MOD Pizza – Conroe TX

Welcome to another review of a chain pizza place. Another pizza place, you say doubtfully? Definitely not JUST another pizza place, we proclaim!

We stopped by the newly opened MOD loction in Conroe, Texas, to give it a try. We had heard good things from several foodie friends and figured, “Why not?” We were very pleasantly surprised!

MOD Pizza is spreading like wildfire, offering personal sized thin crust brick oven pizza. One price, with as many ingredients selection as you wish, from the sauce to
the drizzle. Cheeses, meats, veggies (and technically fruits) make a super list to choose from. They also offer salads with all the same toppings. Everything is fresh and made to order. The salad dressings may be requested as drizzles, though you may surprise the staff swhen asking for this. We did, and found the honey-lime dressing to make a tasty sweet-tart counterpoint to our savoury pies!

To give you an idea of what they will hand-build for you, here are The pizzas we ordered on our first visit:

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White sauce, mozzarella, Parmesan and Asiago cheeses, mushrooms, black olives, and grilled chicken. This is the pizza the honey-lime drizzle was ordered for.

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Pesto for the sauce, mozzarella, feta, Parmesan, Gorgonzola and Asiago cheeses, mushrooms, black olives, garlic, grilled chicken, bacon and beef with a pesto drizzle.

 

If the photos aren’t mouthwatering enough, you will have to see (and smell) these pies in
person.

On the 1-5 scale, MOD Pizza gets:
Cleanliness – 5
Service – 4
Quality of food – 5
Flavor – 5
Pricing – 3
Overall experience – 4.4

MOD Pizza
1240 N Loop 336 W #500
Conroe, TX 77301
(936) 441-0054

“Holy cats! This is tasty! This place will be bad for my diet and wallet,
but good for the
soul.”    –Christopher

Visit a MOD location near you and let us know what you think!

–Ann Cathey

Gypsy Joynt – Galveston, Texas

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In a building that has survived multiple hurricanes, a little hippie restaurant opened that’s a definite winner. Gypsy Joynt is an eclectic mix of atmosphere, food, coffees, and desserts that’s sure to grab your attention. Don’t be fooled by the exterior where the flagpoles proudly bear bandannas, t-shirts and jeans, this place rocks.

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From the time we walked in to the time we left, we were treated to an array of Rolling Stones music. Seemed to be the sound of the day and we didn’t mind in the slightest. The dj booth is built of what looks like scavenged wood, with racks of LPs, and a command station presided over by a computer that rules the sound system. I didn’t get too good a look at the rest of the goodies in the booth, as there was so much more to see.

There’s a lot of dark wood, including the tables and mismatched chairs, that helps to give a comfortably cave-like feel to the interior, Shawls hung over the windows, scarves and beads from the ceiling, with a scattered mix of period posters, toys, and other implementada ranging from the late 50’s to the mid 70’s along the walls. The bar top (they do serve beer) where you place your order, is cut from an old pool table. The slab still has it’s felt jacket, and the pockets their leather baskets.

Pick up a menu and be prepared for a wild ride!

From pizza to focacia sandwiches and wraps, to salads to a truly decadent dessert bar, this place seems to have a little bit of everything.

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Smoretella – Nutella, toasted marshmallow, Graham cracker.

Autumn Cocoa – fudge, pumpkin spice, homemade pumpkin marshmallow.

 

 

Rocco Rocks – mac-n-cheese and brisket pizza. Think what you will, but one of our tablemates called it “possibly the perfect pizza”.

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dsc_0021Big & Sloppy – a chili cheeseburger that might best be served on a plate instead of a burger basket! I ordered bunless and was not disappointed. The grilled sirloin patty was served up beneath sliced cheddar and a ton of house-made chili. The chili wasn’t hot, which was a very pleasant change from today’s trend toward scorching your face off, though it usually comes with hot onions and jalapenos. Yes, those are sweet potato waffle fries.

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I Love Lucy – This lovely combo sandwich was ordered as a wrap. Stuffed with ham, pulled pork, Swiss cheese, house-made pickles and mustard, it was a tasty and filling meal when coupled with the sweet potato waffle fries.

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House-made pickles – What a pleasant surprise! With a firm crunch, these thick wavy slices come in somewhere between hamburger dills and kosher, with a sweet afterglow on the back of the tongue.

 

When next you are on Galveston Island and feeling a bit peckish, skip the Strand and give this Joynt a try.

