Category Archives: Positive

These are reviews / posts / etc that carry a positive connotation. :-)

Review – Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen – Multiple Locations in Texas and Other States

Click here to see my review on Yelp.

Let me start by saying that my five star review extends to all Pappadeaux locations that I have been to. Service is consistently good, the food is excellent, and they’re consistently top notch. And I’ve been to multiple locations–Chicago, Cincinnati, and of course, multiple ones in Texas (Dallas, San Antonio, Austin, and Houston…. you name it. I’ll probably replicate this review in a few other locations which I have been to.)

Pappadeaux is arguably THE Pappas restaurant that has scaled the best throughout the US. (With the success of Pappadeaux, I’m actually quite surprised that Pappas seafood house hasn’t scaled more. However, the Pappas family is known for their ridiculous attention to detail, and it shows–it certainly pays off.) The reason I’m given that Pappas seafood house hasn’t ventured outside of the Houston metro area is that they want to be able to have fresh fish from the gulf for that restaurant concept daily. However, I’ve never had anything less than 100% outstanding at any of their locations. This is further shocking as I feel that I would think that the Cajun feel of Pappadeaux is more regionally bound to the Louisiana / Texas / Deep South. However, they seem to pack them in up in Ohio as well!

Anyhow, enough background, on to the good stuff. Let’s talk food. I’ve personally had probably most of the things on their menu, but I’ll write about the ones that are standouts in my mind notable enough in my mind that are worth mentioning.:

(Also, note that the portions are generally HUGE!!)

APPETIZERS:

Seafood Fondeaux (i.e. – Seafood fondue): With apologies to Monty Python and the Meaning of Life: “IT’S VERRRY GOOD AND IT’S VEERRRRY RICH.” Mmmmm, mmmm. It’s amazing. Probably not the best appetizer to get on a diet, however. But, it’s absolutely wonderful. I’ll warn you–it’s very large, and I doubt it would be easy to re-heat, so I’d either make sure you’ve got enough folks to chow it down, or make a meal of it.

Fried Alligator: I know–you probably think this is weird. Jump in with both feet–it’s like chicken but I think even more tasty. But each time I’ve had the fried alligator, it has been done perfectly with a fantastic tangy sauce to go with it.

Oysters on the Half Shell: This is one of the best places to get Oysters as well. (Being fair, I’m not a huge oyster buff.) In any case, if you like oysters, these won’t disappoint.

ENTREES:

Ginger Salmon: I never liked grilled fish and ESPECIALLY grilled Salmon… until I had it at Pappadeaux. Now, I can’t get enough of it. This is fantastic. Also, to try some different sauces, Pappadeaux will sell you (for a slight up-charge) some different sauces that you can try on the salmon. These include sauces from other dishes. I recommend trying the Lafayette Sauce, the Pontchartrain sauce, and the Diablo sauce. But why would you get the Ginger Salmon with Diablo sauce when you could get the…

Salmon Diablo: I’ve seen this as a special, and it’s amazing. It’s salmon with their diablo sauce on it. Think a cream sauce with crab meat, crawfish, and pico de gallo. Simply amazing.

Pasta Mardi Gras: Awesome. Very rich and decadent. This dish will kill your diet. This is basically a cajun seafood linguine with a cream sauce.

Stuffed Shrimp: Simply put, a feast. This is probably the best stuffed shrimp I have had. (One dish I had in Providence, Rhode Island came close.)

SIDE DISHES:

Mushroom Risotto: Absolutely phenomenal. It just melts in your mouth. And I don’t even really like mushrooms all that much. It’s worth the upcharge.

Dirty Rice: I’m a fan of the Dirty Rice as well.

(Also, I’ve never had them, but the Cheese Grits with the Andouille Sausage look phenomenal.)

DESSERTS:

I’ve had multiple desserts, but the banana pudding is a stand-out in my mind.

DRINKS:

They have Abita Turbodog on tap. This is essential for a true cajun experience.

I believe they also have Shiner Bock on tap.

