Lone Star Fajita Grill has been a Hertel Avenue secret for decades. The hole-in-the-wall spot north of the business district doesn’t look like much, but it’s solid Tex Mex for less than a Mighty run. Lloyd Taco Factory this is not. You won’t see any artisanal tortillas or unconventional toppings here. It’s a far cry from La Divina or Valle de Mexico, too. But what Lone Star offers is what much of Old-Guard Buffalo still loves. This is no frills, cash-and-carry food with no pretense and even less pretension.
Lone Star’s interior is sparsely decorated with a handful of wobbly tables and chairs leading up to a rear counter. Customers order there and grab a soft drink from the self-serve machine and a cup of salsa or pico de gallo from the fridge. There’s a green chalkboard for specials and a single sheet of white paper bears the menu. A generously proportioned steak fajita is $4.25. A quesadilla made with two tortillas ranges from $2.75 to $3.95 and tacos weigh in at $2.50 to 3.75. While we waited a bit for our order, it’s hard to argue with two entrees and sides for under $15.
We started with a small Potato Supreme ($3), a hearty helping of thick-cut fresh potatoes lightly salted and baked until slightly crispy. Those were topped with chili ground beef, shredded cheese and onions. The gooey, molten mountain could easily have made a meal in itself. Our host brought us two forks with a wink and a smile.
Our steak fajita ($4.25) arrived stuffed with thick-cut sirloin tips, cooked to tender pinkness and mixed with savory caramelized onions. A hearty portion of steak and onions was topped with homemade guacamole and a little of that pico de gallo gave it a tart, garden-fresh zing.
Quesadillas come standard with a blend of cheeses, pico de gallo and green chilies. They range from a regular for $2.75 to bacon ($3.50), beef ($3.50), fajita steak and chicken ($3.95) and frijoles ($3). We went for the vegetarian option and found the frijoles rich with refried beans between two crispy tortillas. It would have made a filling lunch or light dinner for one with those creamy beans balanced by a chili zing. That gooey, stringy cheese oozed out the edges to remind us that health food, this isn’t.
Chili pie ($3.50 small, $4 large) is all-meat chili studded with a quartet of fresh house-made corn chips, cheese and raw onion. The chili is lightly seasoned, but spice fans can kick it up a notch with one of the two hot sauces in the fridge. One tasted like Frank’s, but the other, “Death Sauce,” has a heady heat to it that's not for the faint of tongue. A small cup was hearty enough to make a light meal with a side of chips and salsa ($2.75) to scoop up the rest.
Most tacos come on the same flour tortilla that carries the fajita and quesadilla. One exception is the Valley Taco ($3.50) which arrives in an Ortega-style hard corn shell. For a couple of bucks a pop, a pair of these tacos make an affordable, filling meal.
Lone Star is a great find for Parkside locals or passers-by looking for a hearty meal for little coin.
Lone Star Fajita Grill
1855 Hertel Ave (833-7756, lonestarfajitagrill.com)
Wheelchair accessible: Yes
Parking: on the street.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and noon to 9 p.m. Sunday.
Extra: Cash only.