A Look Inside Trinity Hall Irish Pub

Howdy, howdy!  As you can probably tell from the title, this is another food review.  Two food related posts in as many weeks???  Yeah, I was surprised too.  It came about as a combination of sadness over my last two food posts (they weren’t very nice and I felt bad about that) and the fact that Dad and I tried out a new place (new to us) on Sunday.  So, why not have two food posts in a row?  Anyway, we went to the Trinity Hall Irish Pub in Dallas.  They’re located in Mockingbird Station across 75 from SMU.  Check out their website (linked above) for an exact address and hours and event calendar.  Now, on to the review!

First, a reminder of my rating system:

MMMMM = Everything is magnificent!
MMMM = Great, but something is off.
MMM = Pretty good, but a couple of things could be better.
MM = The bad’s starting to outweigh the good.
M = Definitely more cons than pros.
… = I couldn’t find anything nice to say.

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Once again, I didn’t think to take pictures, so I borrowed some from Google.

Accessibility: not bad at all.  Mockingbird station had both valet and parking garages, so that part was pretty easy.  The pub was on the second floor, right around the corner from the elevators, so that’s great.  Inside, it could potentially get cramped, but there were a number of easily reached tables as long as people were willing to scooch a little when needed.  They had two different types of tables that I noticed, square ones and round ones.  The square ones had one of those three or four inch hangy down parts that make for black and blue knees if you don’t notice them and try to pull in.  I noticed.  It’s annoying but not impossible for me to sit at that type of table.  BUT!  The round tables didn’t have that problem, so we moved to one of those.  They were the simple small round top on a central pedestal type.  It worked, so yay!

Service: awesome!  Our server, Jon, wasn’t too sure of me at first, but quickly warmed up once Dad pointed out I could talk for myself.  After that, he made sure to address me as well as Dad even when he was just asking how everything was, which is really rare.  Servers tend to address me when ordering then direct everything else toward Dad, so it was a little weird to glance up and find Jon waiting for an okay from me as well.  Good weird.  And he timed our orders so we had a little time between each course, which was perfect.  We never felt rushed or like we were waiting.  It was a great experience.

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A picture of the Dublin Bay Casserole that I stole from Google.

Appetizers: yummy.  We opted for the steamed mussels which were in a nice broth with carrots and potatoes and celery.  There was soda bread for dipping on the side.  It was delicious.  Though, one of the mussels didn’t open during cooking (which means don’t eat it), so we were sad about that.

Entrees: delicious.  Dad had the Irish stew, which was chunks of leg of lamb, potatoes, carrots, celery, and onions in a lovely stock topped with some mashed potatoes.  Soda bread on the side.  It was great.  Dad commented on the amount of and variety of potatoes, then realized it was Irish.  Of course there’s a plethora of potatoes.  I can’t say much.  It took me a minute to understand the amount of seafood on the menu before I remembered Ireland is an island.  We’re not all that bright.  Stop judging us.  But speaking of seafood, I got the Dublin bay casserole.  It was cod, shrimp, scallops, peas, and carrots in a bechamel sauce, surrounded by mashed potatoes.  And, of course, there was soda bread on the side.  The perfect food for a chilly night.

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Stolen from Google.

Dessert: good.  We split the creme brulee.  It wasn’t the best I’ve had, but it was by no means bad.  It was a little loose, but I used the crackly top as a spoon so all was well.  I’m just happy we skipped the cheesecake after we noticed it was vegan (I’m sorry that I don’t believe in milkless cheese).  But hey!  They also have vegan and gluten free menus, so that was cool.

Booze: good selection.  Dad got a Guinness and I got a black and tan.  But they have a wide selection of beers, ciders, and meads.  They also have Irish coffee with brown sugar, whiskey, and whipped cream which I will have to try next time.

Price: not bad at all.  Even with two beers, our bill was only around $75.  Wonderful food, great service, a nice atmosphere.  It was definitely worth the money.

My rating:
MMMM

P.S. To be fair, I only knocked off that fifth M because the accessibility could be a little better, but that could be better just about anywhere.  If you’re an able-bodied person, this is an MMMMM place.

A Look Inside Crispy ‘N’ Puffy Taquito

Hello, hello!  Welcome to November!  Is everyone looking forward to the holiday season?  I’m looking forward to peppermint EVERYTHING.  Because yes, I’m one of those people.  If you can get excited about all things pumpkin spice, then I can do the same for peppermint.  But I digress.  On Monday, Dad and I tried out a new restaurant in Mesquite called Crispy ‘n’ Puffy Taquito.  It promises “authentic Mexican cuisine with a modern twist,” so we thought we’d give it a shot.

First, a reminder of my rating system:

MMMMM = Everything is magnificent!
MMMM = Great, but something is off.
MMM = Pretty good, but a couple of things could be better.
MM = The bad’s starting to outweigh the good.
M = Definitely more cons than pros.
… = I couldn’t find anything nice to say.

