Devil's Elbow, Missouri
I remember my parent's talking about Devil's Elbow when I was a kid. They had stories from their youth about the winding portion of Route 66 that lead to the tiny resort town. I pictured an evil and eerie place, but really the town got it's name because of a dangerous bend in the Big Piney River.
Today, only a couple of the original buildings remain. This small restaurant/bar still sits beside the road, not far from a bridge that crosses the Big Piney. The wood framed building looks much as it did in 1929, except the quaint windows are covered with bold, beer and "Bike Night" advertisements.
In Search of Devil's Elbow
The next day, we took the old scenic 66 out to Devil's Elbow.
Elbow Inn Biker Bar
We arrived at about 11:30 on a weekday, so things were pretty peaceful. I had seen pictures on the internet to know the place isn't always so peaceful. I was glad, since it was easier to imagine what my parents might have seen in their youth, without any motorcycles parked in front.
Munger - Moss Sandwich Shop
Back when my parents were babies, a Mr. and Mrs. Moss began selling barbecue in Devil's Elbow. Mrs. Moss married Mr. Munger after her husband died and they used both names for their sandwich shop in the early 1930's. I love this image with the sign in front, making you hungry and thirsty for Old Kentucky Barbecue and Orange Crush!
Picturing my Mom
When we stepped inside I took one look at the old counter with the stools and pictured my mom as a little girl. Maybe she never came in here at all, but I distinctly remember driving through Missouri and listening to my parents talk about Devil's Elbow. My mom said she remembered being very small and stopping with her parents, to experience her very first soda pop. "I remember how it stung and fizzed!" Maybe this was the actual place my mom sampled her first pop!
A New Addition
In the 1930's, this was a sandwich shop, not a bar. I'm also pretty sure the very fine tradition of hanging bras from the ceiling had not been introduced. This was quite a colorful assortment.
There were a few locals dining when we arrived. Kimmie welcomed us and invited us to sit anywhere. I commented on the balloons, "Looks like you're going to have a party." Kimmie chuckled and said the party had already happened. "Oh, we had a baby shower. Don't know why, since the baby was born 5 months ago. Always looking for an excuse to have a party!"
No Soda Pop
You'd think I might have felt uncomfortable dining under a ceiling of bras, with a few men smoking and drinking beer at the bar. (It's been a long time since I've been anywhere that allowed smoking) But the folks were all pretty welcoming. After I ordered my chef salad, I told Kimmie about my mom's story of drinking her first soda pop. She was so sorry she didn't have any bottled soda. She thought that would have been fun to have had an ice cold soda pop in honor of my mom.
The outside of the Ladies Room was curious enough to make my Memorable Bathrooms list. First of all, SOFTTAILS is a pretty weird name for the Ladies Room. Then just getting to the door was an adventure, with all the balloons. Once I got them batted out of the way, I had to tug on the door. Part of a bra was wedged in at the top!
As we got ready to depart, two friendly fellas dining nearby wished us safe travels. Then one stood and insisted we pose for a photo before leaving. "That's what all the bikers do." He said. I didn't notice till later the words "Legalize Freedom" above the white letters. Hmmm? I'm not sure I'd want to talk politics on a Saturday night here. But we had a great visit!
St. Augustine, FL 2016
Strolling St. George Street
It was a year ago, that Don and I wandered down this historic, pedestrian street in St. Augustine. We were almost past the building, when the spotlight forced my eye to notice the short, round monk on the hanging sign.
I left Don outside. "I've just got to see!" I rushed through the wall opening and headed inside to see if the place looked like the restaurant of my memory. I don't remember the space being quite so colorful. I seem to remember dim lighting and maybe even sitting on church pews. But that could just be how I chose to remember.
Hank was eager to hear what I remembered, so I ran out to fetch Don. We joined the others at the tiny bar, standing across from a display of about 20 carved monks.
He offered to go get a robe and put it on for me. I would have encouraged that, but I didn't believe he really had any.
Then and Now
I peeked in the attached room and wondered if that was where I'd eaten before. Hank said his dad opened the restaurant in 1972. Hank took over the biz just a few years later, in 1976, He closed after 30 years, then reopened as a wine and coffee shop. Too bad, since I was hungry.
Hank brought out an old menu with prices that made me hungry for 1972. Coffee for 25-cents and a glass of wine for 90-cents! Frugal Friar Chopped Steak for $1.65 and a Heavenly Ham and Cheese Tostado for $1.85!
Sadly I could not once again dine with the sound of chanting monks. But we could at least have a drink. I had noticed the sign when we entered. "Warm Up... Hot Pirate's Grog" Pirates are kind of the opposite of monks, but a cold front was blowing through the open door and it did sound good.
The couple at the bar from Tampa, recommended the grog. Another couple who had been sitting in the side room came in to join the fun. They'd been sampling some of the many wine options. Hank I believe had been sampling some of the goods himself and was in festive spirits.
Here I am with my sample, but I failed to photograph the final grog. I believe it was made with some kind of spiced cider, heated in the glass cups. Again, not exactly like a monastery, but it definitely warmed me up.
