If you’ve ventured up 75 lately, you may have seen a new restaurant sign among the many around Parker for Cuellars’ Fajita Ranch. The restaurant opened in June and was created by three cousins offers “Ranch-Mex” options, which is exactly what you think it is from the name–the foods you’d eat when hanging out on your family or friend’s ranch, mesquite grilled, and served in healthy portions.
Their drinks are quite Tex-Mex–think plenty of margarita options, both frozen and on the rocks, and in many different flavors. We tried a few of their flavored margaritas and they were plenty fruity and just enough boozy.
Appetizers are about as you’d expect with a couple surprises like their Bean Layer Dip and White Wings, which are delicious wings wrapped in bacon. (Bring it on.) Just make sure to keep it light with the appetizers because you’ll have plenty of food on its way to you after ordering your entrées.
For dinner, since it’s in the name, you should probably go for the fajitas. The best part? They have a LOT of options for you from the traditional beef and chicken to portobello mushroom and ribeye fajita style. Just make sure to throw on some extras–think baby back rubs, jalapeño sausage, and fried eggs. All fajitas are served sizzling and mesquite grilled … and delicious. But if you can’t make up your mind (or have an army to feed), you can go for their “Combo Corral” options–the Fajitas del Rey feed “two” and the Tailgate Party feeds “four”. Both are vastly huge portions of meat and come with plenty of sides and other goodies … eat hearty, and make friends to share with.
Other entrée options include steaks and chicken (available grilled or chicken fried), fish, some Tex-Mex favorites like chipotle quesadillas and burritos, and healthy things that I don’t really need to talk about because … fajitas.
Dessert is as it should be–golden, crispy churros served with molten chocolate sauce and delicate sopapillas.
CUELLARS’ FAJITA RANCH fajitaranch.com
3310 N Central Expressway (Plano)
Sometimes you need to just not be home. (Come on … you can’t tell me you’ve never wanted to tell your friends you’re out of town, turn off your phone, and just disappear. Ok, I’ve never actually done it, but I’ve thought about it. Like … hard.) I had one of those feelings recently, so it was perfect that I was invited to spend a weekend at the Hilton Anatole right here in Dallas’s Design District.
I packed up the car Friday before work and scooted over there from the office after dropping off the pup with Grandma.* The valets were the perfect welcoming committee and helped me unload my box of birthday gifts without complaint. (I had a really busy week after my big birthday party, so I thought taking my gifts on my staycation to enjoy opening them slowly would be a blast.) I was welcomed with goodies, a lovely room, and a great view of Downtown.
The hotel itself is huge, consisting of at least four main buildings that sit on 45 acres in the heart of Dallas. The complex offers 1,600+ rooms, multiple dining and drinking options, event spaces, a full fitness facility, spa, a VIP lounge offering snack and beverages for select guests, and 1,000+ art pieces thanks to the owners, the Crow family.
One of the restaurant options the Anatole offers is SĒR on the 27th floor. This is one button I enjoyed pushing entirely too much. But I pushed it … and I pushed it good. My friend Tiffany joined me for dinner and we were absolutely blown away by each and every one of the courses presented by Executive Chef Kevin Spencer and the drinks by Colin Silva.
SĒR offers reimagined versions of some basic options like their Steak Tar Tar that closely resembles a deviled egg, but brings so much more to the table. The Caesar Salad was such a stand-out that made me visit SĒR again Saturday night for another plate of it. The culinary and bar teams on the 27th at the Anatole are all top notch and you can expect innovative food and drink options to keep your taste buds disoriented yet delighted. Check out my whole review of SĒR.
The weekend was incredibly relaxing, yet somehow I kept myself busy the entire time. I kept my evening plans with friends, but spent the days relaxing in the fitness center, sauna, the VIP Lounge, and walking the grounds.
As they always do, the Sunday scaries crept in while I was packing to leaves, so to spoil myself a bit more I ordered some room service. (Because who doesn’t love waffles that you don’t have to make?) The bacon was perfectly crispy and the coffee was exquisitely brewed. (If you want snacks or specialty coffee options, they have a coffee bar in the lobby offering little goodies.)
