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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.


Cedar Creek Brewery

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


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.


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!


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

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 absolute star of the night was the catfish.  I had no expectations, but my wife shared and it was hands down some of the best catfish I have ever had.  It was light, fluffy and perfectly seasoned.  Just plain awesome.  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:  3 out of 5, skip the "Cajun" food, grab a beer and some fried catfish and enjoy the decor, definitely not worth waiting more than 10 minutes for a seat.


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

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!


Juls - New location, better than ever?


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.


Wright's BBQ

Wright's BBQ

Wright's BBQ on Urbanspoon

Wright's BBQ is a relative newcomer to Tyler and is located a little south of Grande off of Paluxy.  I'm not sure it is the greatest location for a restaurant as it is in a relatively low traffic area in an 'industrial/country' part of Tyler.  From the outside it looks non-descript with very little to indicate there is a restaurant.

The spread:  I really like their setup inside.  It reminds me of an old church banquet hall I used to go to growing up.  There is a bar on one side, a bunch of tables and then an entertainment area on the opposite side.  They offer your standard Texas BBQ:  brisket, sausage, ribs, turkey, and pulled pork.  For sides you can choose potato salad, pinto beans or cole slaw.  They also offer BBQ nachos and a BBQ baked potato.  For dessert you can choose from cobbler, banana pudding and cheesecake.  When I went by to give them a try, I was the only person in the huge dining room, which is always a bad sign.

The verdict:  This is another example of a family run restaurant in Tyler that I really want to love and support, but falls flat.  They are doing everything right except putting out good BBQ.  I loved the decor, the setup, the bar, and the service was friendly.  The food was just not up to snuff.  The brisket was tender, however, it had very little smoke flavor.  The sausage tasted like generic hickory farm store bought sausage.  The ribs were tender, but they again had very little smoke flavor.  The potato salad and pinto beans were also bland and a little sweet.  I am of the opinion that to do BBQ right, you need an experienced pit master and a BBQ pit that uses real wood and smoke, neither of which were evident on my visit.  I think perhaps they are focusing on being an entertainment center and not a great BBQ joint.  I think it would be a great place to have an event (I'd just prefer to cater from someone else!).

Edible Tyler Roses:  2 out of 5, below average BBQ.


La Plazita - had a taste, can't wait to go back for more

La Plazita

La Plazita on Urbanspoon

La Plazita is just outside of town off of 64 heading towards Canton.  You can easily pass it up as there is a lot of foliage surrounding the place and you don't notice it until you are right up on it.  It looks inviting from the outside with vibrant colors and decorations.  There is a small parking lot out front and a larger one in the rear.

The spread:  Well I stopped by on our way out to Yesterland Farms (which is a lot of fun, but expensive) because I was craving a good breakfast taco and figured I would give it a shot.  The have a fairly large breakfast menu to include several different kinds of breakfast tacos as well as the more traditional Tex-mex fair (huevos rancheros, etc.).  I also peaked at their lunch/dinner menu and was surprised to see not only standard Tex-mex, but a few uncommon dishes on their menu that I would love to try (empanadas, mole enchiladas, and others).

The verdict:  Wow was I glad we stopped.  I got a bean, egg and cheese taco and an chorizo, egg and cheese taco.  The tortillas weren't made to order, but they were cooked well and very good.  They were also generous with the filling with a lot of eggs, cheese, chorizo and beans.  One would have been enough for a solid breakfast.  The chorizo taco was great, with a nice spicy variety that didn't overpower the whole taco.  The bean, egg and cheese also hit the spot.  If they hand made their tortillas to order, this would be heavenly, instead, they are just the best breakfast tacos I have had in Tyler.

Edible Tyler Roses: 4 out of 5; I'll reassess when I revisit the lunch/dinner menu - and I am looking forward to it.


Stanley's Famous Pit BBQ - Best Ribs in Texas?? *UPDATE*

Stanley's Famous Pit BBQ
525 S. Beckham Ave.
Tyler, TX 75702

Stanley's Famous Pit BBQ on Urbanspoon

Stanley's is a local BBQ joint located just west of the Medical center hospitals off of Beckham. The place has a great reputation with many accolades including Texas Monthly top 50 BBQ joints, and more recently won a statewide competition for their BBQ ribs. I have been several times, once when I first moved up to Tyler with my brother. Everything I know about the owners, I like. They are working hard to have authentic BBQ in a fun environment.

