Sunday, October 13, 2013

Wecks after the Balloon Farewell Ascension

We rose at 4:30 am this morning to make it out to Balloon Fiesta Park for the dawn patrol launch at 5:45 am. The plan was to watch the balloons for a couple hours and then go back to the room and sleep for a few more hours. Due to chill in the air before the sun warmed us up, and knowing I was going back to nap later, I wanted to have something warm to drink (46 degrees out), but no caffeine. Thankfully, we found a food vendor who had hot chocolate! Walking out onto the launching area, it was a sight to see these 8 balloons fill up with air at the same time, glow a couple times ceremoniously, and then lift off one by one before the sun rose. Brought a tear to my eye! They rose and glowed for us again and then flew around for all to see.

Walking around the grounds, we watched for a couple hours as hundreds of balloons lifted off into the predawn sky as the sun rose over the mountains. An experience I will never forget. The air was still chilly and hot chocolate was long gone, so we left the park and headed for breakfast - starved!

The Hubby (my restaurant finding genius) found a restaurant close by (Weck's) to have breakfast and for a Sunday morning at 9am, a 30 minute wait seemed just fine. The food must be worth it I thought. We waited inside and as usual I watched the staff work. One manager was at the hostess stand and one was in the dining room and from what I saw, this place had communication down to a science. They sat people within the quoted time, food still came out quickly, and as we enjoyed our HUGE pancakes, our server took amazing care of us. Tables were turned within 2 minutes and the dining room manager was one of the best I have seen in a while.

This place is so staying on the list of where to have breakfast/lunch while in Albuquerque for the next time we come to the balloon fiesta - which is hopefully next year!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Albuquerque's Frontier Restaurant

Being a University teacher and student stopping by a local eats place for lunch across the street from the University of New Mexico was delightful. All the unique personalities made me not want to eat, but people watch! The line to order food went so fast, we had to step out of it so we could decide what to order. Hungry from the long drive and late lunch, we shared the small order of chicken nachos, small order of chicken enchiladas, and the greatly talked about fiesta burger. All this for only $14! I thoroughly enjoyed the freshness of the enchiladas and nachos, while the Hubby loved everything. If a place like this was across from my university, I might be there everyday! Didn't take any pictures - maybe next time.

The Big Texan Steak Ranch

On a surprise vacation planned by the Hubby, we went halfway to our destination and stayed overnight in Amarillo. For dinner, he decided we should stop at The Big Texan Steak Ranch and experience watching brave souls who try to consume the 72oz steak dinner. Ever seen the John Candy movie, The Great Outdoors? He goes to this restaurant and the deal is if he can eat the entire dinner, 72 oz steak, shrimp appetizer, bread, and salad, he gets it for free. If not, the cost is $72.00. In the movie, he gets all the way done and nearly sick he declares victory...until the waitress tells him he has the eat the fatty part too...yuck.

Arriving at the restaurant, it's as 'gimicky' and 'touristy' as they come. We put our name on the waiting list and not too bad for a Friday night off-season - only 15-20 minutes. We wandered past the gift store, candy shop, bar area, and room for a private event out into the Beer Garden. Great place with picnic tables, huge fire pit, large chair (perfect for snapping a picture of the Hubby), and even a pretty elaborate maze for the kids to get lost in. I'm sure during a higher travelling season, even the outside would be packed. Tonight it was quiet (a bit of a chill in the air to me) and we got to wander around in peace.

 Inside the dining room area was booths along the walls and tables filled the middle complete with cow patterned table cloths. Moose heads and deer heads hung on the wall as well as other furry animals. The grill for the kitchen was open for everyone to watch them grill the steaks and it was fabulous to watch them work like a well-oiled machine.

 We were seated upstairs in what was supposed to be a 'closed section'; in other words, a server was not assigned to those tables. However, in great hospitality fashion, the manager greeted us as soon as we sat down and got us started on a 4 part beer sampler. Did you know they brew their own beer there? I asked about tours and the server said there was talk of expanding the brewery to allow for tours, but currently there was nothing like that available. We tried the Chocolate Bock Lager, Oktoberfest, Texas Red Amber Ale, and the Raspberry Wheat. All unique in design and taste, we enjoyed them thoroughly.

