Monday, July 30, 2012

BJ's Brewhouse

What would happen if the foodie phenomenon of gastro pub was given the corporate America, mass-marketing treatment?  The answer is BJ's Brewhouse.

Recently The Lovely Spouse and I returned to the local BJ's for the third time since their recent opening. He was in the mood for fried food.  I was in the mood for beer.  Turns out you can get both there.
 Can't complain about the decor. Although what you can't see is that I had the sun in my face as it was setting through the windows in the front of the restaurant.
BJ's has a selection of their own brand of beers, ranging from a lite beer to a gluten free sorghum beer (not very good) to a dark stout with heavy coffee notes.  Samplers are available. You can choose from their lighter or darker beers.  I chose the darker ones.

I preferred the amber to the dark stout.  Some of them are unbalenced towards coffee notes. Not that that's a horrible thing, but the beer snob in me would be remiss for not mentioning it.
Because The Lovely Spouse was in a mood for fried foods and such he ordered a couple appetizers.  I nibbled on them. 

Spinach Artichoke Dip.  Not quite as good as my own, but pretty good for a pub.  Even with both of us munching on it there were far too many chips. 
Fried Artichokes.  The menu says these are new, but I remember having these during the restaurant's opening week.  I liked the artichokes, even though they were fried. The briney flavor of the artichokes goes well with the crispy breading. But didn't touch the ranch dressing. Ranch is defined as containing garlic so it's a no-go for me.   
The Lovely Spouse got Fish & Chips for his entree.  The fish was pretty good and the breading was tasty. They just made the same error you commonly find with this dish and there was too much breading for my taste.  However it worked well to sate The Lovely Spouse's craving for fried foods. So mission accomplished.
On a previous visit I tried a pasta dish on the 500 calorie menu that was alright, but definitely inferior to what I can make at home.  And on another visit I tried the portabello mushroom pizza as it was the only one on the menu that didn't have garlic. It was a deep dish pizza and, in my opinion, too heavy on both the gooey carb-loaded crust and just a tad too greasy.  So for this trip I wanted something that wasn't either of them.  Unfortunately the extensive menu, which looks like the Cheesecake Factory's massive book of a menu, has very, very few items that are free of onions and garlic. And only one that is also low in fat/oil: the pasta dish on the 500 calorie menu.  So I decided on a compromise with one of the burgers.

This is the California Burger.  Served on toast with avacado and grilled peppers.  I got it without the ranch dressing.  It was tastey but the one thing that bugged me is just how heavy and fatty the combination was.  They could have, in my opinion, improved the texture, without distracting from the taste, by not buttering the toast and using lite mayo.  Avacado adds significant fat to any dish so it's important to balence that.
Every dish served with fries comes with a choice of them. I selected the thin, shoestring fries.  They were excellent, except that the oil was heavy enough I could taste and feel it on the fries. They either need to be better drained or they need to be finished better. Great fries can make or break a gastro pub.  These are very close to greatness. 
We didn't order dessert as we weren't hungry after all that food.  We also took quite a bit of it home. The Lovely Spouse assured me the fish and chips were good reheated as well.

The service, in spite of UrbanSpoon reviews, was great.  Either we caught them at a less-busy time or we got a great server.  I don't know.  All I know is that in the 3 times we've been to BJ's the service has been great. So I can't agree with that aspect of online reviews.

Will we be back?  Maybe? The prices were kind of high for the resulting dining experience.  Again, the service was good.  But there are far better burger places in town that serve Texas microbrews for a better price.  I know some of you are saying I should just stick with salads if I'm going to complain about grease on fried foods.  But the salads were even more expensive than the burgers, and often don't pair well with beers.  In addition to often having more calories even than the burgers.  If I was to return I think I would try one of the thin-crust gluten-free pizzas.  Not because I'm eating gluten-free, but because I prefer thin crust on my pizza.

