Lunch Stop at Dahlia
In early February Don and I wound up eating lunch in Liberty Hill, Texas.
It wasn't our original plan, but we lucked into a good meal at Dahlia Cafe.
Oatmeal for Lunch?
We had intended on having lunch in Oatmeal, Texas. It was my silly idea. I've always wanted to visit the town with the funny name. Surely they would have a diner with oatmeal on the menu!
All we found in Oatmeal was a windmill and a giant "can of oats". Actually there were picnic tables, near one white building. We could have brought an oatmeal picnic lunch.
I did a search on my phone and read about Dahlia's. The reviews raved about great comfort food at the family owned business. I read that "Debi and John" opened the cafe about 15 years ago with about a dozen family members pitching in. We drove 15 minutes to Liberty Hill.
We pulled up and found a parking lot with 7 spaces for curbside carryouts. Odd. The building behind the fence was also a little odd. It was hard to see it well, but evidently there was a 1930's era farmhouse, within that sprawling cafe.
We drove around back and realized this was no tiny cafe. Numerous "ice house" garage doors, looked out towards a wooden deck and towering trees.
We parked in a huge lot and walked through the yard space, noticing lots of fallen limbs. There was caution tape, near some scattered cut up "logs".
The large outdoor area looked inviting, but the tables weren't in use.
The Watering Hole looked like it was the place to get beer during warmer weather. The old table clearly hadn't been used in a while.
For the Kiddos
The kids' play area looked tidier than the rest of the yard. There were so many cars in the lot, but there were no kids climbing on the structure or going down the slide.
There was something a little nostalgic about the old tractor tires and the metal monkey bars. How I used to adore showing off on those bars!
Tree and Caution Tape
As we got closer to the building, we could see that many areas were closed off with caution tape.
Evidently those big trees that offer heavenly shade in the summer, had recently caused some problems during a big ice storm. On the day of our visit, the Texas governor had issued a disaster declaration for 7 Texas counties. Liberty Hill's county was one of them.
The main entrance was on the side of the building. It led us into a long dining room, that had clearly been added to the farmhouse.
The "garage doors" were closed, keeping the space warm. It was surprising that the place was open at all, after the recent weather. But the place was hopping and the staff greeted with enthusiasm. "We'll get you seated in a few minutes!"
Eating in the Front Room
In about 5 minutes we were given a table in an older room, towards the front of the house. The room was smaller and quieter, with fewer big groups. Or maybe it was the paper egg cartons attached to the ceiling, that absorbed the sound.
Don ordered Mother in Law's Meatloaf, made with Debi's MIL's recipe. Don chose rice and mashed potatoes with brown gravy. The meatloaf was huge and flavorful. I had my eye on his biscuit.
Toritilla Soup and BLT
No complaints about my soup and sandwich. Although I should have at least looked to see if oatmeal was on the menu!
The soup was tasty with big chunks of chicken and avocado and tortilla strips. BLTs are always comfort food to me. The amount was just right, for someone who had plans on stealing half a biscuit and most of Don's potatoes!
Wash Up Time
Before we hit the road, I dashed to the restroom. There was one inside, but I could have opted for the funny little restroom that I saw outside the window.
The hand washing trough gave me a chuckle. I can picture kids in the summertime, running over from the playground to wash hands before dinner.
And as we drove on our way, Don and I grinned with our secret. We had recently learned that certain family members... with a certain little one... will be moving to Austin... not terribly far from Liberty Hill.
I have a feeling we will be back to Dahlia's!
Father's Day in Comanche
Don has been flexible about Father's Day, for 35 years. June travels are an issue for many dads!
On Father's Day 2022, we were on the road heading home from Colorado. We had to make it special, so we stopped in the town of Comanche, at the restaurant with the best sign. Miguel's.
Teepee and Metal Art
There was more than a neon sign to lure us. There was a teepee in front.
There was a metal cactus and a pair of howling coyotes. The pink one was hiding behind the plant.
It was 12:30 when we walked across a large gravel lot. There were a lot of cars. It seemed possible that every father in Comanche, was inside dining.
I had a feeling this little restaurant might have some history. And what about the town? There's clearly a history of the Comanches in Texas, but what about this town of about 4,000.
Well the menu told me right away that they'd been around since 1989. That's not so long. That was the year Don became a dad for the second time.
A Comanche Tradition? What did the actually mean? I got a little curious. Was there any connection at all to the Comanche tribe that once dominated much of Texas?
Luckily we were seated right away. Our table wasn't far from a glowing display. There were at least a dozen wind chimes hanging above.
Was this a Comanche Chief? Is that accurate dress for a Comanche woman? I don't think the vacuum was supposed to be part of the display.
There were a lot of crosses on display behind the two figures.
There were crosses of all colors and designs on a few walls. It looked like many of the guests had just come from church. So that fit.
I got up to wash my hands and found a totem pole at the end of the hall. I found more statues that had me scratching my head.
I wish there had been some write up in the menu... maybe about the owner's interest in Comanche history. What's behind these 2 statues? Garage sale or commissioned work? The 2020 census says there are 19 residents who are Native American... I have questions.
There were murals that caught my eye as well.
Saguaro cacti, donkey, rattlesnake, little guy in sandals, with a large sombrero. And a dream catcher hanging above. So many theme going on here. Not sure what to think.
