Thursday, December 27, 2007

Fair and Balanced: a decent Walmart, plus a kosher market

Ok, I was a little rough on Walmart in the previous post. So I thought I'd show'em some love.

I like the Walmart Neighborhood market on the east side of Coit between Belt Line and Arapaho. No big box stuff, only groceries and related gear. The selection is about normal (decent) and the price is about normal (good-to-great) but the overall ambience is really why you would go. It's like walmart and Whole Foods had a baby.

Quiet, not crowded, and good prices. If it weren't on the other side of town from me it might be my go-to grocery.

BTW, the my Chinese connection at work (Speaks Cantonese) says that Tong's, which shares the same parking lot and was thought to be the best authentic Chinese food in the north Dallas area, has sold and lost its luster. :-(

Also in the same parking lot is a relative newcomer, the Milk and Honey Jewish market. A small market full of kshr goods, it also has a lunch counter. I bought some tea and crackers there. Picked up a QBLH newsletter and chatted a bit with the cashier. Turns out his brother owns the place. I'd like to stop in and have lunch some time. The bad pic above is an attempt to show where Milk and Honey is.

Speaking of kshr, my recent forays into Arabic markets has introduced me to halal, which seems to be ritually pure food for Muslims the way that KSHR food is for Jewish folks. I ate some halal marshmallows; they were better-than-average but also cost about 3x as much as a bag of Kraft marshmallows would.

Now that's a pretty good digression. Walmart to halal marshmallows in about 5 minutes.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Worst. Walmart. Ever.

Ok, so Walmart can be exasperating even under the best of conditions. (A comic once noted about NASCAR, "if I wanted to watch rednecks go around in circles I would go to Walmart".) But the one at 75/Midpark is horrific.

I think you can sometimes tell about the inside of a retail store by the parking lot situation outside. This parking lot is chaotic, dirty, and full of people who cannot walk, drive, or park like humans. The inside of the store is full of people who cannot walk, shop, or park their carts like humans.

Here are the special features available once you actually get inside the door:
* loud parents that shout to each other across the store
* Screaming snotty kids
* carts parked side-by-side in the aisle so no one can walk by
* staff that actually blocks your shopping activities (I don't care if you don't help; please don't keep me from selecting an item or from paying for it).
* slothlike cashiers
* moronic customers who want to jabber and "confront" the sloth about some percentage of rung-up items.
* moronic customers whose cards get declined and who then have to "confront" someone about it.

Then there are the carts dragged across the nearby neighborhoods and abandoned upside down or on their side. Items opened in the lot and the packaging thrown on the asphalt. Used diapers and wipes in the lot.

If you find yourself needing AA batteries in the middle of the night, go to 7-11 instead and happily pay the 50% markup. You will be happier for it and be less likely to be shot.

This place needs to be bulldozed.

Star of Siam - Dinner review

When I lived here before I used to swing by for the salad rolls.

The Dear Wife and I stopped in for dinner. The parking is horrible, spaces tight, and there are shady characters walking around (the area to the immediate west of this location along Spring Valley is probably the roughest part of Richardson).

The place is small and somewhat divey on the inside but that doesn't bother me.

Win: Attentive and pleasant service from a young (presumably Thai) waitress, who held the place down by herself despite her age. Salad rolls are excellent, crisp and seem to radiate healthiness. Yum!

Lose: Comic Book Guy at the next table. I learned I don't like coconut soup although theirs is supposed to be good. Ditto for tom yum. Wife's Thai fried rice was not the lovely, light, fresh dish we have had at other Thai eateries, but rather a heavy, dank mess.

I don't think we will be going back, unless I get a craving for those salad rolls.

Star of Siam
708 W. Spring Valley
Richardson Tx
972 497 9542

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


The wife was gung-ho on recycling, but I was only mildly interested. I did want to try my hand at composting, though. Seems wasteful to throw out all those spent tea leaves.

Turns out that Richardson has a pretty good recycling program and picks up 1x/week on one of your normal trash days. After we started getting the compostable and recycleable materials in their respective bins it turns out that most of our waste no longer goes in the trash.

It's astounding, really. I assume we'd have something like a 25% decrease in trash, and it's more like 65% decrease. We only fill up a trash bag about every 10 days now.

It takes almost zero work and it seems like we are doing something useful.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Pho Pasteur II - dinner review

Ate at the famed Pho Pasteur II today. It was good but not transcendant. The DW and I have eaten at the (original?) Pho Pasteur in Carrollton and like this Richardson restaurant and food better.

Win: great decor; almost hip. Well-constructed spring rolls. Attentive service. Good (though not great) broth; slightly bland with a barely noticeable soapy aftertaste? Good tripe. Discreet but easily viewed flatscreens for football. Nice big coke glasses.

Lose:spring rolls small and somewhat more expensive than usual. Screaming children during our visit though that is not the fault of the restaurant.

In case you're wondering, here is how I rate pho:

1. Pho Huy from the mid-late 90s. Amazing.
2. Tie: Pho Huy now, Pho Pasteur II. Good.
3. Pho Pasteur (Carrollton), Pho Bistro (Carrollton). Respectable.

Pho Pasteur II
1342 E. Beltline Rd
Richardson, Tx 75081

Que Huong - dinner review

First off, if you haven't had a hot bowl of pho ("fuh") you need to do so ASAP. It's seriously good stuff.

This is not my favorite pho place (quy hong is, or was) and I've heard great things about Pho Pasteur II, but it made for a nice dinner.

I like the bo (meatballs, aka "beef balls") so that's what I had. Most folks have one of many styles/types of thinly sliced beef.

Win: decent broth, quiet ambience, decent flavor on spring rolls
Lose: fried onion bits in the rolls were a good idea, but were unexpectedly hard.

Pho Que Huong
300 Terrace Dr
Richardson, TX
(972) 497-9661

Friday, December 14, 2007

Post-mortgage scammers

Before we bought the house I was listening to some mortgage-related podcasts. One of them mentioned to be wary of any mortgage-related snailmail and phonecalls you receive after closing.

Boy, were they right.

Each day we get 1-2 pieces of scareware junkmail that mocks up the correspondence to make it look like it came from your mortgage company. There is a tiny asterisk which leads to a footnote that says something "we are scammers, and are not associated with your mortgage company". But how many gullible folks fall for this?

The wife and I are fighting back in a small way. We dutifully mail back each "no postage necessary" envelope back to the mothership. These envelopes contain no information that identifies us. Hopefully {this} return brings income to the USPS and dings the scammers a few cents. We shred and recycle the rest of the packet.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Walking the neighborhood

When the dear wife and lived in the ratbag Dawntree apartments in Carrollton, I would walk the dog and take a 5gal bucket and trash picker (e.g. nifty nabber) with me.

On a light day I might get about 2 gallons of litter off the ground around our apartment. The worst day was 2.5 buckets (12.5 gallons of litter). It was astounding and depressing, and there was trash every... single... day.

When I drive through our neighborhood now I am alert for litter but have seen none on our block. Not a scrap. It's a different world.

I still have the bucket/nabber. I suppose I'll have cause to use it someday but until then I am grateful for our neat little neighborhood.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Sultan Cafe and Hookah - dinner review

This one is a couple of blocks from the house, and during the summer always had a hopping patio scene out back.

Went on a chillier night and no one was on the patio. Upon entry, it appears to me that the hookah part is to the left and the dinner part is to the right. The Hookah smoke does not intrude on dinner. Older arabic-speaking men smoked leisurely and watched the TV (which was mercifully out of sight from the dining area).

I had a kebab plate at the suggestion of the friendly hostess. It was beautifully {presented} on a long rectangular plate.

Win: the food was good: kebabs, bread, hummus, sauces/salads, mint tea.

Lose: bread not replaced after I snarfed it down. Rather pricey at $20 for just myself.

I will attempt to paste in a really crappy cellphone pic, which I had to lighten with GIMP to make it visible at all. Don't laugh.

