Recently I had to select a hotel for my guests to stay in for my upcoming wedding. I decided on the Staybridge Suites located off the loop by UT Tyler. I wanted a nicer hotel that was close to my venue and the fact that the Staybridge offers larger rooms with separate bedrooms works out perfectly for my out of town guests who have kids. They also have free Wi-Fi and are pet friendly so my sister will be able to bring her dog if needed. The manager was super-friendly and was able to block me off rooms for the weekend. She made accommodations for my group so everything will be convenient when booking. Now I can finish with the invitations!
2759 Mcdonald Road
Tyler, TX 75701
For those who do not know, Cork (a wine bar) has opened in the place of the old Cimarron in the Times Square shopping center. I went to Cork the other Sunday for brunch and it was amazing. I had a hard time deciding between chicken and waffles or the eggs benedict but chose the latter and it was delish. It had salmon and caviar on it and I subbed the hashbrowns? for sweet potato fries, nom nom nom. It all went perfect with a mimosa and some great friends to catch up with. I can’t vouch for their wine or sushi but their Sunday brunch was great!
Cork Food & Drink
5201 S Broadway Ave
Tyler, TX 75703
All the Wasabi fans out there will be very excited about the newest addition to their Asian cuisine serving restaurant family, Soju. Walking into Soju is very similar to walking in Wasabi, same look and feel, even some of the same employees. The food is just as good as at Wasabi, and the prices are comparable.
Soju serves a broad selection of sushi rolls, specialty rolls and sashimi in addition to their entrees and noodle bowls. Like Wasabi, Soju offers a nice variety of unique specialty drinks, extending way beyond the usual selections. Soju also has live music (Dustin Becker) on the weekends.
Located at the corner of Grande and Old Jacksonville, Soju occupies the location once home to Kung Pao before they closed their doors just months after opening. I have a pretty good feeling that Soju will enjoy much more success than the previous restaurant based on the positive buzz they are already generating.
Soju Sushi Bar & Asian Bistro
6361 Old Jacksonville Hwy
Tyler, TX 75703
Tyler has finally, finally gotten its first Greek restaurant! Greek is one of my all-time favorite cuisines, so to learn that a good Greek place has opened up in my hometown is music to my ears, and to my tastebuds! What About Kabob is located on the corner of Loop 323 and Kinsey Drive in that sparsely occupied strip center that’s been home to many unsuccessful business over the years. Here’s to hoping that What About Kabob’s receives much more success after the raving reviews I’ve heard from fellow Tylerites who’ve dined there. Word on the street is that their Gyro Nachos are to die for (be sure to stop in for Nacho Wednesday!), and their Original Gyros are large and tasty enough to feed even the hungriest of appetites. I could survive for months on pita chips and hummus alone, and I hear their homemade pita chips are fabulous.
What About Kabob seems to have a great thing going… Tasty food, attentive and friendly staff, and a clean and tidy dining room with cool decor. I’ve heard not one bad thing about this place. Now the only question is – who’s available to meet me for lunch???
What About Kabob & His Gyros
713 WSW Loop 323
Tyler, TX 75703
Villa Montez is one of my absolute FAVORITE places to eat in Tyler. A beautiful location, delicious food, and wonderful service all make Villa Montez one of Tyler’s most desirable dining establishments. Tyler definitely has its fair share of Mexican restaurants, so if you’re like me you may be hesitant to try yet another one… However, Villa Montez isn’t what you would expect at all. Instead of identifying itself as strictly Mexican, Villa Montez boasts a Latin menu offering some traditional favorites as well as a few surprises.
Everything I’ve had a Villa Montez has been outstanding, but a few choices in particular have stood out. Being a tuna lover, I absolutely love the sashimi grade Mazatlan Aji Azado appetizer. Also, if you are feeling adventurous, I’d recommend sampling the Brazilian Coconut Soup. For my entree, I adore the Yucatan Sweet Pork Salad. What could be better than a fresh green salad with guacamole atop a layer of beans, rice and deliciously sweet and tender pork? It’s perfection! Villa Montez also offers an impressive selection of choice steaks, and I’ve heard the shrimp enchiladas are to die for. Make sure to order one of their specialty margaritas with your dinner. Just like the food, they are spectacular!
I seriously do not have enough wonderful things to say about Villa Montez. I suggest that anyone who hasn’t tried it out yet to do as as soon as possible, and if you have been before go again! The recently expanded patio makes the perfect back-drop for a romantic dinner or a night out with family and friends.
3324 Old Henderson Hwy
Tyler, Texas 75707
While Tyler was definitely not hurting for another Mexican restaurant, that has not stopped Tylerites from flocking to the brand new Chuy’s on South Broadway. Parking spots are scarce and waiting lists are long, but the food is worth the wait if you’re willing to put up with the crowd.
