Sunday, June 29, 2008

Food Czar Revisit #4: Lochrann's Irish Pub & Eatery

Alright, let's get one thing straight. In case you haven't figured it out by now, I'm no purist when it comes to much of anything, let alone food. I've read reports that the delightful downtown Frisco bar know as Lochrann's Irish Pub isn't "sufficently Irish". While I can definitely respect someone else's opinion on the subject, I feel I have to come clean and admit the truth: I DON'T CARE!!! When I visit a restaurant, all I care about are good, affordable eats served in a timely fashion by nice people without attitude. Lochrann's can be as Irish as County Cork or not, it doesn't matter, as long as the above criteria are met. Furthurmore, some patrons have apparently had issues with the service. I can honestly say I've been to this pub several times and have had nothing but exemplary service. Perhaps I've been lucky or perhaps most of the problems were worked out in the shakedown cruise that is the first few months of a restaurant's existence. In any case, my wife and I had originally intended one recent Saturday evening to dined at the newly-opened branch of Mattitos next door. We walked in and were told there was an hour wait. My maximum wait for a restaurant is thirty minutes, so after a little deliberation, I decided it was time Lochrann's got a revisit.

We were seated right away at the only vacant table remaining (thankfully, it was a two-fer), where the attractive and efficent Bailey tended to our needs. My lovely Rock Star is a huge fan of the beer and cider drink known as a Black Velvet and ordered it. I decided to go with Boddingtons Ale (Lochrann's features a dozen or so beers on draft.) We scanned the menu and decided on an intriguing appetizer: Leprichauns Gold, three generous balls of corned beef and roasted garlic mashed potatoes, rolled and deep fried. Not only were they delicious by themselves, but they were served with lip-smackin' Guinness gravy, making this one of the best appeteasers I've had in ages. My wife loves a great burger, and when in Frisco, ordered the Frisco burger. Tender, fresh beef prepared medium and served with onion rings, bacon, cheddar cheese, and home-made BBQ sauce. Very nice. For myself, even though I'm not a purist, I can get a good burger all over town, so I opted for an Irish specialty: chicken and bacon boxty potato pancakes. Rather light, as the menu promised, but still full of potato flavor, and served with a fabulous bechamel sauce, those boxin' boxtys were quite satisfying. As sweet as Irish cream, Bailey was easily able to tempt us into dessert: made-in-house carrot cake, thick with frosting. Soon we were boxing up the leftovers and making plans to depart.

Then, out in the parking lot, disaster struck. The car wouldn't start. Despite three hours and two or three jumpstart attempts, we could not revive our conveyance. So, taking the advice of our road assistance supervisor, who said a wrecker would take another ninety minutes (this after three hours of frustration), we decided to call a cab and arrange for a wrecker on the morrow. After some thought, we decided that our pub, like all bars, must call dozens of cabs in the course of business, and would know which company to use. The manager on duty was extraordinarily kind, not only calling the cab company himself, but furnishing us with complimentary sodas while we waited and enjoyed the excellent live music. Now that's service!!! Lochrann's had already earned our business that evening, now I believe they truly went above and beyond the call of duty. We'll be back! Website is of course Hopefully, you'll find a similar pot of gold at the end of the rainbow on your visit, and remember:


Friday, June 27, 2008

Quickie Review #25: I Fratelli Ristorante & Pizza

Ah, the Bachelor's Breakfast! Every man knows it's the best breakfast on the face of the earth. What, pray tell, is the Bachelor's Breakfast, I hear you ladies ask. Very simple: Cold Pizza. A dish so well known among the male portion of the population that ESPN (a guy's favorite channel, along with NFL Network) named a show after it. Just this very morning, I savored that very dish for the umpteenth time, courtesy of my lovely wife the Rock Star and a grand opening promotion by the new location of I Fratelli Ristorante and Pizza, a promotion that, alas, went slightly awry.

