Category Archives: Restaurants

The Brick Oven

2805 Williams BLVD, Kenner, LA

Upon arriving at Crowne Plaza after a full day at the zoo, we were starving and grumpy and realized that what was for dinner was no longer for dinner.  No Microwaves in hotel room.  What to do.  We went next door to an Italian restaurant.  This is a somewhat small cafe.  Somewhat charming, somewhat kitschy.  But what really got our attention was the hostess.  We arrived at what turned out to be the beginning of the dinner rush.  She acted at first like she didn’t want to even be bothered to seat us.  She brought us to a small side room with all four tops.  I offered, as we do when we go to smaller restaurants like this, to seat the kids at one table and Gabe and I at the other next to it.  We’ve done this a lot.  It’s really helpful when we’ve got another couple with us because you might have to wait for an hour to get a table for 8, but it’s a lot easier to find two booths that seat 4 next to each other.  Plus, the kids are older and have no problem ordering for themselves.  We encourage it.

She scoffed at us and I said something about how it’s really OK, we’ve done it before, no big deal, thinking maybe the issue was that she’d never broken up a party like that before.  Nope.  She replied that the other tables are for paying customers.  Then she went and got a small two top to add to the end of ours, effectively blocking the flow of traffic which meant two of my children were constantly bumped by people trying to squeeze by sideways, sometimes with a fully loaded tray of food.

Needless to say, Gabe and I almost walked out right then.  At that moment, we were exhausted from three days in a row of heavy walking.  We were starving as we’d eaten early before entering the zoo.  The hotel microwave situation was a major letdown (which we remedied the following morning, but at the time, it was a big deal….I just wanted some home cooked food that didn’t cost us $150 out the door for the 6 of us).  And we’d lost our daughter in the rat maze of a hotel.  Now, some kid barely out of high school was telling me that somehow my children wouldn’t be eating food that we paid for?  Was it that she thought we’d somehow spend no money on food, so she ought to save the table for four other people who would be forced to pay?

IN the end, we were simply too exhausted to get up and walk down the street for anything else.  The sad thing was that while our last nerve had been burned by some idiots rude comment, it was our sweet waitress who had to deal with the fallout.  Gabe and I both worked hard to be pleasant, but it was thinly veiled attempt.  We were just DONE!  By the end of the meal, I clued in our waitress because she continued to be amazing through the whole thing.  Once she understood about the hostess and the fact that it had been a really long day to begin with, she visibly relaxed, chatted with us about how she wished she would’ve known and she could seat us somewhere else, saying that there were tons of large tables in the other room and she didn’t know why the hostess had put us there anyways, but she’d gone with it.  She said she was going to talk to the manager.  I said I’d seen some yelp comments about the hostess, but was still caught off guard.  Our waitress was stunned, because she’d never heard anything about the hostess being rude.  We all agreed that perhaps the hostess had had a bad day as well, and I wouldn’t be rude to her (in fact, we mustered all the cheer we could find to say good evening to her on our way out), but that for business, it’s a good idea to have someone inviting up front.

OK, on to the food.  Ehh.  Caesar salad dressing was off.  Didn’t taste right.  Marinara, as always, not as good as mine.  I chose a dish and added a few things to it to make it better.  Waitress seemed surprised.  Maybe people don’t substitute and add to their food around here.  But I was wanting a taste of home, and the meal they had that came the closest was missing three obvious items.  The wine was good (as always), but pretty over priced for the labels they had.  Usually buying at a restaurant is going to be more expensive.  But we know our wines.  A $12 bottle was priced at $42.  A much bigger mark up than what is usually seen.  (That was the price for the bottle, the price by the glass was more, obviously, but we’d looked at bottle prices hoping to get that cost down a bit.)

Most entrees were priced around $15.  Kids eat free, if they choose from the kids’ menu, which mine don’t.  So I guess if you’ve got two little kids, it would be a “nice meal out” for a bit cheaper.  (Note: for anyone reading this and thinking maybe she thought we were going to have four free kids’ meals and that’s what she meant….ALL of my kids were her height or taller.  My kids are tall and my youngest can pass for 12.  Kids’ menu was for under 12.  Plus, you can only get one “free” meal per paid meal.)

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Alabama Restaurants

China Town Restaurant

5285 HWY 90 W, Mobile, AL

 

Really bad buffet food.  There honestly wasn’t one thing I liked, including the pineapple chicken and fried rice.  It was bad.

 

The Hungry Owl

7899 Cottage Hill Rd, Mobile, AL

I didn’t know this at the time, but an episode of Man Vs Food was filmed here.  Gabe and I both ordered the Ultimate Tony burger, which has Conecuh sausage, 3 cheeses, jalapenos, celery, onions, and peppers stuffed into the burger itself.  Then it’s topped with smoked gouda, Conecuh bacon, candied jalapenos, Creole BBQ sauce and a fried egg.  For side dishes we got the baked mac and cheese and the sweet smashed potatoes.  This burger is really way too much for one person to eat.  But Gabe decided to eat it anyways and was hurting for an hour afterwards!  I ate half of mine.  It was very good!  All the tastes of this burger are very LOUD tastes and they go well together.  The sweet smashed potatoes are heavy on the cinnamon, in my opinion, but still pretty good.  The baked mac and cheese was better than most restaurants, but still not as good as mine.  🙂

On a second note, our waitress wasn’t very happy.  She had a huge attitude almost the entire time and I watched her at other tables to see if it was just us, or if it was her.  It was definitely her.  She managed to make us feel guilty while ordering, like we were hugely inconveniencing her existence.  I don’t know if there was something going on at home or if she’s normally like this.  The one concession to this is that by the end of the meal, I chatted with her a bit and got her to smile and laugh a bit as we were talking kids, since she’s got four of her own.  And when she brought our ticket a few minutes later, she was much more gracious.  But it’s still a bit of a bummer to have such a disgruntled waitress.

 

Ruby Tuesday

5205 Service Rd South Higgins Rd, Tillmans Corner, Mobile, AL

 

I’ll admit it, I’d never been to a Ruby Tuesday.  Gabe and I both admitted to each other we figured it’d be like a Denny’s and neither of us are interested in subpar food.  So we were both pleasantly surprised at the food we got.  The Asiago Pepper Steak was VERY good!  Gabe also enjoyed the Chicken Fresco.  The Shrimp Queso dip was very good as well, and they bring you some biscuits while you’re waiting that were good.

The bad……I ordered a lemon drop martini and it came with a raspberry tea bag in it.  Gross.  I like raspberry tea and all, but it shouldn’t be in my martini.  I didn’t even look at the description of it because I’ve ordered them often enough, I didn’t think I had to.  Also, our waitress was nice but very disorganized and it took forever to get out food.  Another table close to us with three school aged children were sitting awhile as well and they actually complained to her.  She got the manager and I assume things got patched over, although we left before we could tell for sure.

Houston Area Restaurants

 

Zach’s BBQ

200 Powell St, Willis, TX

This is a small BBQ place right next to the train tracks in Willis, TX (just north of Conroe).  They have peanuts to munch on while you wait.  Their food is much the same as most BBQ places in Texas, with the prices pretty average as well.  The only thing of note is that when a train passes, if you run up to the counter and say “beer train” you can get a beer for $1.  But since I don’t drink beer and they don’t serve what Gabe likes, it’s not a perk for us personally.  The location is good for us, and the food isn’t too bad.  So we’ve been there a few times.

 

Azuma Downtown Sushi Restaurant

909 Texas Avenue, Houston, TX

We stayed at the Hotel Icon in downtown Houston a few weeks back and went to eat at this place for dinner one night.  Gabe and I got three rolls all together, plus some sashimi.  It was fantastic!  Possibly the best sushi we’ve ever eaten!  The prices were about average for sushi, at around $13/roll.  The restaurant is somewhat small, being downtown, but it does have a sushi bar where you can sit and watch the chefs make your food.  I highly recommend the Thai Salmon, which has salmon, mango, green onion, avocado and a thai sauce drizzled on it.

 

Harris County Smokehouse

14239 FM 2920, Tomball, TX (located near 249)

About $10 after tax and tip.

Set up cafeteria style, you can be dished up as you go down the line, or you can order something that will be cooked to order, like a HUGE baked potato covered with just about every thing even loosely related to BBQ!  We typically get our food from the line.  There are servers set up down the line to assist you, asking which type of meat you want and if you want sauce on it, then cutting it up for you and handing it to you on a plate.  You move down for side dishes, and then finally desserts like banana pudding.  At the end, there’s a cash register and you can get your cups for drinks there.  (They do serve beer at it’s located in the front of the line on ice in buckets.)  Next to the drink stations, there’s also a condiment bar with everything from salsa to pickles on it.  And then next to that there’s also a bread bar with muffins, biscuits, and yeast rolls.  Their yeast rolls are the best I’ve ever had and I crave them from time to time!  After you’re all set with your food, it’s seat yourself.  Completely down to earth and unpretentious, but super yummy.  THis is my favorite Texas BBQ place, although my husband has been let down by their sausage frequently.  I typically get the ribs and I love them, along with their sauce which is a bit on the sweet side, and it goes well with the smokiness of the ribs.

 

California Restaurant Reviews

COPE’S KNOTTY PINE CAFE

1530 Norris Rd, Bakersfield, CA

Average of $8/person after tax and tip.

Very good homestyle breakfast.  huge portions.  Relaxed/cowboy style decor.  Very friendly staff who went above and beyong to make sure our needs were met, which for a family of 6 can be a lot.

CAFE PESCATORE

2455 Mason St., San Francisco, Ca (Fisherman’s Wharf area)

Average of $17/person after tax and tip.

I had the Caesar Salad which came with slices of sardines and parmesan on top.  very strong tasting, which I loved, but beware if you don’t care for the strong taste (which Gabe doesn’t).  Had the Robusta Pizza which was good, but not anything hugely special.  This restaurant was located below our hotel and after getting lost in San Francisco trying to find the hotel (yes, GPS again), it  was convenient.  The staff was very helpful, although if we’d come in the middle of the rush instead of 8:30 at night, we’d probably had gotten less attention.  The table looked nice, but on closer look, the table cloth was covered with paper.  For us, this was a huge perk in that the whole family got to color while waiting for food.  Some “kids menus” aren’t that interesting to the kids, but I have to admit, even I had fun coloring the table.

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MANDARIN BUFFET

55 Rolling Oaks Dr., Thousand Oaks, Ca

Average $12 after tax and tip.

We were out Christmas shopping, in the rain, and desperately needed to eat something.  I used my GPS’s option to find food and this was close by and a buffet, which the kids love.  So we stopped by for lunch (after driving around for a minute because the GPS said it was down the other way).  After tasting many different buffets, both American and Chinese, I generally feel that the food is average-subpar.  But the price and excitement from the kids makes up for this.  The Mandarin Buffet has excellent food!  We all loved everything we ate!  It was clean, the staff was friendly, all in all, I would definitely go back.  It’s right off the 101, and since it’s located in a business park, during non-business hours, there’s lots of parking if you’re in your rig.

WOOD RANCH BBQ

Several locations through the Ventura county area, including Ventura, Camarillo, and Moorpark.

This is a local chain.  Because we’re Texans, we love BBQ!  🙂  In Texas, there’s just about every type of BBQ, and most places pride themselves on homemade sauces and rubs.  However, this is the ONE place we love that isn’t in Texas.  So, if anyone with any clout is reading this…..Texas would LOVE your restaurant! 🙂

Average is about $15/person after tax and tip.  I’m sure you could go cheaper, but the steaks are really worth the price.  The rolls are amazing and we usually dip them in the BBQ sauce on the table (which might sound gross, but go and try it!).  The tri tip is typically what we get and is really yummy, along with the sweet smashed potatoes, which are the best I’ve ever tasted and have tried several times to make them myself and have always missed the mark.  All of our food is, of course, covered in their BBQ sauce.  I recommend buying it and keeping some at home.  The times we’ve flown out to California to visit family, we typically buy the big family pack meal and bring it home in an ice chest (gotta love the confused looks I get while it gets scanned in the machine to make sure it’s not a bomb…..and then questions like “aren’t you going to texas?  Isn’t Texas sorta known for it’s BBQ?  Why are you shipping it?”).  We love, love, love Wood Ranch and we stop by at least once everytime we’re in the area.

