Monday, May 13, 2019

Lowake Steakhouse in Rowena, TX

Apologies for the long absence from posting. Life has been turbulent so I just have not had the time to post in the past few months.

The Lowake Steakhouse (formerly in the very small town of Lowake, Texas) has been around since the early 1950s and was regionally famous in its heyday. The current incarnation moved a couple of years ago over to the town of Rowena, a few miles outside of Ballinger. My assumption is the move was to take advantage of the more frequent traffic on the highway between Ballinger and San Angelo but one of the wait staff said it was also less expensive to move than to fix up the building in Lowake. Judging by the number of vehicles outside of the restaurant, they are doing booming business. People seemed to have come from miles around to eat a Saturday evening meal there. 
Bar area

I remember a family outing when I was in upper elementary or junior high traveling from Abilene to Lowake to eat at the steakhouse. My dad was in the insurance business and he often found little interesting and out-of-the-way places to grab a bite. As a kid, I did not understand the ongoing search to find a delicious, yet reasonably priced steak. However, I do remember being stuffed full and falling asleep on the hour drive back home.

Door to patio
This past weekend, some friends and I took a short road trip to go eat at the Lowake Steakhouse on a Saturday evening. We left Abilene a little after 5pm and arrived at the restaurant around 6:15pm. As we suspected there would be, there was a wait which we were told was between 10 minutes up to 30 minutes. When we picked the date to go, it did not cross our minds that it was Mother's Day weekend as well at time that area college graduations were happening. Not to mention that is was Saturday night. The place was PACKED and there were several large groups in the party room. Our wait to be seated turned out to be 25 minutes. There were other "waits" to come but that is to be expected with the crowds.

Once seated, it took our server a few minutes to come by and get our beverage order. Some of us had already gotten drinks at the bar but we needed some water and soft drink refills. We also decided to put in an order for some onion rings as an appetizer. When the server brought the drinks about seven minutes later, we ordered our meals. All the adults ordered steaks and the pre-teen got a bacon cheeseburger. Then the wait for food began. Granted we had ordered our steaks cooked everything from medium-rare to medium-well but after about 30 minutes we began to wonder about our onion rings and an update on the progress of our meal. Turns out the server forgot to put in the order for the rings. She asked if we still wanted them, we did, so they came out with the meal.

Hand battered onion rings (large size)

Several of us took shifts to head to the salad bar for the salad that came with our steaks. It was very basic selection. Iceberg lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, pickles, imitation bacon bits, a few other items, no mushrooms. Nothing special about it but it was serviceable. The ranch dressing did seem homemade.

As far as the main course, as you would expect from what I have written so far, the biggest issue with the meal had to do with timing. They were busy but it is not a good plan to go ahead and plate the sides while waiting for the meat. My fries were not hot. Others at the table had a similar issue with their fries and baked potatoes, except for the kid that got a burger. We were brought some fresh french fries since I said something about their temperature. The server did not act surprised by the comment which let me know that it was not an uncommon complaint. The onion rings were not piping hot either but the portion was generous, which is expected at the $8 price point. They were nice big slices of sweet onion breaded like a chicken friend steak. The onion rings were filling but the breading could have used more seasoning. The bacon cheeseburger pleased the palate of the kiddo in our group. It was big and the patty was fresh. 

Bacon cheeseburger with hand cut fries
As for the steaks, the menu states that garlic is featured in their seasoning. Very, very true. I tasted garlic powder, black pepper, and probably some seasoning salt. Applied with a heavy hand. This is not necessarily a detriment if the meat shines through which is did but if you aren't a garlic fan, skip the steak. The beef was of high quality.

I had a tenderloin, three others got filet mignon (bacon-wrapped tenderloin) and a bone-in rib-eye. Everyone stated their steaks were cooked to the requested "doneness". One or two would have liked the bacon on their filet to have been crispier but I find that the bacon on a filet mignon is not ever crispy as that would mean overcooking the steak. My steak was quite good but I do not mind garlic. The meat was tender and juicy. I was only able to finish about half of it, so the rest went home with me.

