Hi. My name is Brian, and I have a confession that will be hard to hear for most Texans: At some point in the last 5 years, I gave up on Tex-Mex/Mexican. I didn’t stop eating it or anything, but after hopping from place to place, it all was beginning to run together to the point where seeking out new places or menu items lost all appeal. I think this came about from excessive exposure – especially when every night out in Uptown had to be started with a group of 12 (8 girls, 2 beaten-down dates, 2 single guys usually) headed to Primo’s (RIP), MiCo’s or Chuy’s. It’s not that I don’t like it – I just sort of realized that if I went limp and stayed real still, Mexican food would still find me.
That’s why when Susie asked me if I’d tried Cubierto’s, I made a note of it, but didn’t rearrange any immediate plans. To her credit, she didn’t give up, and kept telling me that I wouldn’t regret the trip. Finally, as the polar vortex welcomed me home to DFW from a work trip, I felt the long-dead Tex-Mex craving knew it was time … time for Tex-Mex.
As I walked up to the building, I had hesitations. The patio looked great and expansive, but it was still early in the evening and the happy hour crowd hadn’t quite been replaced by the night diners. Then, there was a note on the door about following a dress code. This was obviously a chance to write my own Addison/North Dallas joke, but instead, I opened the door and found a very happy hostess, a great atmosphere and live music going on by the bar. The service was extremely welcoming and pleasant (not always a given during this time of night on a weekend as folks recover and gear up for the second wave.)
For drinks, I tried two different margaritas – the house-made frozen one as this experiment’s constant, and then the higher end offering on the menu. The frozen one was good – not too sweet, the tequila came through and it was very refreshing, but there’s only so much you can say about a frozen house margarita. The top shelf one with cointreau was perfect. The overbearing sweetness that usually limits me to a margarita or two every few months had been replaced by a balanced taste of tequila, lime and orange that was equally enjoyed by my margarita-eschewing fiancée. I found myself wishing I had just started with this one and couldn’t even bring myself to try the sangria or the pepper cocktail, but have both of those on my list for next time.
For a meal, we had the chicken mole and the tenderloin quesadillas, which were both excellent. I had a friend in college who had family in Mexico City and was obsessed with finding the perfect dish, and this was about the closest I’d seen anything come to the homemade attempts we’d all split after being disappointed elsewhere. The quesadillas were also fantastic and replaced the ones at Tupinamba’s as my favorite, rarely-mentioned quesadillas in Dallas.
I owe Susie for convincing me to check this place out and definitely recommend the trip to anyone looking for something a little bit different than the usual Dallas spots.
Drink strength: 4.5 of 5 (that top shelf will get you) Food: 4.5 of 5 (everything from the salsa trio to the entrees was excellent – and there’s a lot more to try we missed)
Truth be told, I find wine to be a bit intimidating. I can’t do what sommeliers do. I’m a beer guy. I have no idea how to really even “taste” wine as a professional would, seeking out hints of boysenberry (what does boysenberry even taste like???) or a lingering aftertaste of leather or graphite (whaaa?). I couldn’t tell you if a wine should be older or drunk the same year it’s made, and I have no idea of the “terroirs” associated with different wines. (Wait … since when are dog breeds involved in wine-making???) Nevertheless, the staff at Astoria Caffe & Wine Bar in Addison Circle makes me feel like a pro and helps me get to just the right glass (or three) of vino.
I recently had the chance to visit this corner bar with the wife for a light dinner of wine and cheese (which is totally acceptable). This wine bar is family-owned, completely unpretentious, and boasts a diverse selection of wines and a small, well thought-out menu. It’s the kind of place where you can see yourself being a regular. For those who aren’t big wine drinkers, don’t fret, Astoria stocks a selection of domestic and imported beers, too.
For the casual wine drinker who doesn’t want to an entire bottle (or the indecisive), there are plenty of choices available by the glass. I thought that the prices for both glasses and bottles of wine were quite reasonable. If you’re looking for something in particular or just need help with a recommendation, the staff is eager to help and knowledgeable about the bar’s offerings.
Astoria is intimate and cozy, allowing one to quickly feel right at home. The interior has a dozen or so small tables as well as a dog-friendly front patio surrounded by lush trees. This wine bar attracts an eclectic mix of patrons that range from the mature wine snob to young couples to hipsters. Those looking for a great first date spot in Addison or those simply looking to unwind with a glass of good wine in a relaxed atmosphere can look no further.