The coolest part of this staycation is that I got a little preview of Jadewater, the $22M pool complex that opened this past Friday, July 22. This isn’t your run of the mill pool complex. Expect two water slides, a large children’s play area, a 23 seat swim-up bar (YESSS), new art pieces, private cabanas and daybeds, and, the kicker, a 630ft lazy river. The pool will be for hotel guests only, but the cool thing is that you can get a couple rooms for the night and have full access for less than a night at Great Wolf Lodge. That’ll get you howling.
During a recent staycation at the Hilton Anatole, I was delighted to try their steakhouse, SĒR Steak + Spirits, on the 27th floor. This is one button I enjoyed pushing entirely too much. But I pushed it … and I pushed it good. My girl Tiffany joined me for dinner and we were absolutely blown away by each and every one of the courses presented by Executive Chef Kevin Spencer and every drink by Colin Silva.
The drinks kept us on our toes (and put us on our asses) thanks to the unique flavor profiles and the unexpected extras. This is one of the places I’d suggest handing the reigns to the bar team; they’ll make you something intriguing and unique. The scotch cocktail we were treated to (below) was delightfully smoky thanks to the peatiness of the spirit, but was still surprisingly light. The preparation for the cocktails was involved and completely worth the short wait.
SĒR’s kitchen offers reimagined versions of some basic options and quite a few all-new dishes. The perfect example is their Steak Tar Tar that closely resembles a deviled egg but brings so much more to the table. Be ready for a rich mouthful here.
The Caesar Salad was such a stand-out that I ended up visiting a second time in just one weekend to have it again. It’s perhaps the coolest salad … ever. This thing is a slab of leafy greens with “deconstructed croutons”, flowers, and even Pop Rock-like crystals that keep your mouth more than entertained. The best part of this salad was the dressing. Through some sciencey process, Chef Kevin creates egg yolk-like pods of dressing so you control your dressing to lettuce ratio. I like being in control.
The entrees were just as enticing. The seafood was fresh (the fish was light and flaky) and the steak was as tender as it could be. The Texas Caviar accompanying the steak we were served gave it a delightful, spicy snap.
Dessert was just as unique as the preceding dishes. One dessert (not yet on the menu) boasted grapes prepared three different ways accompanying ice cream and a buttery crumble. The Millionaire Pie was also a delight with the perfect balance between the tartness of the raspberry sorbet and the creaminess of the vanilla ice cream.
I lived in the heart of Uptown for 2-1/2 years … a mere 5 minute walk from Nickel and Rye and only went a couple times. Like a rookie, I allowed those times to be weekends in the wee hours, a time which happens to be the great equalizer of all Uptown establishments (read: drunk people acting ridiculously). I was recently asked to stop in for dinner and did so begrudgingly. Holy shit … was I wrong to have thought like that. Nickel & Rye shattered my previous misconceptions of this gem.
First things first: they have a large and diverse selection of traditional and rare whiskies. (Yessssss.) In fact, they’re so proud of their whiskey options that they even offer their “V. Rye P. Club” that rewards you for trying whiskey. Just try a certain number of whiskeys and you’ll be treated to parties–not kidding. Look for Pappy van Winkle, local options, and some with a little Nickel & Rye twist, all for pretty decent prices.
Beyond that, they don’t settle for the run of the mill cocktails. They infuse liquors, make bitters, and generally do things pretty damn well. And their cocktail list has a little something for everyone.
Nickel & Rye’s Maple Bacon Manhattan is one of their signature cocktails and has been for quite a while, no double because of their delicious bacon-Infused bourbon with maple syrup and the slightest hint of Averna Amaro. Their second most popular cocktail, the Sparkling Cucumber (New Am Vodka, elderflower, cucumber, lemon, and champagne) is light, flavorful, and is a perfect cocktail to enjoy on their fan-fucking-tastic patio.
