Wednesday, January 30, 2008
621 North Valley Mills
Waco, TX 76711
Ramona: 1 meat plate: pulled pork, barbecue beans, escalloped potatoes, diet coke
Jim: 2 meat plate: pulled pork, smoked turkey breast, barbecue beans, yellow potato salad, iced tea
Transplants from the Carolinas have a hard time finding good barbecue in Texas, especially if you're hankering for some juicy pulled pork. In North Carolina where I grew up, it wasn't called pulled pork, it was just barbecue! Here in Texas, the more common fare is beef brisket. It's not bad, but to me it's not barbecue.
Here in Waco, we had some good pork barbecue for a few months when Smokey Bones was here, but that closed after too short a time. Dickey's is a newer entrant and held some promise. Dickey's offers several meats and you can choose a sandwich, a 1, 2, or 3 meat platter and various choices of sides.
We've eaten at several other Dickey's locations (Dallas, etc.) and it has been good, but I've been a bit disappointed with the quality in Waco and especially on this visit. I don't know if maybe I'm sick, but nothing tasted right to me this time. Jim had no complaints.
Monday, January 28, 2008
4500 Franklin Ave.
Waco, TX 76710
5:10 - 6:30 p.m.
Appetizer (shared): Lobster Crab Cakes (2) with remoulade sauce
Jim: Ribeye steak, loaded baked potato, Caesar salad, iced tea
Ramona: Prime rib, loaded baked potato, chopped blue cheese salad, Long Island tea
Outback is a perennial favorite for a semi-special occasion, so it was our first choice for our 200th week anniversary. The lobster crab cakes were new to the menu so we gave them a try and were not disappointed. Everything was good and the service was just attentive enough without being too overbearing. (We can't stand it when our wait staff hover around and ask us how everything is every two minutes.)
Sunday, January 27, 2008
4100 Bosque Blvd.
Waco, TX 76710
9:10 - 10:45 AM
Ramona: Orange juice, one banana pecan pancake with sugarless syrup, bacon, coffee.
Jim: V8 juice, avocado, sour cream, and mozarella omelet, ham, rye toast, coffee.
We had to go to CC for breakfast today, because it is the 200th week anniversary of our wedding. CC has always been a favorite, but since we had our wedding breakfast there it has had a special significance.
The pancakes are the best in Waco, and one is plenty for most people. I tried to eat three once, but simply couldn't do it. The coffee is also great, probably the best regular coffee in Waco (not counting Persnicity Tim's blends used by Beatnix's or, of course, Starbucks' House Blend). The latter is too strong for Ramona, but I like it just fine.
The omelet was perfect, and I get it 2 out of 3 visits. This is my favorite breakfast in Waco.
A minor problem or two today, however. When we arrived there were quite a few empty tables, and we were seated immediately, unusual for a Sunday morning. Most of the time there is a 15-20 minute wait, which we do not mind. A nice fountain, with a wall for sitting, provides a soothing sound, and the time passes quickly. But, we had a new waitress, and she seemed in a hurry. Sunday morning breakfast is a time for relaxation, and no restaurant should rush its diners, especially when there are empty tables. Even when we left, only 2-3 people were waiting.
The other problem was with the bacon Ramona ordered. She specifically asked for it to be "not too hard." One piece was like a strip on a ceramic display. Not to be wasteful, we wrapped it up for Raji, our dog, and she didn't seem to mind at all.
Saturday, January 26, 2008
1915 Dutton Ave.
Waco, TX 76706
5:20 - 6:45 PM
Ramona: Tostada de Jaiba (flat, crispy tortilla with crab, tomatoes, onions, cilantro, & lime juice), we shared Cocktail de Camarom (shrimp, cilantro, onions, cocktail sauce, avocado), Camarones Al Acuyo (Fresh shrimp sauteed with olive oil, garlic, and acuyo, an ancient leaf, well-known in Southern Mexico), rice, steamed vegetables (red & green peppers, squash, cucumbers, green beans, broccoli, mushrooms), chips and queso, iced tea with lime.
