Friday, April 17, 2015

Miguel's Mex Tex Cafe--My new favorite place in Abilene

Miguel's has been one of the most highly anticipated restaurant openings that I can ever remember for our fair burg of Abilene. Citizens have been watching the remodel and additional building on to the old Famous Dave's Barbecue location for over a year. It opened for business five days ago and has been packed ever since. The husband and I went last night. We got there at 5:30pm and the parking lot was almost full. Once we got our names on the list, we were told it was a 45 minute wait. Larger parties I'm sure had a significantly longer wait. We went to sit in the bar since it was open seating and you could order dinner in there if you wanted. As is happened, we struck up a conversation with a man who had been there every night since they opened and eaten in the bar every time. He gave us some tips on what was good and raved about how great the service had been. The bar was hopping with people.
Cool fixtures and art
The atmosphere at Miguel's is very colorful and I loved the blown glass light fixtures and the tile. This a place that cares about the details. The owners have made a HUGE investment in this restaurant. Abuelo's (formerly the fanciest Mexican/Tex-Mex restaurant in town) is in trouble.

The chef is the same gentleman that used to own Bonterra Blu in Clyde. A former favorite before they closed. When I heard that news, I was suffused with happiness because as I have mentioned on this blog before there isn't (wasn't) any truly outstanding Mexican or Tex-Mex in Abilene and Chef Trueblood has the talent to change that.

One of several dining areas
Once we were seated, we were brought chips and three kinds of salsa/dip. There was the traditional freshly made tomato salsa, which was a bit too citrus-y for my taste, an avocado-pineapple salsa, and a creamy black olive dip that was my absolute favorite. My husband thought it too salty. The photo below is out of perspective. The tortilla chips were light and crispy.

Chips and dips
The menu is big. Brunch is served on the weekends. That is a future must try. Dinner was a difficult decision but I went with some classics; a San Antonio style puffy beef taco, a spinach/portabello/avocado enchilada, and a white cheese chili relleno. For sides, bacon and cheddar refried beans and Mexican fried rice. There was also a little bit of steamed cornbread which was really sweet. The relleno was the best I have ever eaten outside of New Mexico. Not oily at all and the pepper had a kick to it. The enchilada was delicious. I actually become too full to eat the puffy taco which had a fry bread shell and another crispy blue corn shell. I had to give it to my husband. The sides were super tasty. I enjoyed the fried egg twist on the rice. The beans were super flavorful. It is so disappointing at other places when I can tell they came out of a can or when the cook doesn't add enough seasoning.  No problem with that at Miguel's.

Classic combo--enchilada, chili relleno, puffy taco
My husband decided on one of the specialties of the house, the #14 which was carne asada steak and bacon wrapped and turf Tex-Mex style. For a few minutes, we were told they were out of steak but it turned out that wasn't the case. The shrimp were fresh and delicious. The steak was topped with cheese and a cilantro pesto. He wasn't asked how he wanted his steak cooked and in the end he didn't finish it because he wasn't fond of the toppings and the steak was a bit overdone. However, he raved about the shrimp, beans and rice. He also got a side order of the corn on the cob which was topped with chipotle crema and some spices. He wasn't a fan but it looked pretty yummy to me. I didn't taste it because it is impossible to eat corn on the cob with any grace in a public setting, much less corn with a cream sauce on it.

I was stuffed but he wanted dessert when he heard they had  fried bread pudding on the menu.
  It was topped with vanilla bean ice cream. I managed a couple of bites, superb. 

Fried Bread Pudding
Service was outstanding. One of the owners came by our table, as did one of the managers. Our server, Leslie, was excellent.

Now for the skinny on cost. Our bill was almost $60.00 not counting tip. That being said, it was worth it. They have only been open for less than a week and the quality was awesome and the staff very well trained. However, it isn't going to be a cheap meal when you eat at Miguel's. The entrees start at $7 (one classic item and rice/beans) and go up from there. I highly recommend trying it as portions were generous, even if you have to wait a while. There are very few places in town I would bother to wait 45 minutes for a seat but this is one of them.

A word about seasoning. Nothing we ate was particularly spicy but it was spiced. If you are a person who prefers food to be simply seasoned, like how my husband likes his steak without any extra toppings, this probably won't be your place.

