Tag Archives: Arthur

Dining in Texas: Babe’s Chicken Dinner House

A Taste of the South: Notes from a Trip to Louisiana

Great fried chicken in fun surroundings

We had two goals for our trip to Dallas: seeing the eclipse and visiting with our old friends Eddie and Arthur. They had selfishly moved back to Texas when our kids were little. I’m still really sad, and we miss them terribly.

Our first night together, Eddie and Arthur took us to one of their favorite restaurants: Babe’s Chicken Dinner House. Babe’s is a small chain of ten restaurants all in and around the Dallas-Fort Worth area; we went to the Burleson location. They are beautifully decorated with cottage-style houses and chickens everywhere. I can imagine this would be a favorite family restaurant – little girls, in particular, are likely to swoon over the decorations.

Babe’s menu is limied to fried chicken, fried chicken tenders, chicken fried steak and hickory smoked chicken (all $19), fried catfish ($20) and a vegetable plate ($11). Even in Texas they figured families often have a vegetarian they need to bring along to dinner. All meals come with sides which are served family style: house salad, green beans, corn, mashed potatoes, buttermilk biscuits and cream gravy.

Texas may not be the South per se, but coming from Louisiana I was still thinking in those terms, so I was excited to get some southern fried chicken. I’m not sure that it would differ from any other fried chicken – it seems like all our fried chicken chains originate in the South anyway, and it’s not like I make it myself (though I did try my hand at Delaware fried chicken some time back). Still, like most others at the table, I ordered the fried chicken and it was very good. The chicken was very moist, the breading was super crisp and the pieces were a nice size. The only minus is that you can only order a mixed portion or drumsticks, not just dark meat. It wasn’t a big deal, however. Alas, I didn’t try any of the other entrees. I know that Eddie got fried catfish and Arthur got the smoked chicken; they must be good given they keep ordering them when they visit.

There was so much chicken to be eaten, that we really didn’t try all the sides. The exception was the buttermilk biscuits which were excellent. They bring both honey and sorghum syrup to the table, and they were both good – the latter has a rich flavor, similar to molasses. I learned here – from Eddie – that in the south you biscuits in half and butter the whole half.

We also liked the mashed potatoes, and someone was fond of the salad as it didn’t last long, but we didn’t try the other sides.

Service was great, the waiters were very accommodating and efficient. They did not rush us out even when we stayed well over closing time. Alas, Babe’s is one of those places that likes to humiliate waiters by making them perform – apparently they force them to perform the hokey pokey for waiters. Patrons love it but waiters hate it (I asked).

Of course, the company was even better than the food but I was very happy to try this place. And boy, do we miss Eddie and Arthur.

Babe's Chicken Dinner House
120 South Main St
Burleson, TX
(817) 447-3400
M-F: 11 AM - 2 PM & 5 PM - 9 PM
Sa & Su: 11 AM - 9 PM

Oriental Tea House – San Leandro – Updated Reviews

Update 12/11

As you can see by the updates below, it’s been our custom for many years to go to to the Oriental Tea House for dinner on Christmas day.  This year it was just Mike and I, my sister and the kids having left earlier in the afternoon.  The food was good, as usual; the service just as frantic.  I had the crispy chicken, which I usually like here and it was good.  First they gave me the crispy duck, and as the two look alike I took a couple of bites.  It was so fatty that it was almost inedible.  Fortunately they realized their mistake and brought the chicken.  Mike had the kun pao chicken which he didn’t feel tasted like that, but I thought it was good. We got there around 5:30 PM and we were able to get a table for 2, but I don’t know if there were any larger tables available.  By 6 PM the placed was packed.

One thing to note, the Oriental Tea House’s menu is pretty prosaic, filled with the typical dishes at Chinese-American restaurants. However, on Christmas, at least, the restaurant is packed with Chinese and Chinese Americans. The people managing the restaurant as well as the waitresses are also Chinese (some have a very rudimentary understanding of English). This suggests to me that the OTH may also have one of those Chinese-only “secret” menus that many Chinese restaurants have (the idea is that they include dishes that Americans would not be interested in eating).