Beyond their two best sellers, they have a couple lot of other winners. The Summertime Sadness (Exotico Blanco, mint, roasted jalapeño, cilantro, and lime) was a surprise with a lot of complexity thanks to the oddly, but well-paired flavors. The basic Old Fashioned is even a winner–gotta love the old standards. If you’re bold, let the talented barmen behind the large, concrete bar go crazy. Tell them what you like and what you don’t and watch them work. One of their newest creations from one of these adventures in bartending even uses Blue Curacao (that apparently is making a resurgence … yikes) and a smoked wood plan to give it an oddly smoky sweet flavor.
The cocktails aren’t the only thing that Nickel & Rye is doing right. Their food, all made in-house, is damn delicious. (And their parent company, Kirby’s Steakhouse, would see to that.) They took basic food items and made them either VERY well or just a tinge haute. Site: their Lobster Quesadilla. Eat this now. Also not to be missed is their charcuterie board and their Brussels sprouts. (If you’re a reader, you know that it really doesn’t take much from Brussels sprouts to impress me … but these were so good I almost ordered a second dish. What!? They’re vegetables.)
Of the McKinney Avenue spots, this is one place that you should hit for a happy hour that is sure to surprise. Make sure to log some time on their patio before it gets too hot. Because it will … and all the chilly cocktails in the world won’t be able to make being outside bearable.
Dallas has a lot of restaurants come and go and come back and go again. Upon Sfuzzi’s more recent exit from McKinney Avenue, Fat Rabbit, a new player took over its space … and brought along a logo with their own version of Harvey sporting a pretentious tux and jaunty spectacles. Fat Rabbit came to us from a North/South Carolina restauranteur, Peter Lloyd, as his first Texan undertaking. Apparently, we’ll see more from him as One Dallas is built (the new high-rise that is being constructed in the Hard rock Cafe field on McKinney) as he will be opening a restaurant in it.
The restaurant, complete with a generous patio and upstairs “VIP” bar (called Masque), bills itself as purveyor of American food. While that sounds a bit “done” for the area, they do it well. Their food selections are all over the place—just their appetizers offer items from tuna tartar to hummus to hot wings—talk about an identity crisis. The good part? They somehow seem to do it all right.
Fat Rabbit is in the heart of Uptown right on McKinney, so you know that they better either do their drinks really well … or really big. They offer a full beer list with some locals and the usual suspects, wine options by the glass and bottle, champagnes actually from champagne, and, of course, cocktails. I was honored to have been joined at dinner by Jackie of Pretty Petals (looking adorable, as always), and we had to stay away from fried things (I’m doing the Lent thing and gave it up), but aside from our limitations, we made some great selections if I do say so myself.
Their new cocktail menu launched last week and, thanks to the manager, Trevor’s suggestion, I started with one of their new Irish whiskey cocktails (because, if you have ever read anything I’ve ever written, you know that I’m a huge Irish whiskey nut), the Ron Burgundy (2 Gingers Irish Whiskey, Benedictine, simple syrup, Peychauds & peach bitters). If I had my druthers, I would have stuck with this drink the whole night as it was perfectly light with enough kick to keep it interesting. Their bar program keeps it local when possible but not as a rule. They also play with some different (yet still mainstream) ingredients to make their drinks a bit unique.
Jackie started with the Peach Keen (Deep Eddy Peach vodka, lemon juice, raspberry), which was sweet, so it’s the safer play if you don’t like spirit forward cocktails. Their Summer Beer (Ketel Citroen, lemon, peach bitters, simply syrup, Revolver Blood & Honey) set the stage perfectly for the amazing patio season we have ahead of us–the peach bitters and the honey notes in the Revolver Blood & Honey both gave it just the slightest sweetness.
And … since apparently one cannot survive on booze alone (unfortunately) … we also dined. We started with Tuna Tartar (scallions, sesame sweet soy glaze, togarashi served with wonton chips) and they were nice enough to bring me lettuce since the chips were fried. The tuna came as a generous potion of fresh and tender tuna with just enough of the glaze to keep it interesting. We followed that up with the Lamb Burger Sliders (lamb patty with pine nuts topped with roasted red peppers and tzatziki sauce) which were quite good, but weren’t our favorite.
