Longhorn Café – A Love Story
I have loved Longhorn Café since the first time I wrapped my fingers around its signature burger, the Big Juicy. Sitting in the patio dining area on a beautiful Saturday afternoon long ago, I carved the initials “F.D. + L.C.” into an old oak tree. While a typical passerby might suppose L.C. stands for Large Chins or Lucky Charms, those who know me best know what occupies a place in my heart second only to Mrs. Fry Daddy and the Lil’ Fries: my twin loves, Luscious Cheeseburgers and Longhorn Café.
My lady L.C. does have her flaws – her picnic benches can be a bit dirty at times, her fries occasionally not up to par, her staff frequently adorned with too many body piercings – but Longhorn has always been good to me, and our latest visit was no exception.
Our team of reviewers, with significant others and children in tow, arrived at Longhorn Café, located at 17625 Blanco Rd #1, just half a mile south of North Loop 1604, on a beautiful, warm January evening in San Antonio.
While there are other Longhorn Cafes in San Antonio, the word on the street is that the Blanco location is the pick of the Longhorn litter.
The extensive menu was already familiar to many of us . . .
. . . but being creatures of habit, Mrs. Fry Daddy and I ordered our usual: Cheddar Burgers, accompanied by half-baskets of tater tots and onion rings. The Lil’ Fries had a kid’s cheeseburger and fries.
Burger – 8.5 out of 10
Almost everyone gave their burgers high marks. I gave my Cheddar Burger a 9.5 out of 10. The patty was perfectly seasoned (some people have complained Longhorn's patties are a little thin, but I never feel slighted on the beef), the cheddar delicious and plentiful, the lettuce, tomato and pickle (I pass on onions) fresh and crisp, a cool contrast to the warm burger and greasy bun. The buns are fried on the grill next to the burgers, which must be where they get that nice glean.
My only negative comment is that there were a couple too many pickle slices on my burger, but that’s getting a bit picky, even for me. Longhorn Café’s burgers are very near perfection, as far as I’m concerned.
The burgers were served with mayo and mustard. In addition to traditional hamburgers and cheeseburgers, Longhorn offers several other burger options, including an excellent mushroom & swiss burger, a jalapeno cheeseburger (true to Longhorn's San Antonio roots) and a guacamole burger (ordered by Prefers His Tots Tatered and pictured below).
Here’s what my fellow reviewers had to say about their burgers:
Burger Boy – 7 – The Big Juicy was big and juicy.
Hamburglar – 8 - They do love the condiments at Longhorn (there was plenty of mayo and mustard on my burger), but the combination is a winner.
Mrs. Fry Daddy – 10 – In my opinion, this is the only burger worth eating, and it definitely is worth eating.
Where’s the Beef – 8 – I got the Certified Angus Burger, so that may have had something to do with the high score. The bun was delicious too.
Prefers His Tots Tatered – 7.5 – A very solid burger with flavorful seasoning. However, not quite at the level where you would take out-of-town guests to.
Sides – 7 out of 10
Longhorn gets bonus points for having on its menu the sides trifecta – fries, tater tots and onion rings – and for doing a passable job in preparing all of these. The fries are a bit better than average, but nothing spectacular. The tater tots and hand-battered onion rings are the real standouts here (although occasionally the almost unchewable near-outer layer of the onion is fried as well). I would recommend not postponing the onion rings until after you're done with your burger, since they are most delicious when hot.
Multiple other sides, including fried pickles, fried shrooms and chips and queso, are offered at Longhorn (although I have not tried and cannot vouch for any of these). The chocolate milkshake I ordered was frosty and delicious, though.
I give the sides a solid 8 out of 10. My fellow reviewers rated the sides as follows:
Burger Boy – 5 – The fries were average.
Hamburglar – 7 – The tots were fantastic, but the fries were just okay. I don't know if a chocolate shake counts as a side, but the one we had was awesome.
Mrs. Fry Daddy – 7
Where’s the Beef – 6.5 – We got the onion rings and fries. Onion rings were excellent (8), fries were serviceable (5).
Prefers His Tots Tatered – 8 – Tots were extra crispy and the onion rings were definitely hand-battered in buttermilk. Fries, while good, could have been better, which is why Longhorn only gets an 8 here.
