Texas Longhorn restaurant review: worst service ever but I still like them

On Sunday I experienced one of those rare treats: a spontaneous invitation to dinner. I love planning, yet I also love spontaneous outings; the thing is, you can’t really plan for a spontaneous outing, and what we certainly didn’t plan on was waiting an extraneous amount of time for our dinner.

My boyfriend called and when I mentioned I had still never taken him to Texas Longhorn—one of the only restaurants of the Mexican variety left in Mississauga (Mexican Post, my sister’s favourite, disappeared), and a former family favourite—he spur-of-the-moment suggested we go out for dinner. Giddy with excitement, I said yes! And he whisked me away to Texas Longhorn.

Warning: You are about to read a tale of service so bad, you may suddenly find yourself feeling annoyed, frustrated, and incapable of soothing said negative emotions. Fear not—redemption closes our story.

Vegetarian options 9/10

Almost any taco-variant on the menu can be adapted to include refried beans instead of meat, at your request. The burrito is already offered in a vegetable version for those who are avoiding meat, and the restaurant has, in the past, allowed me to personalize a taco with beans. Naturally the steak and ribs portion of the menu is out of the question, but there are plenty of other sizzling snacks from which to choose.

One of the things I love about Mexican food (by the way, Texas Longhorn serves Tex-Mex fare but I maintain it is still of the Mexican variety) is that it is so easily adaptable to a vegetarian diet. Simply sub any meat ingredient for refried beans and voilà!

Unfortunately, Texas Longhorn is one of those restaurants that hasn’t really caught onto this yet. They seem to share—along with the Fox and the Fiddle and who knows which other unsuspecting restaurants—this idea that a vegetarian fajita should demand a simple swap of meat for vegetables.

Now, I’m not pulling an expected “nooo, not vegetables…” on you here—I do eat at least five servings of them a day now! But if there is one place I don’t want my vegetables, it’s in my taco (or burrito or fajita or other taco variation). I would like a tortilla or hard shell packed with refried beans, sour cream, cheddar cheese, lettuce and some form of tomato. Rice is a sometimes addition too.

Where in the vegetarian rule book does it read “For vegetarians, simply replace the meat portion of the fajita/taco/burrito with vegetables”? Hello, we don’t eat meat. So if the meat is taken out of our taco, we’re left craving some form of protein. Last time I checked, the stir-fried broccoli, carrots and onions handed to me were lacking in protein, though rich in vitamins. Doesn’t simple logic dictate we replace the meat with refried beans?

And even if you do argue that the fajita handed to me with a steaming plate of vegetables is completely reasonable for someone craving a traditional Tex-Mex fajita, then at least agree on this: the vegetarian rule book certainly does not state that the $13.99 meat fajita come with a side of rice and beans while the $10.99 vegetarian fajita have double the amount of rice to make up for not coming with a side of beans. Just give us the beans!! Where’s our protein? Thankfully my boyfriend swapped his side for mine (thank you, sweetie!).

And if fajitas are going to include some form of vegetable, does not tradition state they include julienne peppers? I’m not a fan of them but as a vegetarian and lover of Mexican food, I abhor the new trend of broccoli and carrots with my fajitas.

Our Meal

I ordered the vegetable fajita, which came with

  • fresh tortillas
  • lettuce, sour cream, cheese and pico de gallo
  • steaming broccoli, carrots and onions
  • a side of rice

My boyfriend ordered the meat fajita, ¼ pound.

The pico de gallo, I must say, is the best pico de gallo I’ve had. One thing you must know about me is I loooove tomato by-products and I live for them, but I hate the taste of biting into a tomato (hate). Fortunately, I have somehow managed to start eating tomatoes without biting into them for the past year (cue dicing tomatoes into tiny pieces and immediately swallowing!). But Texas Longhorn’s pico de gallo, seasoned with green flecks of a tasty herb, is sooooo good.

And the guacamole was pretty good too! I have high standards for guacamole (see the guacamole recipe my boyfriend makes); I like it plainer and closer to its natural avocado flavouring.

The rice is flavoured and appears the appropriate shade of reddish musk, perfect for burritos. The refried beans were delicious as well. My fajitas tasted great!

The food 8.5/10

I find the food to be pretty good and the free salsa you receive while waiting for your order is SO GOOOOOOD. I ate my fajita leftovers the next day and they were DELICIOUS!

My boyfriend, on the other hand, informs me that the tortillas and the meat (which did appear to be on the el-cheapo side as far as portions go) paled in comparison to the fajitas served for roughly the same price at the Tickled Toad. I have no other Mexican/Tex-Mex restaurant to compare it to, and I admit it’s difficult to butcher Mexican food (or the Canadian interpretation, sorry). It seems you’ll have to try out the food for yourself!

