What's Great In and Around Tyler?
- David Kahn Feb 13, 2009 04:43 PM
I have a good friend who recently moved from Santa Barbara California to Tyler, Texas, and he's apparently having some trouble finding good eats. Hoping some knowledgeable locals can help us with a list of the best places to eat in and around Tyler? What's good in the area?
Thanks very much in advance.
The answer to your question is, in my opinion, "nothing." You can get a decent meal in Tyler, but nothing here is going to be seriously called "great." Good -- Bernard Mediterranean, Dakota's, Kiepersol Estate, Currents. Lots of Tex-Mex, including some chains and the local family-owned El Charro (#1 the old one and #2 the newer and larger one). Margarita's Mexican is a little less Tex-Mex and not bad. Stanley's Barbecue is pretty good barbecue most of the time. Country Tavern, 20 miles east toward Kilgore, is famous for barbecued pork ribs and is usually worth the trip. If your friend finds something worthwhile, please let us know.
Interstate 20 is great because it goes to Dallas. Other than that, not much.
His best bet is Country Tavern, a rib joint half way between Tyler and Kilgore. There is also a place, a few blocks off the square called, honestly enough, the Downtown Soul Food Cafe that's passable. There is also a Tex-Mex place on the square that's OK. I don't know the name. But there's only one.
My parents lived in Tyler, so my knowledge is limited, but worth at least a shot. Bruno's is good for pizza. I haven't tried anything else on their menu, but some of their sandwiches and dinners definitely looked like they'd be worth a try. (NY/CT pizza snob here - but I was also starving when we ate there, so take that as a grain of salt, I guess.)
I used to live in Tyler and have family still there, so I am in town frequently. Now living in Dallas, I can sympathize with your friend's difficulty in finding good eats in Tyler.
The only place we visit on a regular basis is Don Juan's Mexican Restaurant - they have two locations - one on the square and the other on Erwin east of the square. http://www.donjuantyler.com/ Much of the food is Mexican rather than Tex-Mex, which is a breath of fresh in Tyler, as it is overloaded with poor quality Tex-Mex (I would definitely put El Charro in that category). They have great beef tacos and the besitos (jalapenos stuffed with cheese) are a must. Also, their top shelf margaritas on the rocks are great.
Kiepersol can be very good, but it is hit or miss - my in-laws have had excellent meals as well as very disappointing ones. It is one of the priciest places in the Tyler area, but has a nice atmosphere.
I would also recommend Julian's, which is in the Times Square Plaza, if they are interested in Chinese. Julian's is run by a former P.F. Chang's employee, so the food is very similar.
If they are interested in taking a short drive south to Jacksonville, I would recommend Larissa House - http://www.larissahouse.com/. It is a tea room in a historic home that has surprisingly high quality food for a small East Texas town. I make a point to have lunch there whenever I am in town.
I can chime in re: baked goods.
Each year I'm in Tyler, I pick up at least two of the pound cakes from Janie's Cakes. They are definitely the best that I've ever tried. The "Tart Jane" is my favorite. They fill the center of the bundt cake with lemon curd and top with white chocolate curls.
They have gained in popularity since I first discovered them but it certainly hasn't taken away from their quality.
308 E Front St, Tyler, TX 75702
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