Texas Restaurant Reviews

Texas Restaurant Reviews

The Tin Can Travelers August 29, 2018 No Comments

It wouldn’t be a review without some sort of ranking system, so a 1 through 5 is what we decided upon (5 being the best). We took into consideration the food, atmosphere, service and prices.

Saltgrass Steak House (total w/tip: $147.73)
502 Riverwalk 
San Antonio, TX 78205

Saltgrass Steak House is located on the River Walk in San Antonio, Texas. With Richey at Doggy-Daycare, we headed downtown with our daughter, son-in-law, and grandson, and after checking out the Alamo made our way to the River Walk to grab a bite to eat. After only about thirty minutes we happened upon this restaurant, which was unknown to us all. We entered from the River Walk, which is located below street level, and were met by the host who simply told us to follow him. He was very much aware of the large and cumbersome stroller we had in our possession, and the baby in it, but proceeded to lead us up two flights of stairs we were forced to traverse. Not cool! The dining area was nearly vacant and rather dark. Its décor was drab, and although not dirty, seemed dingy. It lacked the vibrancy one would expect when dining on the River Walk. Once at our table, we requested a high chair and the host responded with a simple nod of his head. Fifteen minutes later, when our server finally arrived and we still hadn’t received the highchair, we placed our drink orders and requested it again. We then waited another ten minutes for either.

For appetizers we ordered the fried mushrooms ($7.99) and the cheese fries ($7.99). We didn’t try the cheese fries, but the fried mushrooms were pretty good. They were lacking a side of horseradish sauce, which in my opinion is a necessity, but were served with ranch. It was OK, but not preferred.

For lunch I ordered the Salmon Oscar ($25.49), which is a grilled fillet topped with hollandaise sauce. When it was served, however, it was naked. I advised the server the hollandaise sauce was missing, and I only had to wait another fifteen minutes for it to be delivered. And when it was…..it was cold and coagulated. By then, my salmon was barely warm. I didn’t use the hollandaise sauce and was a little perturbed because I could have just ordered the grilled salmon, which is essentially what I got, for $5.00 less. The asparagus it was served with was just as unattractive to look at as it was to eat. It, much like the restaurant’s decor, lacked good taste! The salmon was cooked well and tasted fine, even though it was barely warm, but It was hard to enjoy because my meal was incomplete and I was already quite put-off. Taking a picture of it also slipped my mind because I was just annoyed with the whole experience.

Hakam ordered the Brisket Burger with fries ($14.49), which he said was “alright” but nothing special. The brisket tasted more like roast beef topped with BBQ sauce. At least it was all served at the same time! Our daughter and son-in-aw ordered the Ribs and Shrimp ($23.49) and the Texas Cheesesteak Sandwich ($12.79), and a sweet potato on the side (4.25). We can’t speak to how good or not-good their food was, but the pictures are included. Throw in a draft beer ($7.25), a Pineapple Margarita ($11.00) a sweet tea ($3.25), and the tax ($9.74), and the total was $127.73. And of course, we waited another fifteen or twenty minutes for the check after we requested it. I expected nothing less. And let me not forget to tell you the best part! We passed an elevator on our way out. The very same elevator we could have taken to our table when we arrived. Gotta love it!!

For great service we always tip a minimum of twenty percent, if not twenty-five, and have even tipped thirty for phenomenal service. Our server at this restaurant received $20.00 as her tip, which I believe is just under 15%. About 10% percent more than she and the establishment deserve. The food is sub-par and overpriced, in our opinion, the customer service was atrocious from the moment we walked in the door, and the server was very slow and inattentive. We will not return. We give it a 1.5

Franklin Barbecue (total w/no tip: $122.83)
900 E. 11thStreet
Austin, TX 78702

Ok – If you like BBQ, and even if you don’t, you MUST visit this place. I warn you, though, it’s a bitter-sweet experience. You’ll be thrilled you found this gem of a restaurant as you submerge yourself into the best BBQ you’ll ever eat, but you’ll be knocked to your knees as soon as you remember you don’t live in Austin and can’t return. Having said that, there are a few things about this heavenly restaurant you should know before visiting. They open at 11am and only remain open until the food runs out, which we were told is usually around 3:00 or 4:00 pm. The line is ridiculously long (people camp-out in lawn chairs as if they were waiting in line for the doors to open at Best Buy on Black Friday), and if you get there when they open, plan on waiting in that line for about four hours with no guarantee you’ll make it inside before they run out of food. As a result, according to the employees, people start lining up around 7:00 and 8:00am.

If eating your breakfast while waiting in line for your lunch isn’t your “thing”, you can place an order to go. You might ask why everyone wouldn’t do that? Well, the only thing you can order to-go is brisket, which is sold in slabs of around 5 lbs and more, and their BBQ sauce. The brisket is prewrapped and ready to go and their BBQ sauce is already jarred. I would imagine this is done in order to prioritize the customers waiting in line over those who are not.

We made the trip to Austin, from San Antonio, and arrived at 11:00am. As previously stated, the line was already past the building and approaching the corner of the street. After accepting one of their complimentary BBQ sandwiches, which was delicious, we were informed our wait would be between three and four hours and there was no guarantee the food wouldn’t run out before then. We inquired about getting our order to go, which is when we were told about the limited menu. In order to ensure we got something, we decided our only option was to get the brisket to go. Besides, we weren’t willing to stand in line for 3-4 hours regardless of what was left on the menu. It was, however, a little disappointing we didn’t get to enjoy the full experience. The brisket was cooked when we returned to San Antonio.

Before I get into the brisket, I want to remind everyone that I don’t like it. I’ve sampled it several times at different restaurants and I’ve never come close to changing my mind. It’s just not my thing. Hakam loves it, though. It’s the only thing he orders at BBQ restaurants and he knows good brisket when he gets it. I’m sure he wasn’t disappointed at all when we were told 5lbs slabs of it was the only thing we could get to-go. Anywho…. Our daughter threw the brisket in the oven and followed the cooking directions provided. And then it was done. I remember thinking how wonderful it smelled, which was odd because I don’t like brisket. Hakam sampled it right away, with and without the BBQ sauce, and was just beside himself. He raved on and on about how lean, juicy, and perfectly cooked it was. He said “this is what brisket is supposed to taste like” and then something about how he’s been deprived all these years. Hungry myself, but not expecting to have the same reaction as Hakam, I plated it up, with and without the Q sauce, and gave it a whirl. To my surprise, I am now officially a fan of brisket!! Or at least Franklin’s brisket. And the BBQ sauce….. forget about it!! I would eat (or drink) that stuff all by itself.

With over 5lbs of brisket, there was plenty to leave with our daughter and to take back to the Willy Wagon with us. We had brisket in our eggs, BBQ brisket sandwiches, brisket with potato salad and baked beans, brisket and potatoes, plain brisket by itself, BBQ brisket by itself, and cold brisket as a quick snack. We ate brisket till there was no brisket left, which only took us about two days. We could have had quite a bit more if we hadn’t shared it with our daughter, so that will never happen again! And to think… I went from leaving Franklin’s disappointed we only left with a slab of meat I thought I wouldn’t like, to thinking about moving to Austin so I would never have to be without it again. Well done, Franklin BBQ…… you have converted me!!

The hospitality was phenomenal, with employees walking the line to feed the waiting customers and engaging everyone in conversation. Obviously, we never made it inside so I can’t speak about the service. The establishment is dog-friendly as long as you’re willing to sit on the patio. The brisket was a little more expensive when you compare it to the average price per pound, which is approximately $20.00, but it’s worth the difference. The total price listed above includes a little more than five pounds of brisket, one jar of their BBQ sauce, and one soft drink. We would definitely return and don’t even care if we fail to make it inside. We would just get the brisket to-go again. We give it a 5 

 

Tony’s Jamaican Food (total w/tip: $32.31)
900 E. 11thStreet
Austin, TX 78702

Tony’s Jamaican Food

Since the kids went back to San Antonio with the brisket, we were still hungry. The BBQ sandwich fed to us while in line at Franklin’s was great, but not nearly enough. We did a little sight-seeing around downtown Austin and then hunted for a place to eat. We ended up back in the vicinity of Franklin’s and found a cluster of food trucks. There was Jamaican, Thai, Indian and other cuisines to choose from, so we chose Jamaican. When I saw Chicken Brown Stew on the menu at Tony’s food truck, I immediately placed my order ($13.53 – includes a soda and $3 tip) without even checking out the rest of the menu. Chicken Brown Stew is my favorite Jamaican dish. It consists of large portions of chicken, some still on the bone, covered with a savory brown sauce/gravy. It’s typically served with red rice and beans and sweet plantains. If cooked well, it’s absolutely fabulous!

It took about five minutes for them to put it together and its presentation was appealing. I returned to the truck since that’s where we planned to eat because it was too hot for us or Richey to eat outside at one of their tables. We took pictures of the dish and then I dug in. And then I was disappointed. It was extremely bland and not at all what I hoped for. The chicken was lucky to have the gravy because it was bone dry, the beans were black instead of red, the rice was over cooked, and the plantains were rather pathetic; they were small, tasteless and not very pretty to look at.

