There’s Still More to Love about Texas Food

Texans take their food as seriously as they do their football. Many Winter Texans and other visitors to the Lone Star State have the good sense to agree with them—that Texan food is that of the gods.

1. Po Po Family Restaurant

Bright neon letters spell “CHICKEN, STEAKS, SEAFOOD” across the rock exterior of Po Po Family Restaurant. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bright neon letters spell “CHICKEN, STEAKS, SEAFOOD” across the rock exterior of Po Po Family Restaurant, just off I-10, 37 miles north of San Antonio at the Welfare exit #533.

The neon and the notice tell you what to expect at Po Po’s: a menu that requires no translation, featuring traditional American and Southern fare, cooked to order.

Po Po is not just your ordinary restaurant. This eatery has a unique history with a cast of unique characters and circumstances, a matchless plate collection, as well as some of the best food in the Texas Hill County. The warmth and hospitality are hard to beat.

If you have ever been to Po Po’s, you will never forget the outstanding food and the nostalgic experience.

2. Collin Street Bakery

Would you travel over 2,950 miles for a Collin Street Bakery DeLuxe Fruitcakes? We did! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Corsicana’s Collin Street Bakery is legendary for pecan-packed fruitcakes that are shipped to every state in the nation and 200 countries around the world.

Don’t worry if fruitcake isn’t your thing. Collin Street Bakery makes plenty of other items that have attracted a devoted following.

There’s a deep dish pecan pie, chocolate fudge pecan pie, white chocolate macadamia cheesecake, White House pumpkin cake, apricot pecan cake, and pecan coffee Bundt cake. Hungry yet?

3. Texas Produce

More than 180,000 farms provide what may be the best fruit and veggies anywhere. Look for Medina apples, Pecos cantaloupes, Black Diamond watermelon from Luling, peaches from Parker and Gillespie counties, grapefruit and oranges from the Rio Grande Valley, the famous sweet 1015 onions, and spinach from Crystal City, where a statue of Popeye reminds you that you’re in leafy, green land.

4. Kloesel’s Steak House

Blink and you’ll miss Moulton—but that would be a mistake.

On a recommendation we received while in Luling we made a lunch stop at this sidetrack town 10 miles north of Shiner on Texas 95.

Incidentally we were on our way to tour the “little brewery in Shiner”.

Turn west off Texas 95 onto Moore Avenue, and see what I mean.

During the past 40 years, Harvey and Diana Kloesel have turned a former grocery-café into a popular eatery. The Kloesels charbroil choice steaks. Other fare ranges from fettuccine to blue-plate specials, plus luscious pies and cheesecakes. All steaks at Kloesel’s Steak House are USDA choice beef and are freshly cut in the Kloesel’s preparation room.

The salad dressings and sauces are family recipes prepared fresh each week. The Kloesels also feature their own private label of Steak Sauce which is served in their restaurant. The sauces, salad dressings, homemade pies, fresh bread and buns, and fresh steaks are available for purchase.

5. Deutsch Apple Bakery

The baked products at Deutsch Apple Bakery embodies the home-baked taste everybody loves. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Since opening their doors in 1997, Deutsch Apple Bakery has provided their customers with the best products available.

Their food embodies the home-baked taste everybody loves. From their delicious caramel-praline glazed apple pecan cakes to freshly baked apple pies, and a wide variety of scrumptious sweets, you’ll want to return to this charming bakery again and again.

Though they specialize in products featuring apples, such as delicious apple pies, apple pecan cakes, and muffins, you’ll enjoy their line of Ruthie’s cookies, oatmeal cranberry cookie, pecan pie, and walnut brownies.

The Deutsch Apple Bakery is located on the corner of RR 165 and Loop 163, just east of the town square in Blanco.

Note: This is the fourth in an ongoing series on Why I Love Texas Food

Part 1: What’s to Love about Texas Food

Part 2: 6 Reasons to Love Texas Food

Part 3: Still More Reasons to Love Texas Food

Worth Pondering…

He was a bold man who first ate an oyster.

—Jonathan Swift, author

Read More

Still More Reasons to Love Texas Food

Texans take their food as seriously as they do their football.

Many Winter Texans and other visitors to the Lone Star State have the good sense to agree with them—that Texan food is that of the gods.

1. City Market

Barbecue fans head to downtown Luling to satisfy their craving for City Market’s succulent brisket, hot links, and pork ribs. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Barbecue fans head to downtown Luling to satisfy their craving for City Market’s succulent brisket, hot links, and pork ribs. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One of the great joys of RVing is visiting new places and making interesting discoveries. Another is just the opposite—revisiting those places that demand a closer look. Sometimes that second chance leads to a third—and a fourth.

