Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Spice Station: A Halal Desi Restaurant in South Central Texas

Restaurant: Spice Station Indian Cuisine
Address: 1030 E Lott Street, Kingsville, Texas 78363
Buffet or a-la-carte: a-la-carte
Date of visit: 8/30/17

Background:
Salam/hey guys! By the grace of Allah SWT, I am able to write this review. Thankfully the weather conditions managed to improve in time for the drive to happen (Kingsville is located near Corpus Christi), and so did the roads for the most part. So I was with my dad, his friend, my friend from India, and his friend. From Cypress, we were to drive to Kingsville to drop my friend and his friend off at Texas A&M Kingsville since they were graduate school students, and they had class later in the day (Kingsville was sparred from Harvey while Corpus wasn't, and they're only 45 minutes away!). It was a pain to get there because parts of Grand Parkway was shut down, Much of Rosenberg shut down and we had to take a detour (to the person from Fort Bend EOC who gave me the directions, thank you so much), and places were either badly damaged or flooded (Wharton was underwater and Refugio was damaged heavily). The idea of Spice Station came because the students went to Kingsville and they enjoyed the food. My dad's friend knew the place when it started out in a gas station. A quick search on zabihah.com showed that there were two other places: Cafe 5, a place having both Indian and Mediterranean food), and a KFC (surprising for a really small town). Alhamdulilah for living in Texas, where you can find at least one halal restaurant in so many spots.


Let The Experience Begin!
Spice Station is a small restaurant located on Lott Street. We came in and we were greeted. The students knew the owner, so they just spoke for a bit before proceeding. There were two options: rice and two options for $7.57 and rice and three option for $10.81 (both tax included). Interestingly, the biryani was considered an option.


Let's Eat!
Since we were all hungry after having not so good donuts in Rosenberg, we all went for the rice and three options. What basically happens is that there are items that are in a buffet counter, and the restaurant people serve what you ask for. I got the spicy basmati rice with the biryani, chicken 65, and chicken kofta. To drink, I just got water.

Menu: https://www.beyondmenu.com/36827/kingsville/spice-station-indian-cuisine-kingsville-78363.aspx#group_1386932
Very affordable prices. This is your regular spot for Indian food. They have the usual stuff like chicken tikka masala and samosas, but they do have chat and pani puri.


The plate


The Verdict:
The food looked great and tasted great overall. The clear winners were the biryani and the chicken 65. The chicken 65 here easily tops the ones I had in Houston. The biryani was also very tasty as it had a lot of flavor. The kofta could have had a little more flavor and so can the basmati rice. This place was also filling, just like Biryani Pot. Overall, a good job by the restaurant on the food

Service was great as well. The owner was really friendly and took very good care of all the people that were dining, including us. He was also very friendly with all the customers, which is a rare thing in Indian/Pakistani places.  He really did make us and everyone else feel welcome inside the restaurant.

Conclusion:
This place is essentially the Biryani Pot of South Texas in terms of food, but with better service.  The best opportunity to check this out is if you are visiting someone at A&M Kingsville, or if you want some halal food on the way to South Padre Island. If you visit Corpus Christi, go at your own discretion since this place is 45 minutes away from there.

Grading:
Food: 8/10
Service: 10/10
Total: 18/20 = 90% (A)
Pricing: $ out of $$$$



Restaurant Information:
Spice Station Indian Cuisine
1030 E Lott Street, Kingsville, Texas 78363
Phone: (361) 592-1376 or (979) 571-8232
Website: http://www.spicestationindian.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/spicestationindiancuisine/
Timings: Mon-Fri: 11 AM - 9:30 PM; Sat: 11 AM - 4:30 PM; Sun: Closed
Caters: Yes

Feel free to comment below, send me a message on Facebook, or email me!

