Cuba, as in Missouri
With the recent talk of our president visiting Cuba, I was reminded that I never wrote up a dining adventure that we had in Cuba.
It was a dining experience in the small Missouri town of Cuba.
Hicks in Cuba?
I'm not sure how the town got the name Cuba and I'm not sure how the restaurant got its name, Missouri Hick BBQ. Are there a lot of hicks in this town?
I did spot some pretty silly hillbilly humor, though. On the sign near the cedar stairway, the chalk words announced, "We like Pig Butts and we cannot lie."
In the Stables... on the Farm
I loved the cedar tables and benches, beside the barn doors.
It would have made my day if "Old Daisy" the mule had really poked her nose out over the table!
Barrels and Washtubs
The barrels holding up the counter and the tubs holding the ceiling lights were a giveaway, that Missouri Hicks has not been sitting around here on the old Route 66, for decades.
It was all a little too clean. Which is a good thing, when you're fixin' to eat food. And besides we were getting our "authentic retro fix" right next door, at the iconic Wagon Wheel Motel.
Piggy Place Mat
I did love my paper placemat! That
sweet pig was wearing a napkin and ready to dig into a meal himself. Hopefully not pork!
Missouri Hick Beer...
Don was pretty delighted to have a local beer. Missouri Hick's River Buck Ale.
I was amused to see how many different sauce options we had, all lined up in squeeze bottles on our table.
Starch for Me!
Sometimes I just have to go for the foods that I crave!
The "Hick Bowl Mash" seems like an incredibly poor choice right now, but that night I had to have my mashed potatoes with brisket, gravy and cheese, plus two rolls! Yikes.
Don enjoyed a little pulled pork with two sides. He's the BBQ guy, so we both got what we wanted. By the time we finished up, a few other travelers staying at our motel had come over to dine.
Before heading back to our little retro oasis, we swapped travel stories with the new arrivals. We were traveling in opposite directions on the Mother Road, so we were able to give each other tips of all the things not to miss.
We headed back, past the motel office feeling content and lucky. I'll bet the restaurant and motel could be a whole different experience with swarming tourists in sweltering summer months.
But in October, we had some decent food in a relaxed and clean atmosphere... and a fun people encounter to top it off.
The sign was enough to lure me. Not only is the ice cream cone pretty festive, but the name itself is just funny.
The weather was dim and drab last January, so I was tempted to ask them to light up that neon for me.
What's with the name?
Frosto opened as Zesto, in 1950. It was a chain, serving ice cream, hotdogs and sodas. The owner had financial difficulties and needed to get out of the biz.
His manager, Helen only had an 8th grade education, but evidently had a lot of drive. In 1955 she took over the debt and negotiated a reduced rent. She broke away from Zesto, to avoid franchise fees and changed the name to Frosto... so she only had a few letters to change on the sign!
We stepped inside and saw a nice glass block counter dividing the kitchen and dining room. Those expansions came years later. First there were menu changes.
Helen expanded the menu from hotdogs & ice cream to a hamburger menu. In the sixties she brought her daughter on as a partner. Lola was no stranger to the business since she had been working with her mom since she was 10. She added some of her creativity to the cooking and started adding bacon to the burgers. It's hard to believe there was a time when a bacon burger was unique.
The dining room looked like it had been there since the fifties, but it was added in 2011. At least now there's room for the local youth teams, that had been flocking for years.
James Dean or the Kennedys?
I liked the cozy booths, even if they weren't old. We had the pick of a few tables. I could have enjoyed my lunch staring down at James Dean.
Instead we chose the table with some news clippings to read.
We waited for our Toasted Tuna & Cajun Burger and learned about Senator Kennedy's visit to the Crowley Rice Festival, back in 1959.
I studied the back corner for a while, where there was a display of drawings, showing the changes of Frosto over the years.
I so wanted to catch the eye of a dining local to see if he or she remembered Frosto, before it added the drive-thru in 1980... or when the sign actually said Zesto! There were plenty of locals in and out, but all were too focused on their food or conversation to interrupt. I failed in the people encounter department!
I loved this building image with the rounded corners. It looked very similar to the old shape of Mc Donald's, only there was an ice cream cone instead of arches.
