Category Archives: Restaurant Review

ORNO—No Ordinary Wine Bar

I promise you, I had every intention of ordering wine when I arrived at ORNO last night. It is a wine bar, after all. As I walked through the front door, I saw the matte black wall of wine—individual bottles stood on floating shelves with their respective names and origins neatly written out in white chalk. Beneath this display sits a long, cushy leather banquette, the majority of which was already occupied by what I observed to be a big, happy group of friends who were enjoying the company and their meal.

Courtesy of Orno


The restaurant has a cozy, neighborhood vibe with good music, perfectly low lighting, and a quirky live aquarium display on a large flat-screen TV set right in the middle of the back bar.


… now we come to one of the reasons why I never ordered the wine. I perused the cocktail list that the server presented, and quickly spotted a spirit that I didn’t even know I was craving: mezcal. As if on cue, the bartender walked over from behind the bar to say hello and ask if we wanted to order some drinks. My date ordered a sangria while I ordered an El Viejo.


Once I tasted the mezcal, I never turned back. Every cocktail I subsequently ordered centered around the smoky, agave spirit, and I only requested that each new mezcal drink be different from the last.

Turns out, the friendly bartender was Nael Rodriguez, the owner of this fine establishment. He was also a food runner, server, greeter, gracious host, and seeming jack of all trades. During the meal, he informed me that, during ORNO’s design phase, he made sure that everything in the build-out facilitated the ability to jump from one position to the other with as much ease as possible. From the bar, he could still an eye on the food coming out of the kitchen as well as on the front door to welcome guests. It’s actually brilliant.

Speaking of food coming out of the kitchen … ORNO’s cuisine offerings are top notch New American bites, and by “New American”, I mean it highlights aspects of many cultures that make up the fabric of our wonderful country. For example, I requested that he surprise my date and me with a three-course dinner of his choosing, no dietary restrictions or food allergies to worry about. Nael smiled and disappeared, promising that our first course would arrive within an hour (he’s a funny guy, that Nael!).

Within a few minutes, a dish of  sweet and spice lacquered pork belly bites arrived at our table, with earthy and sweet aromas wafted my way and made my mouth water. The meat melted in my mouth, and the fresh slaw of julienne veggies in the center offered an appropriate balance to the depth and unctuousness of the fatty pork.


Not a bad start, Mr. Rodriguez.

Nael then took us from Asian-inspired fare to more Italian flavor with the Pig & Fig flatbread.  The crispy, thin crust held a light layer of Alouette Brie cheese that was topped with delicate slices of prosciutto, dollops of fig preserves, and bits of candied cayenne walnuts. Simple. Delicious. No one item overpowering the rest, each playing off one another so well that before I knew it, the whole flatbread disappeared. Oops!


So far, Nael is two for two. Where was he going to take us next?
To the Caribbean!

For our last course, Nael presented us with the Voodoo Shrimp—a half pound of jumbo (and I mean JUMBO) shrimp dressed in a Caribbean-inspired BBQ sauce that intrigued us to the point that we tried to identify as many spices in the sauce as we could. There was such complexity and depth of flavor that eventually Nael had to come by and reveal that there were no less than 18 spices that make up the sauce and that the sauce had to be made a few days prior to serving so all of the flavors could deepen.

It’s pretty amazing, isn’t it? As consumers, we go eat out at restaurants and the dishes we enjoy take mere minutes for us to consume and enjoy. We usually don’t think about the time and work that goes into composing our meals, but in the moments when we do stop to really consider it, it’s usually when some part of us recognizes that the food was made with thought, care, and love.

… and that’s ORNO.

I truly love it when a meal inspires me to wax romantic about the dining experience, and the best part about this meal is just how comfortable the setting was. The space housed around 24 seats in the dining room, and no more than maybe 8 seats at the bar. If I lived in the Cedar Springs area, I could see myself stopping in there at least once a day, even if just to say hi to the staff or to grab a cocktail.

ORNO is a neighborhood gem that’s bursting at the seams with soul. And, in a tricky restaurant city like Dallas where every week is a laundry list of flashy openings and abrupt closings, I hope that ORNO’s quiet charm and culinary approachability ensure that it’s here to stay a while.


ORNO Restaurant
facebook.com/ornodallas
3908 Cedar Springs Road, Dallas (Cedar Springs)
(469) 726-2004

Closed Mondays, Open Tues/Wed: 11AM-10PM, Thurs-Sat: 11AM-11PM, Sun: 11AM-4PM

TGI Friday’s Releases Its New Fire-Grilled Meats and Two New Cocktails

With their competition reinventing their menus with less items, there’s a new fire under TGIF’s behind. Their answer: do what they do, just better and for less cost to the consumer.