Hakam got the Jerk Chicken ($18.78 – includes a soda and $3 tip) and seconds my opinion about the food. It was bland and tasted like a bottom-of-the-barrel serving. Maybe we arrived near closing time. Regardless, it was quite a let-down. Overall, the experience was disheartening. I say that because the food-truck concept is very appealing to us and we want to support it. There was a courtyard with enough seating and the people working there were very nice and welcoming. It kills us to say the food didn’t live up to expectations. We would not return. We  give it a 2 

 

Hecho En Waco (total w/tip: $55.47)
300 S. 6th St. Suite B 
Waco, TX 78702

Hecho En Waco

Without a lot of restaurant options within walking distance from Magnolia Market at the Silos, we found ourselves at Hecho En Waco, a dog-friendly Mexican Restaurant with an outside patio and view of the Silos. We sat ourselves at one of the tables and were immediately greeted by our server, who brought a bowl of water for Richey. This place was off to a good start already! We always take into consideration how Richey is acknowledged and treated.

To start, we ordered the guacamole ($8.00) and two waters. We’re big fans of guacamole, so this was a no-brainer. We thought the guacamole was decent, and certainly fresh, but a little on the bland side. The salsa it was served with, though, was the perfect complement and spiced things up a bit. For lunch, I was served Che’ Tacos with tomatillo sauce ($14.00), but it’s not what I wanted. Don’t get me wrong, I ordered it, but accidentally. I don’t care for tomatillo sauce, but the “Che Tacos” was listed on the menu directly next to the picture of what I meant to order. Completely my fault! So, instead of making a big deal of things and returning it, I simply requested the one item that makes everything taste better….. Cheese!! A few drizzles of their hot and delicious cheese made everything right, and me very happy. My meal tasted authentic, the pork was moist and had lots of flavor, and everything tasted like it was made with fresh ingredients. It was delicious…. tomatillo sauce and all!

Hakam ordered the Enchiladas De Mole ($12.00) and said it was fabulous. He described it as “fresh, homemade, and authentic” and said the mole sauce was “earthy”, “delicious”, and one of the best Mole dishes he’s had.

For dessert we ordered Flan ($8.00). It was beautifully presented with plenty of strawberries, a touch of whipped cream, and garnished with mint. It was actually so beautiful, and tempting, that we forgot to take a picture before we started eating it. It really was incredible! The perfect, smooth, creamy, consistency with just the right amount of caramel drizzle. And the strawberries! Deliciously fresh! I never knew the two would pair so well. The Flan at Hecho En Waco is by far the best we’ve ever tasted. If you like Flan, and you happen to be in Waco, we recommend swinging by to try it. The picture below does NOT do it justice. We ate a good portion, and made mess of it, before we took the picture.

As for the service – although business started picking up by time we left, it wasn’t very busy while we were there. The service was decent and definitely started off with a bang, but there were longer than normal wait times for things like refills on our drinks, the time between our appetizer and lunches, and receiving the check. Having to wait for my check when I’m ready to leave is probably one of my biggest pet peeves. We think the server could have been a little more attentive considering the lack of business. He sure was nice, though.

The inside of the restaurant is much larger than it appears from outside, and it’s clean and quite attractive. The bathroom was also very clean. Taking everything into consideration: food, service, atmosphere, and price, we would definitely eat here again. We give it a 4

 

The Salt Lick (total w/no tip: $52.28)
3350 Palm Valley Blvd.
Round Rock, TX 78665

We heard some really good things about this place, but if we’re being honest, which we have to be, it was actually the worst BBQ restaurant we’ve ever dined at. I ordered the Turkey and Sausage Combo Plate ($14.95), and Hakam ordered the Brisket Plate ($16.95). Both plates were served with a side of beans, potato salad and coleslaw, and we each added a soda to our meal. I’ll get right to it – the brisket and turkey was dry, and saturating it with their not-so-special BBQ sauce didn’t help in the slightest. The baked beans didn’t even taste like baked beans. They were sour! And although it wasn’t visually apparent before that first spoonful, they had the consistency of refried beans once you dug in. They are not the beans most of us are accustomed to pairing with BBQ dishes. Either that, or they once were, but spoiled and were served to us anyway. They were disgusting! The coleslaw wasn’t creamy and lacked flavor. I compared it to wet cabbage. The potato salad wasn’t bad. It was rustic and more like a casserole, but I thought it was decent. That’s the only thing on our plates that gets a better than very poor review, which isn’t saying much. As for our desserts, I had peach cobbler ($5.95) and Hakam had pecan pie ($5.95). And before you wonder why he had dessert if our meals were terrible, it’s because we ordered our desserts at the same time we ordered our meals. Having said that, I ate very little of the peach cobbler and then threw it away. I’ve eaten Peach Cobbler many times and it’s one of my favorite desserts. I’ve also eaten it enough to know when I’m served a bad dish! The peach cobbler at this place was atrocious, and shame on them for serving it. It was a square plastic container filled with soggy bread and mushed up, unrecognizable, peaches lacking any type of flavor. The consistency alone is enough to make you vomit. I can’t believe they actually charge for it! There’s no picture of our desserts because I threw mine away before thinking about taking one. Trust me when I tell you, though, it was very unattractive and you’re not missing out on anything. As for Hakam’s pecan pie, he said it was “just ok”. Anyone who knows Hakam, knows he’s a baker. So, although he loves his cakes and pies, he’s talented enough to recognize a well-made dessert and knows when he’s not served one.

