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Sunday, October 3, 2010

Lunch Report: Willie's Grill and Icehouse on 281...

Saturday was a day to run multiple errands that led us from one side of town to the other in sort of a round about fashion. Way past lunch time, we found ourselves picking up some supplies at Family Leisure over on San Pedro. We seem to have become regulars there what with the heavy use our Jacuzzi gets. Anywho, whilst there, we asked our regular sales guy, Brad for a lunch recommendation in the area and he asked if we had tried Willie's just up the road on 281. We hadn't, so off we went.
Willie's is part of a chain found all over the Houston area and three locations here in San Antonio. We had driven by the Shavano Park location several times opting for other eateries in the area and I suppose we missed the one in Leon Springs last time we were out looking for houses in The Dominion. (That's a joke.)
The first thing you notice is that Willie's has lots of outdoor dining on a huge deck as well as the indoor garage-like seating area. During our visit, there were lots of families with their little soccer-kids enjoying a nice lunch after a morning of sports action.
Inside, there is plenty for the adults to enjoy including several troughs of ice cold beverages. You won't go away thirsty, my friends. I wouldn't consider this a big destination for spending hours watching sports, but their were plenty of TV screens everywhere in case you needed to keep an eye on the Red River Rivalry (since when is it not the Red River Shootout, by the way?)
We walked in and at the first counter, a nice lady took our order, handed us a ticket and sent us on our way. Naturally, I started looking for a place where I could pay for the vittles, but instead was told to go find a place to sit. From there, a waitress came out, took our ticket and went to enter our order into the system. The fact that she had to come back twice to clarify that first, my wife wanted cheese on her cheese burger, and second that I wanted cheese on my cheese burger seemed a little inefficient to me. We had to giggle at that one. We surmised that when the place is really busy, it helps control the flow into the seating area by stalling people at the first counter. Who knows? Bottom line - when you go and try Willie's, don't be alarmed when you order twice.

Before I tell you what we ordered, you should know that this place has a wide selection and options for every taste. I didn't get a picture of it, but when you first walk in, there is one of those butcher cases with fish and shrimp and other meats laid out for your viewing pleasure. We saw several folks ordering some sort of shrimp cocktail action with these huge bowls of salsa and diced avocado that looked really good. They also offer loads of starters that could make a fat guy like me stay for an extended period of time just sampling everything. In fact, they have a Sampler for $20 that includes as you would imagine, samples of everything. If you and a group of friends are really hungry, they offer the Ultimate Platter for $40 that is a sampler of entree items - catfish, shrimp, steak fingers, chicken, onion rings - the works. Can you tell I'd like to go back and gain a few pounds?

So, in spite of the wide selection, we opted to try the burgers. They do offer wheat buns, but were out during our visit.
My wife ordered the Chili burger (with cheese) which is a 1/2 pound burger with your standard fixin's and a side of chili so you can add as much or little as you desire. The burgers all come standard with fries. She loved it. It was such a gooey mess that once she picked up half of it, she was not able to put it down for fear of the whole thing falling apart. That might sound bad to some folks, but it makes for good eats.
Obviously, some lady on her first date with a new guy might not feel as comfortable with the messy hands, but my wife can take it. I will tell you that I did not like the chili at all. I don;t know if it was some sort of doctored up canned version or what, but it just seemed like someone dropped in an extra cup of chili-powder. It wasn't that it was too hot/spicy, it was just too much chili powder, in the same way someone might put too much salt or too much cumin on a dish. But she liked it so there ya go.
Just as a side note: Eva ordered up a Pink Lady which is a strawberry milkshake in honor of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Willie's sends them a dollar for each one you order.
I went with the Icehouse Burger which is a 1/2 pounder with your choice of cheese, all the normal stuff plus bacon and mushrooms. Yum. Instead of the fries, I upgraded to the onion rings for a buck. By the way, we did notice some people order a "small" onion ring as an appetizer, and it was a plateful. The bun was slightly grilled, a must of course, and the burger was cooked medium - a rarity these days. The onion rings are hand breaded with a light dusting making them seem like they are probably more healthy for you. At least that is what I told myself as I shoveled one right after another down my gullet between mouthwatering bites of bacon, mushroom, cheddar cheese and burger. I don't think it was just that we were really hungry; we were both quite pleased with the quality, quantity and taste of the burgers.
Look, this isn't some hole in the wall that you find by accident and hope that it never gets really famous; it is of course a chain. But from what we could see on our first visit, Willie's offered a wide selection of food, friendly service in an inviting atmosphere. Having established that they can make a fine burger, we are ready to return for some of the other options - like catfish. If the hand breaded cat and the fried pickles are anything like the burgers and onion rings, we'll be in for another Tasty Treat.

Have you been to Willie's other locations? Your comments are always welcome, you know.


Charlene said...

Boy that looks delish!

frankvw said...

I've been to the Leon Springs location a couple of times and enjoyed the food each visit. Even the gumbo was good. My son enjoys the sandbox.

I agree that the ordering up front is not very efficient as we've had the waiter ask questions about our selections during both visits. I can't see how this system speeds anything along.

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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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