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A colorful banner.

Accessibility: fairly standard.  There’s an oddly positioned ramp to get in, but that’s been that way since the building went up.  Spacing between the tables is super tight.  I barely maneuvered around them when they were empty.  If it had been busy, it would have been impossible to get beyond the ones right by the door.

Service: wonderful!  Our waitress was friendly and attentive.  She wasn’t sure about me at first, but once she realized I was capable of ordering for myself, she talked directly to me.  She even came out to hold the door open for us when we arrived.

Menu1
I didn’t take any pictures, so here’s one of the menu I found on Google.

Appetizers: not bad.  We ordered the stuffed jalapeños which contain both cheese and chicken.  They were pretty good.  We also had the fried mushrooms.  They were large with a nice crispy crust.  Also pretty good.

Entrees: just no.  I have to go back to the beginning here, which was ordering our drinks.  They advertise a lot of Mexican sodas (Coke, Fanta, etc.), but they were out of them ALL.  Then, when we ordered our appetizers, we found out they also didn’t have any of the avocado sour cream they tout as a must try on their website.  Needless to say, there was a lot of wondering if they even had tacos left.  But they did, so Dad got two beef and two chicken (the only options they have), and I got the nachos.  There was absolutely zero puffiness to Dad’s tacos.  It was just your standard hard shell.  All the reviews we read talked about a flavorful dusting on the shells, but Dad got none of that.  The chicken tasted like it was canned.  The beef was reminiscent of Taco Bueno, only not as… I won’t say good… edible, I suppose.  My nachos had some kind of cheese sauce and the beef and lettuce and tomatoes all topped with shredded cheese.  It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good. The chips tasted fine but had a stale consistency.  Everything was super greasy as well.  It just wasn’t a good experience food-wise.  Also, their menu is super limited.

Menu2
The other side of the menu courtesy of Google.

Dessert: unknown.  Yes, you guessed right.  They were out!

Price: not worth it.  It wasn’t too expensive, but you might as well go to Taco Bell or something like that for the same quality at a better price.

My rating:
M

P.S. I thought long and hard about posting this, especially since they have so many good reviews.  I don’t like being a downer when it comes to a new local business struggling to make it.  But it was just that bad.  Maybe we went on a bad day.  Maybe all the reviews on Google and Yelp are right.  If they’re still around in a year or two, maybe we’ll try again.  All I know is that this go ’round sucked.  And first impressions are everything.

A Look Inside The Schooner Restaurant

Hello, hello!  This weekend, Dad and I went to Port Neches for the book launch of Road Kill: Texas Horror by Texas Writers Vol. 3.  It’s down by the coast, so we were looking forward to the prospect of amazing seafood.  We asked around about the best place to go and the consensus seemed to be a place called The Schooner Restaurant off 69 right where Nederland and Port Arthur meet.  So, after the event (which was cozy, lovely, and hosted by the awesome little book store Fleur Fine Books), Dad and I headed toward the restaurant.  It was a building in the middle of a strip mall parking lot and when we got there around 6:00, 6:30 there was no wait.  On a Saturday night.  Granted, a dreary and drizzly Saturday night, but still.  On to the review!

First, a reminder of my rating system:

MMMMM = Everything is magnificent!
MMMM = Great, but something is off.
MMM = Pretty good, but a couple of things could be better.
MM = The bad’s starting to outweigh the good.
M = Definitely more cons than pros.
… = I couldn’t find anything nice to say.

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A picture of the menu that I borrowed from Google because I didn’t take any.

Accessibility: standard.  There were no steps or ramps required to get in, which was interesting.  We don’t often run into places without at least a sidewalk around them around here, so going to a place even with the parking lot was cool.  It did have two sets of doors, but the hostess was right there holding the inside door open, removing any potential hassle.  There seemed to be multiple paths to a number of tables, so it wasn’t difficult to maneuver around the place.  The tables themselves were not my favorite.  They were the kind with a thick leg at each end, which meant I couldn’t pull in all the way.  It makes things annoying, but not impossible.

Service: amazing!  The hostess greeted me before Dad even finished coming inside.  The waitress, Raven, treated me like a person from the get-go.  She was super nice and helpful when we had questions about the menu.  If she didn’t know something, she was honest about it.  She was attentive, but not overbearing.  It was one of those places where everyone seemed nice and no one ignored my existence just because I’m cripple, so they get some bonus points.

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A neat old picture (1955) I found on Google.  It’s from the UNT website.

Appetizers: pretty good.  We ordered the oyster Rockefeller, which turned out to be cheesy, spinachy goodness.  Pretty sure that was my first time eating cooked oysters and, I have to say, they were really good.  We also got some alligator.  It was fried and tender, so it was also good.

