Bowl of Chili:
Wheel into the packed parking lot at DeWese’s Tip Top Cafe in San Antonio and slide into one of the booths or onto one of the rotating counter seats, worn smooth by decades of well-padded bottoms. Admire the numerous plaques of largemouth bass on the knotty-pine walls—a few of the fish appear to have been there since the place opened, in 1938—and order some of the cafe’s famous chili ($2.75 a bowl). Hearty and spoon-standing thick, this is not the spicy, coarsely ground stuff of modern chili cookoffs but the kind I remember from my childhood, made with hamburger meat and seasoned so mildly that your grandmother could have it for breakfast. Bean-free, it comes in the proper beige plastic bowl with packaged saltine crackers tucked alongside. On the comfort and nostalgia scale, it rates a 10. The only problem is that—as with most chili—two days later you’re hungry again. DeWese’s Tip Top Cafe, 2814 Fredericksburg Road, San Antonio (210-732-0191). patricia sharpe
The annual World Championship Fiddlers Festival in Crockett has been keeping Texas’ fiddling tradition alive for the past 65 years. Veteran Texas swing fiddler Johnny Gimble recalls playing at the contest in 1940. “I wasn’t really an old-time breakdown fiddler,” Gimble says. “But we won $50 for first place in the band competition.” That was just three years after the festival was established, in a simple outdoor setting during the depths of the Depression. Today it has grown into a chamber of commerce—sponsored event held every June in the city’s spacious, air-conditioned civic center. Fiddlers young and old and their fans come from all over to compete for the championship title or just to enjoy the music. Most of the fiddle contests in the state are structured the same way: Each musician plays a “breakdown” consisting of an up-tempo piece, a waltz, and a song of his or her choosing. At this year’s festival, the fiddlers included 41-year-old Carl Hopkins of Porter, who initially entered the competition in 1967. He has competed almost every year since, but this was the first time he finished first. Hopkins is proud to be a Texas fiddler. “It’s the style,” he says. “Everyone else learns from us.” The sixty-sixth annual festival will be held on June 7 and 8, 2002. World Championship Fiddlers Festival, Crockett Civic Center, 1100 Edminston, Crockett (936-544-2359); admission charged.
Old Time Fiddlers Reunion (courthouse square, Athens; 903-675-1859; athenscc.org/fiddlers.html). The festival, which dates back to the thirties, is held the last Friday in May on the lawn and streets surrounding the square.
Texas State Championship Fiddlers Frolic (Knights of Columbus Hall, US 77, Halletsville; 361-798-2311; fiddlersfrolics.com). Each year during the festival, which is held the fourth weekend in April, a top fiddler is inducted into the Texas Fiddlers Hall of Fame. eileen schwartz
For all the firsts the Pig Stand restaurant chain can claim—they were the world’s first drive-in eateries to offer curb service; the first to use neon signage, fluorescent lighting, and awnings to shade customers’ automobiles; and the first to serve Texas toast—no innovation has endured quite like the onion ring. Invented in the twenties when a short-order cook at a Dallas Pig Stand accidentally dropped a ring of onion into a bowl of breading batter, onion rings remain a specialty of the house at the seven remaining Pig Stands in Texas (the one in Dallas closed in the early seventies). Cut medium-thick and with a firm but not too heavy batter that’s seasoned with a hint of pepper, they are the standard by which all onion rings are measured, as well as the perfect accompaniment to the Pig Sandwich, “America’s Motor Sandwich.” Pig Stand: Beaumont, 1595 Calder (409-813-1444) and 3695 College (409-832-8495); Houston, 2412 Washington (713-864-4041); Lytle, Interstate 35 at McDonald (exit 131) (830-709-0466); and San Antonio, 801 S. Presa (210-227-1691), 1508 Broadway (210-222-2794), and 3054 Rigsby (210-333-8231). joe nick patoski
Here’s a list of additional old-fashioned places and things from some of the categories in this month’s cover story, “Old-Fashioned Texas.”
Kiddie Park (3015 Broadway, San Antonio; 210-824-4351; carousel.net/org/kiddie_park.html). America’s oldest kiddie park is funky and quaint, its centerpiece a 1918 hand-carved wooden carousel; open daily 10 to sunset (until 10 p.m. during the summer).
The Midway at Fair Park (First and Grand avenues, Dallas; 214-565-9931; bigtex.com). Ride the 212-foot-tall Star of Texas Ferris wheel, one of the biggest in the world; open September 28 through October 21; call for hours.
