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Apr 21, 2010 07:09 AM

Your top picks for places to take my New Zealand visitor

I am actually moving to New Zealand this June... to say I am going to mourn the loss of my favorite restaurants and American dining altogether is an understatement. But don't get me started there... *sniffle*

My BF is flying here for 10days to get a taste of what I'm leaving behind and then we are returning to New Zealand together. I am trying to compile a list of places to take him while he's here, but I have never had an out of town guest come for a visit since I've lived in Texas (past 8 yrs), so I am looking for suggestions of "must visit" spots to eat that will make him wish he were moving here instead! And so when I start whining about all the things I miss, he will be secretly missing them too!

I usually dine in the Flower Mound/Lewisville/Grapevine/Carrolton/Southlake/Frisco areas. But I am willing to venture into unknown territories based on recommendations. Also, we are NOT generally looking for fancy "dress to the nines", budget breaking meals, and we are not wine drinkers so recommend accordingly. We do both enjoy simpler cuisine, and are looking specifically for amazingly grilled steaks and chicken, maybe an awesome pizza restaurant (with thinner crust as I have to really control my carbs), a mexican restaurant with great food AND atmosphere (as they have NO mexican food to speak of at all in NZ... trust me I've looked), and even something as simple as a good burger/milkshake joint. Oh and I don't think he knows what Chicken Fried Steak is, but I'd like to introduce him....

Don't be afraid to recommend chains if they top your list, I have a few on my list as well that people might scoff at but hey, I like what I like. Somewhere you can just show up in jeans and a t-shirt is great because we'll be driving around sightseeing and visiting family and friends mostly on the casual.

So far I plan to include some of my personal favorites:

- He loves Fried Chicken so I'm of course taking him to Babes, this alone might make him consider immigrating!

- He also loves burgers, and my favorite burgers with your own fixings bar are at Fuddruckers.

- Just for the sheer massiveness of their menu and to see him drool at the cheesecake case, I plan to take him to the Cheesecake Factory.

- For a splurge we might go to Ruth's Chris, I've only dined there 4 or 5 times in my life but always thought it was really good, but if you know a place that is comparable and not quite so elegant I'm all ears.

I also would love to find a nice bar/pub that serves good food and has pool tables/dartboards etc. We aren't drinkers but if we can go have a decent meal and play a little pool with some cool music and friendly people then we'd be happy.

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  1. Mexican: Escondido's and Taqueria El Fuego's buffet.

    Make sure you get the guy some BBQ too, Off The Bone in FW would certainly be worth the trip.

    I'd suggest Il Cane Rosso for that style pizza but no clue where they'd be in June 2010.

    pub/bar: Combo of good food and pub is a difficult proposal and you may have to be flexible or go to more than one place. If food's high on the priority list go with the Libertine for sure, but they don't have darts or billiards. Fillmore would be OK too (just OK on the food), and you could also walk around downtown Plano.

    I also like Barcadia, super casual place and it's fun to play giant jenga (massive blocks of wood) with friendly folks there.

    El Fuego
    1891 N Plano Rd, Richardson, TX 75081

    1. Hah, New Zealand is my current retirement plan! I have no idea what's easily available in NZ or not but here goes:

      Wingfield's for burgers. Maybe Angry Dog.
      El Fuego for Mexican.
      Kalachandji's for vegetarian (buffet).
      Pho Bang or Pho Bac for Vietnamese.
      A decent pizza place. Campania, Fireside, Cavalli, etc.
      Lunch buffet at Ali Baba for Mediterranean/Lebanese.
      Blue Mesa Grill brunch for Southwestern/Tex-Mex (get in line really early).
      Some sort of decent BBQ. After eating at several places and reading lots of reviews I'm pretty sure everything in the DFW is at best 'good' and all of it is hit-or-miss. Meshack BBQ is pretty good (just a shack). Fort Worth has a few places like Angelo's/Railhead. Or take him on a road trip to Lockhart/Luling.