City Market in Luling, is such a place. The meat-market-turned-barbecue-restaurant started in 1958, and over the years has become a barbecue icon. This is the arguably the best barbeque in all of Texas which helps explain why Luling is perennially included on our Texas itinerary.

2. Lockhart: Barbecue Capital of Texas

A short hop, skip, a jump from Luling is Lockhart, the Barbecue Capital of Texas. Out-of-towners and locals flock to four smoked-meat emporiums—Black’s Barbecue, Chisholm Trail Barbecue, Kreuz Market, and Smitty’s Market.

Brick pits that smoke the meats at Smitty's—brisket, pork ribs, and chops, shoulder clod, sausage, and prime rib. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Brick pits that smoke the meats at Smitty’s Market in Lockhart—brisket, pork ribs, and chops, shoulder clod, sausage, and prime rib. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Several tons of barbecued beef, pork, chicken, and smoked sausage are served each day. It is estimated that over 5,000 people visit these establishments on a weekly basis—that’s roughly 250,000 people a year who eat BBQ in Lockhart. Lockhart’s pit masters smolder native post oak logs, seasoned at least eight months, to provide the fragrant smoke and indirect heat that slowly roasts and flavors the meat. After that, secret recipes, cooking methods, and condiments separate the establishments.

It’s amazing that four barbecue establishments can stay packed all the time—and in a small town, too. Incidentally, my favorite is Smitty’s Market. The brisket and links as well as the unique experience make me a repeat customer.

3. Big Texan Steak Ranch

Not one of the businesses to put out a welcome mat for Oprah when she appeared in an Amarillo court against the beef producers, The Big Texan is best known for its 72 ounce steak. No matter how you cut it, 72 ounces is 4½ pounds and that’s a lot of meat. And it’s free if you can eat the steak and the accompanying salad, shrimp cocktail, baked potato, and bread in one hour while everyone else in the restaurant watches.

The atmosphere is awesome. There are elk heads all over the wall, about six Texas flags outside, along with a huge cow statue and other Texan artifacts.

4. Shiner Bock

If Blue Bell Ice Cream is a food group, then why not beer—but not just any beer; it must be a Texas original from “the little brewery in Shiner”. Reflecting the tradition of genuine Bavarian beers, Shiner Bock has been brewed since 1913, almost as long as the Spoetzl Brewery has been in business.

However, it wasn’t until 1973 that Bock went into production year-round. Bock was considered a lent beer, and therefore was only made around that season. Today over 80% of the beer made at the Spoetzl Brewery is Bock.

5. Las Vegas Cafe

For excellent home cooked Tex-Mex food, Las Vegas Café in Harlingen in the Lower Rio Grande Valley doesn’t disappoint.

The key to the eatery’s continued success is its consistency with good food, good service, and reasonable prices.

The name has spicy origins and so do the recipes. The building was a go-go club in the early 1960s that went by the name of Las Vegas Lounge.

Las Vegas owners Julio Charles and his wife, Eloina, started the café in 1964. Today, their two daughters, Lori and Julie, primarily run the café.

The classic Shiner Bock is a God given blessing. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The classic Shiner Bock is a God given blessing. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The popular café began its operation with only three tables and eight stools and now has a seating capacity for 140 people.

This is a great place for lunch, but it’s always very busy. You will never go wrong with the specials posted on the wall. Or if you prefer, ask for a menu. The cheese enchiladas, fajitas, and nachos are fantastic. Also, the sweet tea alone is worth the price of the meal. Great value!

Note: This is the third in an ongoing series on Why I Love Texas Food

Part 1: What’s to Love about Texas Food

Part 2: 6 Reasons to Love Texas Food

Worth Pondering…
You Can’t Spell Texas without H-E-B

You need Corpus, you need Abilene, Odessa and Laredo,
Bastrop and Lufkin, Port Lavaca and Salado.
Dallas, Waco, Harlingen and places big and small,
No, Texas ain’t Texas…unless you got ’em all.

You can’t have the cotton-eyed without the Joe,
And springtime ain’t sprung until the bluebonnets grow.
You couldn’t have a front porch without the rocking chair,
And if it wasn’t for the corn dogs you couldn’t have the Fair.

There’s so much to love about Texas,
That’s why Texas is home for me.
Can’t find any place on Earth like Texas.
And you can’t spell Texas without H-E-B.

