The first opening of Abuelo’s Mexican restaurant was in 1989, Amarillo, Texas with founders James Young, Chuck Anderson and Dirk Rambo. Their main goal, to “open a restaurant serving delicious, made-from-scratch Mexican food at everyday prices, as well as to create a place where guests of all ages could come together to experience the unique flavors, along with the art and culture of Mexico.” That’s exactly what came to be.
As of today several restaurants stand in nine states across America with more scheduled to open. Designed to resemble an open-air Mexican courtyard with a mix of both modern and traditional Mexican ambiance, Abuelo’s serves as a unique dining experience that revolutionizes the chain restaurant industry.
Gathering from Abuelo’s history, the company is passionate towards creating the most authentic, from it’s atmosphere to the hospitality to the food. Not only do they use fresh ingredients but, majority of the dishes are made in house; salsas, sauces, tortillas and other unique menu items. Priding themselves on having the “welcome you into our home” feel, the Myrtle Beach Abuelo’s staff is excellent at providing a warm, kind and hospitable service.
Stepping into the tinted glass doors to reveal the delightful host staff. As we glide through a sea of empty seats, we make our way to a booth in the back allowing for a beautiful view of the open-air mirage, comfy and visual. The vibrant warm yellow and sky blue resembles as close to the Las Vegas Miracle Mile Shops indoor rainstorm show. While no moving parts occurred here, it really felt as if we had been seated in a lovely courtyard.
For near early evening on a Thursday, the large restaurant dining area was sparse. An older couple in a booth behind ours have discussions about their family as other tables begin to be sat. Waiting for our friend to arrive, we enjoy our chips and salsa with glasses of sweet tea.
The waitress was extremely attentive, never a moment our drinks went empty.
The chips and salsa, as classic as breadsticks at an Italian restaurant, were placed in front of us. The chips thin and crisp, a pair well perfect for their smooth, spicy salsa. The salsa did have a powerful flavor, which really stood out alongside the well blended texture, almost as if it had just been hit with the immersion blender.
The mix of roasted peppers and tomatoes, fresh cilantro and jalapeños gripped each chip with every bite. Certainly antithetical to my at-first-glance thoughts, the salsa was not watered down and did not make the thin style of chip to become overly saturated. Another refill of sweet tea as our friend is motioned to our comfortable booth in the back.
After a prolonged work day, my friend expeditiously orders the platinum hand-shaken margarita. Priced at $11.25 the waitress hands over an individual size hand-shaker filled with ice, El Jimador Silver Tequila, Agavero Orange and a fresh lime. After taking a sip, I was captivated. Not only happily presented with a drink that offered multiple glass refills, but the mixture was impeccable and not pungent in bitterness or overly sugary flavors.
Recently, I’ve taken an enjoyment in sampler appetizer options for the affordability aspect. There is something appealing about being able to try multiple menu items for a reasonable price compared to the individual appetizer menu options.
The Abuelo’s dip sampler, priced at $11.99, includes house-made guacamole, Chile con queso and queso diablo served with house-made chicharrónes, which are fried pork rinds. The Chile con queso, is the yellow, creamy Mexican cheese dip, the queso diablo, is a spicy version of the Chile con queso and the guacamole features hand-mashed avocados and spices with diced tomatoes, onion and a lime slice atop a bed of lettuce.
The Chile con queso tastes exactly like the cheese dip I would enjoy while watching Sunday night football games with the family, which after reviewing the recipe they so graciously shared to their Facebook page, makes sense as Abuelo’s added their own twist to Velveeta.
Also viewed on that same Facebook post, the recipe for the guacamole. I did feel while eating that it was under-salted so I added my own however, what I admire is the attention to detail in not overly salting the guacamole, “salt to taste,” method. My favorite of the three, simply for being a unique twist to the Chile con queso is the queso diablo. This dip was filled with everything, ground beef, slow-roasted peppers and chiles drizzled with queso fresco, Cholula salsa and cilantro.
The only thing I felt indifferent towards was the pairing of the chicharrónes. While I applaud Abuelo’s for making these in house to honor the favored street snack of Mexico City, featuring them in this particular appetizer created an imbalance on the flavor palate. To our discovery, their chips paired significantly better.
With yet another round of our sweet tea glasses to be refilled, we placed our orders for the main courses.
My boyfriend ordered the fajita trio, priced at $27.99, a dish that included marinated steak, chicken and Yucatan barbeque shrimp which laid on a bed of roasted peppers and onions to be packed into fresh, house-made flour tortillas. The presentation was well organized and came out piping hot from the kitchen.
This dish is served with a side of Mexican rice and charro beans. This dish also offers multiple toppings on the side. While I only obtained a bite of each meat, I did not receive the full experience enough to accurately review this dish. My boyfriend left nothing on his plate by the time we were set to leave and I do feel each of the meats that were presented on the platter were well seasoned and cooked perfectly.
I decided to order something out of the ordinary at this location, their house specialty, tilapia seasoned and lightly sautéed with Veracruz sauce.
Priced at $17.99 with an additional $3.79 for choice of sauce, the tilapia, flaky and buttery, was topped with Veracruz sauce, a spicy tomato-based sauce with shrimp, roasted green olives and poblano pepper slices. Served with a side of seasonal vegetable medley, broccoli, squash and zucchini and cilantro lime rice.
This dish offered so many different flavors that hit every tastebud. The Veracruz sauce offered a punch of flavor from roasted poblano peppers and it’s pairing with the green olives that had been sprinkled about the dish.
