Thursday, November 13, 2014

Bogie's--Sandwiches and Burgers (lunch only)

Bogie's is a popular downtown lunch spot. It has been around for almost 25 years, They serve sandwiches, burgers, salads, and a daily soup. All the dishes are named after Humphrey Bogart movies. The average price of a sandwich is $7 and is served with potato chips and a dill pickle spear. The price is a bit high when compared to a chain sandwich place but the ingredients are high quality and very fresh. You order at the counter and get your own drink.

I took my brother-in-law there recently when he was in town. He enjoyed the movie posters and the creative menu descriptions. It was a cold day so I went for the Reuben which is named The Caine Mutiny--marble rye, corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and spicy mustard. A hearty sandwich and the bread was nice and soft.
The Caine Mutiny (Reuban sandwich)
My b-i-l got a burger called the Big City Blues.  It had bacon,cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato and a Bleu Cheese dressing. He enjoyed it but was hoping for Bleu Cheese crumbles as well on an $8 hamburger. He gave it a 3.5 on a 1-5 scale.

We ate after 1pm so there wasn't a crowd but during the noon hour there is often a line to the door. They ran out of their soup of the day, potato bacon. They had chili and substituted a batch of chicken tortilla soup.

Big City Blues burger

During cooler weather, my favorite sandwich is The Big Sleep. It is oatmeal bread with avocado, alfalfa sprouts, tomato, Monterrey Jack cheese with Thousand Island dressing and I add bacon to it. Yummy!

I have also had their taco salad in the past which is called The Isle of Fury (but it isn't really THAT spicy). It was pretty good but I'm not a fan of the Pace picante sauce dressing.

All in all Bogie's is a fun place to eat lunch but not a cheap place to eat lunch.

Bogie's Deli
241 Cypress Street
Abilene, TX 79601
(325) 672-3296

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Don Luis Cafe--Cuban and Mexican food

First let me say that I really wanted to love the Don Luis Cafe. The owner, Jorge, is very accommodating and friendly. He puts his heart into his business. The location (being the old Gardski's) has a ton of sentimental value for a lot of Abilenians.  It has been redecorated but still has the same booths and tables. Plus, it is close to my house. They are still working out some issues with training and hiring staff so the service was on the slow side but hopefully that will get resolved. I have been there twice, once for lunch and once for dinner, and though the food was okay it didn't blow me away. What I liked the best were the house-made fried cheese sticks.
House-made cheese sticks with ranch and chipotle ranch dressing

Burger with hand-cut fries
The first visit I went with two friends for lunch. There was the obligatory chips and hot sauce before the meal. The tortilla chips were a little thick for my taste and the hot sauce just average. The restaurant was in its second week of operation, so some glitches were to be expected. On that day, it was super slow service. The menu had a lot of choices, almost overwhelming in the variety.

I ordered a burger and fries since I had eaten Mexican food the night before and my friends both selected dishes from the daily specials. We also ordered some cheese sticks ($6 for 6) for an appetizer and they were quite tasty. I really enjoyed the chipotle ranch for dipping. The burger was nice and greasy. The fries were quite good. The meat patty could have been a bit thicker for a cost of $5.99. My companions found the Mexican food to be a bit bland. They did like the refried beans a lot though. I know that I enjoy Tex-Mex more than traditional Mexican because the flavors are kicked up. The lunch specials were $5.99 which is reasonable for Abilene.

