I recently joined Daniel P. Walker and his son Max for a quick breakfast meet-up at Casa Mañana (6820 Cantrell). I’m a huge fan of the restaurant, but had never gone for breakfast.
When it comes to eating a traditional Mexican breakfast, this born-and-raised Houston boy will always opt for the huevos rancheros ($7.49), as I did last Saturday morning. Does it get much better than eggs and refried beans? Well, in the case of Casa Mañana’s version…the answer is yes. But that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy these huevos rancheros. I did, in fact…very much so. It’s just that I’ve had better in the past.
The eggs (cooked over easy) rested atop corn tortillas and alongside a hearty dollop of beans. You could tell there was a strict attention to detail in both the egg and bean preparations. After a quick poke of the fork, a pool of egg yolk melded wonderfully with the ranchero sauce and beans. The sauce itself was fresh, light and mild in heat. This was food heaven.
But I wasn’t overly impressed with the side of red potatoes. Make no mistake, they were very well-prepared, I just prefer a deep-fried potato option when it comes to this dish.
What I didn’t care for was the side of flour tortillas—which I found to be bland and fairly pedestrian. Eggs of this level deserve to be soaked up with a freshly made tortilla, and in this respect, Casa Mañana’s huevos rancheros fell short.
Imperfections aside, I’m still a big fan of the restaurant. I’ve had too many outstanding meals here to let a few mediocre tortillas change my opinion of the place.
P.S. I wish management would consider opening the blinds for the morning shift. Eating your breakfast in near darkness is both odd and a bit off-putting.
Before we dive too deep into 2014, I wanted to take a look back at some of my favorite, most memorable meals of 2013. It was a wonderful year, especially right here in Little Rock, where the food scene continues to reach new heights. So, without further ado…here we go!
The year started off with an amazing pig roast, attended by 20+ foodies and hosted by Tomas and his fine crew over at The Pantry. Per usual, the service and food at The Pantry were top-notch. It was particularly enjoyable to watch people try parts of the pig they otherwise would frown upon.
While some food memories resided in the warm confines of a restaurant setting, others were found on sidewalks and parking lots. Farmers markets and food truck meet-ups were prevalent this year. We braved the chilly weather one Saturday morning to devour those deliciously flavorful shrimp and grits from The Southern Gourmasion; there was also the night several friends huddled around the fire, roasted marshmallows and ate waffles from the Waffle Wagon.
We consumed fantastic pizza on Vino’s rustic outside deck, with beautiful downtown Little Rock right on top of us. Heck, we drove to Scott, AR and downed a 1-lb, beef burger at 100-year-old Cotham’s. I nearly ended up falling into a legitimate food coma from that meal, not like the fictitious one at Red Lobster, which was a memorable meal in its own right.
We crawled the streets of Boston’s Chinatown in search of the most perfect soup dumplings. We found them.
An insane Memphis road trip found a group of four very stupid dudes hit 18 eateries in 30 hours. We ate donuts from Gibson’s, the tender dry rub ribs from the Bar-B-Q Shop, and the A|M Breakfast from Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen….just to name a few.
During a trip to Dallas, we waited 1.5 hours in line at Pecan Lodge for the best brisket in the world.
A plate of fried grasshoppers was even eaten at a 4-star restaurant in Houston.
We tailgated…oh, we tailgated! Thanks to the Gees (and Erin’s Jell-O shots), we were able to eat, drink and be very merry at War Memorial.
Backyard bbq-ers shined in 2013…none more than Steve Shuler and his amazingly good pork shoulder and baby-back ribs. Thanks, Steve and Jen for having us out to your former house in Benton.
Some of the most favorite memories where the spontaneous ones … like the Tweet-Up at Baja Grill, where ten friends crushed Pig Sooie burritos and blackened shrimp tacos until our bellies just about burst. And when a handful of us met at Hillcrest Artisan Meats, we sat in that small space as you enter the back of the shop and devoured artisan sandwiches.
Simple meals, like when the new crew over at Leo’s treated my kids like royalty, were the special ones.
We drank whiskey for four courses at Big Orange Midtown and listened to the Marcus Roberts Trio while sipping on a David Burnette Old Fashioned at South on Main.
Yes, 2013 was a pretty damn cool year. The fantastic food experiences listed above all had one thing in common: they were shared with wonderful friends and family, and hence…the “we” throughout the post.
Cheers to that!
And here are a few food memories you shared:
“The most memorable meal for me is always our annual pig roast. To have so many of your family & friends together in one place enjoying each other’s company is a true blessing for me.” -Kelly G.
“Our most memorable meal was at Ristorante Capeo. An all-around wonderful dining experience. We had some of the freshest and delicious buffalo mozzarella over juicy Roma tomatoes you will ever eat. The braised pork shoulder roast over soft creamy polenta was mind blowing great. The restaurant is elegant, romantic but not intimidating to anyone. The staff make you feel at home and really know how to prepare and execute a homemade Italian dining experience.” -John K.
“Two of our more memorable food outings were the 5-course ice cream extravaganza at Loblolly and the great night at Vesuvio.” -Jason S.
