Mesa Ranch on Mesa
Went for a two-birthday celebration with a party of eight on Saturday evening. We arrived early, at 5:00 p.m., and per our reservation they had a large table ready. The atmosphere is definitely cowboy/kitsch and the restaurant seems a bit uncertain whether it wants to tend toward fine dining or casual. I think it straddles the line pretty well. I liked that silverware was brought with each course (our waitress even replaced my unused dinner fork with a fresh one before the entrees were served). The service overall was very good. I'm a stickler for dirty dishes being taken away before the next course is served (P.F. Chang's, I'm looking at you) and the table was kept cleared with reasonable swiftness and beverages were kept filled.
We had the fried cactus, grilled poblano and chips with queso and salsa for appetizers. I had read that the cactus didn't have much flavor of its own, but I thought it did. The batter was good and crispy. Fried cactus was a hit. The poblanos (we got two and shared them) were stuffed with cheese and came with tasty grilled shrimp and a corn/black bean/avocado relish. They were excellent. The freshly fried tortilla chipswere hearty and good, as was the salsa, but several of us did not care for the queso. It's made with Shiner Bock and tasted too beery to me.
The Caesar salad that came with my entree was fine. A little overdressed for me, but I'm not one for much salad dressing.
Entrees were satisfying all around. I had a ribeye that I ordered medium-rare but came out more on the rare side (which is fine with me, I'd rather have it underdone that overcooked). The flavor of the meat was good. The steak did have slightly more gristle-ish bits than I expected. The ranch fries (thick rounds of potato lightly fried) were an ok side. Others got the ribs (reported to be excellent), the lamb, a sirloin strip, and the pasta with cream sauce and grilled chicken. There is a nice variety of sides (our vegan was satisfied with the three-side platter, not an easy feat). I didn't taste the other food but everyone said their food was good.
For dessert we got raspberry-white chocolate cheesecake, vanilla cheesecake, and double chocolate cake. The vanilla cheesecake had a nice flavor but kind of old, almost rubbery texture. I didn't try the other cheesecake. The chocolate cake was very good, moist and yummy.
The singer for the evening was a pleasant lounge-type chanteuse. The timing of the courses was quite leisurely, which was nice though it wouldn't have hurt to pick up the pace a little. The lady working the front door and our server were very friendly, and again, our server did a great job. I would be happy to go back to Mesa Ranch.
I actually went on Wednesday night with a friend of mine. The service was a bit lax in the evening, forgetting to bring us our steak sauces and not knowing what the kitchen was out of (several desserts and Earl Grey tea). The steak seems to have slid since I last went and the fries were less than memorable. My dining partner commented that the chicken tortilla soup was inedible and had an intense vegetable flavor. For now, I've scratched it off my "go-to" list.
I have to agree with exlnghrn. We were very excited when Mesa Ranch opened up - there are not that many restaurants in NW Hills, and we like to eat close to home, but we have dropped it off our list of places to go. The service was spotty, and the one time we had a complaint about a dish (it contained an ingredient that I am severely allergic to, and the server was duly forewarned) the attitude we received from both the server and the manager (owner?) - was about the same- rude and unapologitic. They even CHARGED us for the dish, even though it went uneaten. That being said, I did really like their bar, and the singer - it was a comfy neighborhood kind of place.
Thanks for the report, Ashforth.
I need to come clean and say that I've been mildly obsessed with Mesa Ranch, despite having never been there, but largely due to the cowboy-kitsch appeal. This is exactly the kind of place that my non-Texan friends imagine I am eating at here in Austin -- a classic cowboy steakhouse with "ranch" in its name. I'd also be lying to you if I said that the television commercial didn't play a part in its appeal to me -- I can't stop singing the song:
"Mesa Ranch, Mesa Ranch
Bring your friends, your family,
your lady, your love,
Also can't help but wonder if their steaks also fit the bill for the "Best Bang for your Buck Steak" thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/436953
My one concern is that I'll go there for dinner and the guy from the commercial won't be there singing that song all night.
I love this place for exactly that Cowboy Kitsch appeal Nab. If you go on a Saturday night, he's there, and there's rarely a wait (no, it's not sparsely patronized, just looks to be a locals hangout). They always pour me a good Makers on the rocks, and we love to sit in the tiny bar area and be close to the cowboy singing. It feels good in there.
I've been probably 20 times, and have enjoyed few steaks in Austin as much as their cowboy ribeye, with its punchy rub, and the fragrant wood fire infused nicely.
It's just a solid meal for a decent price. Nothing flashy or foodie, and the food fits the ambience perfectly.