little cubes and well sauced with a nice sweet bbq sauce.  I make the distinction because most of the time a chopped beef bbq sandwich is that stringy meat mix with sauce.  Not that those sandwiches aren't good but just to show how they differentiate themselves from the pack.  I went with fries for a side.  They always accent the bbq nicely.  Sometimes I get the coleslaw.  It's good too.  A little sweet like a traditional southern slaw.  I love them both.

Seems like the wait staff is under control right now so the service was excellent, everything came out hot and fresh and out drinks never went empty.  Say that's not a good day!

And that's all so have a nice day!

Hill's Cafe on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 18, 2011

Flippin' Burgers isn't so flippin' good

The people we met at Flippin' Burgers were great, friendly, helpful and that's why I'm sad to say I didn't really like the burgers.  Sometimes the management makes it easy and sometimes it's tough.  Today, it's tough.

Steph had been watching their location for over a month in anticipation of the grand opening.  When that day finally arrived we were both excited at trying a new burger joint in Austin.  Well Cedar Park.  We walked in to a smiling face and looked over the menu for a minute.  Steph told the guy up front about waiting so long for them to open and how excited she was to try their burgers.  He seemed excited too.  Everyone was happy.  I ended up with the Double Cheeseburger and added chili.  Side of fries and a drink combo.  Steph went with the Cheeseburger plain with side of fries and a drink combo.  It only came to $16 I think so they aren't trying to gouge anyone.  The patties are 1/4 pound but they don't cook to order.  It doesn't matter anyway because they seem to use a mix for their meat.  Think ground beef with french onion soup mix kind of flavor.  It was just way over-seasoned from one perspective and kind of bland from another.  I think they may have also used a filler with the meat.  Whatever happened both Steph and I were disappointed and wondering where the meaty flavor of the burger went.  My burger even had that extra dollop of chili on it which did add a little more flavor but it really made the sandwich hard to eat and the bun fell apart halfway through the meal.  I'm not sure why they do it like this in Texas but I have a completely different perspective of chili cheeseburger.

Now the good news.  The fries were really good and they offer those cane sugar soft drinks.  I really like that throwback flavor of cane sugar.  It makes me pine for the days before New Coke where they switched us from sugar to corn syrup and released Coke Classic.  I'm glad soda makers finally heard the call and gave the people what they want.  Hopefully Flippin' Burgers will hear the call too and change their burger mixin' ways.  Or maybe I'm just a grumpy fat man and people like that kind of burger.  It does make them unique and they certainly stand out with that flavor.  Give'm a try and tell me if I'm wrong.  I don't mind admitting it.

Hoping to hear from you.  Have a good weekend.

Flippin' Burgers on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Bellini's Texas Grill has great service but the food is only so so

Last night Steph and I went to a "new" restaurant called Bellini's Texas Grill.  Steph was all excited because she could do her picture taking of the menu and try something no one else had commented on yet.  Bellini's is kind of tucked away in a little strip mall / office park off Parmer out in Cedar Park land.  I didn't notice the cross street, sorry.  When we finally found it Steph couldn't open the door which made me laugh.  I kept saying, "pull!!! pull!!!" but she convinced me the door was locked.  She finally put her strong like bull muscles into it and the door swung open.  We entered and waited for a while until the hostess came out and took us to a booth.  We opened the menus and started reading.  It was a large tome with many sections.  At first I wasn't sure what kind of restaurant they were trying to be.  Appetizers, Sloppy Joe Frito Chili Pie but no Sloppy Joe sandwich, a giant list of sauces and toppings for what I guessed was the salad section, Sandwiches with all sorts of add ons, Burgers, Pizza, Pasta, Chicken Fried Steak.  Based on the menu I could tell they weren't really serious about the food but I was hopeful.  The waitress was great and tried to help us wade through the menu and even admitted it took her a while to decide.  It was nice that she didn't want us to feel rushed.  Score one point for service.

