Armadillo’s

Great
Pretty Good ***
OK
No Thanks

This week I am going back to burgers. This might be because the local newspapers are running a March Madness type of burger joint playoff and it might just e because I like burgers. Or maybe, just maybe a little bit of both. Either way I decided to make my way down to McCullough Ave to a little place called Armadillo’s. This is one of those places that has been around for a while and comes recommended by the locals. It also comes highly recommended by a friend of mine that has been begging me to review it. So without further ado let’s get started.

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First things first. If you go during peak hours you may have a hard time finding a place to park. It is located in a relatively busy area and has limited parking at the restaurant but do not get discouraged because there is a public parking lot behind it but you may be in for a walk to get to and from your vehicle. This isn’t really a bad thing though because you may need to burn a few calories depending on what you have to eat.
When you walk in you feel kind of like you are walking in to your favorite old dive bar. It is dimly lit with neon signs casting a low glow everywhere and has an old juke box in the corner usually playing some sort of classic rock. The booths against the walls also have their own personal juke boxes like the diners of old used to have. I know that at least some of you reading this know what I am talking about.  The inside dining area is a little on the small side and if it is busy you may want to consider the outside dining area as it is much larger, just don’t fall into the giant cactus.
For this trip I ordered my standard bacon cheeseburger and Fries and an order of onion rings to try because I always have to try the onion rings. The burgers come in sizes from 1/3 lb up to a whopping 3 lb burger.  I decided to go with the 1/2 pounder and was not disappointed. The burger itself is juicy with the crispy edges you only get from that hot griddle. The bun is just a standard hamburger bun, so nothing special there.  While I usually don’t like my bacon cooked to death and super crispy I do like it to be pretty crisp when it is on a burger just so you can bite through it when you take a bite. If it isn’t done enough then it pulls right out and makes a mess. Unfortunately this was the case with this one, I had to fight it a little to get through. But it was still a very tasty burger, not the best I have ever had but still very good.

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The fries are your  standard cut fries that you get at most burger places. There isn’t anything mind blowing here because they taste like every other french fry out there, but they are good and go well with the burger. The onion rings were a little bit of a let down for me because there is no doubt in my mind that they were frozen only a few minutes before they hit the fryer. I guess I am a little biased after having the onion rings at Sam’s Burger Joint though. Those are pretty tough to beat.
When you go you may want to try some of the other sides they have as well. You can get Fries, Chili Cheese Fries, Bacon Cheese Fries, Onion Rings or Tator tots. They also do Hot Wings and a couple of different salads as well as grilled chicken sandwiches if you are feeling a little bit on the healthier kick. Overall it is a pretty fun place to visit and they have good food. It is somewhere I would definitely go back to for a burger fix.

Thanks for reading,
JMW

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New Ratings

Hello Everyone,

Just a quick update.

I have added a new rating system to all reviews and will be using it on each one from here on out.

I will rate restaurants by the following scale:

Great

Pretty Good

OK

No Thanks

I will  add (***) beside the one that best describes how I feel about the overall experience. I have added this to the top of each review in order to help my readers decide which reviews they would like to read first.

Thanks for reading

JMW

Grimaldi’s Pizzeria

Great ***

Pretty Good

OK

No Thanks

 

Let’s talk pizza this week. I know there are a lot of different places to choose from out there and that we all have our favorites whether it be the local corner pizza place or a big chain like Pizza Hut but I like to find the ones that stand out and give me something a little more different than just the standard pizza. This is why I am so glad to have discovered Grimaldi’s. Grimaldis is a New York style pizza place that not only has great food but has a nice atmosphere for dining with family and friends. Since it is a New York Style pizza place you can imagine that the interior of the restaurant yells out New York when you walk in the door. When you walk in the door the first thing you see are all of the black and white photos of the Big Apple hanging everywhere. These tie in nicely with the checkerboard style table cloths and give it that Italian restaurant feel. The other thing you will notice when you walk in is a slightly different smell in the air. This is because Grimaldi’s uses coal ovens to cook everything. These ovens get very hot and only take minutes to cook a pizza to perfection. The coal ovens give the pizza a unique flavor that you don’t get from the big chains or even from most of the local guys and because they cook so hot you also get a nice crisp crust.
For this trip I ordered a pepperoni, onion, and meatball pizza using the classic sauce. You can actually order one of three different types of sauce for the pizza (white, pesto and classic) but while I have been tempted to try the other two, the classic is so good I just cant seem to break away from it. I also ordered a caesar salad to start out because I just love a great caesar salad. I would put Grimaldi’s caesar at number two on my all time favorites list of caesar salads. I will be telling you about the number one in a later review,so stay tuned.

