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Books That Cook

By June 2001Comments

All of the restaurants listed in Sheryl Smith-Rodgers book Texas Old-Time Restaurants and Cafes have three things in common: “long histories, established reputations, and loyal customers.” That said, Texas has tons of restaurants that fit this bill, too many to include in one publication. No worries, the Blanco-based freelance writer states up front that her book is not inclusive. In fact, to make the cut, a restaurant had to be in business at least twenty years.

So what’s so wonderful about these old-time cafes? Well, the food, even after all these years (full disclosure: in our opinion, some of these restaurants aren’t as good as they used to be). But there is something else that makes them special. These spots bring back a time when things were simple—not so demanding and fast-paced. It’s called nostalgia.

Texas Old-Time Restaurants and Cafes takes the reader to each region of the state, along the way highlighting the old standbys: the Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo, which opened in 1960; Joe T. Garcia’s in Fort Worth, which opened in 1935; Salado’s Stagecoach Inn, which opened sometime during the 1860’s; the Bakery Cafe in Aransas Pass, which opened its doors in 1929; and the Burton Cafe in Burton, which opened in 1937. And with each locale, Smith-Rodgers has done her homework, supplying an historical overview. For example, the Blanco Bowling Club and Cafe has been around since 1947, when Roland and Viola Bindseil built the restaurant and bowling alley. C. A. and Florence Weeaks bought it in 1965, and two years later, a group of Blanco residents purchased the alley and turned it into a club. Nowadays, some three hundred members pay $5 year in annual dues. Another piece of fact: the Blue Bonnet Cafe in Marble Falls is not named for the flower but for the women’s hat.

In addition to historical references, there are recipes. No book about food would be complete without them. Here’s a sampling of what you’ll find: Creamed Eggs in Chedder Cheese Sauce from the Juicy Pig Cafe in Sherman, Helen Feldhousen’s Chocolate Pie from the Blessing Hotel Coffee Shop in Blessing, German Potato Salad from Fossati’s Delicatessen in Victoria, and Pig Stand’s Texas-size Donuts and Glaze from the Pig Stand in Beaumont.

To be in Smith-Rodgers’ Hall of Fame, a restaurant has to be at least fifty years old. The oldest? She cites Kuby’s Sausage House in Dallas. But there is one hitch: While the German location of Kuby’s opened in 1728, the Dallas spot didn’t open until 1961. Oh, well, 1961 was a long time ago in today’s fast-food world.

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