Friday, August 1, 2014

The Crafthouse Gastropub

My wife and I were in Lubbock, Texas to visit some family and friends.  On our first night back in the Hub City, my mom offered to keep the kids and we wanted to find a place to relax and eat a meal.   We both have our favorite restaurants that we usually hit while we are in town, but we decided to try a place that was new to us.  The Crafthouse Gastropub was recommended to us by a good friend, so we made our way to the restaurant to see what it had to offer.
Dining Room/Bar at The Crafthouse Gastropub
We decided to start with the Carnitas Fritas, which were twice fried fries that were topped with queso blanca, pico de gallo, and roasted pork.  The dish was an interesting variation of the classic cheese fries and I was excited to try them with the queso and pork.  Unfortunately, my wife and I were both disappointed in the Carnitas Fritas.  The queso was insipid and there was very little pork on the appetizer.
Carnitas Fritas
For my main entree, I went with the Steak Frites.  The char-grilled beef tenderloin was topped with garlic butter and served with a side of black pepper fries.  The tenderloin itself had a decent flavor, but it was extremely tough and very small.  As for the fries, they tasted very greasy and really didn't have that much pepper on them.
Steak Frites
My wife ordered the Shrimp and Grits, which is usually one of her favorite meals.  Until this visit, I had never been with my wife when she didn't finish a bowl of shrimp and grits.  She didn't even eat half her bowl and said they had a very peculiar taste to them that did not agree with her.  I am not sure what they added to the grits, but they were pinkish in color.
Shrimp and Grits
We were both very disappointed with our dining experience at The Crafthouse Gastropub.  Neither the appetizers nor the entrees were even the least bit savory.  The service was adequate, but the food was a huge disappointment.  I highly doubt that I will have a return visit to this establishment.

The Crafthouse Gastropub
http://www.crafthousepub.com/crafthousepub.com/Home.html
Livin the Good Life Rating=3

The Crafthouse Gastropub on Urbanspoon

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Cattleack Barbecue

Cattleack Barbecue has been receiving a lot of social media buzz lately.  Over the last year, they have created a cult-like following amongst barbecue lovers in the Dallas area.   Cattleack Barbecue is primarily a catering company, but they do serve lunch on Thursdays and Fridays from 10:30 a.m. until they run out of smoked meats.  Since I was off work on a recent Friday, I scurried down to Dallas to see what all the buzz was about.
The line to get smoked meats
I arrived at 10:45 and was surprised to see a line reaching all the way to the front door.  Fortunately, the line moved quickly and I progressed through the line at a good pace.  The restaurant does offer free beer to those in line, so I didn't hear many complaints from those having to wait.  By 11:05, I was at the counter and ordering.  Cattleack Barbecue is located in a very small space and most people were getting their meat to go, but they do have four picnic tables located inside the restaurant and some seating outside as well.  
The cutting boards at Cattleack Barbecue
Everything that was on the cutting board looked great, but I finally decided to go with fatty brisket, spare ribs, turkey, and a barbecue sandwich named the "Toddfather."  The brisket had excellent bark, a nice smoky flavor, and well rendered fat.  It was very flavorful and almost melted in your mouth.  The turkey was moist and was well smoked.  I am not sure what ingredients they use on the rub for the turkey, but it was very good as well.  The spare ribs had a somewhat sweet rub on them and you could taste the smoke in every bite, but they were a little too chewy for me as I prefer the meat to easily pull off the bone.
Smoked Turkey, Spare Ribs, and Fatty Brisket
I rarely get barbecue sandwiches and did not plan to order one on this visit, but then I saw a customer in front of me order  the "Toddfather" and I immediately knew I would be ordering a sandwich as well.  The sandwich is named after the owner, Todd David, and it is a hefty sandwich that includes a hot link, pulled pork, brisket, and slaw.  Before I started devouring this monster sandwich, I liberally applied their house-made barbecue sauce.  From the first bite I knew that I was in love.  I have already describe the merits of the brisket, but the pulled pork was top notch as well and the hot link gave it a little kick and extra flavor.  The meat flavors all blended well with the slaw and the sauce.  Without a doubt, this was one of the better barbecue sandwiches I have ever had.
The "Toddfather"
The only side that I tried was the Cheesy Chipotle Corn.  It had a little Chipotle kick to it, but it basically tasted like canned corn that didn't have any cheese flavor that I could taste.  Although the side I ordered was somewhat disappointing, the meats were fantastic.  The Davids are turning out some of the best smoked meat in DFW and they are very friendly as well.  I was unable to try the beef rib (which looked amazing) or the house-made sausage, but I will be heading back to Cattleack Barbecue next time I have a Thursday or Friday where I don't have have to work.
Cheesy Chipotle Corn
Cattleack Barbecue
http://cattleackbbq.com
Livin the Good Life Rating=8

