Karam’s–San Antonio, TX

Karam’s Mexican Dining Room (Closed)
121 N. Zarzamora St.
San Antonio, TX
Date of Review: Jan. 2005

Karam’s has been around for so long it is one of the few restaurants I can say I have gone to for more than 30 years. I also think it is one of the best examples of Tex-Mex food there is. So far, in fact, it has turned out to be the restaurant by which I judge Tex-Mex food. Many restaurants in Austin came close, and some had specific items that were better, but Karam’s seems to have captured the essence of Tex-Mex cooking to a point that it is almost equal in quality to other styles of Mexican cooking.

Known for its Cheese Enchiladas, I think they are some of the best I have had that are not New Mexico or El Paso style. They are interesting because the tortillas are soaked in a sauce that turns them the signature red of true Tex-Mex style.

Although the enchiladas themselves are good, a combination dinner is even better– there may be no better examples of Tex-Mex style Tamales than at Karam’s. These have a masa that is soft and seems to break away the moment a fork touches it, with a flavor that I could almost imagine all the times I had fast food and TV dinner tamales while on a student budget, but which even most Tex-Mex restaurants in Austin could not duplicate.

Karam’s is popular enough to have required building a parking lot across the street. In addition to the restaurant, Karam’s Catering, a separate portion of the building dedicated exclusively to take-out orders, does a brisk business. With the mild weather found in south Texas, the outdoor patio with a fountain is an added attraction.

I think that unless you are specifically hungry for meat items such as the fajitas at Mi Tierra, you really owe it to yourself to make Karam’s your one special San Antonio Tex-Mex meal. It is a San Antonio institution for a reason.

RATING: 24

Cuisine: Mexican Tex-Mex
Cost: $$
Alcohol: Beer
Special Features: Catering

Chile Index: chile 3

Most Recent Visit
Jan. 6, 2005

Number of Visits: 4

Best Items
Cheese Enchiladas, Tamales, Tacos

Special Ratings

star 5 Cheese Enchiladas
star 5 Chicken Tacos
star 5 Tamales
star 3 Refried Beans
star 5 Chips
star 4 Salsa

Menu (Date Unknown):

Menu courtesy of Eugene F. Michael El Paso Menu Collection, MS499, C.L. Sonnichsen Special Collections Department. The University of Texas at El Paso Library.

Note to Readers:

This review is reprinted from my original web site (Steve’s Gastronomic Home Page) and the newer site (OK Gourmet).  By putting it on Steve’s Food Blog I hope to keep it accessible to readers and to preserve the information as something that I think is of historical importance for Tex-Mex restaurants.

Karam’s was quite possibly the best Tex-Mex restaurant I ever found in Texas (there were a couple in Austin that were close).  Unfortunately when I discuss Tex-Mex restaurants I often have to refer to ones that are now closed (of which Karam’s joined the ranks in about 2005).  I wrote a blog post about why I do not think the Tex-Mex food served now is as good as it was at these former restaurants which were considered leaders of the Tex-Mex restaurant world:

Why Does Tex-Mex Not Taste the Same as I Remember Growing Up?

The Karams’ daughter wrote a very informative comment about the restaurant, and it is certainly relevant to this review as well as a discussion of Tex-Mex food in general.

 

Pamela Karam’s Comment (Dec. 10, 2015):

Dear Steve,
Karam’s Mexican Dining Room of San Antonio had the absolute best Tex-Mex in the country.
My parent’s invented the style that chefs tried to copy without much luck.
All over the country to this day when I say I’m from San Antonio, strangers will ask me if I ever ate at Karam’s. Of course they go crazy about the food when I tell them who I was lucky to be.
My dad started me in the kitchen and I know the secrets to the taste of our food.
I miss a Deluxe Dinner as much as the next person.
Thank God I can whip one up when necessary..
I’m glad you enjoyed our place.
I loved it and miss it every day.

International Delights–Las Cruces, NM

International Delights (Closed)
1245 El Paseo Rd.
Las Cruces, NM
International Delights

International Delights


When I came to International Delights I was not particularly hungry, but with Middle Eastern food being one of my favorites I knew I could have a snack at the restaurant and take the rest home. This turned out to be fortunate, because as much as I liked the food for dinner it was even better the next day as leftovers.

The restaurant is somewhat international, but mostly Middle Eastern. The items I ordered are common in the Lebanese restaurants which I enjoy in Oklahoma, but I think they could be associated with a number of countries in the region. I do not remember the items that are from other regions of the world except for the gyros, but I do remember that some other regions were represented.

It was actually difficult to order because there is not a complete menu of all the items. Instead some items were listed on a board above the cash register while there was a smaller board near the entrance that seemed to include their specials and seasonal items. For many items I did not understand either what they were or whether it was a plate, sandwich, etc. I had to stand at the register to see the menu, and this was while other people were waiting in line.

Because of the awkwardness of ordering I probably got too much food, but it turned out to be enough to provide two excellent meals instead of one. Also for my readers, of course, it allows me to give descriptions of more items.

Salads and Appetizers
Salads here are included on dinner plates such as the one I ordered, as are some side dishes such as hummus that could also be considered as an appetizer. The salad was fresh and had a good flavored dressing.

