Dining Adventure at The Barn
We had a memorable visit to this North San Antonio eatery, last January.
The parking lot looked pretty empty when we arrived, just before the doors opened for lunch. The red and white complex looked just as quiet and rambling in the old black and white photo, that I found later.
Earlier, I studied this watercolor image in our old Ford Motor Cookbook.
I knew the chances were slim, that we'd see any cows peeking out windows when we arrived. But it never hurts to hope.
I spied no cows, when I wandered around the building before entering.
The barn-red color and the decorative pieces of farm equipment, fit with the old images. But it was hard to recognize the original building. Where was that upper floor?
Around back, I could spot a higher roof. Was that part of the original Barn Door Restaurant, that Mr. Tassos opened in 1953?
And the little door and windows around the side... could that have been the original tavern from the 1920's? I'm not sure, but now that door is an entrance to a Speakeasy!
Lots to See
We stepped inside at 11:30 and the staff was geared up and ready for a busy Friday lunch.
I wouldn't have minded a wait, since there was an awful lot of stuff to look at. But, the hostess was eager to guide us and we were hungry. We followed her past the meat market.
We passed by an illuminated case of fresh pies!
We headed down a cement walkway, covered in horseshoe prints. It was clear that we were "first-timers" the way I studied our surroundings as we walked.
There seemed to be numerous dining rooms. We were seated in the original room, where Mr. Tassos first began offering no-frills, down-home Texas cooking... with a spotlight on beef.
Don and I were right at home sitting on captain's chairs. We sit on them at home.
Across the room, there was one very curious table that I should have asked about. The carved legs looked like little men, struggling to hold up the weight of a huge, table feast!
Windows and Walls
There was a lot to look at, next to our table. There were framed news articles and photos and a couple of windows that didn't look outside.
I was curious and had to investigate. I discovered "The Window Room" and "The Egg Room", which was named for the egg cartons, that were once attached to the ceiling. Sound proofing, I believe.
This old photo of the main dining room looks a little different. They no longer have fancy red chair covers. They also don't using "hams" hanging for decoration.
The grill is still in the same place, along the wall.
We were just seated a moment, when our server Ally appeared with waters and menus.
Right away, I recognized the watercolor art on the menu. Our cookbook from 1963, had the same image, along with two recipes.
We couldn't have asked for a better server, to help us enjoy a cookbook adventure. Before I pulled out the book I asked if they had Garlic Dressing. She answered with enthusiasm. "Yes! We serve the original garlic dressing with our house salad!" I pulled the book from my bag and pointed to the recipe. I asked if the old recipe looked the same as the one they use now.
She studied the page and said it was. Then her expression changed. "What is this!" I laughed and told how we used the old Ford Cookbook, like a crazy treasure map, while traveling. "We hunt down the restaurants that have managed to survive the test of time." Ally loved that idea.
Garlic Dressing and Grilled Chicken
Ally was young, but she clearly enjoyed the history of the restaurant. She seemed totally delighted that we were taking interest. I was pretty giddy when my salad was served. I poured the tasty Garlic Dressing from a syrup container!
I ordered chicken, grilled across the room. My nicely browned chicken, was juicy and flavorful. Green beans, mashed taters and a big old dinner roll. I was happy!
Meeting the Owner
Just as we finished our meal, a visitor arrived. Randy Stokes graciously introduced himself, then laughed, "I've got to see that book!"
He squatted beside the table and studied the recipe. As he flipped through pages, he asked us where we'd found the book. We asked him about his 8 years of ownership. The 3rd owner since 1953! It was nice to hear his thoughts on finding the right balance... rescuing the old and renovating, just enough! He had an appreciation and understanding for the faithful regular customers, who don't always want change. That's a tricky thing to please old and new customers, but he seems to be doing it very well!
The dining room had filled up by the time we finished. I took another look at some of the photographs on our way out.
After studying these photos of the well-loved Grill Master, I met the late Sonny Cochran's nephew, "Junior". We stood and talked a bit about his late uncle. Junior admired his uncle and seemed pleased that I was taking time to learn about him.
I couldn't stop studying all the old photos!
He was extra excited about this bird's eye photo, that showed the old restaurant, before housing grew up around it.
So Many Rooms
Don and I wandered through all the different rooms. This place must be pretty fun in the evening!
We found the same print from the cookbook and menu, framed on the wall.
More Book Sharing
They also shared a genuine appreciation for the restaurant's history. Since Don and I seek out older, family owned restaurants, we know this kind of staff is sort of unusual. There was such a positive energy in this staff!
Just when we were almost out the door, we were stopped once again by someone who wanted to see the book. I believe this super nice guy, was another of Sonny's nephews. (didn't catch name) He and Don talked forever.
While they chatted I ran in the bathroom, where I noticed an announcement on the wall. The restaurant would be closed for a staff party soon. A party? What restaurants close down to offer a night of fun, for the staff... when they could be making money?
A restaurant, with an owner and staff, that work together like family! We left feeling like we'd been to a family reunion. How nice to be welcomed by so many, during our little lunch outing!