We decided on burgers.  You can always get a good idea of the quality of ingredients in a restaurant from their ground beef.  I had the Cedar Park Country Trucker.  It was a 1/3 pound patty with a dab of chipotle sloppy joe, a handful of pickles and mustard.  They offer white or wheat buns.  I went with white.  It also comes with a little tub of the Italian pico on the side.  I wasn't sure what I was supposed to do with it but after I picked up the burger and most of the sloppy joe mix ran off the burger back onto my plate and down my arm I knew this was a knife and fork affair.  I dumped the tub of pico onto the burger, put the lid back on and went after it with my fork.  The first thing I noticed was how tangy it was from the pickles and perhaps something in the sloppy joe mix.  The next flavor I noticed was the mustard coming through and then a smoky flavor in the patty.  All the flavors were bold and went together fairly well.  I was a bit disappointed they didn't let the beef patty be the main attraction but that turned out to be a plus after I tasted Steph's burger which wasn't covered in a mound of other flavors.

Steph ordered the Suzy-Q, your standard 1/3 pound burger with hickory bbq sauce and cheddar cheese.  The first thing she noticed was how chewy the patty was as she bit into the burger.  Steph thought it was too overworked and overseasoned.  I thought, after tasting her burger that the meat tasted a bit like bologna.  Looking at the patty you could see it was ground to a paste and really it just came across as low quality.  Steph did like the flavor of the bbq sauce and the cheese added a bit more flavor.   By the end of the meal she left about a quarter of the burger and most of her fries on the plate.  I finished off the burger just to sample the meat without all that tangy and spicy flavor of the Trucker.

Our sides weren't much to love either.  Steph was excited about getting hand cut fries and she order the battered ones.  They were billed as seasoned but I'll have to say the only seasoning I could find was salt.  They were fairly limp too so that explained why so many were left for the birds.  I ordered onion rings and they weren't much better.  They serve a giant ring that looks like a big wrist cuff.  About two inches thick and coated with probably the same batter as Steph's fries.  The first one was hot and tasted OK but was hard to eat even with my big mouth and by the end of the meal they were cold and unappealing.

Did I mention that the service was great?  It really was.  I think she even noticed we weren't too impressed by the food when she thanked us for coming in and hoped we liked the food.  It was in her tone, like she was a little disappointed.  Again, I appreciate she cared.  Another point for service.

I think I've said too much already.  Let's hope tomorrow will be better.

Bellini's Texas Grill on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Little Deli and Pizzeria where it's those little touches that make them great

Steph has declared Little Deli the best pizza in Austin so be prepared for a slice of New York style heaven when you go.  And be aware they only have two small tables inside but a large selection of picnic tables outside for you, your pets, a squirrel, maybe a few birds and of course grandma.  Steph and I ate inside just to be different.  Well, different and closer to the case of freshly baked cakes and treats that I'll get to in a bit.  First let's talk about the pizza.

When you enter the shop you'll see a couple pizzas in a case.  You might think they'll just grab a slice and throw it at you if you order it but that's not how they roll.  You order, get your drink and sit.  After the Little Deli staff warms your pizza slice properly they'll bring it out to you.  And it's worth that short wait.  Just think of that thin crispy crust, on top a nice portion of cheese over a slightly spicy tomato sauce and then adorned with slices of pepperoni to give you a very balanced array of flavors.  It was so good we went back and ordered a second slice each.  One is probably just enough but two is better.

After we ate our slices of heaven we checked out the case of cakes and cookies and cheesecake and whatever other treats awaited.  Actually here's a list from their website: Chocolate Colossal Cake, Italian Cream Cake and Carrot Cake. Homemade Brownies, Chocolate Chip Cookies, Peanut Butter Cookies and Chewy Chocolate Cookies. They told us their bakery items come from Russel's Bakery.  Steph demanded the Italian Cream Cake and well I didn't argue.  It was rich, creamy, decadent if you will.  We loved it.  In fact, as we ate it and started going Mmmmm!!! the lady at the register took the opportunity to ask Steph, "How is it?"  She sold three more slices to the people in line.

The staff is great, the food is wonderful, the desserts are decadent.  What else do you need to know?

See you at Little Deli!

