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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

La Hacienda - Take Two


My first, and only, visit to La Hacienda on South Padre Island's beautiful bay front was less than stellar.  We went on a holiday week-end, during their inaugural Summer.  They were short staffed, it was a tortuously long wait, the hostess bordered on rude (and I'm being generous), and 2 out of 4 at the table didn't care for their food,.  I never wanted to spend my restaurant dollars there again.  For many months I heard nothing but the same sort of thing we experienced...and then I heard "nothing"...crickets.

In mid-winter 2013/2014 I began seeing La Hacienda in Facebook posts again, people raving about the food, the location, and the good service.  I smiled to myself and thought "okay - that's good - they got their act together".  The restaurant and amazing view is outstanding.  I always had hoped it would make it, turning around all of the bad experience into good.  It appears they have!

Mr. Flip Flop came home Monday in a very good mood after winning a very nice prize at work and getting off work early after having spent a grueling two days on-call at the hospital.  After he sat in his recliner for a bit, resting after the work day, he said "let me take you out to dinner"...and I was on that like a chicken on a june bug!

Our original thoughts were going to one of our favorites but as we hit the island, I mentioned I felt bad that we never went anywhere "new" and there were some places we might want to consider.  I told him that I'd been hankerin' to try La Hacienda again and told him about the locals who seemed to really enjoy it.  Being Monday, I wasn't sure they were open (many restaurants close on Monday down here) but it was worth checking.  He was agreeable so we headed over after a quick stop at the Blue Marlin for lottery tickets.  He felt like it was a lucky day so he wanted a ticket.  Fingers crossed!

When we arrived, it was nearly 7:00 and there were only three cars in the parking lot.  We looked at each other and wondered if that was a bad sign.  I took it as a good sign that I wouldn't have to wait this time!  I said I suspected many people might assume they were closed on Monday, like I had wondered and to get out of the car, because we were going in.  I later learned they were open every day.  Yay!

We were promptly greeted by our very friendly and efficient wait person, Graham.  He gave us the latitude to sit inside or out - anywhere we wanted.  Knowing my husband can't stand the sun in his eyes and it was glaring off the water as it prepared to set over the bay, we positioned ourselves so the sun was blocked by the space between two windows.  Glorious view, partially blocked sun.  I know they don't want to block the view, but some sort of sun protection would be nice.  I imagine we are not the only ones bothered by this issue.

We were promptly offered drinks, appetizers, and menus...we ordered our liquid refreshment and began perusing the menu.  Looked pretty much the same as I remembered, which is good for comparison purposes.  Our drinks came PDQ with a small bowl of salsa and really outstanding chips.  I might have mentioned previously that chips and salsa down here are rarely to my taste.  The salsa at La Hacienda was slightly spicy but delicious and the way I like it.  The chips tasted freshly made but not over-cooked like so many chips I encounter on the island.  Excellent start to our second visit.

I really waffled between ordering Chicken al Carbon or a plate called The Saltillo.  I finally chose the latter because it had a variety of items - including a beef enchilada, a seasoned ground beef taco, and two "Yolanda's Peppers" along with beans and rice.  Mr. Flip Flop decided to have the Chili Relleno plate, like he'd had on our first visit.  He loved it then and he really wanted it again!

We enjoyed the view, the nice cloud formations that remind us of puffy Summer clouds, and the sun slowly moving down over the West side of the bay.  More people arrived while we waited for our meals - so we came at just the right time.  Our drinks were refilled and our waiter checked on us, but was not intrusively attentive.  Just right.

Our meals came out, also at just the right time, we were starting to get hungry, but we weren't checking our watches!  Another "just right".

Mr. Flip Flop's Chili Relleno was reportedly wonderful.  I think I kinda heard him moan when he bit into it, causing me to smile to myself.  I'm glad it was as good as he remembered it.
Chili Relleno

My plate was HOT.  I dabbled about with my tasty beans and rice as I allowed things to cool just a bit.  My first bite was the beef enchilada and I have to say it was superb!  The red sauce was perfect, a generous amount of cheese, and the meat was tender and moist.  Two thumbs up there!  I next sampled a bit of the Yolanda's Peppers.  They are whole jalapenos stuffed with ground beef and cheese.  They are dipped in batter and fried, then topped with a light avocado cream sauce.  They were much bigger than I expected!  They were HOT - temperature wise and spicy the closer I got to the stem.  I could only eat one and Mr. Flip Flop ate the other.  They were quite delicious.  I would have been happy with some extra avocado sauce to dip my bites in...the breaded crust absorbed the cream sauce by the time I got to it.  I'll know to ask for extra on the side next time.  I was starting to get full by the time I made it to the taco - served in a corn tortilla, lightly fried, but still soft.  I will say it was good, but not great.  The meat was kind of dry and bland by the time I got to it - I suspect that's my fault for eating it last.  I ate half and Mr. Flip Flop ate the other half.  The other flavors were so powerful and seasoned that I think my tongue was underwhelmed by the less seasoned taco.  I would also have enjoyed some cheese on the taco.  Still, I was so filled by that time, I certainly don't hold the taco against them.  It was certainly generous in proportions - the plate was really large and a reasonable $13.
The Saltillo Platter

Overall, I definitely believe they have gotten their feet underneath them.  I doubt I will go back on a holiday week-end (actually we don't go ANYWHERE on a holiday week-end) but I think we can comfortably add it to our restaurant rotation.  I really want to try the Chicken al Carbon dish - it sounded awesome.  I'm thinking Monday nights are a good night to go out and eat at La Hacienda!


4 – Lip smackin’ - good quality – flip flops will definitely be parked under their table again!

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