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[San Antonio] Mi Tierra


FoodMan
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Website for Mi Tierra: http://www.mitierracafe.com/default.html

I should’ve begged to leave this place when the first impression that came to mind upon arriving is “Holy crap! This is the Walmart of restaurants!!.” Let me backtrack a bit. On a recent visit to a friend of ours in San Antonio we were trying to decide where to go eat after a long day. Everyone was hungry and we knew we will probably end up at a Mexican or Tex-Mex joint, God knows there are many very good choices in San Antonio for that sort of eating. My only request? Please, please do not take me to that dreadful tourist trap on the river called the “Blue (or is it Green) Iguana”. So, our friends agreed not to go there and asked us to follow them somewhere else. That’s how we ended up at “Mi Tierra”.

When I saw it from a distance across from the Market, I was hopeful. I could’ve sworn I heard very good things about it. Did Robb Walsh mention it in his Tex-Mex cookbook as well? When we got closer I noticed tons of people sitting/standing/walking outside its doors sipping drinks. I mean like 50 or so people. Surely they are not all waiting for tables. Wrong, they are! As soon as we walk in my heart sinks and the Walmart-likeness of this joint sets in. The place has a large bakery as well with a long line of displayed baked goods. Also, I could not believe my eyes for a sec, it has large neon lit signs with arrows pointing to the hostess stations saying “REGISTER HERE”. I have never seen anything like it. So we stand in the first line to “REGISTER”. Ten minutes later we have a cool number and are told to wait for an hour and a half while watching the electronic number displays, you know like the ones they have at the Social Security or DPS offices, for our number to pop up. It is worth mentioning that the place is packed, buzzing, chock full of people. No, not just gringo tourists, but native San Antonio-nites, including large families, youngsters on dates, and good looking young women with their girlfriends. So, I thought, the food must be worth the wait, it’s not just a tourist trap. Starved, tired and impatient, we waited and waited, and sipped a couple of margaritas, and watched people come and go.

When our lucky number came up, we followed a curt hostess who walked us all the way to the end of the Mexico-city-center like dining hall, it sure was big enough to be a small town, to our table. I looked on the menu, and my worst fears were confirmed, this is touristy, easy to prepare before hand and nuke, below average even for a Tex-Mex place menu. Even the combination plates were underachievers with no more than a tamale, a cheese enchilada and a crispy taco. Oh, they could add a strip of grilled “rib eye” to it as well. We started off with a chile con queso, not bad, but it’s difficult to fuck up melted Velveeta. For my dinner I went with a battered, stuffed and fried Poblano pepper AKA Chile Relleno. I love this dish when well prepared (like at Pico’s in Houston) and because the sometimes-here-sometimes-not waiter gave it high praise. The beauty of a Chile Relleno is in a nice crispy batter, tender roasted pepper and spicy flavorful picadillo filling, all topped with hot red sauce. Mi Tierra’s version was damn awful, soggy crust, rubbery and a little bitter pepper (not sure how they did this), and lukewarm filling and sauce. Even the 2 or 3 tablespoons of “Spanish rice” were barely edible and clumpy. The best thing on the plate was the other 2 or 3 tablespoons of refried beans. My wife’s dish was not much better, she got some combo plate or another, the crispy taco was anything but crispy and she ended up eating the filling. Her cheese enchilada was filled, as far as I could taste, with sharp cheddar cheese. Screwing up a cheese enchilada at a Tex-Mex place is almost as difficult as screwing up the Chile con Queso. However, the “chef” at Mi Tierra managed to do that and using sharp cheddar cheese that turns hard and rubbery with an undercurrent of bitterness is a sure way to do that. Wrap the whole thing in a stale hard corn tortilla and the deal is sealed. The worst cheese enchilada I’ve ever tasted, including the microwave versions. Mi Tierra cooks need to read Walsh’s book on how to make a real cheese enchilada. Walking out of the place, passing through the dining halls, I looked at the hundreds of people at this place and wondered what the hell is wrong with them. What do they see in this place that we don’t? I wouldn’t eat here if they paid me again.

I guess next time we are in SA, I have two places I need to beg not to go to. Back in Houston I ask a friend of mine who used to go to SA frequently about Mi Tierra. He says, it’s a good after-hours place (ie after getting hammered and your taste buds are numb) and also a good place to meet women :smile:. Then he thinks and says, “but you know what, San Antonio people love it. Almost anyone who lives there will tell you it’s good. I have no idea why.” For the life of me, in a city with tons of excellent Mexican and Tex-Mex restaurants, I have no idea why either.

Am I missing anything?????

