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Rotolo's Pizzeria

Rotolo's Pizzeria

Rotolo's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Rotolo's is a new pizza place just off I-69 in the new Village at Cumberland Park.  This is apparently a chain based out of Louisiana that is trying to break into Texas.  The space is relatively small, although the outdoor seating would be nice on a cool Spring evening.  There is a large bar area with an impressive selection of craft brews.

The spread:  The appetizers offer the run of the mills selections to include bruschetta, spinach/artichoke dip, different kinds of flat breads with topping as well as a few interesting items to include the eggplant stacker, meatballs and garlic Parmesan bites.  They also offer wings, several types of salads, wraps/sandwiches, and pastas.  The star of the show are their pizzas.  They have an ambitious pizza menu with some common combinations (meatball, meat feast, deluxe combo, etc) as well as some unique pizzas (Sgt pepper, Philly cheesesteak, Popeye, muffuletta, krewe). 

The verdict:  The most memorable item that I tried was actually the Parmesan bites from the appetizer menu. They were warm, flavorful salty, buttery fully bits of goodness.  The meatballs were solid, with a good combination of spices, meat and breadcrumbs.  The pizza was good, but not great.  I think the problem I had is that the crust was not that much different that any pizza chain. The sauce was solid, although somewhat bland.  The cheese was melty gooey and delicious.  The toppings were high quality, but not highest quality.  The service was average to below average, but they are relatively still young in their restaurant life, so it may just be a product of not having veteran staff.  I was very impressed with their draft beer selection, they had both local Tyler brewers on tap as well as a good collection of craft brew.  Overall, the pizza was good, even above average, but not great.  This would be a good place to grab a couple of beers and have solid pizza.

Edible Tyler Roses: 3.5 out of 5, solid pizza for the price, still needs work on service.


The Burger Grind

The Burger Grind

Burger Grind on Urbanspoon

The Burger Grind is a new comer to the Tyler area and is located off of Old Jacksonville Highway, a little south of Fresh.  The location is a strip mall a little ways off the road.  Inside, the place has the feel of an old garage.  They have a collection of video games in the back, a large multi-person bench and a few tables and booths.  The decor feels like an artist type met up with a mechanic and I like it.  The Tyler Morning telegraph has a nice story on the owner.  According to their website, they grind their meat daily, and it is hand formed, never frozen (hence "Burger Grind")

The spread:  Well they offer burgers of many varieties of course.  You can get your burgers in quarter pound, half pound and full pound patties.  There are various add on items to include avocado, fried egg, bacon, cheese, grilled onions, mushrooms, and jalapenos.  They also offer a few 'unique' burger creations to include the bacon cheddar, blue bomber, Xtreme cheese, Texan, Philly, etc.  They also have a nice selection of different salads, chicken/veggie/turkey burgers and other sandwiches.  There is also a kids menu for those ith munchkins.

The verdict: .  The service was friendly and the food came out quick.  I tried the Texan burger (onion, jalapenos, cheese, bacon), the Blue bomber (blue cheese and bacon), the kids chicken tenders, the fried pickles and their regular fries.  The Texan burger was excellent.  Everything played well together with a balance of flavors.  I have found a lot of places try to kill you with the heat, but they had a nice balance of good flavor and heat from the jalapenos.  The Blue bomber was also very good and they used a gentle hand with the blue cheese.  Often places will try to pile on the blue cheese, and for me it is just a palate bomb that is unpleasant.  Not so in this case, it was just the right amount.  The fried pickles were very good and the fries were above average.  The kids chicken tenders were moist and tasty.  My only two criticisms of the place are that the price point is high.  For a meal that includes a burger, fries and a drink, it will cost you ten bucks.  Now, I feel the food is worth it, but it still on the high side for what they are offering.  The other mild complaint I have is that they didn't ask you how you wanted your burger cooked (Well done, rare, etc).  I prefer a medium rare, but didn't specify and it came out well done. 

Edible Tyler Roses: 4.5 out of 5, one of the best burgers in town.  Give them a try.


Steak N Shake -

Steak 'n Shake

Steak 'n Shake on Urbanspoon

Steak N Shake is a new chain burger joint just south of the UT Tyler campus off of University.  They are well known in north country (I have been a number of times up in Yankee land) and opened up not too long ago here in Tyler.  The outside looks like a updated burger joint chain.  They have been outrageously busy a number of times when I wanted to try them out, but I finally tried them out a few weeks ago in the drive through.

The spread:  It has been a while since I tried out Steak 'n Shake and the first thing that struck me is that many of their combo meals are fairly cheap.  They get you because most of the combo meals don't include a drink. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner.  I've never been for breakfast.  They offer "steak" burgers of varying size and cost, chili (with spaghetti), sandwiches (grilled chicken, fried chicken, turkey club, etc), salads, fries, and of course shakes.

