Two Nights in Plano
We're attending the Plano Ham-Fest this weekend. No, it has nothing to do with pork. However, while Mr. Cheflambo looks at radios, I am in search of some places to eat that are intresting, within 10-15 miles 75074, Anything else happening in the area I should know about? I will have lots of time to kill.
Based on that distance, you'll probably want to stay around North Dallas or Richardson, so you've got some good options.
I noticed a bunch of new places have opened in downtown Plano when I visited last month - someone please chime in on how they are! It's a neat walkable area with local shops etc. TG mentioned to me that a place replaced Sheik's in there too. Poor Richard's and Kelly's Eastside are both good breakfast and casual American dinner places respectively. Houston is also a big burger town, but depending on when you go, Ye Ole Butcher shop might have buffalo burgers or elk.
Frisco has a couple places worth checking out: Platia Greek Kouzina and Isabella's (italian)
I can tell you now that you'll get suggestions for places in Richardson's Chinatown area like First Chinese, Royal Sichuan, Royal Sweets as Chinese and Indian are strong in that area. However, both cuisines as well as Asian food in general are gonna be better in Houston (especially now that Mala is around).
There are a few exceptions:
Bambu would be right up your alley and not far away. Pretty much an instant recommendation for someone out of town unless they're coming from somewhere with strong Thai food. Search around and you'll find a ton of info about the place. Strongly recommend dishes with bamboo shoots (ie bamboo shoot soup), Issan sausage, and goi goong (seafood salad).
King's Noodles is a Taiwanese noodle shop and I haven't found anything comparable in Houston. There's another noodle place I like that recently opened on Coit and Park called Noodle House.
Palayok was a Filipino restaurant in Richardson, and they reopened recently at the Asia World food court. I've liked most the dishes there, but I particularly like their dinuguan. Otherwise, no one has really combed through that food court and there may be some interesting places in there that we aren't aware of!
Moving away from the Asian theme...
Heading a little south into North Dallas along Forest/Greenville puts you in an area with a ton of Ethiopian restaurants. I like Ibex and Lalibela. If you've never had Ethiopian before, get the Vegetarian combo platter and select a meat dish. This is more of a dinner to have as two by the way.
If you want BBQ and you're OK with standing to eat, Meshack's in Garland isn't far. This is a lunch place: you gotta get close to when they open, otherwise you risk them selling out.
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/680366 - btw check luniz's suggestions too!
You did say you'll have plenty of time so you may even have enough to head downtown/Deep Ellum. Tei An or Cane Rosso would both be worth the drive. It's not too far over the drive distance you mentioned. No one else specializes in soba noodles in Texas. Though I think I'd heard a neapolitan pizzeria has opened in Houston recently.
Old downtown Plano is a great place to hang for a while - you can stroll up and down 15th street where there are shops & bars. (you can even take DART there, if you're near a Rail station, since one stops right at 15th St.)
Fillmore Pub and Vickery Park are two solid restaurant-bars, both with good beer selections, right across the street from each other, and they both do pretty good food; Fillmore has notable fish & chips and beef stew, while Vickery is 'fresher' - they actually have a mesclun salad with dried cranberries etc.
there are two yupscale pizza places, Urban Crust and Zanata, both with fancy ovens and better-than-average crust. i like the pizza at Urban Crust better - they do interesting toppings - but Zanata seems to have a broader menu, and there's not as much of a line/wait
Jorg's Vienna is an old classic that does Austrian and German food - schnitzels, apple strudel - the quality is very good, and they have a quaint biergarten.
Daisy's Barn & Grill is cheap, funky home-cooking; they make a just-like-mom's stuffed bell pepper and it's about $7.
Posh Nosh Market just opened - mostly prepared foods but they're fiiiinally bringing espresso drinks to the area and they have a full case of Talenti gelato.
Thanks to all for the great suggestions ... will hold onto this for the next trip. As usual when I travel with Mr. Cheflambo, I did not have as much time to myself as I thought. However, we did have a lunch at Urban Crust, and a group dinner at Fillmore Pub. We both had the lunch special at Urban Crust - personal sized (8") pizzas w. salad and beverage - great crust, interesting toppings, and service that really seemed to be trying (they were VERY busy). Dinner at Fillmore Pub was somewhat disappointing - I should know better than to order sliders, which are almost always dry (the Guinness cheese only partially saved them). Others at the table had hamburgers that disappeared pretty fast, and one member of the group had a chicken wrap that he seemed to enjoy. Craft beer in bottles is very popular here, but I had a Summer Gin drink (Hendricks, grapefruit juice) that was quite good. Props to them for bringing (without asking) malt vinegar for the fries. Downtown Plano seems to be on the upswing (trendy apartment living, revived shops and restaurants). We were tempted to lunch at Posh Nosh but they were really busy and seating was nonexistant. Looks cute though - the kind of place I usually seek out.
I would have to agree with air on all the mentioned points. Here are some thoughts I put together.
Skip the Chinese here in Dallas...it is better in Houston. If you have to go I would say hit up Little Sichuan at Legacy and 75 in the Asia World Market. Get something from the white board (insist that you want it even if you can’t read it). The white board has seasonal veggies grown in a restaurant garden (think Chinese farm to table) and overall seasonal dishes. I haven’t had Mala in Houston yet but I would assume Little Sichuan has em beat on the seasonal dishes.