Prices 8/10

The prices seem to vary around the $10 mark for a basic meal, which is reasonable. We were fortunate to have a coupon, but we deserved a discount after the service we experienced…

Service 5/10

Shocking! Surely I, who never mark so low, must have a reason.

My boyfriend and I arrived at the restaurant around 6:35 p.m. and were seated within a minute. We were even given the option of choosing on which side of the restaurant we were to sit; if only we could have chosen to sit directly in front of the kitchen, as maybe then we would have received our meal within the hour.

The restaurant was barely half full, and both sides appeared equally inviting with their dark wooden tables and friendly patrons; my boyfriend opted for a table near the bar, facing the television screens. Oh, how having a television screen nearby came in handy.

We were given menus and then the server disappeared, never to be seen again—which is pretty much true, in our case. We had two coupons with us and needed to see the dessert menu before we made a decision. We both decided we would order fajitas and proceeded to wait. And wait. It was now 6:50 p.m. and no one had come by our table, though they had passed it several times with heaping plates of food, which they carried outdoors to the patio. Thirsty, I realized that one of my preferred restaurants had failed to abide by the #1 rule of all restaurant service: always ask guests what they would like to drink, promptly upon seating. My parched throat, however, took a back seat to our predicament as we realized that a family had just entered the restaurant and was being served before we were.

To our “luck,” a waitress came and kindly offered to bring a dessert menu, as requested in our quest to determine which coupon we wished to use. The waitress was confused about my coupon—I knew more about it than she did—but that is to be expected, as coupons are feared by any who work in the food industry! The dessert menu was brought right away, but this action did little to help the waitress’ subsequent disappearance.

Hungry, and having decided we weren’t going to order dessert after our meal, we began to eye the free nachos and salsa on the tables of all the guests around us. The salsa makes up 40 per cent of the reason I enjoy coming to this restaurant—it is more delicious than any store-bought salsa could ever be and is usually handed to guests as a free appetizer along with their drinks.

Seeing the hunger eat away at my boyfriend (shouldn’t it be the other way around?), I approached our waitress and asked her as cutely as possible whether the coupon would work. Without looking at me, but instead surveying the area, she announced, “I don’t know, I can’t find the owner.” Still cutely, I asked, “May we have our free chips and salsa?” and was granted the tasty snack by a confused waitress who stared at someone behind the bar in order to first seek confirmation. “She didn’t even know if this was the right table,” my boyfriend informed me. Gesturing to the people around us, he pointed out, “Everyone else already has theirs!”

Much, much later (it must have been 7:15 p.m. by now, by which time I’d figured we’d be finishing up our dinner), our waitress returned to take our order. She kindly gave me advice on our fajitas when asked and then disappeared. I noticed, as we waited, that the family behind us looked rather annoyed with the lack of service. We sympathized.

Dinner came relatively soon, but by then our appetites, following Darwin’s theory of survival, had dissipated. The waitress explained, “Sorry, the kitchen is beyond capacity,” to which I thought, “If this place can barely survive being half-full, then…?” Please don’t let another Mexican restaurant go out of business! She asked whether we needed anything else and a thought began to form, “We don’t have any cutlery…” but I spotted a spoon and let it slide. We proceeded to eat our meals without any forks or knives, and with certainly no napkins. I placed two tissues on the table, one for each of us, and we proceeded to eat. The waitress did stop by later to ask whether everything was okay, at least.

Atmosphere 9/10

No complaints here! (“Any left?” you’re wondering.) The volume was perfect and the temperature cooled down eventually. The place is designed with horns—suitable for its name—and has a Tex-Mex feel, as it should. Upon entering, you find yourself facing a room covered in dark wood, with an outdoor patio overlooking the busy Dundas street and a bar highlighted by televisions broadcasting sports while a singer’s voice drifts gently from the speakers.

Tip

Be patient—this place is worth trying! Just don’t let it try your patience or you’ll never get a chance to enjoy the tasty homemade salsa, host of salivating dinner options or a great Tex-Mex vibe in the friendly city of Mississauga.

Despite the horrible service described above, I had a great experience. Why? I was with someone I care about, and being together is a gift in itself (awww). However, if you brought someone here on a first date, you’d have a tough time of it—the service could just about ruin it for you, if you didn’t have enough conversation to make it rich or the humour required to make a big joke of it.

Would I go here again?

Actually, I would. The service would have made a horrible first impression, but I’ve frequented Texas Longhorn for many years and although I rarely go anymore, I’m fond of my city’s only Tex-Mex restaurant (to my knowledge) and I certainly don’t want it to go away. I need my Mexican fix!

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