Thursday, November 22, 2012

Villa Ravenna at The Farm is top shelf from antipasti to digestif

It was Saturday evening and we had reservations for 8:00pm at Villa Ravenna. We were celebrating our 7th wedding anniversary and wanted to try something special.  They didn't let us down on any level.  It's funny how you have to do the song and dance with the waiter when you're seated.  You know how they offer the most expensive items, that I've never found them to be worth the price, but I can see how they would make some extra profit getting that guy trying too hard to make a good impression or perhaps paying for an indiscretion. I never like those first minutes but you know the meal will be excellent if the wait staff handles the situation with the right attitude.  We started with a little wine and dates stuffed with Mascarpone cheese and chives then wrapped in bacon and finished in the broiler.  Oh.... My..... God..... those were the most delicious things on the planet at that moment.  And they just kept raising the bar from there.  The wine list was very interesting as the owner certainly has put much time into pairing his wine with his food.  You'll find more than a few wines, regional Italian labels, that you just don't see on the wine lists of other restaurants.  Unfortunately they can only sell these by the bottle so be sure to bring friends if you're looking to share something unique.  Steph was able to get a glass of Super Tuscan, and sorry the waiter forgot to let us know the maker, and I had glass of house Chianti.  Both were affordably priced and had better quality than we expected.

We shared a salad of spinach, strawberries, feta cheese and walnuts dressed in a balsamic vinaigrette.  It was big enough for both of us since we were trying to save a little room for dessert.  Everything tasted fresh and the balsamic vinaigrette added just the right amount of sweetness to offset the tart strawberries, dark green flavors of the spinach, slight acidity of the feta and richness and crunch of the walnuts.  Again, a very balanced plate. The night was turning into something special.

Did I mention the bread?  Freshly baked Italian style baguette, sliced and warm with a wonderful dip of olive oil, black pepper and several herbs. We could have eaten our weight just in bread. But I digress.

One of the reasons we picked Villa Ravenna was the fact they make their own pasta. Mmm, fresh pasta. So be sure to order to their strengths.  Steph ordered a plate of tortelloni, which look like small ravioli, which comes with three different sauces.  Pesto, Alfredo and  tomato lined up to make a little Italian flag. It was cooked perfectly and Steph kept saying, "This is the best meal I've ever had at a restaurant."  I had to agree.  I had my favorite Italian dish, Frutti Di Mare or Fruit of the Sea.  They called it something a little different on the menu. Clams, mussels, prawns and other seafoods mixed in a plate of fresh, homemade, pasta with a slightly spicy tomato sauce.  Like Steph I think it was the best plate of Frutti Di Mare I ever had.  Let's just say the prawns were cooked perfectly, not rubbery or cold like most restaurants.  I'll say it again, compliments to the chef as he, or she, truly deserves recognition.

We finished this wonderful meal by sharing a dessert of Tiramisu, espresso and Sergio even made us try his homemade Lemoncello.  The tiramisu was nice and moist, not too sweet and finished off the evening just right.  Sergio's Lemoncello was definitely the best way to end such an excellent meal. It's tart and strong up front and slowly calms to a refreshing sweet lemon flavor on the palette.

What a wonderful experience. Great food, great service and an owner that is there making sure everything is perfect. With that combination I can say without reservation that you will never have a bad meal, or experience at Villa Ravenna. And I'm the Grumpy Fat Man so that's even saying a little more about their quality.

Thanks for a wonderful first seven years Steph! And I look forward to many more. I Love You!

Villa Ravenna on Urbanspoon

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Silver Dollar Cafe has good food and quite the menagerie of fun and shopping

Just jump on Highway 169 and head north past Owasso to the lovely and prospering town of Collinsville where you'll find the Silver Dollar Cafe.  Take the Collinsville exit, turn back east and you'll see it on the right after several blocks.  Just look for the "high gravity" beer, "All you can eat chili dogs" and "Rules of the Man Cave" signs.

The first thing you'll notice is the tin ceiling tiles, rustic pine board seating and a group of skeeball and pool tables. This place is certainly family oriented and can get a little loud but it's big so you can get away from noise if you like. Just seat yourself.

Off in a separate room that looked like it had a stage of some sort there was a group of old timers playing bluegrass and country hits of olde. "Let me be your salty dog, or I won't be your man at all..." was the tune of the day as they played and laughed.  I didn't ask but I guessed they are just town folk that get together on Saturdays to play a little music and pass the time.  I enjoyed it so they made me tap my foot along with them.