And, most amazingly, I believe this is true in other states as well. That’s especially rare I find for Abita.

Pappas Restaurant Group–you’ve done it again. Pappadeaux is another epic concept. It’s easily one of my favorite restaurants. Check it out if you’ve never been.

Review – Yia Yia Mary’s – Houston, Texas

(Click here to see this review on Yelp)

Pete and Jim Pappas (the owners of the famous Pappas restaurants, of which, Yia Yia Mary’s is one of them) aren’t Mexican or Spanish in their background, believe it or not.  (I know, I know–Pappasito’s is awesome.)  They’re also not Cajun (Pappadeaux  is also awesome also.)

Nope.  They’re Greek.

And being in the great state of Texas, there’s not a ton of really good Greek places.  Yia Yia Mary’s is an exception.  This place is excellent.

But, I suppose, what did you expect, coming from a long line of great, ground-breaking restaurants owned by the Pappas brothers?  Note that all of the Pappas restaurants are available in Houston, as all of the original ones are in Houston.  They started here.  As a general statement for the other Pappas restaurants in Houston, go to the original locations, as they use those typically as more “flagship” locations–testing out new dishes before rolling them out to all locations.)

But enough about the Pappas restaurants.  (I know I am obsessed.)  Yes, the food is wonderful.  When I come here, I generally get the Gyros, as it’s so rare to find good gyros in Texas.  I also typically get the Saganaki cheese (which, to no surprise, is done authentically here).  I’ve had other things here as well–nothing disappoints.

I think the atmosphere is really awesome–it’s classy, clean, and welcoming.  It seems like most Greek places that I’ve been to are in old, established, somewhat run-down buildings (I don’t know why this is….) but Yia Yia Mary’s is well manicured, warm, and always inviting.  (Again, so are all of the other Pappas restaurants.)

I’ve had hit or miss on the service, but nothing the awesome food couldn’t make up for.

Every time I go to Houston, this is one of the places I go out of my way to go.

Review – N9NE Steakhouse – Las Vegas, Nevada

(Five stars, going on seven.  Read below.)

Click here to see my review on Yelp.

I’m not sure how I haven’t reviewed N9NE yet.  This is inexcusable.  I thought I had.

I’ve only eaten here once earlier this year.  However, this was the greatest meal of my life.  And folks, I’m 29, I’ve got a food blog, and I’ve had a lot of time to think about it.  I’d give it six—nay. SEVEN stars if I could.

One may say that it may have been the company of folks I had at the table may have added unfairly to the experience (We went to N9NE as one of the stops during my epic Vegas bachelor party experience in March 2012).  Or, admittedly, I wasn’t expecting N9NE to be as awesome as it was.  But I don’t think so on any of these accounts…  The food was just incredible.  And Chef Barry was awesome.  More on that later.

We started off at the bar, where we had a couple of drinks and waited for our table.  the place was PACKED and it was clear that it wouldn’t e easy to get a table…  However, we had a reservation.

As we were seated, the folks in my party immediately made a few observations of the folks sitting around us.  We had a number of famous folks sitting around us…  for some reason on that evening, they were mostly sports players–everything from UFC fighters to retired hockey players.

While all this is nice, on to the food.  We had a bunch of appetizers and the house bread (I remember specifically the pretzel-roll style house bread and the thinly-sliced Sashimi appetizer.  Both were excellent.  I was advised by one of my hosts that the Lobster Bisque soup was to die for.  However, I don’t particularly care for lobster.  I decided to go (against his advice) for the Onion soup.

Perhaps as foreshadowing of the awesome within, the soup was presented to me in a beautiful All-Clad pan.  Classy.  Everyone else started on their Lobster Bisque, and I dug in on my solo onion soup.

Two words – Holy crap.  It was the best soup I had in my life.  I warn you–you’ll never like any other kind of onion soup ever again.  Perhaps you shouldn’t get it…  It will spoil you for anything else.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

I ultimately did try the Lobster Bisque.  It was damn good, also.  And I’ll re-iterate–I don’t really care for lobster.  But it was still damn good.  I let my host that was raving about the lobster bisque try the onion soup.  He (who doesn’t normally care for onion soup) actually changed his mind and said that he liked the onion soup a bit better.