Whether you’re an experienced wine buff or an amateur like me, there’s a lot to appreciate at Astoria Caffe!
Ice cream, desserts, and booze: these are a few of my favorite things.
With national ice cream month upon us, it appears there is no better time than now to enjoy this match made in heaven. Pick your favorite frozen pint of dairy, blend it with a splash (okay, splash is a little naïve) of Kahlua or booze of choice and top with desired toppings like whipped cream, peanut butter cups, and fudge.
But then again, Dallas has its fair share of adult milkshakes floating around town and something of this measure should really be left to the experts. That being said here is a roundup of some of my favorite places to get that boozy shake fix.
Grub Burger Bar (Greenville, Midtown)
Bourbon & Caramel
Mint Chocolate Chip: Vodka, crème de cacao, crème de menthe and Andes mints
Birthday Cakefetti: Cake vodka and sprinkles
Moonshine American Pie: Apple pie moonshine, applie pie filling, bakes pie crust, maple syrup, vodka and kosher salt, grated cinnamon and granola crumble
P.F. Chang’s was kind of my bf’s and my Sunday night date spot. We would sidle up to the bar for a late dinner and a few drinks and enjoy the goings-on behind the bar and whatever we decided to gorge on that evening.
Luckily, we have some new items to explore! P.F. Chang’s has a new menu of small plates, sushi, and some yummy drinks to try out. How about a Twisted Whiskey Sour? Or a Coconut Water cocktail? Or a Long Island Rum Tea … yeah, they’re all pretty good. (Yes, I tried them all … yes, I had a hangover.) While their drinks have never been strong enough to get you into any trouble, the flavors are light and refreshing.
We enjoyed drinks (and more drinks), a couple appetizers (Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps … because Lettuce Wraps and Edamame Hummus–which was so f**king delicious that I was tempted to order another plate of it), some of their new sushi offerings (the Tempura Shrimp Hand Rolls are kind of out of this world and the Ahi Tartare is a winner), and dessert. The Great Wall of Chocolate is always a winner (especially the day after … right out of the fridge … with some extra raspberry sauce …) and their new Sweet Vanilla Cream Wontons (just get two because they’re really rich). Order a latte to-go so the drinks from the night before don’t slow you down too much.
So … I’m all about unconventional outings–for dates, girls’ nights, and Tuesdays. Sometimes it’s nice to get out of dodge and head to the ‘burbs, and Grapevine Wine Tours offer a fun evening away from the Big D that highlights Grapevine’s wine options.
I was lucky to join a group of media people on a wine tour on a Wednesday evening. The group met around 5:30pm and piled into one of their small, air conditioned busses to visit three wine-centric stops in Grapevine led by a GWT representative who fed us fun facts about the city of Grapevine and its wine offerings. (Fun fact: Texas is the 4th largest wine producing state!) Each tour will visit three of the seven partners in Grapevine, some vineyards, some tasting rooms, and some restaurants. The tour lasts around 4.5 hours and always includes a meal.
Our group’s itinerary was:
Homestead Winery – this cute, little home close to Downtown Grapevine produces wine from vines grown in Ivanhoe, Texas. The owner of the winery walked us through a tasting of their wines (15+ — yikes). They have some wines that are incredibly unique and were happy to talk us through the flavors and nuances of the wines we were tasting.
Delaney Vineyard – this vineyard is the only local vineyard and boasts 10 acres of vines, a winery, and gorgeous tasting room onsite. We were treated to a tour of the entire site and a tasting of their offerings. (I left with a bottle of wine from their gift shop … because I have a shopping problem.)
Winewood Grill – we enjoyed a three-course meal at Winewood, complete with suggested wine pairings. I opted for the BBQ ribs, and it was a solid choice. They had live music in the bar, which was a nice bonus.
GWTs will coordinate with your party to determine an appropriate itinerary and pick-up location (at one of three Grapevine hotels, Embassy Suites Outdoor World, Hilton DFW Lakes, or the Gaylord Texan). Each tour is customized based on your group’s size and preferences.
Call 817.259.WINE (9463) or visit www.GrapevineWineTours.com for tour prices, schedules, group rates and other details. Tours typically cost $79.50-89.50. You can save 10% discount on a lunch or dinner tour using the code BLOG10 (offer expires 9/1/14).
****I was invited to experience a Grapevine Wine Tour free of charge.****