I’ve always been a believer that, for the most part, restaurant style Mexican food is pretty much the same anywhere you go. An enchilada is an enchilada, fajitas are fajitas and a quesadilla is a quesadilla. Therefore, the biggest opportunity Mexican chains have to set themselves apart from the competition is their chips, salsa and margaritas. Chuy’s obviously understands where I am coming from because their chips and salsa do not disappoint. They make their salsa fresca fresh every hour, and their chips are always crispy with just the right amount of saltiness. And there’s the creamy jalapeno sauce aka crack dip. It tastes like ranch on steroids. Of course, I also have to mention their complimentary queso, beans, and taco meat station every happy hour… Can’t beat that! I do think Chuy’s house margaritas leave something to be desired (there seems to be a funny, artificial lime flavor that I don’t care for in their mix) but the mojitos are so awesome they almost make up for the margaritas.
The food is pretty good, too. The chicka-chicka boom-boom enchiladas have been the best thing I’ve ordered so far, with the appetizer platter coming in second. If you haven’t been to Chuy’s yet (which can’t be very many of you), you definitely should give it a shot. I’d recommend waiting until an off hour if you want to park remotely close and not wait an hour for a table, but all the hype is well deserved. I give Chuy’s dos thumbs up!
I was already impressed with Brookshire’s before the opening of Fresh. The Tyler, Texas based grocery company not only stocks an impressive range of grocery products but also actively engages in service to their community and is one of the largest employers in East Texas. And while sometimes their slightly higher than average prices can be a bit of a turnoff, I’d still choose Brookshire’s over the competition any day of the week.
This Spring, Brookshire’s opened their new concept store, Fresh. Fresh is to Tyler what Whole Foods is to the larger cities out there, only Fresh is owned by East Texas’ own Brookshire’s. Fresh offers tons of fresh and unique produce, specialty cheeses, flavorful prepared foods, beautiful fresh flowers, a bakery, cooking demonstrations, a taco stand, deli, and a gelato station (plus much, MUCH more). You can even purchase a glass of wine or bottle of beer to enjoy either while shopping or while listening to live music on the patio. I love to read food blogs, and many of the specialty items I’ve read about were nowhere to be found in Tyler, even at my beloved Drug Emporium. Now I can just run over to Fresh and pick up anything I could ever dream of, including Fresh’s own homemade tortillas and freshly popped rice cakes.
Though Fresh is under the Brookshire’s umbrella, they do not participate in the Thank You Card program, and discounts and good deals can be hard to find. That being said, if a can of black beans costs 20 cents more at Fresh I’ll still happily pay it because to me, the experience justifies the higher prices. While some from larger cities may complain that Fresh still pales in comparison to Whole Foods… I’m from Tyler and I think Fresh is pretty darn cool.
hours: Sun – Sat 6am-10pm
FRESH by Brookshire’s
6991 Old Jacksonville Hwy
Tyler, TX 75703
I had the pleasure of attending BJ’s Brewhouse’s pre-opening event for lunch. Despite the limited menu offerings and somewhat confusing ordering instructions they had for today, BJ’s completely lived up to the hype that’s surrounded Tyler’s newest restaurant since they broke ground last year.
Upon arrival we were handed our menus and given instructions to select one entree or one pizza and either an appetizer or a dessert. It appeared as though each table was given a different menu to choose from, and I assume this was to give the staff experience serving and preparing each and every item they offer. The entrees that we had to choose from were the Field of Greens salad, Atlantic Salmon, the Calzone, or the Pulled Pork BBQ Sandwich. Their full range of specialty pizzas were also available for us to choose from. Since we were instructed to order just one item per menu per table, our table of four ordered one salmon, one salad, one combination pizza, and one Pizookie sundae to finish things off. The Field of Greens salad was my chosen entree, and it was quite delicious. It came with red peppers, candied pecans, mandarin oranges, purple onion, and mixed greens and was tossed in a light dressing. Any of the items would have paired nicely with one of BJ’s specialty brews, but since this was a working lunch I stuck with water. I can’t wait to go back another time and sample their beer selection. The star of the show was the Pizookie cookie sundae topped with vanilla ice cream. It was definitely worth the indulgence and not quite as sinful when shared with three other people.
BJ’s officially opens for business on Monday, February 28 and I anticipate the lines here to be long for awhile. The extensive menu, courteous staff and intriguing yet comfortable atmosphere make BJ’s a welcome addition to Tyler’s restaurant selection.
hours: Sun – Thurs 11am-12am, Fri 11am-1am, Sat 10am-1am
BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse
210 WSW Loop 323
Tyler, TX 75703
My go-to place to shop when I want to find a unique gift for a colleague or friend is Sweet Gourmet. They carry the best specialty food items around, have excellent customer service, and in many instances have made my job much, much easier.
