Saturday, May 3, 2014

Willie's Grill and Icehouse

Some time ago I wrote about the local TGIFriday's. It wasn't overly fancy or the latest and greatest, but The Lovely Spouse and I had a few items we liked there that were consistently good.  Unfortunately Friday's closed.  Not very soon after it was purchased and turned into a Willie's Grill and Icehouse. We were undecided about where to have dinner one evening so we decided to give them a shot.

Upon entering we were greeted with the latest trend in mid-level chain restaurants: order your food at the front and someone will bring it to you.  But this time, with a twist.  We ordered our food at the front, took our ticket to the table, and placed our order again with the server.  The server also discovered that the order had been incorrectly written down by the person at the front counter.

This is a very odd arrangement.  We placed our order and got our drinks. Then we sat ourselves.  And placed our order...again.  Why bother with this?  There was no way for the person at the front counter to put the order in via computer or anything.  The person at the front wrote it down. Um...kay. Weird.

Fried jalapenos served with queso. 
We ordered an appetizer to split and received the deep friend jalapenos.  We were expecting something similar to jalapeno poppers, but the version at Willie's was interesting: sliced canned jalapenos breaded and fried.  And served with queso. Not bad as pub food, but we were both glad we got the small order to split.

The blue cheese burger.
Grilled chicken with steamed veggies and fries. 
Next came our meals. I got the grilled chicken with steamed veggies and fries.  The Lovely Spouse got the blue cheese burger. The grilled chicken was well cooked, although not very well seasoned.  But nothing a little salt and pepper didn't improve.  The veggies were as to be expected in a mid-level chain restaurant. The fries were pretty good, although far too many for me to eat.  I shared them with The Lovely Spouse. Unfortunately The Lovely Spouse's burger just didn't live up to what should be expected in a restaurant next door to Grub Burger Bar, a block from Mickey's Sliders, and in the same town as Harvey Washbangers.  Not a lot of flavor and no change in texture. The burger was overcooked and quite boring. Definitely not what you'd expect from a place that, according to their website, started as a burger restaurant.

The apple pie skillet. 
The Lovely Spouse insisted that we get dessert and ordered the apple pie skillet.  Apple pie and ice cream with cinnamon served on a hot skillet. Tasty, but I didn't have nearly enough appetite for it.

Obvious Americana branding and decor.
Those big, open garage doors are pretty cool on a nice Spring day in April. Not so much when it's 100 degrees F in the shade. And it was noisy with the doors open - I imagine it's much more so with them closed.
Even though the service strategy was weird, the servers themselves were friendly and the service was good. The decor was not dissimilar to Friday's, although with some Texas Roadhouse thrown in.  I'm not sure why they think having a sandy beach is a good idea. Outdoor sandy beach is a great place for cats to hang out, and for kids to play in during dinner.  And I have no idea how they'll cope with a Texas summer with all those windows.  It was very noisy inside, with the garage doors open.  I imagine it will be even more so when they close the windows with the heat.

Children, outdoor sand pit, and commercial food service - what could possibly go wrong?  
Will we be back?  Most likely not.  Harvey Washbangers beats them on burgers, grilled chicken, fries, and beer selection, and they're locally owned and operated. Grub, Mickey's, and Blackwater Draw are also excellent options if I'm hankering for a burger.

Am I warning you all away?  Not really. The food wasn't bad.  There are, in my opinion, better options nearby.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

A bit of blog housekeeping

Firstly, welcome new followers!  I'm always happy to see new faces. I hope you like what you see. The food scene in Bryan and College Station continues to grow and I still manage to find content for this blog.

Second, I've removed Foodie Blogroll from my blog.  They generated a total of 2 hits to my blog in the time I've been a member and I never generate enough traffic to be apart of anything they ever did.  It wasn't worth them taking up the real estate on my page. I wish them well and they're probably great for blogs with more traffic from elsewhere.  They just didn't seem to be working with my blog format.

This blog will continue to not be monetized. I'm not paid in any way, shape, or form for any of the content you see here. I also don't do much in the way of promotion.  Friends that own local businesses have never given me anything in exchange for a blog post, nor have they asked me to write one. Usually I write about them on the blog and tell them about it later.

Once again, welcome!  And cheers!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

1541 Pastries and Coffee

This morning was one of those things every pet owner knows about: waking up to find out the dog has not had a good night. Therefore we cleaned up the dog and the mess and decided we'd rather eat...out...for breakfast. We decided to go a place The Lovely Spouse had not yet tried: 1541 Pastries and Coffee because we needed the treat.

