13376 Research Blvd, #400
Austin, TX 78750
Head Public Restaurant Critic
I went to a Hoover's Cooking restaurant and it wasn't that bad. Hoover's Cooking bills itself as offering comfort food, which I guess it is, but my food was served a little too nicely for me to fully equate it with true comfort food (comfort food is supposed to be messy, not pretty).
I ordered a chicken fried chicken with mashed potatoes and a side salad, all of which was pretty good. Like I said earlier, the presentation was nice, but a little to clean for 'comfort food.' The restaurant gives you free bread rolls, which tasted like they were spiced with cinnamon and pumpkin, which I didn't particularly like but I could see how other people might like them. And the service was really great -- some of the best service I've had in a while. Really, the only bad aspect about Hoover's is that their drinks cost something like $2.20 for a soda, which I thought was a bit high. But overall, Hoover's Cooking didn't really impress me that much -- I guess it was just not my thing.
I met some friends for dinner at House Pizzeria, which I had been to once before -- it's good. The place makes "fancy" pizza, and by "fancy" I mean they charge more than your average pizza place.
By the time I had gotten to the restaurant my friends had already ordered for the table. They got two salads, one with spinach, shaved parmesian, and what looked like fake bacon strips, and the other with mixed greens, walnuts or pecans, some sort of white cheese (feta or goat cheese perhaps) and strawberries -- both were good. Pizza-wise, they had ordered three pizzas -- pepperoni; argula and garlic; and potato and goat cheese. All were quite good (and potato and goat cheese go surprisingly well with each other on a pizza).
The only bad thing about House Pizzeria is that they don't wait on you in the traditional sense. If you want to eat something, you have to order it at the counter, and if you want a beer, you have to order it at the bar, which kind of sucks, and which I mention for a reason revealed in the next paragraph.
When it's time to pay you have to pay at the counter. My friends and I split the check four ways, and my bill came to $15 something, and I tipped out to $4 something to be charged an even $20. I think I tipped too much.
I say I tipped too much because the staff didn't really do anything for us, except for being incredibly friendly, but still. All that the workers did was bring us our food, and that's it. I think I tipped so much because I was tricked into feeling like this is a real restaurant with real waiters and staff that, well, wait on you. The overtipping might also have been instinctive on my part, wanting a nice even number to show on my credit card statement. Or, since the staff was so friendly, maybe I wanted to be friendly and not be a douche by tipping $3 something for a total credit charge of $19, which is a just a dollar away from the oh-so-much-nicer figure of $20.
3509 Ranch Road 620 N
Austin, TX 78734
In celebration of Valentine's Day and our friends' 6th Wedding Anniversary, the four of us went out for a "fancy" dinner at Hudson's on the Bend on Lake Travis. Known for their "gamey" but tasty dishes, I think my favorite part was the receipt. We each shared our dishes a little bit with each other, so by the end of the night, I was able to say that I'd eaten duck, rattlesnake, trout, wild boar, shrimp, rabbit and elk. The rattlesnake, by the way, is excellent. It came sort of like a crab cake but even more delicious. My entree was spicy, crunchy trout, very ordinary, but very good! It came with a crunchy avocado and crunchy shrimp.
I have to say the service left something to be desired, especially for the cost. Our waiter was not that attentive, his bus boy did most of the work, we poured our own wine, and he almost forgot to ask us if we wanted another bottle (we had empty glasses, so of course we did). I also didn't like where they had us sit. We had reservations for dinner, and they sat us about three feet away from the hostess stand, so you really didn't feel like you were sitting anywhere special.
3825 Lake Austin Blvd
Austin, TX 78703
Head Public Restaurant Critic
Hula Hut is an Austin restaurant that's more well known for being popular than for the food they serve, at least in my opinion. I don't know why people like Hula Hut except that it sits next to a lake, has indoor and outdoor seating (on a pier no less), and has bars inside and out serving high priced drinks. The food they serve isn't bad, but I don't think it's that good either (except for their pico de gallo or salsa or whatever it is that they serve with their chips, which I couldn't get enough of).