“Most memorable? How does any meal compare to the Red Lobster? I can’t imagine anything more memorable than that.” –Greg H.
“Broiled salmon with chanterelle cream sauce, homemade.” –Tim J.
“Most memorable meal for me was a turkey sub with all of the veggies and sweet onion sauce on wheat from Subway….I know, but I hadn’t eaten in 36 hours because I was in labor and I wasn’t allowed to eat lunch meat the whole pregnancy, which is usually a staple for me.” –Editor’s note: By mistake, I chopped off they person’s name when during copy/paste and can’t locate original message. Someone, please come forward and lay claim to this awesome quote!
A few weeks back, I wrote a piece for Bourbon and Boots entitled Top 10 Restaurant Pet Peeves; the list was written from a diner’s perspective (that being me). While many folks agreed with my choices, a few thought I should never again enter a restaurant. But the best part … I had several people in the restaurant industry tell me I should make a list from their perspective.
In fact, one person stepped up and wrote the list! This individual has spent more than two decades in the business. And for the sake of this write-up, they will be known as Anonymous. Thank you so much for writing this piece. Hope you enjoy!
Baby, It’s Cold Inside
Sorry, we don’t issue Snuggies at the door. You seriously should have brought a sweater. If you want to warm up, head back to the blisteringly hot kitchen and prepare your own food. We’re trying to keep the ice cubes from melting, people.
Mama Don’t Let Your Babies Grow up to be Bag Ladies
Leave the aisles open, folks. That’s where your server needs to put their feet when serving your food and drink, unless you prefer it on you, rather than in you.
The Hit and Miss
Don’t flirt with your server while your wife is taking the kids to the restroom. We just throw away the business card you leave with the check, so just don’t bother.
The Verbal Tip
“You are just the best lil’ server. We love you. We want to sit in your section every time.” Then they leave you a whopping 10% tip. No thanks, this is an actual job, not a hobby.
This is when a family of four comes into a full-service restaurant on a time constraint during peak times. This is so ludicrous it doesn’t even require an explanation.
No Crybabies Allowed
Somebody stick a muffin in his mouth! Take the kid outside. There’s any number of things you could do in this situation. Ignoring your little one may be one of your talents, but we may not all have such refined skills.
Junior on Parade
The unattended child running around the restaurant is liable to cause a collision, I admire your laissez faire parenting, but Junior just got hot soup spilled on his head.
This one eats their entire meal, only to complain when the check is presented that they didn’t care for their food. They usually belong to a certain breed of customers, who is notorious for modifying their order (so ridiculously) that I’m not surprised it doesn’t taste very well. You could have offered up that information when I asked, “How is everything?” These folks are usually just looking for a free meal. This one leaves a really bad taste in a server’s mouth because these people never tip.
OK, restaurant people…did we leave one out? Let us know in the comment box.
I met up with a group of fellow food bloggers last night at Little Greek Restaurant (located in the Pleasant Ridge Town Center) for a complimentary menu tasting dinner.
Unfortunately, the traffic/black ice had me running a few minutes late. But by the time I arrived, an assortment of “Starters” were already on the table, which included: homemade hummus, dolmades, spanakopita, and homemade falafel. I recommend passing on the falafel, but certainly don’t on the dolmades and spanakopita. The dolmades ($4.99)—grape leaves filled with a ground beef, rice, tomato and herb mixture—were wonderful. Moist, tender and quite flavorful, this appetizer won’t disappoint and is perfect to share.
The spanakopita (spinach pie-$4.49) is a flakey phyllo dough filled with spinach and feta cheese. It’s a heavy start to a meal– especially when you dip each bite (like I did) into Little Greek’s tzatziki sauce–but I found nothing wrong with the rich taste and overall execution of the dish. In fact, it was excellent.
It’s worth noting that both the dolmades ($9.99) and spanakopita ($7.99) are offered under the “Perfect Platters” section of the menu. If you order the hummus ($3.99), opt for the fried pita bread over the grilled. It tastes better and can hold up when dipping into the thicker hummus.
Little Greek also offers a variety of salads. I was particularly impressed with the Greek salad ($6.49), loaded with lettuce, red onions, green peppers, tomatoes, feta cheese, a sliced beet and potato salad. And no…you’re not seeing things. I typed “potato salad.” You’ll be pleasantly surprised with this smashed version, served on top of the greens, resting under a beautiful beet slice. I suggest adding some grilled chicken ($2.49) to finish things off. It’s tasty and provides for a heartier meal.
A sampling of the thinly shaved gyro meat (90% beef, 10% lamb mixture) proved to be somewhat pedestrian. The meat was both moist and tender, but lacked the proper seasoning for it to truly shine. That said, it wasn’t bad…just not one of the more stand-out items on the menu. The same can be said for the lamb skewers, although I was much more impressed with the char-grilled chicken version, which had some bold flavors from an intense marinade.
All and all…I was impressed with Little Greek Restaurant. The fast-casual atmosphere, sizable portions and excellent price point make this restaurant certainly worthy of a return visit.