Sunday, November 4, 2018


I have mixed feelings about this review and mostly because at the moment our meal isn't sitting well with either of us. It seems to be an apropos ending to a dining experience that did not start off well. Our favorite little Mexican spot recently underwent a renovation and a name change. The widely popular El Rodeo Restaurant at 4112 Pleasant Valley Road in Raleigh, NC has now transitioned to VIVA MEXICAN KITCHEN. We're told that it's the same family-owned business but with new, younger management. There is also a second location in Morrisville that has gotten rave reviews for the staff, the food, and the atmosphere.

El Rodeo was my favorite go-to spot for Mexican cuisine. And I always ordered the same thing - the vegetarian sincronizado. It was spinach, mushrooms, and cheese between two flour tortillas and it was so good! Whenever I wanted Mexican, I wanted that. The Big Guy was far more adventurous with the menu, trying everything from the tacos to the quesadillas. Also there were many times when he would try the chef's special of the day and we would both be pleasantly surprised.

The interior has undergone a renovation with a newly added bar, neon lights, and pink walls the color of Pepto Bismol. There's a lot going on but it has a happy, bubbly atmosphere conducive to multiple margaritas and a good time with friends. The MENU has been streamlined but we were assured the recipes were still the same.

Previously, service was exceptional. Today, we were seated and then forgotten/ignored. Big Daddy pushed the timer as soon as we were shown to our table. It took less than a minute before a young woman dropped a bowl of nachos and salsa in front of us. She never spoke and barely smiled, moving so swiftly that she felt like an apparition. Ten minutes passed and a second table was seated on one side of us. At the fifteen minute mark a third table on the other side was seated. We then sat and watched as tables two and three were promptly greeted by waiters and their orders taken.

Now, usually at this point, we would have walked out, but it was my favorite little Mexican spot and I wasn't ready to give up on them. Thank goodness they had two Pokémon Stops to entertain us. At the twenty-two minute mark, a waiter noticed our scowls and asked if we'd been helped. When we told him no he became immediately apologetic and asked what we wanted to drink. Apparently there was a staff meeting of sorts and miscommunication between the host and the server. After ordering two sweet teas we asked to speak with the manager. Minutes later a message was relayed back that they would comp an appetizer and the manager would be with us shortly. Shortly happened as we were finishing up the meal we finally did order.

 But let's talk about the food. By the time we ordered we had practically memorized the menu, having had enough time to study every item. My sincronizado was no longer available so I decided to give something else a try. We started with  CHICKEN ROLLS.  They were fried flour tortillas filled with shredded chicken, pico de gallo, cheese,and  lettuce, served with a creamy chipotle dip. The chipotle dip was very nice! We really liked these and would definitely order then again.

Together, we decided to order the  PARRADILLA for Two. It was a meat lovers platter with chicken,
steak, carnitas, chorizo, shrimp, grilled vegetables, and onions, served with rice, beans, salsa and tortillas.We will never order this again. The steak was tough. The chicken was dry. The chorizo was laden with grease, and the vegetables were two roasted poblano peppers and three onions. It presented pretty on the plate and the shrimp were very good, but there's not much else that can be said about it. It's also sitting very heavy on our stomachs and two doses of antacid have yet to help.

As we were finishing the meal the Managing Partner came to apologize for the snafu. He was extremely kind. He offered us dessert on the house, but we passed. At that point we had filled up on the really great iced tea and couldn't have eaten another bite if we wanted.
Now, we definitely
have to commend our server. His name was Alex/Alejandro and he went above and beyond to make up for the initial oversight. He was attentive and genuinely concerned about out enjoying our experience. We liked Alejandro! 

I had one other issue that took away from the meal and it bothered me far more than it bothered my favorite guy. We were seated right below an open window space that bordered the lobby and reception desk. The constantly ringing phone and chatter from the staff was distracting and made holding a conversation difficult. The host and manager peeking through to observe the dining room was also a bit off-putting. On any other day it might not have bothered me, but on this day I was irritated by it.

That window over my shoulder!
Will we go back? Probably, but not with the same regularity.

Will it continue to be my favorite spot? Highly doubtful, but I never say never. 

Do we recommend it? Ask for Alex and have  a drink. They have a great bar!

Monday, April 9, 2018


Sweet Tea's Southern Cuisine is located one block away from the previously reviewed Southern Kitchen. We discovered Sweet Tea's as we were leaving Southern Kitchen. A couple was entering the restaurant and we stopped to ask their opinion. They told us Sweet Tea's was much better and advised us to give them a try the next time we were in town. So we did!

We arrived before opening on a Sunday afternoon and were quickly ushered out and told to come back. The hostess was pleasant enough although it was obvious she was irritated that someone had left the door unlocked. But after a brief walk to take in the neighborhood, we returned. Our waitress was very sweet and despite still trying to get things rolling for the day, she was extremely attentive and very friendly.

Sweet Tea's is family owned and operated and little less formal that it's competitor up the street. The atmosphere is as pleasant. The décor was simple and slightly homey. From the start, my only major complaint was that someone really needs to give the menus a good wipe down. Menus covered in food and fingerprints was a turn off and these were foul.

 Now, like their competitor, they started the meal with bread. But corn muffins instead of corn bread. The muffins were basic and not at all exceptional. They were slightly dry and could have come out of a box. We could have done without the muffins.

Now one of the highlights of the meal for both of us was the sweet tea! They have the monopoly on sweet tea and I hate that I can't get it every day. We both started with basic sweet tea which was the perfect blend of strong and sweet. It was great sweet tea! Our server then convinced us to give the flavored tea a try. She'd just made it and was very excited to share. The day's flavor was peach sweet tea. With real, fresh peaches. The presentation in a Mason jar with the fresh fruit spilling over the top was absolutely divine! This just made me smile! It was liquid sunshine in a glass and it tasted like heaven!

This time I ordered the Big Easy's Chops, two pork chops perfectly seasoned and fried. They were mouth-watering and tender. They were good! I partnered my pork chops with macaroni and cheese and candied yams. Now I was slightly disappointed with the macaroni and cheese. It was just okay. It was slightly dry, with burnt edges and I wondered if we'd gotten the previous night's leftovers. The flavor was great mac and cheese goodness but it missed the mark on creamy and cheesy. Now, the candied yams were exceptional. I actually wish I had a bowl of them right now. They were the perfect blend of sweet with a hint of citrus. They were cooked perfectly and made up for what was lacking in the mac and cheese.

He ordered the chicken wings. Big Daddy is usually a breast man but the waitress insisted they were delicious and well worth trying. He got four large whole chicken wings and they passed the test. Nicely fried, perfectly seasoned and good! He also ordered the macaroni and cheese but did the mashed potatoes and gravy instead. He's a big mashed potato fan and although he enjoyed them, he wished he had known they were garlic potatoes which would have been better paired with beef and not chicken. They were just okay.

What we both agreed on is that Sweet Tea's and Southern Kitchen both have their own high notes and low points. Depending on what we wanted to eat would dictate which restaurant we would choose. Both had items on their menus that we hope to one day try and look forward to visiting and experiencing again.

Would we eat at Sweet Tea's again? Most definitely yes! My only regret was that we didn't try the banana pudding cake for dessert because it looked absolutely sublime!


We're never quite sure what to expect when down home Southern cuisine is billed as FINE dining. When we search out down home Southern cuisine we're looking for comfort food that feels like it came out of our ancestor's kitchens. We're usually not wanting fine china and linens. Recently we dined at SOUTHEN KITCHEN in Richmond, Virginia. It came highly recommended so we had high hopes.

SOUTHERN KITCHEN is a busy little spot at 1726 East Main Street and within minutes of the doors opening, a party of twenty was in full swing in a rear party space and a good many of the tables were occupied. The atmosphere was pleasant and although simplistic, there was an underlying warmth that was still reminiscent of home. Service was okay. Nothing exceptional. Our waitress was pleasant but didn't go out of her way to stand out.

They started the meal with corn bread. Hot from the oven, buttered corn bread! This was, by far, some of the best corn bread I've ever eaten. It was an explosion of texture and flavor that left me wanting more. I ate my piece, his piece, and ordered another piece it was so good. I ate it so fast I forgot to take a picture of it! I could eat the cornbread every day and be very happy. 

My guy ordered the Fried Chicken, Mashed Potatoes and Gravy, and the Collards. I opted for the Fried Catfish, Macaroni and Cheese and the Collards. The macaroni and cheese was really good. It reminded me of my grandmother's cheesy perfection. We both also enjoyed the greens. The chicken was well seasoned with a nice crust. It did not however win the award for Best Fried Chicken. I thought the fish, however, was exceptional. You could order one or two pieces and I definitely needed two. It came with a slice of a slice of Texas Toast which I could have easily done without. Cornbread would have been so much better. The greens and the mashed potatoes were basic; tasty but nothing overly special.

The sweet tea was blah! Definitely not sweet enough so that was a miss for us both, but all it all we would definitely eat here again. It was a good meal with nice portions. It's a bit pricey but since you have to pay for that FINE dining and the food wasn't bad, we really couldn't complain but so much.

It was two thumbs up for the both of us!

Wednesday, April 4, 2018


It was by sheer accident that we found Q BARBECUE. We were in Glen Allen, Virginia working on a film. After an exceptionally long day we were exhausted and hungry! The staff at the Marriott hotel had recommended a restaurant that was closed and as we headed back, thinking we were going to have to settle for a vending machine meal, my favorite guy made an abrupt turn into a parking lot to do a Google search and lo and behold, parked directly in front of the restaurant's door!

Q Barbecue was the brainchild of Tuffy Stone, a chef and caterer who perfected his barbecue techniques on the competition circuit, eventually becoming a judge on the hit show BBQ Pitmasters. There are three locations and the food is marvelous.

The moment we stepped through the door we were greeted by the most adorable young woman. Her bubbly personality was a breath of fresh air and she was simply engaging. She went through the menu, offered us tastes to help us make a decision, shared what on the menu were her favorites and she was positively a delight. She is a business goldmine and I hope they know what a true gem they have in this young lady!

We both ordered the half rack of ribs with macaroni and cheese and collard greens. So let me start with the macaroni and cheese. I could eat this stuff all day long it was so good. It was creamy, cheesy goodness that just made us want more. We both agreed that the next time we're there we would order double mac and cheese. The greens were vinegar based and had a hint of sugar. I don't do sweet collards. Big Daddy didn't mind them. I still don't understand why people put sugar in greens! It completely baffles me. What I loved about the greens was that they had a nice bite and chew. They were cooked to perfection and would have been great if they hadn't been so sweet. Again, he liked them just as they were! It all came with a little corn muffin on the side. There was nothing special about the bread and we could have taken it or not and still been okay.

Now 'dem ribs was GOOD! Not quite a dry rub and not overly doused in sauce, they were melt in your mouth tender and quite tasty. There were three additional sauces at the table ranging from mild to find me water hose for those who needed more, but we both didn't think they needed anything else. We can't wait to go back, already planning to try the smoked wings and the brisket, both of which came highly recommended by other diners who were excited to share their opinions.

A delightful surprise that we got a taste of was something called Pineapple Hot Dish.  I knew instantly that this was an old family recipe and the manager confirmed that it was Tuffy Stone's grandmother who perfected the dish. It reminded us both of warm bread pudding with pineapple. It had the right balance of crunch and sweeet and it was some sort of great!

We would definitely give Q Barbecue two thumbs up, double high-fives and roaring round of applause.

UPDATED 4/9/2018

Back in the area a few days ago, we went back to give the brisket and chicken a try. Big Daddy ordered the ribs, again. I ordered a Double Meat Tray with slices of brisket and chicken wings. Although I stand by my previous review, I would not, however, order the brisket again. The brisket was DRY. Not enough extra sauce in the world to save it DRY. The wings were good. Not great, but good. The ribs continued to be divine. Had we tried the brisket and chicken on our first visit we probably would not have given it as glowing a review. I believe there was a reason for us trying the ribs first! Will we go back? Yes, definitely. And we will only order the ribs!


Nothing makes our hearts sing more than a great neighborhood bar with a regularly cliental and great service. I don't know why we've never tried O'Malley's Pub & Restaurant. It's clearly a fan favorite, a crowd often gathered on the front patio. We drive by it every day and finally decided to stop in for a beer and a bite to eat.

From start to finish the service was exceptional. Staff was attentive and friendly. There's no better way to experience an Irish bar than to start with the Fish and Chips and bottle of Guinness. Now, they have an extensive menu that surprised me. There was more selection than I anticipated and it could easily be my go-to spot for a quick sandwich or a nice lunch. They also serve breakfast!

Haven't been to an Irish bar yet where the Guinness wasn't on point and this was no exception. I love me some Guinness and the big guy is warming up to it. The Fish and Chips was good. We've had better and we've also had worse. But we would definitely order theirs again. It was crisp on the outside and the fish was moist and tender on the inside. It was served with a side salad that was basic but simply divine.

We would recommend them to friends. It has a comfortable vibe, they make you feel at home and the food is tasty and filling!

Monday, February 5, 2018


For years, we have frequented the same Chinese restaurant. It had taken us a minute to find them, others either missing miserably over one dish as they might have hit big on another. Lately, our favorite joint has been a disappointment more times than not. Recently, we tried a new restaurant that we've driven past numerous times. The exterior is slightly off-putting. The building is old and not much to brag on. But it was take-out so we figured, why not. We know those hole-in-the-wall joints can be unpolished gems. And this diamond in the rough was spectacular!

BEANSPROUT CHINESE RESTAURANT is now our new favorite Chinese joint! The menu is your typical take-out fare, but the food quality was exceptional. The lunch prices were reasonable and the portions were overly generous. 

We ordered the General Tso's chicken with Rice. It also came with an egg roll. The chicken was freshly fried and tossed in your standard sauce. But the sauce was good, just the perfect blend of sweet and spicy. The rice wasn't anything to get excited over, just perfectly cooked and seasoned with soy sauce.  We asked and were told that they would gladly substitute perfectly steamed broccoli if you requested it.

I loved the egg roll. I ate mine and his. It was crispy on the outside with just the perfect blend of shredded cabbage, carrots, and pork. It was so good! The restaurant is family-owned and the customer service was great. The husband and wife team working were kind about tailoring the dish to meet our needs. We actually ate our meal there instead of doing takeout. They have limited seating and it's not overly comfortable, but the food was well worth the experience.

Will we go back? Headed there as soon as I post the review. Can't wait to try the Wonton Soup and the Tofu, which I'm told is absolutely divine!

Saturday, February 3, 2018


We had just attended an art event in Chapel Hill, NC when my guy announced he wanted a burger. Now let me preface this by saying when he is craving a burger, he's craving an all beef burger with no filler, seasoned with salt and pepper, slapped on a great bun with lettuce, tomato, mayo and cheese. Should be easy, right? Wrong!

On our way to the event he spied Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers. He got excited. Me, not so much. But for reasons unbeknownst to me he could not get Freddy's out of his head and so that is where we stopped before heading home.

The ambiance was an old-school, 1950's vibe, It was bright and inviting and the staff was almost too cheery for the late night hour. The customer service was exceptional and when they discovered we were newbies, they seemed to rev it up a notch. But the minute we saw the menu I knew Big Daddy wasn't going to get the burger he'd been dreaming of. Freddy's steakburgers are those paper-thin pressed burgers reminiscent of Steak and Shake burgers which I am not a fan of.

He ordered Freddy's Original Double. I went rogue and ordered the Original Double Patty Melt. We made them combos and both came with shoestring fries and a drink. The Patty Melt was okay. Nothing spectacular and nothing I'll crave again. He was disappointed with his Original Double. The meat was slightly tough and it wasn't the true burger he'd been hoping for. We capped off the meal with two cups of their vanilla custard.

Will we eat here again? Maybe. It was fast and quick and would satisfy in a pinch. We would definitely come back for the custard. That was some good stuff. Rich, creamy and immensely satisfying. I'd go out of my way to get the custard again. Big Daddy wasn't feeling any of it, good custard or not. He's still wanting that burger!