The Lazy Fork

The latest in the Mikeska legacy lives up to the name.

The Lazy Fork
Photo By John Anderson

The Lazy Fork

16018 Hamilton Pool Rd., 263-2272

Wednesday-Saturday, 5-10pm

The old Alpenhoff restaurant location has morphed into a very pleasant and casual family-style barbecue and steak restaurant called the Lazy Fork. Owners Roger and D'Ana Mikeska came down I-35 to open the Lazy Fork. Roger grew up helping his parents Janell and Reuben (now deceased) in the family's popular barbecue restaurant 15 miles east of Temple: the Cyclone Corral Barbecue, in Cyclone, Texas. Most assume Roger is related to the other branch of the Temple Mikeskas, which is not the case. His latest endeavor is on Hamilton Pool Road (FM 3238); to find it, go one big dip and a rise past FM 620 on Highway 71 to the blinking light, hang a left, and go west for 2.9 miles and look to your right.

The building has been expanded and transformed into the perfect family-friendly spot. The tables are covered with gingham oilcloth, the dress is casual, and there's a big flat-screen TV in an isolated corner for the sports fanatics. You can choose to sit inside or out back, where you'll find a huge covered patio with ceiling fans. Just beyond that is a massive playground with strings of lights and all kinds of gizmos for the kiddos. C&W combos play out there on weekend nights, with recorded music the rest of the time. Outside is more popular than inside, even during 100-degree evenings.

The food perfectly fits the location. The main attraction is the family-style all-you-can-eat barbecue ($12.95, $10.95 for a single serving). Platters of brisket, pork spareribs, sausage, and chicken arrive, accompanied by sides of spud salad, slaw, pinto beans, sweet onions, and pickles. The 'cue is all top-notch: good smoke flavor, moist, and very tender. The brisket falls apart under a fork, with thin lines of succulent fat. The tender meat slips off of the rib bone, and most of the fat has been rendered in the cooking process. The sausage is finely ground and spicy, with just a touch of fat remaining, and a good snap to the casing. The chicken is superb: flavorful, smoky skin covering juicy meat. The beans are cooked from scratch, the potato salad is mustardy with a sweetish edge, and the slaw is sweet-sour vinaigrette-style. All in all, pretty good barbecue, bolstered by the addition of chicken, and they'll bring it till you burst.

Meanwhile, steaks come in several renditions: All are aged Angus and hand-cut, grilled over mesquite coals. The 12-oz. ribeye ($16.95) covers half a platter and was cut from the lean end of the roll (proper selection for a medium-rare order). Unfortunately, it came a tad overcooked, although it had good grill flavor and was very tender. The sirloin ($15.95) was a thicker cut, again slightly overcooked, and again, flavorful and tender.

Entrées are served with baked potatoes (big and fluffy, with all of the sides – and real bacon) and a house salad. Thursday's special is a lightly smoked Prime Rib, cut and grilled to order ($18.95), and Fridays offer two large Steak Shish Kabobs ($14.95). There is also a Chopped Beef Patty for $7.95 and a Cheese Quesadilla With Prime Rib Strips for $8.95. You'll find a whole slew of kid-friendly items, like macaroni and cheese (we got ours as a side order for $2.95, and it could have used a crust of cheese topside, and the pasta was overcooked, but a kid would go nuts for it), hamburgers, grilled cheese, etc., all in the $5 range.

Salads get an extra nod from the kitchen. The Lazy Fork Salad ($8.95) is large, made of salad greens, caramelized pecan halves, real bacon, chives, tomatoes, and cheddar cheese. You can get this salad with the addition of smoked chicken ($9.95), steak strips ($10.95), chopped beef ($9.95), or market fish when available. This option is ideal for those blistering summer evenings, or for those who have more dainty appetites.

The Wedge ($5.95) is a large wedge of iceberg lettuce, topped with an assertive bleu cheese dressing loaded with chunks of bleu cheese, chives, caramelized pecan halves, and tomatoes. I would have preferred a less sweet caramelization process, maybe with a kiss of cayenne, but it is a delicious salad. Domestic and imported beers are available singly, or in buckets of five ($2.50/$12 or $3/$14). There is a limited wine list by the glass or by the bottle, all at a very reasonable markup.

Desserts have not been forgotten. Bread pudding with rum sauce, fresh fruit cobblers with or without ice cream, and bowls of ice cream all run in the $4 range. The peach cobbler is excellent: loaded with fruit, a nice touch of cinnamon and nutmeg, and a crust that holds its own, all without being too sweet.

Lazy Fork fits its target niche very nicely, providing solid food in megaportions at very reasonable prices. It would have been very easy for them to cut corners, and they choose not to. If you want a great meal on the way back from the lake, or if you live in the rapidly expanding area, the Fork is an ideal restaurant for the family or the casual diner. Caveat: Come hungry!

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