It's been over 7 months and I hope they're doing well during this pandemic. I so hope to get back and enjoy and evening at the Red Barn!
Late Lunch in Louisiana
Today, I'm thinking back to one of the last dining adventures we had before Covid.
This past February, Don and I spotted this colorful building and neon sign, on our drive into Nola. It was Mardi Gras time and we spent a couple of days enjoying parades.
We caught lots of beads and luckily caught no Coronavirus. We had no idea what was brewing at that time!
Out to Charles Sea Foods
On our second day, we were hungry for some Louisiana cooking. We wanted to avoid restaurants, near parade routes.
My brother suggested we drive out to Harahan, on Jefferson Highway.
The cozy place was hopping, but there were tables available.
The low key family atmosphere was a welcome sight.
I had a good time checking out all the festive beads, hanging on coatracks and even on the crawfish scale.
There was shiny purple, gold and green garland, draped along the bar. Oh I love some garland!
The table had a nice diner feel. The nifty wooden boat, held all the spice goodies we would need.
While we checked over the menu, I celebrated with a watermelon margarita. I had heard it was National Margarita Day. I'm not sure if that's true.
My plate of fried shrimp was heavenly. I probably should have started with an appetizer of "Alligator Kickers". I regret missing out on that.
Curious Sky and Building
By the time we headed out, the evening sky was adding a little drama to our departure.
I wondered about the building attached to the restaurant. Did the owners once live there? I wondered about the history of the place. I believe it opened as Charlie's in 1951, but that's all I know.
My brother made sure Don and I posed near the classic neon sign.
As I admire this colorful image, I have to grin bigger as I notice the metal awning and the Dr. Pepper sign and the glass block window and that awesome mint green stucco!
I love having this fun little dining memory to add to all the others we have from Nola. My heart just goes out to all the suffering restaurants and businesses during this pandemic time. Makes me sad.
Lunch at the Harbor
Here is another look back to a memorable lunch... back when we could do road trips and eat at quirky diners and cafes.
It was last October, many months before the world turned pandemic. Don and I stopped at this curious, blue restaurant at the far tip, of the South Harbor Pier in Crescent City.
Don and I gave ourselves some added entertainment, before heading in.
I posed with the shark and Don posed with the mermaid. We always make the most of our dining adventures.
Welcomed by the Cowboy
Once inside, we were greeted by a cowboy statue, holding a sign. He told us to seat ourselves.
We passed under a collection of flags and headed towards the wall of windows.
The best table was taken, in the corner.
It had a view of the docks and boats as well as the sea lions.
Table with a View
There were a couple of other window tables open. We took a seat below a display of maps and globes and other curious nautical knickknacks.
As soon as Don finished checking his phone for some trip route info, we hunkered down to check out the view.
The window offered us a fun peek at about 20 sea lions, lounging on 2 floating docks. We also had a view of the distant lighthouse, with its light blinking in the foggy sky.
The sea lions mostly lounged like giant slugs. Now and then one barked and the others chimed in. We watched one big guy nudge another off the platform. Poor guy just swam to the other platform. Luckily we witnessed nothing worse from that aggressive guy.
The menu and placemat reminded me of the old seafood places my family enjoyed when we lived in Florida. I love a good retro, seafood joint.
I was surprised to see on the menu that the biz had only been around since 1988. A quick internet search told me the place had once been a boat engine, machine shop business. So there probably were some interesting stories. But the young servers (none looked over 20) wouldn't have known them.
I ordered a half of a grilled tuna salad and cheese sandwich, with a cup of smoked salmon chowder.
Yum! It was just the right amount. The soup was thick and chunky, with a little spice.
Don had cod fish tacos. He wasn't overly delighted, but I loved his slaw.
I took a quick peek around, on my way to the Ladies Room.
I took in all the nautical decor. I do love a theme.
The bicycles and kiddie car didn't exactly fit the them, but I'm always happy with some entertaining nostalgia stuff.
There was a little reminder near the front door. I used to hate signs like that when I was a kid.
My best surprise came when I opened the door to the ladies room!
You have to love this special piece of art! Birth of Venus, modified to include the very lighthouse that we had been studying across the harbor.
On Our Way
We finished our meal and headed out.
We wandered a bit before getting back on the road. We spotted a few fishing boats.
We especially enjoyed a trio of snowmen, made with circular fish traps. Or something!
Before leaving the little coastal town, we drove out to get a better view of the lighthouse.
What a pretty little building, with it's glowing light! What an odd little town and restaurant. Worth the stop!
Lunch in October 2019
On this muggy July day in Texas, I'm remembering a chilly outing in Oregon.
Don and I enjoyed a cozy lunch with our daughter, in this fabulous stone building, last fall.
What a treat to have Heidi drive us out from Portland, to see Multnomah Falls.
It was early enough when we started our hike, that the bridge wasn't jammed with tourists. We hiked long and high enough to work up a good appetite and enough warmth, to shed our coats.