Entrees: this is where things go south.  I ordered the Schooner deluxe platter, which was a bunch of fried things (shrimp, scallops, trout, stuffed shrimp, stuffed crab, a frog leg, and crab).  But I asked for everything that could be grilled to be grilled.  Nothing was grilled.  The shrimp and scallops were lightly breaded and pan-fried instead of deep fried, but that’s not grilled.  And the trout coming out deep fried made me wonder if perhaps it was a pre-made and frozen thing, because why else couldn’t they grill it?  And don’t get me started on the fried crab.  They fried it in the shell!  What was the point of that?  It appeared to be a dungeness crab, so you can’t eat the shell.  And frying it made all of the meat stick to the shell, which meant if you didn’t want to sit there for hours picking at it, you couldn’t even get half the meat out.  It was all super disappointing.  Plus, the stuffed shrimp tasted like it had soap in it.  Dad ordered grilled flounder (came out pan-fried) Greek-style.  The seasoning was good.  That’s about it.  Everything, including our sides, was over-cooked.  I never thought seafood could become shoe leather.  I was wrong.

schooner_dessert1
Picture stolen from their website.

Dessert: not bad.  All of the desserts looked delicious (even the carrot cake), but we decided to split a chocolate eruption.  Needless to say, a lot of chocolate erection jokes were made.  But it was pretty good.  A chocolate mousse cake with chunks of cheesecake in it.  Worth a try.

Price: for good seafood, the price wasn’t bad.  For the seafood we got?  Totally not worth it.

My rating:
MM

If it had just been a crappy appetizer or a bad dessert, I’d say a MM was harsh, but when it’s both entrees (and not just a small part of them, but all of it), I’m okay with this rating.  If that’s what passes for the best seafood so close to the coast, I’d rather stay in Dallas for fish.  And that’s really sad to me.

A Look Inside Seafood Shack Mariscos

Hello, hello!  Welcome to September.  It seems like forever since I’ve posted a food review (since January 2017 actually), so I thought it was about time for one.  Dad and I were going to go to Zenna  on Sunday, but they are temporarily closed due to fire damage.  So, we ended up trying a place called Seafood Shack Mariscos.  You can find addresses for all three of their locations on the website linked above.  It has a Big Shucks vibe.  Honestly, it’s super surprising to find a seafood place in Mesquite that isn’t a huge chain (Red Lobster, Joe’s Crab Shack, etc.), so Dad and I decided to check it out.

First, a reminder of my rating system:

MMMMM = Everything is magnificent!
MMMM = Great, but something is off.
MMM = Pretty good, but a couple of things could be better.
MM = The bad’s starting to outweigh the good.
M = Definitely more cons than pros.
… = I couldn’t find anything nice to say.

Mariscos3
Didn’t think to take pictures, so I borrowed this one from Google.

Accessibility: not bad, not great.  Cripple parking is sparse, but it’s a small lot so what do you expect?  There’s a spot on either side of the loading zone right out front.  And it’s a loading zone that’s actually large enough for me to get unloaded in (yay!).  Getting in is easy enough.  But the tables are pretty tightly packed, so when it’s busy, you have to rely on the kindness of people moving and pushing chairs around so you can reach an empty spot.  It’s embarrassing, but you do what you have to do for the sake of food.  The tables themselves are easy to fit under and a good height.

Service: good.  You order at the counter, they give you a flag, someone brings your food and booze out.  Fountain drinks, tea, and condiments are serve yourself.  The cashier smiled at me when we approached, but seemed a little apprehensive to assume I would order anything.  After she realized I was going to order, she talked to me normally.  Some wires got crossed because I speak softly, but Dad helped straighten them out.  She also messed up some stuff with him, though, so I didn’t feel too bad about my mumbling.  The person who dropped off our food just asked if it was ours and put it down in front of whoever responded, which was perfect.

Mariscos1
Again, no pictures.  So here’s part one of their Mesquite menu from the website.

Food: fan-freaking-tastic!  We got a bowl of gumbo and a shrimp and octopus cocktail to share.  Both of which were amazing.  I had a little trouble chewing the octopus, but it’s supposed to be chewy.  I knew that going in.  Dad had the salmon, which came with rice and veggies.  Aside from the fish being a bit more well done than he usually eats it, he said it was really good.  I had the enchiladas de camaron.  Three shrimp and cheese enchiladas in a creamy sauce with a side of rice.  They were wonderful!

The only (not really) problem with the food was that everything came out at once.  It’s one of those things that happens when you have to order everything up front.  Is it inconvenient?  Yeah, a little.  Especially for those of us who enjoy eating at a slow pace.  Is it a deal breaker?  Nope.

Mariscos2
Part two of their Mesquite menu from their website.

I didn’t notice any desserts on the menu.  Sadness.  But they have mango margaritas (as well as other drinks).  Those things are addictive.  They coat the rim in Tajin (a seasoning containing lime, chili peppers, and sea salt).  It goes really well with the sweetness of the mango.  They also have tamarindo margaritas.  I want to try that one too, but it’s going to be really hard to beat the mango.

