Sunday, May 1, 2016

18th and Vine

The city of Dallas and the greater DFW area has really been upping it's game in the barbecue department lately and new barbecue restaurants are opening in an attempt to compete with the heavyweights like Pecan Lodge, Lockhart Smokehouse, and Hutchins.  One of the newcomers, 18th and Vine, had several critics, like Daniel Vaughn, raving about the place. The Dallas Morning News even awarded it as one of the Best New Restaurants 2015.  What separates this place from the others is the fact that pit boss Matt Dallman has opened a Kansas City style barbecue joint with influences he brought from his hometown.

On a recent Saturday, I was with a party of four and we were able to sample several of the menu items. Below is my opinion of what we tried:

Burnt Ends - We ordered these as an appetizer and they were incredible.  These delicacies are a favorite of mine and I order them whenever I see them on a menu.  The burnt ends were amongst the best I have had in DFW and were the best smoked meat we had on this night.
Fried Okra - This was also ordered as an appetizer and we loved this dish as well.  The batter was fantastic and the okra was perfectly seasoned.  The dipping sauce served with the okra was a prefect compliment.  
Brisket - Although we loved the burnt ends, the brisket left a lot to be desired.  The brisket had a smoky flavor, but it was tough, the fat was not well rendered, and the slices were much thinner than I prefer.
Pulled Pork -  This item was fairly pedestrian and I didn't get much bark, which is my favorite part of pulled pork.
Pork Ribs-  The ribs had a nice smoke ring and a tasty glaze, but, like the brisket, they too were a little tough.  
Jalapeño Cheese Sausage -  The house-made sausage had a good flavor, a lot of cheese, and the jalapeños gave it a nice kick.
Smoked Chicken - This meat was only surpassed by the burnt ends.  The chicken had a great smoky flavor and the skin was well seasoned.
Seasoned Fries -  The seasoning was good, but the fries were barely warm and tasted like they had been sitting out a while.  
Jalapeño Cheese Grits -  Grits are one of my favorite sides and these were really spicy and had a lot of cheese.  That gets a big thumbs up from me.  
Pit Roasted Mushrooms -  This was the first time I remember seeing mushrooms on a barbecue restaurant menu, but they were better than I expected.
Assorted Cookies -  Four types of house-made cookies (chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, snickerdoodle, and sugar) were served and none were overly impressive.  
Fried Apple Pies -  This dessert was much better than the cookies.  The miniature pies had a great flavor, a nice dusting of sugar, and were served piping hot.
18th and Vine has a really cool atmosphere and the service is great. The meal started off with a bang with the appetizers of burnt ends and fried okra, but almost everything else was very underwhelming.  While a few of the other items were also good,  the rest was far from great.  This place is certainly a little more upscale than most barbecue joints, but I am sure that this place will do well amongst the other high end casual restaurants in Oak Lawn.

18th and Vine
Livin the Good Life Rating = 3

18th & Vine BBQ Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Burger 21

The DFW area has no shortage of upscale burger joints, but more seem to open daily.  Florida-based, Burger 21, joined the DFW market with it's first Texas location opening up in the Frisco on the Downtown Square.  While I think the upscale burger market is over-saturated in my area, I still wanted to try this place out and I have been a couple of times since it opened.

Below are my opinions of what I have tried:

Bacon Cheesy- basic bacon cheeseburger on a brioche bun.  Good, but not great.  

The Tex-Mex Haystack- served with lettuce, tomato, applewood-smoked bacon, Gouda, onion strings, guacamole, and chipotle-jalapeno sauce on a brioche bun.  This burger was really good.  In fact, I would say it had the most flavor of any burger I have had thus far in 2016.  I Highly recommend this burger.
Fries- I have tried both the regular french fries and the sweet potato fries.  Of the two, the sweet potato fries are the better choice here, but both are serviceable.