Here's the facts: The local media carried a story the other day about the opening of the newest of the eight-store I Fratelli chain, a concept started by the Cole brothers in Irving in 1987 and has gained a large following for their delivery/takeout only stores. (Only the main branch in Irving is a full service dine-in restaurant.) Specifically, the brothers offered a very enticing twist: Free pizza for a year to the first hundred customers lined up when the doors opened at eleven. Or so it was reported in the media. After seeing such a great deal, I did not hesitate to inform my lovely bride, who declared that she would be happy to go down and wait in line if I would only phone in the order. I did so and she duly departed our casa shortly after. Soon after, I received a phone call from a Rock Star in distress: Literally hundreds of people were lined up around the block, just hoping to be one of the lucky few. After a quick discussion, she decided to call and cancel her order, as we would not have any chance of dining before nightfall at this rate. Luckily, I Fratelli's expert customer service sprang to the rescue; management was most apologetic and stated that they would be happy to deliver said pizza and salad as we lived within their limited area. (As it turned out, I Fratelli was merely offering gift cards to the first hundred customers, only ONE of which would reward the bearer with a year's worth of pizza.)

When all the fuss had died we were finally able to dine and quickly discovered a new fave place. The salad was a delightful mix of iceburg and romaine lettuce served with a very tangy Italian vinaigrette. The pizza was truly a standout and very like Campisis with robust Italian sausage, very good pepperoni, and the perfect blend of crust, cheese, and sauce. We had plenty to feast on and more than enough for breakfast the next day. (Disclosure: I cheated and heated my pizza up, the better to enjoy the blend of flavors.) I Fratelli has locations in west Plano, uptown Dallas, Irving, Flower Mound, Southlake, and Coppell, so there should be one near you. Website is and be sure to enter the pizza side of the site, as they do not carry the entire restaurant menu for delivery. Have your own breakfast treat soon, even if you have to heat and eat, and of course:


Saturday, June 21, 2008


I'm alone! On my own!! Batchin' it, as they say. My lovely wife the Rock Star is attending a convention in Kansas City, enjoying her first taste of genuine KC barbecue, so I'm having to make do for myself for an entire week. Mostly, it's just been more of the same: Working hard, eating cheap, and enjoying the occasional treat. Last night, I said, "Enough's enough!" I had a hankerin' for some honest to goodness, good Old School Tex-Mex. Luckily, I knew what to do about it. I've heard for a long time about this wonderful place located in Greater Downtown Frisco that I felt sure would meet my needs (a great expression, even more appropriate for a bakery. Think about it!). So, with only myself as company, I grabbed a magazine (I'm a compulsive reader, even when I'm not in the bathroom), and pointed El Automovil north, destination Manny's Tex-Mex Grill.


Mannys boasts an Old-School atmosphere along with it's Old-School food. A rambling, ramshackle house located down on Main Street (as Bob Seger would have it), just down the block
from Randys, probably the most underrated steakhouse in the Metroplex. Smallish parking lot (be prepared to park on the nearby street). Outdoor patio, with main and add-on dining rooms. Eclectic decor to say the least. In short, a very homey joint. I was seated promptly in the add-on section, and awaited Brenda, my lovely waitress.


