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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Birthday Cake - candles
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.

o1
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.

004
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!

A Look Inside the Free Man Cajun Cafe and Lounge

Hi there!  Since I didn’t get a chance to do a food review last month, here’s one early this month.  This week, I’ll introduce you to the Free Man Cajun Cafe and Lounge.  It’s another one of Deep Ellum’s many restaurants, also on Commerce Street (up the road from the Dancing Marlin, actually).  Check out their website (linked above) for their address and other information.  Also, it’s not a seafood place!

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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A look around the place.

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Accessibility… It’s actually really accessible unless they’re super packed and you have to squeeze all the way into the back for a table.  Even then, it’s mostly just a matter of asking people to move, which is definitely one of my least favorite things to do.  Most people are super nice about it, but it’s still not something I enjoy.  Anyway, I like the table set up at Free Man’s.  Aside from being a good height, the half-booth half-chair arrangement is good for me AND lets whomever I’m with have a choice (namely, Dad).

The service here is kind of hit and miss in a lot of ways.  A lot of the time, I’m invisible, but occasionally (like this last time) I’m treated normally.  To be fair, we usually go when there’s live music (7pm-2am every day), so it’s really hard to hear me anyway, but I prefer it when waiters at least try to talk to me.  We went last Thursday around four in the afternoon, so maybe that’s why the waitress treated me like a person right off the bat.  Also, sometimes the staff is really attentive, sometimes not.  It just depends on how busy they are.  Speaking of busy, if they are super busy, the food comes out fairly slow, but if they’re not, it has a tendency to come out boom boom boom, so take that into account when you order.

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Blackened shrimp cocktail and hot crab dip.

Onto the thing everyone cares about: the food!  We went with the blackened shrimp cocktail and the hot crab dip for appetizers this time.  It was our first time trying the cocktail, and I’m happy to say it was super yummy.  There was a little spice to it, but not much, and the shrimp were nicely cooked.  As far as the crab dip goes, it’s cheese, crab, and bread!  You can’t go wrong.

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My Cajun crawfish pasta.
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Dad’s crawfish etouffee.
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Half-eaten gumbo (it’s hard to remember pictures when food is around).

The entrees.  Back when we first started going to Free Man’s, the menu was extremely limited (not a bad thing at all).  They still have a fairly small selection, but it’s slowly growing.  My go-to is usually the Cajun crawfish pasta.  It’s got a lovely creamy sauce and they top it with chicken.  I love it.  Dad went for the etouffee this time, which is also delicious.  They don’t make it too spicy, but they have a number of hot sauces on the table for you heat lovers to choose from.  We also split a cup of gumbo (yum!).  They do it right!  Plus, the entrees come with a hunk of cornbread.  I’m not a big fan of cornbread, but this stuff has won me over.  Try it.  You might like it.

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Bacon cheesecake with a bite missing.
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Cut into cranberry wheat bread pudding (aka Heaven on a plate).

The dessert!  Again, you have a limited choice, but that’s totally okay here.  Dad tried the bacon cheesecake (something new since our last trip).  Sounds absolutely amazing, right?  Looks tasty, no?  Honestly, it’s kind of meh.  It’s one of those “at least we can say we tried it” experiences.  The bread pudding, on the other hand, has got to be the BEST pudding of its kind that has entered my mouth.  You want a foodgasm?  Go get some.  Don’t like bread pudding?  Try it anyway!

And now, the thing no one wants to talk about: the price.  It’s not the cheapest meal you can find, but it’s not horribly expensive.  Go one evening, listen to some live jazz, and relax.  You’ll get your money’s worth.

My overall rating:
MMMM

See you next week!

A Look Inside St. Pete’s Dancing Marlin

Hey there!  It’s been another week, so I suppose it’s time for me to start rambling again.  Instead of the usual, I’d say it’s about time to do another food review!  This month, I think I’ll give St. Pete’s Dancing Marlin over in Deep Ellum its due.  It’s on Commerce for all those familiar with the area.  Everyone else should check their website (linked above).  Now, I know I promised you something different in the last food blog, and it is different.  I swear it’s not JUST seafood.  They have all sorts of things.  At least it’s not another oyster bar.  Anyhoo, here’s your 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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These stirrers used to say St. Pete’s Dancing Marlin, but I suppose times change. Still pretty neat!

As usual, let’s start with accessibility.  It’s a bit of a tight fit navigating the tables for larger wheelchairs (like my own), especially if the Dancing Marlin is packed.  We usually go on Sunday evenings or late afternoons during the week to avoid crowds.  Aside from that, the tables are a great height.  Most of them are rectangular, but they do have some round tables if those work better for you.  Occasionally, the floor feels like it’s going to give way (not technically an accessibility issue, but extra scary when you’re in a heavy chair), so it’s kind of an adventure!

