Friday, December 19, 2008

Dining out is fun

Some of you might be familiar with this magazine (which shall remain unnamed because I used to work there). Their December issue had a huge round-up on small town cafes that I was fortunate enough to contribute to. I use fortunate loosely. It might sound like great fun to eat at 17 cafes in 3 days, but trust me when I say it gets old very quickly. Plus there's a lot of bad food out there.

I brought along my friend E, who grew up in a small town eating good, traditional cafe-style food. She had an astoundingly accurate radar for fake mashed potatoes and high standards for her chicken fried steak, and great skills at chatting up strangers, which was a huge help while I was feverishly snapping pictures or taking notes in a corner.

Our zone was south east Texas. Specifically from just north of Beaumont up to highway 21 and from the Louisiana border west to highway 59. It was hot and we were in a rented Suzuki that was of such poor quality of workmanship that we repeatedly checked the model year and mileage in disbelief that it was not much older or more well-traveled. My apologies if you own one.

E took that one of me. Since logistically it's near impossible to "eat in" at all these cafes in that amount of time, we would almost always order the food to go, jump in the car, and drive off to the next town while I would take a few bites and snap a few photos in the backseat, then carefully pass fork-fulls up to E. Again, this eating on the fly really takes away from the charm of the whole adventure.

Our first night we stayed in a roach coach, which was highly unpleasant. So on night two, we treated ourselves to a B&B in San Augustine. It was called The Columns - if you're ever in that neck of the woods, I'd recommend it.

Atmosphere was just as important as food, so finding that combination was a lot tougher than you'd expect. The answer to "Would I send one of our readers here?" was most commonly "no." A couple made the cut, though.

One in particular had that most sought-after pie case. We had such a hard time finding pies, and an even harder time finding good pies, and even harder still finding good pies that weren't purchased at Sam's (truly - we had to ask everyone if they made their own pies, and they usually didn't). And since the pie case place was also one of two to serve real mashed potatoes, and was obscenely cute to boot, it won our vote.

I was never really a fan of onion rings until this trip. Now I know I'd just never had good onion rings. If you're ever near Moss Hill, Texas, I'd recommend stopping into Simply Country Cafe. The weekends give you better odds of a wider variety of pies. The lemon meringue is heavenly. And if you're ever near Colmesneil, Texas, stop by the Burger House. I hear their onion rings are to die for.

This place was lovely and served good food, but they buy their pies. We considered this a deal breaker.

Not our hotel. Sour Lake was cute though. Anywho, it was a fun trip - quite an adventure I'd say.

Preparation is under way for last-minute holiday gatherings, cleaning and doing laundry, baking up a storm, and packing (soon) for my trip to Belgium. I leave on the 24th and am beyond excited. If only there weren't so much to be done before I go--ahh holiday stress attacks! Got Courtney's holiday mix CD in the mail yesterday and popped it straight into the car stereo. Oooh, that's better.


Elizabeth said...

I'm going to have to wait until I get back to Texas next week to read that article in my parents' issue. Have you ever eaten at the Bluebonnet in Marble Falls? They make their own pies.

Tara said...

I'm definitely going to have to check out some of those places!

I know it wasn't in your area but the best little cafe I've ever eaten at in Texas with a pie case was Royers Round Top Cafe in Round Top. Oh Holy Night was their food good.

Was "E" who we used to refer to as "Little Mudd"?

Anonymous said...

I could sure have some of those onion rings right now and that burger you are sinking your teeth into would go down pretty easy too.


Elizabeth A. said...

I am "E"! :) Yes, we did have a great time on that trip - too much food, but a good time. We put some miles on that ol' Suzuki P.O.S. car. Also got to see a whole other part of Texas in GREAT detail. That's just as fun for me. Hey, and we liked the cute little place in Rye, TX too. Talk about a hole in the road.
H&H Cafe in Yoakum also made the list - I knew it would - I love their food! :)