Monday, February 2, 2009

FOOD CZAR REVIEW #41: BERRYHILL BAJA GRILL

Quixotic as it may seem, there is an establishment here in town that combines California-style Fresh-Mex with genuine old-school Tex-Mex tamales, complete with red sauce. In 1928, Walter Berryhill bought a bicycle and began selling his homemade tamales from a pushcart in the decidedly upscale River Oaks section of Houston. Sadly, Mr. Berryhill retired in the 1960's and both pushcart and tamale recipe sat idle until 1993, when the concept reemerged as the taqueria Berryhill Hot Tamales. Now morphed into the Berryhill Baja Grill, the mini-chain currently boasts 14 locations, including two right here in Big D. Acting on a tip from a fellow blogger, and always on the lookout for authentic-Tex-Mex-combined-with-Fresh-Mex restaurants, my lovely wife the Rock Star and myself motored on over to Berryhill Baja Grill one recent evening.



ATMOSPHERE



Despite its rather humble Houstonian roots, the atmosphere at Berryhill is genuine California, from the adobe walls with faux bricks peeping thru to the wooden barrels topped with surfboards that serve as tables. Plenty of signage, from Happy Hour specials to notices of Texas Hold'em poker tournaments. A live music area and a smallish patio. We were escorted immediately inside, where JoJo took charge of us almost at once.



FOOD



A quick glance at the menu reveals that Baja Grill's cuisine is all over the map, from fish tacos and Hawaiian shrimp salad to more familiar Tex-Mex offerings such as enchiladas and chimichangas, not to mention breakfasts. Whatever direction your taste bites take you, make sure you order the queso, a thin concoction with the satisfying bite of Rotel and one of the best we've encountered recently. For me, when evaluating a new place, I tend to begin with the basics. Tamales are what made Berryhill's reputation, and I was resolved to try them. Let's face it: At most Tex-Mex joints, the tamales tend to be on the dry side, in some cases utterly devoid of liquid and therefore flavor. Not so with Berryhill's Famous Tamales, as all three I tried proved to be quite moist and fresh. The beef tamale and the spinach & corn tamale were both very good, but the pork tamale, kissed with lime and delectably juicy, may be one of the best non-taqueria tamales in town, particularly when dipped in the absolutely-authentic red sauce. Charro beans were meaningfully soupy and full of flavor as well. The Rock Star found the fish taco excellent, but really squealed with pleasure over the corn enchilada, made with whole kernel corn, red onions, Anaheim chili and cream cheese, and topped with zesty tomatillo sauce and Monterrey jack cheese. In short, our dinner revealed the full spectrum of Mex choices that Berryhill Baja Grill has to offer, and we are making definite plans to return.



SERVICE & WEBSITE



JoJo was quite efficient and friendly, tending to our water and cerveza (Dos Equis, which paired well with everything) needs with ease. Website is http://www.berryhillbajagrill.com/, which gives some info on Happy Hour specials. When you visit, be sure to pick up a takeout menu, which goes into much more detail concerning Daily Specials and karaoke and other local activities.



OVERALL



Whether you seek Tex-Mex, Cal-Mex, Fresh-Mex, or whatever-Mex, Berryhill Baja Grill is definitely worth a visit or three. Drop by soon, and remember:



LIFE IS TOO SHORT FOR MEDIOCRE FOOD!!!

1 comment:

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