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6/5/14

Mi Ranchito Mexican Restaurant - Where have you been all my Tyler life?

Mi Ranchito Mexican Restaurant


Mi Ranchito Mexican Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Beef and barbacoa tacos.


Caldo de Res

This is a little place off of Front street just west of downtown Tyler.  It isn't much to look at from the street.  There are some colorful murals/drawing painted on the windows and a small parking lot out front.  On the inside, there isn't much more.  There are a 10-15 tables with a few Mexican themed decorations.  My first reaction when rolling up on the place was that it was a little "sketchy".  I was heading over to BBQ Hernandez/Taco Y Mas, but they were closed (this is the second time I have been over there and it was closed, please don't tell me they have shut down).

The spread:  The menu reminds of the little hole in the wall places back in Houston that I love.  They have several different types of soups (caldos) - beef, pork, menudo (on weekends).  They offer tortas, enchiladas, tostadas, etc.  They also offer tacos with your choice of beef, chicken, al pastor and barbacoa.  There were a few more items that I hadn't heard of before and I am looking forward to coming back and trying.

The verdict:  Ah....finally a place that knows how to cook good Mexican food on the cheap.  The flour and corn tortillas were made fresh to order.  The chips were dense and crispy with two types of sauce - red (hot) and green (not so hot) - both excellent.  I knew when the chips came out that I was in for a treat.  I had the caldo de res (beef soup) which comes with tortillas, rice, cilantro and limes.  The broth was rich and well seasoned, the beef tender and delicious.  I also tried the beef, barbacoa and al pastor tacos, and all three were excellent.  Interestingly, most places have a salty, not so great beef/fajita taco meat, but that was not the case here.  The meat was tender and had a great balanced season to it.  The barbacoa was juicy and tender.  The al pastor was also great.  Overall, this is one of the best first food impressions I have had of a place in Tyler.

Edible Tyler Roses:  5 out of 5; First impressions matter, and I love this place.

6/3/14

Bistrolls Contemporary Fusion - Coffee shop + sushi bar = huh?

Bistrolls Contemporary Fusion

Bistrolls - contempo fusion on Urbanspoon

Bistrolls is a relatively new place that opened up in the downtown square area. It is just west of Jake's at the corner of the square.  The place looks contemporary and hip from the outside and has a nice local vibe with really just a few tables.  The sushi bar is located right in front with a small kitchen in the back.  I think they also have a decent area to sit relax and have a cup of coffee in the back.  They got a mention in "Texas Monthly" for the Tyler/Longview area, so I thought I would give them a try.

The spread:  Well, I couldn't get a handle on exactly what this place was trying to be.  They are making a concerted effort to be a hip coffee shop with a nice breakfast menu and the coffee offering you would expect.  I think this is a local place, but the menu has more of a corporate feel.  For breakfast you can make a sandwich from a variety of different ingredients (for a price each).  For lunch you can order a sushi roll to your own specifications (again each thing you add is more $$).  They also offer a variety of "fusion" dishes ranging from lamb kebabs, dumplings, wraps, to tempura, etc.

The verdict:  I was greeted warmly and promptly.  I ordered a Korean BBQ baguette with grilled pork and it came with a side of carrot tempura.  The baguette was pretty good, the pork well seasoned and flavorful, however, the bread wasn't a baguette.  It was more of a ciabatta.  I was just expecting more of a banh mi (Vietnamese style) sandwich.  The star of the day was actually the tempura prepared carrots.  They were light, crispy and delicious.  I also had a sushi roll, and I had them prepare me whatever they wanted because I don't have an extensive knowledge of sushi.  I think I got a deep sea diver/scuba diver roll?  I'm not sure.  It was spicy, tasty and a good size for the price ($12 bucks), but I wasn't blow away with the flavor profile or with the quality of the fish.  The serving dishes were also all styrofoam, which seemed a little lazy to me.  Maybe they are a primarily take out place, but I like to eat on real plates when I sit down somewhere.  Another criticism is that I don't like places that have "build your own burrito/sushi roll/dish/etc", that is just a personal preference, I don't want to make a ton of dishes and experiment in a restaurant - I can do that at home.  I trust a chef's recommendation over my own.

Edible Tyler Roses: 3 out of 5; Worth a try, but not spectacular.  I'm not sure how they scored a spot in Texas Monthly.