Jim: Tostada de Jaiba, Alvarado's Combination de Mariscos (oysters, shrimp, octopus, crab, crayfish, squid, frog leg, & mussels in mild chipotle sauce, garlic butter), rice and steamed vegetables, chips and queso, iced tea with lime.
Over the years, El Siete Mares (The Seven Seas) has steadily improved. From a small corner restaurant on 18th street, to the current location, things seem to improve a little every visit. The dining room is now nicely decorated with a huge sailfish, photos, and glass and ceramic fish of all colors, sizes, and varieties. Recently, new tables a chairs were added that replaced the mix and match furniture they had.
Despite these physical changes, the food has not changed -- it always comes out hot and plentiful. I had to help Ramona finish her shrimp. We were both full, but not stuffed when we left. The queso had just a hint of spice (perfect for us), but they do have hotter available.
We both love one dessert, Tres Leches Cake, but they were out last night, so we settled for a slice of Tiramasu with two spoons. This Mexican version of the Italian dessert was made with tres leches (three milk) cake, instead of the traditional lady fingers, and it was a nice treat.
El Siete Mares is one of Waco's treasures, different from anywhere else we've ever eaten. Give it a try, you will be hooked!
Thursday, January 24, 2008
4300a W. Waco Dr
Waco, TX 76710
6:45 - 7:30 PM
Ramona: Spring roll, crab wontons, fried rice, honey seared chicken, honey soy sauce, garlic, chile, rice sticks, diet coke, fortune cookie.
Jim: Spring roll, crab wontons, steamed rice, Mongolian chicken, sweet garlic soy sauce, scallion, white mushrooms, Mandarin orange green tea, fortune cookie.
We arrived minutes before the late dinner rush and ordered and sat down right away. Ramona remarked that we never seem to get the same thing twice, and I agreed -- everything on their menu is good. The spring rolls were hot and crsipy, and the sweet chili was great. The crab wontons (also with sweet chili) were also warm. This was the first time we had those, but it won't be the last. The seared chicken was just a bit tangy and plentiful. I tasted a couple of pieces, and Ramona still could not finish it and the fried rice -- lunch tomorrow! My Mongolian chicken was also just a touch spicy -- plenty for me. The steamed rice was hard to eat with chopsticks, it was fluffy and didn't stick togther at all. This is the only place I know that puts out orange slices for the tea, a nice treat.
Pei Wei is a bit more expensive that Cathay House and other Chinese restaurants we like, but the food is worth the couple of extra bucks. We don't go often, but we should make this a more frequent stop on our journey.
Ramona's fortune: "Enjoy life! It is better to be happy than wise."
Jim's fortune: "Hear with your ears but listen with your heart."
Monday, January 21, 2008
1201 S. Valley Mills Dr
Waco, TX 76711
6:20 - 6:55 PM
Ramona: Special Plate (four pieces of fried catfish, fries, slaw, hush puppies, beans, relish, iced tea)
Jim: Chicken/Catfish Combo (4 pieces of chicken, 3 pieces of catfish, fries, cole slaw, beans, relish, iced tea)
Who wants to cook on the last night of a wonderful three-day weekend? Not us. Besides, I forgot to take some planned chicken out of the freezer, so, we had to go out. Wink-wink, nudge, nudge.
Catfish King is one of the few meals we allow ourselves from fast-food joints. The fried catfish is really good, as is the chicken, and the portions are decent, too. They also have a drive-thru for take out, but we like to go inside.
941 Lake Air Dr.
Waco, TX 76710
8:15 - 9:10 AM
Ramona: Pancakes, bacon, coffee
Jim: Waffle, sausage links, coffee
I have been eating breakfast at Harold Waite's for about as long as I have been in Texas. For years it was the only place to have Sunday breakfast. I was always sure to get there early and beat the church crowds. Still a good idea if you want immediate seating and a relatively quite morning with the paper -- be there before 9:00 AM
Waite's is one of the few places in Central Texas that have the feel of the diners that are so popular all over the northeast. Quick service, friendly, perky waiters, inexpensive food are all there, and only the 24/7 serving hours are missing. Waite's is only open for breakfast and lunch.
