Category Archives: Cheap Food

Tropical Smoothie Cafe

I am a Native Floridian (though this year will mark my 10th living in Texas … at what point does one become a Naturalized citizen?), and I am nothing short of delighted to discover that one of my favorite Florida lunch spots finally made its way to Dallas. In fact, Tropical Smoothie Cafe now has three locations in the Metroplex; one in Dallas, one in Frisco, and one Fort Worth along with new locations coming soon to Plano and Lewisville.

The name “Tropical Smoothie Cafe” might lead one to believe that this spot specializes in smoothies- and well, you’d be right about that. But, In addition to more than 25 smoothie creations- with an assortment of 16 supplements and add-ons you can choose to add to your sippable masterpiece- Tropical Smoothie also features a pretty awesome food menu. Tropical Smoothie’s Dallas location gave us a sneak peek to check out some new menu additions- and I was relieved to find many of my old favorites remain on the menu, as well. Whew.

Tropical Smoothie Cafe has always offered a great variety of sandwiches, wraps, and salads. Their ingredients are chef-inspired and far from mundane; for instance, wrap options include a Thai Chicken variety, with wontons, carrots, sesame seeds cilantro, scallions, and Thai peanut dressing, and a Jamaican Jerk Chicken variety, prepared with southwestern rice, corn, black, beans, asparagus, read onions, mozzarella cheese, and of course, a zesty Jamaican Jerk sauce (each $6.99). Tropical Smoothie Cafe’s best selling sandwich is the Rustic Turkey & Apple Club, which consists of turkey, cheddar, gorgonzola, bacon, dijon honey mustard, and house-made kale and apple slaw piled high on a thinly sliced seedlicious bread ($6.99). 

New menu offerings include a lineup of Tacos with creative varieties that include Korean BBQ Steak (steak, house-made cucumber & kale slaw, sweet and spicy Asian BBQ sauce) and Smoked Jalapeño Chicken (grilled chicken, bacon, cabbage, tomatoes, red onions, smoked jalapeño spread; 2 for $5.49 or 3 for $7.99). Also new to the menu are a lineup of toasted flatbreads with offerings like the Tzatziki Steak (steak, red onions, sliced tomatoes, romaine, cucumbers, tzatziki sauce) and the Chicken Pesto (grilled chicken, tomatoes, parmesan, mozzarella, pesto; $4.49). 

Yes, the food menu at Tropical Smoothie Cafe is greatness, but, I can’t possibly go on without saying a bit more about the smoothies they’re serving up. TSC’s smoothie lineup includes a variety of classics (the Jetty Punch– strawberry & banana, and the Sunrise Sunset– strawberries, pineapple, mango, & OJ are two guest favorites), “Superfood” options (ingredients like açai juice, goji berries, pomegranate, kale and ginger), and “supercharged” options featuring added boosts of functional ingredients like protein, fat burner, or energizer. (Smoothies range from $4.49 to $5.49all smoothies are 24 oz.) TSC sweetens their creations with Turbinado (a raw sugar) unless otherwise noted, and sugar substitutes are available on request.

Tropical Smoothies Cafe4

My favorite part about Tropical Smoothie Cafe is the variety of supplements and add-ins you can toss into your smoothie creation for a small up-charge. Feel like you’re coming down with a cold? No problem; Add a shot of Vitamin C immune to your smoothie. Not enough time to sit down and eat a real lunch? Toss in a shot of whey protein, and suddenly you have a well-balanced, sippable lunch.  Most importantly, I asked owner Robert Causey what he would recommend to nurse me back to health after a long night of, well, Drinking Dallas. He recommended an antioxidant rich Superfoods Smoothie like the Acai Berry Boost (acai, pomegranate, banana, blueberries, strawberries), with a shot of naturally energizing Vitamin B-12, for good measure. I will definitely be trying out his recommendation…probably sooner, than later!

Tropical Smoothie Cafe features a “Happy Hour” of their very own, with half-price smoothies from 6:00 AM-9:00 AM and 6:00 PM-8:00 PM.