Completed in 1925
The 95 year old lodge looked picture perfect, sitting at the base of the falls.
The lodge no longer houses overnight guests, but they had a restaurant and there was smoke coming from the chimney, just like the old photo.
The gift shop on the first level was swarming, but when we headed up to the restaurant, we found the dining rooms calm and inviting.
I wondered about the stairs behind the host's desk. I was told there was just storage upstairs now, but the staff was once housed there. I really wanted to steal the lodge model that was on display. Very cute!
The main dining rooms were to the left, but I peeked at few extra rooms off to the right.
The old lodge furniture made it easy to picture guests staying here, back in twenties and thirties. There were only 5 guest rooms, originally. They became offices in the 1950's.
There were a couple options for tables. The great room was original, with stone walls and soaring ceiling.
Evidently most people request the newer atrium, with views of the falls and lush green growth.
Near the Fire!
I always opt for dining in the original part, when there's a choice.
Our table wasn't far from the fireplace, with a real cracking fire! There were dramatic light fixtures, reminding me of a haunted castle. And the vintage artwork, showed scenes of the falls and mountains.
Vintage Place Setting
I was delighted with the retro placemat and china.
I was quite entertained with the trivia on my mat. Multnomah Falls is the second highest year-round waterfall in the U.S.!
Heidi looked the part in her sweater and knit cap, as she dug into her poached eggs and hash browns.
Don also was tempted by the breakfast options. He had a salmon-scramble, also with hash browns.
I couldn't resist having potato bacon soup, on a chilly day. Don shared some of his toast and that made it perfect. All was yummy and the atmosphere was casual-comfy!
As I write this up, our hot weather has turned to steamy storms. I'm looking at these photos longingly. Plaid shirts and jackets AND a cozy meal served in a lodge in Oregon! It's Pandemic July 2020 and I haven't eaten in a restaurant since early March.
Dreaming of the future!
Small Town Texas
Today, I'm remembering a little feast from four years ago.
We were passing through the small Hill Country town of Chappell Hill and spotted the Lazy Mule. I liked the Mule X-ing sign.
Don and I were traveling with our son. Scott and I stepped inside to see if the saloon served food. We met Larry. At least I think his name was Larry. He was actually sweeping the floor when we first entered.
Larry told us he could heat up some pizza for us, but mostly the place was for drinking. It was a saloon, after all. We passed on the pizza and had a good time chatting.
Randy told us to feel free to look around. I admired the raccoon with his Mardi Gras beads and his jar of peanut butter.
I also noticed a list on the wall, with names of all the businesses that had been inside this funny little building. The first on the list was Zientek Grocery. Pretty funny, since some of my husbands relatives spelled his family name that way!
I wish I could remember better, the story that Randy told us about the building being moved. "There were people inside drinking. They just rolled it on down the road." I'm not sure if that was a tall tale.
Moving Ourselves to a New Location
With hopes of something besides frozen pizza, we headed off down the road.
There's not a whole lot in the rural unincorporatated community of Chappell Hill. But we did find a cafe/meat market.
And the business had been around since 1939! I love a cafe with history.
I'm always game for sitting at a counter, but that's harder with 3.
We passed up the cute red stools and headed for a table with a red & white checkered, vinyl cloth.
During blue bonnet season, I believe this place gets some tourist traffic. But it was just us and a few locals on this afternoon.
I can only make a guess about what we ate, by looking at these photos from my computer.
I do remember thinking the hamburger, wrapped in red and white paper, was pretty classic.
I went for the baked potato and Scott had good old chicken fingers, fries and gravy. He must have shared a chicken finger with me. Surely my potato didn't come with that. ? As I recall, the food was tasty and the atmosphere was very small town comfy.
When we finished, we paid up and took a visit to the adjoining market.
I'm pretty sure that Dziekuje was the name of the family that owned the biz... or once did. I wonder if the "Sweet Treat" rack was from 1939. There were some mighty fine sweet Honey Buns and Donuts for sale, but we didn't buy.
We didn't buy any potatoes or onions, either. I would have bought that wonderful wooden holder, if I could have.
I loved the old photo of the original shop. I'll be they still get lots of cowboy hats at the cafe. And I wonder if they had Dr. Pepper on the menu?
This is a super lame write-up, but it is July 19, 2020 and I am not going on dining adventures during the pandemic. My biggest adventure today involved finding these old photos on my computer!
The Dining Blog
This is a blog about Dining Adventures. Sometimes, I talk about food. Below, you can read how this started.
On July 4th 2011, I set a goal to try 50 culturally diverse restaurants in one year! (I knew that was possible, living in the Houston area) I spent the year pulling in friends and family to join me, on some unusual dining adventures. I met some curious people, tried some scary foods and explored places and cultures I never would have otherwise. Even though I met my goal, I learned too much to end my adventures in dining. I have continued blogging about memorable dining adventures of all kinds, near and far... and all the discoveries and funny things I've learned along the way!
Locations and types of dining adventures, are listed further down.