LOUIE’S CHINESE RESTAURANT

3538 Manthey Rd, Stockton, CA

Average $8/person after tax and tip.

We got the family style meal for three, and it would’ve fed 6-7.  It was just me and the kids and there were enough left over for one or two more adults.  The food was probably about 3 out of 5 stars, but the service was good and we got our food very quickly.  It isn’t right off the freeway, but also not too hard to get too.  We ate here because of the reviews on Yelp that said it was decent food served very fast.  We were on the road and didn’t have a lot of extra time, but fast food isn’t too palatable to me.

CALIFORNIA ACADEMY OF SCIENCES CAFE

Average of $10/person after tax.

Got sandwiches and pizzas.  3 out of 5 stars for the food.  It was better than I thought it would be, and also cheaper than I thought it would be.  The workers working the cafe were very helpful, and I saw several parents being helped to their tables, including me.  I cannot say enough about how helpful this simple act is.  Our children are a bit older and can technically hold their trays.  But in our experience, 1 out of 4 trays ends up being dropped.  And when you’ve already paid for the food and are starving….well, it’s neough to send a mother into tears.  I know that I don’t have to clean it up, but it’s a huge pain in the butt! (To hear more, see Golden Corral in Texas.)  But as soon as I had the two trays and was about to pick them up and take them to check out, there was another lady there grabbing one.  While checking out, she grabbed straws and napkins for us all, and then helped the children look for a place to sit for all of us.  I thought “WOW, how nice!”.  But while sitting and people watching, I noticed this is just what they do.  How nice to see so many young mothers feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of feeding their brood in a crowded cafeteria, pushing a stroller, holding another child’s hand, trying to balance the tray on the stroller’s canopy, just to be helped by some angel of a worker when she needed it most!

BEACH STREET GRILL

380 Beach st., San Francisco, Ca (Fisherman’s Wharf)

Average of $15/person after tax and tip for breakfast.

We were greeted warmly by what could only be described as an Italian Patriarch.  he stopped by the table several times, seemingly delighted with my childre.  Our waiter was also very friendly, talking about how he and his wife were wanting to start a family of their own, and wanting to have 5 children.  of course, this seems a bit much to me in a city like San Francisco where everyone lives in a 5 story walk up with all of 800 sq. ft (this is probably not true, but it seemed as such), not to mention the driving conditions are not great for larger cars!  But, his joy was infectious and I left feeling more blessed about my children than I did walking in that morning!

The decor was red and white potter style dishes, including a nice creamer cup in white.  I don’t know if this was primarily just for the Christmas season, as they were also very decorated for that, or if this is their typical decor, but I personally loved it and felt as if I was just visiting some friends for breakfast.  I had the Crab Eggs benedict.  Very yummy and rich….I could only finish about half!

TRISH’S MINI DONUTS

Located on Pier 39 in Fisherman’s Wharf

We got two 24-count baskets of mini donuts and between the 5 of us didn’t finish them all.  More filling than you’d think.  Very good and well priced!  About $5/person for a meal, or less for just a snack.

Texas Restaurant Reviews

EL BURRITO

100 south point loop

Livingston, tx

We were not impressed at this restaurant.  The salsa tasted almost canned.  The meat wasn’t very tender or flavorful.  The rice could’ve been rice a roni mexican edition.  Wouldn’t ever eat here again.

JOE’S ITALIAN GRILL

1615 West Church Street #1200 (on hwy 190)

Livingston, TX

This place, while charming decor and murals, wasn’t very good.  It ran very heavy on the sauces.  I had the lasagna which was one layer of lasagna noodles over a bunch of ground beef with a bit of sauce.  My son got the philly cheese steak sandwich, which was served with mushrooms.  I don’t know how it came out, but he doesn’t like mushrooms, so it turned out badly.  I would not go here again.

