Monday, July 18, 2011

Ken's Diner - Rockport, Texas

If you've been going to the coastal town of Rockport , Texas, as I have, in the last 10 years it has grown significantly. Especially the business aspect of the town. One new restaurant has popped up since the last time I was there (it's been about two years) and that is Ken's Diner. It's a small place, in fact, if you're not looking for it you'll drive right by it. It may be a small place, but, the menu is quite extensive and most importantly the food is superb. The best description I have is that everything taste "homemade". The waitstaff is very friendly and courteous with excellent service being their top priority.
I walked in for breakfast and the place was packed. No names put on a list, they use the honor system, you sit in the order you walked in as patrons leave. As I was walking to my table I was also scouring the people already seated to see what looked good. All the plates looked good. Anyway, I sat down and ordered my cup of coffee and looked over the menu. The choices for breakfast were many. I finally decided on the "Classic" breakfast which included 2 or 3 eggs (I chose 2) cooked how you wanted, hashbrowns or grits, with bacon, ham or sausage and toast or biscuits. Oh and just in case you were wondering, the prices are cheeeeeeeeaaaaaap!!! ( My plate was $4.99!!)
I ordered my eggs sunny-side-up with hashbrowns that were crispy on the outside and tender inside and not greasy - just the way I like them. I also had the biscuits which were fluffy, light and tasty.
My overall breakfast experience at Ken's Diner was great. If you're ever in the Rockport area of the Texas coast, please go by and pay them a visit, you won't be disappointed.

                                                                     Ken's Diner

                                                                   205 Hwy 35 N
                                                                  Rockport, Texas

Monday, July 4, 2011

Lupe Tortilla - San Antonio Texas

 A new restaurant opened up this week in north San Antonio. Lupe Tortilla, located on Hwy 281North recently opened their doors to the public so I decided to give it a try. There was no waiting, so, I was seated as soon as I walked in. Like many other typical Mexican food restaurants, once seated, I was given a basket of chips and salsa. Only, in addition to chips and salsa, I was also given a cup of pinto beans. I had a fork and knife as my utensil set but no spoon. I started eating the pinto beans and the salsa using chips. The salsa was no problem, but, eating the pinto beans with chips was a little awkward. So, I used my fork- but- that too wasn't right because the broth of pinto beans is the best part - IMHO, and the fork just wasn't cutting it. So, I stopped my waiter and asked him what was the deal with the pinto beans - are they to be eaten with chips or...
Anyway the waiter said that "yes" they were meant to be eaten with chips, but, truthfully most people just used their fork. So, first-of-all, if you offer pinto beans or any kind of food with broth, provide a spoon. I asked my waiter for a spoon and he gave me that "you're weird" look.
So, it's time to order, and I decide to get a "create your own combo" plate with a puffy taco, chile con queso and rice and re fried beans.
My plate came with the rice and beans, a puffy taco and a soft rolled taco. Not what I ordered. I finally flagged someone down to notify my waiter that my order was wrong.
The correct plate came with an apology for the mistake.
The puffy taco was very good. A light, puffy, not-greasy tortilla filled with flavor fully spiced ground beef, lettuce, tomato and topped with grated cheese. This taco was really stuffed and the most amazing thing was that it did not split down the middle. (For us puffy taco eaters, that is a common result when picking up to eat it). The chile-con-queso was also good, it was served in a cupped shaped tostada shell. The re fried beans, on the other hand, were bland. The rice was hard with many undercooked kernels and  not very flavorful.
With the exception of the puffy taco, my dining experience at Lupe Tortilla, was not very good. When first impressions are what someone remembers, this restaurant did not make a good impression in my book. After all, a good puffy taco, is easy to come by in San Antonio. Fork it, I don't think I'll be returning any time soon.