Beef tostada, beef enchilada, rice & beans
Chicken enchiladas with queso sauce, rice & beans
My next visit was with my husband on a Tuesday evening when they serve a deep fried stuffed avocado dish. I have had this before when visiting my sister in the hill country and enjoyed it. The evening service was quicker (fewer people in the restaurant) but there were still only 3 people working. I ordered the Tuesday avocado special stuffed with chicken. It came with charro beans and rice. My husband ordered the beef fajitas. I deduct points since they didn't come out on a hot skillet but my husband liked the flavor though the portion size was on the small side for $10.50. It came with a little sour cream, a bit of guacamole, pico de gallo, two tortillas, refried beans and rice.
Stuffed deep-fried avocado with charro beans & rice

The chicken stuffed fried avocados were covered in queso and served with charro beans and rice for $10.99. Sadly, they were a disappointment. The breading was the same that was on the cheese sticks but it needed some spices to enhance the avocado. There was very little chicken and the queso was too salty. The charro beans had barbecue sauce which made them taste like ranch style beans. I was hoping for something kind of special and it just did not live up to my expectations.
Beef fajitas

Since the restaurant does serve Cuban food, including a traditional Cuban sandwich (I believe the owner is Cuban).  Next time, I'll order one of those dishes and hope for some more "oomph" in the food. Otherwise, I imagine I will have to continue my hunt for some really outstanding Latin food in Abilene and just go to Don Luis for appetizers and the occasional meal since they are in our neighborhood.

Don Luis Cafe 

(325) 268-4198
Open 7 days a week.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Stillwater Barbeque--Good but Overhyped

People have been raving about Stillwater Barbeque for a while. They used to be a food truck. Now there is a permanent location, mainly open only for lunch though recently they added dinner hours on Friday and Saturday. I tried their brisket nachos at the local fair last month but there wasn't enough meat and it was covered up with an odd garlic sauce so I couldn't get a real sense of the flavor. 

I judge barbecue based on the brisket. Today I ordered a chopped sandwich. No sides, no chips, just the meat, bread and sauce I added with a few pickles. Cost was $7, better be dang good for that price. 

When I walked in there was a line at the counter. People were placing large orders. I was concerned that they would be out of brisket as it was almost 1:30pm and they close at 3pm or when they run out. Ambiance--think BBQ in Austin. That's the vibe they seem to be going for...odd to put hipster and smoked red meat together but it seems to be a thing.  I was tempted to get a sandwich plate that would have included two sides; brisket beans, potato salad, or brisket macaroni and cheese but it was $11. Sides cost $3 each or $6 for a large. No cole slaw but I could get a bag of Ruffles for $1. They also has some pecan pie/cobbler. The mac and cheese looked intriguing, I almost went for it especially since they had just brought out a new batch.

The brisket had a nice crust and a well-defined smoke ring. The guy gave the brisket a rough chop put it on a bun and slipped it on a piece of pink butcher paper. I got several apologies for the wait. Other meat options were beef ribs, pulled pork, pork spare ribs, and sausage (a couple of varieties). Sometimes they have turkey and chicken. Tell the first person your meat, the second your sides, then order your drinks and pay the third person. 
Chopped brisket sandwich
The brisket was peppery and smokey but for my taste the fat to meat ratio was too fatty. The meat was drier than expected with all the fat too. There were two sauces to choose from at the table. One was mustard-based, I assume because of the pork options.  The other was a sweet oily thin sauce. I liked the mustard one. To be honest I was expecting a mouthwatering experience and I just did not get one. Perhaps my I set my sights too high.

I need to have my husband try the ribs and I'll get some pulled pork and we can split a large brisket mac and cheese but at their prices we may have to save up for out next trip. The guy in front of me spent $60 for his family of four. Hopefully they had leftovers. 

3365 S 14th St (River Oaks shopping center in the old Quizno's)
Abilene, TX, 79605
(325) 518-5071

Friday, September 26, 2014

Big Country Wraps--Middle Eastern food on a budget and vegans rejoice!

Big Country Wraps is the newest entry for Middle Eastern food in Abilene. The seating area is fairly small so you may want to get your's as take-out. I like that it is close to my house. When you live in the northwest part of town, dining choices in the area are primarily fast food chains. It is refreshing to have another choice.

Menu board
Falafel pita with desi fries.