The service.  The wait staff at the Dancing Marlin gets bonus points because they don’t normally act like I’m invisible.  That’s always a good thing.  The waiter today was attentive (kept our drinks full, answered questions, etc.), didn’t bring our food out too fast (we had time to finish things), and never once made us feel rushed.  The staff also consisted of people  who calmly dealt with someone who was sitting outside complaining about a fly in their drink (it’s summer in Texas and you’re drinking wine outside.  Put something over your glass if you don’t want flies in it. C’mon, now).  No complaints there.

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Calamari and me!

Now, the important stuff: food!  For an appetizer, we got calamari.  It was good.  Not too chewy.  Had a nice crust.  It wasn’t my favorite thing there, but it was tasty.  Now, if you like garlic half as much as I do, I definitely suggest the baked garlic appetizer.  Yes, they bake garlic.  For the not-so-garlicky people, there are other delicious choices as well.

As far as entrees go, they have a decent selection from pizzas to pastas, burgers to hot dogs.  The Dancing Marlin also has a tuna steak (it comes in a number of ways).  Dad got the grilled tuna salad (tuna steak on a salad) with grilled mushrooms, onions, and jalapeños.  They sure know how to cook a tuna steak!  Dad always gets it rare (how else would you eat it), so it’s pink and tender and delicious.  And the salad definitely wasn’t skimpy.  It was a real meal.

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Dad’s salad.

I usually get penne with red clam sauce (highly recommend it), but I decided to get something different this time.  I went with the F. B. Combo (catfish fillet and shrimp) with pasta salad instead of fries.  The fish and shrimp were crunchy on the outside and tender on the inside.  The breading wasn’t salty, but seasoned nicely.  And the pasta salad… I normally don’t like pasta salad, but I figured I’d give it a shot.  It was actually pretty yummy!  I was impressed.

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My meal.

Dessert.  The selection here is pretty strange.  Baklava, cheesecake, chocolate cake, and ice cream bars.  Personally, I suggest the baklava.  It’s a tiny serving, but super sweet, and a perfect little end to a wonderful meal.

And, of course, we must talk about price.  It’s actually not too bad.  It’s not often we look at a check expecting it to be a certain amount and have it turn out to be less.  It happens at the Dancing Marlin.

My overall rating:
MMMM

See you next week with more writerly randomness!

A Look Inside Big Shucks Oyster Bar

Hello again!  I haven’t done a food review in a while, so here you go.  Yes, it’s another seafood place (I’ll think of something different for next month).  Big Shucks is a place we’ve been to a fair amount and we always have a good experience food-wise.  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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Borrowed from their Facebook.

Normally, we go to Big Shucks in Dallas, but this last time we went to the one in Richardson.  Locations can be found at their website, linked above.

Let’s start off with accessibility as usual.  The very first time we were going to try this place, we actually wanted to go to Aw Shucks (they’re sister store) in Dallas.  At the time, Aw Shucks was inaccessible (they may have upgraded by now, but I have no idea), so they sent us a couple of blocks over to Big Shucks after explaining that it was the same thing, only accessible.  Since, we’ve been multiple times, plus twice that I remember to the Richardson location.  The tables at the Dallas store are a mish mash, so some are perfect and some are knee bangers.  The Richardson tables aren’t as eclectic, and they’re pretty nice height-wise with legs that don’t get in the way.  Both locations have outdoor seating as well.  I didn’t check out Richardson’s patio, but Dallas’s has picnic style tables.  The ends are usually long enough for me to get under them, so it’s pretty nice.

A brief mention of service.  It’s basically self serve.  You go to the counter and give your order, sometimes they bring it to you and sometimes they just call your name and you go to the pick up area, then you go back and forth if you need things.

Onto the food!  We always get oysters as a start.  They also have shrimp cocktails and ceviche, which are delicious.

Oysters at Big Shucks
Yup, I ate half of them. Be jealous.

It’s one of those places where the food comes out as it’s ready, but I’ve never felt rushed.  Their pacing is pretty nice.  So, we were able to savor the yummy oysters before our entrees arrived.  Now, I admit Big Shucks has a fairly limited selection, but what they do have, they do well.  I almost always get the scallops.  They’re grilled with a little seasoning.  No fuss, no muss.  None of this fancy bacon-wrapped special sauce crap.  You get pure scallop goodness.  Dad usually rotates through a few selections, but this time he got the salmon.  Again, there’s nothing fancy to it.  Just lovely, cooked to perfection fish.  That’s the great thing about this place.  You get to taste the seafood instead of a bunch of sauce and toppings.

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Dad’s Salmon and veggies, and my scallops with rice and veggies.

Dessert… It’s less than spectacular.  All they have is “homemade” key lime pie that is almost certainly from a box.  It’s not bad, it’s just not great.  Luckily, Dallas’s Big Shucks is just down the street from TCBY and a few streets over from Pinkberry, so if key lime pie doesn’t blow your skirt up, you can go get yogurt!

That brings us to the price.  It’s actually really reasonable considering it’s seafood in North Texas.  Also, remember that they use the honor system.  It’s your job to keep track of what you ordered.  So, I suggest bringing a pen and paper if you order a lot.

Overall Rating:
MMMM

Back to answering questions next week!  See you then!