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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My husband's family is from San Antonio and they don't frequent Mi Tierra except for baked goods and sweets for take away. If you really want to sample the kitsch interior you can order sweets at the counter and order coffee to accompany them at a table. My favorites are the naranja and leche quemado.

When they do want Tex-Mex downtown they go to Casa Rio on the Riverwalk, where they've been going since they were kids (so soon after it opened, in the 1940s). On my last visit (for a conference at a hotel on the Riverwalk) it was very good (well, the tamales were good---I can't really vouch for anything else) and very inexpensive. And we sat right on the water, so very nice ambience.

Edited by therese (log)

Can you pee in the ocean?

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One only goes to Mi Tierra with friends for the fun of it. There are, in fact, dozen of San Antonio Tex-Mex places that do food much better - but it's just so much fun to go to Produce Row, walk around and end up at Mi Tierra at 3:30am.

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One only goes to Mi Tierra with friends for the fun of it. There are, in fact, dozen of San Antonio Tex-Mex places that do food much better - but it's just so much fun to go to Produce Row, walk around and end up at Mi Tierra at 3:30am.

Possibly, at 3Am there isen't much else. But why that place is packed at dinner time is still a mystery to me. The food is not ok, not mediocre, not acceptable, it's downright bad.

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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We always go to Casa Rio when in SA. Love the atmosphere at night and the Mariachis. Food is typical Tex-Mex, nothing fabulous, but not Monterey House either.

I think the next time I go back, I will just order a bowl of the chili which is delicious.

Foodman, what is your favorite Tex-Mex in Houston?

For an old-fashioned "hot plate" fix, I like the Spanish Village on Almeda.

If you can't act fit to eat like folks, you can just set here and eat in the kitchen - Calpurnia

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We always go to Casa Rio when in SA.  Love the atmosphere at night and the Mariachis.  Food is typical Tex-Mex, nothing fabulous, but not Monterey House either. 

I think the next time I go back, I will just order a bowl of the chili which is delicious.

Foodman, what is your favorite Tex-Mex in Houston?

For an old-fashioned "hot plate" fix, I like the Spanish Village on Almeda.

For purely Tex-Mex I think Gringo's makes good food for reasonable prices. For more on the border of Mexican/Tex-Mex I really like Pico's on Bellaire. Their Chile Relleno and Cochinita Pibil are excellent.

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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Next time hit the original blanco cafe for old school mex/tex, quite possibly the best chile con carne I have ever had the pleasure to have on enchiladas. No alcohol served but they did allow me to bring in some beer.

Rosarios for really good touristy type tex/mex.

Website for Mi Tierra: http://www.mitierracafe.com/default.html

I should’ve begged to leave this place when the first impression that came to mind upon arriving is “Holy crap! This is the Walmart of restaurants!!.” Let me backtrack a bit. On a recent visit to a friend of ours in San Antonio we were trying to decide where to go eat after a long day. Everyone was hungry and we knew we will probably end up at a Mexican or Tex-Mex joint, God knows there are many very good choices in San Antonio for that sort of eating. My only request? Please, please do not take me to that dreadful tourist trap on the river called the “Blue (or is it Green) Iguana”. So, our friends agreed not to go there and asked us to follow them somewhere else. That’s how we ended up at “Mi Tierra”.

When I saw it from a distance across from the Market, I was hopeful. I could’ve sworn I heard very good things about it. Did Robb Walsh mention it in his Tex-Mex cookbook as well? When we got closer I noticed tons of people sitting/standing/walking outside its doors sipping drinks. I mean like 50 or so people. Surely they are not all waiting for tables. Wrong, they are! As soon as we walk in my heart sinks and the Walmart-likeness of this joint sets in. The place has a large bakery as well with a long line of displayed baked goods. Also, I could not believe my eyes for a sec, it has large neon lit signs with arrows pointing to the hostess stations saying “REGISTER HERE”. I have never seen anything like it. So we stand in the first line to “REGISTER”. Ten minutes later we have a cool number and are told to wait for an hour and a half while watching the electronic number displays, you know like the ones they have at the Social Security or DPS offices, for our number to pop up. It is worth mentioning that the place is packed, buzzing, chock full of people. No, not just gringo tourists, but native San Antonio-nites, including large families, youngsters on dates, and good looking young women with their girlfriends. So, I thought, the food must be worth the wait, it’s not just a tourist trap. Starved, tired and impatient, we waited and waited, and sipped a couple of margaritas, and watched people come and go.