I had heard about Big Country wraps from a friend so I talked the hubby into trying it for dinner. He ordered the beef shawarma pita and I had the falafel wrap. We both added fries and drink for $3.00 extra. The fries are seasoned with a "desi" spice that my husband loved. I wish the fries had been hot when they came out but we did get two extra falafels for free on the side because they forgot my husband's fries and put them on the plate instead. The fries were brought out after we pointed out the mistake. He enjoyed his wrap a lot and said the flavor was good. My falafel wrap was tasty but could have used one more falafel on the pita. It came with two of them, lettuce, onion and pickle.

There are several vegetarian/vegan options which can be difficult to find in restaurants in Abilene. The falafel, pakora, and somosas (I believe) are made without animal products. There is also hummus served with pita bread and the fries as well.

Service was attentive and friendly. They were very patient answering any questions we had about the food. The place was nice and clean. There were only two people working (the owners--brothers I believe) and several folks in the restaurant so it took a while for the food to come out but we were not in a hurry. Our neighbors had the chicken bowl dish and it looked very tempting. Prices were reasonable.
Pistacho baklava--yum!

Now my favorite part--pistachio baklava! I'm not a fan of walnuts but have made exception in the past for regular baklava but now that I can get it with pistachios, I won't go back to walnuts.

We will return to try some other items and we heard they deliver too!

3514 N 1st St, Abilene, TX 79603
(325) 701-9997

Monday, September 22, 2014

Casa Herrera--An Abilene Institution

I have long lamented the lack of really top shelf Mexican or Tex-Mex food in Abilene. We have many adequate places and some have a few dishes that stand out but there isn't a place that I would tell the world was the best. Lots of people pick Casa Herrera as there favorite spot in Abilene to quell a quesadilla craving. It has been in its current location by the Mall of Abilene for many years and before that it was located in Burro Alley (we are talking about 25 years ago) on S. 1st so it truly is one of the longest lasting places in town. Casa Herrera is locally owned so I give them points for that because the other most popular Mexican food in town is a chain called Abuelo's.

Last Friday night was date night for me and the mister. We were craving some Mexican food so we decided to go to Casa Herrera as we hadn't had dinner there as a couple before. I ordered the deluxe nachos and he had a carne guisada (beef chunks in a flavorful gravy) plate that came with beans, rice and flour tortillas. The meal started with complimentary chips and hot sauce. The hot sauce is quite spicy and has the consistency of taco sauce rather than a chunky salsa, as if you mixed tomato sauce and Tabasco sauce together. The chips came unsalted and were reasonably fresh though they had an aftertaste that was a bit odd. My husband really enjoyed his carne guisada and I liked the nachos with the lettuce and tomato though the meat was under-spiced. The meals ran about $7-8 each...not overpriced for what you get though the portions were not huge. The food is much like your average taqueria but the surroundings are classier and the service is better. As you read other online reviews of the restaurant you will find that people tend to either love it or hate it.
Deluxe Nachos
Casa Herrera also serves a weekday and Sunday lunch buffet that people really seem to enjoy.  The lines are long to get in during those times and on Friday and Saturday nights. I have found the buffet to be rather hit or miss. Buffets just tend to be unimpressive in my book, everything gets soggy under the heat lamps.

Our server was very attentive and professional. We could tell that he had been working in the business for years and he was great at anticipating our needs. He asked if I needed jalapenos for my nachos before I had a chance to request them, kept our glasses topped off and promptly took away the dirty dishes. This fact alone helps to elevate Casa Herrera above a lot of the other Mexican restaurants in town.

4109 Ridgemont Dr, Abilene, TX 79606
(325) 692-7065


Friday, September 19, 2014

CLOSED--Sweet Meat Bar-B-Q

Sweet Meat Bar-B-Q (what a name) is one of two new entries in Abilene serving your barbecued meat favorites. The other is Stillwater Barbeque which is only open for lunch and on the opposite side of town from where I work so I haven't had time to try it.  Sweet Meat is located in the old Noodle House/Crystal's Pizza location on S. 1st.  Recently, I went there to celebrate a birthday with some friends.