                                                                 Lupe Tortilla
                                                       21103 Highway 281 North
                                                             San Antonio, Texas

Saturday, June 25, 2011

A San Antonio Institution

As restaurants go, in San Antonio, they're a dime a dozen (pardon my cliche). But one restaurant I visited recently stands alone to the test of time. DeWese's Tip Top Cafe has been in San Antonio since 1938. Located just north of downtown at 2418 Fredericksburg Road, it has over the years, become a favorite of locals and tourists alike. Many of the waitstaff have been with the restaurant for decades -which I believe is an attribute to it's quality and popularity.
Many of the customer favorites include: the chicken fried steak - which comes with a creamy gravy on the bottom of the steak(and it is a very large one at that), the fried oysters, the fried shrimp and the enchiladas. Other favorites include the hot pork plate which is thick slices of tender roasted pork loin on a open-faced sandwich covered with a dark brown gravy and the french fried onion rings which are thick and covered with a light batter and fried till they're crispy and the onion is tender and delicious.
If you're ever in the area, be sure to stop and try the Tip Top, even if you're not, it's worth the the drive. If you're a visitor to the the city be sure you put this place on your agenda, you won't regret it. But, one word of caution, the restaurant does not take any type of credit or debit cards. So be sure you have cash-in-hand, but, you won't you need to rob a bank, all the plates are very reasonably priced.

                                                              DeWese's Tip Top Cafe
                                                              2418 Fredericksburg Rd
                                                               San Antonio, Texas


Monday, June 20, 2011

Barbacoa Anyone?

I know some of you are asking "What is Barbacoa?" First of all, it's pronounced barrr - bah - co - ah. Secondly, it's Mexican style bar-b-cue. Precisely it's the meat that comes from the cow's head and part of the neck. It's absolutely delicious.
Originally, I believe, the method of cooking it was to put the whole skinned head in a large heavy covered pot. Dig a large hole , throw some hot coals in, put the covered pot in on top of the coals, throw some coals on top of the pot and then cover the whole thing with dirt and leave it overnight. In the morning you were rewarded with some of the moistest, mouth-watering, melt-your-mouth meat you've ever tasted. Not to mention the lengua (tongue-don't knock it, till you tried it) and the cesos ( brain-an acquired delicacy). But, the real prize was the meat that off the cheeks and neck/vertebrae (espinositos).
Which brings me to the reason I'm writing you. You know, you can make this same delicious meat in your kitchen for half the price you'll pay at restaurant or Molina (a place that makes tortillas and usually sells barbacoa), or without having to do the whole hole in the ground thing!
You can buy cheek meat (it's labeled as "cheek meat") in most stores here in South Texas. HEB is one chain that carries it and so does Sam's. Anyway, it usually comes in a cry-o-vac package (hard to tell what it is when looking at it, but, don't worry just get it).
Take it out the package - be careful it's very bloody- and put it a pan- like a 9 x 13 cake pan. You can line the pan with enough foil to wrap and seal he meat or cover the pan with foil before it goes in the oven.
I like to season the meat with salt and pepper and stick 4-5 garlic cloves directly into the meat. The easiest way I found to do this is to use good kitchen scissors to make 1" cuts in the meat and stick the garlic into the cuts. (The meat, you'll find is very tough - it's a lot easier using the scissors - trust me!)
Wrap the foil around the meat to seal it tightly or cover the pan with foil. (No water needs to be added) Put it in a pre-heated 230 degree oven and just leave it overnight. (I usually put mine in around 9pm and take it out around 7am.)
Now there will be a lot of liquid produced in the cooking process. What I do is work with two forks to separate and clean the meat. Then I put it into a steamer top of a pan with water to heat it up.
Make your favorite guacamole , chop up some cilantro, cut some lime wedges, and warm up some corn and flour tortillas. Oh, and don't forget your favorite hot sauce or salsa.
Now dig in and enjoy this flavorful taco feast. The only thing you need now is some Big Red to go with this barbacoa.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Small town winner!!