      I'd eat elsewhere and go to Cheesecake Factory just for dessert.

      Take him to Ft Worth / Stockyards./ Downtown / Museums / Arboretum.
      Central Market.
      In high school all the foreign exchange students loved Dr. Pepper. Some would take suitcases full of it home. If he's never had that give that a try.

      Pho Bang Restaurant
      3565 W Walnut St Ste A, Garland, TX 75042

      Pho Bac Restaurant
      153 N Plano Rd, Richardson, TX 75081

      El Fuego
      1891 N Plano Rd, Richardson, TX 75081

      Angry Dog
      2726 Commerce St, Dallas, TX 75226

      Ali Baba
      2103 N Central Expy, Richardson, TX 75080

      2 Replies
      1. re: amokscience

        DFW metroplex 'cue certainly is nowhere near Central Texas level. FW has much more than Railhead and Angelo's though, I already mentioned Off the Bone and Longoria's has an amazing brisket sausage.

        1. re: air

          You're right of course but I wish there was some more consistency among reviews.... It's a fair drive usually and I've been reading several sites and the opinions vary so much. Some of it has to do with the time of day (too early, too late), some with the reviewers tastes (sauce? no sauce? pepper?). I read a completely average review of Off The Bone recently. I think lesser trained palates (probably including mine) just can't discern the difference as easily, especially if you include a tasty sauce.

      2. I ate at Urban Crust in downtown Plano recently. The crust is really thin. Cool bar area on the top floor as well, so you can eat/drink outside on the roof if you'd like.

        next door to Urban Crust is Fillmore Pub,
        which should fill your bar/pub that serves good food and has dartboards requirement.

        Fillmore Pub
        1004 E 15th St, Plano, TX 75074

        Urban Crust
        1006 E 15th St, Plano, TX 75074

        1. go spend a night in Austin and take a trip the next morning out to Lockhart.

          1. For starters if you are not heavy wine drinker but know what you like in a wine go by on a weekday to Central Market on lovers and ask for Jen Uygar. She is the manager of the department and a close friend. She will keep you within budget and have some real nice bottles of wine. Then find a BYOB place to eat.

            Burgers either Maple & Motor or Wingfields

            I would take him to Nam Hua (it may be busy thanks to Leslie Brenner's list on best Vietnamese, which I helped with) and ask for Tina. Order the Banh Xeo (stuffed rice crepe), Goi Ngo Sen (Lotus Root Salad) and the Seafood Hot Pot.

            After Nam Hua waddle over to the Saigon Mall and get some coconut rice and corn rice dessert with the salt, sugar and crushed peanut topping. That will run you $2 but bring cash. No credit cards or checks accepted. The stand is located on the left (north side) of the building towards the north east corner. I believe it is the third stand from the end. At the very last stand you can get an awesome fresh sugar cane juice with a bit of orange squeezed in.

            I would also hit up La Me (ask for Ni/Ny - pronounced knee) and ask her what is good. I would go with the Bun Cha Ha Noi (grilled pork slices and grilled pork patties in a savory fish sauce with the salad plate and rice noodles), Pate Banh Mi, any of the vermicelli dishes with Tau Hu Ky the fried bean curd wrapped shrimp paste. I love it!

            For Thai food I would take him to Andaman in Denton. Call ahead and ask for Achava ,the chef. Order the young jackfruit and chicken curry it is outstanding. Also on the same call order Khao Soi (Cow Soy) it is a nice curried noodle dish. His regular menu is not bad either. Volcano Catfish is excellent, Nam Prik Ong (Nothern Thai Dip) is one of the best I have had, Southern Style Gang Som is excellent as it has no coconut milk, and I also like the Kra Pow Duck

            While you are in Denton you must stop at Ravelin Bakery. It has been booming. Eric Helland owns the place but is a baker who is focused on his craft and doesn’t need the hipsters from Dallas to make it survive. My wife loves the chocolate almond croissant and I love the savory ones. Either way you can not go wrong here.