Sultan Cafe
201 S Greenville Ave
Richardson, TX 75081
(972) 235-7900

{edited to correct a typo}

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Some things have changed.

The Main Street old downtown strip (don't know what else to call it) appears to have been revamped. Lee's Catfish is gone. Old Downtown is now about 2/3 asian and 1/3 indo-european instead of mainly asian.

I like the mix.

When people talk about diversity, this is the kind I like to see. People from different parts of the world bringing their restaurants, markets, and other businesses to the neighborhood. It's the kind of exposure to other peoples that 18th cen. Brits called the "penny university": eat and drink with different people and expand one's horizons. Maybe I'm an elistist jerk; or maybe I like to sit out under the awning drinking turkish coffee with well-behaved people rather than getting stabbed/murdered/carjacked in other neighborhoods which are euphemistically called "diverse" but are actually monocultural (and dysfunctional).

Mediterranean Cafe and Bakery - dinner buffet review

Took the DW there. She is picky and normally does not like different foods. The buffet was decently although not overly large. Traditional stuff you might find at a Greek/Turkish/Arabic restaurant: yoghurt-based dips, hummus, hot pita bread, skewers of beef, shaved gyro {meat} (I think this one was about 2/3 beef and 1/3 lamb).

Wins: nice decor and soft arabic music. Food decently executed; nice hummus and raw vegetable salads with vinegar and lemon juice on it, I think. Unidentifiable, oily, complex-looking soup that I liked.

Loses: didn't get a water refill from the pleasant-but-inattentive hostess/cashier; she was holding the fort down by herself with 20 ppl in there so maybe she got a little overrun. The ricepudding/kheer (?) was much looser and had more rosewater in it than I am used to. Odd cake that looked just like cornbread but tasted like an american 1950s spicecake (which I do not like).

About 50% arabic and indian diners, about 50% anglo. I like to see a healthy segment of international clientele in places that serve international food - I want to eat what the locals eat. Also helps with unwieldy items because you can see how the "locals" do it.

Dinner was $8.99 IIRC. Dear wife suggested she would be willing to go back (yay!) and wondered aloud where we might get some music like that...

Mediterranean Cafe and Bakery is at 100 s central expy in the Heights shopping center. Many neat Indian shops there, so wander around a bit. Also the excellent Masami, which I will post about some other time.

Note: corrected {typo} and repaired title.

Palomina's - breakfast review

The DW and I just got back from Palomina's, in the Heights shopping center at Beltline/75. I think the addy is "100 s central expy".

Had weekend breakfast @ $6.99. Drinks $1.69.

Heavily tex-mex influence. I got the feeling that this is what our Mexican brethren eat for breakfast. Made one plate per buffet table, as is my usual practice. Little bit of everything then go back for what I liked.

Win: scrambled eggs and corn tortillas mixed up. Bacon. Odd texmex roast beef. Nice open space (used to be the Juan's many of us loved in that spot). Tolerable decor and not insanely noisy. Waitstaff took away the plates at about the right pace. Some kind of pale beef broth fat soup.

Lose: Nothing was really particularly good. Kinda like a low-end vegas buffet. Or about the quality you find in a low-end Chinese buffet. The menudo was not appetizing, although I usually like it.

We might go back for dinner some night but not breakfast again.


I'm not completely new to Richardson, Texas, but I am moving back after being away for awhile. This blog is about my re-learning Richardson and being a first-time homeowner.

Here is the Richardson-centric timeline:
  • I was born in the 1960s when my parents lived in Richardson.
  • I started a company in Richardson in the 1990s and moved back to Richardson to simplify the commute
  • Moved back to Richardson in 2007 because the Dear Wife and I bought a house in the so-called Highland Terrace area in southeast Richardson. Mainly homes from the 1960s.

I don't expect anyone to read any of this. I think it's a way for me to get my thoughts out somewhere so I can see them more clearly. I am in a time of transition (home/work/education) and could stand to do some journaling.

BTW, when we did online journals in the mid-90s when "the web was gray" we called them online journals. Now they are called blogs. :-)