Monday, September 12, 2016

Fresas Chicken al Carbon

Fresas Chicken al Carbon South First Street
I was excited to hear that Fresa's Chicken al Carbon was coming to my Bouldin Creek neighborhood, taking over the old Freddie's location at 1703 South First Street. I've always enjoyed the food at the original location at Lamar and 9th Street, though have never frequented it.  The team behind Launderette is spreading their wings so to speak with a full-service restaurant and expanded menu. How did my first experience stack up?

My neighbor and I wandered over one recent warm weeknight. The expansive patio has undergone a beautiful transformation, and with a table open near a cooling fan we opted to sit outside. Currently, there are no happy hour specials, but hopefully that will change! We had the Rose Sangria and the Smoky Paloma, and were both quite happy with the quality of the drinks.

Their kids menu says items are for kids of all ages, so we took advantage of the tiny-sized chips and queso offering, which turned out to be the perfect size for two people knowing other food would be involved. It was a very nice queso, gooey enough, but not slick like Velveeta.
Fresas sangria paloma queso
We split the La Mari shrimp taco, which I am not sure I would get again. The shrimp were room temp, and it doesn't really seem like an item that shrimp should be lukewarm, though I could be wrong. The pickled onions and greens were nice, but the whole thing left me cold.
Fresas chimichurri skirt steak + la mari shrimp taco
The chimichurri skirt steak plate is available in different sizes, depending on the number of eaters. We got the smallest plate, which at 1/4 pound of beef is the suggested size for one person. The beef was good, still pink, and maybe a touch tough. But the real standout was the chimichurri sauce, which was nice and bright in color and flavor. Copious amounts of grilled onions. The disappointment though was the corn tortilla, which was very gummy, possibly from the condensation of being served in tin foil.  I think they should ditch the foil and just serve them in the cloth tortilla warmers.

And we also had the Mexican street corn, with cotija cheese and a touch of chile powder. Very tasty!

Topping things off was the Tres Leches Tropical cake for dessert, with a coconut lime sponge cake and exquisite mango passion fruit curd. Really, don't pass this by!
Fresas tres leches tropical
I think we can all agree that the hallmarks of any good restaurant are the quality and consistency of the food and the caliber of the customer service.  I thought our server was quite decent up until the point he accidentally knocked the water carafe off the table as he was clearing our main course dishes. It hit the chair where my purse was sitting and the glass broke. I immediately grabbed my purse and started drying off the strap, which was wet, but not damaged. Our young server's comment was "Oh, how did that happen?" though he must have known he clipped it while clearing plates.

There was no apology for the mess or wet purse strap from him nor the other two servers/bussers who came to sweep up the glass (or an inquiry as if either of us had been cut). Nor was the carafe replaced automatically, and said server knew we still had dessert to come. We had to flag down someone who was carrying a tray of five carafes to ask for one, to be given a slightly dirty look (seriously, my neighbor and I both caught it) and the response that those were for another table, and she'd get us one when she could. Oh my.

While not every restaurant has to exhibit the gold-star Uchi levels of service, it would be nice if more restaurants paid attention to service from the get go and made it more of a priority. I spoke to my neighbor today, and she's been back to Fresa's since our visit, and she said both the service and queso were mediocre. Which is a shame, because my last experience at Launderette was delightful in every way. Yes Fresa's is only a couple weeks old, so let's hope they're still just in the growing pains stages as far as service.

But as far as value, I am not sure it's there. I also got a quarter of a chicken, with rice and beans to take home, and while it was tasty for lunch the next day, it was certainly a small portion of meat. I remember when the drive through first opened several years ago, its hallmark was hormone and antibiotic free chickens. And it said so on the website. Now I don't see it listed on the menu or online (and they don't pay much attention to their Facebook page). So I called as I was writing this up, and was told that yes, they are hormone, antibiotic free, and sourced locally. Then why not proudly say it where all can see it? Though looking back on my 2012 blog post on Fresa's, I forgot they were under different ownership then. Times change.

So kind of like the shrimp taco, I'd call this whole experience lukewarm. I'll give Fresa's another shot though. But not the taco.