Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Hill's Cafe

I have always had good meals at Hill's Cafe. I've been for dinner a number of times over the years, but hadn't been in a good long while (like a year), and had never been for lunch that I can recall. I was talking to a co-worker a few days ago, and I mentioned Hill's as one of my favorite spots for a burger. He immediately said that his wife had heard horrible things about the place, and she wouldn't eat there. Then another co-workers chimed in and said she had heard from two people in the past several months that it wasn't up to snuff. I stuck to my guns though, and convinced co-worker #1 to meet me there for lunch. I prayed that this would be a good meal. And doggone it, I was right!

The place is owned by local personality Bob Cole. The entire place is fairly heavily decorated with all kinds of stuff....hard to describe, but think Bevo heads, neon beer signs, local musicans/politicans, etc.
We had the unparalleled joy of sitting in the Rick & Anita Perry booth, so we had Governor Good Hair himself staring at us throughout the meal. (Look closely at the signatures.... they're the same handwriting.)We got an appetizer of the "World Famous Mexican White Wings", which are small chicken strips, wrapped with a serrano pepper (their wording, jalapeno peppers said my chile-head friend) and bacon, then fried, and tossed in a cayenne pepper sauce (as in tabasco-style sauce) with a side of ranch. Tasty, but not sure I'd call them world famous. These looked like they may have been under the heat lamp for a little bit. We were barely halfway through them, when another waiter brought our burgers -- the Old Fashioned for me, and the Fat Bob for my friend. The guy who brought them made a pleasant comment about how the kitchen has been doing fast work lately, and how it hasn't been real busy.

My burger was just a plain one, no cheese, no toppings; one of the things I've always liked about the burger is the bun, a kolache bun, so it's a bit sweeter than normal buns. It did come with the requisite lettuce, onion, & tomato, and I asked for sweet potato fried instead of the regular ones. I requested it medium rare, and it pretty much was that. It was great. Nice grill marks, great charred flavor. A half-pound of beefy goodness. My friend's Fat Bob burger had bacon, cheese AND a fried egg on it, and he was mighty pleased with his too, and polished the whole thing off. I am surprised that ate almost the entire thing! It's certainly more than what I normally have for lunch, and need a cleanse of fruit & veggies now.
So I feel vindicated. Hill's has come through yet again. The burgers were fabulous. Next time, I'll get the chicken fried steak, which has always been good too. Meanwhile, I should have left some Farouk Shami paraphernalia for Rick Perry to enjoy...


Some friends suggested going to Jalisco's on far South Congress Ave last week since they had a gift certificate to use. Sure! Why not! I looked briefly online for info, reviews, a website, etc. and from the info posted on Yelp, I discerned that the service at this Tex Mex spot should be quite good, and the food good, but not outstanding. And you know what? That's pretty much exactly right.

So on a slightly damp Thursday, I headed south on Congress, almost to William Cannon, and discovered a pretty new building with ample parking. Inside, it's quite spacious, with booths lining the outer perimeter, a large bar against the back wall, and a lot of tables in between. My friends were already there, munching on guacamole, and perusing the menu. A very affable younger waiter (late teens/early 20s?) immediately came to get my drink order. After a few minutes studying the menu, I settled on the Clement's plate: beef skirt steak, chicken, and pork al pastor with beans & rice.
It was a sizeable plate for $11.95. In the picture, underneath that beef was the chicken & pastor. The beef alone probably would have been enough food (and it ended up being lunch the next day). The steak & pastor were tasty; the pastor was particularly good & tender. The chicken had little flavor to it, and neither did the beans nor rice. In fact, I think the rice had more flavor than the beans. Certainly more color. The real kicker though came when we got dessert. My friends had heard through another that the fried ice cream was great, and what's not to like about fried goodness? Take a close look at the picture. This isn't fried ice cream in the typical definition of FRIED ICE CREAM, as in battered and deep fried. This is a large chunk of ice cream (it was huge) that has been rolled in rice krispies to simulate the crunchy, fried outer shell. I could pretty much tell after the first bite, and while it wasn't bad (and certainly not nearly as caloric), it was a touch disappointing.
Our waiter though, was great. He kept coming back and checking on us. He did however bring the check on assumption, before we had a chance to order dessert. (Maybe it was because we asked for 2 to-go boxes.) And, a mariachi band was playing! There's a banner outside saying "mariachi music", but I didn't ever catch what the name of the group was. Most of the members were younger, which made me wonder if they are a local high school group. Their primary male & female singers were really good! If I lived closer to Jalisco's I'd go back for Happy Hour, because I think they had some decent drink specials, and while the service was great, there are plenty of other Tex Mex spots in this town for much better food. Maybe some real fried ice cream too.