The Rib Eyes at Mesa Ranch
Thought I saw a topic here recently about Mesa Ranch grill, but either Search is not turning it up, or it was poofed. That topic inspired me to give it a try, and am glad I did.
My first impression of Mesa Ranch after being seated was that the restaurant had a very friendly "neighborhood" feel to it. Something about the singer, the small crowd, the decor, immediately gave me this "I've found a neighborhood hangout" feeling.
What followed was a big surprise - definitely the best steak I've had in Texas. A Mesquite-grilled bone-in rib-eye, medium rare. The rub put it over the top - It made the char crust absolutely delicious. Yet it added nothing weird or frou-frou :-). (Which would not be fitting of their byline, "A true Texas Grill")
The downside of enjoying this Rib-eye was that so far I had claimed rights to making the best (wet-aged) mesquite-grilled steak ever as seared and roasted in my Big Green Egg. Alas, my cousin proclaimed theirs was better, and I had to agree.
The waiter said the owner packaged their rub for sale the last holiday season but haven't made more since. So I tracked down the owner and told him that if he didn't make more to sell I'd stalk him till he did.
Hopefully that will work :-).
I've been back once, the 2'nd time getting the same bone-in rib-eye only the larger portion. and taking the leftovers home for 2 more tasty snacks. Second time I was with a person from work who ordered the same thing, but his was underdone - rare, not medium rare. They took it back to heat it up, but it still seemed very rare. Mine was perfect :-).
Their pork tenderloin looked really good, and the game sounded interesting, but I don't ever see myself ordering anything else but the rib-eye.
I tried the fried cactus appetizer. The fried aspect of it was good (very good breading), but I didn't really enjoy the cactus part. Their cactus-shaped corn bread was good, not great. (Since I've made corn bread with real corn kernals in it, all others seem a distant second.) But the shape was very cute, *and* the spiced / herbed butter on the side was delicious.
The only negative about the restaurant was that it was on the warm side, and I always bring anti-air conditioning light jackets with me into restaurants, even in the summer. Mirabelle across the street was uncomfortably warm the last time I went. Maybe it's something about the power supply on Mesa drive :-).
I really enjoyed Mesa Ranch. Both times I've been there however, the crowd seemed too small for the quality of the restaurant. I hope they do well and keep that neighborhood feel to it. And I really hope do another run of their rub !!
Other topic where Mesa Ranch was mentioned:
"A True Texas Grill"
8108 Mesa Drive,Austin 512-853-9480
Monday–Thursday, 11:00 a.m.–9:30 p.m.
Friday, 11:00 a.m.–10:00 p.m.
Saturday, 5:00 p.m.–10:00 p.m.
From their website:
"Mesa Ranch serves Nolan Ryan all-natural guaranteed tender steaks, along with native Game, Chicken, and fresh Seafood . The Longhorn Bar features a full bar with a great selection of Texas and California wines, cocktails, and cold beer. Enjoy your beverages with live music nightly. With more than 40 years of experience, our family-owned-and-operated restaurant provides you with great service and a bold and spicy menu, Texas style."
I was there recently and the interior of the restaurant was extremely warm ... so much so that we elected to sit outdoors even though it was a humid evening. I suspect they need to maintain or replace their AC system. Although the food was good - and I do enjoy their cactus fries - the service was lousy: we had to constantly ask different servers - and even the bus boys - to refill our drinks and water since our server ignored us for most of the meal. I would suggest that Mesa Ranch is suffering slightly from complacency.
I went there last Wednesday and had the same problems with the service. Nothing really came out at the right time. We both ordered the filet - medium rare - and they were both on the verge of being well done. We would have sent them back, had it not already taken an hour to get them. We just ate them and left, pretty disappointed.
I've only been to Mesa Ranch once, and it was a year ago, but my experience was not so great. The service was outright surly and the bone in ribeye was not a great steak. It was poorly marbled and had little flavor, and was sided by a paltry two spears of asparagus. I will admit that my companion's chicken fried venison was pretty good; still, I haven't been back and it's not on my list.
At Mesa Ranch I had the same waiter both times, and he was very attentive, prompt, and courteous.
Consistency in training (people) service staff seems to be such a difficult thing to get right, even for a single-location single-owner place (the easiest context). A chain that seems to do this best is Houstons. It's so clear in the staff's delivery that they have been trained well and consistently.
Mesa Ranch is a favorite of ours. I've had the ribeye several times, and it's about 60% chance that it will be an outstanding experience, but I find this to be true of nearly any place that serves steak, with very few exceptions. I have had better luck with the filet, I think because a ribeye by its very nature is more subject to variability from cut to cut.
But the real jaw dropper at Mesa Ranch is the quail. My father is a quail hunter, and also considers himself a connoisseur of the bird, but when we took him there for the quail, he admitted he had never had quail anywhere close to as good as at Mesa Ranch. When my wife and I go, I order steak, and she orders quail, and we split the entrees, and this makes for a perfect meal.
We live in South Austin and the new location will be just blocks from us, we are very excited.