The verdict:  I am to say I wasn't excited to try Steak 'n Shake, but my wife really wanted to give it a try, so we stopped by one day on our way out of town.  The service was friendly and they lived up to "fast" food.  We got our order and hit the road.  The burgers were surprisingly good for the money.  Very good bun, fresh veggies and tasty burger patty (although pretty flat and definitely well done).  They also had the option to add a 'flavor' to your fries and I very much enjoyed the Parmesan cheese addition.  We didn't try the shakes that day, but they do their shakes right.  They use real ice cream, milk and they are good.

Edible Tyler Roses:  3.5 out of 5, solid fast food.


Kabob lounge - Sheesh, this place is good

Kabob Lounge

Kabob Lounge on Urbanspoon

I'm not even sure how I ran into this place.  I think I was driving down Shiloh and caught a glimpse in the corner of a little place with a "Kabob Lounge" sign and looked it up on Google.  I was quite surprised to see another Indian food place turn up in Tyler.  They are new, as far as I know. The place is located off Shiloh just west of 110 (Troup highway) in the corner of a non-nondescript strip mall.  The interior is sparsely decorated with a small dining room.  They offer online ordering as well.

The spread:  The menu is interesting.  My impression was that the owner wanted the menu to reflect his nostalgia for barbeque back in Pakistan.  They focus on grilled items to include seekh kabobs (beef and chicken), various forms of grilled chicken (green chicken, maili boti), bihari kabob, as well as fried fish and falafel.  They also offer some of the grilled items in a sandwich/wrap form.  They also offer three forms of 'curries' in the chicken karahi, a couple of salads and naan of various kinds. 

The verdict: Wow, I was blown away with the skill in preparation and execution of their dishes.  The grilled items I have tried were deliciously spiced, expertly grilled and just plain good eatin.  The chicken karahi was also very good, well seasoned and balanced in heat.  The naan was also fresh and had that great balance of fluffy and crispy.  I also have to say that the prices are quite reasonable.  This isn't just a good Indian/Pakistani place for Tyler, this is a very good restaurant. 

Edible Tyler Roses: 5 out of 5, I highly recommend to give this place a try for some authentic and cheap Indian/Pakistani grub.


Three Z Azian Cuizine - Z-licious

Three Z Azian Cuizine

Three Z Azian Cuizine on Urbanspoon

Three Z Azian Cuizine is a relative newcomer to the Tyler Food scene.  It is located in the Times Square shopping center.  The front isn't much to look at as it is your run of the mill strip mall front.  Inside, they have carved out a nice space that feels like a great neighborhood bistro.  The decor is modern and clean with a decent dining area. 

The spread:  Their menu is pan Asian with some Vietnamese, Thai and Chinese inspired dishes.  They have a few starters to try including lettuce wraps, wontons, spring rolls and edamame.  They have soups and sandwiches to include Pho (vietnamese noodle and meat soup), coconut chicken soup, and Banh mi (vietnamese sandwiches).  They also have fried rice with various meats.  The entrees include a choice of protein (beef, chicken, tofu, shrimp) with various different styles of sauces/ingredients - Mongolian, yellow curry, sweet and sour, etc.  When I went they also had an off menu rice bun with different kinds of meat.

The verdict:  I have only been once, but I will return again many times.  The off the menu rice bun with meat was one of the best dishes I have had, certainly in Tyler, and probably in my dining life.  It was great, their was a honey chicken, a slow roasted beef short rib (I think) tucked inside a rice bun with fresh veggies.  It was a new culinary experience for me and just lovely.  It was familiar, as its structure is akin to a taco, but it was a new spin with the asian flavors and perfectly cooked/executed.  I also had some Pho which was also good, although I thought that the broth could have been a little more robust.  Overall, the service was very good and the food was quite memorable and the prices were reasonable.

Edible Tyler Roses: 5 out of 5, this is a great new place, where the people care about food and their customers.  Give it a try.


Taj Mahal - Finally Indian food is back in Tyler *UPDATED

Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Taj Mahal is a new northern Indian/Pakistani restaurant in Tyler.  They haven't been open more than a month as of this post.  They are in the old Quiznos location off of Broadway/I-69 just south of the Brookeshire's.  They haven't done a lot of work to the exterior, but there is a nice patio that should be pleasant in the evenings.

The spread:  On their menu, the offer samosas, lentil soup and dumplings as appetizers.  They offer a variety of vegetarian options to include saag paneer, chan masala, and vegetable curry.  The meat options include chicken kadahi, chicken curry, beef dishes, lamb dishes and goat curry.  They also have a tandoori oven and offer seekh kabobs, tandoori chicken as well as different styles of naan (plain, garlic, sesame).  They also offer sweet lassi and mango lassi (a yogurt drink).  The dessert menu has a few traditional Indian style desserts.