Would I recommend BJ's to my friends?  I don't see why not.  I'd give them the review just as written above and let them decide for themselves if they want to eat there. It is one of the few places in town with gluten-free beer and pizza, so that's something. The fried artichokes are a nice appetizer.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Olive Garden

There's a lot of hate out there for Olive Garden in foodie circles.  It appears to go beyond them just being an easy target.  It goes beyond having a philosophical problem with chains in general.  Even Tony Bourdain has weighed in on it.   You just don't see this same level of hate for, say, Boston's, BJ's, Chili's, or Friday's.

I can't help but wonder why.  Perusing google I've found a number of actual blogs dedicated to Olive Garden haters.  A couple are from people who have worked at them, and yes, I can understand animosity towards nearly any job that someone would have at any chain restaurant. The ones I don't quite understand are the ones that just hate them to hate them. 

Is it the food?  Some say that it's all frozen and reheated.  Which has been debunked by numerous people who actually work in their kitchens (for example, and here, although disgruntled ex-employees have said otherwise).

Some say the food's not "authentically Italian".  I've been to Italy. What we in the US call "Italian" is not the same thing Italians call Italian when it comes to food. Americans whine about the food when they visit Italy.  That should tell you something.  Primarily, Americans don't want authentic Italian food.  They want what they think is authentic Italian food. They want their pasta sauced to the gills.  They want heaps of garlic.  They want bread served with dipping oil or sauces. They want everything served on one plate or they want to eat pasta as the entirety of their meal.  That stuff isn't done in Italy, where freshly made (rarely dried) pasta is often served with high quality oil and some grated cheese, maybe a few herbs or capers thrown in as well.  In Italy pasta is a course in a meal but not the entire meal. The food there is meant to show off the quality of the ingredients, not to see how many calories can be packed upon a single plate.  So, really, if you want authentic Italian you first have to change your attitude about what constitutes a meal. Olive Garden does a pretty good job of giving Americans what they expect. 

Is it the branding of the restaurant?  Well...this is probably where most of the haters fuel their rage.  The commercials are pretty annoying. And you do see the restaurants in all major metropolitan areas. The clientele is a mix of every population you see in the US and people dress very casually.  Often it's loud and crowded.  And there's usually a wait to get in because of the popularity of the restaurant. Olive Garden, for better or worse, is what happens when corporate America gets ahold of Italian-American food and markets it to the masses. 

But is that a bad thing?

The Lovely Spouse and I recently went to our local Olive Garden.  It's a newer restaurant as the old one burned to the ground in what I seem to remember was a kitchen fire.

As is typical for this location we were told there was a short wait so we went to the bar and ordered drinks.  The local Olive Garden has a knack for hiring really good, personable bartenders. Who are often poached by other restaurants.  Hey, good for them.

Margarita with an amaretto chaser. No, it's not Italian. However the bartender said he's really good at making margaritas. And this one was delicious.  
Generally the wait is quicker than the time we're given by the host/hostess.  As was the case during our most recent visit.  Pro-tip: if you go to the local Olive Garden here in BCS, if you don't have a large group request to NOT sit in the back room.  It's usually very loud.  This is usually not a problem in the rest of the restaurant.

NOT the back room. The regular dining areas are actually rather nice. Everything's very clean.
On the particular evening we were there we had gift cards so we splurged.  Thanks to the friends and family who give them to us for gifts!   Here's the regular dinner menu.  I've been told that both the lunch menu and dinner menu are available all day. There is also a gluten-free menu. Sadly there is no allium-free menu, but there isn't one anywhere else either so I'm not expecting it.