If you need to find a Christmas gift for that hard to shop for relative you might also be in luck at the Silver Dollar Cafe.  They had long glass case of most anything you can think of rather out of the ordinary.  Life sized, blow up, Spiderman? Check. Survival knife? Check. Giant 64oz OU thermal coffee mug marked "medium?" Check.  Tin sign with "The Rules of the Man Cave?" Check.  You get the idea.

OK, enough about the decor and wares, let's get to the food.  They have a basic comfort food menu of chicken fried steak, 4 piece chicken plate, fried pork cutlet, all the usual suspects are there.  We started with a platter of onion rings. They were battered in probably the same batter as the chicken.  The slices of onion were thick but they were rather light as we ate them.  The batter was nice and honest, not too much seasoning but enough to enhance the flavor a bit.  I ate mine with the side of ranch dressing they served with the rings.  It was nice and thick and while I'm not a big ranch fan I thought it was some of the better ranch I've had.  I'd guess they made it inhouse given it's thick, rich flavor.

We both ordered hamburgers for our meal.  Steph had the BBQ Cheeseburger, small and a side of fries.  It's a good thing she asked what the small and large burgers meant as the price is deceiving.  Small is 1/2 pound while the large is a full pound.  Holy...  We both ordered small and asked for them to be cooked medium to medium rare.  The cook hit it perfect. Just a little pink inside.  I had the Hot Hamburger which is a little different. They take the 1/2 pound ( small ) patty, put it on a piece of Texas toast, cover that with fries and then ladle over plenty of brown gravy.  I was afraid the whole thing would be salty from the gravy but again they did it right and everything blended together nicely.

The service was exceptional, the lady waiting on us was attentive and almost overly nice about everything. She even noticed the soda pop was looking a little weak and changed the syrup tank for us. You can't do better than that!

Overall the Silver Dollar Cafe served up some really good comfort food at a more than reasonable price with exemplary service and we even knocked out a few Christmas gifts in the process.  Plus it's a nice little drive so you can get out of the big city for an hour or two and forget the stresses of the day.  Deep breath, breathe in that fresh air.  Obviously I'll be back to Collinsville and the Silver Dollar Cafe.  What a pleasant experience. Even the Grumpy Fat Man can smile at the Silver Dollar.  That's saying something.

The banner below says Owasso but just remember it's Collinsville a few miles further.

Silver Dollar Cafe on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Capps BBQ is some good food if you ask me.

It was Saturday evening and we were looking for something to fill our bellies so Steph and I ran down to Capp's BBQ on 11th Street a little west of Delaware.  They serve the TU area but that's no coincidence since Capp Crowder played ball for TU, even helped them win the Freedom Bowl according to their website:

They offer all the mainstays of bbq; brisket, pulled pork, ribs, hot links, bologna and probably something I've left out.  Steph and I both ordered the Cappwich which is a three meat monster sandwich of hot links, chopped brisket and bologna.  I don't know why, or how, I forgot how much I love bologna ( Indian round steak if you will ) but since they don't serve it in Texas I couldn't get it anyway.  No hot links either.  No wonder I happy to be back in Tulsa.  The first thing I noticed was hearing the cutter chopping in the back so I knew everything was going to be fresh.  I ate at a place in Sapulpa, OK last Saturday and opted for the buffet, all I can say is I should have know better and thank you Capp's for keeping things fresh and made to order.  Actually the first thing I noticed was the smell of smoke as we walked in, in fact it was also the last thing I noticed when I smelled that same smoke on my fingers after we left.  It reminded me of the pleasant experience, friendly people and good food.

To get back to Capp's and the meats, the brisket was chopped to order and not too wet nor too dry. We did mention there wasn't an overly smoky flavor to it but it was there.  The hot link was pretty hot, I thought it was a medium level of heat while Steph would probably say it set her tongue on fire.  We both still liked it as well as the giant slice of bologna grounding the whole sandwich to the bun.  It was probably a half inch thick and you could see all the smoke it held.  Really the Cappwich is just a three meat plate with one side if you ask me and well worth the $8.99 they ask.

Speaking of sides we had three; cole slaw, baked beans and onion rings.  I liked the cole slaw. It was a more traditional southern style with the cabbage and carrots and the dressing was thin and milky. Just a little sweet and not too rich in flavors.  The baked beans had some peppers in them so Steph didn't like them but I thought they were good.  The beans reminded me of a good can of pork and beans with a bit more kick. Again, not too rich and what I'd call traditional taste.  The onion rings were nice and crispy with that coating that's not a batter but more like you would use to make chicken fried.  The slices were thick and sometimes the onion string came out with the first bite as they tend to do. Overall the sides were as delicious as the meat, something you don't always find at a BBQ restaurant.

So here are two reasons to try Capp's. First, they are truly good food for a fair price so they stand on their own but if you happen to be in line at Burn Co. and they run out just head west and have Capp's instead, I don't think you'll be let down.