When our lucky number came up, we followed a curt hostess who walked us all the way to the end of the Mexico-city-center like dining hall, it sure was big enough to be a small town, to our table. I looked on the menu, and my worst fears were confirmed, this is touristy, easy to prepare before hand and nuke, below average even for a Tex-Mex place menu. Even the combination plates were underachievers with no more than a tamale, a cheese enchilada and a crispy taco. Oh, they could add a strip of grilled “rib eye” to it as well. We started off with a chile con queso, not bad, but it’s difficult to fuck up melted Velveeta. For my dinner I went with a battered, stuffed and fried Poblano pepper AKA Chile Relleno. I love this dish when well prepared (like at Pico’s in Houston) and because the sometimes-here-sometimes-not waiter gave it high praise. The beauty of a Chile Relleno is in a nice crispy batter, tender roasted pepper and spicy flavorful picadillo filling, all topped with hot red sauce. Mi Tierra’s version was damn awful, soggy crust, rubbery and a little bitter pepper (not sure how they did this), and lukewarm filling and sauce. Even the 2 or 3 tablespoons of “Spanish rice” were barely edible and clumpy. The best thing on the plate was the other 2 or 3 tablespoons of refried beans. My wife’s dish was not much better, she got some combo plate or another, the crispy taco was anything but crispy and she ended up eating the filling. Her cheese enchilada was filled, as far as I could taste, with sharp cheddar cheese. Screwing up a cheese enchilada at a Tex-Mex place is almost as difficult as screwing up the Chile con Queso. However, the “chef” at Mi Tierra managed to do that and using sharp cheddar cheese that turns hard and rubbery with an undercurrent of bitterness is a sure way to do that. Wrap the whole thing in a stale hard corn tortilla and the deal is sealed. The worst cheese enchilada I’ve ever tasted, including the microwave versions. Mi Tierra cooks need to read Walsh’s book on how to make a real cheese enchilada. Walking out of the place, passing through the dining halls, I looked at the hundreds of people at this place and wondered what the hell is wrong with them. What do they see in this place that we don’t? I wouldn’t eat here if they paid me again.

I guess next time we are in SA, I have two places I need to beg not to go to. Back in Houston I ask a friend of mine who used to go to SA frequently about Mi Tierra. He says, it’s a good after-hours place (ie after getting hammered and your taste buds are numb) and also a good place to meet women :smile:. Then he thinks and says, “but you know what, San Antonio people love it. Almost anyone who lives there will tell you it’s good. I have no idea why.” For the life of me, in a city with tons of excellent Mexican and Tex-Mex restaurants, I have no idea why either.

Am I missing anything?????

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Nope, you're right on FoodMan: Mi Tierra is not good. It's bad. And yes, virtually every native San Antonio-an that I work with would proudly rate it in their top three, if not first overall in the city. There's a weird sort of entropy that happens in San Antonio (I've lived as a non-native in SA off and on for the past 12 years). People just go places because it's supposed to be good. They check their taste-buds at the host stand and don't concern themselves with the quality of the food. Oh sure, you'll get plenty of complaints about the service, but this rarely trickles down to the food. I can not explain it, but it is interesting to note how many truly bad BAD restaurants exist in the city of San Antonio and how precious few great restaurants are in town. Needless to say, I quite literally only eat at three restaurants in the city if I have any say in the matter.

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maxwellh,

You need to eat on the Westside for good Tex-Mex, and be sure to practice your Spanish. Also, I agree that there are only several exellent restaurants in SA, especially at the so called top-end (it could be worse, you could have to eat in Houston.) But, there are some really good places that deserve patronage: Pesca in the Watermark Hotel; Azuca in Southtown; Cafe Mariposa; The Lodge at Castle Hills; Chef Brian Montgomery's new Texas Farm to Table Café in the old Pearl Brewery; Cebu on Nacogdoches for seafood; Las Ramblas in the Hotel Contessa; La Frite on S. Alamo; Massimo Pallottelli's new Sage Ristorante in the Fairmount Hotel (as Polo's finally closed); La Paloma Blanca on Broadway; Silo, as Mark Bliss is back.

And, I never go down to SA without eating at one or the other of San Antonio's standards: Schilo's, Nadler's, Chris Madrid's, La Fogata, or The Liberty Cafe.

Edited by BigboyDan (log)
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Jscarbor, Blanco's is right around the corner from our friends apartment. I never fail to eat breakfast there at least once when in SA. I love their tacos, but I'll give Chile con Carne a try next time around.

maxwellh, you managed to sum up in one paragraph what took me like two pages to vent off. :smile:.

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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I'll give Chile con Carne a try next time around.

You won't regret it, they have some damn fine chile con carne!

And I couldn't agree more. The first (and last) time I went to Mi Tierra, I was digusted with not only the food, but the service as well. I'd rather drunkenly stumble into a Taco Cabana at 3:30 AM then ever step foot in there again.