Since Waco passed the no smoking ordinance a few years ago, this has become a more comfortable place to dine. One large room accomodates everyone, and on busy days, it was impossible to avoid sitting near a smoker. That is all over now.
The only downside of our visit is a perrenial complaint I have had with Waite's -- the coffee is weak and tasteless. Some might think Starbucks and Beatnix's (a good and popular coffeehouse near the MCC campus) have spoiled me for strong coffee, but neither of those places were open when I first went to Waite's 12 or 13 years ago. Against my better judgement, I tried it again this time hoping for some improvement.
The food was good, and Ramona was sorry she didn't get the short stack -- five fluffy pancakes were just too much for her. The waffle was the perfect size for me. If you go, try the hot tea.
Sunday, January 20, 2008
2516 West Loop 340
Central Texas Marketplace
Waco, TX 76701
2:00 - 3:00 PM
Ramona: Chicken Salad sandwich on sesame/semolina bread, pickle, chips, diet Pepsi
Jim: Chicken Caesar sandwich on sourdough, chips, cup of cream of chicken and rice soup, slice of baguette, iced tea
I am not sure what "panera" means, but I wouldn't be surprised if it meant outstanding. We both love the bread -- always fresh, and frequently warm, as was the slice of baguette I picked for my side with the soup. The soup was also good -- not scalding hot, as some like it.
We have never had a bad lunch at Panera Bread, and it is one of our treasured treats before heading over to Books-a-Million on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
One thing on this visit, however, left a small blemish. They were completely out of lemons. I will never understand how restaurants can run out of staples -- cups, lids, napkins, lemons. Lots of places in this part of Texas have stopped carrying lemon for their tea. What kind of people drink iced tea with no lemon? Especially considering the awful tasting Waco water; lemons are essential, but don't get me started on lemons filled with seeds.
5804 Bosque Blvd.
Waco, TX 76710
5:15 - 6:40 PM
Ramona: Magarita (2!), Margarita Grilled Chicken
Jim: Steak and Portobello fajitas, red & green peppers, onions, cheese, sour cream, chopped tomatoes, iced tea, & we shared chocolate molten cake with vanilla ice cream.
Always reliable, we arrived just minutes before the dinner rush, and it was a good thing, because the waiting area quickly filled. Curiously, there were a lot of empty tables, but we still had to wait about 20 minutes. Even our waitress complained they were not filling two of her tables. The top shelf margaritas Ramona had were good, but she and my son complained that the side dishes were lukewarm at best. My fajitas were sizzling, and I am not a real big fan of scalding hot food anyway. All in all a pretty good place for a simple dinner or a late night snack.
Saturday, January 19, 2008
725 Austin Ave.
5:40 - 7:00 p.m.
Jim: Lobster Thermidor with Radicchio Slaw, Cream of Brie and Tart Apple Soup, 100% Angus Rib Eye from Yoakum, Texas with Chimichurri Sauce, Mascarpone Cheesecake with Balsamic Strawberries
Ramona: Escargot a la Bourguignon, Classic French Onion Soup, Wild Mushroom Stuffed Angus Tenderloin with Cabernet Demi, Italian Cream Cake
Wine: Gouguenheim Flor del Valle (2003 Malbec)
This was our first visit to this restaurant which opened in June 2007. It has been described as one of Waco's finest, and we agree it ranks in the top 5. Since The Northwood Inn closed in August, we've been searching for that special place to take its place for those occasions such as wedding anniversary and birthdays. The Green Room Grille falls a little short of 135 Prime, which is our first choice so far.
The Escargot and Lobster Thermidor were very good, but I think Jim and I are both spoiled by the Escargots au Champagne as served at Le Bec Fin in Philadelphia. Jim has the cookbook from that spectacular restaurant and has mastered this dish. Nevertheless, if I had never had LBF's escargot I would have been pleased by the dish served at the GRG. No complaints on the Lobster Thermidor. (We each ate half of our own choice and swapped plates!)
Both of the soups were good, but Jim was especially pleased with his choice of the Brie soup, and I agree that it was the better of the two. It is normally served with toasted almonds, but Jim can't eat those so they were left out.