Kids Grilled Cheese- Served on thick bread and perfectly toasted.  It was a big hit with my youngest daughter and myself.  
Key Lime Pie Milkshake- Absolutely amazing milkshake.  It tasted just like a key lime pie and was even served with a lime, whipped cream, and graham cracker crumbs.  They had a lot of other options on their milkshake menu, but this one was the most intriguing to me and I was not disappointed.
Although I have barely scratched the surface of their menu, the food (and shakes) are good enough to where I would certainly go back again.  While the beef patties on the burgers are somewhat bland, the restaurant has a lot going for it in the toppings and sauce department.  I have never had to wait over 10 minutes for any order and the staff is polite and helpful.   Definitely a good edition to the Frisco Square area.

Burger 21
Livin the Good Life Rating = 3

Burger 21 Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Barrymore

One of my friends I met in Vegas really wanted to try out a restaurant call The Barrymore.  I had also heard good things about it, so we all agreed to dine there on our second night in Vegas.  The restaurant is owned by Block 16 Hospitality, which is a restaurant conglomerate that owns three other restaurants that I like, being Holstein's, Public House, and Flour and Barley.  Since I liked the other restaurants, The Barrymore came with high expectations.

Below are the menu items we tried and my opinions of them:
Oysters Rockefeller- served with creamy spinach, prosciutto, Pernod, and bread crumbs.  They were very rich, but extremely flavorful and some of the best I can remember in recent memory
Barrymore Caesar- romaine, serrano ham, garlic Caesar dressing, and a split anchovy.  I get the fact that Caesar dressing is traditionally made with anchovies, but I didn't care for the anchovy on my salad.  The ham was good and the lettuce was crispy, but the salad did have a taste that was a little too fishy for my personal taste.
Bone-in Ribeye- Without a doubt, this is my favorite cut of steak and I am a firm believer in the greatness of most dry aged ribeyes, however, this steak was a huge disappointment.  I love a well-marbled steak, but this one was overly-fatty, tough, and under-seasoned.
Sides- the table shared three sides, which were the creamed spinach, the mashed potatoes, and the lobster cream corn.  The spinach was the best of the three, but barely memorable.  The mashed potatoes were tasteless and the lobster and cream corn just tasted funny to me.
While I have had worse dining experiences in Vegas, this certainly wasn't one of the best i have had.  The service was good enough, but the food was a disappointment, with the exception of the Oysters Rockefeller.  While we all liked the feel and vibe of the place, it just didn't hit a home run with our picky crew.  I don't mind spending money on nice meals, but this meal was not worth the money we spent.

Livin the Good Life Rating=2
The Barrymore Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Secret Pizza

In addition to our love of college basketball and the NCAA Tourney, one of my Vegas buddies also happens to be a foodie. When we arrived in Vegas, he started telling me about a pizza joint inside The Cosmopolitan.  He said the name of the place is called Secret Pizza  and that it is supposed to be legit pizza and gets it's name from the fact it doesn't have a website or any signage that signifies where to find it.  In fact, The Cosmopolitan doesn't even list it under the restaurants in the hotel.  
Entrance to Secret Pizza
Basically, you have to wonder aimlessly in search of it or ask somebody that knows where it is.  Not wanting to look like cheaters, we went in search of it and decided not to ask anyone where it was.  After about 5 minutes, we saw a man carrying a pizza box out of an unassuming hallway and we knew that we had found what we were looking for.  The line was fairly short and we both had a couple of slices in hand within five minutes of entering the hallway.  The pepperoni pizza was simply outstanding and some of the best I have had in recent memory.  The pizza was piping hot and bursting with flavor.  
Since we liked it so much, we actually made a return trip in he wee morning hours approximately 14 hours after our first visit.  Luckily for us, it was still open, but we were unlucky in the fact that the line was all the way down the hallway and took 30 minutes to place our order.  On the second visit, I ordered sausage and it was comparable in quality to the pepperoni I had previously.  Although spicy sausage pizza at 3:00 AM might not have been the best decision I made in Vegas, I have certainly made worse decisions.  If you like pizza and want to go looking for this place, you will not be disappointed in this speakeasy-like pizza place.
Sausage Pizza
Secret Pizza
Livin the Good Life Rating=4
Secret Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato