Saturday, October 10, 2009

Ruby Tequila's dares you to take the fajita challenge

I'm always look for the best so when I heard a rumer that the best fajitas in Houston were located at the newest Midtown Mex-Tex restaurant, Ruby Tequila's Mexican Kitchen, I had to check them out.

"Our fajitas are the best in the city," said Ruby Tequila's president Cory Strickland. "In fact, if you try them and don't agree, they're FREE."

Now I bet that has your attention.

It definitely got my attention so I had to go check them out - not that I'm a fajita connoisseur or anything, but I do know a thing or two about food having written for a food trade magazine for six years. Besides, I've been eating all my life.

Ruby Tequila's is opening officially on October 12 in Midtown and the venue has three types of fajitas: Fajitas al Carbon, Shrimp Fajitas and something called a Sunset Fajita, which is like your basic chicken or beef fajita but smothered with their special homemade queso inferno.

But before we even get to the fajitas, let me tell you what impressed me most about Ruby's is that everything is fresh...really fresh. I checked out their kitchen and they don't even have a microwave or warming station, which means every order is made to order. It also means, you're not going to get rubbery quesadillas, dried out tamales or crunchy old Mexican-style rice.

"Everything is made from scratch," said Strickland. "We don't buy anything pre-prepared. We chop up all the peppers, tomatoes and onions in the kitchen, we create our marinade for the meat, and we are cooking and prepping all day long."

I checked out the cooking stations and he wasn't exaggerating. Everything was made the old fashioned way and they don't fry their meat; they actually have a mesquite oven in the kitchen so everything has an authentic smoky flavor.

"All our meat is certified Angus beef that we trim and cut in-house," Strickland said, as he showed me the actual wood they use in the oven.

I even checked out their giant cooler and there weren't bottles of processed salad dressing or jars of pre-made salsa. It even kind of smelled good in there. And if you don't believe me, you can check it out yourself.

"We have an open kitchen policy. Any customer who wants to see the kitchen is welcome to come back for a tour," said Strickland. "The pico de gallo, guacamole, sauces, salsas, tortillas and beans are made throughout the day to ensure consistent freshness on every plate. At the end of each day, any leftovers are discarded. Nothing is reheated, frozen or saved for the next day."

In fact, the made-fresh concept is carried right out to the tables as they will make your guacamole dip right in front of you to your own level of spiciness and chunkiness. In other words, you're not going to get some just-add-water powder version.

While the food is good, the margaritas are outstanding and according to the bartender, what makes them so good is that they are made from real ingredients.

"We don't use a mix. They are made with premium tequila, Grand Marnier, Patron and freshly squeezed lemon and lime juice," said the bartender.

Their signature margarita is their Supreme Rita. It's your choice of tequila (I got Tres Generaciones), Grand Marnier, Patron Citronge and a little lime juice for $7.99. An extra shot is only $1.00.

The bartender also recommended their Pineapple Fusion Rita.

"That one is my favorite. It's pineapple infused sauza tequila, vanilla bean and Grand Marnier," said the bartender.

So DO they the best fajitas in town? Give them a try at one of their two locations and let me know.

You'll find Ruby Tequila's Mexican Kitchen in Willowbrook at FM 1960 and Highway 249 and in Midtown located at 2616 Louisiana at McGowen.

Oh, and they have a Happy Hour. Monday to Friday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. and all day Wednesday, they serve $0.99 draft beer and $1.99 house margaritas.

"Our Wednesday Happy Hour turns the middle of the week into a Friday," said Strickland.

Hmmm...weekend thinking on a Wednesday. Gotta love that.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Calling all ghost hunters -- it's time to get spooky

Did you know Galveston isn't just famous for hurricanes; it's also pretty famous for being haunted. In fact, a number of books, Web sites and ghost hunters claim it's one of the most haunted cities in America.

Naturally, I'm always up for a little historical spookiness, which is a good thing because this fall the Galveston Historical Foundation has added a "Spirits of the Past" Cemetery Tour to its Haunted Happenings offerings...and they say the "hauntings" are happening at the Broadway Cemetery.

Apparently, this cemetery isn't just full of rotting corpses. It's got some interesting local people and a few history-makers buried there.

Of course, they can't guarantee any of the ghosties will actually appear - because you just can't tell a dead person what to do, but they do say the spirit of Major General James B. Magruder who led a land and sea operation that successfully returned the City of Galveston to the Confederacy in 1863 is there - although I didn't see him. Not that I'm complaining. I love the ghosties , but am totally afraid of them at the same time.

Anyways, if you go and have more balls than I do, you may also sense (or maybe see if they really like you) the Perugini Brothers. These two guys were born on the same date two years apart. They later joined the Navy in separate states on the same day, unbeknownst to each other. And then they both died on the same day in a torpedo gun turret in World War II.

Spooky. I have goosebumps just typing this.

But the cemetery isn't the only haunted place on the island. According to the people at the Historical Foundation, there are a lot more ghosties around.

They also have a couple more tours that will leave you wondering just what it is that goes bump in the night.
Ashton Villa's Are We Haunted? Tours
Every Friday in October: 5 p.m., 7 p.m., 9 p.m
October 31: 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.
The one-hour tour checks out the Ashton Villa which may be haunted by the spirit of "Miss Bettie," the daughter of the house's first owner, James Moreau Brown.

Haunted Harbor Tours Aboard Seagull II
Every Friday and Saturday in October: 4:30 p.m.
October 30 and 31, 4:30 p.m. and 6 p.m.
This tour presents a frightening look at the many tragic events that have occurred in and around Galveston Harbor for their guests aboard the 50-foot passenger boat, Seagull II.
Haunted Cemetery Tours
October 29, 30, 31, 2009, 6:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Tickets for all the "Haunted Happenings" tours are available at GHF's website:
Adult prices are:
$20 for Ashton Villa
$15 for Haunted Harbor
$12 for Haunted Cemetery.