Capp's BBQ on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Los Cabos brings the BAD ATTITUDE to the masses

UPDATE October  10, 2012. I did receive a letter postmarked October 9, 2012.

UPDATE October 7, 2012.  It's funny how places are great one minute and not so great the next.  Steph and I have been back to Los Cabos a few times since I wrote the review below.  Let's just say they've gotten lazy and the staff is sorely lacking in training.  It was a Monday or Tuesday night and I was in the mood for some TexMex so we decided to hit Los Cabos.  They weren't busy but the greeter walked us all the way back to the large party area and tried to seat us right by the busy kitchen door.  I asked if we could sit somewhere less noisy, there were screaming kids and very loud conversations along with the bustle of wait staff running in and out of the kitchen.  She put on an annoyed look and just stood there.  I then suggested the table a little further from the door which wasn't much better but I could tell we weren't going to get anything outside of this noisy room.  Keep in mind the place is maybe half full at best. Sadly it went downhill from there.  The waitress also had a bit of an attitude, the server slammed our plates down and the large parties next to us continued to get louder when their babies started to cry.  All I wanted was a nice evening with my wife, a little conversation and some good food.  We ended up frustrated, trying to hear each other over the din of screaming children and a rude wait staff. Since I wanted to have a nice evening I didn't want to complain. This was a mistake. I later sent an email telling the restaurant manager how I felt but after a couple weeks he has yet to reply.  He did ask for my address but never bothered to make things right.  I guess in the end it's my way or the highway at Los Cabos.  I'll just stay on the highway next time.

I'll update this post if anything changes after October 7, 2012.

It was a windy Saturday evening when we rolled up to Los Cabos. They weatherman predicted strong thunderstorms and tornadoes but that didn't stop the crowds from lining up to get a hot plate of food and a cold refreshing beverage.  Steph and I met some of my classmates from high school for a little get together and I even saw one guy that I hadn't seen since we drove away from high school for the last time many years ago. He hadn't changed a bit.

We started off with their famous margaritas. They're served in a big beer goblet that's been chilled and honestly they're pretty strong.  One is enough but I was having a good time so I had two. I'm sure three would have been too much so just a heads up on that. They're on the tart side and not quite as sweet as some but I thought it was a nice way to start the evening.

Steph ordered the Fried Avocado appetizer for her entree while I had the Juarez Platter.  Steph changed it up a little by getting the chile sauce rather than the sour cream.  Also note they add green onions on top as a garnish but don't note it on the menu.  The plate came out with two big chunks of battered and fried avocado with the standard rice and refried beans.  Steph loved it.  She said the outside was crisp and the inside was nice and creamy.  If you like avocado you should probably try this at least once since it's not on many menus.

My Juarez platter was a standard mix of the Combination Platter I normally order. One beef tamale, one beef enchilada, one cheese enchilada and a beef tostada.  For me the beef tamale was the star of the plate. It was made with chunks of beef stewed in a chile flavored broth, very nicely seasoned then rolled in masa but not too thick.  Definitely not a standard tamale but very tasty.  My next favorite was the cheese enchilada.  The cheese had a very strong cheddar flavor and paired perfectly with the rich chile sauce they poured over it. This cheese enchilada with chile sauce at Los Cabos is exactly what I expect for a TexMex meal.  The beef enchilada was also nicely seasoned and the tostada was piled high with lettuce and tomatoes to round out the food pyramid a bit.  I also loved the borracho beans.  They had a slightly spicy flavor and little pieces of sausage in them for added flavor. In the end I couldn't finish the whole plate but loved every bite. I have a few friends that are going to give me grief for liking Los Cabos but that's fine, there's nothing wrong with TexMex as far as I'm concerned.

Given we had an hour wait around seven on a Saturday with huge lines of people waiting I'll also have to give the wait staff and cooks respect for keeping our glasses filled and serving our food hot and tasty. So remember to take plenty of friends and don't worry about the wait, just enjoy their company.

And while I'm thinking about it, don't black bean and pumpkin enchiladas sound good? What kind of sauce would you use?

Los Cabos (Broken Arrow) on Urbanspoon

Saturday, April 28, 2012

NYC Pizza brings the feel of the neighborhood

We were greeted with a pleasant "How ya doin?!" as we walked into NYC Pizza so we knew they put a little extra love into their food.  As we approached the counter it was a bit confusing since they don't have a menu board but all we had to do was ask and the kid behind the counter handed us one.  They offer the standard pizza shop fare so we ordered the large meat combo and a couple of sodas. I ate too much pizza this time but they also have cannolis so I'm going to save some room next time to try one.

