Category Archives: restaurant reviews

Tienda’s Tortilla Factory – Levelland, TX

Daniel (breeding partner and spouse) and I traveled Northwest this weekend for my high school reunion. James McMurtry has a song about our town, but you probably have heard of it because the Loboette (girl wolves in Spanish) basketball team won the state championship like a million times. No? You don’t care about 4A school sports? Yeah me either, my letter jacket says journalism on it. But say you die and you were a horrible person and God or Buddha or Shiva or Allah decides that you must experience hell, you could end up there. What would you do for food?

I recommend Tienda’s Tortilla Factory over on Houston Street across from the First Baptist Church (FBC) where I used to spend many hours thinking impure thoughts. Tienda’s, as you can imagine, is a family owned joint that has lots of rumors of selling joints along with their food. You’re supposed to go to the drive thru and order a jalapeno burger and a diet coke, or so they say. But the breakfast burritos (not tacos, burritos) are pretty much the best in the world. They’re big and full of real eggs, bacon, chorizo, papas (potatoes) and/or cheese. The tortillas are made on site of course. They serve menudo to the loyal locals in the morning, but have lunch and dinner entrees scrawled on a dry erase board as well. AVOID the queso. Camilla, when she was age 2 exclaimed “that’s not queso” when it was put before her. I was beaming with pride when I looked down and saw a glop of cheez whiz in a little bowl. However, the chips and salsa are something to experience. The salsa isn’t spicy but has a distinct flavor. When I taste it I am flooded with memories of skipping class or hiding from church choir practice. The chips are seasoned with lots of salt and chili powder but there’s something else mixed in. I think it might be celery salt but whatever it is, it’s powerful—powerful like the mighty lobo on a hunt for a neighboring Frenship Tiger.

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Tienda’s has highchairs, is nursing friendly, and the person manning the register might smile at your kid. It’s cheap and good. But when it comes time to pay they only accept cash or checks. I really think cash is the way to go especially if you aren’t sure how much is in your checking account. Our friend, treker meker, while in college got a call from the sheriff one evening and was told to report to the police station. He spent a good 4 hours in jail before he was told that months before he’d written a bad check at Tienda’s. He was never notified of the hot check and the tortilla factory owners just turned it over to the police. After pawning a television to clear his name he still went back there from time to time to eat, it’s that good.

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If you’re bringing kids with you then you may want to pack a ziploc bag full of quarters. A sign in front reads “No quarters for the machine or carwash”. The carwash was obvious because it’s across the street next to the FBC, but we finally realized that in the other room there is a junk machine full of disney princess figurines that cost $1 in quarters. Ironically they also sell hemp bracelets.

I think they’ll be around for years to come. They’ve added on a room to the restaurant since my days at LHS even though the town’s population has decreased by a tenth.

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Formerly Annapurna (New York City)

This review is about a past and future experience. As I don’t have the resources (time, money, energy) to pack up my darlings and fly to New York for dinner tonight, I’ll have to rely on memory. Annapurna was my absolute favorite Indian restaurant. Even after a 2 hour jaunt to Queens to experience an almost exclusively Indian neighborhood, it turns out I felt most satisfied with Little India (more like teeny tiny India) in Manhattan. dosahut.jpg

Annapurna, as I learned this weekend, means literally “big matter” or “fullness” but most commonly, “full of food”. I opened up my mailbox on Saturday to find a magazine offer with my name on it. It’s a consumer reports of the food industry. I opened it and read with horror that a certain brand of ice-cream contains more saturated fat than is recommended per day in just one single serving. My frustration was not with Haagen-Dazs but with the fact that there are people in the world that need a magazine to tell them that ice-cream isn’t the healthiest food choice. As a child of the 80s I know all too well what the “snackwell” industry has done to America. It’s made us fat! Why? Because we aren’t satisfied. We aren’t full of food, good tasting food.

When I enrolled in cooking school I was fed cheese, cream, all sorts of oils, steak etc. And within 3 months I had lost 17 of my 20 post September 11th pounds. For the first time I was satisfied. So on Saturday I threw the abomination in the garbage and picked up my current read, “Zen and the Art of Anything”. I opened it up to the section on eating and drinking. For the record, I deplore eating rules. “Good foods/Bad foods” are for people without taste buds.

Food so much is about memory and that’s where the pressure of parenting comes in. Do I want my girls to remember the taste of slow churn ice-cream made in the backyard or the low-fat kind from the green container? Really, which is healthier? Memory and experience are what bring me back to that beloved unassuming eatery in NYC. Makhani Chicken was my favorite dish there. It’s so buttery and creamy with a balance of acid from the tomatoes and lemon juice. I would scoop it up with steaming Naan and top it with grilled onions to make a sort of fajita, (I’m from Texas y’all). I cheated and read a little review on citysearch that said it’s kid friendly. I don’t remember whether they have highchairs or not since kids weren’t anywhere on the radar back then. It was a really big place and there wasn’t a wait (although it could get pretty crowded around 8pm). Order a lassi and the kiddos will be in heaven, I remember them being delicious. The staff I don’t think was particularly nice, but it’s NY…who is? Unfortunately I read that Annapurna has a different name now but I would still risk it and take the kids there.