Where this dish fell flat for me was in the side options. Unfortunately, when receiving this dish, the sides became cold extremely fast despite the plate being hot to the touch. It was not until taking the leftovers home, where I could reheat the vegetables to my liking did they mesh well with the fish, rice and sauce. However, this did not dim the view I have of service or the food presented. I simply did not want to ask for the kitchen to waste their precious time reheating sides to satisfy my preciseness, although from the immense amount of hospitality received throughout the night, I’m sure they would be happy to satisfy anyone with a request such as this.
Over the course of 11 months of reviewing restaurants, I now take pride in not wanting to publish reviews from simply one visit and this time, with $12 left of a $100 budget from that first visit, I now visit alone.
“Table for one please,” this time a Friday, late afternoon, right before the rush of dinner.
As the hostess led me to her section of choice, I view the bar, filled with many as the waitstaff are seen prepping the silverware in matte black fabric napkins.
Same booth in the back with the vibrant view of the scene.
Once again receiving the memorable chips and salsa duo, I place an order for the most enticing item on the appetizer menu.
The bacon-wrapped stuffed shrimp is not only a wonderful beginner but, offers so many levels of flavor, heat and surprises.
Priced at $10.99, this starter features four large freshly caught shrimp, fire-grilled wrapped in hickory smoked bacon, stuffed with jalapeño, topped with Cholula, queso fresco, and Chile con queso laid on a beautifully presented Anaheim pepper filled Monterey Jack cheese. The shrimp was well seasoned, only a tad over cooked, as the tail shell struggled to be separated. This was then counterbalanced to my surprise that I thought I bit into minuscule shavings of crab meat. The only reason why I state this is because I remember finding the buttery flakes throughout that did not resemble the tender shrimp.
While the price is a bit alarming considering the amount of shrimp, fresh seafood does not come cheap, especially in a coastal town. I do intend to learn how to recreate this dish with the wonderful recipe provided on Abuelo’s Facebook page.
My waitress, not the same from the last yet still shared the same amount of hospitable attitude, refilled my glass of tea as she bussed my empty dishes and brought in my main course.
I had ordered the dish titled, Juarez, a Tex-Mex feature on their menu.
Priced at $19.09, this dish featured one classic crispy beef taco (with lettuce and tomato), one tamale, one sour cream chicken enchilada and one cheese enchilada.
Typically served Mexican rice and refried beans, I requested the charro beans, after all I was unable to try them during my first visit. The beans consisted of pinto flavored with chopped bacon and onions. Once again, experiencing a side option that was uninspiring during my visit in-restaurant however, much more impressionable when taken home to reheat.
Sitting in a beautiful corn husk was a freshly steamed tamale. Prior to this visit, I had never tasted a tamale, so pardon my opinion as I have no other experience to compare. The corn dough was soft and fragile, well seasoned and filled with shredded beef topped with Chile con Carne, a spicy red chili beef sauce, which was extremely flavorful as poblano peppers really stood out within the blended sauce.
Most certainly my favorite of the three, the sour cream chicken enchilada. The flour tortilla is stuffed with roasted shredded chicken, which was tender and juicy. The simple formula of seasoned heavily with salt and pepper yielded plenty of flavor as the sour cream sauce added a refreshing bite with the poblano peppers.
The cheese enchilada, simple yet flavorful. This item will appease those who do not enjoy the texture but seeking the flavor profile featured for the tamale. It felt like an elevated quesadilla, loaded with cheese and chili beef sauce that added so much flavor.
After coming by to check on me, the general manager asks,
“Is there anything I can do for you?”
Next thing I know, she’s handing me the traditional Mexican flan.
Known as their award-winning recipe, priced at $8.49, my spoon glided through the dessert effortlessly as the glistening caramel sauce drips over the edge. Only deepening with each bite, the caramelized flavor tastes so sweet on the tongue. With minimal ingredients, this dessert packed a large amount of flavor. It is paired so well with a sliced strawberry, whipped cream and a mint to refresh.
When making flan, the chef must be aware to not over gelatinize the dish, which steals away any happiness however, at Abuelo’s the flan is smooth, decadent and creamy.
I have one final refill of tea as I collect the check and a box to place half of my Juarez meal to take home. All I could think was how pleasant both visits had been, despite certain things, Abuelo’s did offer appetizing items and this location specific proved it’s worth on providing the most “welcome you into our home” feel for a chain restaurant.
“The food might be good, but is it worth the price?”
A huge thank you to Amy Everhart (@myrtlebeachfoodiebabe) for hosting the $100 Abuelo’s giveaway and choosing me as the winner.
While I was advised that I did not have to spend the $100 on one visit to Abuelo’s it was not difficult to spend the money or exceed the limit.
In total $135 had been spent within two visits. This covered meals for three people on the first visit, with an appetizer and alcohol, as well as a second visit with just myself with an appetizer, a meal and a dessert. It does come to my understanding, the most affordable time to visit is during Lunch or Happy Hour, like most other establishments and their menu is plentiful of items for the budget friendly.
I find it notable to mention that Abuelo’s does offer vegetarian and gluten sensitive options and I find it admirable that as a chain, Abuelo’s is extremely open about their recipes. In 2010, Abuelo’s announced on Facebook that they would begin, Abuelo’s Recipe Club, which offers customers to vote on which recipes they would like ‘Chef Luis’ to provide each month.
During both visits, the location manager checked on our table as well as others to be sure that service was up to standards, and each waitress, even though different people, had both treated the customers with the utmost of respect and kindness, and very attentive. Only proving that the Myrtle Beach Abuelo’s staff is excellent at providing a warm, kind and hospitable service.