5/5/14

Red Dirt BBQ and music festival - BBQ, beer and good music

Red Dirt BBQ and music festival


My favorite sausage and brisket came from La barbecue.  If you look really hard you can see John Lewis (pitmaster)  standing in the background - he's the tall, lanky one.

The beef rib from Louie Mueller was transcendent.  The brisket was also great - topped only by La Barbecue.  Wayne Mueller (pitmaster) is the dude hunched over slicing meat - he was muscled and intense.

This was the first year for the Red Dirt BBQ and Music festival here in Tyler. The basic premise of the festival was to bring some of the best BBQ joints from across Texas in one place for the people of Tyler to give a try, then to follow that up with some great local music.

Your choices were to get a VIP ticket - $90 (and enter an hour early to beat the crowds, with a special VIP area for the concert and a VIP tent), general admission for the BBQ and the music - $45 and then just the music/concert - $30.  I went with a VIP ticket, mostly because I hate to fight crowds and my days in the Army make me "waiting in line" averse.

In addition to the BBQ, they served Shiner beers and Mike's hard lemonade ($4 bucks a drink ticket wasn't too high either) and had several local business with tents advertising their wares. 

I got there a little early and was in the first group of VIPs to go running into the festival.  I knew I wanted to try La Barbecue (great reputation - From Austin) and I was the third person in line.  John Lewis unwrapped his brisket and cut a couple of quick samples and handed it to the first three dudes in line.  That bite told me all I needed to know, I was in BBQ brisket heaven.  The smokiness was sublime, the seasoning perfect, the tenderness just right.  I also had their in-house made jalapeno sausage - and it had just the right amount of meat, fat and spice.  I couldn't have made a better first choice.  I didn't sit there and talk with John Lewis, but he seemed super nice and really interested in making people happy (if a bit stand-offish).

Next I went to Louie Muellers (Taylor, TX) and tried their brisket and beef rib (and maybe sausage), and again I was blown away with just how great central Texas BBQ really is.  I have to admit that Wayne Mueller scared me a bit, he is a tall, muscular dude with a stern expression on his face.  He was very friendly, but intimidating.

Other highlights included Black's brisket (Lockhart) and the ribs from Hutchins (McKinney).  Overall, everyone was friendly and happy to be there.  One thing I was worried about was not getting enough food.  That was an idiotic thought.  Within about thirty minutes I hit the "meat wall" and literally couldn't eat anything else - for about 24 hours.  I didn't stay for the music, but I enjoy the music from all the band that played (Randy Rogers, Whiskey Myers (my fav), Green River Ordinance and The Bigsbys).

The verdict:  5 out of 5 edible Tyler roses.  The festival sold out this year and I imagine they will again if they put it together next year.  I had a great time, at way too much great BBQ and plan on staying for the music next year.  Great unique festival for Tyler.

Reggie’s Burgers, Dogs & Fries - Just another chain burger joint or off the chain?


Reggie's Burgers, Hotdogs and Fries on Urbanspoon



Reggie's is a new place in the Kinsey's Crossing development, just off the loop east of Old Jacksonville highway.  It is located in a strip mall with several other new places promising to pop up next door.  Apparently there will be a new brew pub type place and a Pizza place (see this article).  It appears that Reggie's is originally based in Texarkana and is looking to branch out into Tyler.

The spread:  As you can imagine, they offer burgers, hot dogs and fries.  They also offer fried catfish, several other traditional sandwiches and onion rings.  The menu appears to be very focused.  You step up to the counter, place your order, then they will bring your food out to you.  Of note, they appear to be very focused on meeting your individual preferences with multiple different types of buns and a wide selection of "add ons" for extra - cheese, bacon, egg, avocado, etc.  The decor is modern 50's diner, with several old/new posters (props on the Aerosmith concert poster) and if anything is clean and spartan.  They also advertise that they use only "Angus" beef in their burgers.

The verdict:  I tried their hamburger with all the veggies and added cheddar cheese, bacon and a fried egg with a side of their fries.  First the good.  The patty was seasoned well, had a nice 'char' or crust to it, the bun was solid (white bun), the veggies were fresh and tasty, and the egg was perfectly cooked (with a runny yolk).  The fries were above average and fresh cut, but they didn't have that great exterior crispy crust and fluffy middle that you get when expertly "double" fried.  The problem I had with the burger is that the meat patty was approximately a quarter inch thick and smashed down and probably started out as a quarter or maybe a third of a pound of beef.  There is no way they could cook a patty anything other than well done using their current technique.  If you are going to buy expensive "Angus" beef, then perhaps focusing on cooking a juicy patty?  Also of note, the place is not cheap.  My burger, fries and a drink came out to just under 13 bucks.  Overall, the quality of the food was above average (better than Whataburger), but the quality did not match the price. For me, this is a run of the mill corporatized hamburger joint.  There is no real personality or uniqueness to the experience (no craft beers, no unique hamburgers, thin meat), but it is a decent burger.

