Little Diner near El Paso, TX
Clay Roof & Arches
The simple little building had more cars in front when we pulled up. We doubted any of them belonged to tourists.
The open sign greeted us, around on the side. We headed into an enclosed patio space, with picnic tables and lots of bubble gum machines.
The diner opened in 1976 with only 3 tables. The main room had a few more than that, today.
This photo was taken when we checked out, but earlier the tables were occupied with locals, all talking with each other. A smiling woman greeted us from behind the counter and asked if we were dining in or taking out. Then she welcomed us to sit anywhere.
Once a Porch?
We headed for the long front room, lined with windows. I'm guessing at one time this space was for open air, patio dining. We took a seat next to one of the arched windows. Susie our cheery waitress arrived right away. She didn't make us feel at all out of place, for being first-timers and asking lots of questions.
Susie said the Gorditas were the most popular item on the menu. She also suggested Chile con Carne Bowl. Don ordered the verde and it had quite a spicy zing!
My meal looked very festive on the purple-blue plate. The gorditas were gigantic pockets made with masa, corn dough. The fried treats were curiously crunchy and chewy. I had 3 different ones. 1 Chile Verde and 1 Barbacoa and 1 Avocado, which was just oozing with creamy, fresh avocado! I couldn't finish, even with Don's help.
Susie and Don
Don had quite a good, chatty time as he checked out with Susie. She was excited that we'd come all the way from Houston. Although she did remind us that even though they might seem like a small place, they were sort of famous.
She pointed us to the wall display, showing their VIP guests. Of course the picture of Prez Bush, was from when he was governor... so not exactly recent. Edward James Olams (from Miami Vice) had visited just a while ago and she seemed pretty excited about that.
Before taking off, Susie grabbed us a fresh tortilla and placed the piping hot disc in foil. We could hear the tortillas being made in the other room. "They're just too good when they're hot!" She encouraged us to eat it in the car, while it was still warm.
Fun stop on our road trip!
Catfish Parlour in Austin, TX
Mostly though, I was lured by the sign!
Early on Sunday
There was only one car when we pulled in at 11:10 am. The church crowd was still at church, but we headed in.
Love a Parlour
I kind of love any place that calls itself a parlour. It brings me back to my childhood visits to Silver Dollar City in Branson, where everything was a saloon or parlour.
Orange and Green Booths
Only one table was taken, so we had quite a choice for seating. There were some slick cushioned booths in retro green, down the center. The Howard Johnson's orange booths were along the sides.
Oyster Shucking Bar
We also could have sat at the rounded bar, where a friendly fellow soon arrived, in a black apron and plastic gloves. He said the place would be busy with a church crowd by 1.
We chose an orange booth and our young server arrived promptly, with a bowl of complimentary hushpuppies. The jalapeno sauce was yummy. We asked Fernanda about the age of the restaurant. She thought it had been here 30 years... which meant the Parlour is a lot older than her.
Don got the "light" catfish plate with 3 sides. The creamy cole slaw, mashed potatoes and green beans (with bacon) were all good. The catfish was surprisingly good. We did not sample any sturgeon... but we liked the sign behind Don.
Salmon Salad with Strawberry Vinaigrette
I went healthy, because we were on day one of a 3+ week road trip. The salmon was fresh off the grill and the greens were a nice crispy mix. Don made sure to capture those fine checkered floors, along with my food.
This was a quick dining adventure, but a nice one. The staff was friendly and the food and decor was down-home-cozy-good.
Yay! I finally checked this place off my list, after all these years!
Square One Brewery & Distillery
Lafayette Square Neighborhood in St. Louis, MO
A week ago, I had lunch with my good buddy in this fabulous old building, on the corner of 18th and Park. I loved the building, I loved the location and I loved the company.
I have good memories the Lafayette Square Neighborhood, that go back to the 1970's. The history of this building goes back just a bit further. In 1883 the structure was built to house a tavern.
My First Intro to Lafayette Square
Don and I were last in St. Louis, 3 years ago. We wandered through beautiful Lafayette Park, the oldest public park in St. Louis. We visited my mom's dear friend, Werner.
I remember moving to St. Louis in the 1970's and Werner was just beginning to refurbish one of the elegant Victorian homes, that surrounded the park. The area was in shambles and not very safe, day or night. But the once elegant houses slowly came back and Werner's home was one of them.
Lunch with Werner
It was a sunny, April Sunday, when we visited in 2016. Werner took us to Square One for lunch. I remember studying the old brick and painted trim, trying to remember when it was once Park Place Restaurant. I had eaten there 40+ years ago.
We took a table outside, in the shady courtyard. The atmosphere felt relaxed and casual. I was the lucky one, facing the waterfall wall, surrounded by an ornate doorway. I wish I knew the story about that grand piece, decorating the wall.
Beer at the Bar
Werner and Don were both excited about choosing a beer. I remember that the brew master had many options that day. But I can't recall what they chose.
I was too busy admiring the elegant, walnut back bar. Or would that even be a back bar? The carved arch, framed a leaded glass window, looking out to the courtyard.
