Eating our Way Across Texas

Chicken fried Steak at Maxines on Main Basrtop TexasDuring our stay in the Hill Country, I found a great article in Texas Monthly called “The Best Small Town Cafes in Texas,” and mapped out our eating route where we would get to try out some of these hidden gems. If you’ll be traveling through the Lone Star State, I highly recommend printing yourself a copy of this article and keeping it handy.

If there’s ever a state that could turn me into a carnivore, Texas would be it. As we drove across West Texas and into the Hill Country, BBQ aromas wafted out from so many eateries along the way, that, even I, a 23-year vegetarian, had a hard time turning down the flesh.

Gristmill onion rings and sangriaBut I stayed true to my convictions, because we all know that aromas are oftentimes more powerful than taste. Whenever I get close to pondering what a spare rib would taste like after all these years, it’s pretty easy for me to turn it down, once I consider what meat would do to my guts (ick), and the guilt I would feel after eating it.

Luckily, as I discovered at Paula Deen’s restaurant in Savannah, southern cooking has a huge variety of side dishes (some with vegetables!) that I enjoyed, as well as catfish done up every way imaginable. Plus, with the Tex Mex influence, I was happily chowing down on beans, tortillas and all sorts of mismashes of southern and Mexican dishes at the same sitting (like homemade mac and cheese and pinto beans!) wherever I went.

Granted, most of the food in Texas is made with a TON of sugar, bacon fat and salt, but if you’re an easy-going vegetarian like I am and can look the other way, then you won’t starve. You won’t stay skinny (check out these Texas-sized onion rings!), but you’ll certainly eat some of the best downhome cooking in the U.S.A.

Ma Allens Fried Chicken Sweetwater TexasAll things in moderation, right?

Not when it comes to  Allen’s Fried Chicken in Sweetwater! This home cookin’ haven was listed in the Texas Monthly article as Ma Allens, and has to be one of if not the best regional food experience from our entire trip to date.

The food is served family style, and there’s lots of it. Both food and that down home family feeling that is. We waited in line outside the small nondescript building for just a few minutes before joining a party of bikers from Lubbock, at a table with teo seats left.

Ma Allens Fried Chicken Sweetwater TexasThese good folks were practically regulars, and knew what dishes to ask for, like butter potatoes! But the dishes kept coming, roast beef, cole slaw, okra, squash, mashed potatoes, potatoe salad, green beans, pea salad, creamed corn, macaroni and cheese, yams, homebaked rolls … and of course a massive pile of some of the best fried chicken Jim has ever had. Sorry mom.

Moderation? not in Texas.

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7 Responses to “Eating our Way Across Texas”

  1. Mmmmm, butter potatoes and fried chicken.

    I’m hungry right now though, and my judgement is impaired. Even Spam sounds good—not thick slices (ugh, like livermush, awful), but diced and served in a jumble of other stuff.

  2. Eric Auckerman May 13, 2009 at 10:10 am Reply

    Whoa, now hang on there Mr. Beef Belly and Mrs Lima Bean There Done That!

    I reared back like a Grand Canyon mule when I read all the puffing up about Texas chow as nary a word was shared about humanities present and future form of animal protein that helped win the war in the South Pacific, I speak of Spam.

    Hormel has been creating spiced ham (ergo Spam) since 1937 and the world as we know it has not been the same since. Say what you will about kidney stones and high blood pressure, but nothing tickles the tongue like ground pig snout, shoulder, sodium nitrate (for keeping its color), salt, sugar, and more salt, and that which our 50th state calls “The Hawaiian Steak” – no doubt friends as it pleases many on the quick and in a consistent fashion (dance around that one Mr. Cow).

    Spam is the easiest and most versitile meat product to produce as well as it doesn’t require ranches or precious open spaces thus avoiding getting the Sierra Club’s dander up, nope, just filthy pens populated with nervous if not anxious little piggies just looking to fit into those cute navy blue cans.

    Spam comes in Hot & Spicey, Less Sodium (25% less so claims Hormel I just say the cans are smaller, 25% smaller if you get my meaning), Lite, Oven Roasted Turkey, Hickory, Bacon (like duh), Garlic, cheese and so on, mmmmm mmmm, the griddle beckons!

    Spam should be natural Texan delicacy as it’s made in Austin, well, Austin, Minnesota but Austin nonetheless. Beef’s days are numbered cause if Spam is good enough for 41 other countries then certainly it’s ready to take it’s seat of prominence in the American diet as well.

    Times are tough in US and so is the beef, I say bust a move on this nation’s most gumable foodstuff/innovation and get the grub-steak that makes no mistake when it comes to delivering a fine and tasty if not sumptuous meal for friend and foe alike (it’s been rumored even Kim June Il enjoys the limited release Golden Honey Grail).

    Now don’t go waving the ‘ole nutrition flag in front of my nose with all that dour talk about “high in saturated fat and sodium”, the human body was born craving these primary ingredients. Our earliest ancestors ate what? They ain’t whatever crawled or had the Sun shining on its back and that was namely mastadon! The mastadon is no more and for one simple reason, it was good eatin’ despite its life shortening ingredients. Today’s piggy is modern man’s mastadon and Mr. Pig has got much to give.

    Like liverwurst or braunscheiger? Then I’ve got a song for you, here are the revised lyrics of a famous Tears For Fears song:

    Snout, snout, without a doubt.
    This is the meat that its all about
    C’mon, I’m serving some pig, c’mon…

    Need I say a more about the ubiquitous and timeless products proffered by our fair and noble hog? Nay! As a musician and pork proponent, I did however take additional musical liberties with an Al Green song where I sing pig praises, you may know it, “Take Me To Liver”, mmmmm, liverwurst, mmmmm.

    So get with it people cause the future is looking bright, well, bright pink! So open those cans slowly and savor the swine cause tomorrow’s dinner is an international winner!

    Reporting from mean streets of Newport, CA,
    Eric out!

    • You make me laugh Mr. Man of Auck. But with your love of all things Spam, I think you might have spent just a little too much time in Hawaii. And you must have missed our write up of the NüRVers Luau Night, complete with grilled Spam and pineapple. Aloha!

  3. I’m amazed you weren’t shot for being a vegetarian. Don’t Texans think not eating meat is unpatriotic? 😉

    • Yeah, don’t dare ask for a veggie burger! But I made up for it by eating Rene’s share, and sneaking some leftovers home! Mmmmmmm fried chicken!

  4. I ate so damn much I was hurting for days. But it was all SO worth it.

  5. You forgot to mention how halfway through this feast the guy at the end of the table asked you if you were vegetarian after noticing you were eating nothing but the side dishes! Or how he claimed that it must be a requirement to be vegetarian if you’re from California. Texans, ya gotta love ’em … or at least their food.

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