We skipped the salad course and went for the steak next. I loved the mushroom stuffed tenderloin. It was very tender and the demi sauce was excellent. Jim was pleased with the Rib Eye as well, but we still think 135 Prime has the best steak in Waco. Both dishes were served with "Yukon Gold potato puree" (mashed potatoes) and the vegetable du jour (spinach topped with slivers of carrot and asparagus ).
The desserts were okay but nothing particularly special. If we go again, I think I'll try the Beignets with Cinnamon Ice Cream or Key Lime Parfait.
Jim was disappointed with the wine list. There were one or two Alsatian whites, but it did not offer any French reds. We learned that the owner (who was not there last night) often has some special bottles not on the list, so we'll ask for him next time. He also did not like the ambience. The entire front wall facing the street is glass, and there is no great view. "The front desperately needs curtains or drapes, and it would also improve things to have a small entry way to hide the glass doors," Jim says.
We ended up spending well over $200, just a little short of what we spent at 135 Prime last time. We can't afford to spend this kind of money very often, so it has to be really special. Unfortunately, I don't think The Green Room Grille was that great, but the music was. The waiter changed to Jazz Vocals when we first arrived, and no one else had been seated.
Thursday, January 17, 2008
3632 N. 19th St
Waco, TX 76708
6:20 PM Take-away
Ramona: Chicken tenders, breast, mashed potatoes, gravy
Jim: Chicken tenders, breast, mashed potatoes, gravy
The best fried chicken in Waco. Anytime you are in Central Texas, and you see a "Bush's Chicken," stop and get some. The breasts are huge, juicy, and tasty. Jim's favorite chicken, although Ramona still prefers KFC (original recipe).
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
1411 N. Valley Mills Dr.
Waco, TX 76710
5:45 - 6:45 PM
Ramona & Jim: Buffet, and too many things to name! Egg drop soup, egg rolls, shrimp, chicken, garlic meatballs, seafood delight, teryaki chicken, lemon chicken, sweet and sour chicken, twice cooked pork, and iced tea with orange slices (Jim) and lemon (Ramona).
ToC is our favorite Chinese buffet, and we love going there for the variety and quality of the food. Unfortunately, we saw a sign on the door it is closing on January 25. The owner is retiring. He has been running this buffet since 1988. Sad.
Ramona's Fortune: "Where there is doubt there is truth"
Jim's Fortune: "You would do well in the field of computer technology"
Monday, January 14, 2008
4208 Franklin Ave
Waco, TX 76710
6:55 - 7:10 PM
Ramona: Bowl baked potato soup, vegetable plate (cole slaw, broccoli rice casserole, kernel corn, baby carrots), honey butter croissant, iced tea
Jim: Cup baked potato soup, Alexander tilapia with grilled shrimp, broccoli rice casserole, baby carrots, iced tea
After a long day of traveling, nobody wants to go home and cook, so we went right from the airport to Cheddar's. This is almost a perfect little restaurant, and one of the best chains around. The food is great, the prices are reasonable, and the service from local college students is good. Unlike some chains, they don't hover over the table, constantly asking if everything is okay. We have never had a bad meal here. This Cheddar's is always dependable. The only problem is, the crowds have not slacked off, even though it has been open for more than two years.
6400 Torresdale Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19135
12:50 - 1:20 PM
Ramona: Turkey & provolone hoagie, caffeine-free diet Coke, Tastykake Chocolate Junior
Jim: Roast beef & Swiss cheese hoagie, Tastykake Chocolate Cupcakes, soft pretzel.
This completes the big three of Philly dining -- hoagies and soft pretzels -- with cheese steaks. After Jim's Steaks, Wawa hoagies are a must for any self-respecting visitor to Philadelphia. I will say this -- I would give almost anything for a Wawa here in Texas. The sandwiches are the best anywhere. Their coffee is great, and a kaiser roll with butter makes a great breakfast.
Locations all over the Delaware Valley.
