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Tag Archives: restaurant

All About Consistency

13 Jan

Okay, truth be told, I did NOT start out my weekend with plans to review Uncle Julio’s.  Seriously.

I mean, I have had a long and loving affair with the Uncle Julio’s off Lemmon.   I can NOT think of another restaurant that has CONSISTENTLY given me fantasticly fresh food with a side order of very good customer service – on the reg.

So when I was shopping near the tollway, and I see that unforgettable sign, I was instantly craving their food.

It didn’t take much to convince everyone in the car that UJ was the perfect place to have a late lunch.  The weather outside was perfect for patio dining and the promise of killer food was just “the perfect storm”.

(I hate when people use that phrase—so that is officially my last use of it – my apologies)

Anyway, we file into the bar and eventually make our way to the patio.

Now, I have to say that the food was as great as ever.   But the service was very lacking.  And by lacking I mean SUCKY.  I understand it’s “kinda” busy and that you have to come all the way out to the patio, but when you just drop off menus and walk off – and have a table of four that has all but completed their meals by the time you get around to asking if we needed anything (not a single drink refill….or refill of our empty chip basket or 3 empty bowls of salsa) –  it’s just not kosher.

It would be one thing – if you stopped by and said “hey I am in the weeds…so forgive me….” or hell… get some help.  But when you do finally swing by, you act curt and rude— then walk over to a table of guys and flirt with them and make sure they are taken care of– what am I left to think?

I am left to think you have no interest in my table and it’s all about the TURN and BURN.

The purpose of this review is NOT to slam Uncle Julio’s.  Everyone at our table understood that it’s not the restaurant’s fault.

One bad apple….and all that.

I will still sing the praises of Uncle Julio’s — especially the Lemmon location—- but I will probably NOT return to the location by the tollway.

But, it brings me to ask you, dear reader —  are there restaurants that you LOVE, but do not visit every/any location?

Let me know.  Hit me up on twitter:  www.twitter.com/junkfoodcritic

OR

Leave your own review on URBANSPOON by clicking the link below!  It’s a great place to discover new restaurants and support your faves!

Uncle Julio's on Urbanspoon

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I hope I am wrong

10 Oct
birra by Junk Food Critic
birra, a photo by Junk Food Critic on Flickr.

In Arlington TX, there is/ was this great little place called BIRRAPORETTI’s. It was quirky because it was an Italian restaurant with an Irish pub inside.

I say WAS because visit after visit, I notice that the place I once cherished and bragged about constantly is slipping away. And there is nothing I can do about it.

Birra’s was once of those out-of-the-way places that only Arlingtonians (?) knew about. After discovering it years ago I can say that I have, up until recently, never had a bad meal there.

Oh sure, I have had bad service. The place is know to most of my friends as the place with food so good that you will put up with the bad service.

Sunday Jazz Brunch was incredible. I even created a now classic dish of my own there – PINEAPPLE WAFFLES.

It was a place I would visit at least twice a week. It was THAT GOOD. Everyone I ever took there was knocked out.

Are you catching this yet? I loved this place. And I bet you can guess where I’m going……..

Birra’s is owned by Birra’s out of Houston. I am told they have decided to MAKE CHANGES — (NEVER GOOD) to make the Arlington one more like their main Birra’s in Houston.

The result???? Now it’s just…..not the same. The place was dark and moody so they finally got around to redecorating the joint to brighten it up. Trouble is, I liked dark and moody.

They had FANTASTIC table bread. A giant round loaf of bread with garlic butter. We would plow through that bread like we were starving. It was worth the drive just for the bread alone.

AND THEY STOPPED THE TABLE BREAD.

I have asked several staff members and they all rolled their eyes and reluctantly informed me that the powers that be had actually REMOVED table bread from their standard procedure.

Not only did they remove it, but they don’t even make it anymore. I would have been fine to PAY for a loaf with dinner, but sadly…no.

It’s a “cost saving measure”.

Which to me, is FUNNY because every Italian Restaurant I can think of offers bread. Olive Garden, Spaghetti Warehouse,…hell everyone…except now– Birra’s.

They have also revamped their menu, raised their prices and seemingly changed recipes on certain things.

Even the pizzas, which were probably one of the BEST pies in Arlington, is now a shell of it’s former self.

You can see from the picture it’s greasy and sparse in the meat toppings.

This has been going on for awhile now. These changes and the slow descent of quality and taste.