Little Deli & Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen is good but you can find better for half the price

Speaking of mediocre and pricey we went to Pappadeux's over the weekend.  This is another example of a restaurant being squarely in the middle of the pack.  Given their relationship with Papasito's I really can't explain the disconnect.  Steph thinks it's the fact that seafood places have a bit more overhead.  That might explain the high prices but it doesn't explain it all.  Maybe it's just time for a good overhaul.

We went early on Saturday and ordered from the lunch menu so our portions were small especially for the price. I have the Fried Seafood Sampler Platter and Steph had the Blackened Costa Rican Mahi.  The shrimp were pretty big but they butterflied them so six little shrimp were made from three. I liked the coating on them and they were cooked correctly.  There was a pretty good mound of crawfish, one of my favorites, and they are nice and crunchy outside and tender inside.  The Tilapia was OK but not really my favorite.  Something about the flesh just didn't seem right.  It didn't taste bad but I only ate half of it.  There were plenty of fries on the plate to fill it all out.  Overall it was a good meal just not exactly what I wanted I guess.  Steph loved her Mahi and it was over cheese grits so she was in double heaven.  Since the order was half the size I told her she had the left half and then looked around as if to be trying to find the right half.  We laughed.  It was quiet.

As we were eating several groups of blue hairs meandered by in the ill fitting suits and dresses.  Everyone had a smile of their face as if they were all gathering for a reunion or event.  As one lady walked by a long grey hair flew over us and landed on my plate.  I kind of watched it fly over so I grabbed it immediately but I've just never seen that happen before.  It kind of defines the day we had at Pappadeaux.

If there was a highlight of the meal it would have to be the Turtle Brownie a la mode.  Big, rich and just what we needed to put a smile back on my face.

All this said, the staff was nice and the food was good but nothing was really spectacular.  It's time to breathe some life back into this place because they aren't dead, just need a new suit or something.

Read Steph's recollections on her blog at

Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 14, 2011

Double Dave's Pizzaworks is square in the middle

There are cheap pizzas, gourmet pizzas, deep dish, New York, yeah pizza is all over the map in quality and Double Dave's falls somewhere square in the middle.  I just don't see them trying to be the best but they certainly send out a quality product that tells me they don't want to be the worst either.  I guess in the end I'm just not the demographic they want but I still like their pizza and pepperoni rolls so they get my business either way.

When Steph and I hit Double Dave's it's all about getting a few pepperoni rolls to start and a pepperoni pizza to finish.  If you haven't tried their rolls you probably should.  The pepperoni is nice and spicy and lends itself to flavoring the doughy crust and cheese they wrap around it.  Dip it in a little marinara or ranch and you've got one delightful symphony of flavors.  And I'm sure you're thinking this but the pepperoni pizza tastes about the same, just in a different configuration.  And I love that pepperoni flavor there too.  I really don't think their pepperoni is different than other places but for some odd reason it just tastes a little better at Double Dave's.

That's really all I have to say about them.  It's counter service and they bring out your pizza when it's ready otherwise it's up to you for drinks and salad.  Like I said before, square in the middle.  Still I like them and will keep going back.

Until tomorrow.

Double Dave's Pizzaworks on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 11, 2011

Pappasito's Cantina is consistently good Tex Mex

I've been going to Pappasito's for years.  First in Dallas and now in Austin.  Sure it's corporate but you'll have to admit they get it right and do it fast every time.  I can't think of a single time my order was wrong, my drink was dry or I wasn't happy with the service.  You have to give credit where credit is due, right?

I'd like to say I can tell you about the whole menu but I only order one thing.  Why?  Because it's crazy delicious.  It's the reason I go to Pappasito's.  And that plate is the Guadalajara combo.  A big taco filled with spicy ground beef, lettuce, tomatoes and cheese starts off the meal then on to a pork tamale and two cheese enchiladas with chili sauce.  Refrieds and rice finish off the dish.  It's really too much to eat but it's oh so good I can't stop myself.  The taco shell is always crisp and fresh, the ground beef isn't too greasy and the veggies on top are cool and plentiful.  The pork tamale is sitting on the corn husk it was cooked in so you know they're fresh from the kitchen.  And those tamales are like heaven with that chili sauce.  For me there is no better chili sauce than at Pappasito's.  It's dark, full of spices and always rich and bold.