Our lunch didn't take long and was served up in plastic baskets. Fifties music played while we shared some tots and enjoyed an old fashioned tuna sandwich and a spicy Cajun burger.
One More Glance
Before heading out, I washed up in the restroom decorated with old LPs, a figure of Elvis and old newsprint wallpaper.
We headed out and I took one more photo, showing the now, boxy building and the busy drive-thru... with BACON BURGER announcement. I'm glad the little place is thriving after all these years. I just hope if they expand again, they lift that neon Frosto sign higher, so we can see it!
A Houston Lunch Adventure
My friends Lorrie and Shari, let me pick a place for a birthday lunch.
None of us had been to Harold's, but it sounded like a fun place with a good story. The purple Chef Gator on the wall got me excited as we approached. And the retro "Harolds" sign appealed to my love of anything authentically retro!
History in The Heights
The Heights is a good place to find real retro, since it's one of the oldest neighborhoods in Houston. What an adventure to eat in a spiffy modern restaurant, housed in what was once a well-loved clothing store. For nearly 60 years, Harold Weisenthal sold suits to locals. Two clients happened to be US presidents.
Finding our way to Harold's (on the second floor) was the first adventure. There was a little construction happening on the new Tap Room, so we entered through the Pizzeria. I had to pause and absorb the fun feel of this colorful space, which obviously welcomes small people!
We headed out a side door and followed the correct arrow up some stairs. We paused to admire an unusual piece of art that seemed to float beside the brick wall. Sorry I didn't take a picture.
We were the first to arrive, so I snapped a few photos before I annoyed anyone. We were given a great table beside the window.
The inside bar looked appealing with comfy stools, but the outside terrace with strings of lights and a fireplace for cool nights, looked fun. Evidently it gets very popular in the evenings.
On the terrace I spotted another Harolds sign. The sign does not have an apostrophe. (You'd never know from this photo) Anyway, I just keep going back and forth, using an apostrophe here and not there, in my write up. I'm confused. The store did belong to Harold, after all.
We were pretty delighted when Allie Jarret greeted our table. She had waved to us when we passed through the pizzeria earlier and then Shari recognized her image on the back of a tee-shirt. Allie, who owns the pizzeria and Harold's, filled us in.
The "American Gothic" image shows Allie with Chef, Antoine Ware.The words, "We Know Our Farmers" is a reminder that Harold's partners with local vendors for the produce, meats... even grains, cheese and berries that go into their food.
... and Maneul
It would be just rude to only show Manuel's back. After all, he kept our water glasses full and gave good guidance for the restroom. He was very pleasant and I just now noticed... his Harold's shirt has an apostrophe!
Wood and Brick
Allie pointed to some exposed brick that was original to the building. Then below she explained how she brought a little of her South Carolina roots to the walls. The beautiful boards came from a barn floor, of a South Carolina cotton farm. The same wonderful wood (with a greenish tint) was underneath the glossy finish of the tables.
From South Carolina to Texas
Allie said she moved from South Carolina to the area about 16 years ago and bought a suit at Harold's. The store had a small women's department, but they had a gigantic mirror in the dressing area. I'm sorry I never got to experience a Harold's shopping spree, but at least I got to pose in front of the mirror.
A restroom visit revealed some fun history about Harold and his business that began in 1950. Harold was just 21 when he and his brother of 23, opened the clothing shop.
Table with a View
Our waiter graciously snapped a picture of us with our food... and our view!
High and Dry in The Heights
Shari and I were quite amused when we were asked for identification after ordering wine. I'm almost a decade older than Shari, so this was much more exciting for me! Honestly, we knew we weren't being carded.
There was quite an artistic, pewter-looking list of the names of Harold's Club Charter Members. Shari and I paid no fee, so I'm afraid we won't be seeing our names on display.
Sandwiches and Wine!
I don't think I've ever ordered a glass of wine with a sandwich, but it all worked. Lorrie and Shari had chicken salad on cranberry nut bread. Yum! I had a pimento cheese sandwich on toasted sour dough. (It was National Grilled Cheese Day) It had a rich, spicy zing to it, which I loved. The chips were homemade and plentiful!
