Texas Take Two

I began and ended the first month of 2016 in Texas.

Partially because of fondness, mainly out of a commitment to travel more (so I can eat more; which should lead to writing more). Here are the foods (many new, some old favorites) that promise many more Texas trips for ashleyraeturner.com.


To start, I met a friend who is simultaneously the worst person but the best at finding really good food to eat. He recommended Sissy’s and told me not to waste my time with anything but the fried chicken to start. Chicken and waffles (dark meat) it had to be then with sweet tea and a side of mac & cheese to share. The brined and pressure fried chicken was at once moist and juicy with the prerequisite crispy exterior. Would have liked a bit more pronounced flavor but sometimes, chicken just needs to be freshly fried chicken. The waffle was sufficiently fluffy and held it’s own against the chicken, butter syrup barrage I put it through.

The mac and cheese was a creamy, cheesy baked pan of great. I found the choice of noodles interesting, but a good call as it held on to the creamy sauce perfectly.A great start to my mini Dallas/Ft. Worth mini adventure.  

That night, back in Forth Worth my friend, her boyfriend and I set out in search of an authentic Mexican taco truck. We’ve all had Torchy’s and other “chain” taco shops but the lure of authentic, straightforward Mexican cuisine took hold that night. After a quick stop to get cash we located a truck so authentic, nothing on the menu or truck was even in English. I will probably never recall the name and will always rely on them to remind me where it was these tacos were everything you could want. I tried barbacoa, carnitas, pork and chicken; all perfectly cooked and not overwhelmed with more than onion and cilantro. Their green and red salsas were spicy enough to require some thought before slathering them over everything in sight.


To really make this a night out we also stopped at the Southern Classic Daiquiri Factory. Under advice I misguidedly took I got both a 12 oz and 32 oz daiquiri. One a “Twerk Sum’n” and one a special listed on a little board on the counter. The vibe inside the shop was festive Friday Night with a packed party room and a line before 10. We took ours to go so they provided little convenient tops so no open container arrests needed to be made. And as blasphemest as it sounds both daiquiris I ordered (one with an extra shot one without) were stronger than all the ones I had when I visited New Orleans.


The next morning, we paid Shipley’s a visit. By far the lightest donuts (doughnuts) I’ve ever had in life I went with a cherry glazed and strawberry glazed. They were unfortunately out of country sausage kolaches, yielding my Shipley’s mission unfinished.  

After some other random errands and my first experience with eyebrow threading (nowhere near as painful as I expected) we headed to Steel City Pops (another recommendation from the worst). The fact that it was warm enough for us to eat popsicles while walking outside should be lost on no one but I was grateful for the opportunity. Micks went with peanut butter covered in chocolate; me, a strawberry lemonade pop. At once super tart and juicy I could see why it’s a favorite. You could literally see the strawberry seeds in the pop, affirming the presence of strawberry puree. A Pop bag is coming home with me next time.  

If you know me (or have just read my previous Texas trip post) you know I can’t enter the Lone Star State without at least one visit to Whataburger. This time would not be the exception.


I should probably be ashamed of this next part, but I have never had bbq in Texas. Not even in college when I visited Austin. None of my trips to Houston. That had to change so off we trekked to Deep Ellum for a night at Pecan Lodge. Initially, we thought the lines would be too crazy and we’d end up turning around but we were at the counter in less than 30 minutes.  

Because it is very hard for me to decided one thing to eat I went with the two meat platter. Brisket was an obvious choice and fried ribs were the perfect wildcard item. Add a side of their mac & cheese and collard greens and I was good to go. I also snagged a Blood & Honey Pale Wheat Ale while waiting for my food, brewed locally in Granbury, TX. Perfect for all the smokey goodness I was about to enjoy.  

The brisket was by far my favorite. SUPER juicy and buttery, it had the right amount of fat and wasn’t covered in distracting sauce. The fried rib was an interesting experience. I did like the nice crunch to the outside, but the ribs weren’t very meaty so you got the feeling that most of the rib you would enjoy, got fried up. Would love this technique employed on meatier ribs. The mac & cheese was good, far better than most I’ve tried at bbq joints. The bacon was a nice touch but baking them would have raised it up a notch. The collard greens, however, were not good. They were super sweet as if a pound of sugar was introduced while they simmered. Nice tenderness and it had bacon, but I could not get over the sweet juice leaving it all on my platter in the end.


Brunch was the next day, at Brewed Forth Worth. After waiting ages we were seated near the bar. I started with a poinsettia which is a pomegranate juice version of the mimosa. Loved it since it wasn’t 85% juice.

I was quite excited for the scotch eggs I ordered as I’ve wanted to try this dish in general for a while. Overall a fabulous dish that was super filling. I wished the eggs were a little softer in the middle but I’m sure that’s just part of the process in making sure the sausage exterior is fully cooked. The aioli was really good, I only wished there was more of it and the arugula was a nice contrast as well.

The serrano grits I ordered as a side weren’t as impressive. Don’t get me wrong they were a great consistency, smooth and creamy, but since I was in the South I expected good grits. These did not have the flavor punch I was expecting from serrano peppers. My bowl barely had any, my friend had a bit more. Could be improved with some sort of spicy cheese as well. Micks ordered the chicken & waffles with a side of grits. She loved her waffle, was less impressed with the chicken as it didn’t have much flavor.


After a harrowing day that included my flight getting cancelled and talking to various people on the phone to end up paying $380 to return to Omaha before a blizzard that never appeared, I stopped at Green Door Public House before heading to the Dallas-Fort Worth airport. I got an Irish Mule featuring my favorite whisky, Jameson, and a baked avocado (a whole avocado halved and stuffed with goat cheese, bread crumbs, bacon, pico de gallo and topped with balsamic reduction.  

The mule was delicious as expected. I really liked the avocado in concept. The balsamic reduction was just such a contrast to the pico that it ended up being weird, especially against the slight tang of the goat cheese. I think I’d really enjoy it without the drizzle, substituting a hot sauce in instead.


I always enjoy getting away to Texas and with my mother and NaNa potentially moving there within the year there will be more tasty trips to come. A few on my list for next time: Rudy’s, a Shipley’s kolache, Whiskey Cake and a return to Austin finally.

A Texas New Year

Last year I made a vow to myself – never spend another New Year’s in Omaha. While I’m not among the “Omaha is the worst” crowd I just couldn’t handle it anymore. NYE is the one holiday I actually celebrate. Whether it’s the starting fresh and making improvements aspect or just the drinking, New Year’s is on the top of my Top Five.

So when a friend absent-mindedly asked if I’d like to go to Houston I said yes before even thinking about the logistics. I knew I had the whole week off from work so that was all that really mattered. After a bit of time and a few group chats the plans were finalized. We’d leave on a Tuesday night, staying in Dallas for one day then driving the few hours to Houston on New Year’s Eve. With two bags packed and flask in hand I was ready to eat all the things I’d missed the last time I was in Texas.

True to form, my hunger couldn’t be contained and Whataburger happened before I even crossed Texas state lines. I don’t care what you say – I will always be here for a honey butter chicken biscuit or spicy ketchup on fries (I hate ketchup). The only In-N-Outs we acknowledge are located in California.


I’m so dedicated I dragged everyone to an H-E-B to buy spicy ketchup and honey butter to take home.


Our time in Dallas was short so we ended up only having dinner and breakfast. The trip’s organizer had only one food request: that we stop at The Boiling Crab that night. So after the almost mandatory two-hour wait I sat down looking to be impressed.

The atmosphere is very casual at BC. Large tables covered in paper, no real plates or silverware and everyone gets a plastic bib for protection. They were out of blue crab by the time we were seated (shakes fists) so I went with a pound of shrimp: medium, the whole she-bang (rajun cajun, lemon pepper and garlic spread) with half a pound of sausage and cajun fries. Unless you order one of the fried meals your food comes out to you in a giant plastic bag (again no frills).


The shrimps were huge and whole so not for the squeamish types who don’t like the heads on things. Was a little disappointed that the seasoning wasn’t spicy – they must reserve the really good spice for their fries which were great. The meal was still really tasty and fun to eat.


Before heading to Houston we stopped at The Original Pancake House a much nicer version of iHop, Village Inn, etc. After a little bit of a wait we sat down and ordered, having already read through the menu in the front. I got a bacon waffle, homemade sausage patty, scrambled eggs with cheese and some of my friend’s hashbrowns.


The worst dish had to be the eggs which were a little rubbery. I really enjoyed the spice in the sausage and the hashbrowns were the perfect mix of crispy and soft. The bacon waffle was also a treat. The bacon pieces were good-sized and still crispy, giving the whole thing a sort of chewy texture. It came off a little salty so I would ease up on the butter. Worth a try for anyone liking new twists on old favorites.

We headed to Houston and after a night of NYE shenanigans woke up hungry. While waiting for a missing party and the car my friend and I had brunch at the hotel bar. Despite the mimosas being $12 dollars (the bartender did make the second one STRONG, probably because she knew we didn’t know how much they were) they had a pineapple juice option so I was sated. I went with the chicken and waffle sliders which were good-sized. The chicken itself was really tasty and the coleslaw that came on it had a honey dressing which helped tie the dish together. Because the waffles were slider sized they ended up being just a bit dry but not to bad when you dipped it in syrup.


Next we went to Boudreaux’s Cajun Kitchen and yes I ordered food within 30 minutes of eating brunch because I’m a food monster. It was happy hour so I got a Cajun Twist for $6 which is a mix of their hurricane and ragin rita’. This drink was big and strong and frozen happiness in a glass.


I also ordered their boudin balls which came with fries and a honey creole remoulade. I am in love with boudin so I jump on any chance I get to eat some. Again, Boudreaux’s didn’t skimp on size with this perfectly cooked appetizer. I wasn’t a huge fan of the remoulade, the honey just made it a bit too sweet for this savory item.


Later that night (well technically the next morning) we made a stop at Dreams so I had to get an order of wings and fries. Traditional thinking would have you believe you shouldn’t order food at a strip club. Well they are wrong. They don’t want you to get some of the best wings you’ll ever eat. Dreams wings are major 🔑🔑🔑.


On our last full day in Houston my friend and I met her dean for lunch. We drove to City Centre to try out Yardhouse. Their patio was heated and covered so we were seated there with little protest, despite it being a chilly, rainy mess outside. We split an order of duck fat potatoes which I was expecting to lean more towards fries. The dish was mainly chips with a few chunks of fried potato. The caramelized onion bacon dip was a good complement although the bacon was a bit sparse.


To drink I got a sparkling blood orange with ketel one orange vodka, monin blood orange, orange juice, orange bitters and zardetto prosecco. Basically a mimosa on steroids it surprisingly didn’t taste overwhelmingly orange-y.


I went big as it was my last big meal in Texas, choosing the surf & turf burger. Lobster, grilled asparagus, arugula, tomato bearnaise and a substitution of swiss for their house truffle cheese all atop a medium well burger. After a smear of garlic aioli I requested on the side this treat was ready for consumption. It felt so over the top because it was so rich – I’m sure my cholesterol is still paying for this day.


In theory the addition of the asparagus is a sound choice but the grilled execution just didn’t cut it. It was hard to take a bite and just get a little asparagus – the whole spear had to come along. The fries were thin and crispy, just how fries should be. Possibly the best fries I’ve ever had and the chipotle mayo I ordered on the side gave them a nice kick.



After four days it was time to head back to Nebraska, but you an’t leave anywhere that has a Waffle House and not get Waffle House. Although this location didn’t check off all of my “this will be the best WH food” boxes (really it just needs to look suspect or have cooks who look like they probably might could kill you) the food got the job done. Waffle House is simple and offers you good food for so cheap you just wonder how it works. There’s a pseudo campaign to bring one to Omaha and Dear Lawd I hope it happens so I can get grits I didn’t have to make myself and smothered & covered hashbrowns.


While there were a few spots on my list that I didn’t get to make (mainly Frenchy’s, Torchy’s, Velvet Taco and Shipley’s) I will definitely be back. Some of those checks will be marked later this month when I go to Dallas for more than a day, but I’m leaving the rest to add to the many reasons I will be back to Houston asap.