Sunday, November 26, 2006

Kerbey Lane Pancakes

Because it's too good not to share.

I have received feedback that it would be nice on occasion for readers to be able to try out the eating places I blog about. Seems there's not a business case for everyone to drive to Austin (or the other places featured here) to try out the great eateries. So, now here's your chance.

The Kerbey Lane Cafe has an online store, so you, too, can enjoy the Kerbey Lane pancakes made famous by their "Round the Clock Breakfast" menu. Whilst I was toiling away at the old keyboard, The Woman motored over to the KLC location convenient to us and bought a year's supply of pancake mix. It being Thanksgiving and all, we opened the Pumpkin Pancakes first.

I can't imagine an easier way to make pancakes. As you may have suspected, I'm no expert in the kitchen. (I've been forced to drink warm Dr Pepper ever since I lost the ice recipe.) So I've never actually made pancakes, but I observed the preparations. Toss some of the mix into water along with an egg and beat the stuffing out of it. Then drop it in a skillet and a few minutes later it's time to crack open the syrup.

While all that was going on, I brewed up some fair-trade coffee, also from Kerbey Lane Cafe. When I opened the bag I discovered they were beans, so there was a slight delay while I located the grinder. Then, with some boiling water and a French press, I was in business.

I've never been a fan of pumpkin pie, but I must say the pumpkin pancakes are great. I had 3 very large ones. We also got buttermilk, gingerbread and apple. Like I said, it's a year's supply as near as I can figure. Maybe I'll try the gingerbread next week.

So, get online, get some pancakes and let me know how you like 'em.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Kerbey Lane Cafe

The restaurant you wish you had opened.


If your spouse is the kind of person who sometimes says, "Wouldn't it be cool to open a restaurant?" and you're the kind of person who says, "Are you crazy?" then avoid the Kerbey Lane Cafe. Cause even folks who have never thought of opening a restaurant can get the urge after a meal at Kerbey Lane.

That's kind of how it got started in the first place. In the words of the owners, "We were finishing undergraduate degrees, looking at grad school and thinking about how difficult it was to find an affordable, casual place to eat healthy food. And, being young with lots of time ahead of us, we decided to try opening the kind of restaurant we wanted."

The thing at Kerbey Lane is the ingredients. The pesticide-free, vine-ripened tomatoes, squash, okra, spinach, strawberries, field greens and more are locally grown at the Lamar farm, picked fresh and then taken for a short drive to the cafe. By the time you eat then, they are still quivering from the shock of being separated from the parent plant and are wondering where they are. And, as anyone who eats really fresh veggies knows, that makes all the difference.

The first thing you notice when you arrive at the original location on Kerbey Lane, after the ordeal by parking, is that you're eating in a funky old house. Restaurants converted from houses seem to have a voice whispering, "See? You could do this. How hard can it be?"

Then you look at the menu and realize how hard it can be. Moving some walls around and bunging in some tables and chairs isn't that hard. Coming up with startlingly creative and compelling recipes is something else entirely. In most joints you flip through the pages listlessly, struggling to find something that isn't the culinary equivalent of summer reruns.1 After all, how many times can you have the chicken alfredo or the top sirloin or the Caesar salad or the patty melt before you start wondering if anyone will notice if you tie together the table cloths and escape out the window?

At Kerbey Lane, you turn the menu pages slowly and realize you'll have to return about 53 times to try everything that you can't leave without having right now. Then you look at the prices and realize that with entrees ranging from $7-$12, coming back 53 times isn't totally out of the question, either.

As we were on a kid/grandkid outing, we had the mandatory Kerbey Queso, which is a white cheese dip with guacamole, pico de gallo and salsa. This dip has become such an obsession that I am forced to provide links to the ultimate reference page, which has nothing to do with Kerbey Lane.

After despairing of making a choice, I chose something at random on the menu, the Stuffed Poblano ($8). So, you're thinking a poblano pepper stuffed with some kind of meat and smothered in cheese, right? Try this: a lightly battered poblano pepper, stuffed with seasonal squash and Feta cheese, topped with tangy verde sauce. Served with black beans, cheese-filled silver dollar corn cakes and avocado salad.