One thing to keep in mind when you order at Grimaldis is that everything is big. If you order a small salad you can share it with a friend. the small pizzas are also about the size of a medium at most places so order accordingly unless you like taking home left overs. The salad is made with nice crisp fresh lettuce, just the right amount of a nice mild yet tangy dressing. The best part though is croutons. These look to be made in house and are the perfect compliment to the salad.

The pizza is a nice thin crust pizza cooked with crisp outer edges and topped with strips of real mozzarella cheese. None of that processed shredded stuff here. The pepperoni is not to thick and not to thin and has a nice little spice to it but the wow factor for me is the meatballs. First of all they taste great and have that homemade flavor and texture to them. Some times the meatballs at restaurants can come out dense and hard or have an odd texture to them that screams frozen mass production. They slice them in thin slices and place them around the pizza like the pepperoni. I was surprised at how well they complemented the pizza and added to the overall flavor. For me they are a must have any time you visit Grimaldi’s. The sauce is a very nice homemade type of sauce that is just thick enough to keep everything held together. You can tell that a lot of thoughtfulness was put in to getting just the right flavor. Now when you combine all of these ingredients and slide it in to the coal oven you get one heck of a pizza that makes you want to come back again and again.

Thanks for reading,
JMW

Paesanos

Great ***

Pretty Good

OK

No Thanks

Every now and then it is nice to dress a little nicer and go out for a nice meal in a more upscale restaurant than your everyday type of place. So I traded in my standard cargo shorts and T shirt for long pants and Polo shirt, jumped in my truck and headed out 1604 toward I-10 on the North West side of San Antonio to Paesanos Italian restaurant.  Paesanos has several locations around town but this one just happens to be the closest to me. When you walk in to Paesanos the staff makes you feel at home and like you are welcomed guests. Everyone is friendly, professional and eager to serve you.  The main dining room is large with a high ceiling and the tables are a nice distance from each other and not crowded together which is a big plus for me. I hate going to a nice restaurant and feel like I am sharing a table with other guests because the tables are so close together.

Before ordering you are brought bread and spiced oil like a lot of nicer Italian restaurants do but they also go a little farther and bring you a very delicious hummus.  I am usually not a big fan of hummus but this one is a little different than most. It has a nice garlicky flavor with a very smooth texture that is a great compliment to the Italian bread.

I started out with the house salad which is different than my usual pick. I almost always start with a Caesar salad whenever I am out but the house salad came highly recommended and was a nice start to the meal, although I was a little surprised when they brought it out because it is much larger than most salads that you get at other restaurants. I would have to say that it is probably twice the size of most salads that you would get elsewhere.  The salad has fresh Romaine lettuce and is dressed with a very tasty house dressing.  It is very creamy with a hint of Italian dressing but is thicker with a slight spice to it. It is not quite Caesar and not quite Italian but lies somewhere in between with a unique flavor that I highly recommend trying.

For my main course I chose the daily special that they were running at the time which was a Southern style Red Snapper Filet Sautéed with Artichokes and mushrooms in a white wine and caper sauce sitting on a bed of pasta. This is kind of an odd choice for me too because I rarely eat fish outside of my own home.  This is not because I don’t like fish; it is actually one of my favorite things to eat. This is because I am never happy with the way anyone else besides me prepares it. I usually find most fish prepared at a restaurant bland or over drenched in lemon.  Well I can say that neither of those was true with this dish. Everything was perfectly cooked and perfectly seasoned. This was a nice size snapper filet that was lightly breaded and cooked to a golden brown but was still tender and flaky on the inside. While the fish, sauce and pasta were all great the biggest surprise on the plate was the artichoke. I have never tasted artichoke like this before. It had a buttery creamy taste to it that had a slight hint of a sour note at the same time and almost melted in your mouth when you bit into it.  Even though I loved the fish and pasta, I believe I could have eaten just a plate of artichoke covered in the white wine sauce.  It was that good.