Price: normal.  Seafood is never going to be cheap, but the prices here are pretty good.  We walked away with around a $60 bill (not including tip).  That’s not bad considering all the yummy food we got.  We’ll definitely be going back and I suggest you give it a shot as well if you’re in the area!

My rating:
MMMM

Smashed Cucumbers and Grilled Lamb-Stuffed Pitas

Hello, hello!  First and foremost, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DAD!  Yup, it’s the anniversary of his awesomeness as a few of my friends call it.  If you have his number, call him and sing at him.  Otherwise, post birthday wishes here or on my social media pages and I will pass them along.

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Opus and Bill say happy birthday!

And now, onto the blog.  I have nothing new to talk about, so I thought I would post a couple of recipes Dad recently tried out: smashed cucumbers (also known as Pai Huang Gua) and grilled lamb-stuffed pitas with yogurt sauce.  Both of these recipes came from America’s Test Kitchen.  Have you tried something new recently?  Feel free to share your food exploits here or on my social media pages!

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Borrowed from Google

First up, smashed cucumbers (from season 18, episode 17).  Serves 4.  We forgot the chili oil ATK suggested you use with this dish, but it was good without it.  Nice and cool and refreshing, especially on a hot summer day.  Dad also added a teaspoon of minced ginger, which was delicious.

Ingredients:

  • 2 (14-ounce) English cucumbers
  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 4 teaspoons Chinese black vinegar (or 2 teaspoons of rice vinegar and 1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced to paste
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds, toasted

Directions:

1. Trim and discard ends from cucumbers. Cut each cucumber crosswise into three equal lengths. Place pieces in large zipper-lock bag and seal bag. Using small skillet or rolling pin, firmly but gently smash cucumbers until flattened and split lengthwise into 3 to 4 spears each. Tear spears into rough 1- to 1 1/2-inch pieces and transfer to colander set in large bowl. Toss cucumbers with salt and let stand for at least 15 minutes or up to 30 minutes.

2. While cucumbers sit, whisk vinegar and garlic together in small bowl; let stand for at least 5 minutes or up to 15 minutes.

3. Whisk soy sauce, oil, and sugar into vinegar mixture until sugar has dissolved. Transfer cucumbers to medium bowl and discard any extracted liquid. Add dressing and sesame seeds to cucumbers and toss to combine. Serve immediately.

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Also borrowed from Google.  We had the smashed cukes instead of a salad.

Next up are the grilled lamb-stuffed pitas with yogurt sauce (from season 18, episode 20).  Serves 4-6 (the following instructions are for 4 servings, but just add extra pitas and divide mixture by 6 if you want to serve more/have fewer calories).  The pita was crispy, the meat juicy, and the yogurt sauce was nice and cool and creamy.  Definitely worth a try.  Some grilled onions on top might be a nice addition as well.

Ingredients:

SAUCE

  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • ½ cup minced fresh mint
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt

SANDWICHES

  • 1 onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest plus 3 tablespoons juice
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons pepper
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 pounds ground lamb (or 85 percent lean ground beef)
  • 4 (8-inch) pita breads

Directions:

1. FOR THE SAUCE: Whisk all ingredients together in bowl. Set aside.

2. FOR THE SANDWICHES: Pulse onion and cilantro in food processor until finely chopped, 10 to 12 pulses, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Transfer mixture to large bowl. Stir in oil, lemon zest and juice, coriander, cumin, paprika, salt, pepper, cayenne, and cinnamon. Add lamb and knead gently with your hands until thoroughly combined.

3. Using kitchen shears, cut around perimeter of each pita and separate into 2 halves. Place 4 thicker halves on counter with interiors facing up. Divide lamb mixture into 4 equal portions and place 1 portion in center of each pita half. Using spatula, gently spread lamb mixture into even layer, leaving 1/2-inch border around edge. Top each with thinner pita half. Press each sandwich firmly until lamb mixture spreads to ¼ inch from edge of pita. Transfer sandwiches to large plate, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside. (Sandwiches may be held for up to 1 hour before grilling.)

4A. FOR A CHARCOAL GRILL: Open bottom vent completely. Light large chimney starter two-thirds filled with charcoal briquettes (4 quarts). When top coals are partially covered with ash, pour evenly over grill. Set cooking grate in place, cover, and open lid vent completely. Heat grill until hot, about 5 minutes.

4B. FOR A GAS GRILL: Turn all burners to high, cover, and heat grill until hot, about 15 minutes. Turn all burners to medium-high.

