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Jul 1, 2009 09:17 AM

Righteous Indigestion Tour thru Texas

I posted a similar thread in the South board and got some tremendous feedback. Now I'm here for some Texas hospitality ....

After two tours in Afghanistan, my brother is leaving the service and coming home (safely!). Its time to celebrate. He is being discharged from central California and we are driving back home to Baltimore together.

We have ~5 days to drive cross country and find the delicious. We are not looking for fine dining. Instead we plan on feasting on BBQ, Creole, Cajun, Southern food; no place that even remotely has a dress code.

We've done our preliminary research, which you can find here:

Here's where you come in. Are we driving by something that we absolutely MUST stop for? Alternatively, there are some towns where there seems to be too many options for just two, albeit hungry, fellas looking for food. Can you help us determine the best of the available options in your town?

Thanks in advance. Its been a long, tough tour and I hope to welcome him back in style.

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  1. First, thank your brother for his service. I swear if I were in Texas right now, which I am not, I'd buy him dinner and consider it an honor to do so.

    I note you're going through north Texas. The far better route, food-wise, is I-10 through Texas. However, I've driven both many, many times, and will make more suggestions when I get more time.

    However, if you take the northern route, you'll go through Amarillo where your brother definitely should attempt the Free Steak Challenge at the Big Texan ( The folks that are giving it a go are up on stage (complete with webcam so the rest of your friends and relatives can watch) and everyone will make a huge fuss over your brother, the returning soldier. Whether or not he eats it, it will be a lot of fun, and just the sort of thing to take his mind off of where he's been.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Jaymes

      I agree with all you've said. And, God bless this soldier for his service and, getting home safely. However, they don't pay big salaries in the army. So, when our proud and worthy serviceman doesn't finish his 72 oz. steak with ALL the trimmings at The Big Texan, who's going to pay the $72.00 (has to be paid up front) tab? He's better off getting some decent BBQ.

      1. re: Jaymes

        What I've read about the challenge, on Chowhound I believe, is that it's something of a freak show, with a guy with a microphone doing play by play with every bite while others gawk as if you were an animal in a zoo. Besides, if I did my math right, these guys will be doing about 700 miles a day. I don't think I'd want to drive 700 miles with all that steak, plus shrimp cocktail, salad, roll, and baked potato in my stomach. I've read mostly favorable reviews on the steak there, maybe a little moderation could be in order, or not, as you suggest, it could be a once in a lifetime treat, and give fellow Americans a chance to salute one of our finest.

        1. re: James Cristinian

          I agree. Unless he wants to try for grins, I wouldnt hope he finishes. Below I offer a video and can only say that this would ruin the rest of his trip.

      2. Absolutely! Sincerest of thanks to your brother for his service - I know your family (and he) is most happy to have him home safely.

        Just took a peek at your route and eating points of interest. Have a couple of comments.

        Chef Pointe - I love it and the wonderfully uniqueness of some pretty fine food served up in a Conoco service station. Certainly no dress code here! However, the food is not representative of Dallas, Ft Worth or Texas, for that matter. If you'd like to eat there for the "experience", by all means, I don't think you'd be disappointed. But if you're looking for more Texas-y food overtones, I think some of your other choices would better serve you.

        On the other hand........ Fred's Texas Cafe - Good ole Ft. Worth style honky-tonk - outdoor deck, shared picnic table seating (stage at one end) surrounded by a stockade fence. Order food and beverage at the shacky little outdoor cantina. Pretty fun place indeed! Last I knew, it was cash only. The menu is primarily burgers (not really unique Texas food), but only about a mile away is Angelo's BBQ - but not for the sausage.

        Not culinary, but if you have never been through Ft. Worth and plan to be there anyway, take the time to drive/walk (depending on time constraints) through the stockyyards at the north end of town. And there is always Billy Bobs Texas in the same area.

        One thing I don't see on your list is any Tex-Mex. Going thru any part of TX, that is a must! Because I just mentioned it on another post - I'd say Mercado Jaurez as a decent, standard take on Tex-Mex. There are more authentic Tex-Mex's scattered all over the DFW area - I'm sure there are a few here who will give you a good list on those.

        Looks like a great time with some good eating adventures ahead of you. Have fun!

        1 Reply
        1. re: CocoaNut

          Thanks to your brother are definitely in order.

          Mercado Juarez isn't bad but when you compare them to the entireity of DFW, I think one of the many Mexican restaurants on Jefferson (Lito's, Gonzales, El Rincon De La Zapata, etc) as well as spots on Oak Lawn (Avila's or Escondido's) would be a better choice.

          Also look through the Mexican on Jefferson articles for more details...