Sandy Lake Amusement Park (Interstate 35 East at Sandy Lake Road [Exit 444], Dallas; 972-242-7449; sandylake.com). A miniature train, bumper cars, pony rides, kiddie boats, and thrill rides along with a swimming pool, mini-golf, and paddleboat rentals on the lake; open 10 to 6—daily through August 6, weekends through September 24.
Western Playland (6900 Delta, El Paso; 915-772-3953; westernplayland.com). Full-blown kiddie section surrounded by thrill rides like the Himalaya and the new Tsunami; open daily through mid-August, then weekends through mid-October; call for hours. jnp
Bethel Road Barber Shop (460 W. Bethel Road, Coppell; 972-462-0841; applink.net/brbs). This tiny two-chair shop in a white clapboard building on the northern fringe of Dallas specializes in flattops, crews, tapers, high-and-tights, and Ivy League cuts.
City Barber Shop (326 Phelps Avenue, Littlefield; 806-385-3430; members.tripod.com/~BradBanner/barber.html). Get a flattop or buzz, shave, and shampoo in this three-chair operation headed by Babe Banner, who’s been cutting for more than 43 years. Stopping in just to chew the fat is encouraged.
King Barber Shop (929 W. King, Kingsville; 361-592-5631). One of the first black-owned businesses in Kingsville, started by James Moseley, the King continues to trim the hair of the entire Kingsville community.
Ronald’s Barber Shop (1304 E. Gentry Parkway, Tyler; 903-597-0117; tyler.com/barbershop). Ronald McClain, a second-generation barber, specializes in Marine buzz cuts and sells old-time products like Wildroot Cream Oil, Jeris Hair Tonic, and Flattop Wax.
Tracy’s Barber Shop and Record Collectibles (5971 Williams Drive, Corpus Christi; 361-992-6092). Get a fifties-style flattop with fenders, a buzz cut, or a greasy pompadour from Tracy Herron, the cousin of rockabillly Jerry Lee Lewis, while listening to fifties hits. Bonus: Scalp massage for a buck. jnp
La Carafe (813 Congress, Houston; 713-229-9399). Don’t let the name or the fact that La Carafe has a decent list of American wines fool you: This is just a good, old-fashioned, poorly lit beer bar, located since the mid-fifties in the oldest commercial building in Houston.
Esquire Tavern (155 E. Commerce, San Antonio; 210-222-2521). Esquire regulars have been spilling beer on its 79-foot-long oak bar—the longest in the state—since the day after Prohibition ended in 1933, making it as old as any legal drinking establishment can be.
Rattlesnake Inn (6060 Texas Highway 195, Florence; 254-793-8198). The Rattlesnake is a country cousin to the citified likes of La Carafe, with “borrowed” street signs, publicity stills of country singers, and a rebel flag on the walls. Democrats beware: The only surefire way to change the subject from Bill Clinton is to bring up Jane Fonda—or ask about the night Conway Twitty’s limo stopped in the parking lot and he sent his driver in for some sodas. john spong
Burger Stands With Carhops:
Bun N’ Barrel (1150 Austin Highway, San Antonio; 210-828-2829). Barbecue, burgers, beer, frosted mugs—as seen in the film Selena.
Cupp’s Drive-Inn (1424 Speight, Waco; 254-753-9364). Serving breakfast and lunch since 1947 one block from Interstate 35.
Elmo’s (2618 Third Avenue, Amarillo; 806-374-3566). Classic fifties awnings and burgers one long block from the best Texas part of historic Route 66.
Keller’s (6537 East Northwest Highway at Abrams, Dallas; 214-368-1209, and 10554 Harry Hines, Dallas; 214-357-3572). Car clubs cruising the lots on weekends, attentive carhops, and burgers and cold beer ($4.50 a six-pack!).
K-N Root Beer Drive-In (3900 Olsen Boulevard, Amarillo; 806-355-4391). Curb service and the best root beer this side of Dallas a quarter mile from Interstate 40.
Snapka’s Drive-Inn (4716 Leopard, Corpus Christi; 361-883-2272). Car clubs gather on the last Friday of every month at this venerable stop on the Coastal Bend cruising circuit. jnp
Church of the Visitation (Texas Highway 320, Westphalia; 254-584-4983). This beautifully painted Catholic church in tiny Westphalia, a rural historic district east of Temple, has distinctive twin bell towers and is one of the largest wooden churches in Texas.