Tropical Smoothie Cafe – Dallas
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4560 W. Mockingbird Ln., Suite 118, Dallas
(214) 351-7037

A great big thanks to Robert Causey and Tropical Smoothie Cafe for having me out. I’m so glad to see a little slice of Florida here in Texas! 

Freebirds re-imagined (and delicious as ever)

Who doesn’t love Freebirds? I mean, seriously … any place I can order a 5 POUND burrito is A-OK in my book. I lived within walking distance of a Freebirds location for a few years, and I’m pretty sure the steak nachos directly contributed to my “graduation” to a brand new pants size. Ahhh, those were the days.

Anyhoooo. Lately, it seems this College Station staple is seemingly popping up on every corner; burrito lovers, rejoice! One of the newest locations is the Castle Hills location in The Colony. This location is significant in that it features their updated design concept. Freebirds was kind of enough to invite the team in to check out the re-design, and of course, to be reminded of how awesome the food is. (As if I could have forgotten.)

The staff at Freebirds Castle Hills was obviously pretty gosh-darn proud of this re-imagined location, and it was easy to see why. Freebirds fanatics may be surprised upon entering the restaurant to note an absence of graffiti-style artwork, no motorcycle hanging from the ceiling, and … wait for it … no tin foil animals perched on every exposed surface. The new concept features a new, modern, industrial farmhouse design, incorporating digital menu boards, a reclaimed wood wall, cold rolled steel, and an open kitchen concept. The restaurant sure is perty.

Picture courtesy of Freebirds
Castle Hills location – Picture courtesy of Freebirds

But, let’s cut to the chase: The food continues to be worthy of an extra trip to the gym.

Freebirds is a freezer-free operation, meaning “fresh” is the only option. Freebirds focuses on premium ingredients, and just about everything you can imagine is prepared in-house; guacamole is prepared twice daily and on an as-needed, basis, the beans are cooked in-house (FYI- the refried are lard-free, thankyouverymuch), and the grass-fed sirloin is marinated in the restaurant for 24 hours prior to grilling. Heck … they even grate their own cheese.  Freebirds insists upon “talent-based” cooking, which means recipes are far from formulaic. For example Freebirds’ carnitas are slow-roasted, and they are done cooking only once they have achieved perfect tenderness … and not when a timer goes off. Clearly, an exercise in patience and passion.

All of your old favorites- burritos, bowls, tacos, nachos, quesadillas, and salads- are of course still available at Freebirds. If you haven’t visited in a while … first of all, I’m sorry. Secondly, Freebirds has rolled out a few new menu items in an effort to offer something for everyone. In addition to their delicious lineup of grass-fed steak, pork carnitas, and chicken, Freebirds has added a vegan protein option: Tempeh Calabacitas. This Mexican-inspired dish consists of squash, bell peppers, and nutty tempeh tossed with an authentic blend of spices. I tried it for myself- on a salad, no less (how healthy am I?*),  and it was delicious, and certainly a welcomed deviation from  the largely uninspired variety of vegetarian dishes available at many restaurants. If you’re looking for something a little lighter, but don’t want to sacrifice your meat (after all, this is TEXAS), Freebirds has got you covered.

New menu offerings include 6 entrees under 600 calories, and no, you don’t have to order a salad! IN FACT, you can still order a burrito. Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

*Pay no attention to the various other cheese and meat laden entrees pictured in this blog


Freebirds Castle Hills
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Menu/Fax Order Form
6225 N. Josey LaneSuite 124, The Colony
214-469-1449

Sunday-Thursday 10:30am – 9:00pm
Friday-Saturday 10:30am – 10:00pm

Information on Other Locations

Snuffer’s Happy-Tizer Happy Hour

Did you know that the Snuffer’s on Lower Greenville is haunted?  Well, it sure is.  Just ask the servers and they’ll send over one of their staff members that have had a paranormal experience pop by your table and tell you a couple ghost stories.  … or they’ll just tell you about the scary good deals they’re now offerings during happy hour on their Happy-Tizer Menu.

Y’all know that I love a good happy hour, so when I was invited in to try out their new options, I didn’t shy away.  Monday-Friday, 3-7pm you can now get select mini-apps for as little as $2.  That’s right … two buckaroos … a pair of greenbacks … just a couple Washington’s … you get the idea.