Paesanos has a nice selection of desserts too but after the meal I had there was no way there would be room for dessert. I will have to remember that on my next trip because they have some very nice sounding treats such as New York Cheesecake, Tiramisu and Warm apple torte with caramel.

This was my first visit to Paesanos but I can say with all certainty that it will not be my last. The overall experience was great with exceptional service, incredible food and an overall nice feel to the restaurant itself. This would be the perfect place for a nice romantic dinner or even a family celebration. If you are looking for great Italian food then Paesanos is without a doubt the way to go.

Thanks for reading,

JMW

Sam’s Burger Joint

Great

Pretty Good ***

OK

No Thanks

 

I know that you have all shared my craving to set out on your own and find that perfect burger that has the right amount of ground beef, toppings, and bun, and like me I am sure that you have found some really good and some that fall short, so when you get that burger craving it is sometimes a hard itch to scratch. Well this past weekend I was in the mood for a really good burger and not just a run down to the local fast food drive through kind of burger either. I mean I wanted to go somewhere that specialized in burgers. I have a few places around town that I like to go to for a good burger but I wanted to try something new so I started researching online and came across a place that I have driven by on many occasions but never actually stopped and tried. After reading a few reviews I decided that now was as good a time as any to see if they lived up to “my cravings” high standards.
So I hopped in my truck and headed down to Grayson St right next to the Pearl Brewery to a little place called Sam’s Burger Joint. When you walk in the building you can smell the burgers cooking and it will start your mouth watering. There is nothing fancy about Sam’s at all but a real burger joint shouldn’t be fancy. You want it to feel like home and to feel like the kind of place that if you drip something on you shirt no one would care because they have done it too. The inside has a small dining room with a few tables packed together pretty tightly and a few booths along the wall. There is also a slightly larger outdoor area for sitting and eating with small tables and chairs and picnic style benches and tables. Placing your order is a straight forward, walk up to the counter, order, pay, and get a number to take to your table process.

For this trip I decided to go with the Bacon Cheddar Burger. At Sam’s the burgers come standard with lettuce, tomato, pickles, onions and mustard. You can choose to take any of that off or add other things like grilled onions, jalapenos, mayo and ketchup as well. They have the typical sides that you would expect to find in a burger joint like fries and onion rings as well as a few other things to get as appetizers like fried mushrooms, fried pickles, fried zucchini or chips and salsa. For my side I went with the onions rings since my need to find the perfect onion ring is almost as strong as finding the perfect burger.
When my order came it looked great. The burger was not falling apart and the onions rings looked homemade. The top bun even had the name of the restaurant “Sam’s” branded into it, which I thought was a nice touch. Before I took a bite of the burger I had to try one of those onion rings that were sitting there calling my name. Words cannot describe what a great flavor these rings have. I found it, the perfect onion ring. They are simply amazing. They have the right amount of batter, onion and seasoning. A couple of them were cooked a little too long but that did not matter, they were still great. They have a nice crunch when you bite into them and the onion does not pull out of the breading like so many other rings I have had in the past. Now it was time to try the burger that I had been craving all day and see if it was what I was looking for. With the first bite I knew that Sam’s would be a place that I would be coming back to. The burger was juicy on the inside and crisp on the outside just the way I like them. The bun was nicely toasted and all of the toppings fit nicely together. This is one of those burgers that you dread getting to the last bite from the first bite you take. Now I can’t say that it was the perfect burger since I know that there has to be a better one out there but this one is in the top five best burgers that I have ever had.
There is actually a little more to Sam’s than just being a burger joint. It is also a pretty popular concert venue for local artists. They seem to cater to the Blues and swing crowd mostly which is fine with me and they have events almost every night of the week. The concert hall is located right next door to the main dining hall. You pretty much walk out of one door and in to the others.
So if you are looking for a great burger and the best onions rings in town and even want to catch a show one evening then head on down to Sam’s Burger Joint. They know what they are doing when it comes to food. I will definitely be heading back.

Thanks for reading
JMW