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Las Tres Hermanas
* 1/2
Out of a possible five
$

Burger surprises at Mexican restaurant

I never expected that a burger and some bacon-cheese fries would be highlights of my visits to this little diner in Waynedale.

Those sound like proper diner dishes, but this place was Las Tres Hermanas, what I thought was an authentic Mexican restaurant run by three sisters from Mexico who wanted to share their family’s recipes.

Yes, Las Tres is a Mexican restaurant with a Mexican menu, but the Guacamole Cheeseburger and those fries were the biggest hits.

The fries were pretty standard frozen, skinless thick-cut fries that were crisp and hot, and they were topped with a heap of stringy melted cheddar cheese and properly fried chunks of good bacon. Given Las Tres does breakfast, too, it is clear these sisters know how to do bacon right.

The Guacamole Cheeseburger was a pretty standard patty that was nicely seared and cooked on the restaurant’s flat-top griddle up front. It reminded me of some of the tasty little burgers you could get when this strip-mall space was Minnie’s Diner, which had a cult following for its diner fare – and pro-smoking stance – for years.

The burger was topped with some of La Tres Hermanas’ wonderful freshly made guacamole, lettuce and tomato. It was missing the cheese, but I didn’t really miss it.

The guacamole, which I had as an appetizer, too, was fabulous. The avocados were ripe and creamy, there was plenty of chopped tomatoes and onions mixed in along with just the right amount of cilantro. And the chips that came with it were nicely salted and crisp.

You will want to order the guac, too, because the salsa at Las Tres was hit or miss. During one visit, it was thick and flavorful with a nice spice kick. During another it tasted like bland blended tomatoes. There was a green salsa verde also offered, but it was way too hot and I surmised it had way more jalapeños than tomatillos in it.

The burger was about the only thing cooked properly on the griddle as I sat during both visits and sadly watched as most of my food went straight into a microwave, which is right up front and its use is not being hidden from diners.

The enchilada dinner included three of my choice of beef, chicken or cheese and onion. I asked for one of each and all were sub par. They were soggy (see microwave) and there was no Mexican seasoning on the meats. The beef enchilada was topped with the tomatillo “sauce,” which was just nuked tomatillo salsa. The red “sauce” on my cheese and onion enchilada was the red salsa, and this was during the bland salsa visit so that didn’t help.

The chicken was covered with mole sauce that was not house made, but I was assured it was good because it was brought in from Mexico. It was awful – gritty, thick and pasty.

I found out why when I asked how it arrived here from Mexico – canned or frozen – and was told it came in powdered form. Made sense since it had the texture of wet sand. And what little soggy chicken there was in this enchilada could not be tasted thanks to the awful “sauce.”

The lack of Mexican seasoning – or any seasoning for that matter – was more apparent in the tostada dinner, which had a layer of refried beans, beef, lettuce, tomato and white cheese that I think was just cheap mozzarella atop a crispy tortilla round. The saving grace was the refried beans, which were OK.

The steak fajita salad also had no seasoning, the steak was too tough and the onions and peppers were not caramelized enough. It arrived on a bed of plain iceberg lettuce with no crispy tortilla bowl or any type of tortilla garnish. I could have thrown it together at home for about $5.

The Tacos Campechanos, however, had plenty of flavor thanks to the chorizo they were filled with along with carne asada steak. They were traditional-style tacos with single soft corn tortillas with diced onions and fresh cilantro. There had plenty of meat and were OK, but there are at least three taco places between downtown Fort Wayne and Waynedale that make better tacos, so I doubt they will bring me back.

The best example of why I will not likely be returning to Las Tres Hermanas was the Giant Cheese Quesadilla appetizer. It was, indeed, big, but it was filled with rubbery mozzarella and pico de gallo made with pickled jalapeños, which made it vinegary. It – like most everything here – was like something I could actually make better at home. But what really made it bad was how the outside of the grilled tortilla glistened with grease. Nobody needs oil to grill a quesadilla, so that flat top grill simply had not been cleaned off properly before it was made.

Given the disheveled looks of this restaurant, I was not really shocked, however. Las Tres is much cleaner and obviously smelled fresher than Minnie’s Diner with no cigarette smoke, but it wasn’t much better otherwise.

It has dated booths and tables, no atmosphere to speak of and, worst of all, the back of the store was sort of a catch all of clutter. A table was covered with tons of junk ranging from old window shades to electrical equipment. Smack dab in the middle of this dust and debris were two containers holding supposedly clean flatware. That is where my server grabbed mine from when she seated me.

Thankfully, I only needed my hands to eat most of what Las Tres Hermanas served.

Restaurant: Las Tres Hermanas

Address: 6427 Bluffton Road

Phone: 387-5361

Hours: 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday

Cuisine: Mexican

Handicapped accessible: Yes

Alcohol: None

Credit cards: Yes

Kid-Friendly: Yes

Menu: Giant Cheese Quesadilla ($4.25), guacamole ($4.99), cheesy fries ($4.99), guacamole burger ($6.75), Tacos Campechanos ($7.99), tostada dinner ($6.50), enchilada dinner ($6.99), fajita salad ($6.99)

Rating breakdown: Food: 1/2 (3-star maximum); atmosphere: 0 (1 max.), service: * (1 max.)

Note: Restaurants are categorized by price: $ (less than $20 for three-course meal), $$ ($20-$29); $$$ ($30-$39), $$$$ ($40-$49), $$$$$ ($50 and up).

Ryan DuVall is a restaurant critic for The Journal Gazette. This review is based on two unannounced visits. The Journal Gazette pays for all meals. Email him at rduvall@jg.net; call at 461-8130. DuVall’s past reviews can be found at www.journalgazette.net. You can follow him on Twitter @DiningOutDuVall.

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