Update 12/10

Another year, another Chrismas, another dinner at the Oriental Tea House. This Christmas day we got there around 5 PM, and the place was completely empty. It started filling up around 6 PM, but there were still a couple of large tables empty by the time we left (6:20 PM or so) – so next year we won’t go as early. As we did go when the place was empty, service was more relaxed. The food has increased a bit in price, but it’s still very affordable. We got 6 dishes plus fried wontons for 5 adults and 4 children and we ate everything! I was happy with all the dishes (beef chow mein, Mongolian beef, chicken with two mushrooms, kun pao chicken, sweet & sour pork, veggie platter) my favorite was probably the kun pao chicken, the Mongolian beef was a close second. In all, another good meal.

Update 12/09.

As usual we went to the Oriental Tea House, in San Leandro, for Xmas dinner; this time with my sister Kathy and my brother and his family. Once again, service was hurried – the Oriental Tea House is very popular on Xmas day – but efficient. Food came on time (except for the sweet & sour pork which was delayed) and it was generally good (and cheap). Mike was happy with his beef with snow peas, as was my sister-in-law with her broccoli beef. My brother David ordered the beef curry, not on the menu, and his dish was pretty good, though very mild. I’m not sure if that was because the waitress misunderstood that he wanted his dish spicy (the English language skills of the workforce at Oriental Tea House are very limited), or because they just have a different understanding of spicy than we do. In any case, it was mild.

I ordered the roast duck, having liked the roast chicken in the past, which was a mistake. The duck was nicely cooked and very flavorful – but it had the obligatory thick layer of fat and my chopstick skills are not advanced enough to allow me to get to the meat between the fat and the bone. I had a fork, but without a knife it was an impossible endeavor. Next time I’ll stick with the less fatty chicken, which is also very good.

Finally, Kathy had the sweet & sour pork, which she liked but Mike and I thought was quite unappetizing – with fat pieces of pork and a slimy sauce. To each its own.

In all, it was a good meal and we’ll definitely be going there again next Xmas.

December 2008

We celebrate Christmas Eve rather than Christmas itself, so in the past we’ve found ourselves at a loss as to what to do for dinner on the 25th. After a huge Xmas Eve dinner, and a kitchen full of dirty dishes, the least I want to do is cook again. So some years ago we started a tradition of going out to the Oriental Tea House, in San Leandro, for Xmas dinner. The Oriental Tea House has pretty good American-style Chinese food (though given the large number of Chinese that eat there, I suspect they may have a second menu as well), it’s cheap (most dishes are around $7), and most importantly, it’s actually open on Xmas.

This year was no exception. We probably got there around 6 PM or so – I recommend you go early as the place gets packed by 7 (on Xmas, at least). Service was rushed but attentive, and the food was up to standard.

I liked the roasted chicken quite a bit. The skin was impossibly crispy, and the meat was nice and moist. It’s rather bland by itself, but add some of the accompanying seasoned salt, and it’s delicious. The beef with oyster sauce was pretty good as well – nothing extraordinary but competently executed. I liked the thick-noodle chicken chow mein, it was flavorful and devoid of too many bean sprouts (I’m not a fan). I wasn’t thrilled about the doughy sweet & sour pork, however, but then again, I wasn’t in the mood for anything sweet. I thought the pieces of pork were too chewy and the sauce too sweet.

In all, it was a good Xmas Eve experience, and I look forward to going there again for our next Xmas dinner.

March 2007

Last night we went to the Oriental Tea House with a bunch of our friends (for memory’s sake, they were Donovan & Parker with Luther and baby Will, Regina and Boris, and Eddie and Arthur with Laurel, Bailey and Dee). We ordered a bunch of dishes: fried calamari, friend wontons, chicken chow mein, vegetable chow mein, lemon chicken, kun pao chicken, half a roasted chicken, beef with some sort of green beans and a couple of shrimp dishes. I was amazed at how good everything was. It was great to be able to savor so much variety – and to be with so many friends – but the actual food was all very good. And the bill was terribly cheap at $86 – which fed an army of 8 adults and 6 children.

We were all able to fit at one, very crowded, table – larger parties or those with more adults, would have to split in two.

We are now planning on getting together for dim sum some Sunday morning. If any of my friends are reading this, and want to come along, just e-mail me.

