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Lockhart Smokehouse (Dallas)

January 9, 2017
  • 4000 W. Davis Street
  • Dallas, TX 75208
  • (214) 944-5521
  • Website
  • Menu

Day two in Dallas started how day one ended.  More BBQ!

I started the morning bright and early with a trip out to Grapevine for my first task of the day.  Once that was completed, I had several hours before my next task back in downtown Dallas.  I was still on my own as a couple of co-workers weren’t flying in until the next day, so I had a little bit of time to explore and seek out something delicious for lunch.

My first stop was at Pecan Lodge, but the lunch “rush” had a line out the door and wrapped around the block.  I don’t care how good it is, I’m not waiting in that line.  I had another place on my short list though.  In fact, I was going to go there for dinner, but I just moved it up to lunch and headed back back south on I-35E towards the Bishop Arts District.

Lockhart Smokehouse has two locations in North Texas with one in Plano and the other in the Dallas bourough of Oak Cliff.  The restaurant sits on the corner of West Davis Street and North Bishop Avenue in the Bishop Arts District neighborhood.  The area around the restaurant is a highly developed boutique shopping area with a number of eclectic dining options.  The neighborhood streets are pretty tight and I didn’t notice any parking lots in the immediate area.  I eventually found street parking about three blocks away from the restaurant. Read more…

Sonny Bryan’s Smokehouse (Inwood Road)

January 8, 2017
  • 2202 Inwood Road
  • Dallas, TX 75235
  • (214) 357-7120
  • Website
  • Menu

So…what’s the first thing I do when I get to Texas?  Yup. BBQ.

My flight got in to DFW a few minutes ahead of schedule, so I was in town by 7:00.  I had a lot of luggage with me and I still needed to figure out where to get my car.  DFW is a pain because you have to shuttle to the rental car center.  I had about 130 pounds of baggage and lugging them first downstairs and then to the shuttle stop was exhausting.

When I got to the rental center, there was a line of incompetent people in front of me.  It took way too long for people to figure out what they needed to do to rent a car.  The whole process took over an hour so when I finally hopped into my ride for the week, I really just wanted a Pepsi and some brisket.

I was staying at the Omni Dallas downtown.  I didn’t really want to do a big sit down thing for dinner, but I wanted to grab something along the way.  Of course, I researched BBQ places on my drive from the airport to the hotel and I found a quick service 24-hour restaurant that had great reviews.

Sonny Bryan’s Smokehouse is a small chain in the Dallas area with seven locations…but all chains have to have an “original” and the original is usually something special.  Sonny Bryan’s is no exception.

The Original Sonny Bryan’s Smokehouse is on Inwood Road just north of Interstate 35E in Dallas’ Oak Lawn Neighborhood.  It’s kind of surrounded on all sides by UT Southwestern Medical Center and that’s actually part of the reason this location went 24 hours.

This building has been in operation since 1958 when William Jennings Bryan, Jr, or Sonny, opened the restaurant.  The family history of BBQ goes even further back with Bryan’s grandpa opening Bryan’s Barbecue in 1910 and his father opening Red Bryan’s Smokehouse in 1930.  Sonny Bryan ran his restaurant from 1958 until he sold it in 1989.  When the restaurant was sold, the new owners started building the other restaurants, but this one on Inwood is the original and looks very similar to what it did in 1958.

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Publican Tavern (O’Hare International Airport)

January 8, 2017
  • 10000 W. O’Hare Avenue
  • Terminal 3 Gate K1
  • Chicago, IL 60666
  • (773) 686-6180
  • Menu

I know I travel a lot for work, but this is a new one.  Flying.  It’s not too hard to figure out what I was doing, but I spent the week after Christmas in North Texas.  My route took me from Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport to O’Hare to Dallas/Fort Worth.  I didn’t have a long layover in Chicago, but I did have a little bit of time and I needed something to eat.  My flight left Kalamazoo at 2:00 and I always get nervous when I fly.  Not about the actually flying, but getting everything checked in right and getting through TSA security.  Despite the fact that I go over and over my bags to make sure there’s nothing in there that shouldn’t be, I always feat the worst when I get it’s my turn.  Once those nerves passed, I finally started getting hungry.

Of course, my gates in Chicago were pretty far apart.  I started the long walk and figured I would find something to eat along the way.  Anything that really looked good was pretty packed and I only had a little over an hour before I had to find my connection.  I kept going until I got much closer to my gate before making a decision on where to eat.  I spotted a familiar name and saw some open tables.

The Publican is a pretty popular spot to eat in Chicago’s Fulton Market.  Last year, HMSHost bought the licensing rights to the restaurant and opened a tavern bearing the popular name in O’Hare. The tavern uses a lot of the same design elements and locally sourced meats as the restaurant does, so there are some similarities in more than just name.

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Wing Heaven (Kalamazoo Ave)

December 21, 2016
  • 1559 Kalamazoo Avenue SE
  • Grand Rapids, MI 49507
  • (616) 288-5224
  • Website
  • Menu

Passing up a Wing Heaven is not something I do often.  It seems like the places never stay open in the same location under the Wing Heaven banner very long, but I’ve always been really happy with the food at any of the locations I’ve been to.

A few months ago, I noticed another one had opened up.  This time, in the Oakdale Neighborhood on Grand Rapids Southeast Side.  The building is right on the corner of Kalamazoo Avenue and Boston Street.  The last thing I remember it being is Boston Square Fried Chicken, but that was about three years ago.