When I needed to provide 10 gift baskets for the Saudi royal family Sweet Gourmet pulled out all the stops and arranged 10 of the most impressive spreads I’ve ever laid eyes on. When President Bush came to town it was a no-brainer to have Sweet Gourmet fix him up with an assortment of Tyler’s finest snacks which I later saw his staff carry to his car. I imagine he enjoyed some Firecrackers on his way to the Cowan Center where he was delivering his speech.
My favorites items to get at Sweet Gourmet are Lammes Longhorns, Texas Firecrackers, D.L. Jardine’s Salsas, and anything Godiva. I would recommend Sweet Gourmet to anyone and will continue to utilize their services as often as I possibly can.
hours: Mon – Sat 10am-6pm, Sun 12:30pm-5pm
4554 South Broadway Avenue
Tyler, TX 75703-1305
In my opinion there are few things more chic than a well groomed, short, true red fingernail. However, there are also few things less chic than a tired, chipped manicure that’s obviously a few days past its prime. So, when I heard about the new gel nail manicures they are doing at Serenity Nail Salon in the Bergfeld shopping center that last days with no chipping I knew I had to try it.
I can’t do the fake nails with the thick acrylic and plastic tips, though their longevity is appealing. So my biggest concern with the gel nails was that they would seem too artificial, like the acrylic nails to do me. Well, this is not the case at all… The gel nails look just like regular, super shiny nail polish, and Serenity has a huge range of colors to chose from. The gel is painted on like regular polish then dries almost instantly so there’s no risk of smudging. I got mine done for the first time two weeks ago, and though the polish has grown away from the cuticle and the color has dulled a bit, there is still no chipping at all. I can’t wait to get a fresh set this weekend. All I need to decide now is what color to get!
Serenity Nail & Spa
120 E 9th St
Tyler, TX 75701
Unwrap the Magic
The Junior League of Tyler’s annual Mistletoe & Magic holiday fundraiser brings holiday cheer, unique shopping, and the spirit of community service to Tyler each November, and this year’s event was no exception.
The event takes place at Harvey Hall which completely transforms into a holiday themed shopping wonderland. Anyone familiar with Harvey Hall knows what a challenge it can be to make the venue look decent, much less good, but during Mistletoe & Magic the event is undeniably and unexpectedly beautiful. Obviously, this is no easy task and the credit goes to the many Junior League members who donate their time and money to the cause, putting hundreds of hours into the half-week long event, making sure no detail is overlooked.
Each year Mistletoe & Magic begins with the Preview Party, where admission gets you access to view the vendors’ merchandise before doors open to the public, along with unlimited food, drinks, and front row seats to some of the best people watching Tyler has to offer. After the Preview Party, it’s open range and every man (or woman) for himself as people scramble to purchase everything from jewelry to toffee to home decor to childrens’ toys. I like to think of Mistletoe & Magic as high-end Canton. Amidst all the shopping, there was a fashion show, pajama party breakfast, and a raffle drawing for a Rolex watch and a Volkswagen Bug.
Mistletoe & Magic 2010 is over and done, but I am already looking forward to next year. The event truly is one of Tyler’s finest, put on by amazing people for a wonderful cause. I better see everyone there come M&M 2011!
Harvey Convention Center
2000 West Front Street
Tyler, TX 75702-6854
My friend, Emily Mariani, fitness guru, personal trainer, unrelenting boot camp drill sergeant, and on top of all the she’s even a yoga instructor, recently turned me on to the wonderful world of yoga and the improvements in my mind, body, and entire outlook have been dramatic. Since she began teaching me yoga I have hardly missed a class, and have found the practice to be a perfect compliment to my fitness routine.
The yoga studio Emily teaches at is Windhorse which is located on 9th St. behind Steinmart. It is the quintessential yoga studio, complete with zen, soothing colors, flowing curtains, statues of figurines in yoga poses I will likely never achieve, and yoga mood lighting including recessed, track, candles, and a few cute, quirky lamps.
Windhorse offers a full schedule of classes for all different levels, from beginners to hard core yogis. I attend the sunrise yoga which I have found to be the perfect way to start my day. However there are afternoon, evening, and weekend classes available. The full schedule is available on their website at www.windhorseyogastudio.com. Anyone considering getting into yoga or any experienced yogis out there looking for a new class or change of venue, I urge you too try out Windhorse. You will not regret it!
Windhorse Yoga Studio
208 West 9th Street
Tyler, TX 75701-4100