Koji Ramen Bar – Spring TX

We are all likely well acquainted with the ubiquitous ramen noodle packs found in most grocery stores. College students live on them, moms keep them available as quick lunches for their children on weekend and vacations, and writers seem to thrive on them. We eat them straight out of the package, cooked up according to the directions (noodles in broth), and we eat them dry (broth drained off and spice pack added directly to the noodles). Some of even get creative with ramen by adding broken meats, veggies, and other items that we have on hand at the time.

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Put what you think you know about ramen out of your mind. Koji Ramen Bar offers a whole new perspective on the ramen noodle and how it should be served, offering deep bowls of broth with perfectly cooked noodles, and the sort of things on top that appear to be pretty traditional and/or local favorites.

The décor is trim, neat, with wall art that is splashy and fun. We had the fortune to sit beneath a six foot tall mineki-neko – the Good Luck Cat.

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We started with gyoza (Japanese pork potstickers) and takoyaki (octopus balls), both of which were outstanding in flavor and texture. The gyoza were tender and fresh, with a firmness to the filling that was not hard or difficult to chew as at some restaurants. The takoyaki were rich and crunchy; very much a new and delightful experience for us.

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Gyoza – Japanese pork potstickers

 

I ordered the chicken version, and was not disappointed. In addition to the chicken, noodles and broth, there were green onion, leaf spinach, bamboo shoots, carrots, corn, nori strips, tea egg and a sprinkled topping of sesame seeds and spices. I topped bites with dried garlic flakes, and the various tasty sauces offered on the table. Delicious!

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Koji Chicken Ramen

 

The full menu is available online and makes me want to revisit the establishment every time I peruse it. There is so much to look forward to trying!

 

On the 1-5 scale, Koji Ramen Bar has earned:
Cleanliness – 4
Service – 4
Quality of food – 5
Flavor – 5
Pricing – 3
Overall experience – 4.25

Koji Ramen Bar
25403 Interstate 45, Suite A
Spring TX 77380
832-823-5197

Enjoy! We certainly did!30531185_10214338556871563_6198082934243590144_n

– Ann Cathey

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Smokey Mo’s – Austin, TX

On a recent trip to Austin, Texas, we rediscovered a BBQ joint that we first tried in Conroe: Smokey Mo’s. While I may have been enjoying them for a while and somehow never managed to blog about them, they are still producing very appetising and satisfying meals in multiple locations around Texas.

The run of side dishes is pretty standard, and everything is complimentary to BBQ meats, of course. Fries, potato salad, beans, fried okra, corn on the cob, right down to the self-serve bread, onions, pickles and jalapenos.

Trust me, I helped myself to the pickles.

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Two trays of pickles, just like this!

 

My partner helped himself to not one, but two chop sandwiches. The chop is loaded with sauce and chopped bits and pieces of meat. It’s mostly beef with the occasional turkey or sausage bits mixed in.

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Chop Sandwich before any fixin’s were added.

 

The three meat plate is an indulgent sampler of meats and sides. There’s plenty to choose from, too. I picked the turkey-sausage-sliced brisket combination with a double side of slaw. The second slaw was really for Christopher, but it sure makes the plate look as full as my belly got after eating all this.

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Three meat combo plate with two sides.

 

It’s always pleasant to find a bit of the familiar when travelling that’s not your run of the mill fast food. Visiting Smokey Mo’s was definitely a fit of comfort food in a weekend full of exploration.

Enjoy!

— Ann Cathey

 

Pho Lee Vietnamese – Austin, TX

 

On a recent trip to Austin, some friends directed us to a little strip center restaurant to appease my partner’s craving for a traditional Vietnamese dish: pho.

Pho Lee Vietnamese Restaurant is a small, strip center restaurant. It is immaculately clean,t eh staff is friendly and the jasmine tea is always fresh. In spite of it’s seemingly small size, the menu is full of delights from pho, bun, mi, com chien, and Thai offerings to a small number of Chinese dishes. A little something for everyone who enjoys the savory, good-for-the-soul nature of Vietnamese foods.

We took it easy on our carb intake on this trip, sticking to spring rolls and pho. There’s so much more to try that we will just have to visit again, such as the Cafe Sua (Vietnamese coffee with sweetened condensed milk, served hot or cold).

Shrimp Spring Rolls with Peanut Sauce

Spring rolls with shrimp.

The spring rolls were unexpectedly well done, with a thin and tender rice membrane containing lettuce, cilantro, bean sprouts, boiled shrimp, and served with a light peanut sauce.

 

Pho Tai Nam Gau

Pho Tai, Nam, Gau

Pho Tai, Nam, Gau
Pho noodle soup with thin slices of eye of round steak, well-done flank steak, and marble brisket.

Marble brisket has thin layers of fat like bacon, making it quite tasty.

 

Pho Ga

Pho Ga

Pho Ga
Pho noodle soup with thin slices of white meat chicken, and thinly sliced onion that melts in your mouth.

 

Side VeggiesCilantro, basil, lime, jalapeno and bean sprouts on the side, giving you the options of adding flavor and texture to your pho.

Hoisin, sriracha, a hot chili sauce and soy sauce were available at the table. By adding a bit to each spoonful, rather than the entire bowl, splendid combinations of flavors will keep your pho from homogenization on the palate.

When you are next in Austin and have some time for lunch or needs a hearty, satisfying supper, stop by Pho Lee and indulge your senses.

On the 1-5 scale, Pho Lee has earned:
Cleanliness – 4.5
Service – 4
Quality of food – 4
Flavor – 5
Pricing – 3.5
Overall experience – 4.5

Pho Lee Vietnamese Restaurant
2601 N Interstate 35 Frontage Road
Round Rock, TX 78664
(512) 310-8585

Enjoy!