        2. Yes, thanks to your brother for his service.

          i don't know if this is out of your way, but The Ponder Steak house is one of the best meals I can remember having in quite sometime.

          2 Replies
          1. re: joanna.mcmaster

            JM, Curious what your meal was at Ponder. I've been a couple of times for the chicken fried steak and have been disappointed (most recently only a couple of months ago), particularly since they supposedly butcher their own meats. As I remember, I found the CFS tough and the gravy pretty tasteless. That said, I've never ordered one of their steaks with all the trimmings.

            KAZ, don't remember your exact route, but if you're travelling I20 between Lubbock and Ft Worth, Mary's Cafe in Strawn, TX is worth a 5 mile detour for a superb tasting pan fried (as opposed to deep fried) CFS with homemade pan gravy. The one time I was there, I thought it could be more tender, but from what others have written, we must've just had an off-cut. Definitely a find in Small Town, USA.

            1. re: CocoaNut

              never had the chicken fried steak, I have had the steak sandwich (to die for), you can't go wrong with any of their steaks. Give it another go, I don't think you'll be disappointed

          2. Congratulations and I resound the sentiments of my fellow hounders in welcoming him back safely and for his good service to our nation.

            Allow me to do an initial jump in with the North Texas route. We obviously have many threads here that can safely direct you to the best and brightest our area has to offer. I can detect a little Food Network in the path, and I hope you might reconsider a few of the choices. Cocoanuts and the lovely Joanna make some really fine recs. I love Angelo's and Ponders respectively.

            I have extolled the miscarriage of justice behind the new found celebrity of Louie's, and Louie and I both could probably say without fault that it is best to stay clear of that trap. The beer is cold but a *can* is more than a price of a six pack in this dive. The pizza is warm, sometimes, but you best have your dental plan in order as the crust is a near inedible hard tack that has probably seen better days. The only thing worse than these small details is the service. What once was a quaint bar servicing our media mid-day imbibers (and who can blame them - think of Ron Jeremy singing the virtues of scotch) the wait staff wants nothing better than the Food Network mom's crowding the place to consider a Pizza Hut meat lover's and go. Their rudeness could be consider cute if they weren't venomous.

            With that tirade behind me, consider some nice offerings that are not going to break the cross country budget, but plump up the heart (and waistline) of your intrepid brother. A few offerings:

            Babes Chicken: We have never seen a bad review of this served family style chicken mecca. Homespun goodness with multiple locations across Dallas and Fort Worth. Sit down and request plenty of napkins!

            La Calle Doce: Not spoken about a lot, but a favorite of a few including mine. Think Paella, or crab stuffed shrimp, and many Tex Mex seafood favorites. Great ceviche.

            Mia's: Decent Tex Mex, but the favorite around here is her brisket tacos. I do not speak about it typically because I know the owner. However, well worth it and a must.

            Zanders House: Not sure if you are into the ethnic much, or even Vietnamese. But, this is one that has had zero bad reviews from hounders, and I enjoy on occasion. The sea bass is heavenly.

            Hole in the Wall: From your list we can probably surmise you reviewed a few dozen episodes of Drive-Ins and Dives. Never send a buzzy headed new Yorker to do a man's job. This is a dive. At night it hosts cool blues music from the best around. During the day it is slow, lazy and smelling of crispy onions grilling on the fire. Fat burgers loaded with your choices, plus they make their fries the old fashioned way. With a raw potato.

            If you are wanting more of a drive-in affect, look no further than a few miles down the same road as HITW to Kellers Drive In. Old fashioned meet hog. Great burgers and a large display of bikes.

            There are many more I am sure. I will cut my rant off at the knees and head to lunch. Stay tuned, the North Texas crowd isn't bashful.

            3 Replies
            1. re: DallasDude

              A+ DallasDude. I added some of your recs and removed Louies.

              I used Diners Drive In and Dives, and other assorted internet sources, as a jumping off point. But I come to chowhound for the real scoop.

              I can already tell that the greater Dallas area will have more recommendations than we can possibly try. For now I'll leave them all on as possibilities (unless an over riding AVOID is apparent) and make the call trip time.

              Thanks to all the Texas 'hounds so far. Your well wishes are appreciated. Now keep the good chow coming.

              1. re: DallasDude

                Dude: Right on about Louie's! I don't get it. It's a real, pit!

              2. I noticed you mentioned BBQ first, and if you really want good Texas BBQ, I-10 is the way to go. All Texas BBQ is not created equal, and I think the vast majority of folks would agree the best BBQ is in central Texas. In Llano, Coopers, City Market in Luling, a short detour to Lockhart north of Luling with the big three, plus San Antonio for Tex-Mex. It also looks like it could be a shorter route. Just a thought.