Dec 2, 2011

Lone Shining Star

Melissa had a craving.  She’d been talking about it for a few days now.  Fajitas, she wanted. The urge was becoming too powerful to ignore, so we got ourselves a babysitter and we headed to Lone Star Texas Grill in the Byward market.

We were welcomed by very cheerful staff, who even opened the door for us, which was nice. The place was busy, but not packed, which suited us just fine.   We were seated by a table near the door, which was unfortunate – the staff was not opening the door just for us, they were doing it for everyone, letting in a cool breeze in the process.  We ain’t that special.Lone Star's Chips, Salsa and Hot Sauce

“Dixie”, in tight jeans and plaid shirt, brought us our menus and took our drink order quite promptly.  Before even coming back with our drinks, she put down on the table a complimentary basket of freshly-fried tortilla chips with a side of salsa.  A bottle of “True Texas” hot sauce was also provided – a cayenne pepper sauce not far off from Tabasco, but with much less vinegar.

There is nothing like fresh tortilla chips.  These were very crispy, a tad oily, served warm with just enough salt. They cannot be good for you but were so much better than their bagged cousins.  The salsa, also house made,  is served cool, a nice contrast to the chips.  Not a lot of bite, but nice tomato chunks, great fresh feel.  And if you go through the basket or the salsa, they’ll bring you more! Nice.

Lone Star’s menu is typical Tex-Mex, with Nachos, Quesadillas, Chili, Enchiladas, Tacos, Burrito, Chimichanga, etc.  They also have a Salad section, a selection of Burgers and Sandwiches, Ribs, Chicken and Steaks, including a 72 oz. Steak Challenge  - eat the  steak with all the trimmings in one hour and it’s free! If you fail, it’s $54.99. But to try, you’ve got to order it 24 hour in advance. Why?  They need to thaw the monster! Perhaps a future Waffle Challenge…

I digress. We were here for the Fajitas, weren’t we?

Lone Star is really proud of their Fajitas.  They claim to have introduced Canada to fajitas in 1986, when the original Lone Star opened in Ottawa (there are now 16 Lone Star locations, all in Ontario), a claim The Waffle cannot debunk so it might be just true.

Lone Star's Fixings We ignored the fancy fajitas versions such as Chili Jalapeno Fire, Vegetarian (with broccoli!?!), or Buffalo Chicken, and decided to go big with the Fajita Fiesta.

Quite the Fiesta in fact, including Mesquite-grilled steak & chicken, sautéed garlic shrimp and Pork Back Ribs.  “Dixie” thought it was the best deal on the menu, and who am I to challenge her?

As we waited for our meal, the fixings appeared first, with lots of good stuff to pick from: shredded cheddar cheese, lettuce and sour cream, of course.  But also a very creamy housemade guacamole and fresh, zesty Pico de Gallo.

As the story goes, Texas cowboys starting eating fajitas after long cattle drives, when they would grill steak over a fire and wrapping them up in a flour tortilla.  But I can’t imagine them cowboys carrying the trimmings with them as well. I mean, how sour can cream be?

Anyhow.

Lone Star's FajitasThe star of the night showed up soon after.  Lone Star uses skirt steak, which they grill over real Mesquite wood imported from Texas. The beef was nicely seasoned, could have been enjoyed on its own.   White meat is the chicken you get, grilled the same way as the steak, with the same seasoning.  It was juicy, quite good.

The garlic shrimp were surprising, I was worried they would be on the dry side, but no, perfectly cooked, lots of meat, great texture, not too much garlic. Good stuff.

The quarter rack of ribs was tender, falling off the bone, nicely smoked. The sauce helped on that front, as we had picked the Smoky Chipotle Tequila sauce over the Original Texas or the Honey Garlic Jalapeño.

The meat was served on a bed of sizzling onions and peppers, as usual.  I love the aroma of sizzling fajitas.

The hot fixings were served on the side: a very ordinary and somewhat dry Mexican-style rice;  Saddle beans – not the triple re-fried beans paste we usually have at Tex-Mex places, but actual firm beans in a sauce – not drenched in it, which was good. I’m not sure why they are called Saddle beans, perhaps because of the texture? Naaah, can’t be.  The beans were a little smokey, a little spicy, a very honest rendition.

But what really shines at Lone Star are the fresh flour tortillas, baked on order in a custom-made tortilla oven. Eva’s Food World shows how it works:  small balls of dough placed at the top, then flattened and and baked as they slide down a ramp.  The result is fantastic, nice fluffy tortillas, so much better than the usual paper thin flat bread.  We had to order more to finish eating everything, which was A-ok from our perspective.

If you’d like to enjoy Lone Star’s Fajitas, and you should, you might want to go on a Monday, when you can enjoy All-You-Can-Eat fajitas for $19.99, or on a Sunday when 4 eat family fajitas for $44.  Or really, whenever you have a fajitas craving!

Lone Star Texas Grill on Urbanspoon

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