Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Perini Ranch Steakhouse--A "Texas" Eating Experience

Front of the restaurant
There was a time the you go to Perini's and get a table without a reservation. A friend told me it was the kind of place one could meet for a clandestine meal. Those days are long past. The notoriety of serving various U.S. Presidents and being named the best mail order gift of 1995 by the New York Times has made them a "destination" restaurant. People fly and drive to Abilene to eat at there. It is good, very good.

The atmosphere of the remodeled ranch house really makes the experience but unlike the old days they now have air conditioning. There was a time when the restaurant did not and they would have the windows open to let a stray breeze come in. There is also outdoor seating. Don't be surprised if you see local wild life and other animals (last time we saw a raccoon and a cat both eating peacefully outside under a buckboard wagon). Deer are also a common sight.

Located just outside of Buffalo Gap, Texas, about 15 miles from Abilene, the drive to out there to eat is pleasant. Buffalo Gap has many old oak trees.

I have eaten at Perini Ranch Steakhouse many, many times over the years and they consistently deliver a superior steak. The green chili hominy is my favorite side dish. You cannot go wrong with the ribs or bacon-wrapped jalapeno bites for a starter. I am partial to the jalapenos because, well, bacon and cream cheese. They also have quail legs as a starter.

Peppered strip steak with hominy
Perini's serves a prime rib, filet, two sizes of ribeye, a peppered strip, and a good-sized hamburger steak. For those who want something other than beef you can get grilled or fried catfish, fried shrimp, or a grilled chicken breast. I have had the fried shrimp and the catfish. Both have a kick to them and since the grilled catfish is labeled Cajun, I assume it does as well. Dinners are served with a house salad and one side dish. Sides are cowboy potatoes (skins left on), green chili hominy, zucchini Perini which has an Italian meat sauce on top, green beans, and a seasonal vegetable. There is also a chopped bleu cheese salad option if you are not thrilled about a regular house salad.
"Dusted" shrimp and green chili hominy

Many dishes, even desserts such as the jalapeno cheesecake, have a component that could be called spicy. Meals are served with a halved grilled jalapeno in case you want even more heat. This could be off putting for some people. Just ask the server for recommendations if you don't want something with jalapenos, green chili, etc...

There is no need for any type of steak sauce on a Perini steak. The flavor is heavy with mesquite smoke and seasonings. Prices generally range around $30 or more for the steaks.

My recommendation for the perfect meal there is jalapeno bites as an appetizer, a ribeye or filet (depending on how "fatty" you like your steak), a salad with ranch dressing, the hominy, and bread pudding with whiskey sauce as dessert. Don't forget the homemade sourdough bread with seasoned butter too.

At lunch, I recommend the Ranch burger. It is delicious.They also have other lunch-time sandwich options.

You know you want to go. Make a reservation today.

Phone: 325-572-3339
Website: https://store.periniranch.com/steakhouse/  (online reservations available)
Tuesday - Thursday, 5:00pm - 10:00pm
Friday - Sunday, 11:00am - 10:00pm

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Three Days on the Riverwalk in San Antonio--Restaurant Recap

Recently, I spent a few days in San Antonio at a conference. I stayed at the Menger hotel which is right beside the Alamo. The famous Riverwalk was just a block away. The Rivercenter mall was next door. There were many, many choices of places to eat during my stay. Below is a list of the places I patronized. Sometimes alone, sometimes with a friend or with colleagues. Breakfast each day consisted of snacks I brought from home. Though I did go over my per diem for meals two out of three days there, it was worth it. Enjoy!

Day One--

Lunch at Schilo's Delicatessen 
424 E. Commerce 78205
(210) 223-6692
Schnitzel and sauerkraut

Schilo's Deli (interior)
Pastrami on rye
Me and a friend hoped to make it to Schilo's in time to have breakfast/brunch but alas we arrived at 11am so we had lunch instead. They are an institution in San Antonio. Only accessible at street level, they serve German inspired meals along with traditional breakfast and lunch entrees. I ordered schnitzel and sauerkraut and my companion had a pastrami on rye. The place was slammed but the food came out quickly. My schnitzel had good flavor but was on the dry side. They are famous for their house-made root beer. I didn't have any but it looked creamy and refreshing.

Wishing I had made it back to try breakfast. Next time!