The verdict:  First, let's start with the food.  I have had their saag paneer, chicken curry, lamb curry, mango lassi, plain naan and garlic naan.  The saag paneer consists of a mash of spinach and spices with chunks of cheese and was delicately spiced and quite tasty.  The lamb curry was a tomato based curry and again had a great rich flavor profile with just the right amount of spice.  The mango lassi has been a great drink - it has a nice sweetness and great mango flavor - and the yogurt element takes some of the edge off of the spiciness of the food.  The chicken curry was a great curry, but the chicken was not well prepared and was quite tough.  The first time I had their naan - which is a fresh baked flat bread, it wasn't very good - very doughy and not crispy.  The second time, I had garlic naan and it was very good, crispy, fresh and tasty.  I have tried their food many times since the first visit and the dishes range from excellent to inedible.  Their grilled items range from bad to I couldn't eat more than one bite.  They consistently have problems with keeping menu items available.  And although their curries are good, they seem to be a little monotone.

Edible Tyler Roses: 3 out of 5, it is great to have a new Indian place in town, but the service is consistently bad, the dishes are hit and miss.  You can find some great dishes and some awful ones.  Because of the limited choices in Tyler, I would recommend giving it a try.


Tuscan slice - Is it slice as nice?

Tuscan slice

Tuscan Slice on Urbanspoon

Tuscan slice is a new place just off of the loop and 155 in the space that Johnny Carrino's used to be.  The location is not a great one, as there aren't many adjacent businesses.  I fear that Tuscan slice will share the same fate of Johnny Carrino's.  From the outside they didn't change much - there is a little fresh paint and a few murals.  Inside it looks fresh and clean with a large pizza oven with a bar near it.  Tuscan slice is a small chain with what looks like three other locations in Texas.  Their signature is the wood fired oven.

The spread:  The appetizers offered range include bruschetta, fried mozzarella, sauteed mussels, pepperoni rolls and fried ravioli.  They offer a selection of salads to include the usual caesar with a couple of unique salads with various toppings (caramelized pecans, green apples, calamari, crab cakes, italian toppings, etc.)  The entrees include typical American-Italian selections (chicken/eggplant parm, saltimboca, milanese, piccata, marsala, gnocchi, spaghetti, alfredo), wood fired baked entrees (lasagna, manicotti, ravioli) and wood fired steak/pork chops.  The star of the show is the wood fired pizzas with traditional toppings - the margherita, Greek, caprese, italian meat, etc.  They also will bring out dough and topping for the kids to make their own pizza.

The verdict:  Good, but not great.  I was disappointed, perhaps because I had high hopes for a great pizza.  The pizza was just ok, the dough was too thick and although there was charring along the bottom, it wasn't super crispy and delicious.  The cheese was generic American mozzarella, and the pepperoni tasted like Hormel.  I was looking for exciting toppings like prosciutto and arugula, but found the pizzas somewhat uninspired.  We tried the caprese, which was done well and the pesto added a nice burst of flavor.  The kids really enjoyed making their own pizza, but it turns out they burned it in the kitchen because they didn't flattened the dough out enough with the rolling pin. A high point was bringing the kids up to the pizza counter where the young chef gave us all pieces of dough to play with while our pizza cooked, the spectacle had a very good entertainment value.  Another high point is the free bread they hand out at the beginning of the meal, it was light and crispy and drizzled with a little olive oil. YUM.

Edible Tyler Roses:  3 out of 5, worth trying, but the pizza falls flat.

Mama's Cafe - Mama I'm coming home!

Mama's Restaurant

Mama's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Mama's cafe is a place off of 5th street near the loop in a little strip center.  It isn't much to look at from the outside, with somewhat limited parking out front.  I love the entrance, it has a unique feel to it, an elevated dining area and bar to the right and more elevated eating space to the left.  They have a beautiful mural in the bar area.

The spread:  You can check out their menu on their facebook page. Their menu is dichotomous with typical Southern diner fare (T-bone, chicken fried steak, pork chops, pot roast, etc) and typical Tex-mex selections (enchiladas, tacos, burritos, tamales, nachos, fajitas, etc.), and they have a breakfast menu and a dinner/lunch menu.  I stopped in for breakfast and tried a couple of tacos and the huevos rancheros.

The verdict:  I really like this place.  The service was friendly, there was an older group reminiscing about the good old days at the table next to me.  The mural was a nice touch.  The food did take a little longer than I would have anticipated, but when it arrived, it was hot, fresh and generous.  The eggs were cooked perfectly in the huevos rancheros and the beans were nice and creamy.  The chorizo and egg breakfast taco was a meal unto itself with a nice spicy chorizo and plenty of egg crammed into a flour tortilla.  My only criticisms were that the tortillas were not made fresh and the salsa was also not a fresh salsa (very ketchupy). 