I hate it when I read uninformed critics talking about Basic or Standard Tex-Mex. The true aficionado knows there's no such animal and can probably detect the difference in a blind taste test. Here are some of the differences. Corporate Mex can be found in such establishments as Mi Cocina or Cantina Laredo and is more upscale and can feature some exotic ingredients. Cal/Ariz/New Mex features more fresh, green chilis and the rellenos are often made with ancho rather than poblano peppers. Interior or Mexican Mex boasts grilled meats and more seafood offerings. Finally, Classic Tex-Mex features tons of cheese, and one of the truly great inventions of the genre: chili gravy, which is poured over cheese and sometimes beef enchiladas and tamales. Great chili gravy is a dying art, and I greatly lament its passing. For the record, Mannys falls into the Classic Tex-Mex category. I began my repast with a cup of chili con queso and Mannys excellent, spicy chips and salsa. The queso was rather bland; luckily the salsa wasn't and I added some to the cheesy dip to make it more palatable. Every Classic joint worth its salsa has at least one combo platter featuring the classics plus rice and beans. When I'm visiting such a place, I love to start with this kind of platter so I can get a good read on the place, so to speak. Mannys Platter did not disappoint. Served on cold (crispy beef taco, guacamole tostada), and hot plates (cheese enchilada, soft cheese taco, and tamale), the platter delivered all I wanted and then some. The beef taco was tasty, as was the guacamole tostada (I consider the term "guac" to be exceedingly corporate and pretentious), although the tostada could have used more of the green stuff. Likewise, the chili gravy perched atop the cheese enchilada was quite good, but was barely enough to fill a thimble. More, please! The serving of cheese, however, was quite plentiful and helped make for one tasty meal, well paired with Dos Equis Lager. No dessert, and plenty left over for tomorrow's lunch.


Brenda did a great job, even though she probably had too many tables (around half-a-dozen, at last count). Website is


For great classic, old-school Tex-Mex at reasonable prices, neighborhood hangout Mannys is a great choice. Hang there yourself soon, and remember:


Wine Corner Review #24: Perrin Reserve Cotes Du Rhone Rouge

Burgandy or Bordeaux? Honestly, most imbibers of the French grape in liquid form ask themselves that either/or question. However, to limit yourself to those wonderful regions, some of the world's very best for vino production, is to miss out on much of the joy that is French wine.
Neighboring appelations Chateauneuf Du Pape and Cotes Du Rhone, for instance, turn out some of the most consistently reliable and affordable quaff of La Belle France. I've become a big fan in recent years of the underappreciated Grenache grape, which is a key component, along with Syrah, Mouvedre, and Cinsault, of the blend Perrin Reserve Cotes Du Rhone Rouge.

The robe of the Perrin Reserve Cotes Du Rhone Rouge has the distinct appearance of black cherry cola. The nose reveals itself slowly, with muted spice, white pepper, and cassis. The taste is late and long-lasting, typical of French wine, with black cherry, chunky peanut butter, and just a touch of spice (again typical of French syrah; Australian shiraz tends to be more spice-forward), resolving themselves into a distinctly petroleum finish. This wine is best paired with Mediterranean food, such as lamb or chops (or lamb chops); it also works quite nicely with extra-sharp cheese. Website is and of course can be read in English or Francais. Don't miss out on this lovely vin du pays, and of course:


Saturday, June 14, 2008

Quickie Review #24: Vitos Pizza Restaurant

What's in a name? Some guy named Billy Bob Shakespeare came up with that quote a few years back; I think he was referring to a floral arrangement or some such rot. In any case, I must admit that I'm a sucker for an Italian name when it comes to choosing an Italian restaurant. As I've stated in a previous post, I'm also a sucker for a menu hanging on my door when I want delivery. (I've actually had another restaurant leave a menu on my door, and when I called them up to place an order, they told me they didn't deliver to my area! Honest!!) In any case, Vito is as Italian as Frances Ford Coppola, and speaking of The Godfather maven, I figured any place with such a name would make me an offer I couldn't refuse, so my lovely wife the Rock Star and I called Vito's Pizza Restaurant up and had them deliver an order one recent Friday evening.