As always, the Dallas favorite offers happy hour beers and margs as low as $3 to make your visit truly happy.  Think $3 house margaritas (frozen or on the rocks) and drafts (Bud Light, Samuel Adams, & Dos Equis) and $4 house wine and shooters.  While I’m not a huge beer drinker, it felt right ordering one to sip … and then a house margarita … and then another beer.

The real excitement as of late is their new happy hour food offering, a.k.a. their Happy-Tizers.  Check out the picture below.  All that goodness can be yours for $22.  And for that price, you can try all of them … and you should.  Their fried pickles and mushrooms are legendary* and these small servings are just enough to satisfy your craving but not take over the meal.  (Though, really, what’s wrong with a meal of fried pickles and mushrooms?)  Their tortilla chips were seasoned just right and the onion rings and buffalo wings were perfectly satisfactory.

If you’re trying to decide what to order on this little menu, skip the burger quesadilla and the queso … save those options for Blue Goose down the street.  They’ll get an “E” for effort on those, though.

Stop in and check out the new happy hour serving sizes at any of their locations, but don’t forget the beers and things.  Oh … and make sure to order at LEAST the personal-sized Cheddar Fries.  (Because it’d be rude to leave without a helping of them.  After all, they’ve been around longer than you … if you were born after 1978.)


SNUFFER’S RESTAURANT & BAR

snuffers.com
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10 locations

*at least to me.  For nearly my entire college career, when I was in a bad way the day after a good party, I knew Snuffer’s fried pickles and loaded Cheddar Fries were my saving graces.  They never failed.

***Snuffer’s invited me in to enjoy selections from their Happy-Tizers free of charge.***

Urban Rio Fall Cocktail Dinner

If you’ve ever paid a visit to Plano’s increasingly popular Historic District, chances are you are already familiar with the deliciousness that is Urban Rio. Hopefully, this also  means you are well-acquainted with Urban Rio’s breezy, rooftop watering hole, On the Rocks Cantina. In case you’ve been missing out:  This “Next-Mex” eatery features inventive menu items influenced by Mexican and Spanish flavors and ingredients from the Rio Grande Valley. Urban Rio places a heavy emphasis on fresh, creative menu items, with scratch-made ingredients (they grind their own corn for their tortillas). On the Rocks Cantina features 14 beer taps (10 of which are craft, including local selections), 8 frozen liquor taps, a creative variety of handcrafted cocktails, and assorted vino.

Even if Urban Rio is heavy in your rotation (as it should be), here is a little tidbit you may not know: Each month, Urban Rio features a  five course cocktail pairing dinner, and it’s only $34.90 per person. Let that sink in for a minute.  The average price tag of a craft cocktail in Dallas is in the double digits. I don’t think I need to elaborate any further on what a ridiculous deal this is.

I happily attended Urban Rio’s November Fall Cocktail Dinner. The menu was both festive and creative, with some delightfully unexpected offerings thrown in.

5 Butternut Squash Soup
Butternut Squash Soup

The first course paired a decadent Pumpkin Martini with a velvety Butternut Squash Soup.  The Pumpkin Martini (spiced rum, pumpkin spice syrup, nutmeg, cinnamon, crowned with house-made pumpkin whipped cream) made me feel like I was abusing my grown-up powers and indulging in dessert before dinner; this baby was sinfully creamy and delicious. The Butternut Squash Soup was prepared with a puree of onion and celery, which gave the soup a lovely, smooth texture without being overly rich. This gourd-centric pairing slapped us in the face with autumn-y goodness.

Our second course featured the Berry Breeze cocktail, paired with Berry Jalapeño Shrimp. The Berry Breeze (pear vodka, apple juice, and cranberry juice) was lightly sweet with a lovely pop cranberry. The sweetness of the cocktail was offset by the garlicky shrimp, accompanied by  a zesty berry-jalapeño sauce and a strawberry pico.

Berry Breeze

For the third course, we were treated to a Maple Old Fashioned, paired with Roasted Ham. The Maple Old Fashioned (maple rye whiskey, cranberry bitters) was surprisingly sweet and decadent for a spirit forward cocktail with only two ingredients. The sweet maple flavor paired beautifully with the smokiness of the ham, which was crowned with a zesty maple mustard sauce, served atop creamy leek mashed potatoes.