–Ann Cathey

Mighty Fine Burgers – Austin, TX

We’re doing a repeat this week. It’s been three years since we first visited a Mighty Fine Burgers location, and we figured it might be time to go back and check up on them.

With five Austin locations, now, it’s not hard to “Keep Austin Mighty” by visiting this place when in town. We’ve only been to the University Oaks location, but it has been consistent every time, over a period of several years. that counts for a lot in our dining considerations.

There are three dining areas at this location – indoors, indoor patio, or outdoor patio (dog friendly). The indoor areas are filled with long trestle tables, benches and chairs, family style. The outdoor patio has picnic tables with umbrellas, presided over by a monstrous spreading oak. There’s also a play area for the kids beneath that ancient tree.

A refresher on the simplicity of the menu:

Not counting the kids’ menu, the burgers only come in two patty sizes – 1/2 pound and 1/4 pound. You may, of course, double up, but that’s up to you and your stomach. There’s also a crispy chicken breast available to grace your bun if you prefer.

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Half Pound Cheeseburger

Burgers are alternately available on a gluten free bun for a dollar more, or in a bowl without a bun at all at no extra charge. The place can get a bit noisy around the lunch and dinner rush times, so be sure they hear you if you ask for these options.

Burgers or chicken come with your choice of shredded lettuce, sliced tomato, sliced onion, crinkle cut dill pickles, and grilled onions. Condiments are known simply as Red (ketchup), Yeller (mustard), or White (mayo) so don’t get confused when the person taking your order uses those terms. For a little extra you can have cheese, jalapenos, bacon, chili, or avocado added.

They offer crinkle cut fries and light and crispy onion rings deep fried in 100% trans-fat free peanut oil. Either may be ordered with cheese or chili.

 

DSC_0476Hand-dipped shakes come in the standard vanilla, strawberry or chocolate. The lemonade is fresh squeezed on site either original or strawberry. Specialty bottled sodas and beer are available. Fountain drinks and tea have unlimited refills, and depending on what you order you may need them.

 

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Half Pound Chili Cheeseburger with extra pickles.

Don’t forget the napkins. Lots of napkins.

If you are wanting some nutritional information, I suggest checking it out after you’ve tasted their food. A PDF containing the relevant statistics is available online.

About those pickles? My money is on them being the fat cut kosher dills from the Mt. Olive line.

On the 1-5 scale, Mighty Fine gets:
Cleanliness – 5
Service – 5
Quality of food – 5
Flavor – 5
Pricing – Moderate
Overall experience – 5
Mighty Fine Burgers
201 University Oaks Blvd
Suite 1380
Round Rock, TX 78664
(512) 381-3310

–Ann Cathey

Something New from Denny’s

Denny’s is a southern US institution, and like a lot of institutions, it has great pancakes, but everything else can be a gamble. In this case, that gamble paid off. After the cruise aboard the Carnival Breeze, I figured anything set before me might be a bit of a letdown. I was happily proven wrong.

I hadn’t been into a Denny’s for a while, and was very pleasantly surprised to find a new “skillet” on the menu: Smoky Gouda Chicken & Broccoli.

“Roasted seasoned chicken with caramelized onions, sautéed mushrooms and broccoli served atop whole grain rice. Topped with Italian cheeses and Gouda cheese sauce.”
– Denny’s Menu

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Smokey Gouda chicken & Broccoli Skillet

 

The dish you receive never looks quite like the advertising photos, but this one was tasty enough that I really didn’t care. the chicken was tender and not overcooked. the broccoli was firm, but not super crunchy. The mushrooms and onions were done to a turn rather than partially raw or blackened. The Gouda sauce, while supported by other cheeses, was well flavored and had just the right thickness to it.

I recommend this dish and it’s companion, the Smoky Gouda Prime Rib & Broccoli Skillet, to anyone who has a liking for cheese!

— Ann Cathey

Book Sale! – Conroe, Texas

The Library Friends of Conroe is a volunteer organization benefiting the Montgomery County Library System. Among the many projects they organize and run, they host a twice yearly Book Sale at the Central Library in Conroe, Texas. All of the books, dvds, VHS tapes, puzzles, music cds and other goodies available at the Book Sale have been donated by members of the community in the hopes that they will recirculate and bring needed funds to the local library system.

If you have never been to one of these extravaganzas, it is an experience. There are three large rooms and an entire hallway filled with tables that are covered in books of all types. I have been able to find the most remarkable cookbooks dating back into the 40’s at these tables, as well as out of print books, hard-to-find items, and am always willing to go back and check for more.

Beginning on Thursday, February 23rd, from 4:30pm to 8:00pm, is First Choice Night. There is no entry free and everyone is welcome. This is the first view of the items for sale and your chance not only to preview, but to make some awesome purchases for your own reading enjoyment and edification.

Please note that accepted payment methods are by cash or check only!

Continuing on Friday, February 24th, from 9:00am to 4:30pm, and Saturday, February 25th, from 9:00am to 3:00pm, the sale continues in all sale areas.

The famous $2 Bag Sale is on Saturday from 9:00am to 12:30pm in the large meeting room only. The Library Friends will provide you with a bag that you are allowed to pile as many books into as you wish – for only $2. All other areas remain at regular price.

Join us at 104 I-45 North, Conroe, Texas 77301, February 23rd thru 25th, for a Texas-sized Book Sale!

If you happen to miss the Spring Book Sale this year, remember that here is another one in the Fall, and Vicki’s Book Nook at the Central Library which is open whenever the library is.

For more information, please call 936-788-3888 or email lov2read@consolidated.net. You may also visit the MCLS website.

Clean and gently used donations are accepted all year at the  Book Nook at the Central Library.

–Ann Cathey