Edible Tyler Roses:  3 out of 5.  Above average burger, well above average prices.

5/1/14

Star Donuts - Are all donut places the same? I donut think so.

Star Donuts

Star Donuts on Urbanspoon

Star donuts is located just south of Bergfield park off of Broadway.  I can't imagine that the building was originally designed to be a donut place, but it works nonetheless.  You can drive through or go inside and check out the wares.

The spread:  Well they serve donuts as you can imagine such as glazed, sprinkles, chocolate, cinammon twists, apple fritters.  They also have kolaches, several styles of breakfast sandwiches and breakfast tacos.  We usually grab a variety of donuts and kolaches in the morning when we have guests staying overnight.

The verdict:  I haven't tried all the donut places in Tyler, although I have tried several.  Coming from Houston, I was a little bummed to have to miss out on Shipley's and had resigned myself to eat mediocre donuts and kolaches.  I'm not sure what the guys at Star Donuts do, but they serve the best donuts and kolaches in Tyler, hands down.  The donuts are melt in your mouth soft and delicious.  The kolaches have soft, yet chewy breading.  They are dangerously good.

Edible Tyler Roses:  5 out of 5, outstanding donuts and kolaches.

Wok Box - Wok this way?

Wok Box Fresh Asian Kitchen

Wok Box Fresh Asian Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Wok Box is a new place off of Broadway just north of the south loop.  It is in the Olde English Village strip mall area and isn't much to look at from the outside, although they have done a good job with a face lift of the strip mall area.

The spread:  I was very excited to give Wok Box a try.  They are small chain that has a lot of things going for it.  They have an expansive menu focusing on Asian and Indian cuisine.  Of note, they prominently display vegan and gluten free products.  They have a noodle box with noodles and various topping of meats and sauces (kung pao, spicy korean, etc), a rice box (Indian butter chicken, mongolian beef, etc), curry box (rice and curry of a couple different styles), Banh mi (vietnamese sandwich, although the Tyler location may not have these), Pho (vietnamese style noodle soup), and various appetizers (samosas, egg roll, spring roll, etc).  They also offer a nice selection of craft beers. 

The verdict:  I was very excited to try this place out, particularly because Tyler doesn't have an Indian restaurant anymore, and I was pumped to get some good Indian food.  The place seemed hip, with a well staffed kitchen and the food came out fast.  I got some samosas, Indian butter chicken and spicy Thai chicken curry (and a craft beer).  Well, the first thing I was disappointed with was the portion size for the price.  The chicken was bland and unseasoned.  They apparently use the same chicken for all the chicken dishes, so it was a little monotonous. The indian sauce was scanty and not authentic (although it was "Indian" style, the flavor profile was a bit bland and single note), the curry had very little heat and again didn't taste authentic (watered down for the masses).  The samosas were fairly good, but again the spices were a little bland.  Overall, I was disappointed with the lack of aggressive seasoning/spices that I am accustomed to in authentic Indian/Thai cuisine.  I think they have a lot of things going for them, but it just didn't scratch that Indian food itch.

Edible Tyler Roses:  2.5 out of 5, middle of the road, non-authentic Indian/Asian food.

2/10/14

Hickory Hill BBQ - didn't find my thrill on Hickory Hill

Hickory Hill

Hickory Hill on Urbanspoon

Hickory Hill is a relatively new place just off 31 between Tyler and Kilgore.  Someone recommended giving this place a try in the comment section, so I figured I would give them a try when I went out to Pat Gee's (they are very close to one another).  The place looks promising from the road, it definitely has a country feel to it with 'old timey' decor.

The spread:  They offer your standard barbeque fare:  Brisket, hot links, ribs, etc.  They have their menu on a small peg board just by the register and have a small dining area (4-5 tables).  I was greeted warmly and they took my order right away.

