Tasty Tuesday–Valle Taco Express

If you have traveled on IL 159 in Swansea recently, you may have noticed that there’s a new taco place in town. Specifically a taco truck and a taco stand…Valle Taco Express. The stand is only open when the truck doesn’t have an engagement, so you want to check their Facebook weekly page for their hours and locations.

Now, on to the food. I tried the taco plate, which included three tacos…steak, chicken, and fish, plus sides (I had a double order of the street corn), while Ryan had the steak and chicken Fuego burritos.

We both thought the steak options were a little dry, but still tasty. The sauce on my other two tacos was great…it had a nice kick to it. The meat was also cooked just right. The real star of the meal, though, was the corn. It had a nice char, and the addition of the cheese was the perfect topping.

I definitely enjoyed my meal, and I’d like to eat there again…it would also be fun to catch their truck at an event!

Tasty Tuesday–Beast Craft BBQ: Pork Belly Pastrami

Belleville’s Beast Craft BBQ has daily specials, as you might expect from a restaurant, and I’ve reviewed many of them in the years they’ve been open. But every now and again, they have something extra special, something so unique that it’s only around for a day or two, and you have to jump at the chance to get it before they sell out. Over the weekend, they offered such an item, a pork belly pastrami sandwich topped with dill cucumber salad, on sourdough, plus fries:

So, here’s the thing. When the owner of Beast messages you to let you know about the special, and tells you to get there early to try it, you really have to listen to him. So even though Ryan was out all day on Saturday (with our only vehicle), he found some time to swing by and pick one up for me.

That was a good call.

It’s obvious that I’ve liked everything I’ve tried at Beast, and have many favorites. This sandwich was extra special, though. The meat just melted in my mouth. It was so tender and so flavorful, and then when you add in the crunch of the cucumber salad…it’s definitely now one of my Beast favorites! I don’t know if they’ll ever bring it back, but if they do, I’m certainly going to have to get it again, and this time I know that I need to be there when they open, because I’m pretty sure Ryan got some of the last of it they had on Saturday, and that was at lunchtime!

Tasty Tuesday–Texas de Brazil

Ladybug and I have been planning to go to dinner at Texas de Brazil in the St. Louis Galleria for almost a year…Saturday was finally the day!

As soon as we walked in, we were impressed…there were color-changing lights behind the bar, which looked really cool through the various bottles!

The table was super fancy, and Ladybug was shocked by the napkin service, which is something she had never encountered. Not only did they place our napkins in our laps when we sat down, they refolded them every time we got up from the table!

If you’ve never been to Texas de Brazil, here’s how it works. After you’re seated, you can visit the salad bar. There were so many delicious options! (But watch out for that plant…it attacked me several times!)

In addition to the cold offerings, there are also some heated options, including their famous lobster bisque, Brazilian black beans, rice, and moqueca (fish stew):

At your table, you’re given a “coin.” One side indicates that you would like the waiters to stop by with whatever carved meat they’re carrying, and the other that you are content with what you have (at least for the time being!):

There are so many meat options, from all of the main meat groups…beef, chicken, pork, and lamb (plus the fish family at the salad bar…I tried all five kinds of meats!). Some are wrapped in bacon, some are seasoned with parmesan cheese, and all are delicious. In general, the meats are prepared medium-rare, but you can request more or less done options. And watching the waiters carve the meat table side is quite a treat!

In addition to the salad bar offerings (both cold and hot), a few side dishes are brought to your table, including garlic mashed potatoes, sweet fried bananas, and Brazilian cheese bread (Pao de Queijo), which I’ve actually made before!

We enjoyed everything we tried, from the drinks (Ladybug had a Brazilian soda, and I had their signature drink, the Caipirinha), to the salad bar (the pineapple carpaccio, couscous salad, and giant capers were some of our favorites!), to the meat (I was so happy to see so many rare options, including filet mignon and plain old steak):

And then the desserts. There was a tray with some of their offerings, including Brazilian cheesecake, carrot cake, and key lime pie), but they also have other choices including Brazilian flan, Crème Brûlée, and Brazilian Papaya Cream.

Ladybug and I both chose the chocolate mousse cake, and we were definitely not disappointed…it was AMAZING!

This was a very fun and special evening. I wish it was a place we could all visit someday, but it’s not practical for a large family. I do hope that I’ll get the chance to go back with somebody someday, though, because I had a great time, and really enjoyed my meal!

Tasty Tuesday–Sugarfire 64: The Cuban Reuben

My love of Beast Craft BBQ is well-documented, and I never thought I’d have a need for any other BBQ, but ever since Sugarfire Smoke House opened a location in the Metro East, Sugarfire 64, I knew I would have to try it out eventually. Sunday was that day.

Why Sunday, you may wonder? Well, Sugarfire recently took first place at the 2018 Sandwich World Championship. And on Sunday, they offered the World’s Best Sandwich, the Cuban Reuben, at the O’Fallon location. Not only did I want to try out the best sandwich in the world, I’m a sucker for a reuben, so it was the perfect opportunity.