Maple Old Fashioned4 Ham

“Why stop at just one entree?” asked Urban Rio. The fourth course featured the  Pecan Dream cocktail, paired with Pecan Crusted Salmon. This pairing was my favorite, and I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only one. I heard all kinds of praise songs being sung for the Pecan Dream (house-infused toasted pecan rum, banana, vanilla vodka, walnut liqueur, and sugar). This one-of-a-kind cocktail was reminiscent of delicious banana nut bread. It paired beautifully with the flaky, pecan-crusted salmon, which was prepared with mustard in the crust for just the right amount of contrasting bite to offset the sweetness of the cocktail. Bravo.

8 Pecan Dream7 Pecan Salmon

Finally, our fifth and final course paired the Chocolate Covered Raspberry, a beer creation, with an indulgent Chocolate Mousse. So, the Chocolate Covered Raspberry (Grapevine Brewery’s Nightwatch Oatmeal Stout with Lindemans Framboise) was technically not a cocktail … but, I am totally OK with this, because it was freaking delicious. Aptly named, the sweet, jammy, raspberry goodness paired perfectly with the rich, creamy chocolate mousse. I don’t usually consider beer when pondering after-dinner libations, but I definitely will going forward. Yum.

9 Chocolate Raspberry & Mousse

To tide you over ’til Urban Rio’s next amazing cocktail dinner in December (scheduled for December 16, at 6:30), the kind folks at the On the Rocks Cantina were kind enough to share a duo of festive holiday drink recipes you can create for yourself, at home.

Cranberry MuleCranberry Mule
2 oz Deep Eddy Cranberry Vodka
1 oz fresh lime juice
0.5 oz simple syrup
Fresh mint
Ginger beer

Fill copper mug with ice. Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake with fresh mint. Strain into mug and top with ginger beer (we prefer Gosling’s!). Garnish with fresh cranberry skewer, lime wedge and sprig of fresh mint.

Winter VixenWinter Vixen Cocktail
1 oz St. Germain Elderflower liqueur
1.5 oz POM pomegranate juice
Champagne
Fresh pomegranate seeds

Fill the bottom of the champagne flute with pomegranate seeds (about ten). Layer St. Germain and pomegranate juice in the champagne flute and top with champagne.

Urban Rio Cocktail Dinners are hosted on a monthly basis, typically on the third Tuesday of every month (check out their events calendar to confirm future dates and times). Once again, the cost is just $34.90 per person (tax and gratuities not included)- such an amazing deal! Space is always limited, so make your reservation ASAP! For reservations, call 972-543-8911 or email elana@urbanrio.com.

Here are some other noteworthy Urban Rio happenings:

Check out On the Rocks Cantina’s 7 Deals for 7 Days specials, featuring:

  • Monday- $1 off all beer
  • Tuesday- $2 off cocktails on the rocks
  • Wednesday- $3 off Crown and Down
  • Thursday- $4 frozen drinks
  • Friday- $5 glasses of wine
  • Saturday- $6 beer-ritas
  • Sunday- $7 off bottles of wine

Be sure to check out their events calendar for additional drink specials and live music offerings.

logoSister restaurant Urban Crust is pairing with Urban Rio to throw a festive NYE bash at Urban Crust’s Rooftop Event Spot The “Cocktails and Confetti” NYE party  will feature live music from the Josh Goode Band, small bites from  Urban Crust, and a cash bar with signature drinks from Urban Rio  (credit cards also accepted).  Tickets are $50 and will go on sale on December 2. Tickets can be purchased here

I hear that Urban Rio will be offering a new series of quarterly beer dinners, launching in 2015. Just like the cocktail dinners, the five-course beer dinner will be offered for only $34.90 per person! The inaugural event, featuring Texas beers, take place on March 17, so make your reservations and mark your calendars!