The verdict:  I just finished sampling Pat Gee's and I was excited to try Hickory Hill.  I ordered the three meat plate and got brisket, hot links and ribs.  The plate looked great.  The rib was large and meaty.  The brisket was perfectly cut with the right amount of meat and fat.  The hot link looked good to go.  Oh man was I disappointed.  All the meats had an acrid, overpowering smoke flavor.  It tasted like a mix between liquid smoke and an ash tray.  The brisket and ribs weren't very tender, but I only took a few bites because my palate was overwhelmed with the horrible smokey taste.  I couldn't discern the flavoring of the hot link again due to the overpowering smoke bomb.  The beans were more like baked beans and less like the 'ranch' style or 'charro' style that I prefer.  The potato salad was also a little sweet, but still pretty good.  Now I like a good, smokey tender BBQ, Stanley's brisket is a perfect example of that, but I was very disappointed with the meats at Hickory Hill.

Edible Tyler Roses: 1 out of 5, maybe they were having a bad day, but I really didn't like their BBQ.

Pat Gee's BBQ - Worth the drive

Pat Gee's BBQ

Pat Gee's Barbecue on Urbanspoon

Pat's is an interesting place.  It is located off of 31 between Tyler and Kilgore in a ramshackle building that looks like it was built in another time. The barbeque pit is in a little kitchen off to the side and there is a dining area with a few scattered tables.  I was greeted warmly by an older couple, who I presume are the owners.  They are open Fri-Sun until the meat runs out.

The spread:  They offer your standard barbeque fair:  Pork ribs, brisket, hot links, etc.  They also offer the standard BBQ sides: potato salad, beans, white bread, etc. 

The verdict:  These folks know what they are doing when it comes to BBQ.  When you walk in the front door, you are hit with a wall of smoke that lets you know you have arrived at the right place for some BBQ.  The smoke has penetrated every surface in the place, so you know it has been around for quite some time.  The service couldn't have been friendlier, they figured out right away that it was my first time there and were quite welcoming (don't be scared off by the rough exterior).  The meats were all very good with nice smoke flavor, good seasonings and a tangy BBQ sauce (from a mason jar covered in foil).  The potato salad was mustard based and offer a great foil to the smokey meats.  The beans were very flavorful with chunks of meat.  The brisket had a good fatty content and was very tender.  The ribs were also very good, but perhaps a bit on the overdone side.  The hot link was great, just the right amount of spice and bit to the casing.  All together a very good meal.  By comparison, there brisket doesn't match the central texas style of Stanley's, however, I prefer Pat Gee's ribs and sides.  I will definitely be back.  This isn't the best BBQ I've ever had in comparison to the Titans of central Texas (Smitty's, City Market, Kruez, Black's), but it is very good.

Edible Tyler Roses: 4 out of 5, Go give Pat Gee's a try, you won't be disappointed.

1/17/14

Cedar Creek Brewery

I attended a great little gathering at Stanley this week.  The following is the facebook page.

https://www.facebook.com/events/193739300825896/?ref=3&ref_newsfeed_story_type=regular

Basically, it was a joint project between Stanley's and Cedar Creek Brewery that was celebrating the release of Cedar Creek's recent Great American Beer Festival Gold medal winner Belgian Dubbel.  I went ahead and ordered the Stanley's two meat plate with brisket and sausage as my meats.  Again, Stanley's is absolutely nailing the brisket and their locally sourced sausage is always outstanding (the guys at County Meat Market tell me that they make the sausage for Stanley's and I have purchase a couple of large orders for parties that I have thrown).

Belgian ales are currently my favorite style of beer and I have been trying the various iterations of late.  The Cedar Creek Belgian double was a very good beer.  It was a beautiful brown to dark amber color and had a great full body with plenty of complex malt character and a nicely balanced hoppiness (sp?).  They also had Cedar Creek's Pale Ale on tap, which I also enjoyed, although I am not a big pale ale/IPA guy.  The beer wasn't overly bitter and the floral aroma of the hops was quite pleasing.

The Cedar Creek Brewery is located just off of Cedar Creek reservoir in Seven Points.  They offer tours on Saturday and I will definitely go to take a tour and try out their other styles of beers.  Also of note, their head brewer Damon was there for the evening and I got to spend a decent amount of time talking to him and his wife.  He is a down to earth, great guy and with the winning of the Gold Medal at the GABF, their future is bright indeed.  If you see Cedar Creek in the store or on the tap, give it a try, they won't disappoint.