On to the main course.  I ordered the 8 ounce filet.  It was of the top 5 steaks I’ve ever had.  Be sure to get a nice steak sauce to go with it…  I think I either had the peppercorn or the horseradish.  But yes, the steak was cooked perfectly and outstanding.

Finally, on to dessert!  We had two dessert dishes that we sampled–the S’mores and the Donuts.  They were both awesome…  I especially loved the presentation of the S’mores.  In a nutshell, dessert was just as impressive as the courses that came before it.

After the meal, I only had one request.  I wanted to meet the chef.  Luckily, my host happened to know Chef Barry and was able to pull him away for a couple of minutes.  As icing on the cake, let me tell you–Chef Barry’s one in a million.  He’s one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet.  I had an opportunity to take my picture with him and his famous “door.”  (If you have the means–it’s an awesome photo opp…)  I wish I had thought to ask Chef Barry for his autograph.

In short, this is the kind of restaurant which I’d consider taking a vacation contingent upon eating here again.  Sure, it’s quite expensive, but it is OUT of this WORLD.  You’ll get your money’s worth…  And you were probably going to go blow all that cash in a slot machine anyway.  Skip it and savor the flavors of N9NE.  Shame on you if you go to Vegas and don’t eat there.  Make your reservations as far in advance as possible.

Review – Expedition Everest – Walt Disney World – Lake Buena Vista (Orlando), Florida

Click here to see my review on yelp.

This is an excellent attraction, and probably one of the most innovative rides at Disney.

On a sadder note, this is one of the sole reasons I even bother going to the Animal Kingdom. The Animal Kingdom is probably my least favorite of the WDW parks. (And, I don’t think that the eventual adding of “Avatar Land” is going to make the draw that much more. I wonder if anyone will remember the movie Avatar when it’s added?)

Where to begin? Let’s start at the beginning.

-Fastpass usually works very well for this attraction. So does the single-rider line. If you have the means, I suggest you use them. If you don’t, arrive first thing in the morning and get your fill.

-If you don’t do Fastpass, the line for this ride is actually very cool. You walk through different rooms that really add to the ride. You walk through a general store, offering items for mountain climbers and items from this southern Asia themed region, you walk through a museum talking about the Yeti, and showing artifacts related to it, and other interesting settings.

-Regarding the theming on Expedition Everest in general: As Disney generally does, Disney spared no expense on this one. It’s a fact that this was the most expensive roller coaster ever built (and may very well still be.)

-Then, of course, the ride. When you arrive to the ride, they’ve made it look like an old rusty train. It’s very cool, and it’s a very smooth coaster. I don’t want to go into too much detail, but the ride is basically Disneyland’s Matterhorn Bobsleds on crack.

-The yeti operates in three modes.: A mode, B mode, and “off.” At some point in the ride, you should see a full animatronic yeti. “A-Mode” hasn’t been seen for quite some time, due to what I think is the degradation of the cement holding the Yeti in place. B-mode is probably what you’ll get… B-mode is also called “disco yeti” mode. You’ll see why. And of course, if you didn’t see it, the Yeti probably is in “off” mode. In the opinion of this yelp reviewer, if you didn’t see the yeti, you didn’t really get to ride the ride. (And you’ll know it when you see it. If a 22′ tall sasquatch-looking monster didn’t jump his happy ass out at you at sometime in the ride, the Yeti was off.)

If they’re ever able to turn “A-Mode” back on again, when you see the Yeti, you might crap your pants. Do yourself a huge favor–go on youtube and look up “Expedition Everest Yeti A-Mode.” The video will give you an idea, but doesn’t do it justice.

In any case, the ride is amazing, and a must-see at Disney. It’s one of the few reasons to go to the Animal Kingdom (in my opinion) and definitely the best ride there. Make sure to check it out–no trip to Disney World is complete without at least one Expedition Everest run.