I have a photo of what I ate in 2016. It was some kind of vegetarian flat bread thing and I do remember it was mouthwatering-good.
But mostly I remember sitting there in that lovely setting, hearing Werner tell stories about my mom. He helped me imagine my mom in her college days. Werner was also able to tell me a little bit about my grandfather, who died long before I was born. I could have sat there into the night, hearing Werner talk. At 90+ years, his memory was sharp and his stories were vivid. Werner died 2 years later and I feel extra grateful for that day.
Same Place in 2019
Last week, I was excited to take Milissa to Square One. She was visiting St. Louis for the first time. It was damp and cold, so the courtyard was closed. We peeked in the back room, where there were plenty of open tables. But we took a table beside a window, near the old arched bar.
Soup and Tacos
Once again, I felt content in this cozy, historic building. I feasted on my Korean tacos and Beer Cheese Soup. That was my nod to Anheuser-Busch, since they operated a tavern in this building in the early 1900's.
Just like 3 years ago, the company and conversation became my main focus. Milissa and I skipped the hand crafted spirits and sipped on water. But, we talked like 2 giddy old friends, sharing a bottle of wine. Every now and then I paused to comment on my food, because the sweet barbecue chicken and the thick, tangy soup was so yummy, it distracted me.
After we finished lunch, the place was pretty cleared out. Milissa and I looked around at the all the equipment, that helps create the Hopskey Hop Flavored Whiskey and the Cucumber and Jalapeno Vodkas...
I studied some wall art and Milissa thought about buying some Absinthe. She decided $50. was too much and we were soon on our way.
Nice Time & Nice Reminder
I love a pleasant dining adventure that lets me enjoy the moment and the past all at once. Milissa and I had a peaceful, tasty lunch and I was pleasantly reminded of another time as well.
Empresario in Goliad, TX
Neyland Building from 1903
The town of about 1,000 is not really known for the deadly tornado of 1902. It's better known for the Goliad Massacre, which occurred in 1836, less than a mile from the Courthouse Square.
When Don and I stopped for lunch, we had just come from an overnight stay at nearby, Presidio La Bahia. The fort and chapel are part of a State Park, now. They have one guest room available, to those who aren't creeped out by the knowledge of the gruesome history. More than twice the number were killed in Goliad, than at the more famous battle of the Alamo.
An Appetite for History
It was hard to compete with the amazing fort experience, but the old Neyland building looked like a perfect place to chow down on lunch and more history. The long and narrow building had initially been a hardware store.
The tan colored brick had been made, just a few blocks away near the San Antonio River. We should have gone on a hunt after lunch. Evidently, remains of the old kilns still exist.
Don and I took one peek inside and felt right at home. On the rear wall, past the bar, was the same eerie flag we'd slept near the night before. The Goliad flag, with it's severed arm had flown above the fort during the Texas Revolution. It's creepy, but you do get used to it.
High Ceilings and Cozy Tables
The high, tin ceilings, checkered cloths and enlarged historic photos made the restaurant very cozy.
After we ordered I took a peek at the walls, where no one was seated. I loved getting to see the old photos of the building when it first opened. For the past 30+ years, the building has served as home to Empresario Restaurant.
John and Joy Kolb bought the business in 2013. It's a good sign when a restaurant doesn't need to change its name. It's also a good sign when owners confidently welcome you, with a photo and plaque.
It's even more welcoming, when you meet the owner himself. Mr. Kolb was eating lunch in the lounge area towards the back. When I wandered back that way, he introduced himself and wanted to know where we were from.
Mr. Kolb was so friendly, I had to introduce him to Don. Poor guy hardly had time to eat, with all our gabbing. But he was a good sport and even put on his nifty hat for the photo.
Our server Sherry Lynn, was cheery and a little nervous. It was her first day, but she did a great job. Don's meatloaf and glazed carrots were very yummy! My Corn chowder and garden salad was also good, but we didn't bother with a photo... since I didn't match the decor as well as Don!
Revisit in 2018
This past December, Don and I were back in Goliad. There were no cars parked in front, so I got a wonderful photo of Empresario and its neighbor. Both buildings were designed by Danish architect, Jules Leffland. I read that it had been a general store, but I see the words coffins and caskets... I guess the local store needed to be prepared, for another Goliad tragedy.
A Few Changes
I noticed a few changes since our visit nearly 2 years before. There were Christmas lights and the tables no longer had the checkered cloths.
The food was even better than I remembered. Don's massive burger and fries were delish...
But, Don's burger was nothing compared to my chicken fried steak, mashed taters and green beans! Was my gravy poured into the shape of Texas? The knife was big enough to sever my arm, if I wanted to match the flag!
Mission Espiritu Santo
Our second dining visit with Empresario was also connected to a Goliad State Park adventure. This time, we finished our yummy meal and headed a half mile to the park, but we didn't stay at the fort. This time we camped near another mission and heard the bells ring in the evening. After dark, we walked up to see the church, illuminated with Christmas lights. Beautiful!
Two Meal + Overnight Adventures, Goliad!
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.