It only took 10 or 15 minutes and the pizza came out piping hot and smelled like heaven with the Italian sausage, meatball, pepperoni and Canadian bacon.  There was also a hint of oregano and garlic in the air as we let the pie cool before we dug in and yes the waiting wasn't easy.

The first thing I noticed was the sweet flavor of the Italian sausage.  It was the perfect flavor to blend with the sauce which also stood out.  The sauce was full of flavor but didn't overpower the other ingredients.  You could say everyone played well together.  I also thought the dough was very well done.  It was a very simple and honest recipe but you could tell they knew how to make it.  It had just enough tooth to it as your teeth broke through the crust but wasn't overworked and chewy.  That seems to be a problem at many other places we've tried over the years so when we find a good dough maker we tend to go back. NYC Pizza fits the bill for the style.

They also offer a Sicilian style thick crust that we'll be trying soon since that's one of Steph's favorites but remember to leave room for the cannoli.

NYC Pizza on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Billy Ray's satisfies when my tummy rumbles

We headed down the road to Billy Ray's for some barbeque on a Tuesday night and they didn't let us down. The special was the Sausage Dinner so I ordered it with potato salad and cole slaw while Steph had a two meat sandwich with fries.

The sausage was a polish style that they grilled up and sauced liberally.  I liked the flavor of the sausage and the sauce and ate it all.  The sides weren't standouts but I can't say there was anything wrong with them.  The potato salad was the mustard type with mostly potato and now that I think about it I think it was missing the relish. The cole slaw was fresh but needed a little more dressing on it as I found it a bit dry. I still enjoyed them and really we go for the meat so no foul.

Steph had the sausage and chopped beef sandwich.  The chopped beef was smoky and full of flavor. They must mix in the sauce and let it marinate all day, for me that's the best way to do a chopped beef barbeque sandwich. I'm sure some will agree and disagree with that statement.  The fries were the standard frozen shoestrings so Steph wasn't impressed but they weren't terrible. Fried up crisp and salty they added a little crunch to the sandwich.

Even though the waitress was working alone and several parties came in at the same time she kept up with all of us so you have to give her some respect for bringing that extra bit of service.

Given the quality and price I'm sure we'll be back to Billy Ray's and I've heard they have great catfish so we'll have to try it next time.

Billy Ray's Catfish and BBQ on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Mi Tierra brings the flavor of South America

This may be my first taste of South American food but it certainly won't be my last. It could be described as a fusion of American Chinese and Italian with a little bit of heat but that's not quite the right description. I didn't see anything with tomato but they did use several different preparations of corn that I hadn't seen before. One was a corn beer sauce that sounded good but I didn't try it this time, the other sounded like masa. They had tamales on the menu too but I didn't try that either.  The thing that stood out to me was how much different it was to Central American cuisine. No tacos, no tortillas and only a little touch of heat. Just a little bit though, certainly nothing like TexMex. Let's call it mellow and delicate but not bland.

 We started with an empanada filled with plantains and cheese. You might not think those sound good together but they really are a delicacy.  The corn pastry dough was a little crispy and had some tooth to it but not tough. It was a little greasy on the plate but didn't really taste greasy.  The plantains were soft and sweet like a banana which I didn't expect as the plantains I've tried before weren't very sweet but I think they were just fried. Speaking of fried plantains, you get a little plate of them with a wonderful sauce to dip instead of corn chips and salsa.  The dip was something like cilantro and a little garlic in a crema type base. It might have been sour cream but there really wasn't that acidic twang you would expect and it didn't have the taste of mayonnaise. That dip was one of the stars of the show.

Steph ordered the Pabellon Criollo ( Pulled Beef with Beans and Rice ) and I ordered the Arroz con Mariscos ( Seafood and Rice ).  Steph liked the dish but wasn't completely thrilled with the texture of the meat. It was very flavorful and stewed in a spicy, but not hot, broth but it was a little stringy. Personally I thought it was good but I only had one bite. The black beans were just that and the rice was plain too. She loved the fried ripe plantains, they were just like the ones inside the empanada. In the end Steph just wanted a few tortillas to wrap around the meat. I guess South American dishes aren't served with some notion of bread.

I loved the Seafood and Rice dish, Arroz con Mariscos.  It was like the traditional Italian Frutti De Mare on top of a bed of risotto with vegetables.  They served up a huge plate and while I gave it the old college try it looked like I hadn't even touched my plate.  The seafood was cooked nicely with shrimp, mussels, clams, calamari and fish.  There were a few pieces, the calamari I suspect, that were a little chewy but I think all calamari is chewy. Comment below if you feel differently.  The vegetables were pretty standard; corn; carrots; peas.  They said it had seaweed in it but I didn't notice or miss it.  I loved the creamy rice and the spices as they mixed with the pieces of seafood. The dish had just a hint of heat but they certainly let the ingredients speak for themselves.

Another hit of the night was the iced tea. It wasn't just Lipton's in a glass, this stuff was a flavorful mix of fruit juices. Not too sweet and not too strong mind you just a nice flavor that would have gone well with a shot of barrel aged rum.

If you like TexMex but can't take the spice anymore you might find these South American dishes the perfect substitute and if you like good food then you definitely want to give them a try. Great food, great prices, great service. Oh, if you plan to order something not like it is written on the menu be sure to bring your Spanish hat because you'll need it.

And to that I say, Adios Mi Amigos!

Restaurant Mi Tierra on Urbanspoon

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Pigout Palace in Henryetta promises you won't leave hungry

We headed south on the Okmulgee Beeline this weekend to find something to eat and ended up at The Pigout Palace in Henryetta. I drove Steph through Beggs but the place I remembered from a decade ago was long closed so we continued south to Okmulgee.  It was Sunday so most places were closed and we just kept going until we found something that wasn't corporate. Along the way we saw all the lush green rolling hills of Green Country, the new calves and their cow mamas, a few horses that had seen better days and a couple of perfectly good shoes.  Who throws a shoe out?

As we walked up to the door at Pigout Palace we noticed several people leaving with a smile so we were a bit excited by the time we hit the door.  A sign at the front said the building seated 300 pigs or humans and Huck the Pig promised "If you leave here hungry it ain't my fault."  Huck was right and we didn't leave the least bit hungry.

Pigout Palace offers a fairly extensive menu of comfort foods, breakfast all day plus an all you can eat food bar with things like stuffed peppers, pulled pork, fried chicken, many sides and a salad bar. It looked pretty good and seemed like most of the people that came in were asking for the buffet. Since we were looking for BBQ we instead went with the "All The Meats" platter.  Sliced brisket, pulled pork, pork ribs, beef bologna, one side and a house salad.  Steph and I split this mammoth mound of meat and it filled both of our tummies. That said there were some highs and lows to the meal.  I think the best thing on the table were the fresh baked yeast rolls.  They brought out four, after we asked. Two wheat and two white. They were pure heaven. Just a little sweet, soft in the middle and served with plenty of butter.  The pulled pork was really good too.  Not too fatty, not at all chewy and it had a little bark on it though I'm pretty sure all the meats were done in the oven.  They served it with a nice sweet, smoky and slightly spicy sauce that held up to all the different meats.  We ordered cheese fries as an appetizer so that became one of our sides.  The fries themselves were just standard frozen Ore-Ida from a bag but they covered them with real shredded cheeses and real bacon bits. Very tasty.  The onion rings appeared to be homemade. They were fairly thick sliced, well breaded and while they looked overcooked they tasted great. Just the right ratio of breading to the soft onion innards.  The beef bologna was fried up a bit on the flattop before they put it on the plate and had that nice fried bologna taste you would expect.  It wasn't sliced very thick so I suspect it was presliced from the store but I still enjoyed it.  The sliced brisket wasn't dry and definitely fork tender but not stringy. Again, I suspect the meats were roasted in an oven rather than BBQ'd but I still enjoyed the flavors. One thing we didn't like were the ribs. They just weren't very good. Chewy, not much flavor and certainly the low spot of the meal. Those rolls made up for it so all wasn't lost.

We also enjoyed the people watching at Pigout Palace. There were all sorts to be seen from bikers to truck drivers to old couples and even kids. It's fun to see the people out for a drive on a Sunday.  The bikers were from Oklahoma City according to their jackets and I noticed a few towns from southern Oklahoma printed on the sides of a few work trucks so it would seem that people are willing to travel at least a couple hours to get their feed bag on.

In the end we both agreed we enjoyed the experience and were happy with the food and the prices. One thing to keep in mind is everything is closed on Sundays so we couldn't stop at the Mexican imports and ornamental glass store on our way back. It's where you buy those big chunks of blue glass they throw away at the glass plant across the street.  If you've even been to Henryetta you'll know what I'm talking about and if you don't then just remember to find it or ask about it.  You'll want a chunk too!

Pigout Palace on Urbanspoon

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Split Rail Barbeque in Coweta will make you a cow eat'a

Again we are heading east to Coweta for some tasty barbeque adventures.  We all piled in the car and headed out Highway 51, it only took about twenty minutes and we were seated and looking over the menu. It was Wednesday so all you can eat ribs were the special of the day.  Steph's parents came with us and ordered the special so we decided to try everything else and ordered a three meat plate for each of us.  Steph had ribs, sliced brisket and smoked sausage while I had the chopped brisket, hot links and bologna.  It's easier to just say some of the ribs were a bit tough but otherwise everything was excellent, especially for the price.

My chopped brisket was generally tender with some nice burnt pieces mixed in but not sauced, I'll get to their various sauces later. I loved the hot links.  They were nice and hot and left me with a little sweat on my brow.  Just the perfect amount of heat and not too fatty. They reminded me of the hot links I loved from my childhood but that place is long since closed. Sadly.  The bologna had a nice flavor and they served plenty of it on the plate. I had coleslaw and fried okra for my sides.  The coleslaw was fresh and had a bit of sweetness to it.  It went very well with the meats. The okra seemed to be just the standard frozen in a bag kind but they fried them up nicely none the less.

Steph's sliced brisket was trimmed lean and had a little bark on it. She thought it was best with a blend of hot and regular sauce to give it a little extra spice. Her ribs, as well as the others, were good but some had a little tough meat on them but perhaps this was just a side effect of preparing for all you can eat rib night. Whatever the reason they were still good.  Now for the star of the show, the smoked sausage.  It was slightly sweet and had the distinct flavor of ham in each bite. It seemed a bit unique for sausage flavors so I'll be ordering it next time for a second try. Steph had fries and beans, one of three types of beans, but only liked the fries. The order of fries was huge and everyone commented that they liked them. The beans looked good but had jalapeno in them so Steph didn't like the flavor. They sound good to me so I might try them next time.

Overall the meats didn't have an overly smoky flavor but they certainly barbequed all of them nicely and piled it on the plate. They offer peanuts to munch on while they're getting your food ready so that's always a plus. The service was fine but we went in the afternoon and they only had one person working so she was a bit overwhelmed keeping the tables and answering the phone and getting ready for the evening. Still she served us with a laugh and a smile so we appreciated the extra effort.

While we were talking to the waitress she mentioned they are expanding the restaurant and adding a patio out back so they'll be ready for big crowds and good times in the future. Maybe they'll add some music on the weekends? That would be fun!

Split Rail Barbecue on Urbanspoon

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Fiesta Cozumel has some great Mexican food

This was my second visit to Fiesta Cozumel. My friend Mike suggested it for lunch and it was so good I had to try it again.  The lunch specials are very reasonably priced and they offer the standard TexMex variety of tacos, enchiladas, tamales, burritos and chile rellenos.  So far I've had the taco, beef enchilada and beef burrito off the lunch specials menu and they were all excellent. Fresh vegetables and nicely spiced ground beef. The enchilada was sauced with a spicy red sauce as was the burrito. Those three items were only five bucks with quick table service. It's certainly a step up from fast food.

Now for the frustration of living in Tulsa, Fiesta Cozumel certainly knows how to cook great Mexican food but they've taken several wonderful items off the menu because they aren't getting enough orders to serve them up properly.  I definitely give them proper respect for making the decision to refuse to serve food that's not up to their standards but if only the people of Tulsa knew what they were missing maybe we could convince them to bring these tasty dishes back.

Here's one item they don't have anymore, and you tell me this isn't worth trying. The gentleman we talked with said it was only good for a few hours once it's ready to serve. We suggested they offer it on Saturday as a special so we could still get it in town. Maybe we'll be able to find it at a different restaurant.

Cochinita Pibil
 Traditional Mexican slow-roasted pork dish from the Yucatan Penisula. Preparation of traditional cochinita or puerco pibil involves marinating the meat in strongly acidic citrus juice, coloring it with annatto seed and roasting the meat while it's wrapped in banana leaf.
 OK, enough of my griping because they still came through with some delicious entrees.  I had the Burrito Don Pepe and Steph tried Las Carnitas. I loved the burrito but Steph wanted a different flavor though she admitted the pork was cooked perfectly.

The burrito was huge and instead of just the tomatillo sauce they made a Mexican flag of tomatillo, queso fresco and their "special red sauce." The red sauce was spicy and warm but not over the top, the other two sauces were mildly spicy and full of flavor.  They stuff it with fajita beef which was very tender and had a great meaty flavor, borracho beans added a nice flavor especially the juice from the bean pot, and some creamy rice to finish off the dish.  They added a little extra Mexican oregano and they really made the dish outstanding along with the fresh slices of bell pepper and onions. I really loved this dish and I'll certainly get it again.

Steph wanted a torta with conchinita pibil but as I mentioned before they don't have it anymore so she went with the carnitas.  They served it up as nice big chunks of pork without a sauce and the standard rice and refried beans. Oh, you get a plate of guacamole, lettuce and tomato plus a stack of tortillas. She said the meat was cooked perfectly but as I mentioned before, would have liked a little sauce or more flavor in the marinate.  I thought perhaps the cook was just letting the flavor of the meat speak for itself.