Steph feels the same way about that chili sauce.  She tries different things but all I have to do is mention that chili sauce and she's ready to go.  In fact she blogged about it with pictures.  Click here to see her take on Pappasito's.

As I mentioned before the service is great and always friendly.  Really there's nothing bad I can say about Pappasito's. 

Have a great weekend!

Pappasito's Cantina on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Shoal Creek Saloon and watch the game ya'll

Steph and I were hungry on a Friday afternoon so we decided we'd try Shoal Creek Saloon.  Their good ol' cajun cooking just sounded good.  Well, it was pretty good but not perfect.  I'll give you all the highlights shortly.

When we walked into the saloon it was really like walking into a saloon.  The sun was out and bright then all of the sudden we walked into a darkened room full of groups of people laughing and talking and watching TV and just having fun.  I smiled.  Steph grabbed a table in the corner and we started looking through the menu.  Since they weren't too busy there was only one waitress so she was running in and out and staying busy on her own.

Steph loves crawfish so she ordered a basket of them which comes with hushpuppies.  I ordered the chicken fried steak sandwich and it comes with fries.  We also had a starter of cheddar cheese fries with a side of ranch.

The cheese fries came out fairly quickly.  There were plenty of them and plenty of real cheddar cheese melted over the top.  Not that thin cheese you ladle on like gravy either, this was real cheese.  We liked the flavors in it, especially the extra bacon Steph added on top.  It was yummy.

The food came out a little later.  I wasn't really paying attention on the timing, it was a lazy Friday afternoon and I wasn't too hungry nor in a hurry.  Steph's plate was piled high with fried crawfish.  She gave me the hushpuppies because they had jalapenos in them.  The hushpuppies were nice and crunchy on the outside and tender on the inside as you would expect.  Steph was loving the crawfish though so I stayed out of biting distance and dug into my sandwich.  The coating was unique as it had a distinct cajun flavor to it.  A little hot, a little savory, this and that as they say.  I liked it and thought it was a nice diversion from your standard chicken fried steak.  My only complaint is about halfway through the meal I hit that big vein of gristle that ruined it for me.  Too tough to bite through and too tough to chew.  I tried to eat around it but in the end the gristle won.  The coleslaw was sweet from what I remember and a little spicy too.  Cajun all the way.

So it was a little hit and miss at Shoal Creek Saloon.  Can't say it was bad food though a little disappointing.  The service was great and I'll probably go back at some point.  Maybe not the most glowing review but I bet they really tear it up on game days.  I could tell it was a place to have fun and let loose.

You can see Steph's take on Shoal Creek Saloon and pictures by clicking here.

Ahhh Yeeee!

Shoal Creek Saloon on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

La Cocina de Consuelo is the most pleasant restaurant in town

I've been to Consuelo's Kitchen a couple times and I'll have to say it's the most pleasant place to eat ever.  I didn't ask if the lady that greeted us at the door was Consuelo but she's been there both times.  It's like coming home to happy mom that wants to feed you and see you happy.  How can that ever be bad?

Consuelo's offers something between TexMex and Mexican cooking.  Keep in mind I know very little about Mexican cooking so slack please.  The menu seems to be what I see at other Mexican, not TexMex, restaurants with the tacos, enchiladas, and various steak and chicken plates.  I've been trying to work through this style of menu as Steph and I try the various places around town so maybe one day I'll be able to tell you how each restaurant differentiates itself.  Or should I say, what dish is special.

At Consuelo's I'm going to say the Tacos Campesinos were my special dish of the evening.  The beef was tender and succulent lying on fresh made tortillas.  I added some salsa and lime juice to add an extra level of taste to them.  I picked refried beans and rice for my sides.  I loved the beans, they were just honest cooking but still full of flavor.  The rice was just as honest.  Not overly spiced or full of other things to take away from it's flavor.  I enjoyed every bite.