Bottom Line... A Good Mix
I liked the mix of old and new, from the vintage storefront photograph to the colorful painted cow. It was a great atmosphere to chat and linger and eat very yummy food. I had a great time Harold's...or Harolds!
Last January Don and I stopped for lunch during our road trip and found something even more exciting than oysters.
Lunch on a Drizzly Day
I remember driving with my family down the Old Dixie Highway many times as a kid, but we never spotted this place, just west of Perry. It was already 2:00 on a soggy day last January when Don and I drove through the small town. We love stumbling upon places, but we would have missed little roadhouse if we hadn't done a quick internet search.
On a Saturday, the business was hopping with locals and just loud enough that we missed the greeting. "The finest people in the world come through our doors!" Evidently those are the welcoming words that are called out to each visitor, by whichever employee is nearest the door.
Lots to See
There was a table towards the back that was open. We were given a menu and some time to go over the options and take in the atmosphere.
There were old framed photos and lots of seashell art hanging on the walls above the Cypress paneling. We were seated proudly below the original owners who opened the place in the 1950's... I'm guessing.
Oysters on the Half Shell
When I lived in Florida as a kid, you couldn't make me eat an oyster. But I've come around and it was January with an "R", so we ordered a dozen, which looked more like 15 when they arrived on a cafeteria tray. The oysters, which come mostly from Apalachicola, were pretty darn good.
When my fried shrimp & fries with hushpuppies and slaw arrived, I already knew how to use the guava jelly sauce. Earlier, our waitress Tiffany had dropped off an assortment of important goodies... an unopened sleeve of saltines, a basket of saltine packets, a bowl of lemon wedges and garlic butter.
She could tell we were clueless about the guava jelly so she suggested using it like she did, on saltines and hushpuppies. I had to chuckle when I noticed about 16 boxes of Premium Saltines stacked on the counter. It brought back memories of all the crackers I ate as a kid, while my parents enjoyed oysters.
The stools at the counter had cleared when I headed to the restroom, so I stopped to peek at the oyster shucking station.
He kind of grinned when he noticed the oyster "goo" on the knife. He gave it a quick wipe off, on his wrist. I shook my head and asked how sore his hands got after a day of shucking. He laughed and said he already had pretty crooked fingers. "From shucking?" I asked. He assured me no. He broke those fingers diving for a soccer ball... not realizing the truck, (the ball rolled under) was moving.
The Big Surprise
As Don headed out of the restroom, he was jolted by a sudden recording of The Hamster Dance Song, an electronic blast that filled the restaurant. As he made his way towards our table her got a closer peek (and earful) of the real excitement, Tiffany and the pogo stick!
A Musical Treat Since 1960's
Being a proper and enthused tourist, I clapped and snapped photos so much that Tiffany finally asked me if I wanted a turn. Tiffany said she didn't really love playing the thing, but she raved about the owner, Miss Zodie.
Zodie & Pogo Stick
Zodie wasn't working that day, but her daughter chatted as she checked us out up front. She showed us a picture of her mom playing the pogo stick in 1993. But Zodie wasn't the first to play the pogo stick.
Zodie bought the business from Mr. & Mrs. Deal after years as a waitress. Evidently back in the 1960's, when the Deals owned the place, a traveling salesman stopped by and demonstrated the insturment. Mrs. Deal started the tradition and it has carried on since.
On Our Way
Don and I headed back on the road with full stomachs and big grins. I had been eager to have a small town oyster experience, but we got a whole lot more!
Before living in Texas, Don and I spent many years traveling 1-44 to Missouri from Oklahoma.
The billboards for Lambert's, with images of hot rolls being tossed about, made me curious and hungry. But we never had time to stop, until our midwest road trip in fall of 2014.
Time to Pose
Not only did we have time to stop for lunch, we had time for me to pose with the Amish buggy in front.
I really have no idea what that buggy has to do with Lambert's. And I also don't know why I would include this photo, since I look painfully awkward in that hideous outfit.