 

HOMEMADE ICE CREAM SHUKY DEEZ

1615 West Church Street #1100 (on HWY 190)

Livingston, TX

Charming retro decor.  The ice cream was yummy, but wasn’t flavored as it was advertised.  I got cheesecake, which tasted more like French Vanilla.  Gabe got Peanut Butter Fudge, which tasted like peanut butter with no hint of chocolate anything.  They had a smurf ice cream that I tried that was supposed to be vanilla with cherry flavoring and sprinkles, which tasted like vanilla with sprinkles (but the kids loved because it was blue colored).  Maybe they just need to up their secondary flavorings?  I dunno.  The ice cream was good.  It just wasn’t the exact flavor we had thought we’d be getting.  Yes, I’d probably go there again if we were in the area and wanted ice cream, but later that week, we ended up just getting some Ben and jerry’s from Walmart.

 

COOKIN ON WOOD PIT BBQ

3560 hwy 190

Livingston, tx

Creamed corn was great!  French fries tasted like a heavily seasoned Ore Ida’s, not bad, but not the greatest either.  Gabe didn’t care for the potato salad, but he never does….don’t know why he ordered it in the first place.  I didn’t try it.  Pork ribs were falling off the bone.  IMO, a bit too tender as the consistency was almost like it was uncooked mush or babyfood.  I prefer, personally, meat a bit tougher (not too tough, just enough that you might have to chew).  But a few bites of it reminded both of us strongly of bacon with that smoked flavor.  Didn’t care for the original BBQ sauce.  The sweet was good, but not great.  I think if we are back in town, we’ll probably try another BBQ place.  On another note,  good RV parking, but there weren’t too many places in Livingston that were difficult to find good parking at close by.

 

YUNG’S BUFFET

1017 Church Street (on HWY 190)

Livingston, TX

Better than we thought it would be, not the best chinese ever.  I won’t typically even try for chinese in a small population town, typically disappointing.  Not too bad, the meat was tender all around.  Lo mien and rice both good.  Sauces all sorta tasted the same, IMO, not bad, just not the variety we typically get.  Between this and the fact there was a good deal of American food there, pretty good choice if you’re passing through with children who are pickier eaters.

 

CASSITY’S CAFE

705 North Washington, Livingston, TX

Average of $8/per person after tax and tip.

We had breakfast here while on our trip to Lake Livingston.  It’s about a block up from the courthouse in downtown Livingston.  It’s sorta small hole in the wall with not a whole lot of parking (luckily, there’s enough nearby).  When you walk in, nothing special.  The kitchen area is separated from the rest of the restaurant by some counters and a plastic partition that’s used for their lunch buffet.  Only cash and local checks taken, so bring cash.  Honestly, really nothing special……except the food, that is!  Almost all of us had the short stack with a meat and egg.  My only issue was a personal one.  I prefer my over easy eggs to have runny yellows and solid whites, and the whites were still a bit runny.  Again, sometimes this happens since it is hard to get that right amount of cooked for eggs.  And honestly, I really only wanted the yolks because I like to dip my ham in em.  So not a big deal.  The pancakes on the other hand were phenomenal.  The batter was sorta sweet and different from most typical pancake batters.  I don’t know what they put in em, but they were so delicious we all had to be rolled out of the restaurant!  If you happen to be coming this way during breakfast….stop here.  It’ll be worth it!

BESS’S BISTRO

500 w. 6th, Austin, TX

Average of $25/person after tax and tip.

