Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Dixie Pig--A Beloved Diner in A-Town

Dixie Pig Diner on the corner of Butternut and S. 14th
Mr. Pig omelette with sausage and bacon
The Dixie Pig has been around a long time (85 YEARS!) and as far as I am aware the menu has been the same for at least the past 20 of them. They are only open for breakfast and lunch, Monday-Saturday. They do NOT take debit or credit cards so bring some cash. I saw no ATM on site.

Saturday mornings usually mean a wait for a table and you are not seated until all your people have arrived. Service varies from super friendly to grumpy, luck of the draw. Decor is piggy. Pig signs, pig knickknacks, pigs everywhere...fun for the kids to spot all of them.

My husband and I went last Saturday. It had been raining and was overcast so it seemed like a good day to go to a greasy spoon for breakfast. In Abilene, that means the Dixie Pig. It is locally owned. I have only had breakfast there, except for one time when we went after 11am and I ordered a BLT. I have never had the famous Pig Sandwich. Lunch is the usual burgers, sandwiches, and chicken fried steak options.

Biscuits and cream gravy
Usually, I go for pancakes or an omelette at the Dixie Pig. The Mr. Pig omelette was calling my name most recently. It is the most expensive breakfast item on the menu for about $8.50. Lunch options are priced similarly. The Mr. Pig is made up of three eggs, cheese, bacon, sausage, with a a little tomato and onion served with hash browns and either toast or biscuits and gravy. The omelette was large and the bacon was abundant and really crispy. The hash browns were a little overdone for my taste but I ate all of them. The biscuits were dense and the gravy was nice and peppery if not homemade. I only ate one of them.

All in all a satisfying breakfast for a reasonable price and plenty of local clientele. We ran into our neighbor which is cool since we all live on the north side and the Pig is on the south side of town. See my review for The Flipping Egg for another local breakfast/brunch/lunch option in town that is open on Sunday.

1401 Butternut St, Abilene, TX 79602
(325) 673-3292
No website, no official Facebook page

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Flipping Egg--Breakfast and (Br)(L)unch

Homemade fried cheese with ranch and marinara
The Flipping Egg is one of my two locally owned spots for breakfast. The other is the Dixie Pig. Both are quite popular and a wait for a table is not uncommon at either restaurant since they are not really big spaces. I try not to just head to IHOP, Denny's or Cracker Barrel when I'm in the mood for an omelet or pancakes because of long waits and average tasting food.

When I go to the Flipping Egg which is open on Sunday unlike the Dixie Pig, I usually order the Texas Hash which are hash browns mixed with jalapenos, grilled onions, and melted cheese topped with two eggs of your choice,
two bacon or two sausage, and choice of bread or a pancake. They have several varieties of pancakes; buttermilk, sweet cream, gluten-free, multi-grain, and sweet potato. There is also a waffle made out of a cinnamon roll! My favorite is the sweet cream pancake. A little sweet but not too sweet. They serve eggs Benedict and frittatas which I have not seen on many menus in Abilene.

I featured a picture of their fried cheese because almost every time I have ordered it. Last time it wasn't so great. The breading was too floury and it tasted like it may have a bit of freezer burn. The first time I have been disappointed out of four previous orders. The cheese sticks are fairly large in size and come in batches of 3 or 6. There are also several burgers on the menu and other sandwiches, as well as salads if lunch is more your style. Portions are decent sized but not huge. Prices on some items are a little high but on a standard egg, meat and bread breakfast they are reasonable.

Service varies from efficient to somewhat inexperienced but is always friendly. Parking can be an issue since their lot is small.

Flipping Egg
4150 S. Danville
Abilene, TX
Tues - Thurs. 7am-2pm
Fri - Sat 6am-2pm
Sun 8am-2pm

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Vagabond Pizza--Wood-Fired Delight

Vagabond Pizza now has a brick and mortar location in downtown Abilene. No more tracking down their food truck for some pizza pies coming from the mobile wood-fired oven. My husband and I were lured in by a Facebook post featuring one of their pizzas with Hatch green chili.  It is chili season!

Caprese salad
The new location has a lot of history according to one of the the owners, Jessica Adams. Most recently it was a jewelry store, before that it was a movie theatre and in the late 1800s, it was Abilene's livery stable. The restaurant opened two months ago and has been doing a booming business. Hence why this write-up didn't occur earlier.