Ambience – 8.5 out of 10
Not unlike many other San Antonio burger joints, Longhorn is a bit of a dive – tables inside and especially outside can be a bit dirty (although nothing too repulsive), there is often a littering of bits of trash and paper on the ground (probably left behind by droves of other burger lovers who dined earlier in the day), and the birds in the canopy of trees above the picnic tables outside have been known to shower an occasional gift on diners below (as Where’s the Beef, Mrs. Hamburglar, and I myself experienced in the course of our meal, although this triple hit is unparalleled in my history of dining at Longhorn Café). However, the “divey” aspects of this burger joint seldom create discomfort for diners but rather add to its appeal as a laid back place to enjoy great food.
In my opinion, there’s no place better to be on a Friday evening in San Antonio than the patio dining area at Longhorn Café, surrounded by the relaxing background music of the nearby solo guitarist/singer and the glow cast by colored strings of lights strung overhead.
Longhorn Cafe also has adorning its walls an impressive collection of works by the old European masters (okay, just one bad Mona Lisa knock-off and countless neon signs advertising beer).
Apparently, it is an unwritten rule among San Antonio burger joints that a Pac-Man/Galaga video game be somewhere on the premises.
Like Uncle Barney’s, Longhorn gets an extra point for this, bringing my personal rating for ambience to 9 out of 10.
Here are the ratings from my fellow reviewers:
Hamburglar – 7 - Inside dining area is great, but the real catch is the outside eating area with a dilapidated wooden slide that appears to be a child magnet. One word of warning: watch out for the birds - fellow reviewer "Where’s the Beef" was hit in the head by a bird missile.
Burger Boy – 9 - The patio dining is great for the kids, who always seem to find themselves piled up at the bottom of the super-fast slide.
Mrs. Fry Daddy – 9 (10 when guitar guy is there)
Where’s the Beef – 7 – Loses a point or two because I got crapped on by a bird.
Prefers His Tots Tatered – 9 – Great outdoor setting with lights strung above.
Service - 8 out of 10
I think we've established by now that it doesn't take much to succeed in this category. The staff was civil, the burgers and sides took just a few minutes to prepare, and everything came out hot and greasy. And astonishingly, none of our names were mispronounced as our orders were called out.
Price - 9 out 10
The burgers are very reasonably priced, especially given their size and quality. The Cheeseburger (or Cheddar Burger, if your tastes are more refined) costs $4.29 pre-tax. Longhorn makes my short list of places where you can feed a family of four for under $20 and still come away satisfied.
The Slide – 10 out of 10
I knew before arriving at Longhorn on this particular evening that my biggest challenge would be getting a picture of the Slide. If you have not been to Longhorn Café before, you will not appreciate what a big deal the Slide is for the lucky children who go there. The Slide is legendary, and it does not matter to the children who play upon its metallic slopes that there is no jungle gym, sandbox or swing alongside it. In fact, if you have been to Longhorn Café before, you may not recognize the following picture of the Slide, since it does not show the Slide covered by droves of jubilant, shoeless children.
I waited almost the entire evening to take this photo. I still had to tell a few children, including my own, to stand back as I snapped this (although on the edge of the picture you can still make out one desperate little girl trying to be the first back on the Slide before the flash from my camera has even died down).
Like the pied piper, Longhorn’s oversized, weather-beaten, solitary Slide hypnotizes every child who comes to the Café wanting a burger and fries but who ends up leaving them half eaten to answer to the Slide’s siren song. For some reason, the Slide also beckons these children to remove their shoes and socks and run barefoot through the filthy gravel and up and down the ramp leading to the Slide, as well as up and down the Slide itself. (A word to parents: The result of all this shoeless revelry has always been prolonged scrubbing of my kids in a warm bath immediately after returning home, followed by prolonged scrubbing of the bathtub itself.)
Seeing all of the fun the kids were having on the Slide, I must admit I was tempted to try the Slide myself to see what all the fuss was about. However, a mean-looking fifth grader standing at the top of the Slide intimidated me sufficiently to cause me to remain in my seat and watch in silent envy.