On the 1-5 scale, Gypsy Joynt gets:
Cleanliness – 4.5
Service – 3
Quality of food – 5
Flavor – 5
Pricing – 3.5
Overall experience – 4.2

Gypsy Joynt
2711 Market Street
Galveston, Texas 77550
409-497-2069

 

— Ann Cathey

Book Sale! – Conroe TX

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 Library.

If you have never been to one of the 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, and am always willing to go back and check for more.

Beginning on Thursday, October 6th, 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.

Continuing on Friday,October 7th, 9:00am to 4:30pm, and Saturday, April 25thOctober 8th, 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, October 6-8, for a Texas-sized Book Sale!

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

Burger Fresh – Conroe, TX

What was apparently over advertised as one of Conroe’s hidden gems turned out to be a bit of a disappointment for us when we visited for the first time. Even the window ads screamed of it’s popularity, highlighting several offerings and a rating in Texas Monthly’s Best Burgers in Texas.

Burger Fresh is a small establishment with a broad offering of burgers and sides, and even it’s own brand of hot sauce called “Road Kill”. Ordering a side with a full-size burger will get you free refills on the side order, too.IMG_1013

IMG_1015The by-the-register special of the day when we visited was a double with fries and a drink. Little did we suspect it was a Junior burger, though we figured on the one-shot fries and medium drink. It was on special, after all.

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The fried pickles were the day’s saving grace, being thin, crispy, and flavorful. The crunch was simply sublime! If for nothing else, I will return to Burger Fresh for the fried pickles.

 

We do plan to return to this location and try the “grown-up” burgers. from what we’ve seen, they should be vastly better than the Jr. burgers. They had better be for the price.

IMG_1018On the 1-5 scale, Burger Fresh gets:
Cleanliness – 4
Service – 3
Quality of food – 3
Flavor – 3
Pricing – 3
Overall experience – 3.2

Burger Fresh
804 Gladstell St #110
Conroe, TX 77304
(936) 756-4414

–Ann Cathey

MOD Coffehouse – Galveston TX

DSC_0515Founded in 2001, MOD enjoys a corner space along Postoffice Street in the heart of Historic Downtown Galveston. With a staple of Fair Trade, Organic coffee and teas, MOD strives to bring the best coffee, teas, espressos and home baked goods, and the warmest welcome every day. They also offer smoothies and Italian sodas as well as wine and beer.

MOD offers daily beer and wine happy hours, too. As of my writing this, there is not yet a menu available online, but it’s coming.

From the study loft, to the open air space with comfy chairs, to the cafe style room filled with mix and match tables and chairs, to the lovely arbor covered outdoor patio, MOD has a comfortable space for you to enjoy your drinks.

Art on the Walls is a MOD showcase for new local artists. Every six weeks a new artist is invited to display their work.

DSC_0519 To GoMOD hosts many more such entertaining and community-minded activities. Live music on the patio, poetry night (dates and times fluctuate), local artist and author exhibits, book groups, creative writing groups, a lovely arbor covered patio, study nooks, and free wi-fi. The folks at MOD recycle, too, having a special relationship with a local farm who takes used coffee grounds to mix into their fertilizers and soils.

Spaces are available at MOD for small group meetings (6-8) or reserve the community room for larger events (up to 50). Contact Holly at MOD 409-765-5659 for information and availability.

This is another dog friendly business, welcoming polite dogs on leashes. Bicycles are also welcome, and even have parking space available.

If you just can’t get enough of MOD, you may want to take some home to brew for yourself. They make their teas and coffees available, as seen on the website:

Organic Fair Trade coffee available by the cup or by the pound and ½ pound

         Espresso beans available by the pound and ½ pound

         Herbal teas available by the cup or in bulk

The Wandering Texans enjoy MOD as often as possible, and are pretty sure you will like it, too.

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Honey Bee – vanilla honey latte

On the 1-5 scale, MOD Coffeehouse gets:
Cleanliness – 4.5
Service – 4
Quality of food – 5
Flavor – 5
Pricing – 4
Overall experience – 4.5

MOD Coffeehouse
2126 Post Office Street
Galveston, TX 77550
(409) 765-5659

— Ann Cathey

Freddy’s Steakburgers – Houston TX

DSC_0838We happened to go on an outing to a gun show, and came back out really hungry. There was a Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers in a shared parking lot and as we have never been to a location in that chain, we decided to give it a go.

You can check out the menu here.

I had the patty melt, while my partner ordered a chili cheese burger. I loved it that the pickles were thick cut and kosher dill. Sadly, the portions were small for the price, in spite of the heaps of fries. Burger patties were thin and dry regardless of what was piled on top of them.