Dinner consisted of a shared 20 oz t-bone, salad, fried okra, and yummy yeast rolls. Our server, Megan, was a treat and never left us asking for anything. The manager also kept checking on us and we were able to have a more intimate experience due to us sitting by the rail upstairs by ourselves. From being the restaurant business for so long, I couldn't have asked for a better time. I got to hear server banter, kitchen banter, talking shop with the manager, and enjoying the food and atmosphere the whole time.

We did get to see the end of someone trying to eat the 72 oz steak - he ate all but 20 oz, not too bad! As we were finishing up, another brave soul stepped up onto the stage to give in a try. There is a special place where the steak is consumed on stage in front of the grills so everyone can watch you. By the time we left, the guy was almost half way done with his steak and it had only been 20 minutes. Wonder how he did?

Looking forward to being in Amarillo again and stopping by the Big Texan for a great dinner and show!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Red Robin - Yummmm

Even the name reminds me of the jingle on the commercial - great marketing, huh? Father's Day, June 16th, we a long day for us. We had picked up the children that day and were making our way down to Branson. Stopping for an early dinner/ late lunch (linner/dunch) in Kansas City seemed like the best idea. Wanting some place new and not too far off the highway, we elected Red Robin in Liberty just north of Kansas City.

Service was partial, the poor girl looked like she was miserable but she wasn't a horrible server. Just looked like she needed more training. Food was as good as could be expected from a multiunit casual dining restaurant. Nothing spectacular at all from the kitchen and on the service, no manager was ever seen visiting tables. Oh well.

I ordered the chicken in a spinach wrap - too much wrap for the amount of filling. Great fried though and they are bottomless. They even brought out a basket as an appetizer before our meal which I thought was unique. The Hubby ordered a burger and said it was decent. Not outstanding like Fuddruckers, but not gross like other places I won't mention. Sarah tried to go the slightly healthy route and ordered a fried chicken finger salad with honey mustard dressing. Looked yummy and seemed well-proportioned until I realized it was a shallow bowl. Jason order the ribs and macaroni and cheese. While he ate all the ribs, he hardly touched the macaroni and cheese. Once I tasted it I figured out why - it was made from real noodles and cheese, not the kind that comes from the blue and yellow box he's used to. Oh well, we took it with us and the Hubby ate it for a late night snack at the hotel.

Overall, not excited to go back since there are so many more choices to chose from, but I'm glad we gave it a good college try!

Dressing up for a romantic dinner at The Tower Club

Mid June means craziness of the children for the summer for the Hubby and I. We love spending quality time with them, and since we don't get enough of it, we don't do date night in the short amount of time they are in town. So, the Hubby planned for a romantic dinner at The Tower Club in the Thanksgiving Tower, Dallas. Beautiful view, amazing food, and best of all, getting lost in the eyes of the man who loves me more than life.

Ahhh... marital bliss! :)

Okay - about the restaurant. It sits on the 48th floor and looks out over the north side of downtown Dallas. Breathtakingly beautiful view especially since we had an earlier dinner and enjoyed the sunset. We ordered a sushi roll for an appetizer, and the sauce with it was divine.

For dinner, I ordered the chef special of Mahi Mahi with a lemon butter sauce that melted in my mouth. Rice pilaf on the side with fresh steamed vegetables. It made me think bad to the Julie & Julia movie when Julie makes a very tasty dish and asks if it's rude to say yum. I said Yum that included a moan in the 'm' and chewed so slowly, eyes closed because it was the most elegant and smooth taste of Mahi Mahi I have ever had. Delish!!

 I couldn't even finish my dinner halfway though when the Hubby reminded me about their desserts. Taking the remainder of my dinner home with an extra side of the sauce, I readied my palate for dessert. He ordered a creme brulee with berries on top and I ordered a chocolate upon chocolate with berry scrumptiousness. Totally don't remember the name, but that's what I called it. It was rich and smooth but not bitter tasting like some extra chocolate desserts are. There was a balance of the rich chocolate with the fresh berries and sauce, that made me want a glass of milk and time alone with my yumminess.