5. Clean and oil cooking grate. Place sandwiches on grill, cover, and cook until bottoms are evenly browned and edges are starting to crisp, 7 to 10 minutes, moving sandwiches as needed to ensure even cooking. Flip sandwiches, cover grill, and continue to cook until second sides are evenly browned and edges are crisp, 7 to 10 minutes longer. Transfer sandwiches to cutting board and cut each in half crosswise. Transfer sandwiches to platter and serve, passing sauce separately.

A Look Inside Texas de Brazil

Howdy, howdy!  How was everyone’s week?  As promised, I’m posting a review of my birthday experience at Texas de Brazil.  We went to the one out in Addison this time, instead of the one in Dallas.  Check out their website (linked above) for locations near you!  It’s a Brazilian steakhouse and churrascaria, so there’s a big focus on meat.  As carnivores, Dad and I appreciate that, as did Ed Baker who went with us and is a family friend from back when I was active with MDA.  I will say that this wasn’t my first time there, so this post will probably draw on my other experiences as well.

First, a reminder of my rating system:

MMMMM = Everything is magnificent!
MMMM = Great, but something is off.
MMM = Pretty good, but a couple of things could be better.
MM = The bad’s starting to outweigh the good.
M = Definitely more cons than pros.
… = I couldn’t find anything nice to say.

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A selection of their meats borrowed from their Facebook page.

First up is accessibility.  They don’t have many handicap parking spaces at either of the locations I’ve been to, but they do have valet parking to make life easier if the spaces are taken.  I admit that I like the Addison location a little better than the Dallas one because I can get in through the front door.  The only ramp on the Dallas location is in through the kitchen, which is cool (I mean, at least they made it accessible in the ways they could).  The Texas de Brazil in Addison did a nice job to accommodate wheelchairs.  It can be a tight squeeze around the salad bar, especially at the corners (we had to ask a nice man to move because I couldn’t make one of the turns), but otherwise it was fairly easy to manuever around.  The tables are a nice height, but they do have a small piece underneath that I would’ve banged my knees on if I hadn’t looked first.  It’s easily avoidable, though.  So, it’s accessibility is up to the usual standards around here.

Next is service.  The hostess and waitress were wonderful.  They both talked to me like a regular human being.  The people who carry the meat around and serve it focused mostly on Dad and Ed.  Only one or two of them looked directly to me when asking who wanted what, but since Dad grabbed a piece for me off of everything, it didn’t really bug me.  In other words, the service was great where it mattered.

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Dad, Ed, and I post-meat, but pre-dessert.

Now, the best part: food!  Once you’re seated, there’s a huge salad area you can hit up as often as you want.  There’re vegetables and cheese and fruits and fish and soup.  It’s delicious all on its own.  They do have vegetarian-friendly options in case you know some herbivores, but I’m not sure about vegan options.  My personal favorites were the cheeses and some kind of pineapple dish that was super thinly sliced and sweet.  It’s definitely got enough to fill you up even if you don’t want to eat the meat floating around the room.

As for the meat, I can honestly say it’s like a little slice of heaven.  Waiters carry skewers of everything from beef to chicken to pork to lamb.  There’s literally something for everyone.  Dad loves lamb, I loved the parmesan crusted chicken and pork, Ed kept going back to the sausages.  You can gorge on whatever you want or have a little bit of everything like we did.  They even have a couple of sides (garlic mashed potatoes and fried bananas) they bring to the table despite the huge salad area.  They also have bread.  Be prepared to stuff yourself silly.

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My birthday creme brulee!

Texas de Brazil also has a fairly wide variety of desserts.  I had the creme brulee, of course.  Dad had flan, and Ed had the key lime pie.  Everything we’ve had here has been yummy.  They don’t have specialty coffee cocktails, but the bartender will whip something up if you ask, which is how I like to end such a wonderful meal.

Now, onto the thing no one likes to talk about: the price.  At nearly $50 a person (not including drinks and desserts), it’s not cheap.  But for everything you get, it’s totally worth the splurge once a year or so.  Get dressed up and make a night of it with someone special.

So, here’s my rating:
MMMM

A Look Inside On The Lamb

Hello again!  It’s time for another food review.  For a belated birthday dinner, Dad (his birthday was July 18th) and I went to On The Lamb in Deep Ellum last Thursday.  You can find their address (they’re next to the 7/11 on Elm St. for those who know the area) and a sample menu on the website linked above, but be aware that it is by no means up-to-date (their menu and hours have changed, so check their Facebook AND give them a call before you head that way).  Also, fair warning, it’s Deep Ellum, so good luck finding parking!

First, a reminder of my rating system:

MMMMM = Everything is magnificent!
MMMM = Great, but something is off.
MMM = Pretty good, but a couple of things could be better.
MM = The bad’s starting to outweigh the good.
M = Definitely more cons than pros.
… = I couldn’t find anything nice to say.

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The inside.  It’s tiny, so this is basically what you get.
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A better view of the bar.