Dinner at Boudro's Texas Bistro
Reservations highly recommended.
 421 E. Commerce 78205
(210) 224-8484

Prickly Pear Margarita
Guacamole made tableside
Boudro's is my favorite restaurant on the Riverwalk. It is small space and very popular, make your reservations in advance. They are well-known for their guacamole for two that they make table side ($11). I noticed they use oranges instead of just limes.  It is some of the best guacamole ever. Served with tortilla chips.

Boudro's serves a lovely margarita with prickly pear syrup the makes the drink a vibrant pink. The food is southwestern inspired with a bit of a Louisiana twist.

For my entree, I had shrimp and crab enchiladas ($24) topped with a cream sauce. It was delicious and what I almost always order. The seafood is fresh. You can just tell. Sides were black beans and a wild rice pilaf.

My advice is that you ask for a table inside. I find all the foot traffic going by the outdoor tables annoying and not worth the view of the river.

Shrimp and crab enchiladas
The service is professional and efficient. I don't know how the servers wind their way around all the close tables but they make it look easy. The prices don't seem to be as inflated due to location as many of the other places on the Riverwalk which is a plus. Most entrees were around $30.

Day Two--
Lunch at Fogo de Chao Brazilian Steakhouse
849 E Commerce St #393 78205
(210) 227-1700

Selections from the market table
My sister and I went to Foge de Chao because neither of us had ever been to a churrascaria before. You know the places with all the roasted meats on skewers. We had both been attending a conference at the nearby San Antonio Convention Center. The place was impressive. We chose to have the full experience which at $35 for lunch was not an inexpensive proposition but since it was our first time to try a Brazilian steakhouse we had to go for it. We could have easily made a satisfying meal out of the market table "salad bar".

I have to apologize in advance for not having any pictures of the meat. Google it because the variety is astounding. Also, there is not one single server assigned to your table. All the servers check on you, which can get a bit overwhelming if the place isn't crowded.

Caramelized bananas and polenta
We started off at the market table for salads, cured meats, cheeses, carrot ginger soup, beans, cold vegetables, and all sorts of other goodies. Once you are ready for the meats you turn over a card on your table and the meats start to arrive. You have a small utensil to get the meat as the server is cutting it off the large skewer. They served cheesy gluten free rolls called Pão de Queijo (pure heaven, my sister fell in love!), garlic mashed potatoes, polenta, and caramelized bananas along with the meat course. It was really much too much food. We both knew our husbands would have loved to have gone there with us. When I go again, I'll probably just have the market table. I felt guilty about all the uneaten meat on my plate.

Dinner was at  Maria Mia Mexican Cantina--Located in the Rivercenter Mall. A tourist trap with slow service, inflated prices, and bland food. I only ate there because I wasn't very hungry from the huge lunch and it was close to my hotel. Plus, I planned to do some shopping at Macy's after dinner. If you can't tell, I do not recommend it.

Day Three--
Vampire taco
Lunch at the Yard House 
849 E. Commerce St 78205
(210) 354-3844

The Yard House is a chain but I had never been to one before. They have a very eclectic and large menu. This one is located on second level beside the Rivercenter mall but it didn't feel like a mall restaurant. I ordered a vampire style street taco with carnitas, bacon chorizo, chipotle crema, guacamole, roasted garlic, and cilantro. Vampire style means that cheese is put on the tortilla and then grilled so that it melts into the tortilla. It was very good but the carnitas were a little to fatty for my taste. It also wasn't very big for $6.50 (no sides).

Moo shu eggrolls
I also ordered the moo shu eggrolls which were excellent. The had chicken, chili cream cheese, carrots, green onions, cilantro, and spinach. However, the price at $10.50 was high. Service was attentive and friendly. It would be worth it to go back and try some of there other intriguing menu items. Maybe prices are lower in the less tourist heavy locations?

They advertise that they have the largest selection of beer on draft. They certainly have a huge number of food items.

Dinner at the Fig Tree
Reservations highly recommended--dinner service only
 515 Villita St. 78205
 (210) 224-1976

Appetizers; escargot, quail legs, etc...
My last dinner of the trip was at a french restaurant in La Vilita called the Fig Tree. Very elegant. The type of place to impress a date or propose. This was a group dinner so I am not certain that everything we ate was on the regular menu. We ate inside but they have table on the inviting outdoor terrace. Dinner service only.

We started with a selection of appetizers; quail legs wrapped in bacon, escargot in pastry, boiled shrimp, crab on toast points, and stuffed mushrooms. The snails have a mushroom type texture to them and with all the garlic, they also taste like garlic butter sauteed mushrooms. We then were served cream of cauliflower soup and a field green salad.