Friday’s is overhauling their entire menu, meaning new apps, entrees, sides, drinks, and more. TGI Friday’s new Choose Two menu dropped today and it’s all about fire-grilled meats … and good ones, at that. There are 15 different combinations for you to try, each for just $14.99.

First up: Philly Cheesesteak Egg Rolls and the Philly Cheesesteak Burger. We have yet to find someone who doesn’t love egg rolls (we held a poll in the tasting to prove ourselves right), so it only makes sense to American-ize them into a Philly Cheese-take (pun intended) appetizer.  The burger’s patty is juicy and topped with a cheesy pepper concoction that you’ll fork off the plate after it falls off the burger. Don’t worry – if you order the burger, you get an egg roll on top. (Because burgers are better with an appetizer on top.)

As for the new Grilled Meats menu … all of Friday’s meats are grilled fresh on the fire and never frozen, and they’re moving to higher quality cuts that give the guest a nicer amount of meat with less effort cutting around the less desirable bits. We won’t go through all the different meat and side combinations you can get—they’re all pretty damn good, so just pick your favorite(s). We will, however, tell you about all the juicy, fire-grilled meats you can now get …

Premium Center Cut Sirloin: 6oz seasoned with hickory smoked sea salt, topped with parmesan butter.
Dragon Glazed Salmon: Atlantic salmon fillet brushed with sweet and spicy Korean BBQ sauce, topped with mango pico de gallo.
Big Ribs: 30% meatier, bolder, tastier premium pork back ribs, cooked low and slow in house. (The new ribs launched in October and have been a hit.)
Parmesan Crusted Chicken: topped with a white poblano queso and toasted with crispy parmesan bread crumbs.
Bacon-Wrapped Grilled Shrimp: two skewers of three large jumbo shrimp, wrapped in hardwood smoked bacon and brushed with parmesan butter sauce.
14-ounce Bone-In New York Strip: this cut is ridiculously juicy and flavorful … not to be missed. It’ll give some steakhouses a run for their money.

New sides were also recently introduced to accompany these delicious meats—crispy Brussel sprouts, baked mac & cheese and giant onion rings. All of which were equally “souped-up” recently. Their standard mashed potatoes aren’t anything to shy away from, though … they fold in cheese to make them rich and they’re nearly impossible to hold yourself back from eating the whole pile.

The important thing to remember here is your eyes may be hungrier than your stomach, but that’s okay because they have to-go boxes for you to take things home.

Along with the new entree options, they’ve released two new cocktails, the Magic Lemon Drop Martini and their take on a Hurricane. They’ve been making efforts to move their bar to a “clean bar” concept—no fake colors or ingredients, just good, clean, quality ingredients.

The Magic Lemon Drop is cool on many fronts—visually, because of it’s greatly contrasting purple and yellow colors; experientially, because you get to be your own mixologist with the garnish by dropping it in and watching the color change; and Boomerang-worthy, because they use butterfly pea tea extract. The BPT extract is a new, trendy cocktail ingredient that makes a cocktail blue, and then changes color when some ingredients are added—purple with acidic ingredients, pink with a high pH ingredient. Less new, but still a stunner, their take on the traditional hurricane is fresh and delicious, made so partly because of the fresh passion fruit puree they use.

TGIF’s is stepping up it’s game again, y’all.


TGI FRIDAY’S
tgifridays.com
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Moviehouse & Eatery

Long gone are the days of “dinner and a movie”. There’s now a slew of dinner-movie combo experiences available, but my new favorite is Moviehouse & Eatery. It’s one of the newer movie/meal concepts and has locations in Flower Mound, McKinney, and Keller. Here’s why it’s awesome …

For starters, when you walk in, you’re greeting not by the ticket counter, but instead by a full sized bar. (Because that’s the best way to start just about any experience.) IMO, almost anything is made better with a great cocktail. Of the tipples I tried on my last visit to MHE’s McKinney location, the Stormy Weather (Bacardi 8 rum, Malibu rum, lime juice, bitters, ginger ale), was the stand out.

After sipping on your drink, you can head back to your theater and take your reserved seat in their special, fully reclining (oh yes), luxury leather chairs. (In fact, they’re so comfy that, if you weren’t there to watch a movie, I’d say you should take a nap in those bad boys.) Shortly after you sit down, a waiter appears to give you the run down and take your order. The whole menu is delicious (AND they have a brunch M-F 11am-12pm and weekends 11am-2pm!) and much better than one could expect from a movie/eatery. A couple of my favorites are the Big Jake Burger and the Chicken Bacon Ranch Pizza.

