Good Eats in Irving & Grapevine

   One of the most challenging – and fun – parts of travel is finding truly good places to eat. I love somewhere with fun atmosphere, but tasty affordable food is definitely more of a priority. And because I’m usually more about experiencing the sights and experiences of the place I’m visiting, I’d rather not have to set aside half of a day or night to dedicate to one meal.

   When I visited the Irving and Grapevine area recently, I found a few spots that fit the bill. If you’re heading in that direction any time soon, you’ll want to check them out.

 

Texican Courts, 501 West Las Colinas Blvd., Irving

   Yes, a hotel! So often the restaurants at hotels are cookie-cutter decor, bland food options. Not here!

   The unique updated, motor court decor with a nod to Texas charm travels from the exterior to the interior spaces. If you’re lucky enough to be staying at the hotel, you’ll be treated to a wonderful complimentary breakfast, including pastries, fresh fruit, yogurt, oatmeals and plenty of other options to start your day off right. Our stay was during a cold snap, so we were especially happy to find a wide assortment of teas and coffees available, too.

   But even if you’re staying elsewhere or passing through, you can enjoy the ambience of this new property at lunch and dinner. I tried the barbecued beef tostado with black bean puree, caramelized onion and tomato. Yeah…your mouth is starting to water just thinking about it, isn’t it? It was so good! After the main course (which was portioned just enough to be filling without being ridiculous), my sister and I split a deliciously moist piece of Tres Leches cake. Now that’s how you wrap up a day of tourist ramblings!

   The hotel also has a separate tequila bar with a cozy fireplace that would make a great meet-up location with friends (especially if you have tickets to an event at the Toyota Music Factory right across the street).

 

Willhoite’s Restaurant, 432 South Main Street, Grapevine

   Grapevine is such a charming town, we wanted to be sure to find a restaurant that reflected the history and tastes of the area. Boy, did we find it!

   Willhoite’s is one of the most unique restaurants I’ve been in, but it is also one of the oldest and most historical buildings in town! And you KNOW I love historic buildings.

   The 1914 structure was first used as a dry good store, and then a theater. But in 1919 it was transformed into the first automotive garage in Grapevine. Pretty darn cool.

   In 1975, the Willhouites closed the garage, and six years later it was purchased by local Phil Parker and turned into one of the most atmospheric hamburger joints in the state. Lucky for us he worked to keep as many pieces of automotive history as possible. So many that sometimes it’s hard to concentrate on whether to eat or wander around!

   Where diners eat now may have been the wash rack, oil storage area, or beside the indoor kerosene pump.

   The centerpiece of the restaurant is a Texas-sized buffet with a beautiful, vintage auto perched right on top! The menu offers all sorts of comfort food in addition to sandwiches and hamburgers, all at prices that won’t use up all of your gas money.

      Have a burger for lunch here, and you probably won’t need dinner.

 

Salsa’s Mexican Grill , 3601 Regent Blvd #140, Irving

   Yes, I know…Salsa’s is a chain. But I’ve never eaten at one and had anything but a good experience, so on those evenings when I’m really tired and ready to call it a day, a familiar name can be welcome. This particular location was easy to access, clean and had a very friendly, easy-going staff. And the food…mmmmm. We had to order combination platters so we could enjoy a sampling of enchiladas, tacos, tostadas, tamales, rice and beans. They also had a salsa bar, which is something I haven’t seen at other locations. It was fun to sample a few different salsas that we may not have otherwise tried.

   This one may not have had the ambiance of the other two restaurants mentioned, but the food and prices make it a good option to keep on your list!

 

   So there are three options to consider while you’re in the Irving area. I’d love to hear your thoughts if you give any of them a try … or if you have other suggestions! Bon appetit!

Destination: Friendsgiving!

Looking for a reason to travel this fall, and get together with friends spread far and wide?

Plan a Destination Friendsgiving celebration!

 

     The Thanksgiving holiday season is an ideal time to show our friends what an important role they play in our lives. A “Friendsgiving” is a gathering of those people for a feast and time spent enjoying each others company.

Photo by Tamara Underdahl

     If your friends are coming from different parts of the state – or further, it will simplify things to find a bed and breakfast or rental hall as centrally located to everyone as possible. You might even put a fun twist on things by finding a town with a name perfectly paired to a Friendsgiving feast:

Turkey Texas

Blessing, Texas

Holliday, Texas

Salty, Texas

Moore, Texas (for the group that’s sure to want seconds)

Friendship, Texas

My Texan Pumpkin Pie

     If most of the members of your group live in cities, consider a country setting where there are fall colors and outdoor trails to enjoy together.

     Small town girls might consider staying in the city to enjoy the city lights and shopping.

     For accommodations, check Airbnb, VRBO and the local Chamber of Commerce. Finding an inn with room enough for everyone to stay in one place will extend the fun.

     For our meal space, we found a local small event venue in a historic building (and you know that makes me happy!) that wasn’t booked on the weekday we were getting together, and was having some work done on the property, so gave us a terrific deal.