Broad and Locust
Philadelphia, PA 19107
8:50 to 9:30 AM
Ramona: Eggs Benedict, fruit, orange juice, coffee
Jim: Eggs Benedict, fruit, orange juice, coffee
Breakfast is always fun when traveling, and it is especially nice to dine in a classy restaurant of a great hotel. The hollandaise sauce was perfect as were the poached egg yolks. The juice was fresh squeezed, and the coffee was superb.
4th & South Streets
Philadelphia, PA 19147
Ramona: Provolone steak with mushrooms & onions, Chips, diet Coke
Jim: Whiz steak with Mushrooms, Dr. Brown's Blackberry soda
Doesn't matter what anyone says, Jim's Steaks is far and away the best cheese steaks in Philadelphia. Usually, when we arrive in Philly, 4th and South is our first stop. I have been eating here for almost thirty five years. There is none better.
Frankford & Levick St
Philadelphia, PA 19135
9:45 - 10:40 AM
Ramona: #2 (Scrambled egg, home fries, scrapple, orange Juice, whole wheat toast, coffee)
Jim: #4 (2 eggs, sunny side up, scrapple (ordered, sausage eaten), home fries, rye toast, tomato juice, coffee
Another favorite of my parents and us. Ramona has fallen in love with Scrapple, which, by the way, is nothing like "liver mush" of Southern fame. Scrapple is tasty and has a bit of a spicy flavor, while liver mush is, well, mushy. Even though I did not get what I ordered, I kept it, becuase I have eaten at Red Robin many, many times over the years, and I knew the sausage would be good.
8826 Frankford Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19136
6:40 -- 8:00 PM
Ramona: Corn chowder, salmon croquettes, potato pancakes, cole slaw, rolls, iced tea.
Jim: Corn chowder, roast turkey, mashed potatoes, corn fritters, rolls, iced tea.
This diner is one of my parents' favorite places to eat, so when we arrived in Philly for a wedding, we took them out to eat. I never miss a chance to have a turkey dinner, and Dining Car has one of the best -- there was plenty of meat, extra cranberry sauce, and poppy seed rolls. Ramona's mother made salmon croquettes, but these were a different shape, and she liked them.
Diner food is, of course, a staple of Philadelphia eats, and the food is usually great, low priced, and plentiful.
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
100 N. I-35 [NEW LOCATION]
Waco, TX 76704
12:10 to 1:15 PM
Ramona: Catfish Dinner (two filets [Jim ate one]), french fries, hush puppies, cole slaw, iced tea.
Jim: Corn Crab Soup, Catfish basket (one filet), french fries, hush puppies, cole slaw, iced tea.
Buzzard Billy's is a quirky hangout for the Baylor crowd. Recently, they moved across the river to the old "Dock's Riverfront," and this was our first visit to the new place. Dock's was getting shabby when it closed, and BB's has really fixed it up very well. The food was, as usual, delicious. I am not a big fan of hush puppies (except from Bridge's Barbeque in Shelby, NC -- keep an eye out for that posting), but I really liked these -- soft on the outside, moist with a hint of pepper on the inside. The fish was good, too. Ramona ordered the platter so we could share the second piece, because I was really hungry and didn't think one piece would be enough. However, the pieces were large and I could barely finish the second piece. BB's corn crab soup is a favorite of mine, and I get it every time I go there.
825 Wooded Acres
Waco, TX 76710
5:35 -- 6:50 PM
Ramona: Egg drop soup, egg roll, "Three Treasures from the Orient" (Shrimp, scallops, sauteed with snow peas, broccoli, mushrooms, and baby corn in a white sauce), and iced tea.
Fortune Cookie: "Your friend or partner is needing your advice and encouragement."
Jim: Egg drop soup, egg roll, Chicken with Chinese Mushrooms and snow pea pods, bamboo shoots, in a white sauce, and hot tea. Fortune Cookie: "If you go fishing, your catch will be plentiful."
It seems as if all the Chinese restaurants in Waco are turning into buffets, and we have our favorites of those, but Cathay House is strictly sit down. The dining expereince here is quiet and peaceful. Soft Chinese music plays in the background, and even when it is crowded, the conversations are hushed. The service is always good, and the soup and egg rolls are perfect. We both agreed we had never had a bad meal there, and have eaten most of the dishes without the warning of "spicy" on them.