Cheers!
Zain Mohammed 

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Hurricane Harvey Relief

Salam/hey guys. I know this is not normal, but we here in Southeast Texas need your help. Last week, Hurricane Harvey battered all of Southeast Texas and it left major damage and catastrophic flooding all over Houston. There were areas that were hit by tornadoes, and areas where entire SUBDIVISIONS have been destroyed. Thankfully, there has been a huge rescue effort that has been taking place since Harvey left, and many places have opened up as shelters, unlike a well known church (Hint: it used to be the arena for the Rockets). But these rescue efforts still need your help! Below are some of the places that you can donate to to help those affected by Hurricane Harvey

JJ Watt: https://www.youcaring.com/victimsofhurricaneharvey-915053

ICNA: https://www.icnarelief.org/wp/index.php/hurricaneharvey

Galveston County Food Bank: https://33714.thankyou4caring.org/sslpage.aspx?pid=298

Houston Food Bank: https://secure3.convio.net/hfb/site/Donation2?df_id=9314&mfc_pref=T&9314.donation=form1

ISGH (Islamic Society of Greater Houston) https://isgh.org/harvey/

Remember, each dollar can make a difference. Please keep all of us here in your prayers and also share this page with your friends and family.

Peace and Blessings to all,

Zain Mohammed

Monday, August 21, 2017

Jade Ly Asian Bistro: Another Spot for Halal Chinese Food in Sugar Land

Restaurant: Jade Ly Asian Bistro
Address: 5022 Highway 90A, Sugar Land, Texas
Buffet or a-la-carte: a-la-carte
Date of visit: 8/15/17



Background:
Salam/hey guys! Today I will be writing about a trip that I have been anticipating all year. This place is called Jade Ly Bistro. For the past 5 years there had only been one halal Chinese restaurant in Sugar Land: China King. Overall, it has been decent, but it would be really nice to see some competition. Another halal Chinese option would mean people being able to choose which one to choose from. After Hunan Chef closed, there had been a shortage of halal conventional Chinese places since Uyghur Bistro is more focused on food from Northwest China. By conventional, I mean food such as Kung Pao Chicken, Mongolian Beef, or Sesame Chicken. The only other options were Jamillah Garden (which has downgraded since my review) and Halal Wok (which I didn't even like). That all changed when I was surfing through Facebook and then someone announced that Uyghur Bistro in Sugar Land switched their chicken and beef to halal. From that point on, I made it a point to visit them and try their food to see if they are better than China King or not. There was some doubt of their halal status since they still served pork, but then the owner on Facebook as well as some other people stated that they cook the halal stuff and the pork separately. I finally set up an event between me and my friends where we convene there after we all get off work and give the place a try.



Let The Experience Begin!
Jade Ly is located at the small strip mall at the intersection of Grand Parkway (SH 99) and 90 Alt. The inside was not the biggest, but it looked really nice. There were only a handful of tables inside the restaurant. The lighting and ambiance of the restaurant were definitely better than China King. We were welcomed in, and then were handed menus. The guys and I decided that we try each popular dish they have so that we can determine how they compare to China King. After deciding among ourselves what we'll have, it was time to order.


Let's Eat!
Since there were 4 people in total, we ordered 4 separate dishes. Like China King, Jade Ly has all day combo specials, where we can get a main dish with various sides. The dishes that we ordered were: Mongolian beef with fried rice and crab puffs, kung pao chicken with seamed rice and chicken egg roll, Hunan beef with steamed rice and crab puffs, and General Tso's Chicken with fried rice and vegetable spring rolls. Soups came as well, but we couldn't share (I got the wonton soup).


Menu: http://jadelysugarland.com/menu.html
Most of the food items here are Chinese, but they have Spicy Korean Beef and Chicken, and small Vietnamese section as well. What's particularly interesting is that there is a section of the menu that is completely in Mandarin. Based on Google Translate, the translation for it is the non-conventional Chinese food with the prices. Honestly, it should be ok to have the entire menu in English and Mandarin.



Mongolian Beef wih Fried Rice and Crab Puffs



Kung Pao Chicken with Steamed Rice and Chicken Egg Roll



Hunan Beef With Steamed Rice and Crab Puffs



General Tso's Chicken with Fried Rice and Vegetable Spring Rolls



Wonton Soup



The Verdict:
As soon as we got out soups, we all agreed that the soups here were far better than the ones at China King. The wonton soup had much more flavor and taste than the one at China King. Then the food came. The first things we all noticed were that the food was very fresh and that the presentation was really good as well (this is coming from a guy who doesn't usually care for presentation). The plates added a nice touch. One bite in, and we realized that the trip was well worth it. The crab puff was really full of flavor, and it wasn't too crispy as well. The fried rice was great, and so was the Mongolian Beef (which was what I had ordered). My friend couldn't stop praising the kung pao chicken that he was having. I had a piece of it (and so did the others), and I thought it was excellent as well. Definitely better than the same thing I had from Jamillah last month. The food was washed down with a few glasses of water. Overall, two thumbs up.

