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Sunday, July 8, 2007

Lunch Report: Earl Abel's

Like just about everyone in San Antonio, my wife went through some sort of depression when it was announced that Earl Abel's would be closing down so the property could be sold for, gasp, a high rise condo project called, "The Broadway".

I'll spare you the details and the history and let you read about it here and from their own homepage, but suffice it to say, when a landmark decides to cease operations, many people are suddenly overcome with grief for such a loss of a great place.

If I sound as though the closing of Earl Abel's didn't really make a huge spark on my meter of things to get upset about, you must understand that my first job was as an employee of McDonald's. With the right people, good management and an adherence to standards, you can build a McDonald's anywhere, and it will be good. 'Course, I don't eat at McDonald's' anymore, so I could be wrong about that.

But the more important point, I think is that as romantic as the old building on Broadway was, I suspect from a management approach, they were probably happy to be rid of all the old plumbing, electrical and HVAC issues, and welcomed the opportunity to move to a place that had suitable parking.

What would surely be missed from Earl Abel's was the atmosphere on the inside, the staff and the great food. I'm here to tell you, if you haven't been for yourself, you need to get off Broadway on to the new and improved Austin Highway, and go another mile or so to the Terrell Plaza Shopping Center. They got it right and it is time to go experience the new version of an old freind.

It is a bit disconcerting when you see the official Earl Abel's "This is It" sign pointing to a Big Lots!, but smartly, they took an end of the shopping center and used what curve to the building there was to give it a "diner" look. My wife had immediate doubts as we walked in from the spacious parking area but as soon as we walked in the door, we were met by the same (or replicated) benches that used to line the entry at the old place. Straight ahead, was ample seating with tables and booths as well as seating at the lunch counter (I guess that's what you call it).

We recognized several of the previous staff right away and of course, Curly, the butler holding a silver tray guarding the entrance to another dining area. I was surprised at how many things looked as though they were simply moved from the old location - chandeliers, mirrors, photographs etc. The carpet was obviously new, but had the same or similar pattern that I remembered.

From the word go, our waitress was fabulous and before we even got our drinks, my wife was starting to ease into a comfortable feeling as though not all was lost. Sadly, the pictures I took came out looking grainy and crappy, but if you have any recollection of the old EA's, you can appreciate that they tried to live up to the standard, in appearance and service.

I ordered the Reuben sandwich with string beans instead of fries, an endless cup of coffee and a bottomless glass of tea. My wife ordered the petite chicken lunch with mashed potatoes and broccoli.

I never have really come up with a scale for restaurants like critics have, you know, stars or jalapeños or thumbs and such, but I usually voice my appreciation for a fine meal with an "Mmm, mmm, now that, was a tasty treat". And, I usually wait until I have finished eating to give my assessment.

I have to say that I had not taken two bites of this Reuben, and the words were flowing from my mouth in between wiping the melted cheese from my mustache. "Mmm, mmm, tasty treat, mmm, mmm, mmm." Later, I would snag a small bite of my wifes chicken and I have to tell you that it was the most tender and juicy piece of yard bird with just the lightest coating of breading for flavor. You can't say enough about EA's mashed potatoes either. These didn't come from flakes in a box, they are actual potatoes that have been mashed.

There was a group of two families together at a table near us, and they seemed to be just ahead of us in the chronology of lunch events; drinks, dinner, dessert! I'm not a big fan of dessert at restaurants, but I don't mind having a taste of what my wife gets. The trick at EA's is that your waiter or waitress will be doing the cutting of the cake or pie, so feel free to announce that you'll be sharing. My wife really wanted the coconut cake or something like that, but sadly, it had sold out earlier. By the way, they make everything fresh in their own bakery which thankfully came in the move. She ordered a peice of some sort of butter cream cake, and the one or two bites that I forced myself to consume, were certainly fresh and worth the price. The people at the other table ordered about one of everything including some sort of chocolate ice box cake. I think it involved pudding and chocolate. It looked good from my vantage point.

In the end, we were well satisfied that we had made the trip and my wife was already making plans for future trips and such, so that in itself I suppose was a compliment to the people who made the decision to re-open in the new location. But don't take my word for it, get on over and taste it for yourself.

By thew way, if you have been to the new version, or if you'd like to share your memories of the old Earl Abel's, tell me about it, or just leave a comment.

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San Antonio, TX, United States
I love to observe the odd things happening around me as I go about my day. I especially like it when I can get a picture of people being themselves. Here, I attempt to report the various people and events I have encountered in my neighborhood, and my city. I'd also love to hear from you. Feel free to e-mail your experiences and photos of life in San Antonio.

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