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Oct 31, 2007 04:13 PM

Eating Out In Taylor Texas

Ahhh,my beloved State Highway 130.I never thought those words would leave this pen but this remarkable roadway has cut a good 20 minutes off my pilgrimages to Taylor Texas and the wonderful barbecue at Louie Mueller's.

The boss is out of town so I put a double workload on myself yesterday and reaped the reward of no work today.It's a lovely Fall afternoon and time to go get some barbecue.

I motor out MLK towards Webberville and swing up SH-130,25 minutes later I'm parking in front of Muellers'.Life and limb are not at risk,unlike I-35 which has turned into a Mad Max style roadway of doom[extension ladders belong on the backs of trucks not straddling the highway].

Mueller's Barbecue is good.The brisket can't hang with Blacks for buttery deliciousness but it is some of the finest our region has to offer.I always get the same thing:A pound of fatty,outside slice with Pickles Onions and an ice cold Lonestar.The sauce is unique;basically it tastes like a thin,beef consomme with a touch of tomato.It perfectly complements the beef.

The environment is pure Texas.20 foot ceilings,hardwood floors and vast windows letting in all the natural sunlight you can dream of.It always makes me happy to eat there on an orange-y Fall afternoon.Service is fast and smiling.This is a family spot run by people who look after your needs as though you are a favored cousin.I wish the old jukebox in the corner still works but with an old Alvin Crow song playing on the hi-fi who cares?

A pound of beef only fills me up if I let it.Instead of using napkins I massage the juicy drippings into my hands as I go...sort of like a meaty Oil of Olay.At the end of my meal I don my leather jacket and wipe my greasy paws all over the front.Over the years these ablutions have turned the front of the jacket into an oily,meaty,patina of barbecue...the jacket is steer hide,the juicy salve is normally brisket's a beautiful thing-this.

A quick spin around Taylor and I spot a promising looking cafe:Reiny's on Main Street.Walking in the only language I hear is German.Two elderly haus fraus are speaking it and the staff in the kitchen are using it as well.I ask for a pastry and a cup of coffee.The owner[Reiny]carves me off a hunk of Apple Streudel from a virgin loaf in the dessert case,asks me if I'd like Ice Cream and sends me off to my table.I'm intensely excited at this point and can barely wait for my treat.I feel like a dog that's been really really good and is about to get the bone he so richly deserves.The Streudel is good.It could've been great but it'd suffered a spin through a microwave and that is a terrible thing to do to a pastry.Next time I'll get it cold.The rest of the menu looks very promising[Goulash,Spaetzle,Meatballs,Sauerkraut,Mashed Potatoes,Schnitzel,Stroganoff and Reiny's take on Spaghetti] and I'm priming myself up for another trip really soon.

I noticed a couple other establishments in Taylor that piqued my curiosity.How is Ferrari's? Mama's Tacos? O'Brian's Meats? any other gems I'm missing out on? With the tollway eliminating I-35 as my means to get to Taylor I'm going to be hitting up this charming little town quite a bit in the next couple months and could use a country hound's tips on where to go and what to eat.

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  1. Loved reading the report. I am so envious - wish I lived that close. I haven't been to Mueller's probably in about 2 years. But you pass up the sausage????? Such will power!

    Will be interested to read of your further investigations.

    1. Actually, I think Louie's brisket is better than you give it credit for. On days when it's good, and that's pretty often, it's among the best in the State. But the sausage puts the brisket to shame and, in my mind, makes this THE BEST BBQ joint in the State. (Incidentally, I eat the sausage wrapped in a piece of white bread, and dipped lightly into sauce. The white bread keeps the fat from dripping off, so you get the full flavor!)

      1. Mueller's is good, but you can actually find better barbeque in Taylor, TX at Taylor Cafe.

        This is my favorite, great place if you can find it...

        Vencil Mares has been coming into work at the Taylor Cafe every day for almost 60 years. After returning from World War II, Mares, who grew up in Cistern (Fayette County), settled in Taylor and began working at a local meat market. In 1948, he decided to open his own restaurant. The Taylor Cafe has been at that same location on South Main ever since. Tucked under the railroad tracks, the cafe is part beer joint, part barbecue stand, and part local social club. Inside are relics from years of business: old beer signs, farm implements, butchering tools, and a couple of ancient cash registers that would make folks on Antiques Roadshow drool. At 81, Mares is still there every day, watching over the pit, carving up meat, and chatting with his customers. Mares still makes his own sausage, though he admits that now he gets a little help from some of his younger employees. He makes two different types of sausage using the same recipe that he's had since he started. There's a loose-textured beef-and-pork sausage heavily accented by black pepper. It is remarkably lean and flavorful.

        1 Reply
        1. re: friscohorn

          Thanks for the rec. I've heard of Vencil's before but only get up to Taylor once every couple of years. Your report makes me want to try it more than ever.

        2. Ferrari's is good. It's owned by the son and daughter of the couple who owned the Ferrari's Italian Restaurant on Guadalup in Austin many, many years ago. In fact, once in a while -- not very often, unfortunately -- Mom Ferrari will make her special Capaccino Pie. And it's to die for.

          I'm from Austin originally but have lived here in Taylor for a decade now and absolutely love the small town atmosphere. In fact, for such a small town, we have an abundance of great restaurants. There's Toto's Mexican Food (on 3rd right off Main in downtown), Ricoco's Latin Grill practically next door to Toto's but they serve a Latin gourmet cuisine that is nothing like Tex-Mex. Another mexican food restaurant -- also downtown -- is a few blocks northwest, on 4th Street almost across the street from the Post Office.

          Further up Main across from Temple College is Java Junction who serves wonderful deli sandwiches -- and good coffee as well. Continuing past Java Junction (and Ferrari's), there's a strip mall at Lake Drive and Main and next door to the obligatory Mr. Gatti's is Taylor Seafood and Steaks. Huge portions, tastes good (seafood is better than the steaks) and prices are reasonable.

          There's one more which is not really in Taylor but is more than worth the drive. Just continue north on Main (Highway 95) for about 8 miles (pass through Circleville but don't blink your eyes) and look for an old white church-looking building. They'll probably have one of those blinking sandwich signs out front because you can't see it until you're right up on it. It's called Old Timer's Cafe. Home cooking the way home cooking should be, and desserts are included. The wait staff is friendly and attentive, the prices are good and the ambience is something else! Hardwood floors, ceiling fans, beadboarded ceilings and full of antiques and memoribilia from WWII, including uniforms on the wall. They don't take credit cards, so be sure to take cash with you. You won't be sorry.

          And just so I don't leave myself out, I own a used bookstore/antique store downtown just a couple of doors south of Reiny's German Restaurant. Anyone who comes in and tells me they read this on Chow will get a whopping 30% off anything you buy! Name of the store is Aunt Teek's Novel Shoppe.

          3 Replies
          1. re: samlamb

            ...moved to taylor in 2003. went to Ferrari's out of ignorance soon thereafter. it was horrible, and creepy. like an episode of Twin Peaks. when we walked in, everyone, everyone, gave us the evil eye. (i'm not that ugly) and when we asked for non-smoking, we were ushered into a back room that was probably a storeroom before they had to convert it to a non-smoking area. did i mention the food was terrible? i can't even remember what it was, but we couldn't wait to run out and dash home to the shower. I am not kidding you. Did I mention it was creepy? Ferrari's in Austin, the one I remember, was on Lamar around 34th, and was not that great, I went a couple of times before it closed in the mid to late '70s. Seems like they may have had another location, but I can't remember...

            I moved away in 2006, and can't say I miss it much. Except for Bobby and crew at Mueller's. Sounds like there are some new places that were not there when I lived there. There was a small Mexican meat market which has closed that had great carnitas on the weekends, fried in an enormous copper kettle.

            1. re: sambamaster

              There are many things to like about Old Timer's Cafe in Circleville Texas[pop 42].

              The ambience is top notch.You're dining in an old timey schoolhouse built in 1854 with original hardwood floors and ceiling.Nixon memorabilia is strewn about along with other artifacts from long ago eras[love the photo of an elderly couple;Granny and Gizzard Green].Big plus.

              You're attended to by Roanna whose service on this day is exemplary.ESP is the benchmark of any good waitress and this woman has it full on.

              But.Big but.The food is only ok.It could be great.Southern cooking is something I've been raised on and in the right hands it is one of the finest cuisines known to man.A good southern cook serves green beans from neither the can nor the freezer[unless they were seal a meal-d last summer].They're snappped in the morning then simmered with Yellow Sweet Onion and good bacon for a few hours and served with the knowledge that the eater is going to be blown away by this humble dish.

              I'm not sure where Old Timers get their green beans but they're not fresh.They taste weird.I probably had a canned/frozen version years ago but mercifully blacked out the experience.They're not the biggest sin committed on this day however;I'm served brown gravy from a packet.A PACKET.The hapless hamburger steak has been carefully cooked[but not seasoned]and then smothered in factory sauce.Ugh.

              The mashed potatoes could've been pretty good but for the "sauce".A brown and serve roll comes with and it's a standard issue roll from a commercial bread factory.The smothering gravy covers everything on the plate save the beans and its' velvety smooth and rich with the flavor of the color brown.I've never tasted anything that I would describe as "brown" before but that really sums it up.

              The steak has been topped with some pretty decent sauteed onions and canned mushrooms.At first I have no idea what they are then it dawns on me;these are mushrooms.Good ol plain jane button mushrooms cooked with a little bit of butter or bacon fat and a bit of salt and pepper are the essence of delicious humble food.Canned mushrooms are just no damn good.

              I'm absolutely starving so I mow down as best as I can.The elderly couple sitting near me look friendly so we converse a bit.The gentleman Marvin attended school in this very building a few years back in 1937.What was it like?Well,they didn't put up with a lot of mess back then,you did what you were told and did it quick.Have a favorite teacher?I'm old.I can't remember.Made my living in law enforcement...ever hear of Henry Lee Lucas?We chat idly about the infamous Texas serial killer and how Marvin helped bring the crazy man to justice.It's good luncheon conversation.

              Old Timers business model is spot on:serve country cooking,meat and two-style for a fair price;$7.75 in a comfortable setting.

              I know Williamson County is filled to the brim with little ol granny ladies who can flat get it in the kitchen.Riding through the communities nearby I see plenty farmhouses just waiting to have their doors kicked in by the cafe's owners as they run a Roots scene replacing Levar Burton with a local Delilah or Hattie Mae.Have Eula Jean come in and give a seminar on the finer points of rural deliciousness and all will be well.

              Does Circleville Grocery still have Steak night? How is it? How is the pricing? What kind of cuts do they serve?What are the sides?

              1. re: scrumptiouschef

                Louis Mueller's BBQ! Best in the world for brisket (ask for a "money" piece) and, sausage.