We started with an appetizer (along with salad and bread sticks).  I can't eat the bread sticks so those have no appeal to me. [Yes, servers can bring bread sticks without the garlic on them.  But it's a pain the butt for everyone involves so I don't bother.]
Smoked Mozzarella Fonduta. True to its name it has a smoky flavor and is served piping hot and gooey. It comes with sliced baguette.  It's an appetizer The Lovely Spouse and I, unable to eat garlic, can share.
And we both got entrees.
The Lovely Spouse got Chicken Marsala and substituted (gasp!) pasta for the potatoes. He likes cheese on his, which is something you just don't ever see in Italy, however common it is in the States. The chicken marsala is actually pretty good at Olive Garden.  Better than I've had at many mom-and-pop Italian restaurants in the States.
I tried something new: the Seafood Brodetto.  Our server assured me that it was not garlicky.  And, true to the claim, it wasn't. BUT it was chock full of uncooked onions.  So I sopped up the broth with the bread and ate the fish around it.  And I brought it home with the purpose of sieving out the onions and making a stock to serve over rice.  The flavor of everything here is actually pretty good. The veggies were still crisp, including the spinach.  The only reason I won't order it again is the onions. Not their fault, but now I know.
Other dishes we've had there repeatedly that we highly recommend: Mixed Grill (steak and chicken, grilled, and served with grilled veggies and potatoes), Chianti Braised Short Ribs (as described, served with risotto), Braised Beef and Tortelloni (as described), Ravioli di Portabello (if you can't eat onions, request they omit the green onions before serving), and Bruschetta (on the appetizer menu but also makes a nice light meal, especially when paired with a salad).

We didn't get dessert on this trip because we were quite full.  And we didn't get wine this time because of the margarita, and The Lovely Spouse's martini. The wine list is alright.  You won't find the best of the best at an Olive Garden but there's a good selection to accompany the menu items featured. And the prices are decent.

Speaking of prices, Olive Garden now has a 2 for $25 special.  Select items from a limited menu and 2 people can eat a full meal for $25, not including tips and drinks. Judging by the commercial most of the entree selections will be the pastas.

Will we be back to Olive Garden?  Well, yea.  The service is almost always very good.  The food is pretty consistent and there are healthy options available.  The prices are good, in addition to usually making 2 meals out of each entree.  This isn't where we go for a fine dining experience, but more of a place we can usually agree on.

Haters will continue to hate on Olive Garden.  And I'll continue to find that perplexing.  Along with the fact that you really can't find olives outside of the salads at Olive Garden.  I can haz antipasto, plz?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Cookie Cup!

I totally *heart* this idea. 

It's an espresso cup made out of cookie!

Go here for the full story and more images (also the source for the image above).  Carbon footprint or whatever.  It's a cookie!  WANT!

Of course my gluten-free friends are probably not nearly as enthusiastic about it as I am.  Perhaps a gluten-free model could also be developed? :-) 

And, in theory, my friends on Paleo could compost the cup...or give it to a cookie-loving friend? [Just to be clear, that would be me.]

{gif source}

Monday, July 23, 2012

A new happy hour

Image Source.
Naked Fish just announced their brand-spanking new happy hour.  Offered M-Thursday, 3-6 pm. Specials on sushi, appetizers, and drinks.

I think I might have to check them out this week. :-)  At those prices sushi sounds pretty darned happy to me.  Add a Tokyo Taco for some seriously awesome nomz.

Friday, July 20, 2012


Image Credit: Mark Rantal
I'm taking a moment to pause from talking about foodie-related anything today.  I don't hide the fact that I'm a fan of sci-fi and geek culture. 

Today we lost members of our own community.  I never knew the people involved but had I lived in the Denver area one thing is sure - these would be people I would have known from cons,  fan groups and various friends circles.  The types of people who wait up all night for the premiere of a new science fiction movie are my people.  As such the tragic and senseless events of today hit close to home.

My heart goes out to everyone affected by today's shooting and their families. 

Before the conjecture and sensationalism begin please remember that those affect today are our people. Our community. We all mourn their loss.  Please handle this with respect and dignity.

Obviously someone's never been to Bryan or College Station

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We've somehow gotten the dubious "honor" of being labeled the #10 college town with the worst food

Really?  Really?  Have you all actually visited here?  Evidence suggests the answer is no.

If you have you'd know that we have the #1 food truck in America.   

There's fine dining in the form of Christopher's, Veritas, The Republic and Madden's.  There's a growing market of chef-owned restaurants in the mid-range, including The Lemon Wedge, Cafe Capri, and Cenare/Terrazzo. 