For an appetizer we got the chicken-fried bacon with gravy. Lot of pepper in the breading and gravy and it was more like Canadian bacon than regular bacon. If it was regular bacon it would have been under-cooked. Flavor was good, if over peppered, but a bit expensive at $6.99.

I ordered my favorite thing to get at a BBQ place--a chopped brisket sandwich--served with homemade fries. I went with their regular sauce instead of the spicy one. At $8.99, I was expecting a generous-sized sandwich and what came out wasn't too terribly big. Average at best. The flavor the brisket was pretty good, sweet and smokey, but the meat was kind of dry and the sandwich wasn't hot, neither were the fries.

Picture from Sweet Meat's Facebook page--but this is how mine looked too.
Others at the table ordered the sliced brisket & sausage plate, the brisket/sausage sandwich, a hamburger, and a sliced brisket plate. Food being lukewarm was a problem on everything but the fried bacon. It was right out of the fryer.  Wait time on the food was too long and though the service was friendly, it needed some polish. Our split check had to be calculated and then recalculated twice.

With the long-standing barbecue places in town, I just don't know that this place will be able to stand up to the competition. I plan to give them another shot soon as they have some good lunch specials but if they can't get it to me nice and hot, I'll be headed back to my usual standbys for brisket.

2201 S. 1st St.
Abilene, TX 79605

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Sweets du Jour--Bakery and Breakfast/Lunch Spot

My friend and I decided to try out a newish local bakery because I had heard some buzz about their cinnamon rolls and the sandwiches served on house-made focaccia bread. They have been around for about 3 years but for some odd reason I've never tried them out probably because they close at 3pm. The situation changed yesterday when I had the afternoon off and a burning craving for some fresh focaccia. Yum!

The lunch menu gives you five sandwich choices, one of which is a build-your-own.  The meatball sandwich is only available on Friday. The chicken-berry salad is the one sandwich that comes on a different type of bread--a croissant to be exact. There are 3-4 daily rotating soup choices as well. There is also quiche if any is left over from breakfast, a generous slice is $5.00. The small sandwich is $5.50 and that is indeed what you get...just the sandwich. You can add a cup of soup for an extra $3.50 or a bag of chips for .75 cents. A large sandwich, which is basically two small sandwiches, is $8.50. They also have breakfast sandwiches on croissant in the morning for $3.75, along with various pastries. 

There are about 10 tables in the place. It is decorated in a black & white theme with a touch of red. Very quaint. The picture below is of one of the cases with some sweets. I was greeted promptly but they warn on their website that it may take up to 15 minutes to get your sandwich so this isn't a place to eat if you are in a rush.  They told the truth as it took about 12 minutes to get our food and there were only 4 other people in the place, two of which ordered after we did. They do have an online ordering system if you want to take advantage of it for a meal or for ordering a bakery item.

I requested the salami, provolone and olive-relish sandwich with a cup of the chicken gnocchi soup (they 3 soup choices from leftovers earlier in the week).  My friend had the mozzarella, basil and roasted tomato sandwich and chips. Drink options were coffee, iced tea or water. No sodas. Bummer. 

The bread was delicious and the toppings were very good quality if not overly generous. My soup was well worth the price. Very flavorful. My friend enjoyed her sandwich as well. All in all, not a place to go if you have a big appetite but enjoyable for a light lunch. Just remember it isn't $5 foot long subs here but a gourmet bakery. 

I bought some peanut butter toffee cookies (.76 cents each) for dessert and they were delicious, just a tad too salty.  I plan to return and try some quiche, a spinach artichoke dip sandwich or order a cake/pie.

Sweets du Jour
726 S Leggett Dr. (SW corner of Leggett and S.7th)
Abilene, TX  79605

10:30 a – 3:00 p Tuesday-Friday
9:00 a – 2:00 p Saturday
Closed Sunday & Monday