This is Sandra Bullock’s restaurant in Austin, a short walking distance from the capitol.  It’s a sort of French comfort food.  Low lighting, bookshelves with vintage books and wine, and booths set into small alcoves all add to the ambiance.  We had the tomato and mozzarella appetizer as well as the tuna tar tar.  Both were fantastic!  Because it’s not set up for kids, the kids have to order off the adult menu.  We ordered two chicken dishes with extra plates and just split up the meals for the kids.  Both my husband and I had steak.  I don’t remember which was which, but they were both very good.  The use grassfed, local beef and it’s very evident in the taste. Hubby said that it was the best rare steak he’s had in forever, that it melts in your mouth, which is about the best compliment I’ve ever heard him say while eating out!  So this place gets 5 out of 5 stars!  And I will add that while it’s pricey, and not really too kid friendly, the staff was actually very excellent with the kids and tried their best to think of ways to make our dining experience the best it could be for both adults and children.

GOLDEN CORRAL

4610 Woodrow Bean, El Paso, TX

We started our trip from Houston to Los Angeles the day before Thanksgiving.  We’d already celebrated at home a few days before and wanted to get on the road.  Little did we think about the fact no restaurants are open on Thanksgiving.  This was IT!

We’d never been to the Golden Corral before, even though we have one about 10 miles from our home.  The food was pretty good for a buffet, and there were MANY option for both food and desserts.

However, we did show up during dinnertime, on Thanksgiving, and it was PACKED!  It took us roughly 30 minutes to get through the buffet line to get our food.  Right as we were about to leave the line, after the last item we wanted, Corbin dropped his tray (which had food for both him and Gavin, while Gabe and I had two plates on our trays as well, covering Caelan and Tristan).  There was food everywhere, including my leg!  We’d been in the car all day long, making that long trip from Junction, TX to las Cruces, NM and I was exhausted.  We were on our second day of our first trip in our RV and we were also on edge due to being slightly paraniod we’d hit something or get into an accident.

I calmly told someone who worked there about the spill, walked my family over to a table we’d found, and walked back into line to get food for the boys again.  Luckily, I”d paid attention to what they’d picked, thinking ahead that they might drop it.  They are by nature very social and had spent a good amount of time in line chatting with other people.  The area where you normally put your tray wasn’t set up for that and you really hd to hold it the whole time.

So I’d just spend 30 minutes reminding them every 10 second to focus on their tray and not on the people in line with us.  In the end, I didn’t even have enough energy to say “I told you so”.  LOL  So, just a reminder, even a ten year old boy with better than average gross motor skills will spill 5 pounds of food all over the floor if you let him be in charge of his own tray!

Golden Corral was a pretty good buffet, I’d probably go to another one.  However, we mostly go to buffets because the kids like them so much.  I prefer a restaurant.

Arizona Restaurant Reviews

MICKEY D’S CAFE

201 Apache Trail, Apache Junction, AZ

While staying at the Apache Junction KOA, we’d asked a lady who’d been there a month where a good place was for breakfast.  She said she’d gone to Mickey D’s almost every morning and it was delicious.  After a fight with out GPS unit who had originally insisted Mickey D’s was located were a mobile home park clearly was, we found it!  The parking lot was PACKED and as we walked through (we parked way out there because we had our RV with us), we noticed how they were almost all out of state licenses.  Odd.  The restaurant inside was equally packed, but they got us in right away.  After getting the kids settled and having some coffee poured, Gabe and I looked up and around, and noticed we seemed to be the only ones under the age of 50!  OOOOHHHHHHHH!  Yeah.  Snow birds.  That explains the out of state license plates.  LOL

While our waitress was almost subpar, there were several “bus girls” that were phenomenal.  Caelan spilled her drink all over herself (which was irritating since we were almost out of clean clothes for her, but were trying to make it to California before doing laundry).  I took her out to our rig and got her dressed again while Gabe stayed inside with the boys.  One of the bus girls came over right away to clean up the mess, bring new silverware, napkins, and a new drink for Caelan.  For the remained of our meal, it was the bus girls who most often stopped by to ask if we needed refills, if our food was good, if we needed more napkins (with kids, you can never have too many!).  I left a good tip and hopefully some of it went to these wonderful ladies who helped our visit be so nice!  Very large portion, and one of the best breakfasts I’ve had in a long time (that I didn’t cook myself HA HA).  If you’re passing through, go to Mickey D’s for breakfast!