Bar area with features for the week on the board
The decor is exposed brick and wood with open ceilings and industrial style lighting. The oven is at the end of the bar. I imagine it will be quite a draw for people to sit on that side of the room when the winter months arrive. Plus, kids like to watch the fire. It is a medium-sized space for a restaurant and I surmise that there will be a wait during peak times but at 7:30pm on a Wednesday night we were seated at one of the two empty tables. Our server was attentive and very knowledgeable about the menu and the beverage options.
Wood-fired oven

The menu had four items for starters/salads. There was also a very extensive bottled wine list. There was a smaller selections of wines by the glass. My husband was happy that they had a local craft brewery's beer on draft, Pappy Slokum's Local Yella that week. The server said they have a tap dedicated to Pappy Slokum brews. There is also an eclectic selection of bottled soft drinks (no soda fountain) such as Hank's Root Beer ($3), Pellegrino bottled water, and Key City Coffee. The menu does change with the availability of seasonal ingredients and owner/chef's inspiration so there will always be new things to try.

We started with caprese salads ($7) of creamy fresh mozzarella, roasted grape tomatoes, fresh basil and a black garlic balsamic. I enjoyed it very much. The other options were bread and butter, a wedge salad and a green salad.

There were eight pizzas on the menu, including the traditional Margherita ($12), and one weekly special option up on the board above the bar. My husband ordered the Hatch chili pork pizza ($14) that also had pickled onions and a green chili salsa verde as the sauce. I had the "Rosalie" ($14) which was Italian sausage, roasted mushrooms, mozzarella and tomato sauce.

Pork, Hatch green chili, and pickled onions
The crust was tender but had a chew to it. I enjoyed the bit of char from the oven. If you are a person that prefers a crisp crust or a deep dish style crust this is neither. It is hand-made and a bit soft in the middle. I loved the flavor profile of the Italian sausage (fennel is my friend) and the mushrooms on my pizza. If I closed my eyes, Tuscany appeared. There were no "pizza bones" left on my plate.

Italian, sausage and roasted mushrooms
My husband enjoyed his Hatch Chili Pork but his palate likes very strong flavors so he added red pepper flakes, salt, and Parmesan to his pizza for an extra kick. He felt the pork did not have enough seasoning. I had a bite and thought the green chili and pickled onions were perfect together. I didn't get a piece of pork in my bite so I can't speak to the flavor but I certainly enjoyed the chili. The pizzas are about 13-14 inches and big enough to share for smaller appetites.

There were two options for dessert and the name "Saturday Morning Cartoons" ($4) for one of them just begged to be explored. The server described it as a panna cotta that tasted like the milk left over from a bowl of Fruity Pebbles or Fruit Loops. That description nailed it. My husband RAVED about about it. It was garnished with Fruity Pebbles. He devoured it. It may have been his favorite dessert ever.  The server also recommended their honey pie.

Saturday Morning Cartoons dessert
We enjoyed our evening but be forewarned that this is gourmet pizza and priced accordingly. The ingredients are exemplary and the menu is creative. As the saying goes, "you get what you pay for" and Vagabond is worth it. I'm going to follow them on Facebook so I can keep up with new offerings. Oven baked pasta someday, maybe?

I also love how downtown Abilene just keeps getting better and better!

1056 N 2nd St.
Abilene, TX
Open Tues-Sat for lunch and dinner service

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Buddy's Drive In--Andrews, TX

My husband grew up in Andrew's, TX. When it comes to fond food memories from his younger years, he has two (not counting home cooking)--Buddy's and Taco Villa. Every time we have visited Andrews we have eaten at one or the other...often both.

Buddy's Drive In is an institution in Andrews that is regionally famous for their steak fingers. For the uninitiated that is tenderized round steak cut into strips, battered and deep fried. Little mini chicken-fried steaks if you will. The meal is a pile of steak fingers, french fries, a "salad" of iceberg lettuce, Texas toast and gravy. The also have the usual burgers and such, even breakfast, but I've never had anything other than the steak fingers. They are tender and the batter is nice and crispy. Some people may think they have too much batter, not me.
Steak fingers galore!
You can dine-in or have a car hop come out to your vehicle if there is an empty spot under the awning for drive-up customers. It takes a while sometimes to cook the food so we just go in and grab a table (when one is available). It is not a fancy place. In fact, you may feel like you have stepped back in time to when they opened in 1969. That's okay with me but isn't for everyone. Smoking is allowed in the building during certain times of day.