            My friend air has blog postings about both Andaman and Ravelin.

            If you are in the Carrollton vicinity I would try out Catrachos, a Honduran restaurant, at the SEC of Josey and 190 behind the Café Brazil. Probably won’t be anyone there but they have awesome freshly prepared food. I love the baleadas, carne asada is packed with flavor and tender, and the Honduran style tacos and pastelitos are good for fried fare.

            Across the highway (NEC behind Jack in The Box) there is Inca’s Café and Lounge. Friday nights are fun for live entertainment. I would suggest any of the ceviches. I go there just for those.

            If you have a sweet tooth afterwards you can hit up El Portal, a Columbian bakery, on the SEC of Trinity Mills and Marsh. Get about 6 of the almohabanas (a sweetened cheese bread, you will want some the next morning that is why 6) and for the sweet I would suggest the milhojas (a pastry with a sweetend cream and caramel). If you are into smoothies go for the tropical ones (guava, passion fruit (my favorite), etc


            Also in Carrollton try out Secret Recipe on Hebron just to the east of 121 and ask for Edgar. Try dishes like the Curry Laksa, Fried Tofu with Minced Pork, or the Rojak. Ask Edgar what is good or what fits your fancy. ASK FOR THE MALAY menu and don’t bother with the Americanized fare.

            For great tacos in Lewisville (yes Lewisville) go with Taqueria Y Birreria Colima for fajita, pollo, and I like the buche (pork belly) ones. The tortillas are not greasy and rather steamed corn so makes for a better taco.

            In Carrollton go for Tipicos on Beltline for good Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes. The refrieds can be beat (flor de mayo beans). I really like the cheese enchiladas and the table salsa both warm and fresh are some of the best.

            I would also recommend a trip over to El Fuego.

            After seeing several SBS and documentaries about food in Australia/New Zealand I am convinced they have better Mediterranean (Lebanese, Persian, Turkish) than we do here.

            If you both are into Indian I would highly suggest the Royal Sweets in Valley Ranch (I know the Carrollton one is closer but the chef there piss poor). All dishes will be vegetarian. Get the Paneer Dosa (lentil crepe stuffed with cheese and onions – it is the size of a small cannon), Hot Kachori Chaat (fried fritter stuffed with curried lentils and then bathed in their curried garbanzo beans) ask for the hot sauce on that, and finally the Choley Batura (fried naan with curried garbanzos). Do not get all three it is way too much food!! Also while waiting for you food ask to sample some of the snacks or desserts (which are mind-blowingly extensive).

            El Fuego
            1891 N Plano Rd, Richardson, TX 75081

            Secret Recipe
            1404 W Hebron Pkwy, Carrollton, TX 75010

            Catrachos Restaurant
            2540 N Josey Ln Ste 108, Carrollton, TX 75006

            4 Replies
            1. re: LewisvilleHounder

              Hate to be nitpicky but I would cross off the Malaysian considering she's moving to NZ. I would venture a guess they'd have a stronger concentration of that cuisine down under. Just basing that on what I've heard about a place in Auckland called "food alley" from family members who have lived in Australia/NZ. Actually this blog might give you a good head start for when you move...


              1. re: air

                Yea I would agree air!

                Nix the Malaysian

              2. re: LewisvilleHounder

                That's good news for Nam Hua. Traffic was very sparse the times I've visited in comparison to almost any other Vietnamese place.

                1. re: amokscience

                  I went last Saturday just for the lotus root salad. I counted 6 seafood hot pots on various tables almost all of them non-Vietnamese and almost all of them wenching at the head on prawn. It was very good news and hopefully it increases traffic down the list of restaurants. BTW all on the list are much better than Mai's which everyone in Dallas has a stronghold on for some reason. The comments sure get nasty on EatsBlog these days