Tenderloin cooked medium with hand cut fries
The tenderloin and filet mignon were priced at $32.00 for 10-12 ounces. I am not sure how much the rib-eye was but the least expensive steak was a small 6-ounce dinner steak (sirloin) for $15.50. The prices were about $2-$5 higher than what I was expecting. On the menu there is KC (Kansas City strip steak) available for up to 7 people. If you have a large group, the KC options are a good bet.

Lowake Steakhouse gets high marks for the steak but they need to work on timing to be sure the sides come out hot. Nonetheless, judging by the crowd, people are pleased with what they get there.

Next time, I'll probably get a burger or the small steak and try the spicy fried pickles appetizer. If you are driving on highway 67 between Ballinger and San Angelo, it is worth a stop.

Also, they do serve beer, wine and wine-a-ritas.

12143 US Highway 67
Rowena, TX 76875
(325) 218-4025

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Spicy India in Abilene--New Flavors

If you are looking for something different, something spicy, and you are not in too big of a rush head over to Spicy India. My husband loved the food. He has had Indian food only twice before and neither time knocked his socks off. He ordered a variety of chicken kebabs, garlic naan to share, and a mango lasse (black tea with cream and mango flavor). I had the chicken Korma. I enjoyed it but the portion was too big for me to finish so my husband finished it as well. The naan hot was delicious. It is meant to be eaten with meal to sop up some of the delicious sauces. Next time we will try some of the appetizers as well. The serve a few Indo-Chinese dishes, such as noodles and fried rice, and they have a breakfast menu but no traditional U.S. breakfast foods are listed. 
Garlic naan
Indian food has deep flavors and not everyone enjoys that complexity but we find it refreshing. A great change of pace from the usual fare in Abilene. That being said, the place is family run and service can be slow, particularly if they have several customers or take-out orders going.
We found the owner and servers to be very friendly and willing to offer advice on what to order and to answer questions. Don't let the location scare you away, as the hotel where the restaurant is located is pretty run-down. The restaurant was clean, portions were a nice size, and the food was delicious.

Chicken kebabs, Basmati rice, and chicken Korma

Spicy India Restaurant
505 Pine Street (inside the Civic Plaza hotel)

Daily from 8am-2:30pm, 5pm-9pm

Monday, June 11, 2018

The Shed Market--Outstanding BBQ in Abilene

For those of you who remember, there used to be a restaurant outside of Wingate, Texas, called The Shed. People drove from miles around for steaks and BBQ from them. They shut down a few years ago but were still missed by many.
Menu--not sure if they had run out of chicken or ham that day

The next generation has brought The Shed back and moved it to Abilene! This incarnation is primarily a lunch spot and meat market. They are open Tuesday-Saturday from 11am until 6pm or until they run out. They are located on Buffalo Gap Road just south of Antilley Road in a shopping center.

We arrived at 11:55am and there was already a line almost to the door which grew to out the door as we waited to place our order at the counter. Service was friendly and efficient. They make your plate right in front of you.

I had the best chopped brisket sandwich that I can remember for lunch from them the other day and a great value at $8! The serving was quite generous. The meat was not too fat and not too lean, smoked to perfection with a hint of saltiness. No sauce is put on the sandwich and it didn't need it.
Brisket sandwich and mac & cheese side

Chopped brisket sandwich
My husband got the moist sliced brisket plate (versus the lean brisket) for $9.99 which comes with two sides. We both got the green chili macaroni and cheese as a side and he also got pinto beans with his plate. My mac and cheese was an up-charge since the sandwich comes with chips. The sides were tasty but the real star was the brisket. The only slight quibble I had was that the bun for the sandwich could have been a little softer but it had been grilled. I didn't really eat much of the bread anyway.

Sliced moist brisket with sides. Sauce added at the table.
The had pickles, peppers (fresh and pickled) and onions, with the sauce and sliced bread on the tables. Seating was family style and included indoor and outdoor options. We were sitting by a friendly couple from Hamlin that had ordered ribs and we swapped some samples of our lunches. The ribs got an A+ as well from my husband and our neighbors. I liked the sauce which was sweet and tangy. It complimented the meat quite well.

The Shed is going to be our go-to place for BBQ in Abilene. Wish it wasn't clear across town since that makes it hard to get over there during the week for lunch. :-)

Go there as fast as you can!