Remember that Andrews is oil country and hard-working folks want to be fed. It takes quite an appetite to finish a full order. The gravy didn't taste homemade but as far as I'm concerned that is fine. I'd rather have it recently cooked (a mix is quicker and less greasy). The ranch dressing seemed to be made in-house though. It had a garlicy kick to fancy up that ordinary lettuce on the side of your plate. I like it for dipping my fries.

If you find yourself passing through and want some chicken-fried happiness, Buddy's is for you.
106 E Broadway St, Andrews, TX 79714-6505

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Monument Cafe--Cut Above Comfort Food in Georgetown, TX

The Monument Cafe is definitely worth a trip into Georgetown off of Interstate 35 north of Austin. I was headed back home from a conference with some colleagues and one of them suggested lunch at the Monument Cafe. After he told me about the great comfort food (much of it locally sourced and organic) and the scrumptious desserts, I was very game to give it a try.

Art deco coolness
As we walked in I noticed the board with the special offerings for the day, the awesome art deco light fixtures and all the black/white/stainless steel decor. It was about 1:30pm on a Thursday, no wait. Being seated right away is a rarity since normally they are pretty packed.

Hand-made strawberry lemonade
Once settled into our booth, I perused the menu and thought about ordering an omelette since breakfast is served all day but went with the special for the day which was chicken pot pie. There were also burgers, salads, sandwiches, and other home-style favorites like chicken fried steak, liver and onions, truck-stop enchiladas, or fried chicken.

Hand-made strawberry lemonade was my beverage of choice...loved that it was served with the shaker and I could get two glasses out of it.

Heavenly chicken pot pie and onion rings
Everyone at the table ordered the chicken pot pie. I had onion rings with mine and my other two companions got the macaroni and cheese. The pastry on the pie was flaky and tender and the filling was chock full of vegetables. The perfectly seasoned broth and chicken please my palate. Sometimes chicken pot pie can be bland. This may have been the best one I have ever eaten since my grandma's version. The breading on my onion rings had a black pepper twist which accented the thinly sliced onion quite well. A larger portion would have been appreciated.

Carrot cake
Despite being pretty stuffed, I had to have dessert and ordered the carrot cake though I couldn't finish it. Luscious.

Service was friendly and efficient. No complaints. Prices were fair. I didn't pay the bill but I think my meal was around $15.00 without tax or tip.

I peeked into the Monument Store that is attached to the cafe and bought some locally grown hot peppers. There was a variety of veggies, beauty and health items, wine and beer, and a deli in the store.

When driving through Georgetown, I'll have to make sure to  go again! Breakfast next time. Thanks

Monument Cafe
500 S. Austin Avenue, Georgetown, TX 78627
Sun. - Thrs. 7 A.M. - 9 P.M.
Fri.-Sat. 7:00 A.M. - 10:00 P.M.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Uncle Julio--I love you! Tex Mex in the Metroplex

There is a chain of Tex-Mex restaurants that is my absolute favorite among all Tex-Mex places in the world...Uncle Julio's. This review is only about the Dallas and Fort Worth locations as they are the only two I have visited. The chain started in Big D in 1986. Most of the time, I go to the Fort Worth location.

Roasted salsa and tortilla chips
Let me get some of the obvious criticisms out of the way. Yes, they get crowded and there can be a long wait. Yes, the service can be "iffy" or slow, particularly when they are slammed. Yes, sometimes it is noisy. But I love U.J. anyway. The roasted salsa and tortilla chips are divine. The fajitas are fabulous, best I have ever eaten. The house-made flour tortillas--yum. This is the standard by which I judge ALL other Tex-Mex restaurants and I have loved it for over two decades.

The challenge every time is not fill up on the chips and salsa. The salsa has a wonderful smokey taste and is spicy enough to please but not so hot that it causes pain. You can see the little bits of veggies and cilantro. The chips are nice and light. Addictive, without question.

My sister and I stopped for lunch last week in Fort Worth on the way back to Abilene from East Texas. It was a Tuesday at a little around 11:15am and we were seated right away. It was cool enough to sit on the patio but we ended up inside on the other side of the window. The server came by and greeted us about 5 minutes after we were seated which was a bit on the slow side but we were not in a rush. He took our beverage orders. Shortly thereafter chips and salsa arrived. I enjoy that we each get our own salsa cups.