The Big Jake Burger is a fresh-ground steak patty topped with pepper jack cheese, house-made bacon (yus), horseradish aioli, red pepper relish, and bourbon bbq sauce. They serve this bad boy with fries, topped with creamy queso blanco, and a whole pickled jalapeño.

The Chicken Bacon Ranch Pizza is house-made ranch dressing with grilled chicken breast and house-made bacon. Then, it’s topped with mozzarella cheese and fresh green onions. I’ll say it … it’s surprisingly good for a pizza with so many qualifiers.

Even if you don’t have any problems eating wheat (like my butthead of a stomach does), you should always end your visit with the warm Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies. I promise you won’t even notice there’s no wheat, and they might end up being your favorite cookies ever. I’ve honestly never tasted such delicious cookies before and I’m quite picky about my cookies. So take that GF business and run with it.

People always love seeing movies with family around the holidays, so here’s a list of what’s playing after December 14th so you can plan your ultimate dinner-and-a-show experience:
Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
Pitch Perfect 3
Father Figures
Downsizing
Ferdinand
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
The Greatest Showman

Moviehouse & Eatery
themoviehouse.com

MULTIPLE LOCATIONS
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Zio Cecio Celebrates Six Years

Lovers Lane’s Zio Cecio recently celebrated their 6th anniversary, and while resident Sardinian Chef, Francesco Farris, doesn’t like to fix what isn’t broken, they’ve decided to add some new items to their menu to celebrate this milestone. We got to test out the new dishes along with wine pairings from Eroz Spinozzi Selections.

If you’ve never been, Zio Cecio is known for their upscale rustic Italian cuisine with Sardinian touches to each plate.

After some light finger food and a glass of prosecco, we sat down for the antipasti in true Italian fashion. First up: Carpaccio Di Manzo ai Copperi, which for non-Italian-speaking-folk is thinly sliced beef tenderloin turned in citrus and topped with parmigiano and capers.

Then, a Carpaccio Di Tonno Con Bottarga, which is fresh thinly sliced tuna served with shaves of bottarga. To finish this first course, we then had various cheese and meats paired with Simone Capecci Ciprea Pecorino, a light, crisp white wine.

New on the pasta and risotto menu, and beautifully paired with Picus, Rosso Piceno Superiore (an Italian red made up of 60% Montepulciano, 40% Sangiovese):
Gnochetti Sardi al Cinghiale, a Sardinian “tear drop” pasta made with a wild boar ragu.
Bucatini del Gennargentu, hollow pasta made with smoked pancetta, caramelized onions and cherry tomatoes in a zesty tomato sauce.

As for the meat and fish course, you can now find Mailetto Ai Mirto, a Sardinian style suckling pig roasted in their wood burning oven on myrtle leaves, on their menu. The meat from this is absolutely the most tender and juiciest meat you’ll ever find and you’d be a fool not to try it!

Su Kostale, a bone-in aged ribeye marinated and garnished with Italian herbs and oven roasted to perfection. Filleto di Pagnello Alla Bottarga, which is fresh red snapper fillet pan seared and served with shaved Bottarga from Porto Cervo. You can easily pair any of these dished with these wines: Le Muraie, Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore, Recchia (personal favorite of the evening!) or Ca’Bertoldi, Amarone Della Valpolicella, Recchia.

If you’ve made it this far and still want more, you’re in luck. For desert, you have the choice of:  tiramisu, limoncello cake, and Sa Carapinna, which is the chef’s homemade creation of the day. Pair with Mirto to finish the evening.

No matter what you order at Zio Cecio, you know it’ll be delicious because Chef Farris creates each dish with his home country of Sardinia in mind. And, with a famiglia mind-set, he’ll tailor each dish to your specific needs.

 

ZIO CECIO
ziocecio.com
4615 W Lovers Lane (West Dallas)
214.351.1100

Pictures and copy by Peyton Meersman

Terra Mediterranean Grill

Who loves Mediterranean food? If your hand is up, head to Terra for dinner and drinks. Their food menu is extensive and covers all the basics.

Terra Mediterranean Grill has two great options—a lunch buffet for those of you who aren’t ready to commit to a single dish (or just want to stuff your face) and a traditional dinner menu for those who don’t have a fear of commitment or a binge eating disorder. I personally was not well-versed in Mediterranean food, so I first went to Terra for lunch to try all the things. Once I found my go-to lunch order, I knew I needed to head back for dinner.