For my entree I ordered a 'halfpipe shrimp enchilada', which was just crazy big. It was huge -- it was ridicuously huge. It was served with Mexican rice and black beans. The food and service overall was decent, if average. Hula Hut isn't a bad place, but I just don't understand why everybody likes to eat there.
Ever since my last, nightmare visit to Shilla Restaurant, which used to be my favorite and de facto restaurant for sushi, I've been on the look out for a new sushi restaurant with great lunch time specials. I've been going to Maki recently for most of my sushi fixes, but I don't really consider that a 'real' sushi restaurant, because it's not.
It was upon happenstance that I found myself at Ichiban on this occasion. I was driving around, hungry for something to eat, when I found myself on Burnet Road passing Ichiban by. I've passed it by before, but never hungry, yet it has always peaked my interest. This time, I decided to try it.
As I parked, I noticed the parking lot was pretty empty (basically, there were only two other vehicles). As I walked in, I noticed that there was just one customer in the establishment, who was eating at the sushi counter. As I walked in, a hostess seated me at a table and gave me their menus, which had a lot of cool lunch specials. I really wanted sushi, and they had good sushi lunch specials, but they also had some intriguing lunch specials not strictly sushi, but I stuck to my guns and got sushi. I ordered their "LS1. Sushi Combination" which comes with "5 pieces of nigiri sushi of chef's choice, House Special roll, and 8 pieces of California roll" for $8.95 (I upgraded my California roll to a Philadelphia roll for two bucks more).
All in all, the sushi was good and I was pleased with the place. The only thing that sucked was that the "House Special roll" was spicy salmon, which I don't particularly like because of the texture of the minced salmon, which is how most of the places I've been to have served it, but oh well, that didn't stop me from eating it. I really liked this place, and I knew it was a winner when I was exiting and walked across a bridge over a small pool of cool looking golden fish, which I hadn't even noticed on the way in.
7310 Burnet Rd
Austin, TX 78757
Head Public Restaurant Critic
This was my second visit to Ichiban and it did not disappoint. Like my last visit, I got their "LS1. Sushi Combination" which their website describes as having "5 pieces of nigiri sushi of chefís choice, House Special Hand roll, and 8 pieces of California roll". For some reason, instead of the "House Special Hand roll", I got 4 pieces of what I assume was a spicy crab roll (which was pretty good considering I really don't like the spicy tuna or spicy salmon rolls). Also, I decided to upgrade my California roll to a Rainbow roll for an extra three bucks. Overall, I like Ichiban and I need to come back to try some of their non-sushi lunch specials, which all looked pretty appetizing on the menu. Also, the wait staff was pretty attentive, which kind of made it a challenge to snap photos with my camera phone.
Went back to Ichiban and got the same thing I always get, the 5 piece sushi and California roll lunch special (including house special hand roll, salad, and miso soup), except this time I substituted the California roll not for a shrimp tempura roll but rather for a spider roll, which was good, although the crunchy leg ends still feel a bit weird in my mouth.
Anyway, a couple of things were different on this visit than on my previous visits.
1. There were actual customers filling the restaurant this time. Normally, I'm one of a few patrons at Ichiban, but this time the restaurant was moderately full (mainly of oriential people, but also a table of loud, obnoxious ex-frat guys talking about baseball or some such -- I tried to heed them no mind, but it was kind of hard with their lack of five-inch voices, discretion, and general consideration for everybody but themselves).
2. I got gipped on the salad. There was only one small piece each of a cherry tomato and cucumber in the salad, when normally there is at least two of each. I know times are tough, and cutbacks are to be expected, but the restaurant, if indeed they are cutting back, are cutting back on everything (or maybe they were just running low on these two items and had to ration, I don't know).
3. The menu says you get a house special hand roll with the particular sushi lunch plate I ordered, but everytime I've ordered this plate I always get several pieces of sushi in lieu of that, normally spicy crab or tuna pieces, but this time I got three pieces of a roll that I have never tried before. I think it had egg, spinach maybe, carrot, crab, and some hard, crunchy yellow item (of which I have no idea), as well as a flavor I wasn't particularly fond of.
