What is the deal here? I read, and hear, rave reviews but my experience was less than steller. The building and decor are great, staff super willing to please, the recipes are good ideas but the food was off. I found each course to be bland and dry. I can see the potential, but am I the only one who was less than impressed?
I went there ONCE with my wife (but won't be back). We actually went to hear the music (Marshall Ford Swing Band) and the *supposed* dancing, but we were also interested in having a good dinner while we were there. First off, we both thought the food was mediocre at best (bland, dry, tough, overdone - the beans being the only exception) and overpriced. Second, the waitstaff were virtually non-existent, and never asked us if we needed anything. Third, they only had a very small dance floor (they had said on the phone it was larger), and they didn't ever make a move to scoot the (empty) tables off so that people could dance. I just though the whole place had a cold, unfriendly atmosphere and an uncaring waitstaff. I just don't see what all of the fuss is about.
You should try the Frito Pie...it's to die for. Frito's with brisket, queso fresco, onions, etc. Ntohing like your typical Frito Pie with ground beef. This is not something I would typically try but I happened to be in the upstairs seating where they wouldn't let me order from the full menu. I can't seem to stray from this item every time I go! It's only on the bar menu but you can order it at any time.
I've found the traditional barbecue items (ribs, brisket, sausage) to be pretty boring but otherwise I've found the grill foods to usually be good or great. The cold smoked trout, the guail, most of the steaks, and the daily specials are all good. The appetizers are great as well, the chaucuterie plate is very tasty, the wild boar ribs are good. Some else has already mentioned the sides--they also have some "healthy" green in a jalepeno butter that is good. Desserts are usually outstanding as well. the fresh berry empanda is unhealthy but amazing.
My biggest knocks with the place is the noise and the hostesses attitude (the waiters are always great though). You might give the place a second chance sometime if any of the above sound intriguing.
re: Carter B.
re: El General
I'd agree with this. I took visitors to Lambert's for dinner a couple of times in the past few weeks. To me, their food seemed like a better version of what they serve at Moonshine: upscale Southern-comfort food served in an environment that seems familiar to those who dine at chain restaurants and yet translates as hip enough to appeal to those looking for something special. I don't have time to write a full chow report, so I'll just state that I also thought that the barbecue items (pulled pork, ribs) were bad—dry, no smoke flavor—and far too dependent on a very sweet house-made sauce to make them palatable. The items that I enjoyed the most were appetizers. I would re-order the crispy wild-boar ribs, which were glazed in a spicy-sweet sauce and come across as a variation on Buffalo wings, with the same garnishes of blue cheese and celery sticks. I might also re-order the spicy deviled eggs that were accompanied by “American caviar” and pickles. My reasoning here is: Who doesn’t like deviled eggs? Yet theirs were served much too cold (the flavors are best enjoyed slightly warmer) and had a filling that was good, but not great. In other words, the ones you make at home are probably better. I also sampled the beer-battered rock shrimp and chips, but I wouldn’t order this appetizer again. The few shrimp were tasty enough, but because the shrimp are literally mixed into the tall cone of fries, their fried batter steams in a way that is texturally unappealing. Their fries are more like British crisps than chips; in other words, they’re cut like our potato chips and on the crunchy side. On at least one visit, we ordered roasted green-chile queso for the table. The tortilla chips are thick-cut and freshly fried at the restaurant. To me, they were the best part of the dish. If you like a queso with no Velveeta but a ton of cream and mild cheese to simulate that bland taste, then you’ll like this one. Warning: The queso tastes a lot like the mac-and-cheese, so you might not want to order both dishes.
I already commented on the disappointing ‘cue. One evening, I noticed that there was an interesting-looking special of pork tenderloin served with a whole chile relleno on the side. As for their other main dishes, the steaks and fish looked good, but instead I went with a composed salad of three fried-green tomatoes, each carefully topped with jumbo-lump-crab salad and mizuna greens. Green Goddess dressing was drizzled around the side of the plate. The tomatoes themselves were cut a little too thick for my tastes (which means that they didn’t warm all the way through), but this was a solid, pleasing flavor combination. As for side dishes, the mac-and-cheese was very smooth and mild (as opposed to sharp), as discussed above; the collards were okay, but I was hoping for outstanding.
Desserts sampled included the fried blackberry pie with lemon ice cream; maple challah-bread pudding served with vanilla-bean ice cream and Bourbon hard sauce; and the chocolate peanut-butter cup. The fried pie wasn’t actually filled with berries and fried, as you might expect; it was almost like a blackberry compote with a fried, empanada-shaped piece of pie-crust thrown on top. The flavor of the crust was quite buttery, but its texture was way too soft. Still, I was glad I tried it. The bread pudding depended on the bourbon sauce and the cinnamon for flavor; texturally, it was very dense and springy, almost tough, as though it was overcooked and/or hadn’t thoroughly soaked in the liquid. The peanut-butter cup was the dessert most obviously designed to appeal to one’s inner child: It was very smooth, very creamy, and very sweet. It’s served in a parfait glass, too, which allowed me to observe that the dessert consists of a bottom layer of El Rey chocolate, a larger middle section of peanut butter chiboust [which is a crème pâtissière (pastry cream) lightened with whipped cream or stiffly beaten egg whites], and a topping of whipped cream. It does indeed evoke a very large, soft, Reese’s peanut-butter cup.
I should warn people that Lambert’s take on “comfort food” over-relies on sweet sauces and textural creaminess. Sometimes this works; sometimes it doesn’t. For example, one of the sauces on a meat dish approximates the “Jack Daniels” sauce served at some horrible chain restaurant. On the other hand, the peanut-butter cup was a lot more successful than I thought it would be.
I enjoyed my meals at Lambert’s, but this may also be because I was entertaining large groups who could easily find choices to suit all of their chow tastes. Plus, the mixed drinks were good. Some of their daily specials sounded excellent and unusual. However, in other ways, it seems like this kitchen is playing it too safe.
I’d choose Lambert’s over Moonshine or the Roaring Fork if I wanted this same kind of food and atmosphere—and I wanted to dine downtown. I still plan on checking out their Sunday buffet-brunch sometime. And I’d also again stop by in the evening for appetizers and drinks. But I wouldn’t order the ‘cue.
I'm not a big meat eater but their sides are wonderful and have never disappointed- green chili cheese grits, corn with poblano butter, mac and cheese- yum! Also the achiote seared chickpeas and goat cheese appetizer is fabulous. Texas Monthly snagged the recipe
The Sanchez drink with jalapeno infused Tito's vodka keeps me coming back. Give it a try preferably when The Kat's Meow is playing upstairs.