The sandwich had three types of meat…pit ham, pastrami, and pulled pork…all were delicious. That was topped with Swiss cheese, horseradish mustard, and pickles. And if all that wasn’t enough, the “bun” was actually two grilled cheese sandwiches, which had both provolone and white American cheese and sourdough bread. I added some of Sugarfire’s white BBQ sauce, too.

When they say “World’s Best Sandwich,” they’re not exaggerating, at least not by much. It was the perfect combination of ingredients for lovers of both Cuban sandwiches and Reubens. The BBQ sauce was good, too (Ryan thinks Beast’s is still the best, and I tend to agree, although I’m not a connoisseur of BBQ sauce like he is), and the portions were beyond generous….splitting it was definitely not a problem! I also tried the brisket au gratin potatoes for my side, and if that isn’t comfort food right there, I don’t know what is.

Beast will always be my first BBQ love, but I wouldn’t mind going back to Sugarfire 64 and trying some of their other offerings, because their food is excellent!

Tasty Tuesday–Gerard’s 1907 Tavern

We were in Bowling Green, KY, for my birthday last month, a town with restaurants that are mostly unfamiliar to me. I knew I wanted to try something different, so after some Googling, I found Gerard’s 1907 Tavern, which is located in a historic building right by Fountain Square Park, and just down the hill from Western Kentucky University. It turned out to be a great choice!

Both the outside and the inside of the building look really cool. I love the exposed brick, the light fixtures, and the ceiling beams…but I especially love the sense of history in the place!

The food was excellent. Since it was my birthday, we splurged a bit. We tried an appetizer of fried pickles and jalapeños with a homemade buttermilk sauce. They were delicious, and some of the jalapeños were amazingly spicy (for me, anyway…Ryan was unfazed). We also got drinks. Ryan had an old-fashioned (he approved), and I had a Paloma, which was quite tasty. We both ordered sandwiches for our entrées. Ryan had the Cuban, which he said was prepared just right, and I had the GT burger, which was topped with Henry Bain sauce, gouda, slaw, and tobacco onions. The burger wasn’t as rare as I prefer (unless I’m at Seamus, it never is), but the meat was good, and I loved the combination of toppings. We both had the hand-cut fries on the side, and they came with a great roasted red pepper ketchup.

I’m really glad we had the opportunity to try someplace new, and were rewarded with a great meal in the process!

Tasty Tuesday–Three Broomsticks

For the first time ever, I’m reviewing a restaurant in a theme park! This is very unusual for me, mostly because we haven’t really gone to a theme park before this summer (unless you count Six Flags, which I don’t). But while we were at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, the Fab Five and I ate lunch at Three Broomsticks, which is in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Hogsmeade area of the park, and we enjoyed our meal so much, I thought it deserved to be shared!

The atmosphere, like everything else in both Wizarding World of Harry Potter areas, is perfect. You really feel like you’re in one of the books or movies, eating in a restaurant in an actual village called Hogsmeade. The place was crowded, and we did have to wait in line, but it moved efficiently, the staff was very friendly, and we had so much fun looking around, it made the time pass quickly.

On to the food. I had assumed that theme park food would be only ok, and the portions would be small, but I was wrong about both. The fish and chips, which Bunny and I both ordered, were excellent…among the best I’ve ever had, and they even had malt vinegar on the tables, which made it even better. Turkey ordered a smoked turkey leg, which he really enjoyed. Ladybug felt the same about the chicken legs she ordered from the children’s menu. And Moose and Chickadee both liked the mac ‘n’ cheese, and the serving was so generous, I could hardly believe it…I can’t think of another restaurant I’ve been to (aside from Red Robin and their bottomless mac ‘n’ cheese refills), that dishes out such a large portion…and there were grapes and applesauce to go with it! The butterbeer, a staple in Harry’s world, was pictured at the Leaky Cauldron, but is also available at Three Broomsticks, and was delicious. Very sweet, but also quite refreshing…we’ve already figured out how to make a copycat recipe at home!

I won’t lie…the prices were pretty high for us. But I don’t think they were unreasonable, given the experience, the quality of the meal, and the amount of food we received. If we ever find ourselves back at Universal, I would happily eat another meal at Three Broomsticks!

Tasty Tuesday–Beast Craft BBQ: The Hawaiian

You would think that by now, Beast Craft BBQ would have run out of new combinations with which to tempt me.

You’d be wrong.

On Saturday, Beast introduced a new sandwich: The Hawaiian. It included pulled pork, smoked pineapple, and a jalapeño, cilantro, onion, and lime slaw. It sounded so good. But I was strong, and let it pass me by.

Until the next day, when it was on the menu again, and my resolve crumbled.

