Texas Old-Time Restaurants and Cafes Review


Original Cookbook Review by

Where Shall We Eat?

Texans enjoy dining at thousands of restaurants across the state daily. Beyond the fast-food chains and the corporate restaurants, many individually owned established eateries cater to people looking for something a little different. These are the places to visit for that special pie, steak or other tasty dish.

Sheryl Smith-Rodgers collects almost 100 of the state's most historic, tastiest places to eat in her Texas Old-Time Restaurants and Cafes. Some of the places I have personally had the pleasure of visiting. Some of these are legendary, and all are interesting to read about. Smith-Rodgers includes facts and legend about all listed restaurants. Many of the listings also include a recipe or two from their menu, which is nice. Smith-Rodgers has gone to all the trouble of providing detailed directions to each restaurant, along with interesting places to see nearby!

If you intend to travel around Texas, bring this book along with you. If you are a displaced Texan living elsewhere, you will enjoy reading about familiar places and recipes from your home state. Let's look at a few of the many spotlighted eateries in the book:

Texas Steak Houses

The book outlines many of Texas' classic and well-known steak houses. One of the most colorful in the state is Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo. Located on IH-40, the customers dine in a gigantic western-style saloon. Guitarists sing songs like Deep In The Heart of Texas, and The Eyes of Texas.

The restaurant hosts a famous contest: completely eat a 72 oz. Steak along with a baked potato and shrimp cocktail, and you get it for free. 27,000 beef lovers have accepted the challenge, and 4,500 have succeeded. The restaurant also has an arcade, shoot-em-up gallery and an adjacent hotel.

Their recipe for Texas Caviar is very good. Try making it sometime. (See recipe on the left)

Another well-known Texas steakhouse is the Cattlemen's Fort Worth Steak House in the historic Stockyards District. Recently, Fort Worth has evolved into a very active night spot, so don't miss visiting if you are in the area. Every night, folks line up and wait to eat in one of the three dining rooms. The steaks are world-famous. The restaurant's corn-fed beef is served in twelve different cuts. Cattleman's sells their beef mail order over their web site as well.

Elegant Texas

On the more fancy side of the table are two restaurants in central Texas. One of the oldest restaurants in Austin is the Green Pastures Restaurant. In an old Victorian two story house, folks dine on well-prepared dishes and fine wine as giant live oak trees peer down over the beautifully landscaped property. Green Pastures also hosts a number of weddings and other special events.

The oldest restaurant in Texas, according to Texas Old-Time Restaurants and Cafes, is the Stagecoach Inn in Salado, which is just off IH-35 between Austin and Waco. Since its beginning in the 1860's, the restaurant has never used menus, the staff recite everything from memory. There are twelve entrees, which include prime rib, grilled chicken breast, chicken fried steak, plus many sides and desserts. The adjacent hotel makes a very nice getaway for you, your friends and family. Visit their website at http://touringtexas.com/stage

Although not as elegant, another restaurant covered in the book in Earl Abel's in San Antonio. Started in 1952, the art deco restaurant serves famous fried chicken along with a complete menu of food and desserts. Operating late into the night, I used to eat there with friends very late on Saturday nights and enjoy the service from tall-haired waitresses wearing thick-soled shoes. The wall and carpet interior is a rich, deep red color. High suburb style for 1952!

Small signs around the counters proclaim, "Your business here keeps Earl Abel!"

I have only mentioned a few of the many interesting places covered in the book. Other well-known eateries included are the Elite Caf in Waco, the New Braunfels Smokehouse in historic New Braunfels, and Frank's Spaghetti House in Corpus Christi. If you plan to travel around the state, use this book as a helpful guide.

Big Texan Texas Caviar
from the Big Texan Steak Ranch
  • 2 cans (16-oz each) black-eyed peas, drained
  • 1 medium jalapeño, minced
  • ¼ small white onion, chopped
  • 1/3 cup Italian dressing
  • ½ green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • ¼ ground red pepper
Combine black-eyed peas with remaining ingredients. Serve chilled with corn chips. Makes 5 cups.
Milk Punch
from Green Pastures Restaurant
  • 3 cups vanilla ice cream
  • 1 ½ cups milk
  • ½ cup bourbon
  • ¼ cup white rum
  • 1 jigger brandy
  • 3 ice cubes
  • nutmeg
Combine ice cream, milk, bourbon, run, brandy and ice cubes in a blender. Blend until ice cream is liquefied and mixture has smooth texture of a thin milk shake. Serve in wine glasses and sprinkle with nutmeg. Makes about 5 cups.
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Texas Old-Time Restaurants and Cafes
228 pages
Republic of Texas Press 2003-09-01
Purchase Book on Amazon.Com