The service was great and we never went without drinks or extra salsa. Did I mention I loved the salsa? It has just enough heat and plenty of fresh flavor. Needless to say we'll be back for more.

Fiesta Cozumel on Urbanspoon

Friday, March 23, 2012

Runt's is a good reason to head east for some barbeque

If it's been a long time since you been gone to Runt's in Wagoner then you might want to head east from Tulsa because there's never been any reason better to see some pretty countryside and maybe even shop at some of the antique stores. Alright, I'll stop being silly with the Head East jokes.  Steph and I hit highway 51 and headed east about 30 minutes to Wagoner to try a little place called Runt's.  They had a location in Broken Arrow but apparently it didn't last very long.  I'm not sure why because they had some decent food and it was well worth the trip.  We both had the Runtwich which was quite the understatement since it's a giant sandwich with five different meats.  Take two slices of buttered Texas toast and pile on a hot link, pork loin, brisket, bologna and pulled pork then add a side.  I'll have to say I really enjoyed the sandwich as it was like having a five meat plate or at least that's how I treated it.  Steph tried to eat it like a sandwich and get a little of each meat with each bite while I ate each meat separately.  Here's how it went down. Top honors went to the hot link, it was spicy hot and very flavorful. Definitely my favorite of the five. The pork loin was the next best. It was tender and moist and went well with their regular sauce.  The pulled pork was similar in flavor but a little dry, again the sauce fixed that little problem right away.  So far, so good.  I forgot to mention the onion ring appetizer.  They make them thin and crispy and serve them up with a big jug of homemade ranch dressing. We finished that plate off with no problem.  The other two meats, brisket and bologna, were good but for me they weren't near as good as that hot link and pork loin.  Just not quite enough smoky flavor for my taste.  We also tried a little rib meat, it was a little dry on the outside and chewy but when you get past it you'll find some tasty and tender bites. Overall we thought Runt's served some good food for a fair price.

As sides go Runt's did good on the homemade cole slaw and beans but we weren't too impressed with the french fries.  It's rather common for us to find a restaurant cheating on the fries and serving them up from a frozen bag. Of course we don't go for the sides but I like to comment anyway. The cole slaw was one of my favorite styles, that traditional sweet southern kind.  The baked beans were a standard style and still had a little tooth to them.  They also mentioned green beans, brown beans and a couple other sides to choose from but I can't remember them all.

As service goes you can expect a big smile and it doesn't take long for the food to hit the table.  We barely had enough time to eat the onion rings before the plates arrived.  It was a good thing too because we were hungry. We didn't have room for dessert but they also serve up some pie and cobbler if you're into that kind of thing.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Look to Russ' Ribs in Bristow for a little day trip delicious

Steph and I were on our way back from the family farm near Okemah and decided to stop at Russ' Ribs in Bristow. We pulled in back by the smoker, which was converted from a shipping container, and walked around front, noting the train tracks and other landmarks around Bristow.  When I was a kid we'd visit Bristow regularly to see Grandma and sometimes eat at Cotton's Restaurant.  Sadly it's long closed but now Russ' can take its place.  In case you don't know where Bristow is located, just take Route 66 west from Tulsa or jump on the Turner Turnpike towards OKC.  Just follow the signs and you'll get there in about 30 minutes.  Be careful if you go through Kellyville as they like to set up speed traps at both ends of town.

Russ' is located at the end of the Main Street strip of businesses off to the east as you go through town. There's a big sign out front so you won't miss it.  As you enter you'll walk right up to a counter to place your order.  We both ordered the Hoss and a side.  Steph had fresh cut curly fries and I had coleslaw.  Let's talk about the Hoss first.  It's a giant sandwich with a thick slice of smoked Indian round steak (bologna), chopped barbecued beef and a hot link.  As you probably guessed we had to eat it with a knife and fork.  The bologna was tasty and had plenty of smoke flavor, the chopped beef had a fair amount of smoke flavor to it.  It was pretty lean. I didn't notice any big chunks of fat nor chewy bits of connective tissue.  The hot link was pretty spicy but not over the top and the three meats together complemented each other.  They offered both a regular sauce and a spicy/hot sauce.  We both just went with the regular.  It was a sweet tomato based sauce with a little spice to it.  It certainly went well with the meats.  Overall we though the meats were well cooked, well smoked and by the end of lunch, well eaten.