This visit to Ichiban was memorably different than my previous visits, and was also my first visit in which I was sat at the sushi bar, I guess so that I could take up the least space possible. Oh well.
Some friends and I decided to go to the Iron Cactus to eat one night, a restaurant I had never been to before. As we pulled into the restaurant's parking lot we saw that it was full -- we couldn't find parking anywhere. The restaurant offers "complimentary" valet parking, but we didn't want to use it because it's not really "complimentary" because you have to tip the valet guy. But, since we couldn't find any parking on our own, we were left with no choice but to use the valet service.
My initial impression of the restaurant was that it looked 'shiny' and 'sleek', which I found to be at odds with their Mexican menu. I ordered the 'Acapulco', which has "one cheese enchilada topped with chili con carne, one soft fajita taco and one shredded chicken flauta, served with a small chili con queso and Mexican rice and beans." The food was alright, but it all came on one plate 'slopped' together, which is cool, as that's how I'm used to eating my Mexican food, but the presentation of the food seemed at odds with the nice decor of the restaurant.
Also, I got the choice of chicken or beef for the soft fajita taco -- I choose chicken. When my party's order came out, for some reason they had put a beef taco on my plate, so they took my plate back and changed out the beef taco for a chicken taco, so everybody got their plates but me. The wait to get my plate back was relatively short, which means I don't think I got freshly cooked chicken. Oh well.
At the end of the meal I had finished a little more than half my plate. The waitress asked if I wanted to take the rest home, to which my default response is always 'yes', so she took my plate to put it in a take home container. What surprised me was that she had separated the beans, rice, half a flauta, and half a cheese enchilada into their own separate corners of the container. I thought she was just going to throw it all together, which is what I would have done. I just found it kind of funny that they separate all the different food items in a take home container, but kind of just throw them all together when you first get your plate.
Overall, the place looks nicer than their menu tastes.
8706 E Us Highway 290
Austin, TX 78724
Head Public Restaurant Critic
I went to the Jack-in-the-Box off 290 East coming out of Austin, and I have to say that from all of the Jack-in-the-Boxes that I have been too, this is one of the better ones. Every time I come here, I get my burgers straight off the grill (in contrast, the Jack-in-the-Box off 41st has their burger patties precooked; you can tell the difference between freshly cooked burgers and burgers cooked before hand: the former are juicy, hot, and the cheese melts right in the burger, while the latter are lukewarm, a bit dry, and the cheese hasnít even had a chance to warm up yet).
This visit I got the ultimate cheeseburger combo with the seasoned curly fries, and it was pretty good, but towards the end I did feel a bit gross shoving so many calories down my throat in one sitting. But overall, you get what you pay for.
This Jack-in-the-Box is relatively quiet, with hardly more than a couple of people at the times I have visited. As I was wrapping up my meal, two girls came in and ordered combo meals, and again, I got a bit grossed out. The image of girls chowing down on Jack-in-the-Box somehow just disgusts me. If I were king of the world, I would ban girls from eating at Jack-in-the-Box.
8706 E Us Highway 290
Austin, TX 78724
Head Public Restaurant Critic
A return visit to the same Jack-in-the-Box reviewed here.
This time, I ordered a Big Texas Cheeseburger, stuffed jalapenos, and a drink. The Big Texas Cheeseburger was good, the same of which can not be said for the stuffed jalapenos. I really like stuffed jalapenos when they are made right, but these weren't. The stuffed jalapenos had a hard crust, and the cheese-like filling was kind of oily and clumpy. As an aside, the stuffed jalapenos, upon close inspection, look a lot like asteroids, which could be useful if you are making a cheap science fiction film with do-it-yourself special effects. Bottom line: I will not be getting these stuffed jalapenos (to eat) again.
1000 E 41st Street
Austin, TX 78751
Head Public Restaurant Critic
I decided to go to Jack-in-the-Box for lunch today because a.) it was rainy, b.) I was tired of Wendy's, and c.) for some reason I was craving a big Texas cheeseburger. I've been to this Jack-in-the-Box location before, my last visit pissing me off.