12/21/13

Vietnamese Pho Restaurant - This place is Pho real

Vietnamese Pho Restaurant

Vietnamese Pho Restaurant on Urbanspoon

This is a small, family owned Vietnamese place just off of 64 and the loop, across the street from the Walmart.  It is in a strip center without a whole lot of curb appeal.  Walking inside reminded me of your typical Vietnamese place in Houston, minimal decor, plenty of seats, and clean.  I have been wanting to try this place for a while because I love a good bowl of Pho and am alwayas looking for a good 'real' ethnic place (of which there are few and far between in Tyler).

The spread: Well they obviously sell Pho, which is a vietnamese rice noodle soup.  It comes in a big bowl of savory beef broth with rice noodles and your choice of meet (go for the combo - meatballs, flank steak and brisket) and with fresh basil and bean sprouts.  You also put in hoisin sauce and sriracha to your liking.  They offer various appetizers from egg rolls to spring rolls with your choice of meat, as well as salads and other (as far as I can tell) authentic Vietnamese items.  They also have a good selection of vegetarian items.  They also offer vermicelli and rice entrees that all look authentic.  This is a menu I am excited about discovering.  Many of the items I have never tried, and certainly are offered no where else in Tyler.

The verdict:  Well I only tried the spring rolls with roast pork and the special Pho soup, but I was very impressed and can't wait to go back and try some of the more esoteric items on the menu.  If you care about food and are looking for a different, authentic eating experience, then give this unassuming little place a try.  The spring rolls were terrific and fresh.  The Pho had a great base broth with fresh basil and bean sprouts and tasty, well seasoned meat.  If you've never had Pho, this would be a great place to give it a try.  I was a little scared when I first sat down because I was the only person there at lunch, but please go out and support this true gem in Tyler.

Edible Tyler Roses:  5 out of 5;  Do I recommend this place?  Pho sho!

12/18/13

Razzoo's Cajun Cafe - is it worth the wait?

**UPDATE:  Tried Razzoo's out again the other day.  The spectacular catfish we had on our first visit is no more.  The catfish we had was fishy, muddy and just awful.  There were some pieces that were simply inedible.  My wife ended up throwing up afterwards.  The fried pickles and green beans also weren't as good.  I had a redfish special which was overcooked and not fresh.  Overall, the food quality and attention to detail were abysmal.  Additionally, maybe I didn't notice last time, but there were several waitresses that were wearing shorts that were so tiny, they would make a Hooters girl blush.  I may be overly harsh, but we won't be returning.  That said, the place was still packed on a Sunday afternoon.

Razzoo's Cajun Cafe

Razzoo's Cajun Cafe on Urbanspoon

Razzoo's is a new place just off 69/Broadway south of Grande, just south of the Walmart in the building that Carretta's used to be in (Carretta's closing wasn't a surprise - see my previous review).  They put a lot of time, money and effort turning this place into a unique, bright, vibrant, visually appealing space.

The spread:  They are Cajun themed as the name implies with a menu to reflect.  The appetizers range from gumbo, fried pickles, popcorn shrimp, stuffed jalepenos, boudain, etc.  The entrees range from poor boys (shrimp, catfish, chicken), red beans and rice, etoufee, shrimp creole, various combinations of fried fish/shrimp/crawfish, shrimp creole, pasta, ribs, etc.  The have a full bar with a decent selection of draft beer as well as some desserts to choose from.

The verdict:  Well, my first impression of the place was that there was a lot of flash/marketing and not a whole lot of substance.  The outside decor is very eye catching and if you have tried to eat here, you have more than likely had a long wait.  We fortunately were able to be seated right away.  The service was friendly, if a bit young and inexperienced.  The food had some high points and low points.  We tried the fried pickles, seafood gumbo, catfish platter, shrimp poboy and crawfish etoufee.  The crawfish etoufee was nearly inedible, there was some background plastic flavor that was simply disgusting.  Next worst was the seafood gumbo, as the roux base was watery and bland - no depth of flavor from a genuine gumbo.  The shrimp poboy was fairly good with nicely cooked shrimp and great bread (key to any good poboy).  The fried pickles were also very good and were well seasoned.   The jalepeno hush puppies were also very good.  In the end the Cajun food reminded me of Joe's Crabshack - commercialized, bland, dumbed down with the caveat of outstanding catfish.

Edible Tyler Roses:  0 out of 5, skip the "Cajun" food, real problems with consistency.

12/17/13

Graciela's Cuisine - Asian/mexican fusion?