See what I mean? I bet now you're thinking, "Dang! Where can I get one of those?" Well the whole menu is like that. For our second visit I tried the Squash Flauta: Three corn tortillas stuffed with acorn squash and feta cheese, served with our own Pineapple Mango Pico de Verano, guacamole salad, Mexican rice and chipotle cream sauce.

OK, so it seems I'm on a squash and feta fetish, but I assure you it was unintentional. The visits were several months apart. This time we were at the south Austin location, which is in an old diner. We were headed to the drafthouse to see "Stranger than Fiction" but all showings of all movies were sold out, so we tooled down the road a few miles to Kerbey Lane for dinner and caught the movie at the late showing somewhere else. I would describe the stuff the other folks ordered but the items aren't on the web menu and when I grabbed a to-go menu on the way out I discovered I had snagged a kid's menu, complete with a set of 4 crayons nestled in a nice little folded pocket. No wonder the hostess gave me a funny look.

If the items I ordered sounded good, you should surf the website to see other items on the menu and read more about the place. The other two locations sound interesting, as well. I'll have to check them out as I tool around the metropolis on my urgent and important business of which I have so much of. As far as menu items go, it's 2 down, 52 to go. Check ya on the flip side.


1. Do they still have summer reruns? I quit watching TV about 30 years ago, so half my readers might not even know what summer reruns are.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Firestone Grill

It's entirely possible that someday I will write a review of the Firestone Grill in SLO.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Tortilla Flats Cafe

Big eats in small town Texas.


It started with a layoff. Funny how a layoff can get you thinking about what you really want to do as opposed to what you've endured for too many years. Fortunately for me, I didn't have this dream deferred of starting a restaurant, cause I hear how much of a pain that can be and my philosophy is "No pain, no pain." So my layoff didn't result in a restaurant.

Also fortunately for me, Brenda did have such a desire, so when she got laid off last November she talked her poor husband into the scheme and thus was born Tortilla Flats Cafe in Roanoke. Texas, that is, not Virginia. It's up there north of Fort Worth a bit. I don't normally hang out in Roanoke, but it just so happened that my hyperactive CPA1 suggested I head up north for some pre-tax-season triage to see just how bad it's gonna be in April, so I was in the area. Strong coffee and heavy number crunching left us with an appetite. We zoomed up 377, got confused in Keller and arrived in Roanoke around noon.

There was a line out the door, a good sign. We squeezed in and I snagged a table before the previous diners even had all their stuff off it while The Woman and the CPA placed the order. We got the brisket tacos (smoked and tasty!), chile verde tacos (just the right amount of kick!) and the chicken avocado wrap (oh man, moist grilled chicken, jasmine rice, sliced avocado, tomatoes, lettuce, ranch dressing).

In a recent Ft Worth Star-Telegram review Brenda said the wraps are like Mexican food for gringos. If that's true, I'm proud to be a gringo cause that wrap made me wish I had the capacity to try all the other wraps in one sitting. I especially cast a lustful eye over the Applicious: applewood smoked turkey, granny smith apples, cranberries, walnuts, feta cheese, romaine lettuce and raspberry vinaigrette dressing. Holy Toledo, bandito! I might have to get more tax consultations than I had planned!

I washed it all down with a Jarritos Tamarind soda. If you haven't tried one of these babies, you need to stop what you're doing and try one out. They also have a collection of pastries that will make your head spin like a rotisserie chicken. There are so many reasons to go to this place that I'm surprised you're not already there.

If you're within 50 miles of Ft Worth, you need to zoom over to Tortilla Flats for lunch. Seriously. It's worth it. It's just that good. If you're farther out, print out this review and keep it in your glove box. One day you'll find yourself in the Metroplex area. Say you have a 4 hour layover at DFW. Perfect! A 10 mile drive north on 114 from the airport gets you to Roanoke. What could be easier? Just do it.


1. For those interested in FredBook trivia, it was after listening to tall tales as related by said hyperactive CPA over a kung pao chicken lunch almost 20 years ago that Jolene Culpepper was conceived.