Hank talked about lots of stuff, but I don't think I ever got real answers for any of my questions. I did learn that Hank's dad is still alive at age 88. We also learned that Hank's business is up for sale. It suddenly made some sense, that the side room was cluttered with boxes. Or maybe not. Hank might just be slow about unpacking his wine shipments.
Grapes for Sale
There were lots of price tags, like on the illuminated glass, grape clusters. $275 was a little steep for us, but one couple had enjoyed just enough grog, they were on the verge of making a purchase when we left.
It's odd to think how this next generation will handle their mystery memories as they age. If there's enough cloud storage out there, they'll have a picture for every darn memory. Too easy, I say!
Back in Brownwood
Follow the Cowboys
We parked in the full lot and followed a few cowboy hats inside.
This popular business began in the depression, when M.E. Underwood needed to find a better way to feed his family with 6 sons. He opened this take-home barb-b-q stand after first selling from the house. The Underwoods had a couple more sons and before long 30 dining rooms in Texas. The one we visited is the only one left.
Don and I immediately fell into line and began trying to figure out how this worked. It wasn't the cafeteria of my childhood, where you pay for each item. I was hoping the line would move slowly so I could decide, but the regulars wasted no time and kept things moving.
"Always a Hot Plate at Underwoods"
They seemed to have plenty of those hot plates stacked up. But at one point the line halted when the supply of side bowls ran out. We only had a couple minutes of tension, until some clean bowls were delivered. Whew!
Don went for the barb-b-q spare rib dinner, because someone had to order the well loved food that started the business.
I'm one of those people who likes the sides more than the meat. I was glad the side bowls arrived so I could serve myself and fill them up with mashed potatoes and orange-y potato salad, coleslaw, corn, beans...
Almost to the Good Stuff
Don juggled the silverware, while I loaded more food on my plate. I did not plan on leaving any empty spaces on my tray, like him.
A new tray of peach cobbler arrive just as I got ready to scoop. I asked the young man, which was best. He said the cherry and and apple were his favorites, so I had one of each.
My Full Tray
I'm almost a foot shorter than Don, so sometimes I need some extra food to help me grow. We unloaded our trays and dug in. (I made him carry one of my cobblers, to look less pig-ish)
We feasted in the first of the 3 dining rooms. It was very entertaining watching the families file in, carrying their trays, loaded with dishes. I was tempted to take a picture of couple in Sunday Best, studying their plates below a rifle on the wall. I've never seen such serious diners. I only braved one quick shot on my way out. It wasn't until I zoomed in later that I saw my "first timer" friend from the line. She had spotted me with my cell phone and stood to give me a thumbs up.
A Missing Sign
Usually Don and I meander off I-10 to one of the many small towns for a lunch break. But this little spot was right off the interstate. They had more than 1 sign to alert us. Maybe more than 2 signs at one time.
Cracklins and Boudin!
Actually those bold words written on the cement block wall, did not entice me. But I did want to eat something Cajun, to celebrate Louisiana.
The glass case of meats greeted us when we entered. I was a little afraid to study too long. At least we had read good reviews.
Workmen were using up the few tables inside, so we took a seat at the picnic table under a shady roof. We dined and watched the cars and semis fly by on I-10. Traffic doesn't always move so fast on this route. I'm hoping our next huge pile up on I-10 slows us down at the exit for Lil' Cochan's. I would rather watch the traffic crawl from this picnic table!
Cajun Fast Food!
It's good they had this snazzy rocket aimed over the road. We could have easily missed our stop, since the sign was small and the drive in was hard to see through the parked cars and trucks.
Finding a Spot
So we turned in, right across from a funeral home parking lot. There were big shade trees, but the patio seating was under the big roof, with the cars.
A Crowd at 11
There were a lot of people for 11 am on a weekday. You can't see them all, because quite a few were sitting in vehicles, eating their lunches.
Right off, I loved the red wooden tables. I hoped the locals wouldn't mind sharing one with us if it got more crowded. The people ordering and eating were mostly workmen at first.
eThere were so many things to read on the window, besides the menu that was painted on. I was having a hard time taking it all in when Kelsie greeted me with a big smile. I asked what she liked and she said I'd probably like the pistolettes, which are deep fried rolls, stuffed with crawfish. She said she liked them and she was picky. I placed my order and she hollered it back, then called out a number to the tables.
I had a hard time hearing over the traffic and eagerly went up twice to find out I was wrong. The last time I actually tried to grab someone else's bag and a sweet woman with a cane chuckled about my enthusiasm. Donna, the sweet woman sat near Don and me while she waited for her order. She reminisced about coming to the Drive Inn when she was a girl. I think she said the name had once been Bulldog Den. She pointed to where the grade school and high school had once been. Then she pointed the other way, where Grandmother's house used to sit.
We spread out our feast on the worn red table. Don's burger was pretty much what you'd expect from a burger, cooked at a diner on a gas grill.
Next time, I think I'll skip the Cajun and go for the stuff drive-ins are known for... a banana malt or a root beer frosti, maybe!
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.