URBAN RIO
1000 E. 14th St. Ste. 100, Plano, TX 75074
972-422-4466

Hours of Operation: Open Daily: 11 AM – 2 AM
Brunch Menu offered Sat. & Sun. from 11AM – 3PM

Pegaso Mexican Diner- Fort Worth

Last week I was privileged to attend a media dinner at a new Tex-Mex restaurant in Bluebonnet Circle, Pegaso Mexican Diner. The circle has made a huge turn around since the days of the Qui and Tiff and Andi’s. Now the circle is full of great restaurants and retail, and Pegaso is a wonderful addition to the neighborhood.

Pegaso is set up like Freebirds or Chipotle where you go through a line to build your plate. They also offer a few platters were everything is already chosen for you want a quick decision. The basics of the menu are: enchilada plates, burritos, burrito bowls, salad bowls, and street tacos. With almost everything, you pick your filling, sauce, and sides. My first experience was awesome because I was able to try a lot of the menu in small portions. I kept thinking about how good the food during the rest of my week that I went back a few days later for my weekend Mexican food fix. Going through the line for the first time was somewhat overwhelming with all of the choices. It was safe to say that I’m pretty sure I would not have been disappointed with anything I would have chosen. The simple things like the rice and refried beans are amazing. The food is such high quality (this is nothing like Taco Bell fast food).

Eventually they will be offering late night on weekends as well as breakfast.

I’ll admit it … I’m a queso fanatic. For that reason, I deem myself qualified to say that their queso blanco was amazing. My other top recommendations are the enchilada platter with chicken tinga, chipotle crema, vegan cilantro rice, and pinto refried beans. One of the best sides I have tried is the Spicy Mexican Elote (a corn dish with chipotle crema, mayonnaise, and queso fresco). This dish has a great mix of sweet and spicy flavors.

So awesome food, now what about the drinks? Yes, this is considered “fast casual”, but the margaritas are hand shaken using 100% agave Tequila (your choice of Silver, Reposado, or Anejo). I was a big fan of the skinny margarita on the rocks ($8.50). The cucumber margarita on the rocks ($10.00) was a refreshing twist on a traditional margarita and the cucumber mellowed out the sweetness.

Pegaso also offers a selection of domestic ($2.95), imported ($3.75), and local ($4.25) bottles. (I feel that I shouldn’t have to say that you can’t get the drinks to go … but I’ll err on the side of safety.)

All of the items at Pegaso are made with high quality ingredients and sustainable harvested produce when possible. They use healthy fats such as Canola oil in their fryer as well as accommodate any vegan request that is possible. This is a family-friendly restaurant with a very reasonably priced kids menu ($3.75).

PEGASO MEXICAN DINER
3516 Bluebonnet Circle
Fort Worth, Texas 76109
Website | Facebook

Hours:
Tuesday-Thursday: 11am- 9pm
Friday- Saturday: 11am- 11pm
Sunday: 11am- 9pm
CLOSED MONDAY

Happy Hour: Tuesday-Friday 4-6:30 ($1 off all alcoholic drinks)

*TCU students receive a 10% discount with ID.

Endless Appetizers at TGI Friday’s

So breakfast for dinner is kind of awesome.  But in my book, appetizers as your meal is even better.  TGI Friday’s is making appetizers for a meal a thing with their Endless Appetizers for just $10!  Pick one of their delicious, handcrafted apps and they’ll keep fresh, warm platters of ’em comin’.  They SAY that you can’t share, but a few of my writers, some of their +1s, and I ordered one of each and had at ‘em tonight.  A whole meal for 6 people for $60 with plenty of variety?  Not bad … not bad at all.

For Endless Appetizers, you can choose from:

  • Loaded Potato Skins
  • Pan-Seared Pot Stickers
  • Mozzarella Sticks
  • Garlic & Basil Bruschetta
  • Tuscan Spinach Dip
  • Boneless Buffalo Wings
  • Crispy Green Bean Fries

Hurry in, because this deal won’t be around for long!  (And PS … sit at the bar at the West End location and ask for Omar!)

TGIF_endless-apps

Buy one appetizer at $10 each (per person) and get free refills on same appetizer. Valid on select items only. At participating restaurants for a limited time. Dine-in only. One offer per person, per visit. Not valid in conjunction with any other coupon, promotion or discount. While supplies last. Tax and gratuity not included. © 2014 TGI Friday’s Inc. Please drink responsibly.