The spread: Typical Texas BBQ offerings (ribs, sausage, brisket) as well as pork and turkey. They also offer fish tacos (which I haven't tried yet) and are open for breakfast.

The verdict: First, let me start off with I am BBQ biased. The high points are the brisket and the pulled pork, both are excellently cooked with just the right amount of smoke. I have had both several times and haven't been disappointed. My personal favorite is the egg and pork taco for breakfast. The biggest disappointment so far has been their award winning ribs. I have had them twice and both times, they weren't cooked long enough and didn't have enough smoke. They may be winning contests with their ribs elsewhere, but they are not putting out quality ribs when I have eaten them. Their sides are pretty lackluster with the beans having a whole lot of jalapeno and not a whole lot of flavor, the potato salad is okay, but bland, and I don't care for their vinegar based slaw (although the wife likes it). So, go for the brisket and pork, and if you want to risk it, try the ribs, but don't expect their award winning product.

**I have been back to Stanley's twice since the original post. Twice I got the ribs and twice I was disappointed. The most recent visit, the ribs were inedible, really, really bad. No smoke, not tender, horrible taste. I also got some brisket from the fatty end and it had very little smoke and was CHEWY, again not very good. The highlight of the meal was the sausage which was very good.

**Double update.  Well I have been to Stanley's many times since the original post and I would like to increase my rating of the place.  The last several times I have gone, the brisket has been OUTSTANDING.  Very reminiscent of central Texas style BBQ - that is to say a lot of smoke and wonderful tenderness.  I have tried their ribs also many times and the bottom line is I just don't like them, whatever the flavor combo is, I just don't like.  There is never enough smoke and they aren't tender enough for me.  BUT, the sausage, pulled porked are good and they have been NAILING the brisket.  

Edible Tyler Roses: 3 out of 5, skip the ribs and get the brisket.

Red's Famous Fried Chicken

****UPDATE.  Well, I am not surprised, but Red's Famous Fried Chicken has closed its doors and you can no longer get overpriced below average chicken.   I'm looking forward to whatever pops up in its place.

Red's Famous Fried Chicken

Red's Famous Fried Chicken on Urbanspoon

Red's is a new chicken place in town that is now in what used to be Cinco Ranch (a failed breastaraunt) and before that El Chico.  It is in the parking lot of Toys R Us, just east of Broadway and the loop.  They didn't do a whole lot to change the outside, but it looks well decorated and inviting from the outside.

The spread:  We were seated quickly and the inside decor was somewhat non-descript, I don't really know what style/theme they are going for.  They are a little unusual in that they don't have a menu.  I find not having a menu very peculiar. The waitress quickly explained the choices.  You can get fried chicken, chicken tenders, fried catfish or chicken fried steak.  All meals come with biscuits, a salad, mashed potatoes and cream gravy, green beans, and creamed corn.

The verdict:  Well, I hated the fact that you don't have a menu.  How do you know what to order if you don't know how much it costs and have a description of what it will be?  I don't want to sit there and have a conversation about the menu with the wait staff, I want to look and decide for myself.  The meal ended up being 11.99 per person (4.99 for the kids), which isn't unreasonable, but I just like to know costs up front.  The biscuits were okay, but too dense - I prefer a delighfully fluffy biscuit and theirs weren't hockey pucks, but you had to slather them down with honey and butter for them to be palatable.  The sides were also just ok, although my wife really enjoyed the creamed corn (I thought there was way too much cream).  The green beans were pretty good, but a little overcooked.  The mashed potatoes were made from real potatoes with the skin on.  The cream gravy was actually very good and had a unique flavor to it that made it memorable.  My wife had the chicken fingers and there were good (not quite as good as Raising Cane's) they were obviously marinated, juicy and had a nice crust to them.  I had the fried chicken and I was disappointed.  The chicken was marinated in a strange herbal marinade and the crust was more along the lines of KFC original recipe with very little crispiness.  Given the fact that I didn't care for their 'famous' fried chicken, I just can't recommend the place.

Edible Tyler Roses: 2 out of 5, Their chicken may be famous, but it ain't good.