Service was great as well. The lady serving us was very friendly and attentive.

Conclusion:
After 5 years of eating China King whenever the feeling of having halal Chinese in Sugar Land came, I think it's time to make the switch to Jade Ly. Sure, the Mongolian Beef I had there was delicious, but this one was much better. The service was also much better here. If you guys want to have the best halal conventional Chinese food in Sugar Land, then this is the place to be.


Grading:
Food: 9/10
Service: 9/10
Total: 18/20 = 90% (A)
Pricing: $$ out of $$$$



Restaurant Information:
Jade Ly Asian Bisro
5022 Highway 90A, Sugar Land, Texas
Phone: (281) 313-3300
Website: http://www.jadelysugarland.com/index.html
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JadeLyAsianBistro/
Timings: Tue-Sun: 11 AM - 10 PM
Caters: Yes

Feel free to comment below, send me a message on Facebook, or email me!

Cheers!
Zain Mohammed 

Friday, August 11, 2017

Chef on the Run: On the Run Towards One of the Best Halal Food Trucks in Town

Food Truck: Chef on The Run
Address: 9598 Main Street (intersection of 90 Alt and Buffalo Speedway), Houston, Texas
Buffet or a-la-carte: a-la-carte
Date of visit: 8/4/17



Background:
Salam/hey guys! Today I will be writing about a trip to a halal food truck that has been open for a while. The name? Chef on The Run. An appropriate name tbh because a food truck literally has a chef on the run from location to location (for the most part). I heard about this place from some of my followers on Instagram. They said that this place was worth checking out, so I took note of that. Fast-forward a few months, and I see myself hungry and in the Medical Center. I was thinking of just going to Gyro King or Abu Omar before heading to Tiny's Milk & Cookies to see whether it was truly the best cookies in Houston (and it really was). I decided to give this place a try and then head there.



Let The Experience Begin!
Chef on the Run is located at a gas station at the intersection of Buffalo Speedway and Alt 90. I parked my car at one of the pumps and walked there. I was greeted with "Ahlan" from the friendly lady and then proceeded to order.


Let's Eat!
I was actually about to order the chicken shawarma with the chicken shawarma fries. Shawarma was $6.50, which is the same as Abu Omar. The chicken shawarma fries were $7.50 (you'll see why below), so the thought of purchasing the combo was axed. I then thought chicken shawarma and fries, mostly similar to Abu Omar's chicken shawarma arabi. However, I ended up getting the chicken shawarma over fries. I saw a pic of it on Yelp, and it looked so mouthwatering. The chicken shawarma fries is basically fries topped with chicken shawarma, garlic sauce, and cheese! Honestly, it was the first time I ever heard of fries topped with shawarma. Now I did have fries topped with gyro meat and cheese from The Ultimate Wraps (Westheimer and Jeanetta near the Galleria), and that was incredibly awesome. But both are different and can't be comparable because it's different meats (this food truck doesn't have gyro meat yet) and the sauces are different. Here at Chef on The Run, you have the option of getting a spicy sauce topped as well. To play it safe, I put it on the side. It is recommended you do that if you are unsure of how spicy the sauce is. Wait time wasn't that bad. I spoke to the cashier while waiting for the food.


Menu: https://www.yelp.com/menu/chef-on-the-run-houston
This place is basically a Mediterranean food truck along with some Mediterranean-Mexican fusion. Along with shawarmas and platters, they have tacos and fajitas. Nothing is over $10! The shawarma fries are the newest addition to the menu from what I have seen.



The Chicken Shawarma Fries. Or as I'd say: fried potato salad with chicken and shredded cheese topped with a spicy and garlic sauce lol.



