Saturday, May 23, 2020

The Local--Too Trendy for Tacos and Tequila?

The Local is Abilene's newest downtown restaurant/bar located in the former Busch Jewelers building on Cypress Street between N. 2nd and N. 3rd streets. They specialize in gourmet tacos and high end cocktails ($8 and up). It is great to see downtown Abilene continue to expand and offer more and more options to head down there in the evening.
My friends and I went by on a Thursday evening about two weeks after they opened. We went fairly early at around 5:30pm and were seated immediately but the place soon started to fill (as any new place in Abilene will the first few weeks after opening) and remained popular before the pandemic hit. I ordered chips and salsa for the table. The portion size was not overly generous but the salsa was tasty. The chips were on the stale side. 
Three of us ordered a single taco at an average price of $5 per taco. The fourth ordered a grilled chicken salad. He, by far, made the best choice since a salad is generally not meant to come out hot. The presentation was great but the tacos were tepid. This is a common comment that I heard from others that have eaten at The Local, even several months after opening. However, it did not seem to dim their popularity among the socialites in town.
The two chicken taco versions that were ordered were flavorful but my carne guisada taco was practically inedible. Not only was it lukewarm the meat was so tough I could not chew it. Very disappointing. Plus, I was fairly certain I had ordered the carne asada taco as I generally do not care for gravy on my meat. 

The food was brought out on small metal trays with a paper liner that had old Busch Jeweler ads on it. The nod to the history of the space was a nice touch. The decor is upscale. Lots of glass, metal, with black and amber accents. There is also an upstairs area.
I have been back a couple of times but only to meet friends for drinks and conversation, not to actually order a meal. My recommendation--go by for an adult beverage before or after a downtown event but do not go there hungry.

The Local
250 Cypress St, Abilene, TX 79601

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Grumps Burgers--Patties, Patio, and (free) Peanuts

Dublin sodas
Hello burger fans, there's a new place in town for some hearty burgers. Grumps Burgers is a small chain that has seen a warm welcome in Abilene. It is a stand-in-line, order your food, and they bring it to you, style of place. The prices are reasonable for the burgers. Sides are prices separately.

Things I like--
Homemade potato chips and queso
1. Good price points on sandwiches.
2. They now have an outdoor patio for al fresco dining.
3. It is in the middle of town (N. 1st around Westwood) which makes it getting to it less of a hassle than the far south side places.
4. Friendly workers and fun atmosphere.
5. Delicious homemade ranch dressing.
6. Run various specials--check their social media.
7. Free peanuts in the shell to snack on while you wait for your food to be cooked.
8. Homemade potato chips.
9. Bluebell ice cream.
Mushroom burger with onion rings

Cheeseburger and fries
Things that need improving--
1. Heavy handed with the salt on everything.
2. Some may not like that they only serve Dublin sodas but there is tea, water, beer, and frozen margaritas.
3. Fries and onion ring portions are on the small side for the price.
4. TVs are sometimes a bit on the loud side.

Grumps Burgers
3533 N 1st Street
Abilene, TX 79603

Mon - Sat
11 AM - 9 PM


Friday, March 13, 2020

Galveston Seafood Company now in Abilene--fresh and quite fabulous

My apologies for the long absence from the blog. Sometimes life gets in the way of dining out.

Now on to the good stuff.

There is a new seafood place in town, Galveston Seafood Company, in the old Towne Crier location on Highway 80. Table service, nice dishes, freshened decor, very attentive servers and a visit from the son of the owner to check on us, I have to say--I was impressed. But what most impressed me was the food. Lunch specials for $10...alright, alright, alright!

Lunch fried shrimp with red beans and rice and hushpuppies
My companion and I walked in and were greeted promptly and seated quickly. We both had the fried shrimp $10 lunch special. Two sides were included. Me being me, I had to have the red beans and rice and hushpuppies.  My friend got fries and mixed vegetables to go with her shrimp. Other side options were greens, fried cabbage, and red potatoes. A definite southern/Cajun/Creole influence was at play.

The shrimp had a tempura style batter and they were fresh. You can just tell. The texture is different. Fresh seafood is something that is not easy to get in landlocked Abilene. The shrimp were good-sized as well, not those sad little ones you get served in chain seafood restaurants.