March 2005

Today we made it to the Oriental Tea House for dim sum. We liked it much better than East Village, though we didn’t get to taste the baked pork buns as they were out of it by the time we got there around 1 PM. The steamed pork buns were excellent, however, the bread was moist, the pork succulent and not too sweet. I got an additional order to go. The fried chicken was also very good, crispy and moist and wonderfully spiced. We also found a winner in the paper wrapped chicken – moist and delicious – and on the shrimp dumplings. We were less fond of the sesame balls and the deep fried meat balls, I’d never had those before and the thick pastry wrapping had a strange consistency that I did’t find appealing. Egg custards were OK, but not sweet enough for my taste. Lunch, including 3 canned sodas, came to $24 before tip. It’s pretty crowded on Sundays, but I’m sure we’ll be going again.

Oriental Tea House
604 MacArthur Blvd.
San Leandro

Original Review

San Leandro Restaurant Reviews

Tequila Grill Redux Redux

Last week our friends Arthur and Eddie suggested that we go out to dinner at Tequila Grill before the kids headed to a show at the library. I’m always in the mood for not cooking (well, that’s not really true, but I thought it sounded cute), so I thought it was a splendid idea. Well, perhaps not splendid as I haven’t been impressed with Tequila Grill in the past, but it’s nice to get out. And alas, it’s good I have that attitude because Tequila Grill failed to impress me yet again.

I had the milanesa sandwich, and the milanesa was nice and tender but not very flavorful. There was also too little meat to bread ratio. The fries it came with were perfectly fine.

I also ordered some guacamole and I did like it a lot, it was fresh and well balanced. Alas – there were no chips to eat it with (I did ask for them, they just never came). I found out that french fries with guacamole sort of work.

Mike had the flautas and he thought they were just OK.

I didn’t ask Arthur and Eddie what they thought of their dishes, but Cynthia – who’d come with us along with her kids Orestes and Aegea, didn’t seem very impressed with whatever she ordered. Orestes’ actually found his burrito nauseating, though he couldn’t quite figure out why.

The younger kids seemed fine with their quesadillas (I didn’t try them).

So no, I won’t be rushing back to Tequila Grill, though I imagine I’ll end up there again some time.

Tequila Grill
1350 E. 14th St.
San Leandro
(510) 895-5351
(More San Leandro restaurant reviews at http://www.marga.org/food/rest/sl.html

Christmas Eve menu

In Argentina, like in many Latin American countries, the big Christmas celebration happens on Christmas Eve. While I’ve lived in the US well over 20 years now, for me Christmas Eve will always be the time to be with friends and family and celebrate the wonder of life.

This year we were happy to have, in addition to our best friends Lola and Iggy – with whom we always spend Christmas eve – our friends Eddie and Arthur. They’ve become some of our best friends in San Leandro, and who knows, spending Christmas Eve with us may just become a tradition (if they don’t move back to Texas first).

My menu was very similar to the one I served on Christmas 2004, the last Xmas we spent in the US. Last year we were traveling in Argentina and ate at hotel in the tiny town of Cachi. But the 2004 menu had been so good, that I didn’t really want to change it. So I served:

A sliced baguette with olive oil, European butter, smoked salmon, hummus and roasted pepper sauce.
As you can expect, the smoked salmon quickly disappeared – but so did the bread. Camila couldn’t get enough of spreading the butter on the bread. She ate the center of the bread, but left the crust behind. Mika loves dipping bread in olive oil, and was quite excited to be able to do it again. Unfortunately (for her), the olive oil was the generic kind, and not the orange olive oil we tasted while shopping a couple of weeks back.

Mixed Greens Salad with Gorgonzola Vinaigrette
This is a favorite of Mikes, and it’s so good that I usually serve it when I need to make a salad. Even Lola who dislikes blue cheese – and Kathy who dislikes cheese in general – like it here. This time I used red currants instead of cranberries (I had them at hand) and Lola thought they were an improvement.

Les Halles Mushroom Soup
Once again this was a winner. Iggy, specially, raved about it. This time I added extra morels and some porcini so everyone could get their fill. I imagine I’ll make this again next year.

Leek and Camembert Tart
Another winner from epicurious. This was everybody’s favorite of the evening. I plan to make it again, but next time I won’t try to make it into a circle, I don’t think there is much to be gained by that. A recipe was enough for 8 people but I’m sure everyone would have liked seconds.