This sandwich is amazing. It’s even better than I thought it would be, and my expectations, because I know Beast so well, were high. The pulled pork, which I’ve had before, was as delicious as always. The slaw was just the right amount of spicy. And the smoked pineapple added the perfect extra something to the sandwich. I can only hope it appears on the menu again, because it was delicious!

Tasty Tuesday–Schnitzel and Spätzle and Strudel…Oh My!

It seemed like we waited over 400 years for the Belleville Hofbräuhaus to open, but they are finally fully operational. Of course, we had anxiously anticipated eating at this restaurant since the day we heard they were going to build it, and now we’ve been there twice in two weeks! That was kind of an anomaly, because of a birthday celebration, so I think it will be awhile before we go back, but I’m excited to share our experience(s)!

First of all, the restaurant is HUGE. It is billed as the largest Hofbräuhaus in America (30,000 square feet!!!), but you don’t really get just how big it is from driving by…you really have to go inside to  understand its grand scale!

In addition to seating for 450 in the restaurant (and that doesn’t even count the banquet room), there’s also an outdoor biergarten that can seat over 200, and the weather is finally nice enough for diners to enjoy it!

Both times we went, there was live music. Since they bring musicians in from Europe every month, we got to see two different bands (one in April and one in May), and both were great…I think we heard all of our German favorites, including “Edelweiss,” “Mein Hut, der hat drei Ecken,” and “Roll out the Barrel.” We also enjoyed the sounds of the alphorn the first time we visited.

The brewery is a big part of the operation, and they are always brewing several varieties of beer (according to the Reinheitsgebot), including a seasonal selection.

Of course, the main attraction is the food (ok, depending on who you ask, because some people are there for the beer!), and the menu is quite extensive:

We tried two different appetizers…Bayerischer Raditeller (shaved radishes and rye bread) and a jumbo pretzel with Obatzda cheese, sweet mustard, and onion mustard. Both were excellent!

We tried quite a few main courses over our two visits, as well. Pictured here is Schnitzel Wiener Art, Kartoffelpuffer, the special “sausage tower,” Sauerbraten, Schweinebraten, Bavarian potato salad, and my personal favorite, Paniertes Jägerschnitzel (with spätzle, of course!). Ryan said it’s the best schnitzel he’s had outside of Vienna!

We tried three beers over the two visits, as well…Märzen, Dunkel, and Maibock:

We even had a dessert, and let me tell you, the Apfelstrudel is AMAZING!!!

Did I mention that the servers wear German national dress?

There’s even a small gift shop, where they have a variety of beer glasses, imported candy, and other German novelties:

After waiting so long for the Hofbräuhaus to open, I was a little worried it might not live up to the hype, but in my opinion at least, it really does. It feels just like I imagine a real German bierhall does, and the atmosphere, with the music, the lederhosen, and the enthusiastic diners just reinforces that feeling. It’s a great experience, and I’m already looking forward to whenever we might get to go back!

Tasty Tuesday–Shogun

Last week I took Turkey out for an early birthday dinner at a restaurant he’s really been wanting to eat at…Shogun!

Shogun is a Japanese restaurant that has a traditional dining room, a sushi bar, and a teppanyaki menu. The interior of the restaurant looked exactly like I hoped it would, with lots of cherry blossoms, bamboo, and even a fountain:

We started off with a sashimi plate, and all of the varieties of fish on it were excellent. I liked the salmon best, and Turkey liked the white fish (we’re not entirely sure what it was) the most, but they were all so good!

Our dinners came with soup and salad, and while I don’t know exactly what kind of soup it was, or what variety of salad dressing we were served, I know that they were both delicious. So was the drink I tried (the Buddha)…it was very tropical!

The best part of the experience was watching the chef prepare our meal. Not only was he a great cook, he was also funny, and a great showman. He even tried to flip pieces of food into Turkey’s mouth while he was cooking!

Turkey ordered the filet and lobster tail, and I had the filet and scallops. We both also got vegetables, fried rice, and shrimp with our meals. It was a lot of food! Everything was cooked just right, and seasoned well.

Even though we were full, and had to get takeout boxes to bring home part of our dinners, we had to try the mochi ice cream for dessert. Turkey had the green tea variety, and I had the red bean. They were both fantastic!

This was a really fun, unique, and delicious experience, and a great way to celebrate Turkey’s birthday!

Tasty Tuesday–The Best of Beast!

I’m still super excited that Beast Craft BBQ made the top 20 of Ian Froeb’s “STL 100” restaurant list, and was named the “best barbecue restaurant in the St. Louis area” on that list! I thought today, it would be fun to take a look back at all of the amazing meals I’ve had at Beast over the last three-plus years:

Some of the items pictured are from when Beast was just starting out, and don’t really appear on the menu anymore. Some are rather new addition’s to Beast’s menu, and are available regularly. And a few have been there from the beginning, and are such favorites that they’re menu staples. They all have one thing in common, though, and that’s how delicious they are!