We weren’t ready to commit to a whole, single entree each, so we ordered a few things for the table. Again … we did well. Their Lobster Mac & Cheese was un-real. They add just a bit of truffle oil that balances the four cheese nicely without being overpowering. Our lovely waitress suggested the Breakfast Pizza (candied bacon, tomato, quail eggs, Sriracha aioli), which, if you remember back to Sfuzzi, they had their own version … so it just seemed fitting. I love that they candied the bacon for this pizza to give it a sweetness to counteract the spiciness of the Sriracha aioli (which I’d suggest getting on the side). The winner of the night was, without a doubt, the Brussels sprouts. I mean … hot damn, y’all. I wanted to plant a hair in them at the very end so they’d have to bring me another order of them. But that would be immoral … or something.
Fat Rabbit is open for lunch, dinner, and late night (SCORE) along with weekend brunch (I’m going to get my ass in there soon to try their red velvet pancakes and mimosa bar), and they also hold events from time to time. Tomorrow (Monday, March 13), they’ll be screening the final episode of “The Bachelor”–who do you think Ben will pick? And later this month, they’re bringing in the 2 Gingers Irish Whiskey’s brand ambassador, James Dillon, to host a whiskey pairing dinner on March 23–3 course and cocktail for $45? In … get your ticket to join me!
If the promise of good food and drink don’t pique your interest, maybe one of their weekly specials will.
Monday – $3 pints, 1/2 price dinner menu starting at 6pm Tuesday – Service Industry Night (1/2 price burgers, sandwiches, & flatbreads starting at 8pm Wednesday – 1/2 price bottles of wine Thursday – live music starting at 8pm Friday – DJ starting at 10pm Saturday – brunch at 11am-4pm (mimosa & bloody mary bar), DJ starting at 10pm Sunday – brunch at 11am-4pm (mimosa & bloody mary bar), live music starting at 3pm
Vet – verb \vet\ the careful and critical examination of quality
Vetted Well, the new bar above the recently-opened Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar, may be one of my new favorite places. Damn good food, a great beer selection (complete with 10 perfectly-paired boilermakers), one of the best rooftop patios in Dallas, themed private karaoke rooms, and a location directly above a quirky movie theater make for a great experience.
While Vetted Well does a lot … well … they have done well in not specializing in anything at the expense of others. Perfect example: they have a damn good (local) beer selection (cans, bottles, and a bunch of drafts), but also have awesome cocktails and a small (but thoughtful) wine list. They have some healthy food, but also some food that makes you want to break your Lenten commitment not to eat fried food (oops …).
My review was actually my second visit … my first visit was with a couple girlfriends after a movie to catch up a bit. We enjoyed a shit ton of popcorn (which, if you order in the bottomless popcorn in the theater, you can continue working on finding the bottom upstairs), a Darker & Stormier (a seriously delicious take on the Dark & Stormy–apply brandy, Black Seal rum, ginger, lime, and crushed ice) and The Traveling Man (Eagle Rare 10 Yr. & Karback Weekend Warrior whiskey). I was so excited to come back, that I nearly died when I saw the email inviting me in for a review.
I was spoiled with a couple boilermakers, a couple cocktails, and alllllllll the food (more on that later because, cocktails). Their Moscow Mule was the traditional recipe (vodka, lime, ginger beer) and was well mixed, but the copper vessel was badass–because I’m kind of over copper mugs. Next out was the Kentucky Buck (bourbon, strawberry, lemon, bitters, ginger beer), which was completely refreshing and I cannot wait to sit on their patio and sip one three of these on a warm, spring afternoon.