 First up is accessibility.  Funny story, actually.  I messaged On The Lamb to find out if they required reservations (they don’t) and to make sure they were wheelchair accessible and one of the owners wrote me back to let me know they didn’t have an accessible table, but that they were working on it.  How does a place not have accessible tables, I wondered as I wrote back to express my sadness (answer: they only had the bar-top height tables).  A few days later, I received another message saying they had swapped one of the tall tables for a regular one, so I could come down any time.  Now, that’s service.  Ask and ye shall receive!  Otherwise, accessibility was decent.  The table is in a nook next to the door, so I didn’t have to fight my way down the aisle.  My chair is fairly large, and the table is positioned in a way that meant I had to sit on the corner (which I actually prefer), so I’m sure I was in the waitress’ way at times, but no one complained.  The height was great for me.  Getting in the door and around to the table is a clear shot with plenty of room to swing around.  So, despite the initial shock of no table that was taken care of swiftly, accessibility gets an A+ from me.

Service.  Our waitress, Sarah, was wonderful.  She immediately treated me like a human being instead of shying away or ignoring me, so she gets bonus points.  She was knowledgeable about the menu and answered all of our questions.  Don’t expect to understand the menu without some help.  It’s pretty cryptic if you don’t know what half the words mean.  Luckily, she knew.  Plus, she was attentive, but didn’t make us feel rushed at all.  She was good all around.

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I didn’t think of pictures until after the second course, so excuse the sipped on La Perla and half-eaten food.

 Before I get to the food, I want to recommend checking out the cocktails if you drink.  I had a La Perla (hibiscus infused tequila with passionfruit).  It was lovely.

Anyway, the menu is set up more like a high-end restaurant rather than a hole-in-the-wall place.  First, you have the “cured items,” which is a meat and cheese sampler.  You pick either three or five items and they come out with a few pieces of each.  Definitely shareable.  We got the biltong (South African style jerky, but it’s not tough to chew), duck ham, and the country salami (it’s made in-house, so we had to).  Plus, a couple of cheeses.  There were also a number of garnishments.  It was all absolutely delicious, except for the lamb pate they added.  A lot of people raved about the pate, so I’m sure if you like that kind of thing it’s great.  I wasn’t a fan.  My favorites from that plate were actually the biltong and the giant capers.

The “first” course is a small serving.  If they have the duck confit (my first course), I definitely recommend it.  The meat was tender and juicy and it was phenomenal.  Dad got the lamb boudin, which was also wonderful.  We ate it all, so I have no pictures to share with you.

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Lamb neck tagliatelle (left) and grilled merguez in its own little pot (right).

The “second” course consisted of lamb neck tagliatelle for me and grilled merguez (a grilled lamb sausage stew type thing) for dad.  Serving sizes were smaller than typical, but after the first two items, that’s okay.  Both dishes were delicious.  Dad’s had lentils and a duck egg in it, which was strange and delightful.  I admit that I preferred my own, though.  The lamb neck was tender and there was mint in it that just set the whole dish apart.  As someone who isn’t a huge fan of lamb (Dad loves it), I admit I was impressed by just about everything we had.

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Apricot.
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Mint chocolate stout with a bite taken out.

 Dessert was weird.  The menu was absolutely no help in deciphering what everything was and the waitress explained it as weird ’80’s artwork that you can eat (she wasn’t wrong).  So, just pick whatever sounds coolest to you and try it.  Dad got “Apricot” and I got the “Mint Chocolate Stout.”  There’re bits of cake and sorbet and fruits and a bunch of other stuff that I couldn’t name even if I tried.  Each component was good on its own, but I ended up mixing mine all together, which made it even better.

Last, is price.  It wasn’t cheap, but for the quality of the food, it wasn’t bad.  For Dad and I, it was about $120 without the tip.  Basically, you get Mansion on Turtle Creek quality with portions that are double (sometimes triple) the size for around half the price.  It’s worth the splurge.

My rating is:
MMMMM

A Look Inside Zenna

Hi again!  I haven’t done a restaurant review in quite a while, so I figured it was about time.  Dad and I tried Zenna, a relatively new Thai and Japanese restaurant in Mesquite (I have no experience with the other locations, just to be clear), again on Sunday.  We tried it once before when it first opened and the food wasn’t that good, but we usually give places a second chance unless something drastically bad happens, so here are my thoughts on our second try.  Unfortunately, I didn’t think to take any pictures, so you’ll have to deal with the couple I borrowed from their Yelp page.

A reminder of my rating system:

MMMMM = Everything is magnificent!
MMMM = Great, but something is off.
MMM = Pretty good, but a couple of things could be better.
MM = The bad’s starting to outweigh the good.
M = Definitely more cons than pros.
… = I couldn’t find anything nice to say.

o
The front.  It’s where Bikini’s used to be over by Kaze’s and Chili’s for those familiar with Mesquite.

