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Los Potros, Tracy CA

Nearly hidden by surrounding buildings but still in broad view on a busy street, Los Potros Restaurante Mexicano at 508 E 11 St. attracts a big crowd.  After we ordered at the counter we learned that we also could have sat down at one of the (few remaining) tables to review menus with more details than a bulletin board.  Had we not been at the counter, though, we wouldn’t have seen the horchata and jamaica beverage fountains.  Zach’s younger brother Willie joined us for dinner and we shared a glass of each agua fresca among the three of us while we waited for our plates to be brought to our table.  Since Willie hadn’t tried jamaica before and he enjoyed it, we took that as a good sign that our coming meal would be deliciosa.

torta de bistec

torta de bistec

Willie got the classic Mexican sandwich with steak.  He reported that the tender beef didn’t pull out and was easy to bite through.  The fresh quality bread was soft inside and crisp outside, from just the right amount of grilling.  Creamy, fresh avocado and rich, light, and tangy crema balanced the jalapeños resulting in a fair amount of heat without being overwhelming.  None of us knew from the bulletin board that this would come with fries, and even though they were prepared from a frozen state, Willie said they were “golden to perfection.”

chimichangas de pollo

chimichangas de pollo

We’re accustomed to seeing chimichangas as a side or appetizer.  There are many theories to the origin of the stuffed and deep fried flour tortilla, but it is commonly agreed that it is a truly American dish, in the sense of embracing the Americas as a continental culture from Arizona to Sinaloa.  With a nice amount of rice and beans, this pair as an entree was very filling.  Crispy and fried yet absent of grease, the tender chicken inside was moist and savory.  It was stewed with “tons of spices” like Mexican oregano and chile.  Los Potros sends this from the kitchen usually with crema, cotija cheese, and guacamole, but Zach requested no guacamole; otherwise the picture would have been prettier.

cóctel de camarón, pulpo, almeja, y abulón

cóctel de camarón, pulpo, almeja, y abulón

Nearly a quarter of the menu is dedicated to mariscos (shellfish), so it would be a disservice not to try something from that section.  August was not disappointed with her choice of shrimp cocktail; she initially asked for the one with shrimp and octopus, but then the camarero at the counter asked if she’d like the one that also had clams and abalone.  Well now, who would say no to that?  The peeled shrimp, massive octopus hunks, bed of clams, and abalone pieces were remarkably fresh and meaty, swimming in a chalice of tomato and lime juice with abundant vegetables.  Onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, and cilantro were “fresh, fresh, fresh,” providing crunch and acidity to contrast the sinking bite of the seafood and the creamy avocado pieces.

We made it here just in time for dinner, as Los Potros opens at 8 am but closes at 8 pm.  If we find ourselves in the area during the mañana, we might have to stop in to try breakfast.  The happy patrons around us validated our opinion that this is a great place for made-to-order comida mexicana.

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Texas Roadhouse, Tracy CA

Corporate restaurants tend to forgo quality for profits.  Shipments go out to each establishment with boxes and crates of frozen, canned, and hyper-processed ingredients.  Oftentimes, that feeling you get after eating somewhere like the Cakecheese Factory or Backout Steakhouse is an indicator of your body reacting poorly to what you’ve just fed it, and you’re getting charged a hefty bill for the damage.  But dear reader, we have found that Texas Roadhouse, a corporate restaurant, makes nearly everything from scratch at each of its 300+ restaurants across the country.  The only items not made in-house are the applesauce, light ranch dressing, and steak fries.  And to sweeten the deal further, this casual eatery doesn’t put nearly the same dent in your wallet as some of the other corporate places do.

killer ribs

killer ribs

The award-winning ribs are very popular and there is an entree option, but we wanted to show you variety so we got the appetizer version.  Served on a bed of steak fries, the rib meat was smoky, sweet, and fell off the bone like it was waiting to let go.  There was a great bark enhancing the smokiness, which also helped to highlight the sweet side.

cactus blossom

cactus blossom

The fried onion’s crispy batter was not at all greasy, nor was the onion overcooked.  With the crispness of the batter plus the slight crunch of the onions, the texture of the “cactus blossom” appetizer was ideal.  The onion was slightly sweet, and the creamy, tangy dipping sauce, called “Cajun horseradish,” offered a tiny bite of heat.

house salad

house salad

“Each plate is served with your choice of two sides.”  We each got a house salad with blue cheese because we both wanted some greenery.  Remember that (almost) everything is scratch made, so that includes the dressing and the croutons.  The house salad is also piled with cheddar cheese, fresh tomatoes, and hard boiled egg, making for a simple yet satisfying salad.

bone-in ribeye with loaded sweet potato

bone-in ribeye with loaded sweet potato

August went for red meat, since this is a steakhouse after all.  “Hand-cut to perfection,” this is Texas Roadhouse’s “most flavorful steak.”  With just the right seasoning, an excellent char, and cooked to the desired temperature, this was a great hunk of meat with a nice bone to take home for Bea the Dog.  August’s second side was a baked sweet potato, and she upgraded to the option of loading it.  In fact, any of the potato sides can be loaded in its own way (sweet potato as you see here, regular baked potato that you’ll see below, and even mashed potatoes and fries have their own treatments).  For the sweet potato, “loaded” means it is topped off with caramel sauce and marshmallows.  Baked to model doneness, the creamy sweet potato with such toppings was a side and a dessert in one.

loaded baked potato

loaded baked potato

Zach’s second side was also a potato, but savory and, as Zach says, “loaded to the gills” with sour cream, cheddar cheese, and bacon.  The skin was rubbed with salt, a nice touch to add greater depth of flavor.  The potato insides were fluffy, and when mixed around with the toppings, this was a hearty and delightful side.

country fried chicken

country fried chicken

Zach’s main dish was this massive country fried chicken, pounded from an all white meat chicken breast, then hand-battered, fried, and topped with cream gravy.  The chicken was crispy from the light breading, yet tender and moist – tender enough for a fork and no knife.  The cream gravy was rich and pepper-based, which was “perfect with the chicken,” according to Zach.  It could have been very easy and convenient for the kitchen to throw together a frozen chicken breast and powder-based gravy, but Texas Roadhouse takes the time to make real food with real cooking techniques.

There are significantly more locations in the eastern half of the country, but there is at least one restaurant in every single continental state.  If you’re out of your area, maybe doing a road trip for the summer or a business jaunt, look for a Texas Roadhouse nearby and you can trust in the quality.

Menchie’s, Tracy CA

menchie's 001

Self-serve yogurt is very popular.  It seems to have surpassed the craze of gourmet cupcakes, at least around the greater Bay Area.  Today we were in Tracy and, based on a recommendation, we came to Menchie’s.  With locations in over 10 countries and plans in development to reach 20, likely within the year, this international company is quickly gaining traction.

16 flavors on hand

16 flavors on hand

It was a miracle to get a shot of the 16 yogurt and sorbet stations without any people in it, since the place is that popular.  Sixteen flavors, though, is a mere fraction of the 160+ flavors Menchie’s has developed!  Peanut butter, for example, was the favorite for August, Zach, Will, and the gentleman who recommended the place to us; it was so true to the real, natural flavor, and the creamy texture (found in all the samples we tried) was delightful.

menchie's 007

This cute poster was super informational, breaking down the guide for different health and nutrition facts.  Some facts vary yogurt to yogurt, sorbet to sorbet, but all yogurts are rBST-free.

toppings galore

toppings galore

Most of the standard toppings you may be accustomed to are here, but we were surprised by fizzy strawberry candy, Nerds, and grasshopper chocolate mint cookies.

zach's creation

zach’s creation

Probably the most stand-out part about Menchie’s is that, at no extra cost, you can request a freshly-made waffle to cradle your concoction.  Zach and Will shared this with peanut butter yogurt, banana slices, Reece’s Pieces bits, and crumbled Oreo cookies.

If you’re craving something sweet but don’t want any guilt, make your way to this bustling shop or look up other franchise locations nearer to you.