Steph had the Queso fresco enchiladas but with the chile con carne sauce.  She said they were wonderful with plenty of cheese and a well seasoned chili sauce that made that perfect blend of flavors.  She didn't say much about the black beans or the rice but she ate quite a bit of both so she had to like them.

As you would imagine the service is excellent.  In fact as we were leaving a group of people came in and it was right at closing time.  They were nice enough to ask when she closed and were told "we normally close the kitchen at 8:45 but let me get you some menus.  You can sit wherever you like."  Now that's a welcoming and wonderful way to treat a customer.  That action alone would convince me to come back again and again.

So to all those cynics in town, I dare you to go to La Cocina de Consuelo and not be happy.  And I apologize to Consuelo if I send her a bunch of grumps.

La Cocina de Consuelo on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Zed's is full of surprises

When Steph said she wanted to try Zed's I thought we were in for a night of high flying noses and snide remarks from a snotty D.  I was wrong and I'm glad to say so.  As we walked up to the door we both remarked on the wonderful aroma of grilled beef wafting from the kitchen.  I don't know if it was in the design or just luck but it really sets the mood for a great dinner.  We were greeted by a nice young woman with a big smile and taken to our table.  It was late and dark but I could see a large outdoor patio and what looked to be a fairly nice view.  Again it was dark.

Zed's has a nice selection of comfort foods on their menu.  They're kind of a blend of steakhouse and American comfort really.  I went for the "Texas Sized" chicken fried steak while Steph went with the Hickory smoked burger.  They were both delicious.

You get two sides with the chicken fried so I went with coleslaw and smashed potatoes.  The steak itself was breaded with a tasty but not overly seasoned or salty coating and came out hot.  It was nice and tender too without a hint of gristle.  The coleslaw was sweet and a little tangy.  It had a nice crunch to it so I know it was fresh.  The potatoes were good but I don't remember anything standing out about them.  Straight up honest mashed potatoes.  I remember thinking that the meal was one of the better chicken fried steaks in town.  Then again they charge a bit more at Zed's so you should expect the meal to be above the bar.

Steph's burger came out perfectly cooked to medium rare.  When she cut it in half, it's pretty big, the juices ran out of the patty and she smiled.  A lot of places will ask how you want your burger cooked but few really get it right.  Steph has a list so if anyone wants to know where they get it right, aside from Zed's, just comment below and I'll talk her into it.  Or tell her yourself, see pictures and read here take on Zed's here  She also loved the fries but sadly I can't describe them at the moment.  Sorry.  Again, bug her if you want to know more about Zed's.

As far as the wait staff goes we had excellent service.  Our glasses were never empty and everything came out as ordered.  I do seem to remember thinking they asked about things a little too much but it wasn't that busy so I think he was just trying to make us happy.  I answered a question about how often a waiter should check on you recently so it's on my mind.  Do you like when a wait staff kind of hovers or do you prefer them to be attentive but not ask?  Both have their place I suppose.

Until tomorrow.

Zed's on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 7, 2011

360 Uno Trattoria and Wine Bar just needs to calm down

Steph took me over to 360 Uno Trattoria and Wine Bar the other day for some pizza.  It turned out to be good food but if I only based this on the first 30 minutes you'd hear a much different story.  So let's start at the beginning and see what happens.

When we walked in one of the waiters just stared at us for a moment and then seemed to just run back behind the counter.  No greeting or even a smile.  I'm sure we looked lost as it was our first time and we were looking for some clue on what they wanted us to do.  We walked in a little further and notice a large drapery separating the section we were in with the other dining room.  There was a sign that said, "Full Service Customers Only" or something like that.  My first thought was "I'm not buying gas, I'm here for pizza" and my next thought was "That's not very inviting."  We stood by the sign for a while as the wait staff walked by us and I was about to suggest we just leave when a kid walked up and asked if we had a reservation.  Steph and I looked at each other with a puzzled look and she asked, "Do we need one?  This is a pizza place right?"  He said we didn't need one but they were expecting someone with a reservation.  OK, that makes sense I guess.  Then he said he would need to talk to the manager to see if we could have the reserved table.  Keep in mind there are plenty of other tables empty so this was starting to become theater of the absurd.  We waited again for a while and he finally came back and said everything was ready and we could take the "reserved" table.  We're about 15 minutes into this thing now so they have my curiosity on how they'll act for the remainder of the meal.  So far I'm thinking the staff doesn't care if we're here or not, the owners are fairly rude with the wording on the sign and they are trying to out pretentious the people of Westlake.  Yeah, let's see how this ends.  Steph and I took our seats and again waited a bit while they brought the menus and took our drink order.

