Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Rock’n Roller’z Roll’n Grill--Scrumptious Burgers on Wheels

Old Schooler traditional cheeseburger
I'm late to the party with this review of Rock'n Roller'z hamburgers and a report on my first visit to Abilene's Food Park in south downtown. The park is an outdoor dining spot that hosts a rotating group of food trucks, primarily during the lunch hour. It is on the corner of S. 1st and Sycamore St. Most of the parking for diners is in a lot north of S. 1st close to the railroad tracks. The park fits about 4-5 food trucks, so it isn't very big but it is certainly a step in the right direction for food culture in Abilene.

Last year, I had a burger from the truck when they were parked at a local business. At that time I ordered the town favorite, a Poppin' Johnny. It is dressed up with cream cheese, fire-roasted jalapenos, bacon, fried onion strings, and a jalapeno ranch sauce...a mouth-watering combo of jalapeno popper and burger. No wonder it has won some local awards. This time, the hubby and I went to the food park just to have a burger from Rock'n Roller'z for supper. They were the only truck listed to be there for the evening so we did not have to fight a lunch-time crowd and the parking was easy.

Truffle fries
The burgers are served with fries and range in price from $8-$12. The buns they use are delicious and locally produced. The meat is never frozen. You can truly taste the difference so I don't mind paying more for something so delectable. The size of the burger was perfect for me. If you do have a really big appetite, they can throw an extra patty on the burger for an up-charge. My husband went traditional with his order of the Old Schooler cheeseburger. I ordered the Rockin Rolla burger which had pepper jack cheese, bacon, onion strings, tomato, lettuce, pickle and "nasty" sauce which is similar to thousand island dressing without the pickles but with a kick to it.

We decided instead of getting the regular fries that come the burger to upgrade to an order of truffle fries and share them. The fries were hand-cut, tossed in truffle oil, served topped with shredded Parmesan cheese and parsley. Truffle oil adds a earthy "mushroom-y" taste to the potatoes. So often with hand-cut fries they don't get much of a "crisp" on them. These fries had a bit of a crunch on the outside while still being tender on the inside. Score! The truck has other options for special fries ($6) that could be a meal in and of themselves. I've also seen homemade cheese sticks being offered as well.
My Rockin Rolla burger

The last burger on the menu, in addition to the Poppin' Johnny, the Old Schooler, the Rockin Rolla, is the Future Bird which is a bacon cheeseburger with two fried eggs on top. They also tend have a rotating option such as a chicken sandwich or another kind of burger to choose from.

The truck is distinctive so keep an eye out for the tattooed lady painted on it. If you see they are serving--STOP! You won't regret it.

Follow them on Facebook or give them a call to find where they are set-up for a truly exceptional burger. You can also check out the Facebook page for the food park in downtown Abilene to see which trucks are parked there (1089 S. 1st) on any given day.

(325) 665-0513

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Settles Grill--Big Spring Fine Dining

The Settles Grill is in the beautifully restored Hotel Settles in Big Spring, Texas. It was our chosen spot for Thanksgiving in 2016. We also stayed overnight in the hotel (see Trip Advisor for my review of the hotel--excellent place). It was great to take a break from cooking a holiday meal and head out of town for a couples trip. We had two meals in the grill and both were quite tasty.

The customer service in the grill was outstanding. We had a fantastic server who took care of everything we needed. The manager on duty was also accommodating and checked on us more than once. Our reservations were for 2pm and the restaurant was about half-full at that time. The decor was dark wood and blue accents with historic pictures on the wall.

For an appetizer we ordered the Avocado Fundido ($10) which was Queso Fresco, chorizo, black beans and tortilla chips. We dug into it before I could get a picture. Delicious and a generous portion as well.

Turkey tenderloin with fried Brussls sprouts and garlic mashed potatoes
The holiday special we chose was the apricot pecan stuffed turkey breast medallions ($16) even though there were several other choices ranging from steak to fish. We were such traditionalists! There were a variety of sides to choose from such as green chile cornbread dressing, garlic mashed potatoes, cheese grits, fried Brussels sprouts with almonds, lemon butter broccoli, or pan-fried kale.

My sides were the Brussels sprouts, which I loved, and the garlic mashed potatoes. The hubby had the green chili dressing and mashed potatoes. Roasting the sprouts really brought out their flavor. I wished for a bigger serving. The bechamal sauce on the turkey was excellent. Turkey does tend to get dry and the addition of the sauce helped it a lot. There was also had a little bit of homemade cranberry sauce to complement the turkey. There was more meat on the plate than I could eat. Compliments to the chef!
Pumpkin cheesecake

For dessert we had pumpkin cheesecake with brandy whipped cream and a little citrus sugar cookie ($7). I really liked the little sugar cookie and the whipped cream. The cheesecake had a pumpkin spice flavor but with a little overcooked.

We did go back later in the evening for another meal. My husband ordered trout and I had a salad. He loved the trout. Much too "fishy" tasting for me but he raved about it.

I recommend making a reservation for holidays or special events. We will return.

P.S. On the way out of Big Spring, we had to go to Taco Villa. My husband grew up in Andrews, Texas, so if there is a Taco Villa where we travel it is a mandatory stop even for breakfast. The one in Big Spring it the closest one to Abilene if you are interested.