 As usual, I’ll start with accessibility.  Other than the semi-tight squeeze to get out of the way so Dad could open the second set of doors (not unusual at all around here, thus the norm), it’s pretty easy to manuever around this place.  Where there are steps, there’s also a ramp.  They have some half-booths available so I could sit on the side with chairs and Dad could’ve had a choice, but we sat at a regular table instead.  Table height was perfect for me, but I did run into the central table leg.  It wasn’t a major inconvenience, though.  So, A+ for accessibility.

Service.  The waiter was pretty good.  He was a little iffy when it came to whether or not he thought he should talk to me, but after a couple of reminders that I could indeed order for myself, he seemed to get more comfortable.  He was good about not rushing things and brought everything we asked for in a timely manner.  Dad did have to ask for a refill on his seltzer, but that’s no big deal since the waiter was always nearby and quick to respond.  He did forget to ask us about the spice level we wanted, but after our first experience (my level two came out more like a level four), we were fine with adding the chili paste ourselves.

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The menu.

 And, of course, we must discuss the food.  This was where things went wrong on our first visit.  Everything was either bland or burn-your-taste-buds spicy.  This trip was much better.  We had the sashimi seaweed salad (the fish tasted fresh and the seaweed was weirdly delicious) and basil chicken wraps (definitely recommend) to start.  We also shared a bowl of Tom-Kah Kai.  This is one of those things that we have at every Thai place we go to and basically judge everything else based on our experience with this soup.  Some places have amazing Tom-Kah and some don’t.  We don’t usually go back to the ones without it.  Zenna’s Tom-Kah Kai is really good.  It’s not my absolute favorite, but it’s close to home and satisfying.

For entrees, Dad had the combination Sweet Basil and I had the chicken Pad See-Eew.  Both dishes were yummy and had really nice flavors.  Dad actually said his needed more vegetables.  MORE.  The carnivore that is my dad wanted more veggies.  That’s saying a lot.  Other than that, we enjoyed our meals both that night and the next morning with poached eggs on top.  We also split a Midnight Roll (smoked eel, cucumber, avacado, salmon, and some other stuff), which wasn’t bad, but if I want sushi and the like, I’d rather go a few restaurants over to a place called Kaze’s.

Dessert… Dad got the sticky rice with mango and I had the black rice with coconut custard.  Both were good in their own right, but not my favorite.  I’m used to the black rice being more of a pudding than this was, but otherwise it was tasty and I have nothing to really complain about.  It was simply not what I was expecting.

Lastly, the price.  It actually wasn’t too bad considering portion sizes.  Dad and I have easily dropped $100 on that amount of food.  This was about $70 (pre-tip.  Always remember to tip your servers.).  Not bad at all.

So, overall I was happy with this experience.  We’ll go back.  There are better Thai places, but they’re all a half-hour or so drive for us.  It’s nice to have a place ten minutes down the road.  My official rating:

MMMM

A Look Inside the Mansion Restaurant

Hello, hello!  As many of you know, my birthday was on the 12th (dirty thirty).  Dad encouraged me to pick somewhere extravagant, so I took it to heart and chose the Mansion on Turtle Creek.  We were celebrating mine and a friend’s birthdays.  I wasn’t planning on doing a blog post about it, so I didn’t get pictures of everything, but Lew Andrada insisted on hearing more about the place.  So, here it is.

First, a reminder of my rating system:

MMMMM = Everything is magnificent!
MMMM = Great, but something is off.
MMM = Pretty good, but a couple of things could be better.
MM = The bad’s starting to outweigh the good.
M = Definitely more cons than pros.
… = I couldn’t find anything nice to say.

Mansion%20Restaurant
Stolen from Google.

 

As usual, first and foremost is accessibility.  It’s not really accessible, but they try.  Parking is valet, so as soon as I was unloaded, someone led the way up the (heated) walkway into the foyer, which was where things got less than wheelchair friendly.  There were two steps up going into the dining area, so they brought out this three foot portable ramp and set it up.  The incline was so steep that my wheelie bars hung and I lost traction for a second.  But with the help of Dad and some of the staff, I made it up (and back down) safely.  Other than that, the tables were perfect.  Just let them know ahead of time that you need something accessible.  Also, request a table in the library if possible.  That has nothing to do with accessibility, it’s just a really beautiful room.

Next up is service.  The entire wait staff (from the bread person to the one who keeps your water filled to the waiter himself) was wonderful. Everyone was attentive and knowledgeable.  They didn’t act like I was invisible.  We got to hear all about the Mansion’s history and they gave us a mini tour after we were done eating (since we were pretty much the only people left).  I have zero complaints about the people there.

Food… this is where things get iffy.  The taste of everything ranged from really good to superb, so don’t worry about that, but the portions were super tiny.  They were the perfect size for me, but don’t go in expecting tons of food.  For instance, I got the shigoku oysters to start. There were half a dozen small oysters with some kind of foam and other fancy toppings.  They fell on the really good end of the yum spectrum.  Dad got quail (like a quarter of the bird came out on a huge plate).  That was delicious.  My friends who went with us are vegan, so they got a kale dish and beet gazpacho (it didn’t even look like soup, but they said everything was great).