The Verdict:
So much food for less than $8?! I'll definitely take that! Not only was it incredibly filling, it was incredibly tasty. Gourmet fries are a thing nowadays because fries and ketchup is just incredibly boring. This is definitely one of the best gourmet fries dishes I've EVER had. The chicken shawarma meat was simply magnificient: cooked perfectly, and full of flavor. The fries were perfectly crispy. I can now safely say that the spicy sauce is not too spicy. It gives the perfect kick to the dish. This was definitely two thumbs up.

Service was great as well. There was a loudmouth customer in front, but she kept her cool and acted professionally, even though that customer was being awkward. It's nice when workers converse with customers while waiting he/she is cooking the food. It is a nice way to pass time as well as maintain a good relationship with the customers. It makes the customer feel welcome inside the restaurant or outside the food truck, as if the customer is a well respected guest. I honestly feel that at the majority of places, including food trucks, the interactions are very minimal. This can cause people to become bored while waiting for the food to come.

Conclusion:
Many say that in all of Harris County, Hillcroft is regarded to have some of the best halal food in town. But lately, the area inside 610 has been making a push for that title. Never would I have though that I will have to decide between three halal food trucks to choose from depending on if I'm craving Mediterranean or platter food, or having to choose between two places for some good halal burgers inside 610. I'll definitely be starting more trips to the food truck and hope to bring friends and family here as well. Believe it or not, this is actually the only place in town where you can get shawarma fries that is on the menu and not as a customized item. Trust me, you won't be disappointed with this place.


Grading:
Food: 10/10
Service: 10/10
Total: 20/20 = 100% (A)
Pricing: $ out of $$$$



Restaurant Information:
Chef on the Run
9598 Main Street, Houston, Texas
Phone: (832) 951-9920
Website: none
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ChefontheRunTexas/
Timings: Mon-Thu: 11 AM - 2 AM; Fri-Sun: 11 AM - 3 AM
Caters: Yes

Feel free to comment below, send me a message on Facebook, or email me!

Cheers!
Zain Mohammed 

Monday, August 7, 2017

Calypto Burger: Halal Burgers near Hobby Airport

Restaurant: Calypto Burger
Address: 6199 Griggs Road, Houston, Texas
Buffet or a-la-carte: a-la-carte
Date of visit: 7/30/17



Background:
Salam/hey guys! Today's review consists of a new burger place that has opened up in Southeast Houston. The place is called Calypto Burger. I first heard about this place from one of my best friends. He told me that he checked it out and that it was literally a really great addition to the halal burger scene in Houston. I was then invited to a soft opening, but I will mention only a minute amount because it would be unfair to critique a soft opening. This being because the place is still trying to click on all cylinders before opening to the public and also trying to impress the public. On that hot afternoon, I and one of my best friends, along with one of his friends, ventured out all the way to Southeast Houston to give this place a try.



Let The Experience Begin!
The restaurant is located just a few miles down on 45 from UH. It's actually located inside a convenient store on Griggs. This is in fact the closest halal restaurant to Hobby airport. While the outside may seem shady, the inside was very cordial. The owner, Zeshaun, greeted all of us. We spoke a bit about what changes they had made from the soft opening, and also about what got them to start up the restaurant and why they chose that specific area. Afterwards, we made our orders.


Let's Eat!
I ordered the jalapeno cheddar burger, which was double cheddar, jalapenos, caramelized onions and the option of a mayo or house aioli (I got the aioli) on a beef patty with buns. I also got a can of Hansen's Cola. Hansen's is a craft soda from California, and it uses cane sugar. The waiting time was about 13 minutes. Not bad since there were two other people dining with me.


Menu: Unlike other burger places I have been to, the menu here was short. But, it was for a good reason. They wanted to start with a small menu so that they could focus on making sure that the burgers are high quality. The other burgers looked really promising. Everything here is halal, and the bacon that is used is the beef bacon. I confirmed with them that the beef bacon is halal.


The Menu: Photo Credit: https://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/calypto-burger-houston-2?select=gNUDZ9ndlw0bwxrMzimgnQ

The Jalapeno Cheddar Burger



The Verdict:
I gotta tell you guys, they definitely clicked on all cylinders this time. The burger was excellent. One bite of the burger and you can tell that they definitely put in 110% effort into perfecting the burgers in time for the Grand Opening. Other people I know in real life came in to try their burgers, and they said that they enjoyed them as well. For the food, definitely two thumbs up.

