Thursday, February 01, 2007

No. 36 rewrite

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 want to 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 it's 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. We are told the daily specials 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 a great start, the daily bisque soup is creamy with bits of caramelized mushrooms and a hint of sherry; go ahead and have a second bowl. You might be lucky enough to have the baked chili relleno special which also comes with a soup or salad. A nice light crust accented with a tangy ancho chili sauce and baked to perfection with bubbling Monterrey jack cheese. Vegetarians are more than welcome to sample entrees and an assortment of chef salads, all a meal on their own. 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 to 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 you'll still be spoiled inside. There is actually a menu for this day with several offerings starting around $8.50, half portions available upon request. 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 chiles and topped with two just set poached eggs. For those sleepyheads who arrive late in the day there are a few lunch items 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, 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. Hungry once again 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, priced just right for all you get. 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 where the ambiance complements the tasty treats. The ever changing menu may sway you 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 appetizer 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 checked in to see if we are taken care of and offered a change in wine while we waited for the entrees. The wine list is smaller than some restaurants but constantly in rotation and non-listed specials are offered daily. On any night the Margarita offers a steak, fresh fish, and a third option such as pork, chicken or duck. A vegetarian option is on the menu as well, and might include a grilled vegetable terrine and fresh pasta. The sauteed Corvina sea bass Provencal was a great choice served with artichoke hearts and wilted spinach, 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 and 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 all that 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


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