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
5006 Waco Dr.
Waco, TX 76710
5:00 -6:00 PM
Ramona: Green peas and olives, Endamame salad, Chicken Caesar Salad (without chicken), Tuna scroodle, soy beans, Cherokee Joe corn bread soup, cheese bisuits, melon and kiwi, and iced tea.
Jim: Chicken Caesar Salad (with one tiny piece of chicken), Tuna scroodle, peas, Chicken cheese soup, a baked potato with cheese, sour cream, and butter, pasta salad, ginger bread, melon, oranges, kiwi, and peaches, and iced tea.
We shared a dish of frozen yogurt with Oreo crumbles.
We love this place for a lazy afternoon, after a movie, or when we are out, and can't make it home without "something in the stomach." The soups are especially good, and most of the selections are healthy.
Saturday, January 5, 2008
4700 Bosque Blvd.
Waco, TX 76710
9:30 - 10:30 AM
This intimate restaurant is a favorite breakfast haunt and holds a special place in our hearts since we had both our families there for breakfast on our wedding day 04/04/04. Today's wait was a shorter-than-average 10 minutes. We were lucky that many of the Baylor crowd is still out of town. The waiter who seated us took our order for coffee and brought us two steaming cups right away.
Ramona had the Cafe Scramble (eggs, sausage, tomatoes, hash browns, and two kinds of cheese delicately scrambled together) with an English muffin.
Jim had a blueberry waffle, a side order of sausage, and tomato juice. The waiter first brought over strawberries instead of blueberries, but the error was quickly remedied. The food was excellent, as usual. - Ramona
4208 Franklin Ave
Waco, TX 76710
5:30 - 6:30 PM
R&J -- two iced teas (while waiting for a table)
Neither Ramona nor I had ever heard of or eaten at Cheddar's before it came to Waco about two years ago. We love it, and have been frequent visitors. The crowds that packed in when it first opened have not abated. The food is good and the prices are great. We almost always have a wait if we arrive after 5:00 PM -- especially on a Friday. While waiting in the bar, we ordered two iced teas and extra lemon. The waiter said, "I'll think about it," then brought us one extra piece of lemon and disappeared. No tip.
Ramona: Veggie plate (carrots, broccoli rice casserole, mashed potatoes, cole slaw) with baked potato soup and a honey butter croissant & iced tea
Jim: Honey Dijon chicken with mushrooms, seasoned rice, carrots, and broccoli casserole, caesar salad with honey butter croissant, & iced tea (This waiter brought us six extra pieces of lemon).
The food was excellent, although we did seem a bit rushed -- we had hardly started our soup and salad when they brought the entree. I guess when a restauarant is this crowded they have to move the plates.
Friday, January 4, 2008
1021 S. University Parks Drive
Waco, TX 76706
12:15 - 1:05 PM
Ramona: L17 -- Pad See Eew (Chicken, broccoli, sweet noodles, egg, house sauce) Thai Chicken soup and an egg roll, Iced Tea
Jim: L9 -- Pad Khing (Chicken, broccoli, snow peas, bell peppers, baby corn) Steamed rice, Thai Chicken soup, and an egg roll. Hot Thai tea
This is one of our favorite places for lunch. Right near the Baylor campus, the atmosphere is cheery, and the food delicious. Portions are perfect for lunch. Thai Iced Tea in summer is also excellent. This location to close soon and move across I-35 from the Baylor Campus.
Practically every Friday since we have been continuously dating (259 Saturdays, as of 12/29/07), we have begun the weekend by going out to eat. Then there are the special occasions -- birthdays, anniversaries, job promotions, sometimes Wednesdays or Thursdays or Tuesdays or Saturdays or Sunday mornings -- when we also go out.
Last year, we began keeping a simple list of the restauarants we like in Central Texas and the dates we ate there. We thought it would be fun to keep a more detailed record including the menu, wine, and the tab.
We hope you will join us on this journey, and, by all means, please fell free to comment.
Tonight will be our first outing of the new year, so look for our first posting this weekend.
-Jim & Ramona