Having been there just recently something clicked. It was 1pm and the place was empty. Once we left, we drove to the other side of the shopping center to pass Olive Garden.

FULL PARKING LOT.

Oh yeah….and all the free breadsticks you can eat.

I have plans to revisit once more to see if the other favorites of mine are changed or lacking like the pizza was. The “meh” pizza was just like a slap in the face.

I mean this was my go-to place. I hate to even think it’s going downhill.

I hope I am wrong.

…SCHOOL??…REALLY??

23 Jan
OG by Junk Food Critic
OG, a photo by Junk Food Critic on Flickr.

As I was online, catching up on CELEBRITY APPRENTICE

(I will give you a minute to make jokes)

online at NBC.com. I love catching up on previous episodes on my time, online.

That being said, something kept popping up during the show. Commercials for OLIVE GARDEN. Ten of them. In fact, OG was the only commercial they played. I am guessing OG gets exclusivity or something to these online episodes.

Hearing the same commercial ten times in an hour, you pick up things.

Apparently, Olive Garden has a “culinary school” in Tuscany.

This seemed sort of odd, that they would send their people to Tuscany to learn how to open giant salad bags, butter pre-made breadsticks, or create any of their simple and ordinary dishes.

(sorry, but I have talked to a few people that have worked at OG, and they say alot of their stuff is premade. Not “freshly” prepared dishes)

Now, a quick spin around the internet tells me that is “kinda” true. OG DOES have a culinary program, entitled The Olive Garden Culinary Institute of Tuscany.

HOWEVER-

In reality, it’s an 11 week course that OG chefs/managers attend. The rest of the year, the place is used for other purposes.

I give OG for trying to improve their much maligned rep, but is an 11 week vacation for the managers really gonna improve the taste, and in return, bring the customers back??

And this is coming from someone who had their fair share of nights at Olive Garden. It’s the type of place that I try every so often, hoping it will get better. Unfortunately the last three visits there weren’t great; food or service wise. It is very tough to find GOOD italian food when you move somewhere new.

More often than not, if I am in a new town traveling, and I ask where is good Italian food, I will almost always hear, WELL, THERE IS AN OLIVE GARDEN up on….blah blah..

Now, truth be told, I like Olive Garden’s salad. But I don’t find their “signature” dishes to be anything I couldn’t find in my local grocer’s freezer.

Maybe my tastes are changing as I get older, but most of their stuff just tastes so bland and corporate. Processed and generic.

And now that I write this, I am having a craving for their salad.

mmmmmm…..olivegardensalad……….

BREASTAURANT SHOWDOWN

23 Dec
bstrips by Junk Food Critic
bstrips, a photo by Junk Food Critic on Flickr.

It has been quite an adventure. I have traveled high and low to cover every “breastaurant” in DFW. Mission accomplished. So I thought I would break it down, and tell ya which one takes home the gold in which category.

The contestants are:

HOOTERS

BONE DADDY’s

REDNECK HEAVEN

TWIN PEAKS

BURGER GIRL

TILTED KILT

Category ONE, THE PLACE-

In the beginning, this was a lock. Bone Daddy’s had that cool flavor to the the place. Cool deco and the place is laid out well. But after checking out the last minute entry, REDNECK HEAVEN, it is clear…..the REDNECK steals the show. With the MINNOW SHOTS, the indoor babe pool, the Dukes of Hazzard and Smokey & The Bandit memorabilia…… this place just walks away with it!

WINNER: REDNECK HEAVEN

CATEGORY TWO,  THE GIRLS:

This is a tough one. If you just want EYE CANDY, then you will probably be able to find something to drool over at each of these places. However I think their personalities and how friendly they are, factors into the whole experience. With that being said, I think it boils down to three: Hooters, Bone Daddy’s, and Redneck Heaven. Each place had HOT girls, but more importantly, these three places seemed to hire girls with better personalities. It was close, Redneck Heaven girls were super friendly, but ultimately Bone Daddy’s had the the whole package.

WINNER: BONE DADDY’S

CATEGORY THREE, THE FOOD:

Another showdown here, as three of them are easily taken out by HOOTERS and BONE DADDY’s. Love some of the stuff at Bone Daddy’s, but they could use just a little more variety and offerings. HOOTERS steps up here and really nails the food. Their wing sauces are UNIQUE and flavorful. Their Burgers are big and tasty. The shrimp was awesome. The food here ROCKS and would be a successful restaurant even without the chicks.(ok maybe I am getting crazy here)

WINNER: HOOTERS

REVIEW: REDNECK HEAVEN

11 Dec
redneck by Junk Food Critic
redneck, a photo by Junk Food Critic on Flickr.

While out having drinks one night, I was telling the group about my “breastaurant” adventure and a girl in the group asked if I had thrown REDNECK HEAVEN into the mix.