I enjoyed the extra effort in the presentation of the food. The red beans and rice were tasty but my preference is for a bit more spice so some added Tabasco sauce did the trick. The hushpuppies came out crisp. The fries and mixed vegetables that my friend has as sides were good as well, though keep in mind the vegetables are sauteed not steamed. Portions were generous.
Lunch fried shrimp with fries and mixed vegetables

The service was excellent. The son of the owner brought me a sample of the crawfish etouffee after he stopped by our table and we were discussing the food. It was a variation on a recipe from his grandma.  The etouffee was extremely rich. Butter and cream were part of the roux and it had a nice spicy kick to it. I could not finish the sample due to being stuffed from the size of my lunch. He told me that they bring in the seafood every 2-3 days.

Dinner prices are higher but I would imagine the servings are large. The main menu had a lot of variety of seafood and included some non-seafood items such as a burger and chicken Alfredo pasta.

Sample of the crawfish etouffee
This is a nice restaurant and fresh seafood is not cheap. Plan accordingly. The quality and service was wonderful and my next visit will be for dinner or maybe breakfast/brunch on the weekend which had some intriguing options on the menu.

If you like seafood, I highly recommend you give them a try.

Galveston Seafood Company
818 E. Hwy 80, Abilene, TX 79601

Friday 11AM–3PM, 5–9:30PM
Saturday 8AM–3PM, 5–9:30PM
Sunday 10AM–3PM, 5–8PM
Monday Closed
Tuesday 11AM–3PM, 5–9:30PM
Wednesday 11AM–3PM, 5–9:30PM
Thursday 11AM–3PM, 5–9:30PM

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Updated--Closed. 5C Smokehouse in Clyde (TX) America--My new place for steak and a brisket-stuffed potato

Menu page 1
Menu page 2
Update--They closed the restaurant at the end of July 2019 to concentrate only on catering. 

Some friends and I took the short drive over to Clyde to have a weekend dinner to a spot with some good buzz foodie grapevine around this area.

Steak bites
If you haven't been to 5-C Smokehouse yet* you are missing carnivore heaven. I was very impressed with the steak and enjoyed the brisket a lot as well. So many places, tend to over-season their meat but that is not the case at 5C. The steak had a nice char on it but was still juicy. It was just right for my taste. No steak sauce necessary. The menu is simple but covers all the basics.

Brisket stuffed potato
We started off with an order of steak bites ($5.99). This was simply a sirloin cut up in pieces and brought out in a bowl. We all wanted to try the steak before committing to ordering an entire one for an entree. All of us were impressed. In fact, if you do not want a big steak you can order the steak bites as your entree and add a side or two. The only drawback is that they are pre-cooked so there is not the option to get your preference as to "doneness". When we ordered ita as our appetizer, it came out medium but the ones that came out as an entree and then with a takeaway order at the end, the steak was more medium-well to well-done. If you prefer steak rare or medium-rare, go with the whole ribeye, sirloin, or filet (those are your options $24-$37). No size in ounces were given.

Slice brisket plate with house-made sausage and potato salad
Everyone at the table either ordered steak or brisket for their meal. I went with a brisket-stuffed baked potato, as the steak bites appetizer took the edge off my hunger for a full steak. The brisket was smokey and flavorful. Maybe a little dry but I prefer that to a lot of visible fat. The potato was soft. Perfectly baked. At $8.99, I was pleased. Also had a taste of the house-made sausage. Spicy with some cheese in it. Quite good.

No one ordered it but a specialty of the house is a huge pork chop called a Big Jake. We saw one that another person had ordered and it was indeed huge, at least 2 inches thick, and took up half the plate. Ribs and chicken are also on the menu.

For desert, we shared an apple dumpling ala mode. It was made up of two crescent rolls with apple topping and ice cream. Simple, but a pleasant end to the meal. The rolls were a on the small side. One more in the dish would have been nice.
Outdoor seating area

Everyone in the group was pleased with their food. Service was friendly. Our young server was very patient with our questions. If she did not know the answer, she would go find out. We choose to sit on the outside patio. Everyone was sitting out there. No one was inside. It was a mild night and there is netting around the parameter that helps keep most of the insects out. A place with a laid-back atmosphere where families, groups, and couples were all enjoying the evening. I know for certain, I will go again and bring more people.

Beer and wine are served.

5-C Smokehouse
205 S 1st St
Clyde, TX 79510

*Only open on Friday and Saturday evenings 5pm-9pm

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 (Updated)

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 companion loved the food after only having had Indian food 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. 
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. The restaurant was clean, portions were a nice size, and the food was delicious.

Chicken kebabs, Basmati rice, and chicken Korma

Spicy India Restaurant
243 W Stamford St, Abilene, TX 79601

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)