1541 Pastries and Coffee is located on Brothers Blvd behind the Walmart in College Station.  It's kind of hard to find unless you're looking for it, making it a somewhat well-kept secret.  Look for an older, brown strip mall containing a couple hair salons and wellness centers.  The coffee shop is on the far corner most distant from Longmire Drive.

While the decor is very simple, the pastries and coffee are really the main events. Pastry Chef and co-owner Anel Olmedo is a Cordon Bleu graduate that also holds a position at the highly regarded Republic Steakhouse in College Station. Her training and skill are obvious in the simple-sounding, but extremely well-executed pastries such as apple turnovers and breakfast croissant sandwiches.

Service is friendly and guests are welcome to enjoy the relaxed atmosphere, with indoor and outdoor seating, and free wifi.

Light and fluffy blueberry muffin.
Bacon, egg, and cheese croissant. Delicious.
How was the coffee? Also very delicious.  And the presentation was the best you will find in the Bryan and College Station area.  The following pictures were taken from several visits with several accompanying friends.

The prices are very reasonable and actually better than you find at most places that serve high quality coffee, lattes, and cappuccino. Flavors can also be added.

And the name? The owners were married in the city of Morelia, Mexico.  The city was founded in 1541 and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

As good as Grandma's cooking was, she never have pastry skills like those found at 1541.
We'll definitely be back.

1541 Pastries and Coffee also makes custom cakes and has become popular for special-occasion cakes for those "in the know".  A very abbreviated portfolio can be found on their website.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Rio Brazos Distillery

I've already posted about College Station's brewery and brewpub, but did you know that College Station now has a commercial distillery? It's totally true.

Rio Brazos Distillery took over the location formerly occupied by New Republic Brewery (NRB moved to a larger space in the building next door).  To get there follow the directions for my previous post on New Republic Brewery.

During one of my visits I got to see how some of the magic happens. In this case he was sealing bottles.
Owner Nathan Barkman distills a very smooth Whistlestop white whiskey that has a character similar to fine vodka.  It has a very, very smooth finish and mixes well.  I've had it in a Moscow Mule (mixed with ginger beer - mmmmmm...Bundaberg), in a Manhattan, and in a whiskey tonic.  Each time the whiskey blends perfectly with the other ingredients without being too obtrusive.

Tours and explanations of the facility will be given upon request. Distilling is a bit different from brewing.

Right now the distillery is only producing the Whistlestop whiskey, but has plans to expand to produce a rum and a longer-aged whiskey that will have characteristics more commonly associated with whiskey: caramel color, barrel-aged flavors, etc.

My picture is a few months old.  The bar looks a lot nicer these days. 
The distillery is open most Fridays and Saturdays 5 - 9 pm and offers free tastings (must be 21 years or old) and cocktails are available for sale. Bottles of the whiskey are for sale, with limits on the quantities you can purchase. It is also available at Spec's in College Station.  If you visit, say hi to Nathan as he's a very nice person. Bonus points for making him smile.  The product is also delightful.

If you drink, designate a non-drinking driver or take a taxi.  Get home safely.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Blackwater Draw

Good news!  College Station now has a brewpub!  Alright, so it's only good news to those of us who have been wanting even more good, locally produced beer.  

Those are some distinctive tap pulls.
2 sizes of growlers for those who wish to take the beer with them.

Blackwater Draw is located at the corner of Boyett and Church Street in College Station, right behind Northgate, or about a block from O'Bannon's.   They have daily specials listed on their facebook page and recently have been having events, including a Northgate pub crawl that will occur tomorrow.

Beer Cheese Soup. Delicious, but found out the hard way it contains garlic.
The beer menu is a mix of their in-house brewed beers and Texas craft beer.  They also have a selection of wines and soft drinks for non-beer drinkers. The food menu features a selection of sliders as well as high quality burgers.  I've visited a few times and so far my favorites are the Contract Killer Coffee Porter, which has a wonderful coffee flavor, and the short rib sliders.  Several friends swear the burgers are in competition for the best in the region.  Given the competition in the area, that's high praise.
Mmmmm...sliders. These were very messy, but totally worth it.
The nachos are a popular menu item. I found them to be alright.  The short rib sliders were, in my opinion, far better.
The Grown Up Grilled Cheese was alright, but not up to the standards of those I make at home. I suggest having the burgers or sliders instead.
The Lovely Spouse loves their parmesan truffle fries. Truffle oil smells and tastes bad to me so he's welcome to them.
The price are very reasonable and dinner for 2 can easily come in around $20, including beer.  We'll definitely be back.