History of The Roll Throwing Cafe
There's lots to feast your eyes on when you walk in the doors. I liked this painting of Earl & Agnes Lambert, who opened Lambert's Cafe in 1942.
It was their son Todd, who started throwing rolls back in the '70's, when he took over the biz. He was carrying a panful of rolls through the cafe one day, when a hungry diner just couldn't wait. The man hollered to Todd to just throw him a roll and the rest is history.
Today, the (newer) restaurant clearly holds more than 9 stools and 8 tables. There were at least 2 rooms with rows of wooden tables and benches.
The walls were covered with framed photos and art. High above, a tooting train, flags, airplanes, a rusty tricycle and a hobby horse filled the space.
We knew this place was serious about food, when we looked at our table holding a roll of paper towels and 2 baskets stuffed with condiments.
The real indication that food was the focus, was in the number of bow-tie wearing servers, flying back and forth, with big bowls and cans and platters of this and that.
All the foods that had been whizzing by, began to make stops at our table. While we waited for our food order, we had our first offering of what they call pass-arounds, which are basically side dishes.
Looking like obvious first-timers, Claudia had to tell us to lay out a piece of paper towel before she plopped out a few spoonfuls of fried okra. I asked how long she'd been working at Lambert's. Claudia said she started about 10 years ago, but sheremembered coming to the cafe as a child, for special occasions. Now, it's her kids who want to come to Lambert's for birthdays.
Of all the foods coming around, I was most intrigued by the dented can holding the drippy molasses sorghum! To me that looked like the most fun pass-around to serve. Evidently there is no real favorite of serving jobs.
Claudia said she'd never had much success with roll throwing. She teased about trying to get demoted to okra handouts. I should have asked what made her like the okra job. She was fun and friendly, so I doubt she was demoted.
I'd been warned about all the festive pass-around foods and rolls, so I ordered light. But look at my salad! It was served in a giant pie-sized, bread bowl.
The greens were heaping with strips of meat, veggies and cheese. Don's chicken salad came with green beans and cucumber salad. Hardly room for pass-arounds.
My Plate O Pass-Arounds!
I had to have an extra plate to hold my goodies.
Besides okra, I had fried potaters, lima beans, macaroni & tomato, apple butter... and that was before my hot rolls arrived.
This was the part I was waiting for. I suddenly heard his voice from behind, "Hot Rolls!" I turned to see the young man smiling near his rolling cart of bread.
I waved that I was ready, but he seemed to be wheeling up too close. "Go back a ways!" I encouraged, wanting a little more fun in my experience.
And he was happy to oblige. I'm not sure if you can see him, way back there. But I did manage to catch the hot roll. I was surprised. It came fast and hard and HOT! I knew from chatting with Claudia that not everyone gets to be a roll thrower.
She said the job usually goes to baseball and football players. Our thrower admitted he wasn't always so good. Another roll thrower admitted he'd knocked over a few drink glasses. I didn't pry about any worse mishaps, but evidently there have been some feisty customers who have tried to sue Lambert's over thrown roll injuries. Maybe one should avoid restaurants that advertise "throwed rolls" if you're so worried about bread injuries.
Appealing to the Kid in Me
Miniature tractors and farm murals sort of delight me.
Maybe some would find this restaurant atmosphere a little corny and gimmicky. But the whole lunch experience appealed to my younger self. In other words, I've never really grown up.
A Trip to the Restroom!
I would have so loved Lambert's when I was a child. As a kid, I could turn the hunt for a restaurant bathroom or even my hand-washing experience into an adventure.
I always assumed my reports were worth sharing when I returned to my family. As a young Beth at Lambert's, I would have had bigger things to talk about than the color of the soap. I would have told about the giant footprints I followed towards the neon sign. Then I would laughed about the stairs I didn't get to climb, because they were painted on the wall. I would have had to explain how I'd "gotten lost", for a while in the gift shop... and that's what took me so long to get back.
What I'll Remember Best
There was lots to absorb during our lunch visit.
I'll remember the staff in their suspenders and bow ties, being friendlier than ever. And I'll remember the food being almost ridiculously plentiful!
And of course I'll remember catching those rolls!
Out of all my dining adventures, I've never had an opportunity to catch food!
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.