Alamo Cafe — A Favorite of Long Standing

21 Jul

While in college (too many years ago to actually count), a friend and I saw this new place on San Pedro.  It called itself the Alamo Cafe, and we gave it a try.  Warm chips and salsa, freshly made tortillas, creamy guacamole, tasty queso,  and great fajitas made it a favorite place to go; the portions were generous and the food was that good.

And today, there are two Alamo Cafes:  the larger one located out on 281, and the I-10 location.  And both still serve warm chips and salsa, freshly made tortillas, creamy guacamole, tasty queso,  and great fajitas, plus much more.  These days, I prefer the I-10 location, near which I used to live. I visit pretty much every time I am out in the Medical Center area.

I often hear the Alamo Cafe mentioned in conjunction with chicken fried steak. And yes, Alamo Cafe serves a great one.

alamo CFS

The chicken fried steak is very large.  The steak is good quality and is pounded thin.  The breading is well-seasoned  and sticks to the meat, and the whole thing is crispy and beefy and tender and tastes like it should.  The gravy has a good meat flavor; it’s not just cooked flour, like it is in many restaurants. Served with a choice of potato and some pretty good green beans, this is a winning plate.  A (largish) garden salad can be added for an extra charge, but the plate alone is more than filling.

My favorite is still the beef fajitas.  I usually order the beef fajita taco plate, which comes with rice and beans, and I get the small queso with it.

Alamo fajitas

The fajitas, marinated and grilled to a juicy perfection, the really good guacamole and the fresh tortillas all add up to some tasty tacos. The beans and rice are just average, but overall it’s a good plate.

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Lai Sinh Vietnamese Restaurant in Converse

17 Jul

I love a good vermicelli bowl.  When it’s done correctly, there’s nothing better.  And I found a great one at Lai SInh Vietnamese Restaurant on FM 78 in Converse.

Lai Sinh is a small restaurant located in a shopping center between an insurance office and a martial arts academy.  It has only five tables and seems to do mainly takeout business.  It reminds me of the little noodle shops you find in San Francisco or elsewhere on the West Coast.  When we arrived, two of the tables were occupied, and the remaining three each had a menu thoughtfully placed for diner perusal.


The vermicelli bowl (each flavor also available in a rice plate) comes in two sizes, small or large, with the larger one including more food and a sliced cha gio roll,

I opted for the large grilled beef vermicelli bowl, and I was very happy with it.

ls bowl

First, let me say that the roll was excellent.  It was fresh and hot, with a crispy outside. The inside was packed with pork, vermicelli, and mushroom.  Next time, I will get a whole separate order of these.

The bowl itself was also excellent.  There was a nice amount of beef, and the vermicelli was properly cooked.  The crisp, fresh veggies were wonderful — cucumber, carrot, purple cabbage, and cilantro.  I added the accompanying sauce, which was flavorful in a restrained way and didn’t overpower the ingredients, and then sprinkled on the chopped peanuts.  HEAVEN in a bowl!   Every component was fresh.  I really enjoyed this!

My dining companion ordered the pork fried rice.

ls rice

Again, the dish was freshly made and served hot from the grill. There was a generous amount of pork and a nice variety of vegetables.  The flavor was very good; I tried a small bite, and would have tried another except my vermicelli bowl arrived.

Both of us tried the iced jasmine tea.  Light and floral, the tea was a perfect summer drink.

One of the nicer touches was that the manager/server brought to the table a small basket that held napkins, forks, spoons, and chopsticks, so each diner can choose utensils. And the cook at Lai Sinh pays attention to the small details that make the dishes really good.  I will be back!

Lai Sinh also does a pretty good takeout business.  Check out their website at

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Torchy’s Tacos in Alamo Heights

16 Jul

As all of my readers know, I have this thing about mom and pop restaurants, especially when it comes to Tex-Mex food.  So I was a bit hesitant to try Torchy’s.  But overall, I am glad I did.  It certainly is not Tex-Mex. Torchy’s offers a variety of food combinations wrapped in tortillas, and although Torchy’s uses many traditional Tex-Mex ingredients, their offerings are in a whole separate category.

Torchy’s is an order-at-the-counter place.  You place your order and pay, get and fill your drink cup, find a table, and hang your order number tag so the food servers can find you.  Then you wait for your food, and it starts to arrive quickly.