REDNECK HEAVEN? What is that?

Oh you GOTTA check that place out! It’s in Lewisville.

I had never heard of this place, but it appears my quest wasn’t quite over.

Two days later, I am pulling into the parking lot of a former Don Pablo’s in Lewisville. The parking lot is full on one side. The other is sectioned off by ropes because there are girls in bikini tops and shorts playing basketball.

Ok. This place looks like fun already.

I walk up to the front door, and I see the sign you see above, pasted all over the front doors.

Bikini Week?

Ok. This place looks like fun already!!

THE PLACE

REDNECK HEAVEN has done a great job of converting the old Don Pablo’s into something completely different. There is a giant windmill in the center of the room. The walls are covered with all sorts of junk all over the walls that falls right in line with the “redneck”theme. One wall has the hood and license plate from the famous SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT Trans Am and on the opposite wall, a section of the roof and door from the GENERAL LEE are very cool ideas.

The entire place is sort of meant to look like a cross between a yard sale and a cookout. It has that vibe. SUPER casual and fun.

Walking in the front door I pass the pool tables and see an elevated table that I am told is used to showcase different custom motorcycles. But for this week only, there is an inflatable pool up there with two very cute girls frolicking about; much to the delight of the horny looking guys sitting at the three tables nearby.

I am met by another bikini clad girl, and she seats me. I take a long look around and I am kinda surprised by the amount of WOMEN in here. Not servers, but customers. Everyone seems to be chilling out and having a good time. It feels like an indoor cookout or family reunion. Most of the tables are talking to the ones next to each other. Very friendly and relaxed vibes.

There are three main areas. The big room area, the pool table area, and a small bar area that spills out onto a patio. The bar looks kinda small, but is packed with guys belly up and pounding MINNOW SHOTS.

Yes. I said MINNOW SHOTS. If you order a shot, they will throw in a LIVE MINNOW to swim around your shot glass until you get the stones to down the whole thing….minnow and all. Each minnow shot is recognized by the entire joint because as the customer “shoots” the drink, the bartender hits a LOUD horn that plays DIXIE (just like in the Dukes of Hazzard). FUN!

They have some big screens scattered about, but the place really could use more TVs or at least one projection screen TV that could fill one of the big walls. Buffalo Wild Wings has these and they REALLY make a difference when watching something like the NBA Finals or whatever.

This place has such a fun and laid back atmosphere. The guys are obviously checking out the girls, but they are also just as interested in hanging out. We saw large crowds of friends show up and take two or three tables. This place gets A LOT of regulars.

THE GIRLS

The girls normally wear Daisy Duke type shorts and shirts. But we happened to pick a day during their BIKINI WEEK, so every girl is sporting a bikini. One or two might have a little “beach skirt” around their hips, but almost 99 percent are just out there. Bikinis and Boots. Leaving NOTHING to the imagination.

As we watched, it sorta sinks in how UNCOMFORTABLE it must be to have to WORK in a bikini. Any false move might result in a wardrobe malfunction of Janet Jackson proportions. It takes a girl with some nice level of confidence to sport that look in a room filled with guys judging every inch of them as they walk by.

To be honest, there are a couple of girls that are cute, but maybe not quite equipped with the bodies to be considered a swimsuit cover model. However on the opposite side of the same coin, there are more than a few girls there that have the HOTTEST bodies I have seen in ANY of the “breastaurants” I have reviewed. It all evens out. There is a girl here for everyone!

One thing that sets these girls apart is the attitude. The girls are all very friendly and outgoing, even to the tables that they aren’t serving. We also noticed they offer to help the girls out a lot more than some of the other places we have seen. They act more like a team, not a group of girls looking to turn and burn tables. That’s a good thing for the customer.

THE FOOD

There is a variety of offerings at REDNECK HEAVEN. They sell the things you would expect: wings, burgers, etc…

We sampled some of the appetizers: Onion Rings, Chips and Salsa, and Boneless Wings

The Onion Rings were made fresh in their own batter. What arrived was a basket of stuck together rings, with a batter that easily fell off or stuck the rings together. Basically it was stuck-together mess. Decent flavor though. Nothing special.

The Chips N Salsa tasted store bought and bland.