I fell in love with on the of the most basic items on the menu—the gyro. I’m telling you, this meat is out of this world good. (Don’t judge me, but I have thought about it more than one time this week. Whatever.) The roasted lamb is cooked to perfection; tender, juicy, and full of flavor. If the meat isn’t enough, the gyro comes with saffron rice and perfectly grilled vegetables.

My favorite appetizer was the Haloumi Cheese. The cheese is grilled and has a salty flavor that compliments the pita bread nicely. It is so buttery-delicious. You can’t go to Terra (or any Mediterranean restaurant, really) and not order the hummus, it’s a must. Their hummus is delicious, light, and creamy, and it goes great with their baked-fresh-daily pita bread. The bread is fluffy and perfectly cooked … and they won’t judge if you ask for more. (I know, because I asked.)

Ok, ok, ok … food food food … now let’s talk drinks. Terra has a full bar and a damn decent wine selection. I tried a few of the cocktails and was not disappointed by any of them. My favorite has to be the house red sangria. Even though it seems simple enough, there are good sangrias and not so good sangrias. I also enjoyed the pineapple mojito. Even better news, both of these drinks are on the happy hour menu (see below). Because drinking and spending less makes them taste that much better. The bartenders are super friendly and know how to make great cocktails.

TERRA MEDITERRANEAN
2973 Crockett Street (Fort Worth)
5910 N. Macarthur Blvd. #121 (Irving)
The Shops at Willow Bend (Plano) – COMING SOON

terramediterranean.com
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Happy Hour
Monday- Thursday 5-7pm
$1 off all beers
$4 off all house wines
$2 off Sangrias
$5 House Margaritas and Mojitos

 

Chef Point Cafe

What would you say if someone asks you to go to a gas station for dinner? Well, Susie asked me to go dinner at a gas station … in Watauga … that Guy Fieri visited … and write about it. (Are you f**king serious? I really thought it was a joke.) But I went.

Chef Point Cafe, located in Watauga at a legit gas station. And I’ll tell you … this restaurant puts the tacos at Fuel City and the BBQ at Buccees to shame. (Hate mail for that comment can be directed to Susie.) It’s a sit-down restaurant about 20 minutes from Fort Worth and 40 minutes from Dallas, and it needs to be on all DFW resident’s bucket list. Drive up and you notice the working gas pumps, walk in and you notice the glass door beverage coolers. Yes, everything still resembles a gas station, until you look around and see the kitchen, the bar, and all the diners enjoying great food and drinks. To top it off, they have a huge, pet-friendly patio.

For starters, you must try the Lobster Mac n Cheese. While it’s on the appetizer menu, I could’ve handled it solo—not because it was small, but because it was that good. It is creamy with the right amount of lobster to compliment the gooey cheesy goodness.

For dinner, I highly recommend the Chicken Pesto Pasta. The chicken is tender and juicy, with just the right amount of seasoning. The pesto sauce was rich and decadent, and complimented the bow tie pasta perfectly. Be warned, the bowl of pasta could’ve fed a family of 4 … but I wasn’t complaining the next day when I ate the leftovers, they were just as good. I also got to try the Better than Sex Fried Chicken. The chicken was crispy on the outside, juicy on the outside, and full of flavor. (I will withhold my comments about the name.) It was served with a side of country gravy that was perfect for dipping. And, if the appetizer and main course isn’t enough, make sure to try the Bread Pudding. It was like a giant roll soaked in delicious syrup.

If the food isn’t enough, the drinks are literally out of this world— they even have a Northern Lights Margarita to prove it. It’s a frozen margarita layered with a rocks margarita in the colors of the Aurora Borealis. One special touch at Chef Point is the bartender comes to each table to see if you have any questions about their drinks. I also enjoyed the Blackberry Smash which is TX Whiskey, Cointreau, and wildberry syrup. It was a refreshing, summer cocktail that goes down a little too easy! Chef Point has a full bar with a great cocktail menu.

The pièce de résistance that you may just have heard about is their “Bloody Best” Bloody Mary. It includes a double order of their spicy Bloody Mary and accompanied by a 16oz domestic beer and … well, a lot of things. Y’all … this thing has a slider, waffle fries, shrimp, fried chicken, and a hell of a lot of other things on it.

Picture courtesy of Chef Point Cafe

Another fun bit about that sprawling aforementioned dog-friendly patio? You can order something your furry friend from their Doggie Menu featuring things like the Hot Diggity Dog (a hot dog) and the Rover Easy (two scrambled eggs)—all served with brown rice.