And a growing list of wine bars including Messina Hof's tasting room, Downtown Uncorked, The Knox Wine Station, and Perrine Winery. 

Not to mention the fabulous options of world dining including Taz Indian Cuisine, Ohana Korean, Mong Chan Korean, Chef Cao's, T. Jin's, Crazy Cajun's, Brauhaus, Murphy's Law, Herbert's, Lanna's Thai, Rosie's Pho, Pho John's, Atami Sushi, Azure Fusion, and Naked Fish Sushi.

The BBQ here is about as good as anywhere else outside of Lockhart or Austin, including J. Cody's, Sodalak's, Rudy's and C&Js. 

And, of course, our Tex-Mex and Mexican are as good as can be found anywhere outside of fine dining in or outside of Mexico.  Don't believe me? Try Los Molcajetes, Polly's Cocina, and La Familia.

And we have some fabulous steakhouses including The Republic on the fine dining end and Sodalak's on the casual, no-fuss end.

Notice I didn't list a single chain restaurant?  However if you want those we've got them to please anyone with comfort food in mind: Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Applebees, Texas Road House, Pei Wei, Jamba Juice, Starbucks, Freebirds (although we had them before they were a chain), Chipotle, all the fast food joints, Abuelo's, Boston's, and TGI Friday's.

The vast majority of restaurants listed here have been here for years and are running stable, well-loved businesses. This notion that B/CS only supports stripmalls is ridiculous.

So, logically, if this is the #10 worst college town for food, #11 must be A-MA-ZING because Bryan and College Station are awesome and getting better every day.

Image Source

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

So Long Yelp

Image Source.
When I'm in a new city or town and hungry I often rely on Trip Advisor for advice on where to eat.  Unfortunately their format is such that new restaurants are often not featured...yet.  So I also go to Yelp or UrbanSpoon to quickly find out what's good and close to my location.  However lately I've been hearing complaints.  From both businesses and contributors.

Friends of mine who own a business in the B/CS area have complained that all of the yelp reviews for their business are negative.  They've been told by clients that positive reviews have been filtered or just removed entirely.  That's just bizarre.  True enough, if you go to this business's Google profile it's overwhelmingly positive.  But overwhelmingly negative on Yelp.  They've tried to correct things with Yelp and have been told that they need to pay some advertising fee to do so.  Well, that's strange and leads me to question the validity of Yelp reviews. My friends don't own a restaurant, but the experiences decribed here agree with what my friends have said.

This statement is particularly telling and 100% agrees with what my friends have said: "Over the past year, I have attempted to get some clarity and assistance from Yelp. I have had no success except that its sales staff has repeatedly advised that if we would only advertise with them, they could “help us.”  We believe that is extortion."  

Yelp responded to the author of the article linked.  But the length of time this has been going on and the number of complaints cannot be ignored.

People are talking about this.  There's even a Save Us From Yelp group online to vent some steam and show the scale of what's happening.  Some are outright calling Yelp a scam.  One thing I can about them is that there have been official complaints about their products and services reported to the BBB, of which they are a member.  So, please, if you feel they are extorting your business, take it up with the BBB to at least get some attempt at resolution. 

And to make matters worse, Yelp seems to have an issue with maintaining their own community of commenters. This was detailed very well by MisoHungry.

Real reviews by real people?  Hrm.  Maybe, but it seems someone else is filtering exactly what real users see.  And taking advantage of people to write free content that will later be filtered to say something very different from reality.

So what's a foodie to do?  I've been with TripAdvisor for years and intend on sticking with them, even with their imperfections.  They've helped me tremendously with many vacation and conference trips.  For more up-to-date food information, though, I'm dropping Yelp and switching to UrbanSpoon.  It's not perfect, but at least it's not attempting to extort businesses in exchange for positive reviews.

[Images from a Google Image search]

Monday, July 16, 2012

B/CS Food Truck News

1. Cake Junkie just posted that they will be a B/CS Junior League Stuff the Bus drop-off location.  Drop off school supplies and get a free cupcake.  Donations accepted until August 20.  They haven't said if this is restricted to the location on 29th street or if the food truck will also participate. 

