A Look Inside Burger Style Cafe

Hello, hello!  I know I’ve been doing a lot of food reviews lately, but food is good, so enjoy it while you can.  I’ll get back to writerly stuff sooner or later.  This week, I thought I’d share the best burger place in Mesquite with you.  It’s a little mom-and-pop place in a strip mall right down the street from us on the corner of Pioneer and E. Davis.  Burger Style Cafe has been around for a while, but Dad and I never really got into it until recently when we decided to give it another shot after years of searching for a good burger.  Every time we’d find a decent place, the food would either go downhill or the owners would turn out to be unfriendly.  But Burger Style Cafe has consistently good food and wonderful people.

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As usual, pictures are stolen from Facebook or Google.

Accessibility: good.  It’s a little awkward getting in the door because there’s a step, so I can’t go straight in.  There are ramps on each side, so I have to go up the ramp and make a turn to get in.  It’s not difficult, just awkward.  Inside is great.  There is plenty of room to maneuver and lots of easily reached tables and booths.  The booths are even wide enough for me to sit at the end if Dad prefers a softer seat.  The tables are on the high side, which I prefer.  They’re just easier to get under.

Service: excellent.  Oscar (the owner) always talks to us and when he takes my order, he comes out from behind the tall counter to talk directly to me.  And Felix (the cook) always comes out to greet us.  They both treat me like a person, so you know that earns them a lot of points.  Plus, they’re really nice people.

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The menu!

Food: delicious.  If you like juicy burgers that you bite into and all the juices immediately start running down your face, this is the place to go.  Plus, the buns are yummy.  My go-to is the guacamole burger (cheddar, mayo, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, sauteed onions) with a side of fried mushrooms.  The chili cheeseburger is good too.  Dad’s burger changes a little each time, but he usually gets a side of sweet potato fries.  I’m not a big sweet potato fan, but Dad loves them, especially when they’re crispy.  He’s never had a soggy sweet potato fry from Felix.

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Not my flavor of choice, but milkshakes!

Dessert: Blue Bell Ice Cream.  They have milkshakes and cones with Texas’s own Blue Bell ice cream.  If that’s not your thing, Burger Style Cafe is right next door to a brand new fruteria (a review for another time) which is next door to a new Mexican bakery (haven’t tried it yet).  So, there are plenty of options nearby even if you don’t want ice cream.

Entertainment: no idea, but people seem to enjoy it.  We haven’t been ourselves, but they have Elvis every third Friday of the month.  If that’s your thing, check it out.

Price: fair.  You get fresh food and generous portions, so you’re going to pay more than you would at a fast food joint.  But it’s a good price for the quality you get.

My rating:
MMMMM

Another 5 Ms!  Maybe I’m getting soft in my old age or maybe it’s just that good.  Go check it out and judge for yourself.  Their Facebook with the address and hours is linked above.

A Look Inside Fritzl’s Euro Grill

Hello, hello!  How is everyone doing?  Is it hot enough for you?  Because it’s actually been relatively mild here in north Texas.  Anyway, for Dad’s birthday last week, he wanted some Austrian food, so we decided to go to Fritzl’s over in Rowlett in a little strip mall on the corner of Rowlett Road and 66.  It’s a small place owned and ran by Klaus Fritz, a fifth generation pastry chef from Austria.  I’ve linked to his restaurant Facebook page above for the most up-to-date information and pictures of pastries.  Full transparency: we used to go here pretty often (for us) before Mom died, but we haven’t been in at least 6 years (pre-Stonecoast, thus pre-blog), so I thought I would go ahead and do a review.  So, here we go.

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.

Fritzls
As usual, I forgot to take pictures, so I borrowed them from Google and Facebook.

Accessibility: much improved.  Back when when we first started going, there were various decorations blocking the sidewalk by the door, but over the years, everything has been cleared away to make the path easier to traverse.  There are a couple of different types of tables, one with the knee banger (the low hanging thing) and one without, so that’s not an issue.  The place is small, so it can be difficult to maneuver when crowded, but Klaus is super helpful about finding a place to sit.  So yeah, the accessibility is up to the usual Texas standards.

Service: great.  It was just Klaus when we went this time and the restaurant was really slow (like only one other couple just finishing up when we arrived kind of slow), so we didn’t have long to wait for anything and he never rushed us.  He was super helpful about placing things where I could get them and making sure I was okay.  I admit it was a little disconcerting because people around here aren’t that helpful, but it was much appreciated.

Appetizers: betting they’re still yummy, but we didn’t get any this time because Dad only had eyes for the schnitzel (meaning he missed them as he scanned the menu).

o (1)
A picture of the woodcutter schnitzel and a brat that I found on Google.

Entrees: delicious as always.  Dad had the wienerschnitzel with a brat, spaetzle, and sauerkraut.  I had the woodcutter schnitzel with potatoes and sauerkraut.  It was lovely and the meat was wonderfully tender, so I had zero problems chewing it.  I look forward to going back just to get the paprika schnitzel (my other favorite from when we used to go).  Sometimes, there’s nothing as comforting as meat and potatoes.  I even enjoyed the kraut, which I’m just now starting to get a taste for (never liked the stuff until a few months ago).