If you’re wondering if this place is dog-friendly…. it is not. Although we were advised we could place a to-go order and dine with Richey outside on the patio, this was only an option on that particular day because there wasn’t a waitress working those tables. It’s funny…. I remember thinking how lucky we were that we visited on that particular day, but now I wish they had turned us away. This place, however, has much bigger problems than their pet policy! We will never return. We give it a 1

 

 SAN ANTONIO FAST-FOOD RESTAURANTS WE TRIED FOR THE FIRST TIME:

 Whataburger
Located: Everywhere in San Antonio, TX

Ha!….more like Whatajoke! I won’t get into too much detail because I don’t think anyone has really high expectations of fast food, but I thought their burgers would have been a little better considering the restaurant’s name is “Whataburger.” I thought it was gross and renamed my piece of meat between two slices of bread “Notaburger”. Their fries were slightly better than their burgers but still well below par. We don’t have the receipt and I don’t care that much about this place to search for it on the bank statement, but they have the typical fast-food prices. There are no pictures, but their burgers look like fast-food burgers….they just taste worse. We will not return. We give it a 1

 

 

Taco Cabana
Located: Everywhere in San Antonio, TX

This little taco joint wasn’t bad. I ordered the “Street Tacos”, which is beef and onions served on soft corn tortillas. Inside the restaurant they have a salsa bar with tons of flavors, some mild and some spicy, and cilantro and other garnishes. I was happy to see this because I always ask for extra cilantro whenever I eat Spanish or Mexican cuisine, and every time I only get a measly portion. Asking for extra cilantro at a Mexican or Spanish influenced restaurant is like asking for extra basil at a Thai restaurant. In order to get just a little more, you have to ask for extra, extra, extra! It’s very annoying. So, when I saw the cilantro on the salsa bar, I loaded up! They only supply very small circular plastic containers for the salsa and garnishes, which was kind of a pain, but I wasn’t going to be deterred. I filled about 10 of those little suckers and had more than enough cilantro for my tacos. I even had left overs for the salad I made the following day. Oh yeah…..and the tacos were good, too. Lots of flavor in the meat, and more than enough salsas and garnishes to make your taco your own. Hakam got the Shredded Chicken Tacos and seconds my opinion. This place is cheap and the food is decent. We paid $15.26 which includes a soda and the tax. We would eat here again. We give it a 3

 

PLACES WE WANTED TO DINE AT, BUT DIDN’T (and why):

Boudro’s
421 E. Commerce St.
San Antonio, TX 78205

My friend, Hannah, visited San Antonio shortly before we did and suggested we try this restaurant. She highly recommended the guacamole. We love guacamole, so it didn’t take too much convincing to get us there. Near the end of our time in San Antonio, we made it a priority to visit for dinner, and of course, try the guacamole. Our GPS took us right back to the River Walk, which we weren’t expecting and knew would be a challenge since we had Richey with us. Richey doesn’t like water and won’t go near it, so getting him to walk along it, or sit next to it, was going to be difficult if not impossible. And as we suspected, it was. We tried to take him down the stairs, but once he saw the water he froze. The same thing happened when we took him down the elevator. Having tried and failed more than once, we thought about walking him through the restaurant, from the street level access, to the outside seating. The plan was to just do it, and if we made it all the way or got really close before being noticed, well……better to ask for forgiveness than permission. After a quick inside surveillance, though, we decided the walk through the restaurant was just too long. Since Richey also freezes sometimes after entering a new place, we knew we wouldn’t make it even half-way before getting caught. With no other options, we decided that Hakam would stay with Richey on street level and I would place a to-go order for just the guacamole.

The River Walk, including Boudros, was an absolute mad-house. It was a Friday night, so we should have expected it. There were so many people waiting outside of Boudros and its neighboring restaurants, that it was impossible to figure out who belonged where. It was chaos. Once I navigated through the masses to the hostess stand to place our order, I waited over 10 minutes for someone to show. They never did, so I called it. I made my way back to Hakam and Richey and we ended up getting a to-go order from Chipotle, taking it back to the car, and eating it there. It’s not exactly the experience we hoped for, but at least we got extra guacamole on our chicken bowls! I do feel deprived, however. Wherever you are, Hannah, I want you to know that we tried!

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