There's a quaint, small town about 30 miles north of San Antonio that looks like it came straight out of the latest issue of Southern Living Magazine. Welcome to New Braunfels, Texas. Home to Schlitterbahn (rated one the best water parks in the U.S.) and Wurstfest (a week long huge celebration to the German Heritage of this gem of a city).
I found something else New Braunfels needs to be proud of: McAdoo's Seafood Company. It's a restaurant with a Creole theme and folks, let me tell you, this is some of the best seafood and steaks I've ever tasted. And trust me, I've tasted a lot! (remember I love to eat)
The first time I went there I had an appetizer of their craw fish bisque. It was ribbony and creamy and was loaded with chunks of craw fish. For my entree I ordered the fried seafood platter which came with at least two catfish fillets, about eight large shrimp, a crab cake and a stuffed shrimp all sitting on a bed of dirty rice. (or you could get it with fries) The catfish had a light cornmeal breading and was very flavorful. The shrimp were lightly breaded with panko bread crumbs and cooked perfectly. The stuffing for the crab and shrimp was light and delicious, not heavy and doughy at all.
Today, though, I wanted to try something different. I ordered the rib eye steak. It was 16 ounces of perfectly grilled (medium) heaven. It came with garlic mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli (which I opted out of). Instead I asked for some Jambalaya. The mashed potatoes were delicious and the Jambalaya was incredible with chunks of sausage and chicken and seasoned just right.
I also had a salad wedge which was a quarter head of Iceberg lettuce topped with a delicious homemade bleu cheese dressing and sprinkled with fresh crispy bacon bits. What a flavor combination, it was awesome!

                                                            McAdoos's Seafood Company
                                                              196 North Castell Avenue
                                                                 New Braunfels Texas

This restaurant is a winner!! Therefore I give it a:

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Parking lot was empty...shoulda know better.

As a kid I did a lot of road trips with my parents. My dad drove everywhere and he could drive forever without a rest. But we did stop for essentials, and one of those was food. If we didn't eat sandwiches and fruit that my mom had packed, then we stopped at a restaurant. One thing I remember is my dad always gauged the quality of food at a place we had never been to by the number of cars in the parking lot. He would say "there's a lot of people here, it must be good." And it usually was.
A couple of days ago I stopped at Las Palapas Restaurant at 23275 IH10West. There were about 3 cars in the parking lot - shoulda been a clue. Walked in and yes the place was practically empty. I was seated quickly and my drink order taken and delivered. Chips and salsa were brought to the table. The salsa was vinegary and the chips tasted slightly stale.
Ordered my meal: Chile con Carne Enchiladas with cheese on the inside. Also ordered an extra puffy taco.
The tortillas of the enchiladas were were not soft (they're supposed to be soft-not mushy- but soft). The cheese had no flavor and Chile con Carne (meat) sauce had no meat. The refried beans were bland. The rice was flavorful. The puffy taco was not puffy. The tortilla was thick and doughy - not what a puffy taco should be. The filling was okay.
 I had enough of the food and was ready leave so I waited for the check. And waited. I had to flag down the cashier to find my waiter. The place was, for the most part, empty. Why and how does the waiter disappear. Don't understand that.
"Just Fork Me" why did I come in here to eat? Because of my not-so enjoyable meal, at Las Palapas, I give it the above rating:

Until we meet again!!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Where did it begin

When I was about 10 years old my mom taught me how to make pancakes. I made my first batch and never looked back. I remember making a stack of like eight pancakes - all for me - smeared with butter and drenched with syrup, just the way I liked 'em.
My interest in food grew in all directions from those pancakes I made as a kid. I spent 30 years as a fire fighter, so I got to work on my cooking techniques and recipes on my fellow firefighters, who were really my guinea pigs. But I never had any complaints and no one ever got sick!
 I love to cook 'cause I love to eat. When I cook I take a lot of pride in what I'm cooking-I want it to taste good, look good and feel good - that's whether I'm cooking in the kitchen or grilling outside on the pit.  And I expect the same from food especially from a restaurant where one goes in and is expected to pay for what they ordered. That's not so easy to do sometimes. When the food you ordered does not meet one's expectations you should send it back. But wait, we've all heard of the horror stories about pissing off the restaurant staff. So most of the time you just grin and bear it.
So, when I go out to eat and my plate isn't what I expected it to be, or what the particular restaurant was boasting about, I say to myself "just f--k me, why did I come in here." There is no excuse for sloppy food or service at food establishments where you're expected to pay for what you eat.
So, I've made it my mission to try different restaurants and critique the food and service along with anything else related to my overall dining experience.
I'm developing an avatar that I want to use when I "rate" a restaurant. I'm designing it myself, so it may take a bit before I can debut it in my blog.
So, until we meet again - JUST FORK ME!