The Experience

Grace came home mid morning today with a suggestion that it might be fun to take the kids to Stonebriar Mall in Frisco to do a little shopping and to let the kids ride the carousel.  I had no other plans in mind so we headed out with no real plan as to where we would be eating.  So we just drove up Preston a ways and spotted a few places that we had already been and then some Indian place called Tantra that Grace felt was inappropriately named for a blog about eating with kids.  As we neared the end of the main restaurant area we spotted La Hacienda Ranch and opted for that.

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Benji had fallen asleep in the car so Grace went straight to get a table with Benji sleeping over her shoulder. Me and Mina followed taking some pictures by the giant bear in the foyer.  They had also already outfitted the place for Christmas which caught Mina’s attention.

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By the time we caught up with Grace, she was seated in the back room with Benji fast asleep on the booth. It was pretty loud back here so I wasn’t sure how long that would last.  Grace requested my coat to put on him even though he was wearing his The Thing jacket first seen at our visit to the San Francisco Oven.  I put all Benji’s chair on our side of the booth for now and we all sat down to look at the menu.

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A waiter quickly came over and took our drink order.  Grace went for a water but by the time he returned we had learned a little secret of the restaurant that had her opt to try a frozen margarita (see The Rest). When she told the waiter she wanted to change he drink order he said our waitress would be over shortly. Oh, I guess that wasn’t our waiter.  Soon, our waitress showed up and we went ahead and ordered some Queso Mariano to start.  I got Mina to decide on a Beef Fajita Soft Taco by stealthily failing to mention the corn dogs.  When the waitress returned everyone was ready to order but me and Grace opted for the Mini Beef Fajita Nachos.  I was still busy deciding as they order though I did place Mina’s order.  I looked at what Grace ordered and realized we could get a full order of nachos for only $1.50 more?!  The half order was $8.49.  That seemed a little bit crazy, but I wanted to give our dear readers a bit more variety to go on so I finally settled on the Poblano al Carbon after discussing the Sundance sauce with the waitress.

Mina was busy playing with her duct tape purse of goodies she brought for herself.  She had recently had her scissors privilege restored after a incident where she choose to cut her bangs.  Not even at all mind you.  Mommy said she could have them back once her hair grew out enough to straighten her bangs.  I had to remind her of that promise after her last haircut.

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Grace said I should show her how to make a heart out of one of the many, many sheets of blank paper she had brought.  I made a simple old heart and then Grace had to one up me with some fancy springy heart with accents.  Mina was nice enough to label them for your viewing pleasure after cutting up a little one of her own.

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Her first attempt she didn’t quite get the top part right so Mommy said it looked like a tear.

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The food arrived about then and we began to dig in.  Benji was still fast asleep.  Grace had though to order him a fruit cup which arrived on Mina’s plate.  I had to take it off quickly, but I wasn’t fast enough and she had to question why that wasn’t hers when it came on her plate after all.  We talked her out of it and she quickly focused on dumping all of the cheese she got onto her taco.  She said it looked like a mustache and the cup was an eye.  Maybe you can spot it.

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Grace and I had a bit of small talk revolving mainly around me trying to make her taste a small bite of my Sundance sauce and her saying it was a huge bite.  She then proceeded to hand me one of her full massive nachos saying she “knew” that’s how much I wanted.  We were able to have a bit more conversation than usual because Benji was asleep.  We were all finishing up and he was still asleep and we knew he hadn’t eaten much today.  We discussed waking him up but decided to try to make it back to the car.  But Grace picked him up and he woke up totally groggy.

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He devoured his fruit and we were nice enough to let Mina go ahead and have some.  As soon as the fruit was gone it was all downhill.  He went for the floor and started bawling.  Time to go.  We paid up and headed out.

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On the way out the kids noticed the coin operated horse rides.  Benji wanted to get on on and we thought this might cheer him up.  Mina wanted to ride on the same one as her brother and Grace managed to fish a quarter out of her purse.  She dropped in and the crazy fast ride nearly tossed them off.  Mina was loving it but Benji wanted off immediately.  So much for cheering him up.

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The Food

The food here is average.  Some of the items were better than others but it doesn’t stand out as a top tier Mexican restaurant.

DSC_0051The Queso Mariano was probably the highlight of the lunch.  It was actually very good.  Not as good as Chuy’s world class queso but a very good stand in.  It only came in bowl size and even though most of Team Phipps wasn’t that hungry, most of it got eaten.  It is similar to the Chuy’s version in that it has beef and queso.  Here they add sour cream instead of guacamole, however.

DSC_0056Grace opted for the Mini order of Beef Fajita Nachos.  The full order was $9.99 and the this half order was $8.49!  Not much of a discount for half the food.  I nearly just spit this with her because of that.  I thought the beef had a nice amount of mesquite flavor.  It reminded me of the beef fajitas at Taco Cabana before they changed recipes to their new dog food tasting concoction.  Grace clearly wasn’t impressed as she said she liked Taco Cabana’s old fajitas better.

DSC_0057I went for the Poblano al Carbon.  I enjoyed the fact that they served this chile relleno without breading. I don’t think I have ever had on this way.  It was filled with a ton of chicken but I also thought a bit too much queso sauce as well.  I would have also preferred that they remove some of the charred skin.  I get that they were trying to give it maximum grilled flavor but the crispy paper-like bits of skin don’t do much for texture.  The cheese enchilada with Sundance sauce that it came with wasn’t bad.  They sauce was again too cheesy for me.  I’m not a big fan of heavy cheese sauces on my Mexican food.  The meal is heavy enough without it.  The poblano piece in the sauce were a nice addition and the sour cream in it cut the heat for those who don’t like spice (here’s a hint: not me).

DSC_0058 Mina went for the Beef Fajita Soft Taco.  I pushed her in the direction of Mexican food by failing to mention some of the other choices on the menu.  Otherwise she ends up eating nothing but hot dogs and such.  Turns out she liked it quite a bit.  The beef was tender enough that she ate about half the taco (she only likes medium rare beef for the most part).  And her $3.99 taco had more meat than Grace’s entire order of nachos!

Benji was too busy sleeping and only ate the prepackaged fruit cup when he woke up as we were paying.

The Service

The service as just average today, maybe a little below average.  The girl seemed either new or very overwhelmed.  She never did bring us extra bowls we asked for but she did try to keep our drinks full and did check on us several times.  When we first arrived, another waiter took our drink order because she was clearly needing the help.  She was nice enough and was helpful with the menu.

The Kids

I would say this restaurant rates above average for kid friendly restaurants.  The ambience is very festive and the restaurant is fairly loud so you will not be singled out as the ones causing all that racket with your rambunctious children.  The also had a fairly extensive child’s plate menu with numerous Mexican and American choices.  There is no question you could find something for your child to eat.  They also had those coin operated horse rides outside to entertain the kids while you wait or before or after your meal. Even the waiting area inside had a television which would no doubt help with the kids if you had to wait to be seated.  The food tempo was also kid friendly.

Total Cost: ~$47 (unlike Grace I can’t find anything in her purse, including the receipt, and I let my overworked wife get to sleep early tonight)

The Rest

So apparently the founder of this restaurant invented the frozen margarita machine that is now displayed in the Smithsonian.  Pretty cool, but Grace still wasn’t all that impressed.  She doesn’t really like frozen margaritas these days though.  She’s an on-the-rocks kind of girl.  And has anyone else noticed the decline of the once great Taco Cabana beef fajitas?  Surely they most have gotten complaints from more than just us.

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