Conclusion:
Calypto Burger showed what most Desi restaurant owners should do when someone gives feedback: use the feedback to better the product. Their willingness to hear back from others shows how they are determined to succeed in their business. And their efforts definitely paid off with the overwhelmingly positive feedback their burgers have received. If want to try something before heading to Hobby airport, or want to grab a bite after leaving Hobby Airport, then this is the place to be. I'll definitely come back and try the other burgers.

Just a heads up though: it is not advisable to come after sunset (since Houston sunsets are early in the winter) since the area is not the best.



Grading:
Food: 9/10
Total: 9/10 = 90% (A)
Pricing: $$ out of $$$$



Restaurant Information:
Calypto Burger
6199 Griggs Road, Houston, Texas
Phone: (713) 874-4626
Website: none
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Calypto-Burger-2029036693991910/?ref=py_c
Timings: Mon-Thu: 11 AM - 7 PM; Fri-Sat: 11 AM - 8 PM; Sun: 12 PM - 6 PM
Caters: Not Yet

Feel free to comment below, send me a message on Facebook, or email me!

Cheers!
Zain Mohammed 

Kingdom Bakery: Halal Kolaches In the Heart of Cinco Ranch

Restaurant: Kingdom Bakery
Address: 3030 Falcon Landing, Katy, Texas
Buffet or a-la-carte: a-la-carte
Date of visit: 7/18/17



Background:
Salam/hey guys! Today I will be talking about a new halal spot with a new halal food item making a return. What's the spot called? It's called Kingdom Bakery. And what does it have? KOLACHES! Yup, the popular food item in Southern Texas can finally be found using halal meats! From what I know, a Shipley's used to serve halal kolaches, but they stopped.
This place opened up during Ramadan. Since I planned to not go to any new places during Ramadan since I wholeheartedly am against restaurants upcharging just because it's Ramadan and also my preference of doing iftar at a mosque or my house, I had to wait until after Ramadan to give it a try. I got to give it a try after work one day. It was proven to be challenging because of their timings.. On most days, they close at 7 PM, while on Sundays, they close at 6! The plus side is that they open real early (as early as 7 AM!), so if you want to grab something before work, or have breakfast with your family without having to stick to only halwa puri or IHOP, this would the best bet! So one day after work, I drove there and gave it a try.



Let The Experience Begin!
The restaurant is located at the intersection of Westheimer Parkway and Falcon Landing. It was small compared to other places I've been to. There was a nice display of the food. I asked them if it was halal, but the guy said he didn't know what halal meant. BUT, a lady whom I am assuming to be one of the main persons running the restaurant said that certain items were.


Let's Eat!
I ordered three kolaches: ground beef, mushroom and potato, and spinach and feta. Didn't need to wait for a long time to get them. I then headed home and had them.


Menu: http://eat24hrs.com/restaurants/order2/menu.php?id=101276&utm_source=101276&utm_medium=Website&utm_campaign=WRestaurantSite&utm_content=OrderButton

I put this link up because it featured the prices of the menu items. Based on my messages and what the owner wrote to me on Facebook, everything is halal except for the beef sausage kolache , the turkey sandwich, and the roast beef sandwich. They also have halal savory crepes. Price wise, it is actually good. Most of the menu items are under $10.

Ground Beef Kolache
 
Mushroom and potato kolache



Spinach and Feta Kolache





The Verdict:
Believe it or not, this was my first time EVER eating a kolache. And man, the wait was worth it for the most part. While the beef and feta and spinach kolaches were excellent, the potatoes and mushrooms could've been a bit better. The balance between the fillings and the pastry were perfect. Service was great; no complaints there.


Conclusion:
Kingdom Bakery is a place that I would definitely return to. Not only will I get the kolaches I really liked, I will also try their halal savory crepes as well!



Grading:
Food: 8/10
Service: 9/10
Total: 17/20 = 85% (B)
Pricing: $ out of $$$$



Restaurant Information:
Kingdom Bakery
3030 Falcon Landing, Katy, Texas
Phone: (713) 306-5698
Website: http://www.kingdom-bakery.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kingdombakerykaty/
Timings: Tue-Fri: 7 AM - 7 PM; Sat: 8 AM - 7 PM; Sun: 9 AM - 6 PM; Mon: closed
Caters: Yes

Feel free to comment below, send me a message on Facebook, or email me!

