We arrived at the beginning of the dinner-hour, and observed a steady stream of customers while we were there. It seemed that while the dining room never really got full, there always seemed to be people coming in at the same time as others were leaving. There were plenty of staff to go around, and all of them appeared to be in good spirits. We were seated at a table near a door onto the patio and as we perused the menu, observed a manager sitting and talking at length with a couple - reinforcing the friendliness of the staff.
Nearly as soon as we were seated, a server brought by some warm and crisp tortilla chips with warm red salsa and a cool green sauce. We asked for water, but when it arrived sans lemon, our waiter, Miguel (?) quickly brought us several of them decoratively arranged on an ice filled glass; a nice touch. It was happy hour, so we each ordered a house Margarita at Miguel's suggestion - his was on the rocks, hers was frozen. Both were good; not too heavy on the sweet and sour mix leaving just the right amount of tartness.
I can't help it; I judge my Tex-Mex by the fajitas as it is a favorite of mine. I did at least try to change it up a little bit this time, and ordered the Fajitas Monterrey, which are served with sauteed mushrooms, bell peppers & onions and mixed with melted Monterrey jack cheese. I'm not one for mushrooms, though, so I had mine left out. I also prefer corn tortillas to the typical flour, and refried beans as opposed to the usual charro beans. I also generally stick with chicken but this time I ordered 'half and half' so I could sample the beef fajitas as well. My sizzling skillet arrived with the usual steaming, "hot plate" and the corn tortillas actually arrived as at the same time. I usually have to wait for the corn tortillas at every Tex-Mex Restaurant when I order fajitas so this was a good sign and a welcome experience.
The chicken cooked perfectly, tender and flavorful. The melted cheese mixture was the perfect topping, with the exception of not being the easiest to get an even serving for each taco. After having devoured the chicken, I was soon into the beef portion only to remember why I have always had chicken in the past. I used to eat beef fajitas all the time but, like white bread when I was a kid, I have moved on to better things. The beef is served a little charred, which a lot of people seem to enjoy - I'm just not one of them. The beef fajita meat was full of flavor, moist and tender but just a little chewy.
I ordered the Rico's Enchiladas; one cheese, one ranchero chicken and one ground beef. In order of preference; the cheese enchilada was easily my favorite; nice and cheesy with a pleasant, smoky flavor in the "gravy." Surprisingly, I liked the ground beef enchilada almost as well as the cheese. I was surprised because typically I prefer chicken - in fact, I make a pretty decent chicken enchilada myself. But the ground beef was flavorful and a little spicy. It, too, gained a flavor boost from the same "gravy" that was on the cheese enchilada. The chicken enchilada ultimately disappointed me, however, as the chicken seemed lackluster in flavor; additionally, it really wasn't very hot, leaving me to speculate it had been rolled and placed on the plate as the order was filled as opposed to having been baked in an oven for some time just before being served. My speculation also arose from the plate was not being served hot as they normally are in Tex-Mex restaurants.
In the end, despite her not having finished her chicken enchilada, and considering I'd nearly polished off my fajitas, we really didn't think we'd have room for dessert. And in fact, Miguel actually brought our check to the table before asking us if we'd like dessert. But we just can't turn down a good Sopapilla. A nice touch to Rico's Sopapillas is the strawberry sauce served along with the fresh, airy, toasty warm Mexican pastries. A small order is six of these delightful triangles of goodness. We meant to eat only one apiece; ultimately we ate them all. Don't judge us.
The Willis location seems to have everything good going for it. The management staff appears to run the floor well, checking in with each and every party at least once. The servers are attentive, keeping water glasses full and gladly fulfilling their patrons wishes. The kitchen staff are doing a great job of putting out food that stays consistent with the Rico's Grill menu, while also maintaining a high quality product. And the location itself is easy to find, light, open and airy indoors with a small but comfortable patio outside.
So the next time you find you're on the road to Dallas - or if you just happen to be up in that neck of the woods - remember you're probably not going to find any better food, service or hospitality than what they're serving up at Rico's Grill in Willis. Rico's Grill in Willis Texas has since closed.
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