     The location doesn’t matter as much as the friends.

     Next, choose a date that works for everyone. This usually means it won’t actually be the official week of Thanksgiving – which is great. It takes off some of the packed-schedule pressure. The added advantage is getting everyone away from the holiday stresses that at home.

     Social media can make the planning easy, but keep things as simple as possible.  It’s about the time spent together, after all!

     Set up a Facebook event to invite friends, and have everyone add to a master list of dishes they’re bringing. Pie and cookies are the most important, of course (I’m entitled to my opinion), but you’ll want a few sides and at least one main dish too. Since everyone likely will have a traditional Thanksgiving celebration with their families soon, you may even decide to have a more non-traditional potluck meal, with Italian or Mexican food. No rules!

     Well . . . maybe ONE rule. There must be pie. (It may be MY rule, but I think everyone will benefit from taking this one to heart!)

     If you’re traveling to a destination Friendsgiving, consider picking up smaller essentials at a local grocery store to save on packing lists and ice chest space.

     To really put the focus entirely on fun and togetherness, everyone can pitch in on ordering a dinner prepared by a local restaurant and to be picked up the afternoon or evening of the event.

     Once the time and place have been decided, do a little online investigating to search for nearby holiday events that your group might enjoy attending together.

     So what’s stopping you? Get busy contacting your favorite gang, choose a merry destination and celebrate your own Friends-giving.

     I’d love to hear where you go!

     And when you’re sitting back in a Friendsgiving food coma, take the time to check out the instagram accounts of some of my talented friends who gathered for our special occasion: Kathleen (mine, of course!), Stacy, Tamara, Amanda, Hailey, Christine, Vashti, Lauren, Tia, CourtneyLaShanta, Rachel Marie, Sarah and Sammy.

Butler’s Courthyard

 

 

 

 

Start Your Own Dia de los Muertos Party Tradition

    Texas traditions can originate from almost anywhere in the world, thanks to our diverse history of immigration. It shouldn’t come as any surprise that some of Mexico’s customs have been brought north of the border. The most colorful, and thought by many to be mysterious, celebration is Dia de los Muertos.

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Stacy Anderson Photography

    When I first approached a group of friends about having a Dia de los Muertos party, they were a bit hesitant. “Isn’t that kind of morbid?” “Isn’t that a celebration of death?”

    The simple answer is no – it’s something much more upbeat than you may think.

    Luckily, a few of them had seen the Disney Pixar movie “Coco” that familiarized American audiences with the celebration through a powerful story about family, community, tradition and remembrance. Think about Memorial Day, and the concept doesn’t seem so strange.

Dia de los Muertos vignette at the National Museum of Funeral History

    The gist is to celebrate the lives of our ancestors, rather than mourn their passing, by incorporating food, drink and activities they enjoyed in life. Family members create “altars” in their homes with photos of loved ones surrounded by offerings of food, flowers and mementos. Others visit family cemeteries to decorate ancestors’ graves and share stories about their lives. The days of the celebration surround the Catholic “All Souls Day” on November 2. (So it isn’t really a ‘Halloween thing” like many think.)

Stacy Anderson Photography

    Many of us no longer live in the communities of our ancestors, so circles of friends tend to become our new families. That’s why I thought having our own Dia de los Muertos celebration together would be a fun chance to celebrate all of our families and have some fun and great food at the same time! (Plus, I have some talented friends, so we’re always up for a reason to celebrate together!)

    You can easily put together your own party as well.

    Be sure to incorporate photos of loved ones who’ve passed, and share their stories. It keeps their spirit and your family lore alive.

    I not only included photos of my mother, who we lost last year to Alzheimers, but also made tissue paper flowers for decorations – a craft she taught me as a child.

Stacy Anderson Photography

    Attention to the smallest details can make a theme like this really come together. The talented Evangeline Event Designs made adorable sugar skull invitations and colorful menu cards, and I found some adorable small decorative accents, as well as a beautiful embroidered skull dishcloth at Hendley Market. The bright Fiestaware plates and platters are from Yesterday’s Best.

Stacy Anderson Photography

    No Mexican theme meal is complete without tamales. We loved these from Pennie’s Tex Mex Takeout.

Stacy Anderson Photography

    Alicia from The Kitchen Chick made chorizo with apricot sauce, Bob Armstrong queso (from the “Queso!” recipe book she carries in her store), and an amazing  Blackberry Mezcal Smash Cocktail.

    Our friend Stacy, otherwise known as the Hurried Hostess, made amazing fruit tacos and a churro bar. Yum-ola!

Stacy Anderson Photography

    But the item that really  had us all gasping in disbelief were the gorgeous cookies created by Jennifer from Good Gosh GanacheI mean, really…look at these beauties!

     Our friends Hailey and Tamara used their styling talents to help our buffet look amazing. Making this event such a group effort made it even more special.

    Many communities in Texas offer the opportunity to experience Dia de los Muertos, including San Antonio, Corpus Christi, Victoria and Austin. Check your local community calendar to see if there’s one near you, and celebrate!