the Brisket Tacos at the Midland Beer Garden
Midland is an interesting place. As the urban heart of the oil and gas industry, trucks of all shapes and sizes flow through its veins, pumpjacks throbbing in every direction, and honest-to-goodness rigs drilling and fracking within the city limits. One of the hotspots in the country for induced seismicity, Midland’s airport is frequently quaked by Richter 3.0s (including one while I was there). The parking spaces in Midland are massive to accommodate the buzzing hive of pick-ups, and work gloves litter the roadways like fall leaves. Midland puts the blue into blue-collar.
The town does have its charms, such as the geomimicry of their performing arts center, the old drilling rigs behind their petroleum museum, an art museum, the travertined Brutalism of the Petroleum Club, and a downtown beginning to burp and burble with mixed use. And every road leads to George W. Bush’s childhood home (which makes me wonder: where the hell was H.W. during this delicate time!).
On the culinary side, Midland doesn’t have much of a footprint outside of the county. In other words, food writers for the New York Times (or Austin) aren’t dropping in for a taste. Steaks, TexMex, BBQ, and anything fried makes up the base of Midland’s food pyramid, but there are a few interesting choices. After perusing lists from Culture Trip, TripAdvisor, and the local birdcage liner, I settled on Café at the Gardens on the far northeast corner of town for my first dinner.
What sparked my interest in Café at the Gardens is that (1) the menu is put together by a chef and (2) it is located in a greenhouse inside a working nursery (picture a restaurant in the garden center of your nearest Home Depot). Given that it was February, I was glad to see that the space was in a working greenhouse, warm and cozy (although I wonder how hot the place is in August).
Café at the Garden’s signature dish is the Chicken Salad Chile Relleno ($12), which is an Anaheim pepper stuffed with housemade chicken salad topped with melted cheddar and American cheese served with tri-colored housemade chips and salsa. I’d call it a good dish with chunky chicken salad (all warmed up) and salsa thick with tomato flavor. I gave the menu a doubletake when it listed a slice of American cheese as an ingredient for the dish (a nod toward TexMex?). But it works, bubbling into a gooey queso.
Greenhouse #2 was beautiful serendipity. A pal reached out about going to dinner and suggested the Midland Beer Garden, a spot he learned about from The Daytripper. As I pulled my Dodge Minivan into the parking patch, a large, beer-sipping grin fracked across my face: it was another freakin’ greenhouse! Indeed , the beer garden occupies an ample corner of Garden View.
The bar at the Midland Beer Garden is lined with 74 taps of beer, indoor and outdoor seating, two stages, and a food trailer (actually a shipping container). I tried a local brew, the Haboob Hefeweizen from Tall City Brewery (Midland is known as Tall City not so much because its downtown is tall but because its so damn flat that downtown can be seen from 30 miles away). The Haboob was mighty fine, which I followed with a Breckenridge Vanilla Porter.
My pal and I ordered tacos, he the Brisket Tacos (topped with housemade slaw and mumbo sauce; $10.5) and me with the Green Chili Chicken Tacos (with Mexican cheese blend and cilantro onion blend, garnished with green chili sauce and limes; $10.5). “You’re going to love our tacos,” the barmaid informed me as I walked by, and she was right. Easy on the eye and the tongue, the green chili sauce was suitably angry and the brisket and chicken tender. We chatted with the uber-friendly owner and his No. 1 employee on the way out, tickled to hear that we learned about the place through The Daytripper and that I had eaten at the other greenhouse.
A few other intriguing places in Midland include Venezia (Italian by Italians), The Garlic Press (vegetarian, seasonal, American), and KD’s Bar-B-Q. Sadly, none of these places (to my knowledge) appear to be in greenhouses.
Cafe at the Gardens
latte at Cafe at the Gardens
Chicken Salad Chile Relleno at Cafe at the Gardens
Cafe at the Gardens straight ahead!
Nothing better than having a couple haboobs in front of you.