2. Pete Madden will be getting out of the food truck business. Sad for us, but there is a silver lining.  From Chef Tai's facebook feed: "Bad News First, my Food Truck Soul Mate, Peter Madden, has decided to end his Food Truck Adventure in BCS market. It is indeed a great loss for the community and I will certainly miss his support for BV Chow League and Food Truck Movement. I am glad Peter & I got to be a very good friend over the past 2 years through Food Truck Business and will continue our friendship & ...friendly rivalry to make Gourmet Food Scene in BCS area for the BETTER! Thank you Peter and wish you my best.
"Good News now. Peter has decided to sell his Food Truck to us and that means we can now serve more people in BCS area. We will inherent some of Peter's existing locations. Truck will not be ready to hit the road until August, but when it does, you will be pleasantly surprised with some of our Menu Tweaks to meet more of our guests' needs. Please feel free to make comments and suggestions on what you would like to see on our next Food Truck. I have a pretty good idea on what it needs to be but I am willing to listen to your suggestions to make necessary adjustments.
"Thank you again for your continuing support and love. You sure make our work day goes a lot better and you certainly support my son's diaper bills. :)" 

Madden's Casual Gourmet will still be there for when we want some of Pete Madden's fantastic food creations.  Save room for the toasted marshmellow ice cream for dessert. So yummy!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Upcoming beer and food pairing dinner at Christopher's World Grille

I really wish I had the budget for this.  Alas it's not meant to be.  At least not this year.  Perhaps the next time they do something this awesome I'll have a job that pays more than a grad student stipend. 

Anyways, Christopher's World Grille is one of a handful of Bryan/College Station fine dining establishments.  It has its loyal following in addition to haters.  But I have found them to be consistently awesome.  They cook a beautiful steak to order and occassionally have things like soft crabs and a mixed wild game plate. We go there only for special occasions. While the prices would be "not that bad" in a major city, they are just out of reach for us to go there regularly.

Next weekend, on Saturday, July 28th they are having a British Pub Style dining experience, paired with "proper" British ales.  Here's the menu, copied and pasted from the email they sent out to fans:

Christopher's 'Dine Around the World' Series
Saturday July 28, 2012
6:00pm Reception and 6:30pm Dinner

Experience British Dining-- Pub-Style!
Celebrating the Summer Olympics 2012
London, England

(Menu Paired with 'Proper' British Ales)
Reception Cocktail
Pimm's No. 1 Cup Cocktail
with Cucumber & Butter Sandwiches
Stilton Cheese, Poached Pear & Watercress Salad
with Bacon-Mustard Vinaigrette

Shepherd's Pie
with Peas, Carrots & Gravy
Fish & Chips
Beer Battered Fried Fish & King Edward's Chips,
Served with Mushy Peas, Pickled Eggs & Pickled Onions,
Malt Vinegar, Tartar Sauce & Tomato Sauce (ketchup)
Sunday Roast
Beef Joint with Yorkshire Pudding
with Roast Potatoes, Gravy & Steamed Cabbage
Summer Pudding
Layers of Buttered White Bread,
Berries & Sugar, topped with Creme Fraiche

$75 per Person
Price Includes Reception Cocktail and Dinner Menu
Paired with Selected Beverages
(Price does not Include Tax and Gratuity)
Doesn't that sound absolutely divine?  If you're interested in attending, make reservations ASAP by calling Christopher's World Grille directly, email them (address at the link), or visit them in person. Contact info.  Website reservations are not accepted for special events.  I imagine they'll sell out.

If you're like me and unable to afford this but would still like some awesome beer New Republic Brewery will be hosting a brewery tour the same night. $6 gets you a really cool pint glass and two tastings. There's usually a band.

Please bring a designated driver if you attend either event.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Cilantro = Ick!

One thing that drives me nuts is how some people can't understand how it is that someone can absolutely hate their favorite food or flavoring.  Take for example, cilantro.  It's found everywhere and in almost all types of food.  But for up to 20% of us it tastes absolutely vile.