Painted churches, Schulenburg area (979-743-4514). The ornate interiors of these churches, located in the communities of Dubina, High Hill, Ammannsville, and Praha, are open for self-guided tours. Call the Schulenburg Chamber of Commerce at the number above for a brochure and directions.
Poolville United Methodist Church (230 N. Church, Poolville, between Bridgeport and Weatherford; 817-599-3601). The quintessential white-frame country church with bell tower and simple stained-glass windows, it dates to 1896. kathryn jones
Cafe Cabaret Dance Hall (801 Main, Bandera; 830-460-3095; thecabaretcafe.com). Since 1936, a slew of country music stars have played this dance hall in Bandera, the “Cowboy Capital of the World,” including Bob Wills, Ray Price, Jim Reeves, and Willie Nelson. Open Wednesday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.; cover charge varies.
London Dance Hall (U.S. 377, London; 915-475-2921). The dance hall dates back to the late twenties and has hosted such country music luminaries as Johnny Bush and Hank Thompson. Open daily 9 p.m. to 1 a.m., with live music every Saturday; cover charge varies.
Note: Several classic Texas dance halls are covered in Texas Monthly on a regular basis and include Luckenbach Dance Hall (luckenbachtexas.com/Dancehall.htm), Gruene Hall (gruenehall.com), and Austin’s Broken Spoke (lone-star.net/bspoke). Please refer to the Web sites listed or to Texas Monthly’s Around the State entertainment listings for more information on these venues. eileen schwartz
Chappell Hill, Marfa, Roma, Weatherford kj
Mission Drive-in (1300 Roosevelt, San Antonio; 210-532-3259). Built in 1947, this theater—a.k.a. the Mission IV—is the only multi-screen drive-in still open in Texas today.
Tascosa Drive-in (1999 U.S. 287, Amarillo; 806-383-3882). Once Amarillo’s biggest theater, the 49-year-old Tascosa was reopened and refurbished in 1999 and now shares parking-lot space with a recreational-vehicle company.
Tower Drive-in Theatre (.5 mile north of Rule on Texas Highway 6; 877-986-9373; towerdriveintheatre.com). The Whorton family has owned and operated this theater continuously since 1955; the screen was replaced in 1998 after the original was flattened by a tornado. The drive-in is open only on weekends.
Wes-Mer Drive-in (2090 W. U.S. 83, Mercedes; 956-565-9050). Now aged 61, the Wes-Mer shows double features on weekends and often hosts a preshow swap meet. anne dingus
Glen Rose (courthouse square, Texas Highway 144 at Barnard). On weekends, local farmers sell produce, honey, and even rosebushes off the back of their trucks.
River Valley Farmers Market Association (512-253-6288; austinfarm.org/RiverValley/index.html): Members of the association sell locally grown produce on Fridays in Bastrop (across from the courthouse square, Pine and Water streets), on Tuesdays in Elgin (404 N. Main, next to the Elgin Library), and on Thursdays in Smithville in the Catholic church parking lot (Loop 150 and Mills).
Schulenburg Tri-County Farmers Market (Diamond S Restaurant parking lot, U.S. 77 south of Interstate 10, Schulenburg; 979-743-4345; sellersites.com/sburgfarmersmkt). Local farmers (no resellers allowed) sell produce from their vehicles at a seasonal market open in spring and summer only. kj
Dooley 5, 10, and 25-Cent Store (131 E. Main, Fredericksburg; 830-997-3458). Three generations of Dooleys have sold pants stretchers, children’s wooden tops, saucepan-mending kits, and other retro goods here since 1925. Hard-to-find treasures include horehound drops and Lady Esther face powder. ad
Hutch’s Pie Shop (145 College Park, Weatherford; 817-594-0751). Seven flavors of fried pies in a strip-shopping-center location.
Mindy Lu’s Pies (721 East Loop 820, Fort Worth; 817-457-7437). Family-run pie shop sells retail and wholesale. kj
Big Bend Wool and Mohair Company (205 West Murphy, Alpine; 915-837-2241). Livestock feed, live pullets, old saddles, tools, and gardening supplies in a dusty warehouse next to the railroad tracks.