We started with the qreen chile queso.

torchy queso

Served with fresh, warm tortilla chips, this is an excellent version of queso.  A generous spoonful of pretty decent guacamole, the queso fresco, and the diablo hot sauce (pretty tasty stuff) topped a velvety queso. But there was just too much cilantro, and it unbalanced the dip.About half that much would have been fine. Plus, the queso had a little bit of a oily aftertaste, which I found odd.  Still, overall it was a good starter.

Then came the tacos.  First was the Democrat:

torchy democrat

Good barbacoa was complemented by a slice of avocado and sprinkled with queso fresco, cilantro, and onion, this taco also came with a slice of lime for squeezing. The fillings were really good; the barbacoa was well-seasoned and not dried out, and a lighter hand had distributed the cilantro here.  The corn tortillas were okay, but obviously not made in-house.

We also tried the green chile pork taco and the fried avocado taco .

torchy green pork and fried av

I really liked the green chile pork taco. The pork carnitas had a rich, slow-cooked taste, and the queso fresco was the perfect topping, along with fresh onion and cilantro. The lime added just the right dash of citrus flavor.  What I didn’t care for was the tortilla.  I go to so many places that make their own fresh that this one was hard to love.  It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t freshly made in-house.

I also liked the fried avocado tacos.  I have eaten avocado fried tempura-style at other restaurants.  The avocado here was fried in a thinner batter, but the creamy consistency was enjoyable. What I didn’t like was the refried beans that were included.  The beans were fine, but I think they detracted from the really good avocado. Plus, the beans were a little messy. I think I would have liked this taco better beanless ( and with homemade tortillas).

I also liked the natural cane sodas. The root beer ROCKED!!

And I have to compliment the staff.  From the order taker (who was in training, and his trainer was chatty and terrific!) to the folks who brought the food to the table, to the busman who encouraged us to refill our drinks — all were great and represented Torchy’s well.
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Whataburger, Biscuit and Sausage Gravy

16 Jul

Some mornings, you just need a biscuit and gravy.  And some mornings, I stop at Whataburger and get one. I know that Whataburger serves a good biscuit — flaky and warm and pretty substantial.  And since it’s a Texas firm, I can count on Whataburger to make a gravy that is more than just wet cooked flour.


The first thing you will notice about your Whataburger biscuit and gravy order is it’s spill-proof packaging.  Yes, it’s a lot of packaging, and as a committed recycler, this bothers me on some level.  On the other hand, both biscuit and gravy travel quite well, and the carrying container works well as a plate.


So here it is, assembled.  Again, Whataburger makes a good biscuit.  When unwrapped, it is easy to pull into halves. And the gravy is studded with many little pieces of flavorful sausage.  The gravy itself tends to taste a bit bland, but a slight sprinkle of salt solves that.  Add an iced tea, and this is a hearty breakfast for a working Texan.

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Chilangus — Casual Mexican Dining in Schertz

7 Jul

Chilangus Mexican Grill recently opened in a strip mall on FM 78, near its intersection with FM 3009.  Advertising itself as “All Natural – From Scratch,” the place seemed to be a must-try. So last night, we stopped by for dinner.

Chilangus is reminiscent of Chipotle’s.  You order at the serving line and watch as  your meal is prepared. Like Chipotle’s, a variety meats and toppings are available to add to tacos ($2.59 each) or burritos ($6.49 each).  Even the decor and serving area reminded me of Chipotle’s.


My dining companion wanted  tacos.  He received two very filled tacos.  He selected refried beans, asada, and a variety of cheeses and veggies.

Chil tacos

The meat was tender and flavorful; the refried beans were well-seasoned.  The guacamole (added at $1.80 extra) was a little bland, but the veggies were fresh and the lettuce was really crisp. Overall, the tacos were a winner.

Unlike Chipotle’s, Chilangus offers some plate options. I opted for the chicken enchilada verde plate, which cost $7.99.

Chil ench

The enchiladas were made in front of me, and I was offered a choice of beans as well as rice.  The rice was good; the black beans were really good– nicely seasoned. The enchiladas were excellent.  As they were freshly made, the tortillas weren’t soggy, and the chicken had good flavor. I would order these again.

The menu also includes a chile relleno plate, pozole, menudo, and more.  Taco offerings include grilled shrimp, grilled fish, and grilled veggiesThe meats offered are picadillo, carnitas, pastor, green chile pork, al pastor, chicken, barbacoa, asada and more.  There are also breakfast tacos and family orders (meat, rice, and beans by the pound.