We started dinner with their Polpette.  It's meatballs served with a marinara sauce.  The waiter even threw in some bread to go with it.  We both liked the flavors in the meatballs.  They weren't particularly spicy but had a nice flavor to them.  The marinara added a bit of spicy to the mix and was nice and fresh.  So far so good.

I also ordered a salad.  I don't see it on their online menu but it was fresh and tasty.  Just a simple salad of fresh arugula, I think, with a little grated Parmesan cheese and a tangy lemon vinaigrette.  I like that lemon vinaigrette.  My friend in Italy gave me a simple recipe to make it at home.  Basically just the juice of a lemon in some olive oil with fresh herbs of your choice.  It's especially good in the summer with a cool glass of vinho verde.

We ordered their Tutti Carni pizza for our meal.  That just means all the meats.  I had that song Tutti Fruity in my head all night for that one.  Thanks Little Richard.  The pizza came out fairly quickly and nice and hot.  By now the waiter had lightened up a bit and was joking with us and gave us a few suggestions that he liked from their pizza menu.  Things were getting better and we were starting to enjoy the evening.

They serve a rather thin crust at 360 Uno Trattoria and Wine Bar and tried to give it a nice presentation by slicing the Italian sausage lengthwise and cutting it so each slice of pizza had a long thin slice of Italian sausage right in the middle.  I didn't much care for the look but they tried to make it a little more upscale so I'll give them credit for trying.  The pizza had all the right textures and flavors in my opinion. The crunchy crust with the softer middle, the slightly spicy sauce, a nice mix of meats but not overboard and plenty of fresh mozzarella.  We've had pizza at other places where the meat just overwhelms and at times just makes the dish too salty.  They did a good job balancing the ingredients.  Overall we loved the pizza.

So yeah, it started out pretty bad but 360 Uno Trattoria and Wine Bar brought it when it mattered.  I'm sure we'll be back to try their pastas.  I know Steph already has it written down on one of those lists of hers.

Take care!

360 Uno Trattoria & Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 4, 2011

Ross' Old Austin Cafe, home of good eats and country music

It was my birthday and I yearned for the tastes of home in Tulsa.  One of the best things in the world is a chili-cheeseburger from Ron's Hamburgers.  It's a masterpiece to behold.  A large but thin burger with a big slice of cheese sits inside a toasted bun with mustard, pickles and onions.  Then they ladle on 8 ounces of their world famous chili over the top and filling the plate.  Now that's how you make a chili-cheeseburger.  Alas, that very plate cannot be found anywhere in Austin.  At best they might add a dollop of chili on the burger like an extra slice of tomato.  That's not a chili-cheeseburger.  The closest thing I've found in Austin is Ross' Old Austin Cafe and there are many other reasons to try this restaurant aside from the good burgers and tasty chili.

Do you like country music?  They have live bands at Ross' and they're good.  Steph and I like to go on Tuesday night when they have a band that plays what I'll call classic country music.  The stuff before they thought they were rock stars.  We've also seen some acts in more of the hillbilly / blue grass kind of feel.  I like them too.  Let's just say it's all old school country at Ross'.