Review – The Cake Guys – Dallas, Texas

Click here to see this review on Yelp.

My wife and I had our wedding cakes done by the Cake Guys.

Our Wedding CakeThe cakes were incredible. My wife found the cake guys very easy to work with, and was equally surprised to learn that Chad (the baker she was working with) would be featured on a reality show about baking cakes with the “Cake Boss”!  My Groom's Cake

I personally didn’t watch the show (I’m not a huge reality TV nut), but this made our cake even more exciting to me… and I hear it was a conversation piece at our wedding.

All reality television aside, our cake was amazing. For our wedding cake, we got the whtie cake with dulce de leche and for my grooms cake (which my wife designed for me) was a chocolate cake with peanut butter. Both were awesome–it was hard to determine which one was better.

Grooms – make sure you go to the cake tasting with your future brides. Man… that was awesome, and probably one of the more fun parts of wedding planning.

In any case, I would definitely recommend. It’s great to be able to say honestly that our wedding cakes were the best looking and tasting wedding cakes we’ve ever had (and we’ve been to a LOT of weddings.)

Review – Herrera’s Cafe – Dallas, Texas

Click to view this review on Yelp.

Unbelievable.

How did I not find Herrera’s sooner? Potentially it’s location, but… damn.

Herrera’s is easily one of the better Tex-Mex joints in DFW. It’s really popular (which adds to my shock in how long it took me to find it.)

One of my best friends and I were talking shop at his place, and we were talking about places to go for lunch. He mentioned Herrera’s, and I told him I had never been, but I had heard about it in passing here and there. He told me we should try it out. We drove to the original one. It was a Monday, so it was closed. We were somewhat dejected… and we decided to try to find their other location. (This one.) So we did, and it was open.

Herrera's - The (Slightly Modified) Denise Combo

I ordered the Denise combo… and I believe our server was Denise. My buddy ordered another combo, who Denise told us was her twin sister. I forget what the name of his combo was, but I know it involved the sour cream sauce and chicken enchiladas. Actually, I had he Denise slightly modified to include a Bean and Cheese taco.

So yeah–when I think of Tex-Mex, there’s different “general” flavors to me. There’s the “fancy” Papasito’s / Uncle Julio’s flavor, there’s the “Dallas-chains” Mi Cocina / Manny’s / Taco Diner / Mia’s / Luna de Noche flavor, there’s some with a twist (lke Desperado’s, Chuy’s, and others like it) and then there’s more the local, classic tex mex flavor. (Think, El Fenix, Los Lupes in Carrollton, and most of your standard tex-mex places.) I’d place this in the Classic flavor category… more specifically, I’d place it on TOP of that category.

We had the sopapillas for dessert. They were very good as well.

I’ve only been once. I don’t usually give away 5 star reviews on my first go-around with any location, but in this case, I’m going to make an exception. Wow.

Review – The State Fair of Texas – Dallas, Texas

Link to Yelp Review.

The Texas State Fair is consistently ranked in the top 5 state fairs in the country. (The other top ones generally include Minnesota, New York, and Iowa.)

It’s not hard to see why. There’s multiple good reasons.:

1 – Rides. There’s many notable ones on the midway here, including three roller coasters. And they’re far, far better than your dinky portable roller coasters. There’s a “crazy mouse”, a classic metal-cyclone style, and another coaster, all here. (These aren’t here year round, but they seem to come back every year.) One of the most important traditions is the “Texas Star” ferris wheel, which is the largest Ferris Wheel in North America.  

2 – Traditions. There’s many traditions of the Texas State Fair. The rides (especially the Texas Star) represent many of these traditions, but one of the other main traditions is the general layout of the fair, the common booths from year to year, the gigantic butter sculpture, and of course, Big Tex. Big Tex is a large statue that serves as a landmark of the fair, while welcoming folks to the state fair and actually engaging them. His mouth moves and he is bilingual–speaking both Spanish and English to fair-goers.