After our glass of wine - Riesling for me, Pinot Noir for the Hubby, we walked around the courtyard area enjoying the time and company. This is our second time here and I can't say enough about it. The service was impeccable and the food was prepared perfectly. It was a great way to spend our romantic night before summer really began.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Our local Outback Steakhouse

Sometimes it's nice to not have to cook and do dishes, right? I agree. After picking a friend up from the airport who was coming home from Scotland, it nearly dinnertime. Jet-lagged about 8 hours off schedule, she was too exhausted to get a bite to eat. So we dropped her off and I realized I hadn't pulled anything out for dinner.

Hmmm... (waiting for the Hubby to say lets eat out)

Quickly, the Hubby has a bright idea - "Let's eat out!" (Love that guy). So we headed down to Outback, knowing they always have some kind of special we can share, but never knowing which one. Low and behold, they have a "No Worries Wednesdays". Thank you Holy Spirit for directing us there. I got my 6 oz sirloin and the Hubby ordered an 8 oz prime rib. We both had salads, bread, and shared cheese fries (with a side a jalapenos) and our bill was only $32. With all that food, we actually had enough to have lunch the next day - so you do the math on what dinner really costs us. :)

About the service... our server was Mark and he was okay. The salads came out about 90 seconds before our entrees and when we were ready to pay we honestly waiting about 7-8 minutes for him to come and collect payment. He was very nice though, so I'd still give him a thumbs up. The manager, Kori, however was one of the best I have ever seen in quite a while. I give her 100% on management travel paths and touching tables. With our issue of the food coming out too quickly, she came by unexpectedly and tripped over herself apologizing and offered to buy us dessert. She was kind, gracious, and acted like she truly enjoyed her job. Not very often do I see that these days. A great manager - I pray she is recognized for her efforts.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Johnnie's Grill

While on a storm chasing trip last weekend, I was searching through the restaurant listings in El Reno, OK and checking out the reviews on Yelp. El Reno is not a large town, although very quaint in nature. We decided on Johnnie's Grill because of all the rave reviews it received on Yelp. The only bad ones were about not going during the rush hour because service was lacking. It was about 2:30 in the afternoon when we stopped by and there were only 4-5 other tables of guests in the place. Just having burgers the night before, we decided on the famous coneys. The Hubby ordered his with chili and cheese and I ordered mine plain, along with a large side of tater tots to share. This was after we were assured they were all beef hot dogs (we don't eat any pork for health reasons - that stuff is ridiculously bad for us!). A short time passed when one of the cooks brought our food by - Greg's was smothered so we couldn't see the hit dog, but since my were plain, we got to see the actual meat and we were so glad we did. The hot dogs were PINK. I was shocked and astounded. I asked why they were pink and he said it's a color that the distributors inject into the hot dogs.

Why do hot dogs need to be colorful?

I told him I could not eat them and neither could the Hubby since we have food coloring dietary restrictions for our health. Neither of us are allergic to food coloring, but there is honestly no need for it in our food. People say we eat with our eyes, which I agreed, but food can be just as colorful naturally. Pink hot dogs that were supposed to be all beef? Ummmm, no.

Service was cordial, but no smiles or helpful suggestions. I'm sure questions and requests like ours (no pork or food coloring) don't happen very often. Management should really train their staff to be more open to the needs of the guests and respectful. The whole thing felt off some how - couldn't really put my finger on it. To add to the feeling I had, they did not accept debit or credit cards, cash and check only. I know some Mom and Pop places are like that due to the fees credit card companies charge, but I also know the less ethical ones do it so they don't have to claim all their sales. I'm not saying I know the facts, just stating my opinion. Something didn't feel right to me, and we were glad to leave that place and find another restaurant to share our business with. Zero stars for food and service for Johnnie's Grill. Disappointing to say the least.