Since it was a Saturday afternoon everyone was watching college football so no music was on.  I ordered a cheeseburger, bowl of chili and onion rings.  Steph had a double cheeseburger and fries.  We grabbed a couple sodas out of the cooler and waited for my birthday feast to begin.  It didn't take long.  They brought our food out hot and fresh and we dug in.  First I put a little mustard on the bun, they don't dress out the burgers so you can do as you please, and added the pickles and onions.  Then I grabbed that bowl of chili and dumped it on the top of the burger.  So far, so good.  The chili at Ross' is meant to be eaten out of a bowl and is thicker than a proper chili-cheeseburger chili but it's still good.  It's chili.  Ross' chili is an honest southern style chili.  It's thick and meaty with a little tomato base and just enough seasoning.  They serve it with saltines on the side and throw diced onions, jalapenos and cheese over the top.  It would be perfect on a cold winter day.  The burgers were cooked just right and medium rare.  The meat was fresh and juicy and well it may not have been exactly what I wanted but it was really good none the less.  The onion rings were good too.  I don't think they make them but they are the good ones with plenty of crunch and soft onion inside.  Steph finished her double burger but was too full to finish all the fries.  They cut the fries in-house and they're nice and tender when they come out.

Overall it was a really good meal for my birthday.  I'm glad I picked Ross'.  Really the only thing to gripe about, and it's not that big of a deal because they have reasonable prices on the food and offer all that no cover music, is they don't have a soda fountain so you have to buy bottled or canned pop.  If you drink more than one it can get a bit pricey at $1.50 a pop.  Again, they offer all that no cover music so it's really a small price to pay but I thought I'd mention it anyway.  I always have to find a nit or two.  I have first sergeant blood in me I suppose.

Have a great weekend!

Ross' Old Austin Cafe on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Maggiano's is fancy and friendly

I don't know why but I think of baseball whenever we go to Maggiano's.  Whatever the reason they've knocked it out of the park with their service and their food.  I've seen people give Maggiano's bad reviews and sure I'll love them until I have a bad experience but so far they've done everything right and I don't see that changing anytime soon.

We always order wine with our dinner at Maggiano's.  I can't say they have an exceptional wine list and really I can't say they don't either.  One of Steph's favorite wines we "discovered" at Maggiano's was Villa Antinori Toscana.  It's a super Tuscan blend that goes well with everything Italian.  At least everything we order.  Perhaps they do have a better than usual wine list.  I just never thought about it until now.  It was certainly wonderful with the pepperoni flat bread appetizer we ordered with it.  Nothing wrong with starting out a great dinner with a bold wine and spicy antipasti.  They also bring out bread which is nice and fresh.  We have to make our own dip of olive oil and black pepper but it's on the table ready for your enjoyment.

I had a salad with my meal.  I don't remember if it came with the entree or was extra.  I do remember I liked the tangy and flavorful Italian dressing.  Steph even tried a few bites.

I ordered the Linguine de Mare for my main course.  It came out in a huge bowl filled with linguini and a nice red sauce.  There was seafood everywhere I looked, they certainly didn't skimp, as I surveyed this incredible bounty sitting before me.  Lobster, shrimp, mussels and clams greeted each bite as I dug in.  I like all the little shells piling up on the side dish as I eat. Call me simple but that just makes me happy to see them sitting there after I eat that little morsel of goodness from each shell.  Let's not forget the lobster and shrimp as there is plenty of that as well.  The lobster was cooked perfectly and had that sweet taste that went well with the spicy tomato broth and the shrimp were tender and delicious as well.  Overall this is a top ten entree for me and Maggiano's didn't let me down.

Steph ordered from the take home menu.  You order one to eat now and they give you another to take home.  That's their thing to make a little good will.  I'm sure they want you to take it to work and fill your cube with those wonderful aromas.  Then a coworker will ask what you are eating and then, well, everyone gets their money's worth of advertising.  I can't say word of mouth isn't the best and they certainly have to bring it to make it all work.  OK, I've wandered over to the advertising department, let's get back to the food.  Steph had the Four Cheese Ravioli for her entree and loved it.  The plate was large and full of these big cheese ravioli in a rich cream sauce.  I can't say this is Steph's top ten but if you put a plate of pasta in a cream sauce and cover it in cheese she'll eat all of it.  Every time.  She's going to turn into a big plate of cheese if she's not careful.  Again, nothing wrong with that.

We had a slice of New York cheesecake for dessert with an espresso.  The cake was rich and dense as you would expect of a New York style.  The espresso was strong and balanced the sweetness of the cake well.

Here's one thing to remember.  If you are expecting to have a nice quiet, dare I say romantic, meal at Maggiano's I'd suggest going a little later.  We've gone at 7pm and you might get seated by the large loud tables of birthday revelers or just the people that get a little too loud after a few drinks.  Just go after 8pm and they'll be leaving and leaving you alone for a nice quiet evening.  Don't forget about that wine list!


Maggiano's on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Trudy's has good tex mex but can be a little weird

 I know a lot of people that praise Trudy's for their Tex Mex but I've never really had good luck with them.  It's not that they're bad, they're actually quite good.  The flavors are bold when needed or nice and cool if you want something a bit subdued.  I just never like going there. Have you ever had that feeling when you went into a restaurant?  I truly can't put my finger on the problem.  Sorry Trudy's you're just a little weird to me.

Let's get to the food.  As I said before they have quite good Tex Mex.  This day I had the Spiced Beef Enchiladas with their suiza sauce.  The sauce is a blend of New Mexico green chiles and sour cream.  They were very tasty and the sauce lent a certain heat to the meal but with the sour cream regulating the heat in a good way to make it add flavor as well as heat.

Steph had her standard order, cheese enchiladas with chili sauce.  She commented that she liked the rich flavor of the chili sauce.  Some places kind of skimp on the chili sauce spices so it comes across as bland but not at Trudy's.

We both likes the rice and beans but I can't say they had anything that stood out.  The chips are fresh and the salsa is a nice medium heat.

Even the service is great at Trudy's.  I can't think of a time when we had  to ask for refills or our order was wrong or took a long time.  It seems my dislike of Trudy's in unfounded but still that feeling is there.  I wish I knew why.

Try them out sometime and let me know if you get that weird vibe too.

Trudy's on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Enoteca Vespaio but it's not actually a wine cellar

Austin has several restaurants with silly names, if you think about them too much like me, and Enoteca Vespaio is on that list.  It makes no sense to call this place Vespaio's Wine Cellar.  It's a market that serves great food so why confuse people when Mercato or Cafe or Pizzeria would better describe the space.  It's a market, they serve good coffee and they offer pizza.  They do serve wine but they don't keep the place at 62.5 degrees nor do we get to sample wine straight from new French oak barrels.  That said let's get to the important thing, their great food and dessert.

Actually, before I get to the food let's talk about South Congress for a moment.  The Grumpy Fat Man doesn't like crowds nor searching for a parking spot.  It makes me grumpy so expect all my reviews of SoCo to be a bit, well, grumpy.  I will admit that since they changed the parking a bit it was a little easier to find a spot.  Maybe I'll mellow in old age.  Let's hope so.

Enoteca Vespaio has some great food aside from all my griping.  I ordered the Calzone al Forno and Steph had the Raviolini of goat cheese with truffled crema sauce.  Both dishes were excellent.  The calzone was made with veal sausage, gruyère cheese and a nice Béarnaise and dijon sauce. I don't see it on the menu so it may have been a special.  I ate it with a Chianti that I remember liking though I didn't write down it's name.  They are a wine cellar you know.  Steph's Raviolini was rich and she said it was great.  I'm not a goat cheese fan, that grassy taste only reminds me of boy scouts when we did survival training and ate salads of dandelion.  My loss.  Steph has wanted to go back and have that dish again so it really was something special.  One day we'll venture down and try it again but there are several other places to try first.  Like Home Slice Pizza.  Can you believe we haven't had a slice of Home Slice Pizza yet?  And I write reviews of restaurants.  I should be ashamed.

We had the Chocolate Caramel Peanut Tart for dessert with a couple espresso.  The rich chocolate, chewy caramel and crunchy peanuts all accented each other very well.  And the the espresso pushed it over the edge with the addition of that strong, dark coffee to offset the sweetness.

Yes, even with all my gripes about location, name and whatnot Enoteca Vespaio is well worth the trip.  You won't be disappointed.

Enoteca Vespaio on Urbanspoon