This isn't an allergy or an intolerance (except for people actually allergic to it). We won't die from eating it. But the flavor is something that gives us an automatic "this is not food, it's poison" response. Some describe it as tasting soapy.  For me it has a chemical, do-not-eat-this flavor. And I can taste it in very small quantities. It causes immediate gagging and nausea. 

And like the person featured in this WSJ article I can't stand when it's hidden within a food that I normally enjoy. Like salads. If it's used I like it to be left large so that I can pick it out. And I will.  Even if it's chopped up into teeny, tiny little pieces.  Much to the annoyance of The Lovely Spouse, who enjoys the flavor and features it in his salsa recipe. 

But it continues to boggle me that, given 1 in 5 people absolutely hate this ingredient, it's found almost everywhere.  Evidently, I have some good company.  Therefore I'm infinitely appreciative of those who warn customers in advance so that we can request its ommission.  Like Chef Tai, who has a big sign warning customers to request its removal when ordering.

I know there are some among you who believe I'm making much to do about nothing.  But tell me this, would you eat any food that tasted like the contents of a chemical storage locker?  Or a bar of Irish Spring?  If you were served food that tasted like that, without a warning of some sort that it would, would you send it back?

Note: the images from this post came from a google image search and are not my own. 

Friday, July 6, 2012


Why have I not blogged about Freebirds yet?  Danged if I know.  It's one of those things that's ubiquitous to those of us living in Bryan and College Station that you really don't think about until you move somewhere else. 

For those not from Texas Freebirds is short for Freebirds World Burrito.  It's like a lot of other burrito speciality chains in that they make burritos to order with your choice of sizes and fillings.  They also have tacos, quesadillas, salads and such.

Contrary to local mythology the original Freebirds location is not at Northgate in College Station.  It's in Isla Vista California.  The company was founded by Mark Orfalea and Pierre Dube.  Pierre then brought the restaurant to the Northgate location across the street from Texas A&M University in 1990. In 2007 Pierre sold the company to Tavistock Restaurant, who now owns and manages the brand. There are now 80 locations of Freebirds in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and California. The location pictured here is in College Station, but is not the original one at Northgate.

This was close to closing time.  The restaurant is usually very busy.

Every Freebirds has a few things in common: funky decor, the same menu, and rock music.  Motorcycles and electric guitars are often used, as is the cloud motif. Statues of Liberty in each restaurant are named Libby. You'll also find aluminum foil artwork along the walls and years and years worth of signatures and graffiti.  The Northgate location also has a collection of  military insignia donated by the esteemed members of the military from around the world.

The menu has changed slightly since being purchased by a corporation.  Purists still order based upon the previous system. For example, the hybird used to be called a Halfbird.  That's what I usually order. It's half a Freebird.  Anyone will know what you're talking about.  If you're really, really, really hungry and able to eat massive amounts of food in one sitting the Super Monster might be for you.  It's about the size of those starter fire logs you find in the super market.

If you've never been to a Freebirds just walk right up to the bar and tell them.  Then they'll lead you through building your perfect burrito, taco, quesadilla, salad, etc.  Fillings are what you'd expect, including a choice of rice, cheeses, meats (chicken, beef, pork), beans, veggies, and sauces.  Once everything you've requested is on the tortillas, it's all wrapped up in aluminum foil and sent on its merry way with you to then "unwrap your monster".  [If you see tee shirts that say "Unwrap My Monster" they came from Freebirds prior to Pierre selling the chain.]

A Halfbird with a standard shot of rum (not available at Freebirds - we got ours to-go) for reference. What else would you use to judge the size of a burrito?

Purists will tell you that you have to unwrap your burrito from one end then eat your way to the other while continuing to unwrap.  I use a fork to eat the filling because it's less messy that way. Maybe I'm just not as coordinated as everyone else?  :-)

Unwrapping my Halfbird wrapped with a cayenne tortilla. Nom!