The Boneless Wings (hot flavor) looked promising. Most restaurants recipe for hot wing sauce is: FRANK’S HOT SAUCE/BUTTER/some other ingredient. So if you have had as many hot wings in your life as I have, you are able to tell by taste what goes into it. These tasted like hot sauce and butter only. LOTS of butter/little on the hot sauce.

The chicken pieces fell out of the batter immediately. The chicken pieces themselves seemed very fresh and juicy. That is the good part, because the sauce and breading are just messy and wasteful. The batter they used for the chicken seemed the same for the onion rings. Bland and generic

The entrees we chose were the Chicken Fried Chicken and your basic Hamburger. The Burger was pretty decent, as we expected. The Chicken Fried Chicken was actually a favorite because it was solid portion and the chicken was super juicy inside. The breading on it, seemed to be the same as the appetizers we had, so it wasn’t that tasty and kept sliding off the chicken.

SUMMARY

I think this is a very fun and laid back place. I probably will not be craving the food, but if I was having a group of friends and we wanted to go somewhere and blow off some steam I would totally think about this place. It’s like a fun playground for adults. Everyone seems to enjoy working there and hanging out there. Atmosphere is a very hard thing to capture, but this place makes no bones about what it is. Just a good old fashioned FUN place to hang out and knock back a couple of cold ones. Definitely worth checking out!

*On a side note, I noticed something here that I haven’t noticed anywhere else. They have music that they play in-house. It was subtle and underneath it all. Don’t know if it was piped in from a jukebox or satellite channel, but the music they played was a fantastic blend of southern rock and great country songs-current and classic. The music was felt because at different points in the night I would look around and catch someone was mouthing the words to the song that was on the speakers. That’s just cool.

REVIEW: TWIN PEAKS

23 Nov
twinpeaks by Junk Food Critic
twinpeaks, a photo by Junk Food Critic on Flickr.

After our trip to HOOTERS, I had a good feeling about this place. Every place we have tried was better than the last.

THE PLACE

Twin Peaks has a “lodge” theme. The place looks like a wooden log cabin. There are lots of TVs and much room to mill about at the HEB location.

LOVED the deco and atmosphere. Like I said, it’s roomy, so it doesn’t feel like a “meat market” type of place. Seems like a very cool and laid back type of place.

The chair I had dinner in was most comfortable!

BIG PROBLEM- I went into the bathroom and they do not have urinals. They have a trough filled with ice. I guess this is supposed to be cute or whatever, but I personally don’t get a kick out of taking a whiz next to another man.

THE GIRLS

The girls have a lumberjack/daisy duke theme happening with their look. They wear short sleeved, flannel-like top that they tie in a knot in just the right place. They wear tight khaki shorts and UGG type boots.

Cute outfits, but they suffer the same dividing line that all these restaurants do. Either you look HOT in the outfit, or the outfit shows off parts of you that are better left covered.

At the HEB location, there was only ONE girl that was NOT flattered by the outfit. It made her look almost pregnant. 90% of the girls there have the right bodies for an outfit like that.

Fellas there were a couple of cute girls here, but there wasn’t any one girl that really stood out. And like TILTED KILT, there is a reason why. They aren’t really interested in making small talk. Turn’em and Burn’em!!

I noticed something at this place that I hadn’t at all the other places. When you walk into TWIN PEAKS, there is a hostess stand. From that podium, you are seated.

I noticed that once the girls drop off a drink or food, they all seem to go back to that podium. The place wasn’t THAT busy, but NONE of these girls we saw seemed interested in their tables. We sat and watched for almost an hour, as one by one, they would drop off beers, make small talk, then high-tail it back to the podium with the other girls.

Now perhaps my group was spoiled at HOOTERS. But I was not expecting to see girls that were so, NOT interested in their tables.

AND THEN WE SEE THE ANSWER!

A NEW “move” by these servers. Give you the most generic and basic of service, then—when the check comes, actually stop and talk to you like you are old friends. Make jokes, flirt—you know—WORK THE TIP!!!

We saw this move happen at table after table. Girl would barely keep drinks fresh because she just HAD to be at that hostess stand laughing with the other girls. But when it comes time to drop off the check — they are friendly and wanting to HUG GOODBYE. Nice move.

THE FOOD

From the descriptions, I was thinking HOME COOKIN’! This was going to turn this trip around. Our waitress couldn’t be bothered because she was too busy hanging out at the hostess stand to get us more drinks. But the food? It would cure all this nonsense.

