Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Texas Land & Cattle -- Tomball, TX

I tend to be wary of Texas-themed restaurants – they tend to mask poor quality food with the spectacle of Texas, hoping non-Texans (and Texans) won’t notice. Texas Land & Cattle deviates slightly from this mold but isn’t without it’s problems.

Like other Texas-themed restaurants, the décor was western themed, although more tasteful than you might imagine. The notable exception was the giant steer head on the wall.
The CFS ($11.95) was a southern style breading soft and juicy round steak. The tenderness was unexpectedly moist and tender, almost fork tender. The breading was soft and not overly crispy. The gravy was a classic luscious white gravy. There was a nice hint of cumin that brought a nice smoky flavor. As good as the technical preparation was, the flavor was a bit bland. Every level (breading, meat, gravy) needed salt and at least a hearty dash of pepper.

The garlic mashed potatoes were tasty and it was clearly prepared freshly and with care. The skins were left on and the garlic tasted like it was roasted, then added, giving the potatoes a nice smoky-sweet flavor instead of overpowering the dish. Still, a dash of salt would have again been warranted.

For a slow Sunday lunch in an empty restaurant, the service was slow, although our waitress was attentive and polite.

If you ignore the wall-spanning Lonesome Dove scene painting on the wall, Texas Land & Cattle ends up like other restaurants. A little more salt and I’d be right at home.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Texas Burger - Fairfield, TX

Free from the vegetable-loving Mrs. Chicken Fried Steak, tater tot and I set out on a road trip in search of fried tasty vittles in central Texas.

One of my favorite chain burger places is Texas Burger – a place I insist on stopping by each time we make a long haul to Dallas.

This particular Texas Burger in Fairfield shares space with a Subway (and it seemed that most of the patrons were waiting in line for the subway at lunch on a Thursday). The inside is modest but comfortable.

The CFS: Departing from my usual “Double Texas Burger” order, I ordered the steak finger basket. The “meat” itself was too salty but was moist and chewy. I won’t speculate on exactly what it was, but the quality of the filler was low.

Breading: Very thin. So thin you could see the meat itself through the breading. It was also very salty and a bit unpleasant.

Gravy: The gravy came in a little side cup. It didn’t have much flavor but did have the look of a traditional gravy.
Knife: None. Steak fingers are for fingers.

Sides: A little bag of french fries. Texas Burger fries (at least at this location) have a nice little kick and rekindled tater tot’s love of the salted potato stick, thus making my life easier.

Cost: $7.99. A little expensive considering the quantity and quality.

Service: Very good. The woman who took our order also waited on us at our table. She brought our order out swiftly and also brought out our cookies when they were ready.
Music Selection: None.
I recommend sticking to the burger products at the Texas Burger. But, do try the homemade shakes! They can make up for a lot.

Monday, October 5, 2009

John's Cafe - Plano, TX

Tucked away in a strip mall in east Plano, John’s Café boasts a range of country cooking. They seem to specialize in breakfast and lunch items (and close early, so plan ahead).

Unfortunately, the inside matched the outside dinginess. There was an odor of fresh paint in the restaurant. The décor inside was minimal, with the television as the center of attention in the rather small dining room. The tables are covered with a heavy (clear) plastic sheet that detracted from the ambiance.

The CFS: The CFS was awful. The meat was thin and tough, like a McDonalds hamburger patty gone old. Needless to say, the meat was tough. I think it was sirloin, but I won’t speculate (I won’t share manner of meat we suspected). There was also an odd flavor of garlic powder or onion powder that was very unpleasant.

Breading: Breading was good not but without much flavor.

Gravy: The gravy saved the day. Just like chicken fried mom used to make! It was white, fresh and creamy.

Knife: Steak knife. The size (it being thin) wasn’t the problem – it was the density of the meat.

Sides: Choose two. The mashed potatoes were solid but unremarkable. It had good flavor and nice garlic and salty flavor. The okra was the best of the two: hot and tasty.

There were hot rolls provided to start which caused me mixed emotion. That they were free and hot was good. That they were dry and tasteless was bad.

Cost: $ 7.29. Not a bad price for a lunch, but for the quality, it was a little high.

Service: The service was OK. Very friendly but a little lax. Sides were forgotten. Drink refills were slow. Still, a smile and some good banter make up for a lot.

Music Selection: The din of something but I couldn’t make it out.

I can’t recommend a visit to John’s Café. It was a Sunday lunch, so a weekday meal might be better. I’m reminded of Anthony Bordain’s recommendation in Kitchen Confidential to not eat fish in a restaurant on Monday. Maybe we can add: “don’t eat CFS on a Sunday.”
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