3 – Wacky food. – Fried food is clearly one of the traditions of the Texas State Fair as well. Every year, they give out awards for tasty and unique fried foods. Try to find the awards and seek out the award winners. But, save room for the real treat…

There’s a lot of conflicting evidence as to where the original corn dog was made. My money’s on Fletcher’s, who claim that they produced the Original Corny Dog in the late 30’s. I’m not sure if they’re the original but they definitely are the best that I’ve had. I’m pretty sure you can’t get them in any other location. You can get a smaller version of the “real McCoy” at the Taste of Dallas, also held at the Texas State Fairgrounds at a different time of year.

4 – Size.  Texas is known for everything being big… the sheer size of the overall fair is impressive. Other state fairs that I have been to pale in comparison in multiple ways, and the sheer size of the State Fair of Texas really drives this home in the mind of the attendee.  

Today, Big Tex burned to the ground. I started writing this review a couple of hours before the sad event. Big Tex represents a very important part of Dallas-ite culture. (This coming from a guy that showed up at the Halloween Yelp event 2 years ago dressed as Big Tex.)

I dedicate this review to Big Tex. Thanks for the memories buddy, and I hope to see you again next year… with a little more flame resistance.

Review – Quaker Steak and Lube – Carrollton, Texas

 

 

Link to Yelp

I can’t believe that Quaker Steak gets 2 and a half stars on Yelp as of this writing. I disagree. I’d probably give it 3 and a half stars, but I’m going to round up to four. Buffalo Wild Wings in Lewisville is the closest direct competitor (I guess Frankie’s is also) and I believe this is better.

Ambiance:

Let’s get the nasties on the table first. I’d probably give this one and a half stars. The “car” concept is kind of cool, but I’m not wild about how it’s executed. I don’t particularly care for NASCAR. This is certainly a “blue collar” atmosphere without the breastaurant effect you’ll get from Twin Peaks and Redneck Heaven in Lewisville. (The food is better also, but I’ll get to that later.) The downside is that unless you’re sitting in the bar or in a booth, I think you’re stuck in the plastic lawn chairs that they have. This is a bummer… and probably the biggest bummer of the restaurant. Also, I’m not wild about the thought of eating under the car, as I’m always thinking about how it could fall on me or leak oil on my food. Gross.

When you receive your check, you receive a moist towelette and each diner receives a red Twizzler. (I can never get the damn wrapper open… I’ll bet I’m not the only one.) The twizzler is worth mentioning here because it kind of adds on to the blue-collar theme. I think the twizzler is pretty funny, actually.

Either way, I’m okay with the whole “blue collar” theme, but I think it could be executed better, primarily by buying some real chairs. :-/

Food:

I’d give this a full five stars. I believe their dishes are fairly creative and imaginative, and there’s MANY options. There’s so many things on it, the menu kind of reminds you of the cheesecake factory. This is an awesome thing for a wing joint. The sauces / flavorings help to add to this, by allowing you to further customize your meal.

(Just to set the relative bar of expectations, I think Hooter’s wings (and food in general) TOTALLY suck. A wise man named “Rock” once said, “No one goes to Hooters for wings.”)

Sauces:

The sauces are quite good. I’ve had a lot of the sauces, and I’ll rank them here. Quick note: I really like SWEET and/or HOT BBQ sauces. I know that my taste isn’t congruent with everyone else. Let’s go in the order of how they list them… in increasing spiciness on the Scoville scale. Note that I haven’t tried ALL of their sauces yet.:

Ranch – Your standard ranch. I like their little ranch containers here. I think they look cool. But they are somewhat small. Make sure to get a few of them.
Original BBQ – Tasty, but nothing to write home about.
Dusted Mango Habanero – (This is actually a “dry rub” and not a sauce.) EFFING AWESOME. I’d get this again. Goes great with the ranch.
Louisiana Lickers – Like the Original BBQ, I’d say this is tasty as well, but nothing to write home about.
Thai ‘R’ Craker – Also EFFING AWESOME. One of my favorites.
Arizona Ranch – Very good, but not as good as I was hoping. I was expecting this to be my favorite. It’s up there, but it’s not my #1.
Buckeye BBQ – This is excellent. It’s a great compromise of spicy and sweet, with a little more spicy. This is also one of my favorites.
Atomic – I’m not a huge fan. Sure, they’re really spicy. I like spicy. But I don’t like the vinegar-y buffalo-sauce tasting spicy all that much. This has too much of that with too much heat.
Triple Atomic – This is better than the Atomic sauce. It’s actually kind of sweet for about the first half a second you can actually taste it. Then, the ghost peppers take over and you start to cry. Literally.