Wrong.

That picture above is of their CHICKEN FRIED CHICKEN. It looked like a MONSTER at the nearby table. It looked so good that one of my fellow reviewers picked that to eat just based off how it looked at that neighbor table.

What we would discover is that chicken has been STEAMROLLED into a 1/4” piece of meat and then seasoned and cooked.

Didn’t really understand the point of flattening it so much. Seriously, the whole battered and fried piece was less than a half inch thick.

BURGER-GUY ordered and mumbled about how generic the hamburger was. Cheese tasted funny. Fries were good and crisp though!

I had the chicken sandwich. I found the same approach to my sandwich as the chicken fried chicken. My poor chicken breast had taken a pounding so they could fold it back on itself to make the sandwich to appear thicker. Odd.

The breading on the sandwich was also odd. Tasted like onion ring batter. Which would have been interesting. But this tasted like it was cooked in used or “old” oil. Had some of that “burnt smoke” flavor to it. Not good.

SUMMARY

Generic food. Great atmosphere. Servers with little to no interest in their tables. Probably will not visit here again.

REVIEW: HOOTERS

23 Oct
hoot by Junk Food Critic

The initial plan was to save HOOTERS for last. I mean it sort of set the standard, and figured I would check out the competition before I went to the one everyone seems to imitate.

THE PLACE

The look of Hooter’s (to me) is that of an old surf shop. It’s sorta meant to look old and run down. Decorated with odds and ends but nothing too fancy. Surfers don’t care about niceties. The place is totally wooden inside. Complete with sometimes wobbly tables and cheap wooden stools to sit on.

That’s part of it’s charm, I guess. I think BONE DADDY’s does “junkhouse cool” vibe better than Hooters in the deco department. But you aren’t going there for the deco.

The place looks like they have spent some money on new TVs because they are huge, and everywhere. You can kinda tell from looking around that they had a TV here and there, but now (guessing to compete with Buffalo Wild Wings down the street) they have stepped up their game. Good idea.

THE GIRLS

The WORLD FAMOUS HOOTER GIRLS were in full effect when we entered the place. It wasn’t very busy for a week night, which I thought would be good to really get a vibe of the place when the girls aren’t in TURN’EM and BURN’EM mode.

(If you haven’t learned by now, TURN’EM and BURN’EM is a term servers use to describe how fast they get their tables turned. Get the customer in and out- get the money fast- with the least amount of work)

The outfits here are basically white “wife-beater” shirts with tight orange shorts. Sometimes they switch it up and wear an all black version of the same look.

The all black is a better look, but more often you will see the original uniform.

I saw something here, that I haven’t seen so far at the other places. The girls here seemed to all get along, and they criss-cross to other tables. Meaning if they pass by, they talk and play around with the other girls.

This makes the experience that much more intimate and fun. I noticed a table of frat boys that was joking with one of the girls about her hairstyle, and they pulled in two or three other waitresses to share a laugh. it was short and fun-spirited.

The girls seem to help each other out here, which the men will like The girls at this ARLINGTON location were probably the most outgoing girls we have met so far.

Part of the “game” here is that the girls are given more freedom maybe, to be themselves. So you get alot more personality from these girls that you might at the other “breastaurants”.

It’s all in good fun!

Ok, ok—guys- you wanna know how they look. We thought that half the girls were in the HOT category. The other half were “kinda” cute.

There. we said it.

THE FOOD

Things are starting to look up in this TOUR I think. The food at HOOTERS just ROCKS! I would eat here if the place didn’t even have girls in outfits. They have flavorful sauces for their chicken sandwich

(I had their new “XXX” sauce and it was, by far the HOTTEST sauce I have ever tasted—-but full of flavor- not just HEAT)

The curly fries I had were hot and seasoned well.

One of the other tasters had a Blackened Mahi sandwich that looked picture perfect. He ended up having to cut pieces off because everyone at the table wanted a taste. It was VERY VERY good!

The fried and grilled shrimp were great! The Burgers were good. The fried pickles were ….blah.

Almost everything we tried, we loved. I understand how this place set the standard. If it was just about the girls, the place would have gone out of business long ago. They have some

good dishes here!

ON A SIDE NOTE: They have stopped serving MGD beer for some reason. I had the honor of drinking the last one they were to ever offer at this location.

SUMMARY

GREAT FOOD. Fun girls. Fun atmosphere. This place lives up to the hype! (ok, well at least this location does)

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