The staff members who served us were enthusiastic and very helpful — definitely a plus!

I can recommend Chilangus for a quick dinner or lunch.  With this many choices, everyone can find something that will make a happy meal.

Chilangus is located at 1256 FM 78, Suite 113.  For more info, go to chilangusgrill,com.

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The Smoke Shack — BBQ on Broadway

26 Aug

I love good barbecue, so I jumped at the chance to sample the wares of the Smoke Shack at the Broadway location. The building itself is, I think, a bit on the smallish side for the place, and parking is definitely tight.  But by getting here early, at the beginning of the lunch service, I parked and got my order in pretty quick.

The verdict?  Great meats and mainly mainly so-so sides.

ss sliders

I love sliders, and I ordered the brisket and pulled pork versions. Served on what seemed to be freshly baked rolls, the sliders were a delight. The brisket was moist and tender and included just enough bark to pack a punch. Topped by a good smoky red BBQ sauce, this was a winner.   The pulled pork slider was also good, with tender flavorful meat, but the vinegar-based sauce was a bit strong for my taste, and almost overpowered the pork.

The brisket sandwich was similarly good.

ss sand

The serving was generous — enough to share, not that you’d want to share such good brisket.

I do appreciate the fact that the Smoke Shack offers a choice of sauces, and that one is vinegar-based.

ss sauces

As for the sides — the spicy cream corn was really good — spicy, and maybe made creamy with cream cheese?  The potato salad was good. The mac and cheese was average. And the beans were bland, bland, bland.


And then there was the banana pudding dessert, which I’m pretty sure was made by Sysco or some such, and included, I guess, just to offer some sort of dessert.

ss bpudd

The woman working the counter seemed really overwhelmed, and it was the beginning of the serving day.  I’m glad I went early.

I will return to the Smoke Shack for the BBQ meats, but other than the cream corn, I think I’ll skip the sides.

The Smoke Shack is located at 3714 Broadway.  You can find hours and more info here:

Smoke Shack BBQ & Southern Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Timbo’s just off Broadway near downtown

22 Aug

I love Timbo’s for a lot of reasons. The food is good and the atmosphere is friendly. It’s a favorite meeting place for me and my friends — and their teenage daughters love it too!!

But it also reminds me of Little Hipp’s, which was a San Antonio institution and a long-time favorite. Timbo’s is the spiritual (and shypoke) successor to Little Hipp’s. I love a place where I can order Hipp puppies still!

Located on Broadway in front of the Pearl Brewery area, Timbo’s serves burgers, fries and tots, and shypoke eggs. Small wooden booths and a jukebox harken back to Little Hipp’s, as do the picnic tables and benches and the Texas memorabilia on the walls.

As much as I love the atmosphere, I love the food more. Of course, we start with shypoke eggs in the traditional version:
timbo shypoke

AND the fancier version, with ham and tomato:



timbo shypoke plus


We get the hots on the side, since some of us want just the cheese and chip or the cheese, chip, ham and tomato.  Served hot and crispy, shypoke eggs make a great starter, or can be a meal in themselves, especially when accompanied by an ice-cold cerveza.

The burgers are HUGE.   This is the bacon cheeseburger:

timbo burger

I can usually manage to eat about half of this.  On some occasions, I’ve made an extra effort and downed the whole thing.  The burgers are cooked medium well and are served hot and juicy.  The folks at Timbo’s are really great about adjusting toppings — adding more, serving veggies on the side, etc.

And then there are the Hipp Puppies.  I mean, then there are the tater tots.

timbo tots

Okay, so tater tots are not exactly health food, but I don’t care.  Quinoa never tasted this crunchy and awesome, and it never, ever will.  Ever. Not in a zillion years.  And you get to fill those little paper cups with catsup and dip your Hipp puppies. Happiness.  Just happiness.

Timbo’s menu also features The Jumbo Burger —  a one pounder; the Yellow Submarine, which is 2/3 pound of ground beef stuffed with jalapeno, cheese and onion;  and the Hot  Burger Steak, which is like the Yellow Submarine but served as a plate.  There are kids meals available, plus a small selection of beer and wine.

Timbo’s is open for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday. It’s located at 1639 Broadway and parking is in the back.  You can get more info here:


Timbo's on Urbanspoon