Whenever a customer orders a side of hush puppies, Seafood Cafe manager Asad Jawad likes to joke with them a bit. "Ma'am, there is a little problem," he'll say. "When I got these puppies, they were little, and now they are grown dogs." Whether or not this elicits a chuckle, it only takes a glance at the eatery's portion sizes to see what Asad means. At Seafood Cafe, helpings of Cajun-style seafood are as generous as the staff is friendly.
That should be no surprise, since Seafood Cafe is built on a foundation of friendship. Asad and his friends John Herpin and Misael Cortez, also known as The Three Amigos, started the restaurant after they met working at another eatery five years ago. Bringing together traditional recipes from Louisiana with their restaurant-industry experience, they mix up each recipe with their own twist. The cuisine blends classic Cajun dishes such as blackened catfish and gumbo with Mexican-inflected meals including tilapia tacos. The trio only cooks up food they feel passionate about, and will even distribute free samples to convert people to the menu's more unique flavors. They also plan to encourage big appetites with a wall of fame that will honor those patrons who have made the most of the menu's all-you-can-eat catfish option. And on the weekends, jazz and reggae bands play, filling the dining room with jaunty melodies to match spicy Cajun scents.
A reception desk lined in shimmery green tiles welcomes diners to the earth-toned dining room of MJ China Bistro, where ambitious stalks of bamboo stretch upwards around the perimeter of the seating area. Reflecting the contemporary decor of the room, the kitchen crafts a menu of traditional Chinese-American cuisine with a modern spin. Diners can wrap spoonfuls of mu shu pork in pancakes made by hand. Tea and sugar coat the browning skin of duck as it slowly smokes, its five-spice marinade growing more complex in flavor. The Chin Yuan pork chop, a classic Taiwanese street food, soaks in a secret blend of spices before being fried until just crispy on the outside but still tender on the inside, just like the best customer-service operators.
The restaurant also houses a sushi bar, where chefs whip up the TNT Roll, a combination of crawfish, tuna, and salmon drizzled in a chipotle mayo spicier than that time Charo put wasabi and Sriracha sauce in her tea.
Joe Chow immigrated to America from his native Taiwan in 1979. He set down roots in Addison, where he eventually made a name for himself as the city's mayor and the owner of May Dragon. In the kitchen, his veteran chef Mr. Phung concocts more than 130 dishes using all-natural ingredients, only small amounts of oil, and no MSG. The menu's resulting bounty of Peking-style slow-roasted pork, five-flavor shrimp, and crispy duck inspires loyal regulars and a cavalcade of celebrities, including culinary star Martin Yan and martial-arts expert Chuck Norris, to frequently stop in for an authentic meal.
When not at work meeting with constituents or willing laws into existence, Joe proudly oversees his establishment as an embodiment of the American dream, inspiring patrons to follow their own desires, ensnare them, and keep them as pets. He warmly greets visitors with friendly hellos and attentive service and encourages his staff to treat guests with the same infectious hospitality. The restaurant itself exudes a warm, welcoming atmosphere, with Chinese artwork lining the walls and luxurious amenities—such as a separate banquet room with massage chairs and karaoke machines—populating the refined, architect-designed space.
With more than 90 buffet dishes including 30–35 hot entrees and more than 10 varieties of sushi, it’s no surprise that Buffet Palace's Austin location has been voted best buffet 12 times by Austin Chronicle readers. The similarly well-stocked Killeen location looks like a grounded spaceship from the outside, complete with a cylindrical metal cage, a Saturn-style ring, and two alien-like statues.
At each location, a modern 350-seat dining room vaunts sleek countertops and high ceilings as well as a buffet so long visiting Lilliputians regularly land planes on it. Items range from Korean-style salads and Japanese sushi to more than 30 primarily Chinese hot dishes such as sesame chicken and pan-fried dumplings.
In addition to these made-from-scratch items, a chef cooks Asian pancakes and dumplings. Before departure, diners can also stock a plate full of the buffet’s housemade desserts, which include cakes, cookies, and fruit so fresh it often gets smacked by older, wiser side dishes.
The Bottom has plenty of Fort Worth pride. The multiple flat-screen TVs attract flocks of TCU students and fans on game days, and the menu itself has items that pay homage to the fearsome Horned Frogs. There are the purple beer and the Polliwog: a frozen concoction named after the Old English term for a tadpole and made with secret ingredients that can only be revealed if the blender is kissed by a princess. Also in the bar, 35 taps represent breweries from nearby and afar, including Rahr & Sons, Shiner, Saint Arnold, and Stone.
In addition to the bar, this family-owned, community-oriented restaurant offers something for everyone. Saturday and Sunday brunch entice local families to stop by this neighborhood eatery. Outside, guests can unwind on the spacious patio and enjoy gigantic burgers and Southwestern apps and entrees amid leafy palms at tables in both the shade and the sun.
Elegant white plates serve as the canvases for Pacifica Seafood & Bar’s decadent undersea feasts, holding artfully presented helpings of everything from tuna Shanghai to shrimp quesadillas. Diners enjoy fish tacos, 12-ounce skirt steaks, and roasted chicken amid expansive windows overlooking a picturesque mountainous view. Though it sounds swanky, the restaurant pulses with relaxed vibes, with colorful writing and drawings scribbled across the white walls and bartenders pouring drinks directly into patron's mouths. Bottles of Indio beer fuel game-watching sessions around one of six high-definition televisions, or cool off games of full-contact charades played on the outdoor patio.