3001 S. Danville Dr.
Abilene TX 79605

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A few of my yelp reviews of late--Salathai, Moe's Southwestern Grill, The Toasted Traveler

Salathai--Mom and Pop Thai in Country Hearth Hotel

Moe's Southwest Grill--semi-fast burritos and such

Toasted Traveler--food truck

Taylor County Taphouse--Super Popular New Wave Comfort Food and Beer Garden

Taylor County Taphouse is the hoppin' place in town right now and they do live up to their name with a gargantuan list of beers to try both on tap and by the bottle.  The atmosphere is loud when the place is full (and it definitely was on a Friday night) but that goes along with the vibe they are cultivating.  We were seating within 10 minutes when we arrived at 6:30pm but shortly thereafter the small waiting area was overflowing. The dining room is average sized with tables close together. Not really a romantic date place but great for a fun night with friends. 
Thick cut chicken-fried bacon with mashed potatoes, biscuits and gravy
We began with the deep fried thick-cut bacon, biscuits and gravy ($7). It was scrumptious! 
For dinner, my husband had the chicken fried steak ($15) and I ordered the green chile shrimp and grits ($14).  The portions were average but we weren't hungry when we left. The hubby enjoyed his CFS. The ingredients were top notch, though my grits were a bit on the clumpy side. There were about 6 good sized shrimp in my dish. They are still refining the menu, so what you see on their page online may not be what you see on the menu when you get there. Also, expect to spend some money. The starters range in price from $5 for deviled eggs to $15 for a charcuterie board (meats and cheeses with crackers and a honeycomb). Entrees start at $9 and go up to $32. Salads and soups also available for lighter appetites. If you are into craft and imported beers you could rack up quite the bill before it is all said and done. 
Chicken-fried steak, mashed potatoes, and stir-fried green beans with garlic
Our server was knowledgeable and attentive despite the place being jam-packed. The decor is dark wood and there is a large patio (curretly enclosed due to temperatures) that will be great in warmer weather.  The only blip during our visit was the fire alarm going off a couple of times. New cooks in the kitchen?

I think for me it will be apps and a cold beverage on the patio with my compadres once springtime gets here.

4002 Catclaw Dr.
Facebook page only at the moment

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Hashi Teppan Grill--Fast and Flavorful Japanese

3388 Rebecca Lane
I think I have found my "go to" place for quick Japanese food.  Hashi is tasty and reasonably priced...just wish it was closer to my house! Me, my husband and son went by for dinner while out Christmas shopping. I had the hibachi shrimp with fried rice and grilled vegetables, my husband had the steak with double fried rice and my son had the salmon (he raved about it) with fried rice and veggies.  They also have chicken and Hashi steak which I believe has sauce on it. 

Steak with double fried rice
We also ordered a California roll for an appetizer. The roll was pre-made. They do not make the sushi in front of you, my only complaint. They do have a variety of sauces. The ginger sauce seemed to be homemade and was quite good. The fried rice reminded me of the now closed Fuji which made the BEST fried rice in town.
Meals range from $6.50 (hibachi vegetables) to $9.50 (Hashi steak). On the menu it states they you have a choice of a starch OR a vegetable but when we went they gave us two sides but then again they had just opened the week before and probably wanted to build up good word of mouth.

Salmon with fried rice and vegetables
The set up is that you go through the line and order. Pay the cashier and they will bring out your food packaged in take-out containers. Seating is limited, so you may not find a table during peak hours.

Service was very friendly and efficient. There is a cook at the hibachi making the meats after you order. The rice, veggies, noodles and appetizers are already made and you can see them dishing them up behind the glass barrier. There are also Asian salads and soups.

The decor is minimalist and the restaurant is very clean. I'm sure we will go back since it is less expensive and quicker than the sit-down hibachi places. However, the sushi won't be a draw since it is similar to what I can get at the grocery store.

3388 Rebecca Lane
Abilene, Texas 79606
T: (325) 704-5388

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Heff's Burgers & More--Best Hamburger in Abilene

Heff's Burgers started out as a grill in the back of a convenience store in Potosi, TX. They were very popular with the folks in the area. The owners decided to move into "town" and open up a store south of the mall. That place was packed all the time so they opened a location on S. 1st, which has since closed because they built a brand new building off of 351 (Albany highway) that is very cool with the 1950s soda shop theme, purple and teal decor and fancy drink dispenser.  They have also opened a restaurant in San Angelo, TX. Heff's is a true success story. I think Heff's may expand even more in the future.
The small 1/4 lb burger (kid/senior menu) with twister fries.
 The owner told me that they only use fresh hamburger meat delivered several times a week, never frozen. They make their own fries, either the regular kind or twister fries which are more like homemade potato chips.

The price for a regular 1/2 lb. burger combo (fries and drink) runs a little under $8 with tax but I promise you won't be hungry after you finish it.

The burger patty is made in-house and grilled to perfection, juicy but not greasy. I appreciate that the buns are always soft and the veggies are fresh. The burger is the only thing I have ever ordered but they also have steak fingers, a chicken sandwich, chicken tenders, a BLT, and even a salad. You can have one of two kinds of fries or onion rings as side dish options. The onion rings are handmade as well but tend to be a bit greasy. 

Service is always excellent but can be a slow if they are crowded but quality takes time. There is no-drive through. I heard that they build another location on the far south side of town. Since I live in the middle of the city, it is a bit of a drive to any of the locations since they closed the one on S.1st but they are worth the travel time.

Abilene Locations:

3374 Rebecca Ln. (325) 691-1930

2642 East Lake Dr.
(325) 437-3006
Find them on Facebook. 

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) the 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.