Cream of cauliflower soup
For my entree I choose the petit filet with grilled shrimp. The side dishes were asparagus and mashed potatoes. The steak was just a little overcooked. I had ordered medium and it came out closer to medium-well. The sauce helped keep the steak from being too dry.

Vanilla creme brulee was dessert. The sugar crust on top was done perfectly.
Petit filet and grilled shrimp in wine reduction

Service was impeccable. They didn't skip a beat, even though the group had about 25 people spread across four or five tables. I have no idea how much it all cost but I would guess easily $90-$100 a person for the complete meal.

Po Po Restaurant outside Boerne, TX--A Tasty Timewarp

Booth with decorative plates above
On a recent trip, I stopped at a place located west of Boerne, TX. It is actually in a spot called Welfare if you are looking for the sign on Interstate 10 between Comfort and Boerne. It is the Po Po Restaurant. Whenever I am in the area, it is a goal to eat there if possible. The plethora of collectible plates on the wall, the white banquet seats, the fried chicken and tranquil views. It feels like a little like a trip back to in time when I visit.

Po Po's has an interesting history. It started out as a "middle-of-nowhere" hill country dance hall in 1929.  The service, though not always speedy, is attentive and friendly. I have eaten at Po Po:s many times over the years; with friends, with family, and all by myself. On this last visit, it was a solo trip for a late lunch/early dinner as I drove into San Antonio for a conference.

View from my table
The menu is large and varied but they are well known for their delicious fried chicken. Prices are more expensive than you might expect--about $2.00 more per item than you might pay in other restaurants,perhaps because they are a bit hidden. I ordered a patty melt with onion rings ($10.99). The rye bread was perfectly toasted and the 1/3 lb patty was juicy. The grilled onions and cheese on top made for a messy lunch but it was worth it. I couldn't finish the onion rings which were hand breaded and thick cut.

Patty melt on rye with onion rings (half-eaten, sorry)
Over the years, I've had the fried chicken, chicken fried steak, catfish and shrimp, and for dessert-- bread pudding. They serve liver and onions for those in search of that meal. Pasta, steaks, seafood are available as well as a full bar. Breakfast is now being served from 7am-10:30am.

If you find yourself in the area, go ahead and take the exit and enjoy a leisurely meal at Po Po's Restaurant. They have featured lunches every weekday. 

Reservations are accepted and recommended for weekends and holidays. They close at 8:30pm Sunday-Thursday and 9:30pm on Friday and Saturday.

PO PO Restaurant
829 FM 289, I-10 Welfare exit 533
Boerne, TX 78006

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Rock’n Roller’z Roll’n Grill--Scrumptious Burgers on Wheels

Old Schooler traditional cheeseburger
I'm late to the party with this review of Rock'n Roller'z hamburgers and a report on my first visit to Abilene's Food Park in south downtown. The park is an outdoor dining spot that hosts a rotating group of food trucks, primarily during the lunch hour. It is on the corner of S. 1st and Sycamore St. Most of the parking for diners is in a lot north of S. 1st close to the railroad tracks. The park fits about 4-5 food trucks, so it isn't very big but it is certainly a step in the right direction for food culture in Abilene.

Last year, I had a burger from the truck when they were parked at a local business. At that time I ordered the town favorite, a Poppin' Johnny. It is dressed up with cream cheese, fire-roasted jalapenos, bacon, fried onion strings, and a jalapeno ranch sauce...a mouth-watering combo of jalapeno popper and burger. No wonder it has won some local awards. This time, the hubby and I went to the food park just to have a burger from Rock'n Roller'z for supper. They were the only truck listed to be there for the evening so we did not have to fight a lunch-time crowd and the parking was easy.

Truffle fries
The burgers are served with fries and range in price from $8-$12. The buns they use are delicious and locally produced. The meat is never frozen. You can truly taste the difference so I don't mind paying more for something so delectable. The size of the burger was perfect for me. If you do have a really big appetite, they can throw an extra patty on the burger for an up-charge. My husband went traditional with his order of the Old Schooler cheeseburger. I ordered the Rockin Rolla burger which had pepper jack cheese, bacon, onion strings, tomato, lettuce, pickle and "nasty" sauce which is similar to thousand island dressing without the pickles but with a kick to it.