Cheers!
Zain Mohammed 

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Crispy Or Grilled: The Closest to Hala Chick Fil A We'll Ever Have, and It's Darn Good

Food Truck: Crispy or Grilled
Address: 2220 Brazos Street, Houston, Texas
Buffet or a-la-carte: a-la-carte
Date of visit: 7/5/17



Background:
Salam/hey guys! Today I will be talking about the newest halal food truck in Houston. It is called Crispy or Grilled. The name strongly suggests that you get an option between crispy or grilled chicken, since those are the two most common ways that people enjoy chicken. I first heard about this from a food group (which I was deliberately left out off) going and trying a variety of items that they offered. It attracted a lot of fanfare, and I was also eager to try it. There were one surprising fact that I learned about this place. This place is run by the same people who run Dasman, a Mediterranean food truck. And this raised a red flag for me. I actually tried out Dasman during Super Bowl weekend and did not like it. It was basically chicken over rice for $10 served in the same thing that many restaurants use for their fries. So many of their competitors offer the same thing but with bigger quantities and better tastes for similar prices. Now they did respond professionally, but what happened next is the main reason why I did not write a review (and this move truly paid off).A lady, who is friends with the owners, set up the tasting for the food group, and had beef with me because of a cook off I did, literally lost it. And man it was ugly. Long story short, she thought I didn't know what excellent Mediterranean food is, even though I lived and grew up eating Mediterranean food in an Arab country, and she actually threatened to slap me. The biggest irony in all of this stuff is that she loves Cedar's and Abu Omar, WHICH ARE MEDITERRANEAN SPOTS THAT I LOVE GOING TO. It was without a doubt one of the funniest things I've seen in 4.5 years of doing this blog.
This place opened up during Ramadan. Since I planned to not go to any new places during Ramadan since I wholeheartedly am against restaurants upcharging just because it's Ramadan and also my preference of doing iftar at a mosque or my house, I had to wait until after Ramadan to give it a try. I got to give it a try after work one day. So I drove there and gave it a try.



Let The Experience Begin!
The food truck is located on Brazos Street in front of Little Woodrow's and parked next to Dasman. I parked behind the truck, only to find out that it costs $8 to park there. The line was not that bad when I went, although I heard can get long late at night. I went to the foot truck and decided to order.



Let's Eat!
I ordered the crispy chicken sandwich. It was basically crispy chicken with lettuec, tomatoes, and pickles in between two brioche buns. I paid $9.73 (tax included) for this. The waiting time was about 9 minutes.



Menu: Not only do they have sandwiches, they also have chicken tenders (you'll never get halal tenders at Raising Canes), tacos, and starters. It's a limited menu, which is understood because they just started.



Menu. Photo Credit:
 
The Sandwich


The Verdict:
When I saw the dish, I realized that they actually priced this right. Many of the good burger or sandwich places would charge similar amounts. And my goodness, this burger was insanely awesome. The Dasman people definitely redeemed themselves with this food truck. The sandwich was very filling, and the taste was just amazing. There was a lot of flavor inside the burger and everything was fresh. The chicken was very crispy. Overall, two thumbs up.
The service was great. The people were really nice, and thankfully they didn't pick on me for not liking Dasman.



Conclusion:
Even though I never had or will never have a chicken sandwich from Chick Fil A, this sandwich is one of the best chicken sandwiches I've ever had. I'll definitely come back and try their other options. If you want to eat something that literally comes close to a halal chicken sandwich from Chick Fil A, then this is the place to go!



Grading: 
Food: 10/10
Service: 9/10
Total: 19/20 = 95% (A)
Pricing: $$ out of $$$$



Restaurant Information:
Crispy or Grilled
2220 Brazos Street, Houston, Texas
Phone: (832) 998-5955
Website: none
Timings: Mon-Wed: 6 PM - 1 AM; Thu: 6 AM - 2 PM; Fri-Sat: 6 PM - 2:30 AM; Sun: closed
Caters: Yes

Feel free to comment below, send me a message on Facebook, or email me!

Cheers!
Zain Mohammed