The building now shares space with another restaurant that I will write a separate blog post about at a later date.  How can I pass up a place called Hall of Fame Burgers.  I don’t want the two places to get lumped in to one post if I didn’t eat something from both of them, so at some point in the near future, I will go back and try a burger.   Read more…

Villa Nova Pizzeria (New Buffalo)

December 20, 2016
  • 184 E. Buffalo Street
  • New Buffalo, MI 49117
  • (269) 469-0200
  • Website
  • Menu

My parents go overboard for Christmas.  They always have.  In years we didn’t have a lot of money, my mom would buy things throughout the year and stash them until Christmas time just so there were several gifts under the tree for my brother and me.  Christmas has always been her favorite holiday.  She doesn’t have to go nuts anymore.  All of us are financially stable and in a position where we can get our kids pretty much what they want, but my mom still shops for Christmas just like she did when we were growing up.

We finished up lunch at Casey’s Bar & Grill then headed to the Fairfield Inn & Suites back towards the highway to open presents.  My parents were going to see Donnie & Marie and Four Winds New Buffalo and the Michigan border town is about halfway for all of us.

My sister-in-law had to get home to “log-in” to work Sunday morning so my brother and his family took off ahead of the snow storm that moved in Saturday night.  J and I decided to just stay in town.  Our plan was to get a hotel with a pool so L could swim, but she didn’t want to.  She just wanted to play with her new Barbie’s and all the Barbie clothes she got to go with them.  The Fairfield was a little on the expensive side, so I did the Priceline thing and got a room incredibly cheap at the Baymont Inn & Suites pretty much across the road from the Fairfield.

L and I hung out with my parents for a little while longer while J & B took a nap after my brother left.  We didn’t stay too long because we wanted to give my parents some time to relax before their show and really, all L wanted to do was play with her toys, so after about an hour, we headed back to our hotel.

J suggested we order a pizza instead of packing everyone back up and heading out in the storm that was just starting to move it’s way into Michigan.  I’m always fine with that and I saw an advertisement in the room for a pizza place.  I looked up the menu and things looked good.

Villa Nova Pizzeria is a Chicago pizza joint that set up in New Buffalo.  The thing is, is a Southside Chicago pizza restaurant.  The “Southside” part is important because on the Southside, you’re not getting the big deep dish pizzas you’re used to when you think of Chicago pizza.  You’re getting the exact opposite with crispy thin crusts instead.   Read more…

Casey’s Bar & Grill

December 18, 2016
  • 136 N. Whittaker Street
  • New Buffalo, MI 49117
  • (269) 469-6400
  • Website
  • Menu

J and I have been in Michigan for almost nine years now.  That’s still crazy to us.  It seems like we just left Peoria, IL with all of our possessions in a U-Haul van trailed by our families who would meet for the first time as we moved in to our new apartment in Lansing.

As our family has grown, Christmas with our extended families has gotten more important.  Christmas was always a big deal in my family.  Heck, my parents (mostly my mom) still demand that I give them a list of things I want every year.

The trick now is coordinating a weekend where everyone can get together and exchange presents.  My brother has in-laws that live in Mattawan and they work on an every other year schedule.   One year the Michigan family goes to Illinois and the next, the Illinois families go to Michigan.  On years they go to Michigan, my parents also make the trip and my brother’s family splits time between the two Christmases.

On years his family goes to Illinois, we usually do as well.  This year, we had a little bit of a different plan.  My parents had tickets to see Donnie & Marie at Four Winds New Buffalo.  The show was pretty late at night, so they asked if we all wanted to meet in New Buffalo at their hotel before the show and celebrate our Christmas.

My parents and my brother’s family got on the road around noon Eastern time, so we were looking at everyone getting to New Buffalo around 1:30-2:00.  Like usual, I was charged with finding a place to eat.  We typically go to the Stray Dog, but I thought we should try something new and I found a place that looked good and had something for everyone.

Casey’s Bar & Grill is right in downtown New Buffalo on Whittaker Street two blocks north of US-12.  Casey’s has a history dating back to the mid-1950’s.  The restaurant was run by a man named Casey Jones.  When he died in 1993, the business went with  him.  The present owners bought the business in 1995, renovated the building and chose to keep the Casey’s name.  The history page on Casey’s website doesn’t give a good description of how old the building itself is, but it implies it’s at least 100 years old.

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Ray Ray’s Italian Beef & Sausage

December 16, 2016
  • 1715 Miller Road
  • Kalamazoo, MI 49001
  • (269) 381-6138
  • Website
  • Menu

Finding a good Italian beef outside of Chicago is hard.  A lot of places claim to be “Chicago style” but very few are actually true to what you can actually get in Chicago.

A little over six years ago, I found a place in Kalamazoo that actually was true to it’s Chicago roots.  It was owned by a guy who ran the same type of joint in a Chicago suburb and he took the time to get the locally made bread just right and comparable to what you can get in The City.

A year after Ray Ray’s Italian Beef & Sausage opened on Miller Road near the Post Office, J and I moved to the other side of town.  Now, it’s a pretty good drive to get back to this little shop for lunch, so I haven’t done it much over the years, but one day last week, B and I were running some errands before we had to pick J up from a doctor’s appointment on that side of town, so I made a point to stop in for lunch.

Ray Ray’s Italian Beef & Sausage is exactly the kind of joint you find on every corner throughout Chicagoland.  It’s not a fancy place, it’s covered in Chicago sports memorabilia, and the food is super greasy, but also super irresistible.

B and I stopped in at Ray Ray’s just before noon on a Wednesday.  The place is mostly a carry-out restaurant and there were a couple KDPS cars out front picking up large orders for lunch.

Read more…