We decided instead of getting the regular fries that come the burger to upgrade to an order of truffle fries and share them. The fries were hand-cut, tossed in truffle oil, served topped with shredded Parmesan cheese and parsley. Truffle oil adds a earthy "mushroom-y" taste to the potatoes. So often with hand-cut fries they don't get much of a "crisp" on them. These fries had a bit of a crunch on the outside while still being tender on the inside. Score! The truck has other options for special fries ($6) that could be a meal in and of themselves. I've also seen homemade cheese sticks being offered as well.
My Rockin Rolla burger

The last burger on the menu, in addition to the Poppin' Johnny, the Old Schooler, the Rockin Rolla, is the Future Bird which is a bacon cheeseburger with two fried eggs on top. They also tend have a rotating option such as a chicken sandwich or another kind of burger to choose from.

The truck is distinctive so keep an eye out for the tattooed lady painted on it. If you see they are serving--STOP! You won't regret it.

Follow them on Facebook or give them a call to find where they are set-up for a truly exceptional burger. You can also check out the Facebook page for the food park in downtown Abilene to see which trucks are parked there (1089 S. 1st) on any given day. 


(325) 665-0513

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Settles Grill--Big Spring Fine Dining

The Settles Grill is in the beautifully restored Hotel Settles in Big Spring, Texas. It was our chosen spot for Thanksgiving in 2016. We also stayed overnight in the hotel (see Trip Advisor for my review of the hotel--excellent place). It was great to take a break from cooking a holiday meal and head out of town for a couples trip. We had two meals in the grill and both were quite tasty.

The customer service in the grill was outstanding. We had a fantastic server who took care of everything we needed. The manager on duty was also accommodating and checked on us more than once. Our reservations were for 2pm and the restaurant was about half-full at that time. The decor was dark wood and blue accents with historic pictures on the wall.

For an appetizer we ordered the Avocado Fundido ($10) which was Queso Fresco, chorizo, black beans and tortilla chips. We dug into it before I could get a picture. Delicious and a generous portion as well.

Turkey tenderloin with fried Brussls sprouts and garlic mashed potatoes
The holiday special we chose was the apricot pecan stuffed turkey breast medallions ($16) even though there were several other choices ranging from steak to fish. We were such traditionalists! There were a variety of sides to choose from such as green chile cornbread dressing, garlic mashed potatoes, cheese grits, fried Brussels sprouts with almonds, lemon butter broccoli, or pan-fried kale.

My sides were the Brussels sprouts, which I loved, and the garlic mashed potatoes. The hubby had the green chili dressing and mashed potatoes. Roasting the sprouts really brought out their flavor. I wished for a bigger serving. The bechamal sauce on the turkey was excellent. Turkey does tend to get dry and the addition of the sauce helped it a lot. There was also had a little bit of homemade cranberry sauce to complement the turkey. There was more meat on the plate than I could eat. Compliments to the chef!
Pumpkin cheesecake

For dessert we had pumpkin cheesecake with brandy whipped cream and a little citrus sugar cookie ($7). I really liked the little sugar cookie and the whipped cream. The cheesecake had a pumpkin spice flavor but with a little overcooked.

We did go back later in the evening for another meal. My husband ordered trout and I had a salad. He loved the trout. Much too "fishy" tasting for me but he raved about it.

I recommend making a reservation for holidays or special events. We will return.

P.S. On the way out of Big Spring, we had to go to Taco Villa. My husband grew up in Andrews, Texas, so if there is a Taco Villa where we travel it is a mandatory stop even for breakfast. The one in Big Spring it the closest one to Abilene if you are interested.

200 E 3rd St, Big Spring, TX 79720

Friday, February 10, 2017

Sams Southern Eatery--Fishy Chicky and Full

Menu for Abilene location
Yes, almost everything served at Sam's Southern Eatery is fried but they also have salads and grilled options. I didn't have grilled anything today and I'm alright with that. Sam's Southern Eatery is a medium-sized chain with about 50 locations in nine states. They started in Shreveport, Louisiana. It is refreshing to see a restaurant opening in the center of town (N.1st and Westwood area) for a change and judging by the business they were doing, I believe others think so as well.

Today, my husband and I had a late lunch (around 1:15pm) and the place looked like it had been hit by a tornado during the noon hour. I imagine that the rush will calm down once the novelty wears off a bit and the staff will have more time to clean the dining room and take out the trash. There were also plumbers there working on the pipes. I've heard from other people that they have run out of food and sometimes the staff have been cranky because of traffic hitting the restaurant, though we didn't have that experience. Abilene is hungry for good seafood. This location has only been open about 10 days. These issues aside, the main dishes we had were scrumptious!

Fish, shrimp, red beans and rice, green beans

We ate three types of fried seafood. The catfish had a wonderfully seasoned, crispy cornmeal breading. These were real fillets, not little slivers of fish. The shrimp is advertised as jumbo-sized and they were indeed big and juicy. My husband had some fried crab cakes which were fine but not up to the level of the fish and shrimp. Their spicy tarter sauce is yummy but the fish didn't need it to help the taste profile.

Crab cakes, fish and shrimp

Entree size was very generous, I got more than the 6 pieces of shrimp I was supposed to have. Sides were on the small side. We had some red beans and rice which were homemade, green beans, and mac and cheese. I think the red beans are the standout on the sides. They do have fried green tomatoes on the appetizer menu but I don't know if they are made in-house. The hush-puppies were a little overcooked but had a nice onion flavor. Perhaps some greens would be a welcome addition to the menu. As would a couple of dessert items. My husband would love to see some crawdads, gumbo, etouffee, or shrimp stew. He has very fond memories of living in S.E. Texas as a kid.

The menu also has fried chicken tenders, wings, livers, and gizzards. Livers and gizzards means southern! Fried oysters too. You can get po-boy sandwiches and burgers as well. The fish and shrimp are the standouts for me.

Dine-in and takeout only (despite being in an old Taco Bell with a drive thru lane right in front of the door). Be aware that the food takes a little while to cook since they are making it fresh. I think Long John Silver's a block away may be in trouble and other places in town that serve fried catfish better watch their backs...there is a new kid in town.

Address: 3509 N 1st St, Abilene, TX 79603

Update: Skip calling in and picking it up. I retrieved our order within the 20 minutes they said it would take and the food was not hot, had a rubbery texture, and they forgot the fried green tomatoes. The fried mushrooms we did have were way too greasy, as though they had been fried twice. Eat in or wait for them to cook it for takeout so you know it was made fresh. I've always been pleased up until this order.  

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Trent "Country Club"--Tasty steaks on the weekends if you don't get lost

I wasn't certain I wanted to write a review of the Trent "Country Club". It crossed my mind to keep it to myself as a hidden gem...mouth-watering grilled steaks, ribs, catfish and shrimp out in the boonies down a dirt road between the towns of Trent and Merkel, Texas (west of Abilene). In the end, it is better to share knowledge. If you look them up on your GPS you may not get there anyway. It was smart that I went with someone who had been there before my first go around because it would have been a challenge otherwise, particularly in the dark. Knowledge of this local favorite is almost all word of mouth. The Abilene paper did a story on Trent Country Club a few years back so you will find an item or two on the internet but most people I've mentioned it to have never heard of the place.
I'm told the lights are up year around.

Tank and Moo with red beans and boiled yellow squash.

First, it isn't really a country club. The name is firmly tongue-in-cheek. There is no golf course or swimming pool. What is at the location is a small restaurant with a caliche parking lot that is open on Friday and Saturday evenings between 5:30pm-9pm and it is filled with local folks. I recommend calling ahead before making the road trip unless you just happen to find yourself on Interstate 20 in the vicinity of Trent around dinner time on the weekend.

Gray dot in the middle is the location.
 I went there with three friends and we all ordered the "Tank & Moo" which was catfish (fried or grilled) and a nice sized NY strip served with two sides. My steak was perfectly cooked and well-flavored. No A-1 needed. The server told me the owner has his own secret marinade/seasoning. The steak was tender and weighed in at about 10-12 oz. At $23.00 for the meal, it was also reasonably priced. The catfish was alright but I like mine extra crispy. The side dishes were homemade. I had red beans and boiled squash but you could go for potatoes or a salad as well as several other options, including a seasonal one such as black-eyed peas (check the chalkboard inside).

Chocolate pie.

Beverages served are tea, soft drinks, or water. You are allowed to bring your own adult beverages if you so choose. However, if you want to have a birthday cake, there is a $15 set-up fee. After dinner we were too full but the desserts on the menu and the chalkboard were to tempting not to try. The chocolate pie was piled high with meringue, just like grandma used to make. There was also two kinds of cobbler and bread pudding, all for only $3.00 each.

I'll be returning and will go for the filet. I'm sure my husband will want the 16 oz ribeye that is the specialty of the house. See you there (if you can find it)!

Trent Country Club
1573 County Road 365
Trent, TX
(325) 862-0400
No website