Let’s get back to those boilermakers. Ten options, all decidedly Dallas with names like The Grassy Knoll and The Big Tex, make for a good challenge. I’m four down so far, (… not as accomplished as Kevin, but I’m working on it) and I’m enjoying the progress. Paired thoughtfully, my favorite so far is The Sears & Roebuck (Gran Classico & 512 Pecan Porter), but I look forward to trying the remaining six to see if it stays on top. (There was talk about the technique behind drinking a boilermaker. Do you take the shot of whiskey then sip the beer, sip both at once, or dunk the shot?)
Now … the food. Everything they make is as homemade as possible from the mustard to the … other delicious stuff, and they also source from local vendors like Empire Bakery. They’re currently serving lunch from their kitchen with brunch and then dinner to follow, but if you’re up there for dinner now, you can get items from the Alamo Drafthouse kitchen. They bring it up with a dumbwaiter, which they claim can hold 200 pounds … and I’m still upset they wouldn’t let me ride in it. (Read: stay tuned for a staged dumbwaiter incident complete with live Twitter feed.)
We started with the Biscuit Beignets. They hit the table and I knew my Lenten “no fried food” pledge was in trouble. I figured that, as my mom says, Sundays are cheat days … and I’d been to church earlier. So, I dug in. I’m damn glad I did. These fluffy, fried nuggets are perfectly light and come with dippable cinnamon sugar, raspberry syrup, vanilla bean crème, and spiced rum caramel. Hot damn. Next up was more fried goodness (because why just be a little bad?), Croquettes with smoked gouda, potato, bacon, and green onion, and served with a dill-lish dill ranch. (Terrible joke … sorry.) To round out the first “course”, they brought out the Panzanella Salad which, aside from the Brussels sprout I snuck off the plate while taking a picture, was snapped up before I could take a bite.
The heavy hitters of the meal were still to come–the 24-Hour Brined Pork Chop, Chicken Fried Chicken with Local Honey, Carved Turkey on Hippie Bread, and the Cubano sandwich. All delicious and all recommended. They mix it up by serving the pork chop with a waffle–take that chicken and waffles! I’ll be having this one again thanks to the incredibly flavorful chop. My other favorite was the Cubano (roasted pork, sliced ham, Swiss cheese, house pickles, and beer mustard served with traditional tostones).
I’m actually upset with myself for not requesting the Vetted Well Burger … this thing is a work of art–a burger with pork beans and pork belly? That’s some genius shit right there.
Overall, Vetted Well is quite the delight. The patio is unreal–both the front and back one. The front patio has a great view of Downtown Dallas and the back patio is complete with locally made furniture and a giant outdoor screen where they’ll show classic movies a couple times a week. If that’s not enough entertainment, check out one of their four themed private karaoke rooms for rent by the hour to accommodate 6-20 people. You know I’ll be hitting those rooms hard with some hardcore Hall & Oates. The karaoke rooms will be open to the public starting Thursday.
I can’t wait for the next rainy weekend when I can commit to spending an entire day bouncing between the theater and Vetted Well to get my hands on their burger. Who’s with me?
Overall, I think their name is deserved. I was told that “vetted” is used often in the military as a quality check. While I’m not military, I feel as though I can still give this place my seal of approval–it has been vetted … and it’s gooooood.
Everyone loves a relaunch. That’s why, when Susie asked me to stop into Cinco Tacos Cocina & Tequila (formerly Lazaranda), I was excited to see how they’d remixed their offerings and if they still had their killer ceviche on the menu.
As I entered Cinco, I noticed the modern craftsman décor splashed with bold Mexican colors and up-beat Mexican music. I was greeted immediately by a friendly, fun staff and they escorted me to a table in the bar area. The bar at Cinco is separated from the main dining room, allowing this restaurant the ability to go from a happening Saturday night out, to a calm mid-week dinner in no time.