Prime Rib with Cabernet Jus
This time I used Costco Prime Rib, prime ($11 lb), and while it was good it wasn’t nearly as good as the one I made last time ($16 lb) with meat from Galvan’s Market. Live and learn. I think next year I’ll make lamb or something different.
The cab jus was good but unnecessary.

Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes
Always a winner, and they reheat so easily. I did make too much, though (3 times the recipe). Next time I’ll just double it 🙂

Green beans almondine
Also a popular choice. This recipe is very simple and produces quite a good result – and shocking the green beans gives them a beautiful bright green color.

Dessert was a chocolate cake that Eddie brought (very, very yummy) and Costco pumpkin pie, which was also quite good.

We had several bottles of wine, all very good, but the clear winner of the evening was the Bonny Doon Muscat, Vin de Glaciere. It was impossibly delicious, and I don’t even like Muscat. If it wasn’t Christmas day, I’d send Mike in search of another bottle.

In all, we had a great Christmas Eve dinner. The kids played wonderfully in the other room, and then even ate some meat (as they knew dessert was coming). The babies were calm and friendly, and the company could not have been better.

Zachary’s and Daiquiris

Yesterday, for once in a blew moon, our Sunday was not booked (saved for an early morning meeting at Zocalo, where I enjoyed a chocolate croissant if you want to know), so I suggested to Mike that we have friends over for some Zachary’s. We hadn’t had some in a while, and, you have to admit it, their pizza is phenomenal. Instantly we thought of Eddie and Arthur, given that they’re out “last minute dinner friends;” this is not to say that we don’t have dinner with them on other occasions, but they’re often game for a last minute meal.

Alas, we didn’t have a good connection when we were talking on the phone – and I think my accent is getting thicker, people keep asking me to repeat myself – so Eddie understood “daiquiris” instead of “Zachary’s;” by the time we clarified the confusion Eddie had a craving for daiquiris and Mike for Zachary’s – so we ended up getting both.

Zachary’s – one chorizo, one extra cheese – was as good as usual, and surprisingly warm by the time Mike got it home. It helped that we were all ready to eat by then. The daiquiris were also very good, even though they came from a frozen mix – much better than the second batch Arthur made, this time using frozen strawberries.

So we had Zachary’s and daiquiris, and a great evening seeing friends.

The meal was specially good as our food prospects for the week sound dire. We have meetings tonight, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. I’m thinking of having a date on Friday – it’s been a while. So tonight we’ll probably have some frozen ravioli and no ideas what I’ll have the other nights. Something VERY quick – as I’ve discovered that I just cannot have Camila in the kitchen while I cook. Yesterday she burned herself with the George Foreman. 🙁

anyway, happy cooking or eating out 🙂

Banyan Garden Revisited

Our friends Eddie and Arthur suggested we get together for dinner at the Texas Roadhouse for dinner last night – but when we got there around 8 PM, the place was a madhouse. They told me there was a 4 hour wait, and while that seemed unlikely, it clearly did not make sense for us to stay there for dinner. So we suggested we go to Banyan Garden, we had liked it last time and we didn’t think the place would be so full.

Being mother’s day and all, we still had to wait, though only for fifteen minutes or so. We were then given a large table for 8 at the back of the restaurant. We ordered quite a lot of food and it was all good.
The Roti Canai ($2.50) was a very light, thin, flaky and somewhat chewy flat bread (thinner and lighter than a crepe). We all liked it, and I once again was won over by the spicy curry dipping sauce. The chicken satay ($5.50) was also a winner, with nicely marinated chicken chunks and a spicy, chunky peanut sauce. I’d definitely order both again.

We liked the mango chicken ($8). It was served on two hollowed mango shelfs and consisted of chicken pieces and slices of mango and red and green bell peppers in a sweet and sour tomato sauce. The sauce tasted fruity rather than tomatoish and was nicely spiced and quite good. The mango slices were too crunchy for my taste, however, they didn’t seem ripe enough. The sizzling beef ($12) was sizzling and spicy and quite good with their black pepper sauce. The thin slices were tender though in that pounded sort of way. The padang lamb ($10) tasted just the same as last time and the Malaysian short ribs ($9) also had that pounded consistency but were enjoyable. I didn’t get to taste the pineapple rice ($7) but others liked it, and the one noodle dish I did have (can’t recall what it was) was fine but not remarkable.
In all we had an enjoyable dinner and I’ll certainly go again.