When the server returned with our drinks (another 5-6 minutes later) we put in an order for some queso and my sister asked some questions about the menu. He went to get the queso while we made up our minds.

Mamacita's lunch nachos with beef fajitas
I wasn't hungry enough to go for  the fajitas so I got steak fajita nachos instead ($8.99). My sister went for the chicken honey chipotle fajitas ($14.99). The beef fajitas have a great "crust" on them and are never stringy which can be a problem with skirt steak and why I often don't order beef fajitas anymore because lots of places tend to skimp on the quality of the meat.

The queso was a little disappointing at $5.99 for a cup. It tasted fine but nothing that I can't easily make at home with Velveeta cheese and some pico de gallo. It did function as a nice topping for my nachos after I had eaten the steak off of the tostada though. The nachos also came with sour cream and tasty guacamole, garnished with fresh sliced jalapenos. I asked for some pickled peppers and was accommodated. I would have liked a bit more steak but it turned out I couldn't finish it all anyway.

Honey Chipotle Chicken Fajitas (lunch portion)
My sister enjoyed her fajitas. She describe the sauce as more "bbq-ish" than glaze which she prefers but said some people may not like it. Too sweet for my taste. It was served with the usual fajita fixins', charro beans and rice. She didn't even bother with the rice and beans and went straight for the meat (after picking off the cilantro--she's not a fan of that herb). They were juicy but not overly drippy as many places try to disguise dry chicken with lots of oil.

The food came out pretty quickly and the server checked back a couple of times to refill our drinks and see if we needed anything else. The bill did arrive at the end and we were dismayed to have to drive back to Abilene instead of being able to take an after lunch nap. I can't ever recall not leaving this place satisfied and stuffed. The prices may be on the high side but it is worth it.

My favorite location is at I-30 and Camp Bowie in Fort Worth. Only a 2 hour and 15 minute drive from Abilene! You can us the "find a table" option on their website to reserve a spot during busy times.
Uncle Julio's 
5301 Camp Bowie Blvd.
Fort Worth, TX 76107

Friday, May 13, 2016

Pizza By Design--Create your own "fast" pizza

Menu board

Pepperoni, bacon, black olive, artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes
Pizza by Design brings to mind the familiar sandwich and burrito places. You know what I'm talking about...pick your crust, sauce, cheese, add toppings of choice, they run it through the conveyor belt oven and off you go. The 9-inch individual pizzas (the only size for adults) are $6.99. I also got a fountain drink and a side salad (romaine or spinach, cheese, grape tomatoes and carrots) for $3 more which brought my lunch total to $10.81 with tax. Even at that price, I predict they will become a lunch staple for folks on the north side, particularly during the school year when the college students are in town. They opened in late April 2016.

This being said it wasn't outstanding pizza. Better than frozen but not up to the standard of a traditional pizzeria. The sauce and cheese were not very generously applied but the upside is that you can get all the toppings you want and there is quite a variety. They also serve beer and wine.

Side salad and drink
My pizza was original crust which was a bit chewy in texture. Other crust options were thin, wheat and gluten-free for $2 more. For sauce, I choose the spicy tomato sauce. It really is spicy and I'm not wimp when it comes to heat. They also have non-tomato options for sauces such as Alfredo, pesto or olive oil. Cheeses included buffalo mozzarella, in addition to traditional shredded mozzarella, cheddar, feta, and Parmesan rounded out the cheese choices.

Get in line to create your pizza
Once you choose the basics you can go wild with the other toppings. They advertise "unlimited" for the same price as one topping. I went for pepperoni, bacon, black olives, artichoke hearts, and sun-dried tomatoes. I could have added a lot more veggies and more meats. They also have some specialty creations if you don't want to bother with choosing your own toppings.

The decor is modern; yellow, red, blond wood, and metal. There is not a ton of seating but I imagine there will be a lot of "to go" business. Ordering to consuming took about 10 minutes, a little longer than Subway but the pizza has to cook so that is to be expected. The restaurant is located in a strip shopping center on the east side of highway 351 south of the E. Lake Road intersection. This part of Abilene is booming right now with eating and shopping options (and road construction).

Pizza by Design
1811 Hwy 351
Abilene, Texas 79601
(325) 704-5450

Hours: Monday-Saturday 11 am to 10 pm. Closed Sunday's.