Entrees were taking a while, so the chef sent out a taster of head cheese for Dad and I, and quinoa for my friends.  It was so tiny and cute that we had to laugh.  Dinner itself included tea smoked pheasant for Dad (about half a breast with a side of potato foam… yes, foam).  Maple leaf duck for me (three slices with some kind of blackberry sauce and citrus confit).  My friends were going to share something called textures of onion, but the waiter said the chef would prefer them to order two portions otherwise they would still be hungry when they left.  Again, everything was phenomenal, just really tiny.  Luckily, bread was being passed around the whole time.

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Cake!  It’s not the best picture.  Oh well.

 

After dinner, they brought out a palate cleanser of apple sorbet (I’m allergic to apples, but I ate it anyway).  It was so small it was adorable.  Then came time for dessert.  Dad ordered a special red velvet cake layered with raspberry creme brulee.  It was out of this world.  Best.  Cake.  Ever.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t vegan, so my friends got bowls of fruit.  Dessert was the biggest and best part of the whole meal.  Definitely.

Alas, we must mention price.  It’s the Mansion.  You don’t go there for a cheap meal.  You go for the ambiance and the ability to say “I’ve been there!”  That being said, we were expecting a five-six hundred dollar bill, but it was only around three hundred (plus the cake and the tip).  So, expensive but not as bad as we were expecting.

Final rating:
MMMM

Totally worth the experience.  See you next week!

A Look Inside Real Mexican Tacos

Hi all!  I know I’ve been slacking on the food review front, so I thought I’d get back to that this week.  A few months ago (July, I believe), a taco place opened up down the road from us (Dad and I).  No, not like Taco Bell tacos, more like Mexican street tacos.  Actually, the place is called Real Mexican Tacos.  For those of you familiar with Mesquite, it’s on E. Davis where the old Red Lantern used to be.  Everyone else can get the address from their Facebook page (linked above).

So, here’s a reminder of the rating system:

MMMMM = Everything is magnificent!
MMMM = Great, but something is off.
MMM = Pretty good, but a couple of things could be better.
MM = The bad’s starting to outweigh the good.
M = Definitely more cons than pros.
… = I couldn’t find anything nice to say.

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Please excuse the dull phone colors. The sign is really quite bright.

First up is accessibility.  It’s in a strip mall with ramps dotted up and down the sidewalk.  The nearest ramp is two doors down, so that’s normal.  Otherwise, the doorway is wide and clear (one door with no twists or turns to finagle my way around to get inside).  The tables are great.  They’re a nice height and don’t have anything that really gets in the way of footrests and all that.  They’re also spread out so it’s not a tight squeeze to get around in the restaurant.  That’s always a “Yay!”

Service… I have no real complaints.  A lot of the staff only speak Spanish, so it can sometimes make for confusion (especially since our Spanish is very limited), but everyone is super nice.  Dad and I have been in a few times and I’m pretty sure we’ve had the same waitress each time (she speaks English).  I think she might have been a little unsure about me at first, but it didn’t stop her from treating me like a person (bonus points!).  Everyone is really helpful when it comes to explaining the different menu items and answering questions.  So yeah, the service is great.

Now, the part everyone really wants to know about: the food!

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I opted for the enchilada plate last time. Dad had tacos and a quesadilla.

Real Mexican Tacos has a couple of “plate” options (combos that come with rice and beans), but it’s mostly pick and choose stuff (single items that you can mix and match as you please).  This last visit, I went with the chicken enchilada plate.  They have both salsa verde and crema on them.  It was actually frickin’ delicious.  The tortillas weren’t mush like most enchiladas you get around here, so there was a really nice mixture of textures to go along with the flavors.  Definitely recommend them if you don’t feel like tacos.  Dad had a trompo taco (super yum!), a barbacoa taco (good), and a lengua quesadilla (lengua is a personal favorite of mine in quesadillas or tacos or anything really).  They also have sopas and tortas and some other things every day, as well as specials (cabrito tacos, menudo, etc.) on the weekends.

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Strawberry cheesecake.

Honestly, this last visit was the first time we’ve been that they had dessert.  They’re still really new, so the menu is still growing and changing and that’s perfectly okay with me.  The cheesecake was really good (probably bought at Sam’s Club, but as long as it’s good, who cares?).  We’ll see if there’s anything new next time!

Last, but certainly not least, let’s talk price.  It’s fabulous.  When Dad and I can leave full and content for less than $30, the price is ah-maze-ing.  It’s definitely worth giving the place a try!

My overall rating:
MMMM (a potential MMMMM once they get a little more settled)

See you next week!