The Hummus met my expectations in terms of flavor, and in texture was really one of the best I have found anywhere. I think this was because it was not ground into a paste as I find in many restaurants.

Soups

Lentil soup

Lentil soup

The Lentil Soup was excellent, and was better than any I have found in El Paso so far (and I assume it is also the best in Las Cruces). As the photo shows it is very thick, and possibly more filling than many others.

Chicken Shawarma

Chicken shawarma

Chicken shawarma

My first comment about the Chicken Shawarma is that the meat was excellent–it had the type of flavor I find in Halal meat although I do not know for sure that the meat here is Halal. This was combined with a very flavorful seasoning, and was one of the reasons I was very impressed with this restaurant.

The tahini sauce was one of the best I have ever tasted, and went well with the meat. They also give you some local style salsa that I did not eat with the chicken, but it was great with the chips I had at home for a snack.

Moroccan Tea

Moroccan tea

Moroccan tea

Although the Moroccan Tea was good, it was not like ones I have had in Oklahoma made with mint and sugar (thus this was what I would call a disappointment). In the future I would still order the tea, though, rather than another kind of drink.

Desserts

Lemon cake

Lemon cake

They also have a number of desserts available such as this Lemon Cake. Although it was good, I still had the memory of the wonderful desserts at Le Rendez-vous which are the ones I would really recommend if you are able to go there.

Other Comments
The Pita was as excellent as the other items, and I really do not know of another Middle Eastern restaurant in the Borderland which is as consistently good all around.

At first I thought the prices were a little high but this was before I knew how much I would enjoy the food. I still question, though, whether the cake and the Moroccan tea were worth what I paid.

I think the restaurant describes itself as Mediterranean (which covers a broad range of cuisines), but really I thought the Middle Eastern dishes were a standout here. I do not know about their gyros, etc., but for anyone who loves Middle Eastern food I think this is a must try.


RATING: 24

Cuisine: Mediterranean
Cost: $$
Hours: Open Daily (breakfast Fri.-Sun.)
Accessible: Yes
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: No

Most Recent Visit: Jan. 5, 2018
Number of Visits: 1
Best Items: Chicken Shawarma, Hummus, Lentil Soup

Special Ratings
star 5 Chicken Shawarma
star 5 Hummus
star 5 Lentil Soup
star 4 Moroccan Tea
star 5 Pita
star 5 Lemon Cake

Family Pho–Weatherford, OK

Family Pho and Rolls (Closed)
1021 E. Davis Ave.
Weatherford, OK
Family Pho

Family Pho and Rolls


Family Pho and Rolls follows a popular trend in serving both Vietnamese food and sushi (at least the style of sushi that includes California rolls, etc.). Outside of a couple of Chinese restaurants I think this is the only Asian restaurant in Weatherford, so I think it makes sense for this restaurant to provide any other dishes they can that would be popular in this small college town.

While Chinese food tends to become more Americanized in smaller towns, Vietnamese food has tasted pretty much the same everywhere I have tried it (but the menu choices are more limited in small towns). This is good for me because I love what most Vietnamese restaurants are serving, and these tend to be reliable choices even where Chinese restaurants are not. Family Pho was exactly as I thought it would be–good food but with a rather small menu.

After my comments about Chinese restaurants I need to point out that I have liked the ones I have tried in Weatherford. My favorite place in town, Young China, has closed, but the people at Family Pho told me the owners have now opened the Hibachi Buffet.

Vermicelli Bowl

House vermicelli

House vermicelli

The type of dish I was wanting happened to coincide with what seemed to be the restaurant’s special dish, the House Vermicelli. This did not come with my normal choice of chicken, but the pork they served had a very good flavor and is another type of meat I like. It had the added benefit of an excellent spring roll. The fish sauce was very good, and I especially liked the chile sauce (which can be seen in the small bowl on the lower right side).

Two things I normally like in a vermicelli bowl were lacking–peanuts and mint. Everything else was good enough that it pretty much made up for these deficiencies (I can say for sure that the spring roll was more satisfying than the peanuts would have been). Overall this was definitely a very good vermicelli dish.

Tea
I was disappointed that they did not have any hot tea, but iced tea was available. I would say this made the restaurant somewhat Americanized, but the food was good and it did not have a great impact on the meal.

An Assessment
Everything I had was good, but the negative aspects were the things I was not able to have (peanuts, mint, hot tea, etc.). In spite of this I would not hesitate to come back. At restaurants I usually like to order things again that I enjoyed previously (in this case it is the House Vermicelli). They do have other types of vermicelli bowls, though, as well as other items (mainly the pho and rolls implied by their name).


RATING: 23

Cuisine: Vietnamese
Cost: $$
Hours: Closed Mon.
Accessible: Yes, but maybe the sidewalk is a little steep
Smoking: No smoking
Alcohol: N/A

Most Recent Visit: Nov. 30, 2017
Number of Visits: 1
Best Item: House Vermicelli

 

Asian Food Details

Tea: Iced Tea
MSG: No
Buffet: No

 

Special Ratings
star 5 House Vermicelli