Graciela's Cuisine


Graciela's Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Graciela's is a newcomer to Tyler and is located just south of 5th on Broadway.  They are located in a space previously occupied by a former catering/restaurant place whose name I can't recall.  We were driving by and saw several employees waving at us to come in and give it a try.

The spread:  Well I was a little confused by the menu.  It seems to be some sort of fusion between traditional Mexican food (not Tex-mex) and American Chinese food.  The menu ranges from various types of fried rice to moles, enchiladas, and soups.  They have quesadillas and a spicy guacamole amongst other items on the appetizers menu.

The verdict:  Well again, this is one of those places that I want to like, but falls short.  The waitstaff was really trying hard, but didn't fully understand the menu.  The food took a LONG time to come out for lunch.  The spicy guacamole was at a very high heat level and the enchiladas my wife tried were nearly inedible they were so spicy.  I also tried the consume and it was basically a beef broth with some vegetables and rice, it was very nice and light.  The rice and beans were a little bland for me, but I think they were in line with the traditional Mexican taste profile.  My overall impression is that the kitchen and concept are not fully developed - passionate and young, but still immature.  The location is going to be hard to overcome, but there is a lot of passion and hard work going into this endevour.

Edible Tyler Roses: 3 out of 5, The food is average to good, there is a lot of room for growth.

The Rack Hamburger Grill - My kind of place

***UPDATE:  Wow, The Rack has closed.  I feared for their business success because of their location and recently downgraded their rating.  They were having problems in the kitchen and keeping beers on tap.  I am truly sad to see The Rack go, but you gotta keep people happy and coming back to succeed.

**UPDATE:  I have been to the Rack multiple times since the original post.  I have to say that they have some real problems with consistency.  I have yet to have a burger as special as the one I had on my first visit.  They just can't seem to get the meat temperature right.  I still enjoy the place and definitely recommend giving it a try, but just not as enthusiastically they go from 5/5 to 4/5 Edible Tyler Roses.

The Rack Hamburger Grill
http://www.theracktexas.com/



The Rack on Urbanspoon

The Rack Hamburger Grill is a new restaurant that opened up near the Azalea district off of Broadway, just south of 9th street, located in the Tyler Shopping Center (next to Steinmart).  I don't think their has been a restaurant in this particular space, but it seems like a pretty hard place to keep a restaurant open.  From the outside, they have a little patio area with some large picnic tables.  Inside the place there is a healthy bar area and a dining section.  The decorations consist mainly of stuffed/mounted animals.

The spread:  As you can imagine this is trying to be a hamburger joint, but they are doing a lot of interesting things with the food menu. Their apps consist of candied bacon, salads, seared tuna, cheese fries, etc.  The star of the show is their hamburger selection.  You can choose their regular ground meat burger (ground and seasoned in house), buffalo burger, blue cheese burger, venison burger, lamb burger, ahi tuna burger, veggie burger, turkey burger and a few others.  The meals come with charro style beans and choice of one side:  regular fries, sweet potato fries, mac and cheese, etc.  They also offer a few desserts.

Perhaps the most impressive is their MASSIVE draft beer list.  They have a lot of beers on tap, almost all of which are craft microbrews from Texas (20 beers on tap on a regular basis).  I was in beer heaven.  They also offer a large selection of bottled beers.  A beer lover could get quiet happy here.

The verdict:  THIS IS THE BEST HAMBURGER IN TYLER BY FAR.  Stop what you are doing, go to The Rack and get a burger.  I recommended this place to a friend of mine who loves burgers and he told me it was the best hamburger he has had in his life.  I ordered a Rack burger with cheddar cheese, bacon and egg and I ordered it medium well.  This is one of the rare places that actually cooks your burger to your desired temperature.  They care about their food.  The burger was one of the best I have had in my life.  The meat is juicy and tender, with the right amount of sear from the grill.  The french fries are also done right, in house, from real potatoes and fried twice (the way fries are supposed to be done).  The beers were great.  This is definitely a place that I will go back to again and again.

Edible Tyler Roses: 4 out of 5.  Get a burger and a beer and enjoy!  I fear that location will doom this place, but it is worth the drive....yum.

Gilbert's El Charro Restaurant - Old fashioned Tex-mex

*UPDATE*  El Charro's is reopened as El Charro on the Ridge or something like that.  It is now located in the Fresh parking lot.  The food is as I remember, the new space is definitely modern.  The only criticism I have is that the dining room is very loud, there are a lot of hard surfaces, so the sound tends to amplify.  I am glad to have the food back, but El Charro has a lost a little of its charm with the new location.