The fries were crispy when fresh, and being extremely thin cut, they cooled and lost their appeal rather quickly.

DSC_0837The house sauce was reminiscent of other establishments “special” or “secret” sauce and may well be commercially available under another name all together.

Not terribly impressed with the food. It wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t up to our standards, either. I am fairly certain, since this is a chain establishment, that the food at other locations will be similar if not just the same.

We did not have an opportunity to try the vaunted frozen custard or Chicago dogs, though we are now leery of doing so. Freddy’s feels like someone cobbled together ideas from other popular restaurants without bothering to take the time to ensure the quality before throwing it out there to try to make a buck.

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At least the tea was fresh.

 

 

 

On the 1-5 scale, Freddy’s Steakburgers gets:
Cleanliness – 4
Service – 3
Quality of food – 2.5
Flavor – 3
Pricing – 3
Overall experience – 3.1

Freddy’s Steakburgers
19370 N Freeway Service Dr
Spring, TX 77373
Phone:(281) 907-6553
— Ann Cathey

Nautical Antiques – Galveston TX

Nautical Antiques & Tropical Decor is the full name of the shop in question. Tucked away on a side street just off the Strand in Galveston, this antique emporium has a specialized theme – anything to do with ships and the sea. From hatch doors to glass floats to fine china taken from wrecked cruise ships, there seems to be a little bit (or a lot) of everything you might imagine available for collectors of things nautical, and theme decorators. I would imagine items in this store would make excellent movie props as well, if they have not already!

See for yourself. The owner was nice enough to allow me to take pictures inside the store to share with readers here on the blog.

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Helm wheels, compasses, sea chests, lanterns, signage, oars, throttles, spotlights, carved wooden sea life…

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Hatch doors and covers, rudder gears, glass fishing floats…

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Retired navigational charts, more lanterns and fishing floats, bobs, colors (flags)…

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Colors (flags), brassworks, sailboat art, life preservers, bilge pumps, net floats, carved marlins, tikis…

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Signal flags, portal windows, silly signage…

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Netting, galley stairs, deck boards, ventilation covers…

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Large block-n-tackle…

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Loose mount compasses with histories, diving helmets, pulleys, knot samples…

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Dinnerware salvaged from oceangoing vessels (pictured dishes from the Evergreen Line)

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Gauges, throttles, cleats…

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Did I mention glass floats?

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Brass bells, rope…

In short, this place seems to have a little bit of everything having to do with ships and the sea!

Nautical Antiques & Tropical Decor
2202 Mechanic Street
Galveston, TX 77550

(409) 539-5469

— Ann Cathey

 

Stuttgarden Tavern – Galveston, TX

DSC_0532Touted as the “Best Lil’ Beer Garden in Galveston”, Stuttgarden Tavern is located on the east end of the Historic Strand area, just off 21st Street. It is an open air patio style restaurant serving food, beer on tap and bottled, wine, and featuring a greenhouse-enclosed full service liquor bar.

 

 

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The food is German or has a distinctive biergarten bent, and is outstandingly tasty.

 

 

DSC_0462 Irish Nachos Stuttgarden

 

Irish Nachos – waffle fries topped with minced meat (pulled pork this time), cheddar cheese, bacon bits and sour cream. [photo]

 

DSC_0543 Sauerkraut Balls Stuttgarden

 

 

Sauerkraut Balls – delightful balls of sauerkraut, breaded, fried, and offered up with dipping sauces.

DSC_0461 Banger n Mash Stuttgarden

 

 

 

Banger & Mash – bratwurst (choose from hot, cheese stuffed, mild or seasonal) served with mach potatoes and gravy and braised cabbage.

 

DSC_0456 Gouda Brat Stuttgarden

Gouda Brat – served on an oversized hot-dog style bun, this bratwurst is covered in sauteed mushrooms and onions, with a lavish application of smoked Gouda beer fondue. (Pictured is the seasonal brat, stuffed with mixed venison and other meats.)

 

DSC_0546 Brat Sampler Plate Stuttgarden

 

Brat Sampler Plate – a variety of brats to choose from (hot, cheese stuffed, mild or seasonal) , with ‘kraut and cabbage sides.

 

 

DSC_0457 the Stephen Stuttgarden

 

The Steven – a half pound of beef served with house made BBQ sauce, house made pickles, a fried onion ring and cheddar on a grilled bun.