Read More

6 Reasons to Love Texas Food

Texans take their food as seriously as they do their football.

ocated in a well-worn, roughhewn, two-story establishment, Stingaree stands next to the Intracoastal Canal. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
ocated in a well-worn, roughhewn, two-story establishment, Stingaree stands next to the Intracoastal Canal. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Many Winter Texans and other visitors to the Lone Star State have the good sense to agree with them—that Texan food is that of the gods.

1. Texas Oysters

Texas may be best known for beef, but its bay oysters rank second to none. Texas oysters are impeccably fresh—whether served on the half shell with a kiss of salt air and Texas hot sauce or shucked for a sauté or creamy stew.

We love Oysters Jubilee from Stingaree Restaurant at Crystal Beach on Bolivar Peninsula, just a short ferry ride from Historic Galveston. As its name suggests, Oyster Jubilee is a celebration of everything oyster. It’s a colossal dish of over 30 oysters prepared in every conceivable way.

2. Tex-Mex

Tex-Mex is the product of both Spanish and Mexican recipes coming together with American foods. Tex-Mex is the name given to food that is heavily influenced by Mexico and the cooking of Mexican-Americans, and blends available foods in the United States with traditional Mexican food. Tex-Mex has its roots in Texas—hence, the name.

Some credit noted food authority Diane Kennedy for drawing the line between authentic Mexican food and Tex-Mex. At any rate, Tex-Mex can be considered America’s oldest original food!

3. Fried pies

For the best fried pies anywhere, head to Shirley’s Burnt Biscuit Bakery in the Big Bend town of Marathon© Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
For the best fried pies anywhere, head to Shirley’s Burnt Biscuit Bakery in the Big Bend town of Marathon© Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A favorite treat from the Rio Grande to the Red River, this delightful, portable dessert has been popular in the Lone Star State since cowboys first worked trails and ranches, and it can be found in every vintage Texas cookbook. The gold standard, then as now, is apricot, thanks to a tartness that plays well against the mellow pastry.

For the best anywhere, you’ll head to Shirley’s Burnt Biscuit Bakery in the Big Bend town of Marathon, where former ranch cook Shirley Rooney has folks lined up at the crack of dawn for her precious fried pies.

4. Sarah’s Cafe

When our route takes us through Fort Stockton, we stop for a plate of some of the best Mexican food in West Texas. In business since 1929, this friendly little joint is run by the descendants of Sarah Ramirez Nuñoz, who serve up sturdy, cheese-loaded enchiladas, tacos, chalupas and nachos, day and night, in her tradition.

5. Tamales

The tradition of making tamales at Christmas began long ago in South Texas.

Grandmothers, mothers, aunts, children, and neighbors would gather for days on end to produce a hundred dozen or so tamales for friends and family to eat at holiday gatherings. Cooking and assembly teams would be broken into particular duties for masa and filling preparation, separating and cleaning the corn husks, and finally rolling, tying, and steaming the luscious bundles.

6. La Brisa Mexican Bar & Grill

When you’re in the Kemah/Seabrook area south of Houston and have a craving for excellent authentic Mexican food and great margaritas, try La Brisa. It’s a short drive just down Highway 146 south from Kemah, towards Bacliff.

The happy hour margaritas are only $2.00. You won’t find better food in the entire Clearlake area. It’s one of the best places to get the real thing. Great prices and prompt service! The food comes in huge portions.

The only drawback is the shortage of parking. Well, there’s actually a lot of parking, but there’s a lot of cars there all the time.

For excellent authentic Mexican food and great margaritas, try La Brisa. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

I love their red salsa as well as the green, guacamole salsa that they serve with warm chips at your table. I ordered their shrimp enchiladas, which was outstanding.

Note: This is the second in an ongoing series on Why I Love Texas Food

Part 1: What’s to Love about Texas Food

Worth Pondering…

You Can’t Spell Texas without H-E-B

Now Houston ain’t the same without its Channel to the Bay.
And Mayo ain’t the same without the Cinco holiday.
You can’t have Aggieland without the whoop!
And you can’t have tubin’ without the Guadalupe.

You can’t play Hold ‘Em unless you add the Texas,
And you can’t spell Bexar County ‘less you know just where the X is.
You can’t have the handle without the Pan.
And Padre ain’t Padre without a lotta sand.

There’s so much to love about Texas,
That’s why Texas is home for me.
Can’t find any place on Earth like Texas.
And you can’t spell Texas without H-E-B.

—Written and sung by Jack Ingram

Read More

What’s to Love about Texas Food

Texans take their food as seriously as they do their football.

