BERLIN — Tex-Mex and Country Cook’n in Berlin has re-opened this month with a new name, new look and evolved menu. While much has changed, the core concept of affordable Tex-Mex cuisine in Berlin remains the same.
Formally known as “Tex-Mex and Beyond,” the most noticeable change in walking into the establishment is that most of the tables on the first floor have been replaced with booth seating designed to offer privacy and give diners a more secluded feel compared to the former open-style seating.
Deeper changes to the restaurant become apparent when looking at the new menu. The old menu was sectioned into three categories: “Tex,” “Mex” and “Beyond.” But some patrons found the “Beyond” idea vague, which is why management is debuting a simpler but expanded menu.
“A lot of people didn’t get the concept so we changed it to country cooking so it’s just two main pages, so we have the Mexican and then we have the country cooking,” said manager Tara Wancowicz.
The “Beyond” category is gone with the menu now focusing on traditional Mexican dishes like enchiladas and enmoladas and “country-style” offerings like ribs, brisket, catfish and potlicker dumping soup. It’s not a complete overhaul, with most old favorites remaining, but there are a lot of additions.
The new menu, with an extended lunch offering, covers a range of tastes and features everything from house-made guacamole to an oyster BLT. Chef Jason Purkey has been given a lot of creative options and will be trotting out a different daily pasta dish every day and variations on traditional dishes like a Mexican dip made with American cheese called “Redneck Con Queso.”
For thrill seekers, “Angry Chicken” tacos will be offered that can be made very spicy by request and many of the dishes will be made in true Mexican style and feature additions like jalapeño crème that domestic diners might not be used to. However, every meal is made to order and if a patron would rather skip the excitement and stick to standbys like lettuce and salsa that is fine too. Wancowicz said there is an emphasis on fresh and she said there are no microwaves in the kitchen.
“Everything you get is cooked to order as soon as you order it,” she said. “They’re not nuking it, they’re not doing anything, they’re throwing the steak right down, it’s not already pre-cooked a little bit. It’s totally fresh and you can tell.”
This extends to the ingredients being used. The restaurant has been a long-time customer of the town’s local Farmer’s Market and even has its own on-site garden operated by Purkey.
“In the spring and the summer he plants a garden so I get my mint fresh for the bar, tomatoes, all of that,” said Wancowicz.
There is also cilantro and some peppers which find their way into house dishes. The garden is relied on heavily for many of the restaurant’s vegetarian dishes as well, with some of the most popular being the enfrijolada and the “Tree Huggin’ Quesadilla.”
While the new menu will be bringing big changes, everything has been tested extensively over the last two months.
“We had tastings when we were closed and probably had about 10 of them and did the whole entire menu and tasted the food,” said Wancowicz.
The official re-opening was March 14 and Wancowicz reported that her entire staff has returned. Along with the new menu and look, a few other surprises are in the works. One that Wancowicz revealed is a “Local’s Night” every Thursday that will feature drink and food specials. Outside dining will also see some improvements as the weather becomes more agreeable.