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Dining

Egg Roll Express

Hey, Egg Roll Express is far from being the prettiest barn on Front Street….but for Chinese-in-a-hurry, this beats waiting in the crowd at Peking’s.

Limited menu makes the choosing easier…and I went with the Beef and Broccoli. It was served pretty quickly, piping hot, and it was as good as any I’ve had from a Chinese buffet. About $8 covered the whole meal….and I could’ve saved another buck or two had I not added a soft drink to the deal.

I’d do this one again. It’s probably not the best Chinese in town (still looking) but if you don’t want to fight the lunch rush, this is a good option for folks who work downtown.

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Travel

Remington Suite Hotel & Spa (Shreveport, LA)

Lobby of The Remington, Shreveport, Louisiana
The Remington, Shreveport, Louisiana

After running kids to sporting events all summer, my wife and I finally managed to squeeze in a getaway for the two of us. Having stayed in dozens of nice, but cookie-cutter-like hotels in recent months, we wanted something “grown up” and different that didn’t have “casino” in the name (this is Shreveport, remember). The Remington is exactly what we wanted!

The staff is very friendly and accommodating, the hotel is very quiet (only 22 suites!), and the polished, beautiful look that begins in the lobby extends all the way to the rooms, too. Fellas, if you’re a romantic Neanderthal like me, you can pick up some serious romance points by taking your gal to this place. Spacious rooms, beautifully decorated, marbled bathrooms, jetted tub — the works! We stayed in a Deluxe Suite which has a King bed in the bedroom and two love seats with fold-out beds in the living area. (This room would’ve easily accommodated our family of five.) Nice refrigerator for storing the leftovers from the restaurant down the street, good microwave for re-heating them for that late-night snack, and they even have an in-room Keurig for you coffee-drinkers!

The Remington is just across the bridge from the Louisiana Boardwalk where you can take in movies, shopping, more restaurants, etc. And here’s where you can prove you’ve scored some romance points with your wife — if she likes The Remington, she’ll let you visit the Bass Pro Shop at the Boardwalk. Mine did!

Categories
Dining

Pop’s Honey Fried Chicken

Pop’s Honey Fried Chicken is known for southern-style home cooking.  Fried Chicken, Livers, Meatloaf, Fried Catfish, Hamburgers, Mashed Potatoes, Hush Puppies, Cole Slaw, you get the idea.  And while all of that makes for some good eatin’ after church on Sunday, it’s the owner’s personal addition to the menu that sets this place apart from any other joint in town.

I’ve driven by Pop’s Honey Fried Chicken a zillion times while making the trek to Lindale’s Faulkner Park for baseball, soccer, etc., but had never made the time to check it out.  But, my wife was privvy to a conversation about the awesome tacos…..wait, tacos? Yes, the friendly folks that run the Lindale location have added taqueria tacos to their menu.  AND THEY ARE AWESOME!  I went for two-each of the chicken and beef tacos (“#16” on the menu).  The tortillas are perfectly toasted so that they hold their shape and the huge load of fixin’s within.  I’ve probably eaten at a dozen taquerias in the Tyler area over the years.  Each tends to be slightly different from the other and Pop’s follows that formula, too.

The beef tacos, for example, are ground beef instead of grilled beef as you commonly find in a taqueria.  And the chicken is cubed and grilled rather than shredded or pulled.  Nonetheless, the meats are well-seasoned and very tasty.  Each of the #16 tacos are topped off with the familiar cabbage, onions, cilantro, and avocado additions that you’d find elsewhere.

Between the two of us, 6 tacos, two drinks, a slice of Coconut Pie and a bowl of Banana Pudding was about $20.  We liked it so much we took the family a few days later.  The boys and I had HUGE baskets of shrimp, catfish, hushpuppies, french fries and cole slaw, our daughter got the chicken finger basket with fries, and my wife got the fried chicken basket with french fries.  Toss 5 drinks into the mix and it was about $38.  Before you balk at the price, however, consider that the same number of combo meals from a fast food chain will set you back about $35 and the food won’t be as good nor as plentiful.  In my book, Pop’s is a winner!

…and don’t forget to try the TACOS!  Seriously!

Categories
Dining

Taste of Italy by the Lake

Taste of Italy by the Lake, Hawkins, Texas
Taste of Italy by the Lake, Hawkins, Texas

So, you’re from the Big City and you miss great Italian food?  Looking for a great ‘date night’ location in the sticks of East Texas?  Give Taste of Italy a try in Hawkins, Texas.

You’ll probably need to pull out your GPS to get there, but Taste of Italy by the Lake is worth the drive.  They have a tremendous menu that rivals big chain restaurants and each entree could easily serve two people.  My wife went with her tradtional favorite, Fettuccine Alfredo, and it was creamy and delicious.  I had the Chicken Cacciatore which was unbelievably rich with the right amount of peppers, garlic, onions, and sauce.  Service is excellent and downright friendly, making Taste of Italy a great place for dining-for-two, a family get-together, or even a company dinner.

Taste of Italy sits directly alongside Lake Hawkins (thus, the “by the Lake” distinction) and features live entertainment on the weekends.  Reservations are not required but recommended if you are planning to eat during dining “prime time.”

Taste of Italy by the Lake:

2448 County Road 3440

Hawkins, TX 75765-5041

(903) 769-0600

Categories
Entertainment Travel

Tyler State Park

Tyler State Park is one of the most popular state parks in all of Texas. Since Texas is a fair-weather state for most of the year, it is sometimes difficult to secure a camping spot for your RV. But, if you’re persistent and work the Texas Parks & Wildlife website frequently you can eventually land a comfortable camping experience.

We took our 2018 Heartland Mallard to Tyler State Park to celebrate our son’s birthday. The Park has several types of campsites from which to choose. We prefer full hookups and a good view, whenever possible, so we chose a spot at the Lakeview camp which not only offers the full hookups but also a beautiful view of the lake.

Sometimes, if Internet luck is on your side, you can secure a location that is lakeside. For this trip, however, we were parked across the street, so-to-speak.

Regardless, we had plenty of space and privacy. Here’s a look at our campsite facing away from the street.

 

 

 

 

As you can see, there’s plenty of space for a tent. My son and his wife brought their tent and set it up near the picnic table. There was still plenty of room for fun. In fact, in the evening, they started a fire and made the best dutch oven cobbler ever!

Sidenote: we camped here during the park’s annual Christmas light celebration. My son brought his projector and we watched movies on the back of our Mallard!

There’s plenty to do at Tyler State Park including kayaking and canoes, fishing, hiking, geocaching, birdwatching or, as we like to do, just relaxing. If you’re the kind that needs access to WiFi, Tyler State Park has it but it is pretty limited. Likewise for television reception even though the city of Tyler is nearby. But that’s OK. Tyler State Park is meant to be enjoyed for its beauty and wide open spaces. It’s really a great place to unplug from the daily grind.

Categories
Dining

Daniel Boone’s Grill & Tavern

The five of us took in a little Daniel Boone’s one Sunday afternoon after seeing and hearing numerous advertisements for it quite some time. The theme of the restaurant is loosely based upon the old 1950’s Daniel Boone TV show, complete with a log-cabin look-and-feel and silly signs such as, “On this spot in 1890, nothing happened.” I’d say Daniel Boone’s most-closely resembles Judge Roy Bean’s or Cotton Patch, for those of you visiting from larger communities.

For an appetizer, we started out with the chips and fresh-made salsa, which was just right; a little spicy, but not enough to overtake the rest of your meal. Then, we were told about the ‘bean bar’ where they have a pot of beans-with-beef and another that’s beans-with-pork. Both were very tasty. If I had it to do over again, I would’ve passed up the chips and salsa (at $3.99) and just gone with the beans.

For lunch, my oldest and I went with the cheeseburger. They were a good size, big enough that I took half home for supper, and each came with side of fries. The vegetables were good, likewise for the buns, and, overall, the burger is worthy of having again someday. My youngest son went with the BLT. I’m guessing it was pretty good because I barely got a look at it before it was gone. My daughter went with the chicken rings from the children’s menu. No picky eating for her! She ate a good bit of it…even knowing ice cream was forthcoming. My wife went with the stuffed baked potato. It was delicious. I know this because I had half of it with my burger for supper that night.

If you saved any room at all, Daniel Boone’s welcomes you to their Ice Cream bar, full of self-serve buckets of Blue Bell. The perfect finish to a family-friendly meal.

With a tip, we threw down $52…..more than I’d want to spend on a family meal. If I’d avoided the chips and salsa and gotten water for all five of us, we probably could’ve dropped $10 off the bill.

But, overall, Daniel Boone’s was a pleasant experience and one of the more family-friendly places we’ve visited in East Texas so far. We’ll be back!

Categories
Dining

Jalapeno Tree

Tasty, but I don’t understand why Jalapeno Tree is so expensive. Granted, two can have lunch for less than $25, but if you take the family of five on, say, a Saturday night….you can count on spending upwards of $60.

The food is very good….and the guacamole “green sauce” is a delicious compliment to the salsa.

Don’t get me wrong, I really like Jalapeno Tree. But be prepared to take a hit in the wallet if you go outside of the lunchtime window.

Plenty of locations throughout East Texas. Check ’em out!

Categories
Dining

Swanner’s Hamburgers

Actually drove out-of-the-way on the way back to East Texas so we could try Swanner’s Hamburgers. Bright, friendly restaurant that is clearly family-operated. I ordered the bacon cheeseburger and it was true to Swanner’s “ground chuck daily” reputation — the hamburger patty was irregular-shaped instead of the perfect circle you’d get from a frozen patty. Excellent flavor, lots of fixin’s, all served up on a a big bun. One order of fries is enough for two…and they were the perfect mix of crispy and salty and not the least bit greasy.

Be warned…this place does close at 3 o’clock and they’re closed on Sunday for family time (as they should be!). Gilmer is another one of those terrific East Texas towns that loves its High School sports and has a town square around its courthouse. Spend some time with the Buckeye faithful and take in a burger or two at Swanner’s.

Categories
Dining

Char-Burger Stock-Ade

Took the family to Char-Burger Stock-Ade on a recent ‘staycation’ that included a trip to Kilgore and the East Texas Oil Museum. Just a good, old fashioned burger….but instead of ketchup, mustard, or mayo, they serve the burgers with a light layer of what I’d describe as tarter sauce.

Anyway, we all went with the burger. Fries and a drink are extra, but they have a complimentary bean-and-hush-puppies bar. (Next time, I’d definitely ditch the fries in favor of the hush puppies.) Staff was friendly and the food was freshly-made and hot. In all, the five of us ate for about $30….so this one’s a keeper.

Incidentally, Char-Burger Stock-Ade has an enormous menu….and while I failed to grab a take-out menu for display, I can tell you there’s something for everyone….even those non-beef-eaters out there. And the restaurant is right in the middle of a neat little East Texas downtown….with plenty of antique shops for your bride to check out along the way.

Categories
Dining

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?