Cork - nice atmosphere and very good food

Cork Food and Drink

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Cork is a relatively new place located in the Times Square Cinema shopping center off of Broadway/I-69 just south of Rice road.  The shopping center itself doesn't really lend itself to 'high end' dining, however, they have the entrance decorated nicely with modern design and a little sitting area.  Inside, they continue the modern theme with a bar area, decent dining area, and small area for live performances with some interesting modernish type art on the wall and many references to wine.

The spread:  They have an ambitious food and drink menu.  I'm not sure their theme, but they offer different kinds of sushi, small 'tapas' style plates, cheese and cured meats plate(s), a few different bowls (mac and cheese, soups, stir fry and grits), and a few traditional dishes (seafood, steak, etc).  For me, the menu was a bit unfocused and perhaps they are trying to be a tapas-sushi-wine-asian bar that serves food?  The wine list is extensive and they have a full bar with a few original concoctions.

The verdict:  I really enjoyed my experience at Cork.  The service was friendly, prompt and knowledgeable.  I tried the mac and cheese and it was the best I have had in a long time.  It comes in a bowl with spiral pasta with a bechamel-cheese sauce with bread crumbs on top with little bits of ham.  I also tried their spicy tuna roll and it was solid, but not very spicy.  The quality of tuna was good.  The charcuterie plate came with three types of cheese, a great grilled french bread and three types of cured meats.  There was a very mild soft/brie and two harder styles that offered a nice difference in texture and flavor, but none of the cheese were memorable.  The prosciutto was very good, but the cured sausage and pepperoni like sausage were both average - mildly spiced and a little bland. I also tried the ribeye which was cooked a perfect medium rare and had a nice bourbon glaze, but the cut of meat was lower grade (lots of fat and gristle).  I also tried a couple bites of the burger and it was almost amazing as my wife had ordered it medium and it came out well done.  The wine list was extensive and the bottle I split was very very good (Shatter something or other).  I also had a Cork Old Fashioned that had whipped egg white in it that gave the old fashioned a unique texture that I particularly enjoyed.  Overall, I think Cork is almost a great restaurant/bar.  I think if they trimmed down the menu some and really concentrated on quality, this would be an amazing place.  Also of note, they are very committed to having plates come out in a visually appealing manner, with nice presentation using unique plates.

Edible Tyler Roses: 4 out of 5, a great place to have drinks/wine and apps, a good place to eat.


Soju: Sushi Bar and Asian Bistro - My first Tyler sushi experience

Soju: Sushi Bar and Asian Bistro

Soju: Sushi Bar & Asian Bistro on Urbanspoon

Soju is a Sushi/Asian restaurant located off Old Jacksonville Highway just south of Grande.  It is beautiful from the outside with vibrant colors and interesting architecture.  My wife and I rolled up at around 6:00pm and almost turned around because there were so few cars in the parking lot and we have learned over the years that if a well established place is dead during peak hours, there is always a reason.  Fortunately, as the night progressed, the place filled up to a respectable level by the end of the evening, so our initial concerns weren't warranted.

The spread:  The place looks as hip on the inside as the outside, with plenty of modern flair and various local artists works on the walls.  Most of the art really wasn't my thing, but I appreciate the effort and maybe someone else loves it.  The menu is extensive with a large drink and sushi menu.  They also have an ambitious Asian themed entrees ranging from Pad Thai, noodle bowls, rice bowls, various beef, seafood and chicken stir fries/preparations.  They really are pan Asian, ranging from traditionally Japanese to Chinese to Thai style dishes. 

The verdict:  We sat down and were handed a dirty drink menu (a sign of neglect) and my first impression of the waiter was unfavorable, so we decided to just order drinks and appetizers to see if it was worth staying.  I ordered a mojito and a spicy tuna roll and my wife got the pot stickers.  The mojito was wonderful with lots of fragments of fresh mint.  The spicy tuna roll was large and aggressively spicy - which is a surprise for Tyler.  The pot stickers were also delicious with a well spiced pork filling and a savory dipping sauce, so we went ahead with our order.  We got the shrimp and vegetable tempura, pad thai and mongolian beef.  The tempura was also excellent (crunchy outside with tender inside) with two well prepared dipping sauces.  The pad thai was very large and pretty good, but lacked any real heat.  The mongolian beef was excellently spiced with a tasty brown sauce.  Also, my misgivings about our waiter were misplaced and he turned out to be an excellent server.  Overall a very pleasant experience.

Edible Tyler Roses:  4 out of 5, not perfect, but very good.