Steph to this day hasn't stopped talking about the homemade curly fries at Russ' Ribs.  They served up a nice portion hot and fresh from the fryer.  If you know Steph then you know she has a list of fries from all over the country so just the fact that she liked them was good but given she's still talking about them just let's you know they're in a league with greatness.  I'll let her rave about them on her blog though so watch for it coming out soon.  My coleslaw was homemade and fresh and I really wish I'd liked it more than I did.  The serving was kind of small and it didn't have much extra flavor from the dressing but I'll have to admit it was an honest homemade coleslaw so you might just like it.  No extra sweet, no extra tangy, just fresh ingredients and nothing to hide.

Russ' also offers a standard variety of barbecued meats and sides so I'll let you discover your favorites.  Don't overlook the tri tip roast, it's one of the go to cuts for California smokers so you don't see it as often around the area. I guess you could call it the brisket of California, someone can correct me on this.  I do know it comes from the bottom sirloin so it's similar in quality but from the other end of the cow.  I've tried it before and loved it but it's been a while so I can't really describe it at this time.

One of the fun things about Russ' Ribs is that they encourage everyone to sign their wall or ceiling to show you've been there.  Since they're on famous Route 66 they have travelers from all over the nation coming through town so you'll see names and places from all over the world.  They even have a special section for veterans to sign so you know they're an All-American place to dine.  If you have an extra hour or two and want to see some pretty country and eat some good food, then head that way. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Russ's Ribs on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

I've moved

Just to let everyone know, I've moved to Tulsa, OK so all posts after December 1, 2011 will be covering the Tulsa area.  Austin was a great town with great food but it's time for the Grumpy Fat Man to move on to better pasture.

Oklahoma Joe's BBQ needs to get over itself and start caring about their food

I'm from Tulsa, born and raised, but I've lived in Texas over a decade so in that time I've eaten more BBQ than I can remember.  I never understood why people were so emotional about BBQ restaurants until I ate at Oklahoma Joe's.  It truly makes me embarrassed to call myself an Okie.  I see all the pictures of the guys that founded the restaurant, I read about the awards and I even think the pictures of their award winning meats look wonderful but if anyone needs to be embarrassed about this restaurant it's the very guys that lent their name to this mediocre at best restaurant.  Stay with me for a moment and hear me out then decide if you agree.

The first thing that jumped out at me is the kid that took my order didn't know the difference from "lean" and "moist" brisket.  Steph and I looked at each other with that confused puppy look on our face but then we quickly understood, they don't cut the meat to order.  The brisket is just sitting in a steam tray already sliced and they just dip it out and throw it on the plate.  On top of that is has no bark on it and has a rather unappetizing sheen to it rather than the freshly sliced meat I'm used to seeing.  If I had to guess it came from a brisket that at best had been smoked for two to four hours.  It barely had a smoke ring and certainly didn't have any smoke flavor.  In the end I felt like I could have just grabbed a pack of Buddig roast beef and thrown some of their sauce on it.  I'll admit I liked the sauce, it was a standard KC style sweet sauce, made from a base of tomato sauce, maybe a little brown sugar and a few spices.  Certainly a nice change from the vinegar based Texas style sauce I've grown used to when sauce was even offered.

Next let's talk about the sausage.  Imagine a roll of breakfast sausage that's about 50/50 fat to meat and then don't add any spices at all.  They didn't even smoke it.  Terrible.  That's really all I need to say about the sausage, terrible.

Steph had the ribs and brisket.  If there's anything good on the menu it's the ribs.  They had a nice bit of bark on them and were fall of the bone tender.  Steph certainly made a better choice than I on this trip.  Her brisket was the same as mine.  She also ordered french fries instead of the standard sides and they were actually pretty good.  Just standard size fries with plenty of spiced salt on them.  When I ordered at the counter I asked for potato salad and coleslaw not realizing you only get one side with the two meat plate.  Instead of letting me know the kid just ignored the coleslaw so I only had potato salad on my plate.  It was a little bowl of boiled and sliced small potatoes in an ocean of mayo with chives and what looked like a little ham.  I suppose it was good enough just not my favorite style and if I had been informed I would have picked the coleslaw.  They even mixed up the sides on two of the plates which isn't a big deal but really with only four plates to manage down a steam tray line you don't expect a mistake.

When they rang us up the bill it came up to over $60 for four adults.  That's way too much for the amount of care they put into this cafeteria food and for the portion size but at least it's counter service so you don't have to tip?

In the end we were all disappointed but in different ways.  I've heard this location isn't like the Kansas City location so perhaps it's just this single restaurant giving them a bad name but it's certainly not a place I'll be trying again.  Life is too short to settle for mediocre and uninspired.  Don't you agree?  I did enjoy the old time country music so they did get that right. 

Oklahoma Joe's BBQ on Urbanspoon