Chef Point Cafe
ChefPointCafe.org
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5901 Watauga Road (Watauga)

Daily Drink Specials:
Monday- 4-6pm $4 wells
Tuesday- all day 1/2 price bottles
Wednesday- 4-6pm $3.50 drafts
Thursday- 4-6pm $1 off featured cocktail

Monday – Thursday 11:00am – 9:00pm
Friday 11:00am – 10:00pm
Saturday Breakfast 7:00am-11:00am
Saturday 11:00am- 10:00pm
Sunday 10:00am-9:00pm

Chicken Moto: Southern Comfort Meets Seoul Food

Fried chicken enthusiasts, listen up: you need to check out Chicken Moto, now open in Richardson.

While there are plenty of spots in Dallas that pride themselves on their renditions of this southern favorite, I can assure you, you’ve never had fried chicken like this before. (Well, unless you’ve been to Bb Bop, in which case, maybe you have.) That’s because Chicken Moto was imagined by the owners of Bb Bop—husband and  wife team Greg & Sandy Bussey, Steve Shin, and Sam Osee. They wanted to open a concept revolving around Bb Bop’s very own “Not Your Mama’s Fried Chicken”.

The building that houses Chicken Moto previously served as an auto repair shop. This, coupled with Sam Osee’s passion for motorcycles, explains the chopper theme. Chicken Moto was designed to “celebrate the collision of cultures and lifestyles”, combining Texas Southern comfort with South Korean Seoul food. Guests get to experience Korean fried chicken and traditional sides with a fresh, unique twist.

Obviously, fried chicken rules the roost at Chicken Moto (pun totally intended), with “Not Your Mama’s Fried Chicken” available as a quarter chicken, half chicken, or whole bird. NYMFC is served with your choice of Soy Ginger (my fave) or Sweet-and-Spicy Chile glaze (or, you can skip the glaze if you aren’t feeling saucy). Gluten-free wings are available as well. Chicken and waffles were another winner—cornbread waffles smothered in GRAVY AND SYRUP. If boneless chicken is your thing, try “The Sandwich”, a boneless chicken thigh topped with cabbage, celery, and green onion slaw, with a sweet and spicy chili sauce served on Texas toast.

 

Chicken Moto offers half a dozen inventive appetizers, including Chicken Cracklin, Elotes with a Korean chile aioli, and Seasoned Fries with Kimchi Queso.

Chicken Moto’s southern influence is evident in many of their side dishes, with options like potato salad, bacon charro beans, and mashed potatoes in the mix.

 

If you’re looking to wash down that Korean spice, a variety of rotating craft beers and wine by the glass are available.


CHICKEN MOTO
chickenmoto.com
2069 N Central Expy #200 (Richardson)
(469) 248-0092

HOURS
Mon – Fri: 11am–3pm, 5-10pm
Sat: 11am–10pm
Sun: 11am–9pm

Antonio Ristorante – Tasting Tuesdays

If you’re looking for a new date night idea, or if you’re  constantly on the hunt for authentic Italian food (the Northern states have all the luck with that), boy do we have a treat for you.

Antonio Ristorante, nestled away in Addison Circle, will transport you to the Italian countryside with its food, wine, and atmosphere. Classically trained Chef Antonio hails from Calabria, Italy and brings a hint of French cuisine to his tables for their $20 Tasting Tuesdays. Guests are served three lightly-portioned courses and wine pairings for each course. Even better, they’ll send you home with a simple and authentic recipe to try out the dishes in your own kitchen.

Chef Antonio prepares the main dish in front of restaurant goers and explains the recipe over a microphone; a waiter then explains the wine pairing with the notes that are to be experienced. Reservations for upcoming Tasting Tuesdays can be made here.

All of Antonio Ristorante’s food is ordered often to ensure freshness. If a customer especially likes a certain dish, the Chef will take note of their email and phone number to let them know the next time they have that dish. They also offer a few wild game options for the adventurous. Wine bottle prices are 30% cheaper than at other Italian restaurants with bottles starting at $27 – which we all know means you can spend that extra money on more wine.

A new food special will be available soon, and it’s a doozy. Their #LateNightDateNight offers a free pizza with any wine bottle purchase. Coming next week (the week of 5/4) for your date night needs, Thursday through Sunday after 9pm!

Antonio Ristorante
Website
Facebook 
4985 Addison Circle (Addison)
(972)458-1010

Lunch Hours: Mon-Fri 11am-4pm
Dinner Hours:
Mon-Thurs 4pm-10pm
Fri 4pm-11pm
Sat 5pm-11pm
Sun 4pm-10pm