My only complaint here is that I kind of wish they had a honey BBQ sauce to rival Buffalo Wild wings. Overall, I’d give this 4.5 stars out of 5.

Service:

The servers here appear to be nice, enjoy their job, and are willing to talk about the menu. I’d give this 5 stars / full marks as well.

Price:

I think without discounts, the price is actually better than their competition. I think that WITH discounts, they truly have a leg-up.

Take advantage of the nightly specials, and get on their mailing list. They send you a lot of e-mail, but in those e-mails, there seem to be some nice coupons.

Don’t tell them I said this, but I think the “worst seat in the house” is a lot better than some of the other seats in the house. In fact, I’d kind of recommend it, because you get a good view of the TVs by the bar. If you sit at this table, you’ll get 10% off your check. I find this to be totally worth it.

Conclusion:

In my opinion, better than going to their competition in Lewisville because the food is just as good (and priced more reasonably) and you won’t leave smelling like the bottom of an ashtray.

Disneyland’s Blue Bayou – Chicken Gumbo

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I know, I know…  the Blue Bayou gets knocked a bunch when talking about dining at Disney.  Some of the criticism is warranted…

However, the Chicken Gumbo is both excellent and memorable.  I’m typing this 7 months after I had this (9/17… right before I go back to Disney World and right after the 1st anniversary of DineAtJoes.com), and this is a highlight of the Blue Bayou.

Review: Kenny’s Wood Fired Grill

Kenny’s Wood Fired Grill – 5 Stars

Ahhh, Kenny’s.  One of the best places to eat in Dallas, hands down.

I could probably write all day about Kenny’s restaurants.  This is the first restaurant that I was exposed to from Kenny.  The “Kenny’s” restaurants (collectively) are essentially my second (possibly first) favorite place to eat in Dallas.  While it is a bit on the expensive side, for a chef-style meal, this is probably the most bang for your buck you’ll get in Dallas.  Worth EVERY penny.  Breaking things down:

Atmosphere:  Sleek.  Sexy.  Kind of darkish.  Overall, pretty awesome.  It does get pretty loud at peak hours, though.

Service:  Wait staff is prompt and do a very good job.

Food:  Frickin’ AWESOME.  I’ve never had a bad meal at Kenny’s, and I’ve been a NUMBER of times.  Probably my favorite things here are:

-Appetizer:  The Brie Cheese Fondue at Dinner
-Free Appetizer:  They’ll always bring you a popover at dinner.  (I’m not sure if they do at lunch, though.)  These are awesome, and fun to eat in the aforementioned brie cheese fondue.
-Wine:  I recommend the Conn Creek.  Expensive, but quite good.
-Meal:  You can pretty much throw a dart at the menu and you’ll get something awesome.  My favorite thing on the menu is the steak sandwich.  The meat is juicy and tender (my mouth is watering just thinking about it).  It’s got just the right amount of topping, an awesome bun, and the sauces that come with it are top-friggin-notch.  Especially the homemade horsey sauce.  Mmmmm….  that stuff is FANTASTIC.  I’ve had other things here (also amazing) but I can’t think of them off the top of my head.
-Side Dish:  There’s two that I usually go between, because there’s a couple that are worth mentioning.  My two favorites are the french fries (quite possibly the best in DFW), and the adult Mac & Cheese.
-Dessert:  The bread pudding is legendary.  Get it and you won’t be disappointed.

Overall – GREAT restaurant.  I’d love to have my picture on the wall of Kenny’s.