Vietnamese for the most part is so much better in Houston but I would throw out Nam Hua in Garland out there. This post will help you out immensely there:
The Thai is much better here in Dallas....Bambu and even Jasmine come to mind. Here are a few dishes to get at Jasmine (Jasmine is strictly Southern Muslim Thai so no pork at all):
Spicy Sour Coconut Shoot Soup w/ Catfish at Jasmine (might be iffy if they still have this dish
)Grilled Giant Prawns w/ Fresh Thai Dipping Sauce at Jasmine
The Crispy Water Spinach with Thai Dipping Sauce
Black Coconut Rice Pudding
I know of only two or three Pakistani places in Houston and most of them are run by Indians. For some good Pakistani dishes I would say Lal-Quila or Apna Grill (run by an Indian) that are good cheap meals. At Lal-Quila I would definitely say go for the Sabri Nihari (a beef stew with lots of gravy meant for soaking up with naan) or the Haleem (chicken or beef stew cooked down to a mushy consistency with lentils and bulgur wheat). I am convinced that nobody does plain naan better than the Pakistanis and Lal-Quila is a perfect example.
Apna Grill is tiny maybe 4 or 5 two seaters, so I would get my order to go. I really like the keema samosas, bun kabob, nihari and the haleem. I would avoid the biryani. I haven’t ventured into all the dishes but tried a quick smattering as the place has been open maybe two weeks now.
Plano is getting tons of Indian places as of late but nothing has been standout or stellar on that front.
I forgot to mention an important detail: Mala is owned/operated by the daughter of the owner of Little Sichuan. Came up in conversation after I'd mentioned to her I used to live in Dallas. The two are on completely different tiers of quality as far as the regular menu. Mala has a huge and very interesting menu, and I'm totally with you to skip that at Little Sichuan and go with the whiteboard/seasonal dishes. It's nice that you don't have to plead with the people at Mala to throw the real spicy stuff in!
Am I missing something on Little Sichuan? I went once, maybe a year and a half ago, and hated it. I remember getting ma po tofu that seemed like it was in a tomato sauce. I much prefer Sichuanese or Royal Sichuan (i have preferred dishes at both). It's good to know about the vegetables on the specials menu but did I just have a bad experience? have they improved over the last year?
I usually get my ma po tofu and Sichuan water boiled beef/fish at Royal Sichuan or Sichuanese. Problem with Sichuanese is they are using canned sauces not fresh. I learned this through talks with Jean Gao at Little Sichuan and a trip to Sichuan King in Houston where the sauce tasted the exact same as Sichuanese.
Little Sichuan has never been as spicy as the others but the seasonal and vegetable dishes make the trip worth going. I would strongly suggest going with a large group who all like authentic dishes.
Ask for the cold cucumber appetizer at Little Sichuan. It is not longer on the menu and it is different from the pickles. It is a great dish for the summertime.
For various tastes of Texas be sure and check out the menu at Love and War in Texas located on the northeast side of of Plano Pkwy and Central (Hwy75). If you go on a weekend night you might also hear some good Texas music.
I really like their Brisket Enchiladas but there lots of interesting lunch and dinner options to choose from. On the dessert side Miss Tootie's Homemade Apple Pie is outstanding as well as their pecan pie and the Frederiscksburg Peach Cobbler.
I spotted Love & War in Texas too, during a search for BBQ (someone in the group had a craving). We opted to go elsewhere, but the venue does intrigue me.
On the drive back to H-town, we detoured through Glen Rose to see the local sights. Allowing our GPS to choose a lunch spot for us (dont judge!) we found Buffalo Creek BBQ in Cleburne. VERY tasty grub. The po'boy bun was toasted and loaded with moist, spicy.sausage, brsket not quite as charred/smoky as I would like, but tasty and tender. Friendly people, generous portions, cute little dining room and we were in and out in 30 minutes (can't keep those dinosaur tracks waiting .... ) This place is almost worth the trip alone just for their pecan pie. Ive suffered through many bad ones, and didnt want to waste any more calories on another, but my companion bought a piece, and let me have one bite. It was AMAZING - soft and melting, perfect tender crust, just the way I knew it could be made. Its a good thing he gave me his LAST bite, or he would have had to fight me for the rest of it. Im still wishing i had bought another piece to take home.
Poor Richard's Cafe (Greenville and Park Road) - Southern Breakfast/brunch that is very popular on the weekends
EDIT: D'oh... I forgot Ali Baba (Between Galatan Parkway and Campbell on 75 Southbound) has a fantastic weekend buffet of Medeterranian delights.
One place I didn't see mentioned above was Afrah. Excellent Lebanese food! They do an unusually good and varied buffet for less than $10.00 that's really hard to beat. I especially love their baked eggplant. Fantastic!
In addition to which, they are also a wonderful bakery and Gelateria. I defy you to eat there without going away without one of their sweet pastry items or gelato for dessert.
I know Chinese restaurants were mentioned above but I'd just like to add my personal favorites. First Chinese BBQ.
True Cantonese BBQ'd roast duck, etc. Cash only but, worth it!
Jeng Chi. An authentic noodle and dumpling shop serving the foods of North and Southwestern China in the Chinatown Shopping Center on Greenville Avenue.
They serve some of the most authentic hand made noodles and dumplings in the area.
Air mentioned King's Noodles above and I would second that. They're also a very reputable Taiwanese noodle restaurant. But I prefer Jeng Chi because it's more comfortable and offers table service and, they accept credit cards. King's Noodle is a "walk up counter" restaurant that is cash only. The food is excellent at either restaurant.
From the Plano Center, a 1/2 mile west is 5 Guys Burgers. Opinions vary but I like the burgers.
Cross under Central Expressway, go north on Chase Oaks Pkwy to Legacy in Chitos is
on the corner (attached to a gas station). My favorite Mexican food for many miles around.
Go south to Alma & Parker (SW corner) for Jasmine Thai II.