The Shed Market
6382 Buffalo Gap Rd Ste D
Abilene, Texas
325) 692-7433

Tuesday-Saturday 11am-6pm (or until out of meat)

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Best Reuben in the World at the Wenzel Lonestar Meat Company in Hamilton, TX

My husband and I have to travel to Waco several times a year. On our most recent trip back to Abilene, we stopped at the Wenzel Lonestar Meat Company right off the square in Hamilton, TX. I had read some reviews that made me want to check out this small town butcher shop and deli.

We arrived a little after 1pm on a Monday and 3 of the 4 tables in the place were occupied. Both of us decided to order the Reuben sandwich. It seemed to be the specialty of the house. They have homemade chicken salad and a "create-your-own" sandwich as daily options. Certain days of the week, they also serve pork butt  sandwiches, stuffed potatoes, and a smoked rib plate.

Reuben at Wenzel's in Hamilton, TX
The Reuben was luscious corned beef warmed up, served on toasted homemade rye bread, with melted cheese, sauerkraut and brown mustard. My husband also ordered a couple of the house-made deviled eggs. We got some bagged chips and a soda to complete the meal. I can confidently state that the Reuben sandwich at Wenzel's was the best I have ever eaten, including the one I once had at Katz's Deli in NYC. It took a while to make them but the wait was well worth it. The corned beef was hot and not too fatty. The cheese held everything together well and the rye was toasted perfectly. The sandwich came wrapped in paper with a dill pickle on the side.

In addition to our meal, we left the place with two rib-eye steaks, jalapeno sausage and salsa. If we had a bigger cooler with us, I'm sure we would have left with more items. When you find yourself in or near Hamilton, stop in. You won't regret it. They are closed on Sunday but open 8am-6pm the rest of the week.

Wenzel Lonestar Meat Company
209 N Bell St
Hamilton, TX 76531
(254) 386-8242
FB @wenzellonestar

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

CLOSED The (new) Towne Crier Steakhouse

This CFS took up the whole plate
New owners, new menu, freshened up atmosphere. This iteration of the long time Abilene restaurant, the Towne Crier Steakhouse, is different...and that isn't a bad thing. Yes, the prices are a little higher. Yes, they now have table service. Yes, the salad bar is no longer free with your meal. However, the soup and salad bar still has most of the same items (minus picked watermelon rind and two kinds of soup--sorry, Mother) and isn't much more expensive then it was before at $8.99 if that is what you want for your meal. There is still a big chicken fried steak and rolls. They also serve beer and wine now which has never been the case in the past.

A huge plus is how much better the interior looks! I was almost embarrassed to take anyone from out of town to eat there before this remodel as it had gotten really raggedly-looking despite the redone floor.

Last week, it was girls night as three friends and myself went to the Towne Crier for dinner. It was my first trip there since the relaunch. Service was very attentive, friendly and quick. Drinks were always topped off.

Fried Brussels sprouts
For a starter, we tried the fried Brussels sprouts. I really enjoyed them and the bacon bits were a tasty addition. A dipping sauce for them would be a good. The menu just says "sprouts" so to ward off confusion, they weren't fried bean or alfalfa sprouts. The sprouts are also a side dish option as were  sweet potato fries. My friends ordered grilled chicken, chicken fried steak, and chopped steak. I had the London broil (marinated steak topped with sauce). It was cooked perfectly and was very tender and flavorful. Delicious! The price was good as well at $13.99 for six ounces of sirloin. Instead of the two sides that came with my entree, I substituted the soup and salad bar and had way more food than I expected for less than $15. The burgers also looked intriguing since they are made with brisket and short ribs.

London broil sirloin

I plan to return and bring the husband. This could be our new place for a reasonably priced steak or upscale burger. The salad bar alone is a great lunch option.

Have an open mind about the changes and give the place a shot. I think you will be pleasantly surprised. It more than competes with some of the chain steak (roadhouses) restaurants in town. Everything changes and though there are some things I miss about the original, this new version definitley has something to offer Abilene.

Update: Upon the second visit the service was not up to par but the food was still very good.