*EDIT*  Sadly, both Gilbert's El Charro Restaurants closed their doors after 70 or so years of business in Tyler.  My family and I will miss the food.  Another loss of a local favorite, hopefully, another local place can fill the void.

Gilbert's El Charro Restaurant

Gilbert's El Charro Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Gilbert's is an old school Tex-Mex restaurant that has two locations in Tyler. The decor and atmosphere take me back to my youth when my grandma and great aunt used to take me out to eat. For me, there is a warm feeling of nostalgia when I walk through the doors.

The spread: They have your typical, what I call Old school Tex-mex. That is to say, enchiladas smothered in chili con carne, nachos, fajitas, tamales, rice N beans, chips N salsa, tacos, burritos, etc. I usually go with one of the combination plates or with the fajitas. Interestingly, they have teamed up with Mother Frances and offer a few healthy options. They also offer free soft serve ice cream, which the kids love.

The verdict: I love this place, mostly because they stay committed to being old school Tex-mex. They aren't trying to be a fancy authentic Mexican restuarant, they are just doing food right. I particularly like the nachos, as they put beans/meat/cheese on top of a six inch tostada fried corn tortilla. The service is usually average to good, with food coming out quickly and glasses full of drinks. I think they also offer a "best" chicken fried steak, which my wife fell for the hype and turns out it was average. This is a good place to take the kids.

Edible Tyler Roses: 4 out of 5, good ole fashioned Tex-mex. YUM!

12/13/13

Juls - New location, better than ever?

Juls

Juls on Urbanspoon

Juls is, from what I understand, a rebirth and reconfiguration of the old Julian's over in Times Square. The place is located off of 155 past Grande, pretty close to Fresh.  It is very impressive from the outside and has two sections, one side is "Juls cafe" and one is apparently just "Juls"?  Apparently Juls has an Asian themed menu and Juls cafe is concentrating on healthy food, but it is still a little unclear to me.  Althought, I am not sure of the intent of the business owners, the buildings structure and the business undertaking are impressive.  The building is very modern and has interesting nooks and crannies that make the dining experience unique.

The spread:  My wife and I ventured to Juls.  They have an extensive drink menu with some very unique draft selections - a couple of which I have never seen on draft (Delerium Tremens).  The food menu is a somewhat pan-asian themed with a variety of appetizers (edamame, pot stickers, lettuce wraps, wings, guacamole, etc), sushi/sashimi, salads, "woks" - really just stir fry, Pho (vietnamese noodle soup), fried rice, new american (ranging from shrimp and grits to korean fried chicken legs) and a variety of burgers/sandwiches (to include Banh mi - vietnamese sandwiches).

The verdict:  The menu seemed a little unfocused to me and that it was designed to try to make everyone happy, but the food I tried was very good.  We started with some pot stickers, followed by some sort of spicy tuna/crab roll, beef Pho, grilled pork Banh mi, and the Mongolian stir fry.  The steamed pot stickers were excellent, the filling just had this background herb that was just making beautiful music on my taste buds.  My only criticism is that I would have like some sort of dipping sauce to help with the initial blandness of the dumpling dough.  The spicy tuna/crab roll was excellent, it had a great sushi flavor with a very well balanced sauce and heat level.  The beef Pho was pretty good, my problem is that I have been in some of the best Pho places in Chinatown in Houston and this Pho wasn't as good, but it is still worth a try.  The broth is solid, but I would have liked to have seen more traditional offerings (tendon, meatball, etc).  The Banh mi was also good, but not great.  The bread to meat ratio was a little skewed on the side of the bread and the heat level was nearly unbearable (perhaps this was my error) - again I have had some of the best Banh mi in Houston and my standards are very high, their Banh me is good, it just isn't great.  The Mongolian stir fry was also very good, great balanced flavor that my wife really enjoyed.  The service was also excellent, very attentive and quite helpful in navigating the ambitious menu.  I very much enjoyed the eclectic draft beer selection and will be back to try more of their beers.  The noise level was a little high, but that was because there was some sort of group Christmas party happening nearby.  I think Juls would be a great special occasion place for a date night.

Edible Tyler Roses: 4 out of 5.  Ambitious menu, great service, good to very good food.