I quickly noticed their expansive tequila list (because … tequila), Mexican beer and drinks, and, of course, their margaritas–they have 10 different choices when it comes to their margaritas, a fully loaded tequila bar and are also stocked with more than 12 beers on tap … holy tough decisions, Batman. My date (ahem … my handsome husband) and I both tried out the house margaritas, he ordered his frozen and I had mine on the rocks. It should be said that this is not an average boring house margarita made with mediocre mix and (god forbid) cheap tequila … oh, no, you won’t run in to that here. Their house margarita is made with 100% Agave Tequila and freshly squeezed key limes allowing a natural, balanced sweetness to blend flavors with the smooth tequila. They dusted the rim of the glass with a blend of salt and Tajin, which added a slight savory tang to this semi-sweet drink. Both styles of margaritas were more than acceptable – whether you like it on the rocks or frozen, the house margarita is a must! Also, don’t miss the incredible selection of tequilas–great for mixing or sipping!
As we were happily sipping on our margs, we were able to try many appetizers and the house chips and salsa. I was again very delighted to see the generous use of Tajin on the house-made chips that paired nicely with their in-house salsas. All of their salsas were very fresh and full of flavor, and my favorite was the Molcajete Salsa –a peppery, roasted tomato blend with a warm medium spice.
Their appetizers were phenomenal and proved to be authentic, but mastered to their own unique style. Among the many small plates we tried, the Aztec Shrimp Ceviche was one of the most memorable. The shrimp ceviche boasted a bold key lime flavor, with grilled cactus leaves, fresh tomatoes, onions, and Serrano and pasilla peppers. I am always a sucker for ahi tuna and the Michoacan Fresh Tuna Tostadas had a satisfying blend of citrus and savory, and the creamy chipotle dressing completed the small bite perfectly. We finished our small plate happy hour with dessert, and the house made flan was a show-stopper with a warm, nutty flavor, and creamy texture.
Cinco Tacos Cocina & Tequila is a taste of Mexico right here in Dallas. With so many choices throughout the DFW area for Tex-Mex and Mexican restaurants, this hearty Mexican restaurant is a must try for those seeking a truly authentic Mexican dining experience. You will not be disappointed with the modern accents on traditional classics, and the chef holds nothing back with the freshest ingredients and a well-rounded menu. I’d suggest bellying up to the bar and ordering a (few) margaritas and enjoying a boozy happy hour with some of their delicious appetizers.
I don’t enjoy being poked (hello, flirting on Facebook in 2006), but Denver QSR Tokyo Joe’s changed my tune last night. I was invited in last night to try some of their goodies at the restaurant (I had some of their items delivered when they opened) including their new Poke Bowls and quite enjoyed the experience.
I started my night with a Lucky Buddha beer while waiting for my friend. (I’d liken it most to a Heineken.) Tokyo Joe’s offers a couple imported beers and a few Shiner options (CHEER?!?!?!), along with some of the usual suspects. It being a Tuesday, I opted for a single beer and my friend went for their tea bar, which they stock with two of their five tea options at all times.
I sipped and ordered a few little bites–the Gyoza (steamed pork dumplings with Joe’s dipping sauce), Miso Soup, and white chicken Spring Rolls. I was delighted to see three options of spring rolls–white chicken, tiger shrimp, and organic tofu. The basil in them was refreshing and I nearly guzzled the peanut dipping sauce on its own.
We were encouraged to try the new (launching today, 2/3) Poke bowls (ok … they say that it’s actually pronounced pok-ay)–one tuna and one salmon. The fish was fresh and incredibly tender and the avocado was perfectly ripe. My favorite part? They added chopped Macadamia nuts on my tuna bowl. Hell to the yes.
Tokyo Joe’s offers much more than just the poke bowls–made-to-order sushi rolls, bento boxes (also launching 2/3), salads, additional bowls, and more. And, if you’re like me, you feel empowered when you make decisions, but hate to do it at the same time. Enter: TJ’s bowls. Each bowl gives you limited (but generous) options with your choice of five proteins, three carbs, 11 sauces, and 13 vegetables.
Surprisingly, they also offer made-to-order sushi using fresh fish and REAL crab. The CaliTartare Roll we enjoyed had a serious and unexpected kick to it and the lemongrass aioli was seriously delicious.