Towne Crier Steakhouse
1 (325) 704-4290
818 E Hwy 80
Abilene, TX 79601

11am – 2pm
5pm – 9pm

11am – 2pm

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Cajun/Creole Cuisine in Lampasas, TX at Toupsie's

Toupsie's is a restaurant, bar and live music venue located on the north side of Lampasas, Texas. On a trip returning to Abilene from a meeting in Austin, myself and a friend decided to stop for lunch there. I heard that it was a pretty good spot to get some Cajun food. Granted one would not normally think of Lampasas as a place that would have a restaurant that specialized in cuisine from Louisiana but why not give it a try since we were passing through and hungry! Also, I read that one of the owners grew up in Thibodaux, Lousiana.

Fried shrimp and crawfish basket with fries and red beans/rice
Shrimp salad
We hit Lampasas on a Tuesday around 1:45pm. It was their first Tuesday to be open and it was also pouring rain outside so the place did not have many customers. They had a decent-sized selection of items on the menu. My choice was the combo basket of fried shrimp and fried crawdads ($14.99). Sides were battered fries and red beans and rice (a must-have at any Cajun/Creole restaurant).  My friend got a shrimp remoulade salad and a cup of seafood gumbo...much healthier choices than mine. I asked if they also had etouffee and the answer was in the affirmative though I didn't spot it on the menu. For dessert we split a piece of French silk pie.

Service was friendly and fairly quick. Since there were only two other customers the attentiveness is to be expected. The food came out fast as well. I was quite pleased with my fried entree. The breading on the seafood was crispy and well-spiced. The shrimp were a nice size and the crawfish were small but I take that as a sign that they were not imported. The fries were not quite warm enough, probably sat out too long. Ask to have them cooked fresh. At first, I thought the meal seemed small for the price but it was plenty of food, too much for me to finish. The beans were very tasty. My friend really enjoyed the gumbo. I'm not a fan of stewed okra in any form. Her salad was just fine and had plenty of remoulade sauce on the side. The shrimp were dusted with spices. Our dessert pie from a local bakery was scrumptious! We dug in before thinking of taking a picture.


There are daily specials and other items on the menu such as burgers and a steak night on Saturday. I have a feeling the place is hopping on weekend nights with live music and adult beverages. Toupsie's is worth the stop if you find yourself in and around Lampasas.

904 N Key Ave
Lampasas, Texas
(512) 556-5862
Closed Sunday night and Monday

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Jennie's Smoked Burgers and Tornado Fries--Fredericksburg, TX

Half of a stick of tornado fries

If you find yourself in Fredericksburg, Texas, and you aren't in the mood for German food, I highly recommend going to Jennie's for a scrumptious burger and some "tornado" fries. Tornado fries are spiral sliced potatoes served on a wooden skewer that have been crisped up like potato chips. To locate them you have to walk back from Main Street a bit to find Jennie's hidden away in a side court a couple of stores over from the Auslander restaurant in the block before you turn right to go to San Antonio. They are more than worth the effort.

The menu is simple--hamburgers, cheeseburgers (single or double), hot dogs (regular or foot long), or a grilled cheese. You can get tornado fries, regular fries or onion rings. Ice cream floats are also available, along with the usual sodas. They even sell beer and wine.

We walked in at 11:45am on a Monday and were the third and forth customers in the place. As noon approached, the traffic picked up considerably and included locals as well as tourists.

Cheeseburger $6
I ordered a cheeseburger ($6) and my husband got the double cheeseburger ($8). The patties were not thick but they had a definite smokey taste and were so juicy. I think there might have been some brisket in the meat mix. The buns were super fresh and toasted to perfection. The vegetable toppings crisp and delicious. They sauce the burger with a mixture of mustard and mayo. We shared an order of tornado fries ($2) but we should have each had our own order...they are addictive! 

The seating is both indoor and outside. It isn't a very big place, so I bet they get jammed on the weekends. The restaurant is family-run and was spotlessly clean inside. The service was super-friendly. All in all, Jennie's is going to be a regular stop when I'm passing through Fredericksburg from here on out.


Jennie's Smoked Burgers and Tornado Fries
319 E Main St #B
Fredericksburg TX 78624
Phone: (830) 990-4000
Closed on Tuesday