Edible Tyler Roses:  4 out of 5; very good breakfast, worth a try for lunch/dinner.


La Michoacana - Cana get a pig toe? Yes you cana.

La Michoacana

La Michoacana Meat Market Taqueria/Panaderia on Urbanspoon

La Michoacana is a Mexican supermarket just off of North Beckham and Line.  It is right in the middle of what I consider the "hispanic" part of Tyler.  There are always day laborers looking for work in the parking lots of various adjacent businesses.  La Michoacana is a chain that specializes in serving the hispanic community.

The spread:  In addition to a very good meat market, good prices on fresh veggies and plenty of Mexican/Latin American specific cooking ingredients, there is a little taqueria inside the place.  You have to order at the cash register, then bring your receipt over to the taqueria where they make your order.  BE PREPARED, you will most likely have to speak a little Spanish and have a working understanding of the menu to get what you want.  They offer a tacos with varying kinds of fillings, pozole (pork and hominy soup), Menudo (on weekends), tortas, pupusas, etc.

The verdict:  Well I ordered some pozole and a couple of tacos - one with barbacoa and one with cicharones.  The barbacoa was tender, juicy and great.  The cicharones consistent of cooked down fried pig skin and some sort of WICKED HOT sauce/gravy.  I took one bite and then just about cried for five minutes.  If you like pain, give it a try.  The pozole was the star of the show with tender chunks of pork and hominy floating in a rich spicy tomato based broth.  The only odd thing is that occasionally I would pull out a little piece of pig hoof/toe, which disturbed my gringo sensibilities.  Overall, it is worth grabbing a bite to eat when you are shopping for the special Latin American ingredients.

Edible Tyler Roses: 4 out of 5, don't be afraid, Hable some espanol and get some good food.

Happy's Fish House - Happy Happy, Joy Joy

Happy's Fish House

Happy's Fish House on Urbanspoon

Happy's Fish House is a relatively new place that I have been meaning to try for quite some time.  I finally got a chance to check them out for a friend's birthday.  They are just inside the loop off of 5th street.  There have been several failed restaurants in this location, hopefully, they can break the curse.  They did a great job with the decor inside the building.  It is strewn with "Lousiana/Cajun" decorations and whatnot.  It has a fun, party atmosphere to me.

The spread:  They serve a Cajun style menu with appetizers ranging from fried pickles, various shrimp concoctions, and fried green tomatoes.  They also have oysters on the half shell.  The entrees include poboys (chicken shrimp, oyster, fish, roast beef), some pasta dishes, and fried/grilled platters (shrimp, catfish, whitefish, chicken, etc).  They also offer a Cajun menu to include gumbo, etoufee, shrimp and grits, red beans and rice, etc.  They also have a decent beer selection.

The verdict:  Well I had a shrimp poboy, some gumbo, some red beans and dirty rice and a couple of onion rings.  The gumbo was the best I have had in a long time.  You can tell they make their own roux (or sure know how to fool me) and aren't afraid to use a little spice.  The shrimp poboy had perfectly cooked, fresh shrimp, my only complaint is that the bread choice wasn't that great.  I would have preferred a fresh french baguette.  The red beans and dirty rice also tasted great.  They had a deep rich flavor that can only come from someone who carefully cooks their food from scratch.  Overall, its the best Cajun I have had in a long time and I am sorry I waited so long to try them out.

Edible Tyler Roses 5 out of 5, Go on now, don't wait, give them a try!


Free Birds - and this bird it will not change

Freebirds World Burrito

Freebirds World Burrito on Urbanspoon

Freebirds is a chain restaurant based out of California.  They obviously specialize in burritos.  They are relatively new to town and opened up in the old Casa Ole local just south of Rice and Broadway/69.  I have a special place in my heart for Freebirds as I ate many a burrito back in Houston.

The spread:  They offer burritos of varying sizes from small (hybird), medium (freebird), large (monster) and the off menu size of extra large (super monster).  You can choose from a couple different kinds of tortillas: Spinach, Cayenne, Flour or Wheat.  There are three meats to choose from steak, chicken and carnitas.  You can then fill the burrito with a myriad of different items, some cost extra (guacamole, sour cream, queso) others at no cost (beans, rice, cheese, hot sauces).  The overall set up is very similar to Chipotle.

The verdict:  It has been a while since I had a Freebirds burrito, probably close to ten years now.  I always thought in my head that I preferred Freebirds to Chipotle, but it had been so long that I forgot why.  Well I still love Freebirds.  The meat is perfectly spiced.  The rice and beans are spot on.  I think the taste is just a little more "Tex-mex" and a little less California style, so it just has a great flavor profile for me.  I love me some Freebirds.  Go try it out!

Edible Tyler Roses: 5 out of 5.  Get a super monster, IF YOU DARE!


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.


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.


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.