Friday, January 26, 2007

Dining critic candidate No. 36

The Margarita at PineCreek

Food is my life; it makes me tick, smile, and at times, my pants a little too tight. I dream about food, plan trips around food. I wake up hungry and go to bed thinking of what I'll cook up tomorrow. I don't settle when it comes to food and dining; its too important to me so why should you? Instead of telling you why not to go somewhere I want to tell you why to go.

Lets start with the Margarita at PineCreek. To define this restaurant in one word is near impossible. I thought this was only a special occasion spot but I was wrong. Lunch, dinner and Sunday Brunch pick your indulgence. There is truly something for everyone and every occasion.
The unique stucco building has been the north side destination for over 30 years, a rarity in this town. Lunch is offered in a casual setting Tuesday through Friday and like dinner prix fixe. For $9.50 you can mix and match your meal and even have seconds! You are greeted by the owner Pati whose presence is felt throughout; and quickly seated in one of the many cozy alcoves. Our waitress verbally explains our choices for the day and before we can process the information a loaf of homemade cracked wheat bread fresh out of the oven is set before us. Smother it with the side of pimento cheese spread and you could live off this alone. The greatest thing about this restaurant is its ever changing; you never get bored of the typical menu and occasionally your favorites pop up now and again. The soup and salad combo is great start, the daily bisque soup is creamy with bits of caramelized mushrooms and a hint of sherry. You might be lucky enough to have the baked chili relleno which also comes with a soup or salad. A nice crisp crust accented with a tangy ancho chili sauce and baked to perfection with bubbling Monterrey jack cheese spilling out. Vegetarians needn't go to far neither, there is always an assortment of chef salads, all a meal on their own. Our waitress asks if we would like a refill of soup or salad, you never leave unstuffed. We sit back enjoying the afternoon sunlight filter through the pine trees and without notice a warm slice of pound cake baked that day is placed in front of us. A bargain it is and with cooking like this we wonder if we have step outside and back into the real world.

There is one thing wrong with Sunday brunch, it isn't offered everyday. Then again, I suppose we can't take 3 hour brunch breaks everyday either. On a warm day you might want to sit on one of the the garden lined patios and feast but on a snowy day step inside and let you and your family be spoiled. There is actually a menu for this day with several offerings and half portions starting around $8.50. There are no wrong decisions so go with something like the crab eggs Benedict($15.) with moist lump crab meat, lemony hollandaise and tender asparagus. Huevos Rancheros appear on almost every table overflowing with creamy beans, meaty green chili with bits of roasted hatch green chiles and topped with two just set poached eggs. For those sleepyheads who arrive late in the day there are a few lunch items available such as the crisp house smoked salmon cakes($10.) served over greens. While you make your decisions and anxiously await what is probably the best brunch deal in town, you are treated to fresh fruit and homemade coffee cake. Moist cake topped with warm bits of pecan struesel and drizzled with melted butter leaving you yearning for more. Feeling festive? Take a look at the brunch drink menu, pomegranate vodka lemonade could end your weekend on just the right note.

Dinner sets itself apart from lunch and brunch and succeeds in satisfying every taste bud. Just to make sure we had no room left we gave dinner our undivided attention. The warm glow of candles and Mexican lanterns set the mood. The Margarita specializes in a five course dinner for $35 a person, a bargain for all you get to enjoy. For a lighter appetite you might consider the three course option for $27 and still plenty of food. On weekend and summer nights swing by and order a la carte in the lounge or the sunset patio. Ambiance complementing the tasty treats. If you are wise and choose all five courses you might be swayed to try the artichoke agnolotti appetizer. Like everything in this restaurant its handmade pasta and filled with the perfect proportion of artichoke, garlic, and cheese; topped with bright arugula pesto and a preserved lemon brown butter completely worth licking the plate for. If you are like me and my companions we share everything like the butternut squash tamale with pulled pork and an apple maple butter. Each ingredient good enough to stand on its own. Steaming bowls of soup with crusty bread arrive followed with a crisp and lightly dressed salad. The transition from each course is smooth and leaves just enough time to linger between plates. One of the hosts checks in to see if we are taken care of and offers a change in wine while we wait for the entrees. The wine list is smaller than some restaurants but constantly in rotation and non listed specials offered daily. On any night the Margarita offers a steak, fresh fish, and a third option such as pork, chicken or duck. The sauteed Corvina sea bass Provencal was a great choice served with artichoke hearts and wilted spinach, jasmine rice and accented with a citrus aioli. Meat eaters would enjoy the hand cut steaks like the soy mustard grilled Manhattan steak. Tender like a filet, flavored with enough marbling of a New York strip. Grilled medium rare to my liking its served with a soba noodle salad and tempura vegetables. The chefs put a lot of thought into each dish and since each is prepared to order they can easily be adjusted but trust them and leave your dinner in their hands, you won't be disappointed. After coming this far dessert still tempts us, especially when the house specialties include choices like, chocolate espresso mousse torte, blackberry creme brulee, and a pear and tallegio cheese tart with a honey walnut pesto. Crunchy, creamy, sweet and savory, indeed something for everyone.

The Margarita at Pine Creek
7350 Pine Creek Road

Tuesday-Friday 11:30-2:00

Tuesday-Saturday 5:30-9:00

Sunday 10:30-2:00


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very through and well written. The only additional thing I would have mentioned is the the menu is ever changing, if you don't care for the offerings one day come back tomorrow for a whole new menu!

9:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I liked this review - it reminded me of Anne Christensen's reviews. She was my favorite former dining critic. I'd pick this one as a finalist.

8:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Too long. Way too long.

12:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If this review had a voice it would be one of those late-night NPR DJs who drone on and on and on and on and on...

3:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You paint a good picture with your words-nice positive feel for once instead of all the usual bashing

7:12 PM  
Anonymous Food Fanatic said...

Great restaurant choice! Howvever, I've never gone for brunch I'm going to have to try that!

2:20 PM  

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