Friday, January 23, 2009

Dining Diva Review: Texas Roadhouse

If you have a peanut allergy, don't even drive by Texas Roadhouse. Peanuts are everywhere and there are barrels of them all over the restaurant and shells all over the floor. Personally I never liked the shells-on-the-floor ambiance because it's sort of like dining in a landfill, (what's next--beer bottles on the floor?) but it seems to be popular with the other diners and the peanuts are always fresh and tasty so I'll give it a pass on the peanut mess everywhere.
The rest of the food is quite good. Delicious fresh-baked rolls with honey butter were delivered to the table seconds after our waiter took our drink orders. They were steamy and tender and when slathered in the butter made it worth the trip no matter what else went wrong--which in our case was nothing. You are also able to choose a specific steak for your dinner from the refrigerated meat case display, so for those of us who like to meet our dinner beforehand, it's a nice touch. My husband despises gristle in his steaks so I like being able to inspect it for him prior to the cooking! We have made several visits to the store in Fairview Heights and several trips to the one in Newport News, VA and they have replaced Outback as my casual dining steak restaurant of choice when traveling. Their steaks are good quality, cooked correctly and served with your choice of several excellent side dishes. They also have excellent fried catfish, which isn't easy to do consistently. The coating is crisp and the fish is flaky and not dried out with a very nice fresh flavor. I'm not a fish eater, but their catfish is some of the best I've ever had!
The service is friendly and efficient and they brew some excellent iced tea in addition to a full bar and a nice wine and beer selection. It's a good place to take the family and it's a good place to take a date because it's not loud like some casual dining places. I've never had a bad meal at the one in Fairview Heights and the Virginia one only missed once--not a bad record!
HERE'S A SAD UPDATE: Since this post I've dined three times at the Texas Roadhouse and each meal is worse than the one before it. The catfish was hideously overcooked on a subsequent visit, everything has become severely oversalted and today for the last straw they served me RARE chicken and then an overcooked steak. The wonderful rolls were also served cold and hard and the steamed veggies were inedible. I'm crossing Texas Roadhouse off of my list of places where I will eat, they've gone the way of the Outback.

Dining Diva Product Review: Amazon's Kindle Reader

I tested a Kindle device and I have to say it was a total disappointment. I was sucked in by the Queen Oprah review of how much she loved it and all I have to say to her is: "Buy an iPhone". I don't know why anyone would buy this Kindle device. It's too large to fit in your handbag, it's heavy, the device is expensive and overpriced, and the books are expensive to buy for the Kindle. There's a free iPhone application called "Stanza" that downloads entire books to read on the very light and very portable i-phone. I've read 8 books on my iPhone and I can delete them after reading or keep them on the hard drive, Why would I pay $400 for this stupid BIG HEAVY device and then have to buy the books too? It doesn't make sense when I can get the same thing for free with my iPhone. I've had no problems with the application and there are thousands of free titles available through the Stanza application. Don't waste your money on this clunky pile of microchips when you can get an iPhone that does so MUCH more than the Kindle and costs about half as much!
0 stars--not worth the money!!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Dining Diva Review: Outlaw Blues Restaurant and Saloon, Fairview Heights, IL

Hubby and I had lunch at the brand-new Outlaw Blues in Fairview Heights and it was a mixed bag of delights and disappointments. The restaurant is painted a deep plum shade which is surprisingly attractive when you get over the surprise of the fact that they really did paint it purple. Our server, Keith, was very pleasant and our drinks arrived quickly and they make very good iced tea. The menu items are an eclectic mix of barbecue favorites and Cajun/Southern staples with a twist. The delicious complimentary bread was a freshly baked biscuit and sweet cornbread with a very unique presentation that was original and interesting--they were served in the cast-iron skillet that they were baked in and each quarter of the pan had either biscuit or cornbread batter placed in it before baking. The biscuit was moist and tender and the cornbread was moist and sweet--just the way I like it! John had the barbecue brisket sandwich and I had the shrimp and grits which come in your choice of scampi or creole. I ordered scampi but they sent creole which meant they must have remade it in a hurry and didn't do well. The butter sauce was totally devoid of any garlic flavor and the shrimp, while large and fresh, were as bland as boiled chicken breast. They were purported to be served over cheese grits but my grits were obviously instant and had no salt, cheese or flavor--some of the worst grits I've ever had. They were topped with a teaspoon of finely shredded yellow cheese that I mixed in to the grits along with the 'scampi sauce' and a good helping of salt and pepper. John's sandwich was another story altogether. Overflowing the fresh bun was a more than generous serving of barbecued beef brisket with a deep smoke ring in the meat. He shared a big slice of the brisket with me (as I had to wait for my lunch to be corrected) and it was delicious--everything brisket should be and as I waited for my shrimp and grits, I was wishing I had ordered the same thing! When I tasted my totally flavorless (albeit fresh)lunch, I really wished for that brisket sandwich! Luckily the sandwich was so enormous he couldn't finish it so I did polish off what he left behind. Keith was apologetic and very nice but the kitchen needs to learn how to make cheese grits and scampi sauce! I'd give it another try just to have that brisket again along with the skillet of biscuits and cornbread--but I'll wait till they iron out the 'just opened' kinks!
I'll update you when I go back for another try!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Dining Diva Review: Corky's BBQ Nashville TN

Traveling home from my Florida visit, I stopped in Nashville to visit my friend Chris and have dinner with her. Being the barbecue lover that I am, I asked her to take me to a place that had really good BBQ and she took me to Corky's Barbecue. I had a combo plate of ribs and pulled pork with a side of the BEST collard greens I've ever tasted--bar none! I'd go there again just for those greens! The ribs were tender as butter with the smoked me walking right off the bone and the pulled pork was also tender with excellent flavor. Chris had a BBQ brisket that she said was very good and I had a bite to check and it was excellent brisket--but I'm a Southern gal and I think good barbecue requires a pig, not a cow! Our server was very sweet and got our orders exactly right and checked on us to make sure we were enjoying our meal and she was very helpful when we asked her to make some menu recommendations. Their iced tea was very good too, brewed fresh and nicely strong. The ladies room was clean, as was the rest of the restaurant, and was nicely stocked with tissue and paper towels.
They do takeout and catering and you can order via their website at and the next time I pass through Nashville, you can bet I'll be eating there again!!