T. C. Lindsey and Company (2293 FM 134, Jonesville; 903-687-3382). The granddaddy of Texas general stores has been in continuous operation since 1847. kj
West Alabama Icehouse (1919 W. Alabama, Houston; 713-528-6874). This Montrose stalwart has a photo-opportunity exterior and the coldest beer in the neighborhood. ad
Miniature Golf Course:
Green Acres (905 Todd Lane, Midland; 915-686-8155). George W. and Laura dated here. jnp
Morris Theatre (204 N. Lamar, Daingerfield; 903-645-2219). Family-owned for a half century, the Morris hosted the 1997 premiere of the Rodney Dangerfield movie Meet Wally Sparks—an event for which the town dropped, for one day, the letter i from its name.
Palace Theatre (314 S. Austin, Seguin; 830-401-2448). This three-story brick theater in the town’s historic district has been in continuous operation since it was built in 1927.
Rio Theater (516 Doherty, Center; 409-598-3864). An 89-year-old fixture on the town square, the Rio was formerly the Teatro La Paz (Peace Theater), an early showplace for Hispanic film, music, and other arts.
Select Theatre (114 N. Johnson, Mineola; 903-569-2300). Wood County’s only movie theater, buit in 1918, offers a 99-cent matinee on Saturdays. ad
Royers Round Top Cafe (105 Main, Round Top; 877-866-7437). The self-declared pie headquarters of Texas is Royers Cafe in the tiny East Texas burb of Round Top. Order pie in person or log on to royersroundtopcafe.com and inspect the mail-order choices, including pecan, buttermilk, lemon chess, butterscotch chip, and more. patricia sharpe
Depression-era roadside parks, Jeff Davis County (Texas Highways 118, 166, and 17). This Big Bend county has the most Depression-era roadside parks in the state. Their distinctive masonry picnic tables, benches, and walls—and their scenic settings—are worth a stop. kj
Fontenot Saddlery (17389 County Line Road, Winnie; 409-296-9110). Custom saddlemaker C. J. Fontenot has four decades of experience and works out of a small one-man shop in his yard. kj
Buffalo Pharmacy (3118 Bissonnet, Houston; 713-664-3426). Wash down a greasily perfect cheeseburger with a 75-cent soft drink, then pick up those collar stays or fresh hankies your wardrobe demands.
City Drug (109 W. Lafayette, Jefferson; 903-665-2521). Fresh-squeezed limeade is the treat of choice at this picture-perfect little pharmacy in pretty Jefferson.
Dee’s Place (125 N. Beaton, Corsicana; 903-874-5891). A local institution, Dee’s has been at the same location for 76 years. The counter stools, which have chairbacks, invite lingering.
Highland Park Pharmacy (3229 Knox, Dallas; 214-521-2126). This gem, with its long, polished wooden counter, is especially famous for its milk shakes and its waitresses’ snappy patter. ad
Cagle Steaks (118 N. FM 179, Lubbock; 806-795-3879). The preferred destination for local carnivores (which is practically everybody), including cattlemen, oil workers, and ravenous Tech students.
Cattleman’s Steakhouse (Fabens; from El Paso, take Interstate 10 east to Fabens, turn north [look for the restaurant’s sign], and go 5 miles; 915-544-3200; cattlemanssteakhouse.com). Operated for more than a quarter century by a German transplant, this steakhouse on the working Indian Cliffs cattle ranch offers retro touches like a buffalo herd, rugged vistas from any direction, and cuts of beef like the two-pound Cowboy.
Cattlemen’s (2458 N. Main, Fort Worth; 817-429-8614; [email protected]). This 1947 throwback includes menu choices like teriyaki steak and iceberg lettuce salad with rich blue-cheese dressing.
Joe Allen’s B-B-Q (1233 S. Treadaway, Abilene; 915-672-6082). Despite its name, this locally revered spot sells steaks too—by the inch, no less, and with a famously simple seasoning of salt, pepper, and garlic. ad
Volunteer Fire Department Barbecue:
Henly Volunteer Fire Department barbecue (7072 W. U.S. 290, Dripping Springs; 512-858-5451; moment.net/~henlyvfd/index.htm). The annual barbecue, held on the first Saturday in June, serves up plenty of brisket, sausage, potato salad, and homemade pies (baked by the ladies’ auxiliary). This year nearly five hundred bags of peanut brittle were sold. A new truck, which was purchased with barbecue money and donations, was recently put into service. patricia busa mcconnico