It definitely is a no-frills, no-lingering restaurant. With plastic chairs, random decor and what felt like a noticeably absent heating system, this is an eat-and-leave establishment. There is seating for about 20 in the front room and a few booths in the back, which you access through the kitchen. One thing I have learned over the years, though, is that a lack of atmosphere doesn't necessarily mean a lack of quality in the food. Lone Star is one of those places.
Place your order, pay at the counter and your food is delivered to your table. We started with an order of chips with salsa ($2.20) and chips with guacamole ($3.75). The corn tortilla chips are cooked to order and come piping hot in a paper-lined basket. The chips were fresh and crunchy, albeit missing a sprinkle of sea salt.
You have to love a place with a refrigerator in the dining room housing self-serve, homemade salsa and pico de gallo. The salsa contained finely chopped onion and cilantro, with mild heat and a lingering kick. It was easy to see why people go back for seconds. The guacamole was creamy and chunky, with cilantro and bits of green chile.
The miss here was the pico. Spring in Buffalo is not the time to be serving this freshly chopped mixture. The attentive owner should hold off serving what could be a star attraction until the summer months when tomatoes are local and full of flavor.
The rest of our food was served as it was cooked. This haphazard service works well here as you always have those chips to keep munching as you wait.
The regular quesadilla ($2.40) and bacon quesadilla ($2.84) are appetizer-sized and a satisfying accompaniment. Flour tortillas are filled with a blend of cheeses, pico de gallo and green chiles, with a hearty portion of crispy bacon pieces added to the latter. I ordered the Tostada Grande ($2.75) and was amazed at the amount of food. A large corn tortilla was served open-faced and loaded with frijoles, delicately seasoned taco meat, sour cream, lettuce and shredded cheese. An interesting presentation, it's well worth a try.
A side order of the same frijoles ($1.50) come generously served in a large bowl. The beans were precisely cooked with the right consistency of puree to whole bean. The hint of spice-blend and shredded cheese will make this item my go-to side on future visits.
My fellow lunchgoers opted for the “signature” fajitas. Chicken ($3.65) or steak ($3.95) pieces are grilled and served with caramelized onion and an abundant amount of the guacamole in a flour tortilla. While the price might reflect the accuracy with which the steak is cooked – some pieces still had a hint of pink, others were well-done – it was evident in the depth of flavor and color that the onions had been given their due attention on the stove.
I also sampled the steak taco ($3.10), which contained some of the same steak as the fajita along with lettuce and cheese. Here again is where the price accurately reflects the attention to detail. While the marinade added what appeared to be a touch of paprika and cumin, my palate was missing a finishing of Maldon salt, and the iceberg lettuce wasn't quite shredded with discolored pieces discarded into my basket.
Dessert at Lone Star is not to be missed. An order of cinnamon crisps ($1.95) is plenty for a group of four to share. Flour tortilla chips are gently deep-fried and sprinkled with a cinnamon sugar mixture that looked like it was too heavy on the sugar, and once in my mouth was verifiably correct. The warm, addictively satisfying treat was still in my thoughts hours later when I was back at my office.
Lone Star Fajita Grill should not be your only reason to visit Hertel Avenue soon, but it could be.
The Lone Star Fajita Grill
Where: 1855 Hertel Ave. (833-7756)
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday and Tuesday; 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday; and noon to 8 p.m. Sunday.
Extra: Traditional Tex-Mex fare with salads and burgers available too. Cash only. Takeout available.