Will we be back to Freebirds?  Of course!  We go there regularly, especially with me working late with grad school stuff.  The prices are pretty good and service is super fast. They also have stuff that is consistently good and works well with people who have food intolerances.

Would we recommend Freebirds?  Sure!  It's not fine dining.  It's great for a quick, inexpensive meal that isn't fast food.  I greatly prefer them to Chipotle. Chipotle uses cilantro in their rice, and we AAAaaaall know that stuff's nasty. 

This is actually on the board in my office.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Atami Steak and Sushi

Atami Steak and Sushi opened a few years back as the only alternative to Haiku, a busy sushi restaurant that featured 2 hibatchi tables and moderate to low quality sushi.  I liked Haiku because it was also the only restaurant featuring Korean food at the time.  However times have changed. Haiku is no longer in business and has either changed hands or transformed into Kobe, which I haven't yet tried, and there are now 3 other Korean specialty restaurants in town. And another competitor that opened soon after Atami, Teriyaki Park, opened and closed in the time Atami has remained opened.
If you're in College Station, you can't miss the giant hole in the ground along University Drive. If you haven't been here for awhile you might be surprised to find fish and water plants in the fountain.
Atami started a bit rough. We visited them the first month they were open and I gave them a luke warm review on Trip Advisor.  However they've improved significantly over the years. They've even expanded to the South College Station restaurant Azure Fusion Bistro and Sake (next door to Luigi's at Highway 6 North and Rock Prairie Drive). [I've been informed that's not entirely true.]

I have always enjoyed the decor at Atami and I remember my earlier review stated it was the best thing about the restaurant.  We went back last night and there was nobody there, which is unusual.  I'm told that many people are taking the entire week off for Fourth of July.  I don't know about that, but did notice few people out on a gorgeously cool evening.  Atami is one of the few places that also offers outdoor dining.

They offer both hibachi/teppanyaki and sushi. If you request hibachi they seat you in another room along one of the grills. I don't like this style of dining so we sat in the regular dining or sushi area, pictured above. Again, normally they'd be packed but this an unusually quiet week here in B/CS.

Bento boxes and sushi meals are available but my group elected to eat completely ala carte. We started with soup and salad.  These are pretty typical for sushi restaurants. I'm a big fan of the ginger dressing.

Each of us also ordered sushi rolls.  The Lovely Spouse also ordered the beef tataki, which I forgot to photograph.  It was lightly seared beef, heavily seasoned with sesame seeds served over a daikon salad. I thought it was quite tasty. Usually they serve it with lightly grilled onions. 

I ordered the Tiger Eye Roll.  There's a jalapeno in there but it only adds a bit of heat. The outer roll is wrapped in rice paper instead of nori. The inner roll is wrapped with nori.

The Lovely Spouse ordered the chef's special Triple Tuna Roll.  This actually was quite nice with a hot chili oil and wasabi tamago.  In my opinion this should be added to the regular menu.  It was nicely balanced and delicious.
A friend who joined us always gets the Fahrenheit Roll.  It's slightly too hot for me, and he always gets it extra spicy with extra jalapenos added.  It also has spicy tuna and a wasabi mayonaise. 
In my experience Atami is consistently good, with some of the best quality fish in town.  The service can be slow at times, but that usually is a function of the number of people dining at any given time. The food is quite good and it's also been my experience that they are very good at taking people's food allergies and intolerances into consideration.

Prices are pretty good. Rolls range in price between about $5 - $20.  Handrolls and nigiri are also available.  Soup and salad are about $2 - $3.  Other appetizers range between about $3 - $20. Japanese beers are available for around $4 - $8. The drink menu features some creative variations on the martini. Hibachi is more expensive, at $13 - $33. Other Japanese entrees are available including teriyaki, don bowls, udon and tempura fried items. I recommend their fried squid because they use the tempura batter and it comes out much lighter than at other places.  A kids menu is available. And they have lunch specials.

Will we be back?  Of course!  We eat here about once a month.

Do I recommend Atami?  Of course. I obviously prefer the regular seating but the hibachi is well rated by yelp and urban spoon users as well.