If you are going to NYC stop by what used to be Annapurna and fill your belly. Then walk across the street to the famous Kalustyan’s (Indian and Middle Eastern Grocery store) and buy a tin of saffron. It’s only $30 instead of $60 elsewhere and it’ll last 10 years. Do the math, $3 a year for beautifully colored and seasoned rice. Your children will love you for it. I would give this place 4 1/2 golden sippy cups full of mango lassi.

What used to be Annapurna 108 Lexington Ave. NYC (212) 679-1284

Dandelion Cafe (Austin, TX my hometown)

Yeah, yeah I know. My little blog already has cobwebs from neglect. But I did venture out, a little. 3 week old baby and I met a friend at Dandelion Cafe over on E. 11th Street today. So it’s not the glamorous beginning I planned but hey this lactating mama managed to snag a little goat cheese during the noon hour.

Actually what makes this dining experience even more exciting is that it wasn’t planned. I had $7 and some change in my wallet and my intentions were just to have a spot of tea. Here’s the official critique:

English muffin with egg, fresh spinach, tomato and herbed goat cheese. The english muffin was nicely toasted (not hard to do) and the fresh spinach was…fresh. Egg was cooked to my liking but the goat cheese is where it’s at. Maybe because it’s been 10 months since I’ve had soft cheese, or maybe because it was actually good, whatever the case it tasted like heaven. The two teensy orange slices looked a little puny on the plate but it’s not really worth mentioning when you consider the damage was only $3.50. Look out Rachael Ray. This mama can out eat you for less than $40 a day and I don’t have an annoying cackle or say “YUMMMM.”

Toddler Tolerance: yes*

Breastfeeding Tolerance: yes**

Highchair: yes (from ikea how hip is that?)

Friendly Waitstaff: yes (she served me with a smile and a major hairy armpit)

Super Kid Friendly-there’s a little corner with toys to play with so mamas can gossip in peace.

*dear friend Elliot (16 months) was our official toddler tester. he toddled all over the place and even tried to pull a woman’s laptop plug from the outlet. there was no scolding, just Mama Becka saying “danger”. thanks Elliot, you’re hired!

**very breastfeeding friendly. it must be commonplace because no one told me i was spraying milk all over my baby’s face while sipping my tea. i didn’t realize she had unlatched. so much for my being discreet.

Overall this little cafe gets 4 golden sippy cups from me.

Dandelion Cafe 1115 E. 11th Street (512) 542-9542 Hours: M-F 7am-6pm; Sat & Sun 8am-4pm

Let’s do Launch

Today my second child is 8 days old, and we’re both absolutely ravenous. What better time to launch this little idea I’ve been dreaming up? Here’s the foggy/sleep deprived vision:

As a breastfeeding mama and culinary school grad, I want to ensure that I can go to any restaurant anywhere and the two of us can eat simultaneously. What if we were so lucky to live in a time that embraced childhood “gastro-education” (yeah, I coined that)? We teach our kids how to read and write but not how to eat. Sure we say “eat your veggies” or “that’s too much candy,” but we don’t really value exploration. I am positively obsessed with my children’s palates. When my 3 year old was a wee babe, I occasionally supplemented with, gasp, formula. BUT, not until I had done a blind tasting of about 5 different brands. Organic is definitely the way to go, the other stuff tastes like a metallic milkshake. I vowed that she’d have access to all different kinds of food. She had been exposed to sushi, curries, and calamari all before her first birthday and even though she loves her mac & cheese, I’m able to coax her to try just about anything still.

So, why not expose my children to gourmet food? Well, there’s the possibility that the valet dude might scoff at my ’88 volvo wagon with dual carseats, there won’t be a changing table, breastfeeding might offend the upper class (peasant food), my 3 year-old might talk too loudly, or I just might be ignored because of the stereotypes of parents being bad tippers.

But what if I’m wrong? Here’s the experiment. I will take my children to nice places to eat. No Chili’s, no chains unless they are local, no fast foods. These restaurants will be rated on toddler tolerance (she will be required to behave), breastfeeding tolerance ( I’ll do my best to be discreet), highchair/changing table accessibility, and the ability of the waitstaff to serve a tired mother just as they would anyone else.restaurant_cal.gif

Please mamas and daddies, join me in this experiment. Go out to eat! And eat well. Leave comments about your experiences and remember… Breeders are Eaters too, chicken nuggets just won’t do!