Abuelo's was one of the pioneers of the upscale-corporate Mexican food concept a dozen or so years ago, and the Lubbock-based chain still has much to recommend it. My lovely wife the Rock Star accompanied me on a recent Friday evening adventure to the Plano outpost on the Tollway, only to be greeted by a promised forty minute wait and an overflowing entry waiting area. When we inquired about available space in the bar, our smartly professional greeters assured us that although it was full as well, constant turnover would mean that we could probably find an available table in less time than it would take in the restaurant proper. Therefore, we duly added our names to the list, received the now-ubiquitos flashing coasters, and proceeded straight to the busy bar. Upon arrival, Jessica, a bartender with obvious management potential, took charge of us almost at once, finding us an open space at bar's end and providing us with drinks and tasty chips and salsa to boot. Such quality service was the hallmark of our visit to Abuelo's and the reason I believe it still deserves consideration among the now crowded upscale-Mex field that now includes such proven stalwarts as Cantina Laredo, Luna de Noche and Mi Cocina.
I wish I could say the same for the food: while Abuelo's cuisine still retains an air of proven quality, after sampling the dishes I realized that I was paying as much for the atmosphere and service as for the entrees themselves. For myself I selected Mi Abuelos Manjar: three stacked enchiladas layered with underseasoned beef, cheese and chili con carne and topped with two eggs over easy. Good but not exceptional and at almost ten dollars, I realized that I could have gotten the same entree in a San Antonio taqueria for probably half the price and double the quality. The Rock Star's Soft Fajita tacos fared a bit better: Three wood-grilled chicken tacos rolled in soft flour tortillas and served with sour cream, guacamole, lettuce and tomato. The smoky chicken delivered a nice bite of spice and her side of Papas Con Chile was easily the highlight of the meal, a fetching blend of Mexican mashed potatoes, cheese and green chiles that made me wish that I had selected them for a side rather than the unexceptional rice and beans. The atmosphere, a faux-adobe blend of wooden beams and pleasant-peasant Mexican murals, still wears well, and Jennifer, our sharp server who took over from Jessica after we had finally found a table in the bar, continued the same high-quality service as before. The website is www.abuelos.com if you wish to find the nearest location in the fifteen-state chain. All in all, a very good experience, although I must say candidly that I would recommend any of the abovementioned chains before I would recommend Abuelos. However, the service and atmosphere still merit a visit, and don't forget:
LIFE IS TOO SHORT FOR MEDIOCRE FOOD!!!