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The pastry shelves change a little each day.

Dessert: no words, just drool.  Dad had a napoleon that was flaky and creamy and delicious.  I had the Black Forest cake that had a lovely balance of chocolate vs. cream vs. cherry.  But!  My personal favorite from this trip was the rum ball that I decided to take home for dessert the next day.  I don’t know what I was expecting, but a ball of chocolate that actually had a rum taste wasn’t it.  It was awesome and I hope he has them next time we go.

Alcohol: nice selection of beer.  It’s one of the few places around here that we can get a dunkel (dark German lager).

Price: fair.  You get huge portions of freshly prepared food.  That’s what you pay for, so it’s definitely worth it.

My rating:
MMMMM

I could take an M away because of the potential for not fitting in the place if it’s crowded, but that’s true of basically anywhere.  So, my first five M rating!

A Look Inside Yoshi Shabu Shabu

Hello, hello!  Happy July!  Since I haven’t done a food review since November (we haven’t really been anywhere new), I thought I would take the chance to do one now.  A couple of weeks ago, Dad and I made the trip to Richardson to pick out some stained glass for a project he’s working on.  Richardson has a decent selection of restaurants, so I looked around and found a shabu shabu (Japanese hotpot) place.  We’ve never had it, so we decided to give Yoshi Shabu Shabu a shot.  They’re located in the Shops at Eastside, right off 75 at the corner of Greenville and Campbell.  You can visit their website (linked above) for the address.  There’s also one in Plano.  Now for 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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Forgot to take pics, so all images are borrowed from Google.

Accessibility: not bad, but not the best.  There seems to be one handicap parking spot at each building (maybe more on the other sides), so there’s only one near the restaurant.  Luckily, it was empty.  There’s also a parking garage we didn’t look at.  Getting into the restaurant is fairly easy, but the tables are tightly packed, so maneuvering can definitely be tricky if the place gets busy.  The tables themselves have the little knee bangers (the part that hangs down a couple of inches), so I couldn’t get close.  It’s probably there to protect people from the heating device under the table, though.  All in all, the accessibility is the usual standard for Texas (I say Texas because other states I’ve been to vary from great to shitty when it comes to wheelchair friendliness and Texas tends to lean mostly toward the really good end of things).

Service: great!  Our server was nice and attentive and showed us how to do everything.  She also acknowledged my existence and treated me like a normal human being from the very beginning.  You know that earned her some bonus points.  There were a couple of mistakes along the way, like a plate of edamame we didn’t order and everything coming out at once, but overall she provided a great experience.

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Karaage.

Appetizers: tasty, but they came out after the food.  We got the karaage and the garlic noodles with shrimp.  And for some reason, edamame ended up on our table, but Dad and I aren’t fans of it in general.  Karaage is fried chicken and it was nice and crunchy.  The garlic noodles were pretty good too.  BUT!  If you’re going to order apps, make sure they’re on the table before you order the shabu shabu stuff, otherwise it all comes out at once and no one wants that.  It crowds an already small table and it’s just plain inconvenient.  Things get cold before you can eat them.

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One of many possible combinations.

Shabu shabu: delicious and fun.  Shabu shabu is a Japanese hotpot.  When you sit down, there’s a pot of water on the table which has a burner under it.  You pick a base (we went with tonkotsu) to create a broth, then you pick meats (they have different combo options and we went with the five meat combo with Wagyu ribeye, pork belly, Berkshire pork, scallops, and mussels), then they have a bunch of veggies and you can pick and choose what you want or just let them bring a little of everything, then you choose your noodle (udon, ramen, or their gluten free option).  There are also a few dipping sauces for the meats.  Basically, you cook the veggies and swish pieces of the meat in the broth until it’s cooked to your preference and eat as you go, then cook the noodles in the leftover liquid and veggies to make a nice soup.  In all honesty, the whole cook-it-yourself thing isn’t really a great option for cripples with limited motion in their arms (like me), but it’s still a really fun experience if you have someone to do it for you (like Dad).  A word of advice: add the veggies in small increments as you go along, otherwise they get super mushy.

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Coconut pandan waffles.

Dessert: weird, but the good kind of weird.  Of course they have mochi, but they also have ice cream popsicle things (which we didn’t get) and waffles.  Yup, I said waffles.  Dad got mochi and I got coconut pandan waffles.  It’s a matcha and coconut waffle and it’s the weirdest thing ever.  There was also caramel drizzled on it.  I want to go back just to try this again.

Price: fair.  It’s expensive because meat is expensive, but it was actually cheaper than we were expecting.  They tell you right on the menu which meats cost extra, so if you keep an eye on that and order combos, you can fill up for a decent price.

My rating:
MMMM

They lost an M mostly because of the appetizer thing and a little because the accessibility could be better.  Otherwise, I totally recommend going at least once for the experience.

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.

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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