200 E 3rd St, Big Spring, TX 79720

Friday, February 10, 2017

Sams Southern Eatery--Fishy Chicky and Full

Menu for Abilene location
Yes, almost everything served at Sam's Southern Eatery is fried but they also have salads and grilled options. I didn't have grilled anything today and I'm alright with that. Sam's Southern Eatery is a medium-sized chain with about 50 locations in nine states. They started in Shreveport, Louisiana. It is refreshing to see a restaurant opening in the center of town (N.1st and Westwood area) for a change and judging by the business they were doing, I believe others think so as well.

Today, my husband and I had a late lunch (around 1:15pm) and the place looked like it had been hit by a tornado during the noon hour. I imagine that the rush will calm down once the novelty wears off a bit and the staff will have more time to clean the dining room and take out the trash. There were also plumbers there working on the pipes. I've heard from other people that they have run out of food and sometimes the staff have been cranky because of traffic hitting the restaurant, though we didn't have that experience. Abilene is hungry for good seafood. This location has only been open about 10 days. These issues aside, the main dishes we had were scrumptious!

Fish, shrimp, red beans and rice, green beans

We ate three types of fried seafood. The catfish had a wonderfully seasoned, crispy cornmeal breading. These were real fillets, not little slivers of fish. The shrimp is advertised as jumbo-sized and they were indeed big and juicy. My husband had some fried crab cakes which were fine but not up to the level of the fish and shrimp. Their spicy tarter sauce is yummy but the fish didn't need it to help the taste profile.

Crab cakes, fish and shrimp

Entree size was very generous, I got more than the 6 pieces of shrimp I was supposed to have. Sides were on the small side. We had some red beans and rice which were homemade, green beans, and mac and cheese. I think the red beans are the standout on the sides. They do have fried green tomatoes on the appetizer menu but I don't know if they are made in-house. The hush-puppies were a little overcooked but had a nice onion flavor. Perhaps some greens would be a welcome addition to the menu. As would a couple of dessert items. My husband would love to see some crawdads, gumbo, etouffee, or shrimp stew. He has very fond memories of living in S.E. Texas as a kid.

The menu also has fried chicken tenders, wings, livers, and gizzards. Livers and gizzards means southern! Fried oysters too. You can get po-boy sandwiches and burgers as well. The fish and shrimp are the standouts for me.

Dine-in and takeout only (despite being in an old Taco Bell with a drive thru lane right in front of the door). Be aware that the food takes a little while to cook since they are making it fresh. I think Long John Silver's a block away may be in trouble and other places in town that serve fried catfish better watch their backs...there is a new kid in town.

Address: 3509 N 1st St, Abilene, TX 79603

Update: Skip calling in and picking it up. I retrieved our order within the 20 minutes they said it would take and the food was not hot, had a rubbery texture, and they forgot the fried green tomatoes. The fried mushrooms we did have were way too greasy, as though they had been fried twice. Eat in or wait for them to cook it for takeout so you know it was made fresh. I've always been pleased up until this order.  

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Trent "Country Club"--Tasty steaks on the weekends if you don't get lost

I wasn't certain I wanted to write a review of the Trent "Country Club". It crossed my mind to keep it to myself as a hidden gem...mouth-watering grilled steaks, ribs, catfish and shrimp out in the boonies down a dirt road between the towns of Trent and Merkel, Texas (west of Abilene). In the end, it is better to share knowledge. If you look them up on your GPS you may not get there anyway. It was smart that I went with someone who had been there before my first go around because it would have been a challenge otherwise, particularly in the dark. Knowledge of this local favorite is almost all word of mouth. The Abilene paper did a story on Trent Country Club a few years back so you will find an item or two on the internet but most people I've mentioned it to have never heard of the place.
I'm told the lights are up year around.

Tank and Moo with red beans and boiled yellow squash.

First, it isn't really a country club. The name is firmly tongue-in-cheek. There is no golf course or swimming pool. What is at the location is a small restaurant with a caliche parking lot that is open on Friday and Saturday evenings between 5:30pm-9pm and it is filled with local folks. I recommend calling ahead before making the road trip unless you just happen to find yourself on Interstate 20 in the vicinity of Trent around dinner time on the weekend.

Gray dot in the middle is the location.
 I went there with three friends and we all ordered the "Tank & Moo" which was catfish (fried or grilled) and a nice sized NY strip served with two sides. My steak was perfectly cooked and well-flavored. No A-1 needed. The server told me the owner has his own secret marinade/seasoning. The steak was tender and weighed in at about 10-12 oz. At $23.00 for the meal, it was also reasonably priced. The catfish was alright but I like mine extra crispy. The side dishes were homemade. I had red beans and boiled squash but you could go for potatoes or a salad as well as several other options, including a seasonal one such as black-eyed peas (check the chalkboard inside).

Chocolate pie.

Beverages served are tea, soft drinks, or water. You are allowed to bring your own adult beverages if you so choose. However, if you want to have a birthday cake, there is a $15 set-up fee. After dinner we were too full but the desserts on the menu and the chalkboard were to tempting not to try. The chocolate pie was piled high with meringue, just like grandma used to make. There was also two kinds of cobbler and bread pudding, all for only $3.00 each.

I'll be returning and will go for the filet. I'm sure my husband will want the 16 oz ribeye that is the specialty of the house. See you there (if you can find it)!

Trent Country Club
1573 County Road 365
Trent, TX
(325) 862-0400
No website

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 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