Last time I was here I came for the express purpose of getting a $3.99 value meal which I had seen advertised on television. This value meal includes a burger that looks a lot like a Big Mac, fries, and a drink, and is available at participating locations. Last time I was at this restaurant I was there for the express purpose of getting this value meal, only to be told that this particular location was not a participating location. F*ck me. Oh well.
This visit, I came with the express purpose of getting a big Texas cheeseburger and maybe a value fries or drink or something. But, lo and behold!, on this visit, but what do I see?? I see that they now offer the value meal I was looking for last time which they didn't offer at that time. So, I scrape my big Texas cheeseburger plans and order the value meal, and it was pretty good for four bucks. I felt I got my money's worth.
This visit was a relatively decent, maybe good visit, except for one thing. I came during the lunch hour and it took FOREVER for anyone to come to the counter to take my order. I understand that the restaurant is busy during lunch, but come on, plan for that and have the appropriate staff on hand to handle the increased business during peak times. Eventually (emphasis on EVENTUALLY), my order was taken by a nice lady who apologized for the wait, and that was fine, but I was still annoyed by having to wait for like five minutes. To add insult to injury, the same lady came by cleaning tables and further apologized for the wait and explained that they were really busy. At this point, I was already eating my food and had forgotten about the wait, but then there she goes and reminds me again and it started annoying me. I tried to ignore her and make her go away, which she eventually did, and I felt a little bad for being so abrupt and non-responsive to her, but goddamnit, I just wanted to eat, not hold a conversation about the failings of Jack-in-the-Box during the lunch peak.
Jorge's is a Mexican restaurant. I had the 'Jorge's Deluxe', consisting "of a crispy quesadilla and a scoop of guacamole" for appetizer followed by "a traditional cheese enchilada, a beef taco, a pork tamale, beans and rice." It was all pretty good.
The appetizer was served first (of course) and I was a bit surprised by the restaurant's definition of a quesadilla. I normally except a quesadilla to be a flour tortilla half flipped over the other half with stuff in the middle, normally cheese, grilled. What I got at this restaurant was a (semi) flat, fried, hard tortilla shell, corn presumably, with queso poured on top. It was good, but not what I was expecting. What they served as a quesadilla looked more to me like a tostada than anything else. The other half of the appetizer was a scoop of guacamole served atop a tortilla chip. I like guacamole, but I didn't eat as my appetizer -- I saved it to heighten my main course.
Overall, Jorge's is pretty good, once you know what you're getting.
This is my second visit to Jorge's, and it's alright -- I'm not exactly impressed by the place. I got the "El Monterrey" plate, which their menu describes as "Starts with two crispy quesadillas and a scoop of guacamole. Followed by a Traditional cheese enchilada, a grilled beef taco, a naked chile relleno & a Guadalajara chalupa." Where do I start?
1. The restaurant is pretty fucking lazy when it comes to their quesadillas. Instead of grilling or frying a tortilla or tortillas with some sort of fillings (at least cheese) inside, they just dump queso on a big tortilla chip. Fucking lazy.
2. I didn't know Guadalajara chalupa just meant beans, cheese, and guacamole on a big tortilla chip. "Dear Jorge's, please don't make your menu sound fancier that it is. K thx bye."
3. The naked chile relleno is just ground beef (probably the same beef as the taco) covered by a chile of some sort, which has cheese on it. Fucking lazy.
My main plate came with a crispy taco, chalupa, enchilada, and chile relleno -- more food than I could eat right then, so I had to eat my plate in anticipation of what I wanted for the leftovers. The taco shell and chalupa chip were going to get soggy, so I ate those two at the restaurant and saved the enchilada and the chile relleno for later.
Overall, Jorge's kind of pisses me off trying to make their dishes seem fancier than they are. For some reason, I anthropromorphize the restaurant as the type of person that will sweep dirt under a rug rather than go the extra step of sweeping it out the door. Fucking lazy.
Contact: HeadPublicRestaurantCritic AT gmail DOT com