Although the name of the joint is Vito's Pizza, rest assured they carry all sorts of Italian goodies, including calzones, pastas, chicken and seafood dishes, such as Shrimp Scampi, and desserts as well as the aformentioned pizza. We started our repast with one of my wife's favorite finger foods, fried cheese. Good but pretty standard. The salads were ordinary greens but the House Tomato Vinagrette dressing was very good indeed. Strombolis proved to be two huge, fluffy pillows of dough not unlike Hot Pockets on steroids, filled with pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, and mozzarella, and served with a delicious marinara that was as thick as tomato paste. We could have easily split one and been thoroughly satisfied. Delivery was speedy as well, and the driver encouraged us to try the other dishes in the future as "all the food is very good". Now, when a restaurant earns such unsolicited praise from one of their employees, you can rest assured I'll take them up on their kind offer. Website is Order a dinner you can't refuse soon, and you know the drill:


Sunday, June 8, 2008

Quickie Review #23: Avalons Casual Fine Dining

In classical British mythology, Avalon is known as "the isle of apples," the place where the body of King Arthur came to rest when floated down the river after he was mortally wounded in battle. There, he was cared for by mysterious maidens, including the beautifully bewitching Morgan Le Fay, where he supposedly lies in wait if Britain should ever need him and his Knights of the Round Table again. Arthur may be no longer with us, but Avalon has been resurrected and brought to the North Texas neighborhood of Castle Hills, as a casual fine dining restaurant. In search of a magical experience, my lovely wife the Rock Star and I puttered on over there one recent Saturday evening.

Upon arrival, we discovered that most of the place had been reserved for a wedding reception, and only the outdoor patio was still available. After a brief discussion, we decided to stay and were soon escorted to a lovely spot overlooking a small pond. (I looked, but I could discern no Lady of the Lake prowling its waters.) Soon, the wonderful Mandy discovered us and thereafter attended to our needs. (Service is indeed one of the high points of the Avalon dining experience.)
We started with chips and salsa and they were quite marvelous; we were given a generous boat of the salsa and it had quite the peppery kick. Since it is now (almost officially) summer, my bride was in a salad mood and selected the Fried Chicken Salad: nice, fresh mixed greens tossed with very crispy chicken, diced tomatos, and cheddar cheese, served with ranch dressing. Nice and uncomplicated. I was also in my comfort food mode and selected the Chicken Fried Steak. In due course, I was presented with a large slab of meat with (again) very crispy breading, topped with cream gravy that held just a touch of spice. (I added to said spice by also topping it with salsa.) Mashed potatoes were just OK, but the cream gravy atop them rode to the assistance like Sir Galahad in seach of the Holy Grail. My wife accompanied her repast with Woodbridge Chardonnay; I ordered Ziegenbock beer on draft, which paired very well with everything. We would loved to have lingered, but as the day was quite hot and humid we were in danger of getting sunstroke on the patio and so boxed leftovers and departed. Website is, and yes they do have an internet dining club. Start your own legend soon, and as always:


Saturday, June 7, 2008

Wine Corner Review #23: Redcliffe Sauvignon Blanc

Wine Sale! How those words quicken my pulse and loosen my purse. Actually, the purse in question belongs to my lovely wife the Rock Star, who stumbled upon this sale at a wine shoppe a week ago. Many wines priced to move, most at 50% off. Luckily, she took full advantage of the situation, and made two trips to stock up. In this situation, the wine in question had been lingering on their shelves for awhile, so she made her purchases with full knowledge that by the time we get around to drinking, there may be a few bad bottles in the mix. She gladly took the risk, as one rarely gets the chance to get wines such as Redcliffe Sauvignon Blanc, a Marlborough, New Zealand tipple that rated 86 points in Wine Spectator, for such a bargain-basement price.

The robe of the Redcliffe Sauvignon Blanc is that of the Black-Eyed Susan, that lovely flower awarded to winners of the Preakness, second jewel of horse racing's Triple Crown. The nose shows melon, cantaloupe, and an abundance of minerals. Plenty of melon and lime on the palate, with notes of grapefruit and new-mown grass on the finish. This Blanc is just perfect for salad, particularly a Cobb, a club, or any greenery with chicken. Redcliffe Sauvignon Blanc is produced and bottled by DeRedcliffe Estates and there is no website; you'll have to do a little googling to get any information. This bottle is worth seeking out at any reasonable price. Do so soon, and remember: