Vietnamese Pho Restaurant

OK, I admit it…my first effort to try out this restaurant led me to the “safer” Mexican food place down the street…only because I feared making a fool of myself attempting to eat Pho. But I cowboyed-up on my second attempt and, boy, I’m glad I did!

Full disclosure — I did my homework. I read online how one should attempt to eat Pho. When the garnish of bean sprouts and basil arrived at the table, I placed the bean sprouts beneath the pho noodles in the piping-hot broth. (Seriously, the broth was about 10,000 degrees!). I also pinched off a few basil leaves and added them to the broth, then I finished my customization with a good squeeze of lemon.

I was looking like a pro at that point. But then, I found out you can’t eat Pho with a fork. First of all, rice noodles are a little “stiffer” than spaghetti….so you can’t really cut them on the side of the bowl.

So, when you twirl ’em up Italian style on the fork, you end up with a massive ball of 10,000-degree noodles — no WAY you’re going to attempt to eat it.So I finally got up enough nerve to ask the staff to show me how to use chopsticks. TRUST ME ON THIS ONE — it’s MUCH easier to eat pho with chopsticks than a fork! Granted, you end up with noodles hanging down into the bowl…but the staff assured me it was perfectly acceptable to slurp up the noodles.

Well, I made it through the meal….and only spattered one shirt, one table, and perhaps a patron or two. But the experience was well worth it.

And, as luck would have it, there’s several items on the menu that would be familiar to the Chinese-food fans out there, so don’t turn down an invitation to try Vietnamese Pho. And, PUT DOWN THAT FORK, ok?


Mama’s Restaurant

Took the family of five to Mama’s Restaurant for our last ‘lunchtime with Daddy’ before school starts. Chips and salsa to start, then came the Chicken Strips for my daughter, a pair of Burger Club Sandwiches for the boys, Quesadillas with rice and refried beans for my bride, and Grilled Chicken with fried okra and green beans for me. By the time our food was distributed around the table, you’d think another five family members were on their way! Huge portions and the side dishes were especially big … unusual for most restaurants these days.

My grilled chicken was delicious! It was prepared with fajita-like seasonings and would’ve easily covered not one, but two buns if ordered as a sandwich. The boys had no trouble polishing off their Burger Club sandwiches (basically, hamburgers on wheat bread with lettuce and tomato, cut into club sandwich wedges). My daughter couldn’t even finish her chicken strips and my wife ooo’ed and aaah’ed through her quesadillas.

$51 with tip….but the prices are reasonable, actually. I probably could’ve gone with waters all around and passed on the chips & salsa to save about $8. But I’m a chip-and-salsa-aholic, so that’s hard to pass up.

But we’ll be stopping by to visit Mama more often! I may even take MY Mama there!


El Mejicano Mexican Restaurant

Mexican food along the lines of a tacqueria…but with some TexMex and American favorites that gives El Mejicano broad appeal. At $8.99, that’s a little more than I’d generally want to spend for lunch…but that’s a competitive price for a buffet. Overall, you’ll not see this much variety in a buffet outside of a Chinese food restaurant. And be sure to save room for the dessert bar!


Doc’s Pizza

Pizza shouldn’t be complicated….and Doc’s keeps it simple. Great assortment of traditional pizzas. I’m a thin-crust guy (unless I can get my hands on a good Chicago-style pizza) and Doc’s pizzas have a nice, almost cracker-like crust. Toppings are generous and evenly distributed over the entire pie.

Our first visit to Doc’s was after church one Sunday and they’d apparently just opened because the (very tiny!) seating area was cold. We ordered salads while we waited and they were nothing more than a few leaves of lettuce and a dollop of salad dressing in a styrofoam bowl. Overall, the “dine-in” experience wasn’t worth the overall investment.

But if you want some pretty good takeout, Doc’s is a great option…..especially if you can get your hands on a coupon from their website.



This is a Freebird’s/Chipotle-like “build-’em-as-you-order-’em” kind of place. Southwestern-style Mexican food (meaning black beans and white cheese) with a wide assortment of selections. I went with a Taco Salad and my wife went with the Nachos. Since you’re the one who decides what goes into your meal, it’s pretty much up to you to mix-and-match your favorites. And if you’re looking for lighter fare, say, for lunch then this is a good option.

With drinks and a side of chips and queso, the total bill was about $18. This is a tiny bit pricier than I would prefer for this type of dining option, but I will definitely visit Salsarita’s again.


Automobile Registration – Smith County Tax Office

So, you’ve waited until the last minute to register your car?  Good news!  There’s no need to rush down to the county seat in Tyler and wait in line during your lunch break.  There’s a Smith County Tax Office right in Lindale.

Physical address:

2616 S. Main Street – Lindale, TX 75771

It’s a bit tricky to find, however, so here’s a few landmarks:

From HWY 69, turn east on the road that runs alongside Cinco de Mayo’s and follow it to the very end of the road.  There, you’ll see a red metal building.  Part of it is occupied by the Smith County Constable’s office, while the other part serves as the Smith County substation.  There’s a couple of folks working the Auto Registration desk, so you’ll be in and out of there in no time.


Dining Travel

Blind Tiger (Shreveport, LA)

My wife and I managed a weekend getaway to Shreveport and chose to eat at the Blind Tiger our first night in town because it was within walking distance of our hotel.

My mission was clear — Cajun food or bust! We started off with an order of Crab Cakes. They came three to an order, each the size of a hamburger patty, with a creamy rue and some small crawfish. The flavor was absolutely outstanding! Crispy on the outside with warm, sweet crab on the inside and not the least hint of a fishy taste. WAHOO WARNING: This appetizer (or “appe-Tiger” as they call it) could easily serve four adults or maybe a family of five…so don’t overdo it right out of the chute.

For supper, I went with the Red Beans and Rice. It took up the entire plate and was served with an enormous wedge of cornbread. My wife had the Chicken Bacon Swiss sandwich, served with battered french fries. It, too, covered the plate. In both cases, we ended up eating only half at the restaurant and taking the other half back to the hotel. WAHOO WARNING: Seriously, each of these entrees could easily feed two people.

At this point, we were soundly stuffed. Yet, I still hadn’t learned my lesson. So I ordered not one, but TWO slices of cheesecake and had them boxed up for the walk back to the hotel. We didn’t even peek at the cheesecake until we got back to the room. And, as the Wahoo could’ve told you, WE SHOULD HAVE SHARED A SINGLE SLICE! This wasn’t your Sam’s Club cheesecake, either. Each huge slice of traditional cheesecake came with a container of chocolate drizzle, caramel drizzle, and a dollop of whipped cream. It took us two nights to polish those off, too.

So, in short, we had an appetizer, two entrees, and two desserts for $44 (including tip) and could have easily fed 4 or 5 people. If you leave this place hungry, it’s your own fault. But chances are, you’ll leave saying “Wahoo!” Oh, and be sure to tell the Wahoo howdy on your way out.


Health Camp (Waco, TX)

Image Credit: Health Camp, Waco, Texas
Image Credit: Health Camp, Waco, Texas

Now that we have a kid a Baylor, Health Camp has become a regular stop on our visits to Waco.

We were first introduced to this Waco institution years ago after the Summer Games of Texas swim meet. The same is true today as it was then: if you have designs on going to this place, go early….because it fills up quickly and the seating area is pretty small. That’s especially true today because Health Camp is adjacent to the former Elite Cafe (now Magnolia Grill, of Chip & Joanna Gaines / Fixer Upper fame).

Health Camp is a no-frills burgers-and-shakes place that also has steak sandwiches and a pretty solid grilled chicken sandwich as well. Traditional sides such as fries and tater tots are available as well as some very impressive onion rings. Tea, fountain drinks, or a terrific shake round out the experience. And, yes, those shakes are made from real ice cream.

Image Credit: Health Camp, Waco, Texas
Image Credit: Health Camp, Waco, Texas

Prices are competitive with the other eateries in Waco. Our recent party of 5 were seated and satisfied for about $50.

When you first drive up to Health Camp, don’t let the parking fool you. The biggest bulk of the cars are headed to the Magnolia Grill but the space immediately around Health Camp is reserved for its patrons. As you make a loop around the building to find a parking spot, take a peek into Health Camp to see if there’s seating inside. If not, outdoor seating is available or, if that’s not an option, get it to go. It’s worth it!



Health Camp

2601 Circle Road

Waco TX 76706-3805

Ph: (254) 752-2186


Ken’s Pizza

East Texas has no shortage of buffets and when it comes to pizza, few can rival Ken’s Pizza in Tyler.  It seems most pizza restaurants spend more time trying to come up with “experimental” flavors.  Ken’s, however, does a great job of keeping the traditional favorites coming while inserting something new here-and-there.  Hamburger, Cheese, Pepperoni, and Sausage pizzas always seem to be available alongside Spinach, Taco, and Fajita pizzas, among others.  Ken’s also has an ample salad bar and great desserts.

The cost is about $40 for a family of five.  “Servers” will bring you new plates, but service tends to be a bit slow and inattentive.   If all else fails, simply walk up to the buffet and request a new plate and you’ll be on your way.



Bodacious BBQ

The folks at Bodacious BBQ have been serving up the good stuff since 1965 and if you’re anywhere close to the Tyler-Longview area, there’s a Bodacious near you.

There’s a new location just north of  SSW Loop 323 on Hwy 155.  When you walk in the door, there’s no doubt you’ve walked into a Bodacious BBQ;  the dining room sports the same stainless steel tables that you see at other locations and, of course, there’s that great smoky aroma. For you sauce connoisseurs, Bodacious typically runs a little on the sweet side.

Not only do you get the usual good stuff (I’m partial to a chopped beef sandwich), this Bodacious location even has a drive-thru — perfect for picking up Sunday lunch.  Of course, the folks at the original Troup Highway location are always anxious to serve you, too.

A sandwich and drink will run about $8.  You can add sides to that if you want, but the sandwich is usually all you’ll need for lunch unless you intend on taking a nap later in the day.

Tip:  Bodacious makes some awesome Sloppy Joes!  Kids love ’em (so do I!) and they’re only about $2 and they’re HUGE!   The Troup location has been known to offer them for $1 on certain days.  Check out their website or Facebook page for more information.


Monday – Saturday:  10a – 9p

Sunday: 10a – 8p

Original:  1879 Troup Hwy, Tyler, TX 75701 (in the Green Acres Shopping Center) – (903) 592-4148

New location: 2701 W Southwest Loop 323, Tyler, TX 75701