Texas Land & Cattle — Arlington, TX

The Maple-Ancho Pork Chop.

Had not been to the Arlington Texas Land and Cattle in a few months — not since it moved to its new location anyway. No longer will patrons have to fight over limited parking real estate with On the Border customers as the new location has plenty of space for itself and even overflow from neighboring El Fenix.

The restaurant is much bigger on the inside as well. The new building was built from scratch over the remains of either Shady Oaks BBW or Mexican Inn (I forget which) and adjacent to the Rangers’ Ballpark north parking lots.

The menu is still about the same as I remember it, although there were a couple of new items highlighted, one of them being the Maple-Ancho Glazed Pork Chop. I wasn’t sure what to expect about Maple-Glazed anything, unless we’re talking pancakes, and the addition of Ancho peppers to the mix sounded just bizarre enough to venture a try.

I ordered the lunch version of the plate — which is still 10 oz., same as the regular serving size, but a couple of dollars less expensive — along with a sweet potato as a side.

The Maple-Ancho concoction did not disappoint, delivering a sweet flavor along with the smoky tang I’ve come to expect from TL&C. The size of the serving was just about right for lunchtime, although if you’re really hungry you might want to consider getting the dinner serving or adding a salad to your lunch order. The best way to explain it on social media sites would be to say that “the plate tastes just as good as the picture looks.”

The new place is definitely larger, with dozens of HD television sets your eyes can’t escape, although whatever space was added to accommodate bar patrons in the front might have been sacrificed in the dining booths, that seem a bit tighter than their old counterparts.

There were four people in our party and our server handled the load just fine; she was very courteous and high-spirited.

Also posted on Yelp!bit.ly/10ERA31

Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill — Dallas

The Sweet Bourbon Salmon

We’ve walked past this joint in Vegas plenty of times, actually ate at the one at Winstar Casino once (it was OK), and had about average expectations for the Dallas incarnation, which is housed within the walls of the old AMC Grand 24. We finally ventured to this locale after purchasing a Groupon some time back; we picked Saturday lunch to finally cash it in. We were seated promptly and got our drinks quickly.

My wife chose the Delmonico Steak Sandwich and I ordered the Sweet Bourbon Salmon. We were told the sandwich took a little longer, but in the end the wait wasn’t too bad — we appreciated the heads up. While we waited we were served cornbread and flavored butter. The bread wasn’t warm, but was edible. I thought it served its purpose while my wife thought it was a bit too sweet.

The Delmonico Steak Sandwich

Our first bite into our entrees was enough to discard any negative expectations we might have had about the menu. The sandwich steak was cooked to order and packed with flavor. The steak is cut into smaller parts to fill the sandwich, so watch out it doesn’t spill over the bread, which my wife also pointed out was fresh and delicious.

The salmon was grilled maybe half a minute too long, but a couple of crunchy bites didn’t damage the rest of the man-sized fillet. To my taste, salmon is best when it’s juicy and seared hot from the first bite to the last, and the Sweet Bourbon did not disappoint and was enjoyable from beginning to end.

The Delmonico Sandwich came with a generous serving of fries, the salmon comes with two sides, mixed vegetables and rice. Our server said we could switch our sides if we wanted and I substituted the rice for sweet potato tots, which I’ve never had before, but will now always order again (you know how the Sonic Tater Tots stand our over any other burger side? This is the sweet potato equivalent).

The restaurant retains the tall theater ceilings, tall walls decorated with HD TVs tuned in to every sport available at that moment. Patrons are free to explore the establishment and discover the stage, the well-stocked bar and arcade games.

We will visit Toby Keith’s again, Groupon or not. If you sign up for their VIP club, you get a free meal for your birthday… I’ll update my review then.

Also uploaded to Yelp!bit.ly/10AOmgL

Tacos La Banqueta — Dallas, TX

Not much to say about the restaurant that is Tacos La Banqueta (formerly “El Güero”) in East Dallas. The menu, however, is a different story.

The taco shack is just that, a locale not much larger than your average storage unit. It seats maybe six customers in 50s-style cafeteria stools inside and there’s hardly any space left over for additional customers to come in and order. Outside there is a table, and if you’re lucky, three chairs. But watch your back, it’s in the parking lot.

I posted the picture above in Facebook and a friend asked where I would rate them on a scale from 1 to 10. Nine, I responded. Seven if someone brought them to the office and I missed out on the experience.

The offerings are your standard Mexican fare: Bistec, Al Pastor, Lengua, Chorizos, Tripa, Cabeza, Suadero and, as of recent, “Chicken.” If you’re new to street tacos, stick to Bistec (steak) and Al Pastor (pork). If you’ve walked joints like this before, don’t miss out on the Tripa (small intestine) and Suadero (Google it) delights. Down it all down with a Mexican Coca-Cola.

The default wraps are corn, although flour tortillas are available for an additional fee.

Tortas (sandwiches) and alambres (shish-kabobs) are also served, but I haven’t tried them yet.

Also posted on Yelp!: bit.ly/Vukps9

No place like home

Chicken and beef skirt kabobs, or dinner+leftovers as we like to call them at home.

I’m not much of a cook, and the few things that I venture to try to prepare on my own I grill.

For the price of a single outing to a restaurant, a trip to the grocery store provides up to six meals that can help us save some dough… to maybe go out for dinner this weekend?

Saving money by cooking at home is certainly no innovation, but it seems that every time I do, I scratch my head and ask myself, “why aren’t we doing this more often?”

Ralph & Kacoo’s — Bossier City, LA

Red Fish with Jumbo Shrimp on Dirty Rice

My wife and frequented the Ralph & Kacoo’s in Allen (Texas), but that closed in the last year, which is too bad because it was one of our favorite seafood places in the Metroplex. On a recent visit to Shreveport, we opted to dine at this Ralph & Kacoos.

Service was prompt at the get-go, and fairly efficient throughout, although my wife noticed other parties were served a bit slower. There was a surprise party at a separate dining area just next to us, and the closed door didn’t allow us to see how much staff was working the party.

We were used to freshly baked bread at the other location, but we got four hush puppies instead. We only ate two of them, but could have easily scarfed all of them and asked for seconds. But they were a meal all their own, and we didn’t want to spoil our appetite.

We’re familiar with the menu, and I was about to order the Mahi-Mahi when our waiter told us about the specials, and I quickly changed my selection to the grilled Red Fish with the jumbo shrimp served over dirty rice. My wife ordered a more familiar dish, the Crawfish Special, which is fried crawfish tails and crawfish etouffee over rice.

My selection was the catch of the day, so the price was more than $20. I got a generous serving and every bit of the fish was delicious. The shrimp could have been a meal all their own. The rice was tasty, and a good complement to the meal. My wife’s dish was as she remembered it from our previous visits to the old Allen location. Had we been there for lunch, we might have made four meals out of the two plates.

While the location is at a strip mall, it’s not a trashy hole in the wall. The place is fairly large and houses a gift shop as well as the restaurant. Our only complaint is that after dark, it was a bit confusing to find the restaurant because of conflicting signs and poorly lit streets.

We’ll definitely stop again the next time we’re in town.

Also uploaded to Yelp!bit.ly/UC94cP