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

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

Monday, July 17, 2017

Threadgill's on Riverside in Austin, TX--Home Cookin' in the Capitol of Texas

King Ranch Chicken Casserole, spinach casserole, and San Antonio squash
Chicken fried steak (gravy on the side), mashed sweet potatoes, and green beans
On a recent trip to Austin I had occasion to go to eat with a friend at the south side location of Threadgill's. They are a long time Austin institution for home-style cooking and live music. I had long heard of it but had never eaten there.

After arriving around 12:45pm, we were seated after a short wait. The server did a decent job for us but looked less than enthusiastic to be at work. He was on top of my drink refills so no complaints that he was not in an extra jolly mood. Overall, the efficient and quick service for those folks that need to get back to work is appreciated.

I ordered the Friday lunch special of King Ranch Chicken, though I was very tempted to just get a veggie plate due to the plethora of options. Particularly items that I haven't had the frequent chance to eat since Sunday dinners as a kid at my grandparent's house. My companion went with the tried and true CFS, which Threadgill's is well-known for serving. A basket of jalapeno cornbread muffins and bread was on the table very quickly. We both chose the cornbread and it was yummy, not dry at all.

My lunch was filling and perfectly fine but not "blow me out of the water" delicious. I tasted my friend's chicken fry and the flavor of the meat came through the rather heavy breading. I admit that I prefer pan frying over deep frying when it comes to CFS due to the fact that the breading/meat ratio tends to be higher on the meat side when pan fried. It was a nice-sized portion without question. She doesn't like cream gravy so I don't know if that would have added to the experience. My friend commented on how much she liked that the sweet potatoes didn't have marshmallow or cinnamon added to them, letting the natural sweetness of the potato shine through. My favorite part of lunch was the San Antonio squash side dish on my plate. The squash still had some firmness to it and wasn't cooked into mush. I enjoyed the green chili flavor and the creamy sauce. The spinach was just fine but in retrospect I should have gone for something else, such as the butter beans or the okra.
Buttermilk pie

For dessert, I could not resist the buttermilk pie which is my absolute favorite pie of all time. The little dabs of whipped cream that were served on top added to the presentation. The pie had a thicker floury texture than other's I've tasted that tend toward a more custard-like filling. It was good pie but not as good as I've ever had in the past. My standards are sky high in this regard due to the superior baking skills of my grandma.

I think the fact that there are probably a fewer number of "comfort" or "Southern" food restaurants in Austin (in comparison to my neck of the woods) or people's nostalgia for the past are what  keep people coming back to Threadgill's. The meal was perfectly fine but the restaurant is not somewhere I would make a special trip to patronize. I do wish I had gotten those butter beans and some extra cornbread though. 

301 West Riverside Dr.
Austin, TX  78704
(512) 472-9304

Mon-Thurs 11a-10p
Fri 11a-10:30p
Sat: 11a-10:30p
Sun: 10a-9:30p
Sunday Breakfast Buffet: 10a-1p

Friday, July 14, 2017

Milk and Honey Bakery, Venue, and Bistro

Entry way
Milk & Honey is a specialty bakery inside what was once a private home so it is easy to drive right past them and not realize they are in business. They do not have a vast array of baked goods to just drop by and pick up but they did have french macaroons in various flavors ($2 each), two types of cake balls, slices of red velvet cake and apple tarts for individual sale in their cases. Two ready-made cakes were also available for purchase.
Bakery case

A friend and I visited them for the mid-day meal recently. They serve light lunches and a brunch on Saturday. The dining area is very small, about 20 seats. The service is run with only two people as far as I could tell, so it is not a quick place to grab a bite. They have a limited menu and the prices are on the high side...as is to be expected for a "ladies who lunch" type of establishment.

Spinach and cheese quiche
I had a spinach and cheese quiche and some bacon cheddar croquettes as an appetizer. The spinach in the quiche tasted a bit gritty as though it had been put the egg mixture raw instead of sauteed. The cheese in the quiche was high quality but the portion at $5.75 was small and not served with any type of side unless you get the meal option that included a drink and side but increased the price even more. It had a rubbery consistency rather than being creamy.
Bacon cheddar croquettes

The bacon in the croquettes was thick cut and could have been a bit more cooked but the cheese in them was excellent. I am not sure if it was the spinach or the bacon but it is sad to say that the meal did not sit well on my stomach afterward.
Smoked bacon chicken sandwich

My companion enjoyed her smoked bacon chicken sandwich ($7.50) and mentioned that it had a nice flavor and was not dry. On the brunch menu, they serve gourmet toast (such as avocado salmon), crepes, quiche, oatmeal, or French toast made with brioche bread. Drink options were water, various teas, lemonades, and coffee.

The best part of my meal was the slice of red velvet cake I ordered for dessert. It was delicious! I dove into it so fast that there is no picture to tell the tale. It had an apple spice flavor more than a cocoa note in the cake itself which was different. Perhaps they use applesauce to keep the cake moist? The cream cheese/buttercream icing was perfect. At $3.50 for a slice it was well worth the price.

Stick to the desserts at Milk and Honey. The wedding cakes they had on their website looked beautiful.

325-701-7316 / 325-513-2683
480 E. Ambler Ave Abilene, TX 
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/milkAndHoneyBK/

Lunch menu
Lunch menu

Brunch menu
Brunch menu

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