Cattleack Barbeque on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Micheladas Cafe y Cantina

I was craving Mexican food on my last evening in Austin and my buddy said that Mexican sounded good to him. There are several choices in the downtown area, but many of them are chains.   I wanted to dine at a restaurant that we do not have in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, so I asked the concierge at our hotel which restaurant he recommended .  He recommended Michelada's Cafe y Cantina and told us that it was only a couple blocks away from the hotel.
Green Chile and Corn Crab Dip
We landed at Michelada's within minutes and sat down to look over the menu.  For a starter, we ordered a crab dip that included corn and green chiles.  At first bite, I was in love.  The green chiles, corn, and crab blended together to make one of the most phenomenal crab dips I have ever had.  The chips and salsa were also very good, but I could no get enough of the crab dip.
Green Chile Pork Tacos
For my entree, I ordered the green chile pork tacos.  That menu item is not currently listed on the online menu, but I can assure you that they were wonderful. These very flavorful tacos were served with rice and charro beans.  The rice was pretty basic, but the charro beans were laudable.  My colleague ordered the beef enchiladas with rice and charro beans.  He gave a big thumbs up to the enchiladas and was also impressed with the beans.
Beef Enchiladas
Michelada's definitely hit the spot and fulfilled our craving for Mexican food.  In addition to the great food, the service is absolutely exceptional.  The staff fawned over us during our meal and we never had to ask for refills of water or chips.  Over the years, I have dined at dozens of Mexican food restaurants in Austin and I can honestly say that Michelada's is one of the best I have ever had in the city.  If you are in the downtown Austin area and looking for some really good Mexican food, I highly recommend Michelada's Cafe y Cantina.

Micheladas Cafe y Cantina
http://www.micheladasaustin.com/micheladas.html
Livin the Good Life Rating=7

Micheladas Cafe y Cantina on Urbanspoon

Friday, July 18, 2014

Jo's

The infamous Iced Turbo
While in Austin, a work colleague and I were craving breakfast and decided to go to Jo's.  This restaurant had been recommended to me by a couple of locals, so we thought we would give it a shot.  At Jo's, patrons order at the counter, take a number, and wait to have your meal delivered.
Menu board and dining area
The Iced Turbo is one item that was highly recommended to me by the locals.  I am usually not a big drinker of iced coffee and prefer hot coffee, but decided to give the Iced Turbo a chance.   This particular iced coffee had exceptional flavor and was strong.  The drink was sweet, but it wasn't too sweet for me.  Although I probably wouldn't want to replace this drink with my daily coffee, it would certainly be nice for a change of pace from my routine of drinking a pot of coffee a day.
Sourdough French Toast
For food, I ordered the Sourdough French Toast and a breakfast taco with bacon,cheese, and eggs.  The French Toast was very good and it had plenty of fresh berries on top.  The breakfast taco wasn't anything special and could have used more bacon, but the tortilla was fresh and the salsa was flavorful.  My colleague ordered the Huevos Rancheros.  Since he practically licked the plate clean, I am assuming he was liked his meal as well.
Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Breakfast Taco
Jo's has a good sized breakfast menu, laudable food, and quick service.  If you are looking for a place in downtown Austin to grab breakfast, I suggest you give Jo's a chance.  When you go, make sure that you drink the Iced Turbo.  You can thank me later.
Huevos Rancheros

Jo's
http://www.joscoffee.com/
Livin the Good Life Rating=5
Jo's on Urbanspoon