People just go places because it's supposed to be good. They check their taste-buds at the host stand and don't concern themselves with the quality of the food.

I get that same feeling whenever we have out-of-towners come in to visit. Their first time here, they want to either go to the original El Fenix or get barbecue. I always try to talk them into some hole-in-the-wall Tex-Mex place or convince them to take a trip to the Austin area later in their visit for barbecue. Somehow, we end up at the El Fenix with the rubbery enchiladas, soggy tacos and bland refritos (thankfully the tacos al carbon are still decent), complete with a member of the Martinez clan sitting at a table looking sullen.

Gear nerd and hash slinger

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Next time hit the original blanco cafe for old school mex/tex, quite possibly the best chile con carne I have ever had the pleasure to have on enchiladas. No alcohol served but they did allow me to bring in some beer.

Rosarios for really good touristy type tex/mex.

I was going to suggest the same two places! I love Blanco (on Blanco). Very humble joint. And Rosarios is not bad.

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I can not explain it, but it is interesting to note how many truly bad BAD restaurants exist in the city of San Antonio and how precious few great restaurants are in town. Needless to say, I quite literally only eat at three restaurants in the city if I have any say in the matter.

I agree about the lack of great restaurants here. I'd love to hear what those three restaurants are, though.

P.S. Is it bad that I can only think of two such places for me? Le Reve and Liberty Bar :laugh:

maxwellh,

You need to east on the Westside for good Tex-Mex, and be sure to practice your Spanish. Also, I agree that there are only several exellent restaurants in SA, especially at the so called top-end (it could be worse, you could have to eat in Houston.) But, there are some really good places that deserve patronage: Pesca in the Watermark Hotel; Azuca in Southtown; Cafe Mariposa; The Lodge at Castle Hills; Chef Brian Montgomery's new Texas Farm to Table Café in the old Pearl Brewery; Cebu on Nacogdoches for seafood; Las Ramblas in the Hotel Contessa; La Frite on S. Alamo; Massimo Pallottelli's new Sage Ristorante in the Fairmount Hotel (as Polo's finally closed); La Paloma Blanca on Broadway; Silo, as Mark Bliss is back.

And, I never go down to SA without eating at one or the other of San Antonio's standards: Schilo's, Nadler's, Chris Madrid's, La Fogata, or The Liberty Cafe.

Nice suggestions! I, too, really enjoy Paloma Blanca, Silo, Chris Madrid's and Liberty Bar. I was hoping you might tell me a bit more about some of them I've been wanting to try for a while:

Pesca

Texas Farm to Table Cafe

Sage

...and some I haven't heard of:

Cebu

Las Ramblas

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And, I never go down to SA without eating at one or the other of San Antonio's standards: Schilo's, Nadler's, Chris Madrid's, La Fogata, or The Liberty Cafe.

Schilo's one of my favorites. I ate there twice on my last visit.

And La Fogata is where my SA in-laws take us for Tex-Mex when we're not downtown.

Can you pee in the ocean?

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I'm going to shock you all. I haven't been to La Reve, yet. For some reason, I have a much easier time justifying $100 a head when I'm out of town--this will be remedied soon, though. I'm headed there in three weeks with my wife and some good friends of ours.

My current three restaurants are Liberty Bar (we literally eat there 2-3 times a week--Sunday brunch is imperative, no matter what is going on in our lives), Sandbar (now that it's open for dinner, it's at least once a week), and Cascabel (on St. Mary's--truly beautiful and simple MEXICAN food).

Quick comments--I found La Frite so-so, but I'm going to give it another chance once the months start ending in 'R' again. I used to work at Silo/Farm to Market in another life, and I haven't been back since I stopped working there--I'm looking forward to seeing what Gus will be up to when he's on the far north side. I've had good and bad experiences at TFtT, mostly leaning toward bad, but entirely due to bad service. It's a good lunch option, food-wise. A lot of the newer ones on your list (Pesca, Las Ramblas, Sage, etc.) are definitely on my short list, but I'm so used to being disappointed that I cower back into my standbys far too often. I need to get over that.

Glad this thread started up, as we San Antonians need to stand up and fight for the good places and let the bad ones die.

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maxwellh

I'll put up with weak service for good food, especially from a new place. As far as the higher-end Pesca, Las Ramblas, and Sage, these are all newly opened, but are headed by good chefs and have plenty of backing. Hopefuls for the long term...

You didn't like La Frite obviously; I enjoyed my visit there, you should give it a once-more...

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  • 4 weeks later...

We've had several great meals at Henry's Puffy Tacos and really really love that the puffy taco is the mascot of San Antonio's minor league baseball team, seeing the cute little taco running around the field is a hoot!

We also love La Fogata and Paloma Blanca.

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