 

 

DSC_0458 Trd Burger w German Potatoes StuttgardenThe Traditional Burger – a half pound of beef served with lettuce, tomato, house made pickles and shaved onion on a slightly sweet grilled bun. (Photo includes Swiss and avocado.)

German Potato Salad – served cold or warm on request, featuring sliced red potato, bacon, green onion, and house dressing.

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Order in or for takeout. You can even call in an order for pick-up any time during the kitchen hours.

This place is also dog friendly. Their website proclaims, “We like dogs… Dogs are always welcome on the patio.”

DSC_0533On the 1-5 scale, Stuttgarden Tavern gets:
Cleanliness – 4
Service – 4
Quality of food – 4.5
Flavor – 4.5
Pricing – 4
Overall experience – 4.2

Stuttgarden Tavern on the Strand
2110 Strand Street
Galveston, TX 77550
(409) 497-4972

–Ann Cathey

Murdoch’s Bathhouse – Galveston, TX

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Murdoch’s as seen from Murdoch’s!

Bathhouse? As a matter of history, Murdoch’s was originally a bathhouse that rented bathing suits and provided showers for Island visitors. Built on the sand of the beach in the 1800s before the seawall was constructed.

Without the protection of a Seawall, the 1900 storm destroyed the bathhouse. Although the structure was rebuilt in 1901, the storms of 1909, 1915, and 2008 were so violent, that reconstruction was required after each. When Murdoch’s reopened in 1910, it had 542 rooms, 251 for women and 291 for men. The cost at the time to rent the bathroom services were 25 cents.

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Racks of conch and clam shells, that have been a Murdoch’s feature since at least the 1960s.

In spite of such storms, Galveston gets an excellent share of sunny days all through the year, but modern visitors are not all interested in getting sand between their toes. Murdoch’s is a full blown tourist trap full of all kinds of souvenirs, but it also has an outstanding spot to relax, have an beverage, and listen to the wind and waves.

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Grab a seat ad relax for a while.

Murdoch’s is a long-standing seawall tradition on the Island, offering seashells and toys, t-shirts and shorts, hats and sunshades, and tons of other cute, kitschy, brightly colored memories of your visit. The building is built out over the surf on piers, just as the original building had been back before Hurricane Ike. There are two entrances leading into wide, airy showrooms, connected by a long stretch that houses more gifts, a bar, and an outdoor covered porch. You can sit in one of the many rockers and simply be, watching tourists on the seawall side, or the waves and gulls and tankers all the way to the horizon.

DSC_0745It’s a great place to sit back and relax for a little while in between walking stretches of the seawall, or without having to fight off kids, sand, and overzealous seagulls.

DSC_0649Watch out the for the pigeons, though. As with pigeons anywhere, they beg. They also flock in the area around the building and net beneath it side by side with their seagoing cousins.

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The Pleasure Pier as seen from Murdoch’s.

Murdoch’s Bathhouse
2215 Seawall Blvd
Galveston, TX 77550
(409) 762-7478

— Ann Cathey

Galveston Railroad Museum – Galveston, TX

While we have been to Galveston numerous times, we have yet to make the time to stop in at the Railroad Museum at the end of the Strand. Built inside the former Sante Fe Union Station and an adjoining building, this is the largest museum of it’s kind in the southwest. We understand that it’s an insightful visit to part of American history, a chance to crawl around inside an assortment of period rail cars, as well as an informative look at model railroading.

A steam engine displayed in a museum courtyard.

A steam engine displayed in a museum courtyard.

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Shearn Moody Plaza entrance located at 25th and the Strand.

There are over 4.5 acres of exhibits both in and out of doors, and rail cars from the late 19th and early 20th centuries for your self-guided touring pleasure. There are steam engines, mail cars, and even a caboose in the yard. Inside you might imagine what waiting for a train was like in the depot, or get a feel for the opulence of period dining cars.

The Harborside Express, an actual if abbreviated train, runs most Saturdays between 11am and 2pm, allowing passengers a ride in an authentic red caboose.

Your parking is free with paid admission in the lot at 2602 Santa Fe Place, across the street form the Museum entrance. Park for the entire day, visit the museum, and stroll the Historic Strand for shopping and dining.

Group rates are available. The museum may also be rented for special events.

The Railroad Museum is open daily from 10am – 5pm in summer, and 9am – 4pm in winter. The only exceptions are for Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, and Mardi Gras.

Tree sculptures across the street from the Museum.

Tree sculptures across the street from the Museum.

Galveston Railroad Museum
2602 Santa Fe Place
Galveston, Texas 00000
(409) 765-5700

— Ann Cathey