Black's Barbecue is Texas' oldest and best major barbecue restaurant continuously owned and operated by the same family. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Black's Barbecue is Texas' oldest and best major barbecue restaurant continuously owned and operated by the same family. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you slander their vittles, they’re apt to defend their deep-fried passion as though you personally launched another attack on the Alamo.

Necessity has frequently mothered our creations, and early Texans had to make do with meager supplies, which is how they wound up with frugal favorites like chicken-fried steak and fried pies. Such resourcefulness produced foods that bring us endless gratification today.

Many Winter Texans and other visitors to the Lone Star State have the good sense to agree with them—that Texan food is that of the gods.

Little Known & Great Places to Eat

Sure, there are thousands of great places to eat scattered throughout cities and towns all across Texas, and a Main Street Cafe on just about every corner of every berg from Wink to Brownsville. But there are those really special places that qualify as the Best of the Best—the unique and extraordinary—the unusual, and just plain great places to eat. They shouldn’t be missed when traveling down the highways and byways of Texas.

Take a tour of some of our personal favorites and schedule lunch or dinner next time you’re in the neighborhood. These are spots you can’t afford to miss. Bon Appetite!

1. Texas Barbecue

The meat that’s most often used in Texas BBQ is beef. And among the various beef cuts, brisket is hands-down the most popular. There’s something about taking a tough piece of meat like a beef brisket and turning it into a tender and delicious masterpiece.

Another difference is the barbeque sauce. Every Texas barbeque lover knows that there is nothing like the original Texas BBQ sauce. This famous sauce has a sweet and spicy, tomato-based flavor that is thick and delicious.

2. Chicken-fried steak

Born on the cattle-driving trail, this Texas staple was poor folks’ food, as the cowboys ate pretty much what their coosies (chuck-wagon cooks) could scare up. Longhorn was a tough beef, so the coosie pounded it until tender with whatever tools he could find, then dredged it in flour and fried it up in a Dutch oven. Texans by the thousands now savor it on a daily basis.

3. Shrimp

When in the Clear Lake/Galveston area we head for Rose’s in Seabrook for a supply of shrimp. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The shrimp fleet that fishes the Texas Gulf Coast is one of the world’s largest, and there isn’t a place where you can buy this delectable crustacean any fresher or tastier. When in the Clear Lake/Galveston area we head for Rose’s in Seabrook for a supply of this fresh crustacean. Back in our motorhome Dania whips up a fresh feast for dinner while freezing the rest for our future eating enjoyment.

4. Blue Bell Ice Cream

I consider ice cream to be a food group—and there’s no better ice cream available than Blue Bell. In late August 1907, the Brenham Creamery Company opened its doors to sell butter. By 1911, they had put together milk, cream, eggs, and fruit fresh from local farmers and were making a gallon or two of ice cream daily, packing it in a large wooden tub with ice and salt and delivering it by horse and wagon to neighbors. By 1930, Blue Bell Creameries had been born, and today their ice cream is a true Texas favorite.

Made in a multitude of flavors—Pecan Praline ’n Cream, Buttered Pecan, Caramel Sundae Crunch, Spiced Pumpkin Pecan are tops with me. 

5. Pecans

Did someone mention pecans? In the autumn, pecan tree branches become heavy with their bounty of nuts, and the delicious fun begins soon after harvesting. Grown in some 150 Texas counties, Lone Star pecans come in such varieties as Desirable, Western, Pawnee, Cheyenne, Cape Fear, and many more. Enterprising cooks make batches of spiced pecans, pralines, and fudge.

What's your favorite flavor of Blue Bell ice cream? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
What's your favorite flavor of Blue Bell ice cream? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Note: This is the first in a ongoing series on Why I Love Texas Food

Worth Pondering…
You Can’t Spell Texas without H-E-B

No you can’t have Antonio unless you got the San.
And you can’t have the Valley without the Rio Grande.
It ain’t Texas barbecue without the Mesquite smoke,
And Austin’s gotta have its Hook ‘Em Horns and Broken Spoke.

It ain’t the Hill Country if it doesn’t have the hills,
Or Fredericksburg or Dripping Springs, or good ol’ Kerrville.
It ain’t the Texas flag without the Lone Star,
And without blackeyed peas, it ain’t Texas caviar.

There’s so much to love about Texas,
That’s why Texas is home for me.
Can’t find any place on Earth like Texas.
And you can’t spell Texas without H-E-B.

—Written and sung by Jack Ingram

Read More