But, I let it go. I was famished and ready for chips and salsa. I would research later.
I only had to glance at the menu and my decision was made. I could have ordered Mama's Chicken or Ladies Plate, but I told our very pleasant server, " I think I'm going to have to order ZT's Special! Because... why not?!" She laughed with me.
My choice doesn't look that unusual, but it was probably the least healthy dish on the menu.
Tamales wrapped in flour tortillas, then DEEP_FRIED and topped with queso! Served with rice beans and sour cream of course! Pretty decadent!
Father Don & Chimichanga
Don ordered Chimichanga for his Father's Day Fest. He looks like he's giving his entree the eye, before digging in.
His choice was actually much better than mine. Mine was all about the surrounding layers and his was all about the filling. His was packed with chicken!
The food was decent and certainly better than a fast food stop on the road. We watched the diners around us, as we ate. There were 2 cute little sisters in church dresses and long black braids that made frequent trips to the Ladies Room.
There were a few cowboy hats and a couple of guys wearing "biker attire," if that is a term. One woman got up from the table and greeted about 5 other tables, as if she was at a church supper. I'm guessing we were the only non-locals.
We finished up and headed to the counter to pay up. There were lots of messages on the wall for us. "Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition" and "Jesus Texas and Tacos".
"AS FOR ME & MY HOUSE WE WILL SERVE TACOS salsa 24:7" Hmm???
I wanted to ask our cashier some questions.
I wanted to ask about some of the decor. Who was behind these collections and decorations? But the signs on the wall and the crucifix behind the statues, sort of silenced me.
Grenade & Candy
So did the hand grenade, above the sign for complaints! Instead I turned my attention towards the "gum machines" on the way out. I didn't have any coins handy or I might have had some fun, for old times sake.
Then I noticed the yellow sign on the glass. "Protect Against Infection". A cow image was used to help us determine "6 feet". Was this farm/ranch humor? I left shaking my confused head. There was a lot I didn't understand.
I think our meal qualifies for a memorable, Father's Day Dining Adventure!
Lunch at the Stockyards!
In late November, I had a fun reunion with good friends, at a new hotel located in Fort Worth's historic Stockyards District.
We didn't spend the night in this unique luxury hotel, but we spent a couple hours dining and exploring!
Since moving to Texas 20+ years ago, Don and I have had quite a few visits to the Stockyards. Here are some random photos from over the years.
We've always enjoyed the cowboy kitschy vibe! But there's so much real history in the 98-acre district. In the early 1900's when the Stockyards Hotel was built, there was pretty much nothing but cattle and cowboys on the brick streets... or were they dirt then?
The upscale Drover is just steps away from the historic former livestock district. But when we pulled up, there were no smells of dust or cattle.
There was a city feel to the hotel, with valet parking and some neon signs. The western decor and friendly staff made it feel more like a relaxed, luxury ranch.
I loved the neon cowboy on the side of the building. Or should I say DROVER. I honestly didn't know that a drover was a cattle driver, or livestock mover... until this visit.
The cowboy nutcracker at the main entrance was pretty impressive. But his face wasn't nearly as welcoming as the faces that greeted, when we pulled up. We 4 felt like celebrities as we climbed out of Christy's car. Staff welcomed us and held open doors... and then the festive lobby greeted us!
Late November was a fun time to visit the hotel. It was about a week before Thanksgiving and the holiday decor was already on display.
My eyes were drawn to the permanent decor first... the glowing fireplace and the 12 spotlighted longhorn skulls! I spotted a TV above the fireplace, (which seemed unnecessary) but the screen was showing some fun, retro videos.
Everywhere we turned, we saw cozy seating.
I loved this nook with all the shelves and books.
There was a classy mix of decor in this bar area. I spotted a saddle, casually resting on the back of the blue couch.
There were no cowhide barstools. Just some modern white stools, a cow skull and 3 crystal chandeliers.
Hats and Barbed Wire
This bar was modern also, but I spotted more western hints in this area.
There was a chandelier made with barbed wire and cowhide chairs. And a few cowboys, (or at least cowboy hats) seated at the bar.
Everywhere I turned there was a perfect set up for me to take a selfie.
But I don't do selfies. And who would want to clutter up this photo with a person anyway. I love the images behind the neon. Old pages of Western Romance novels, I believe.
Down the Hall
As we moved towards the restaurant, we 4 stopped and grinned and commented with every decorated wall and table and piece of furniture. And how about the that circular arrangement of bulbs, on the ceiling! No wagon wheel light fixture here!
This little table was jam-packed with Christmas decor, but it was the wall behind, that had me pondering. I thought they were hanging peppers at first. Succulent leaves of some kind? Pretty fun, the way they were hanging from railroad spikes.
The hotel only opened last March I believe. I'm not sure if they've had time to rack up any famous guest on their register. But I spotted a few famous faces on display. A Western version of Marilyn, greeted folks on their way to the restrooms.
A classic image of the Lone Ranger had me feeling I should raise both hands high.
One More Nook
I loved this little sitting area, near a dramatic staircase.
Each guitar was decorated with a western image. One had the hotel's H-D "brand".
While we got checked in for our table, I studied the trees. They were so packed with ornaments, I wondered if there were really a trees under there.
I loved our host's outfit. I thought she was wearing chaps at first, but I think they were just fringed pants.
97 West Kitchen & Bar
There is evidently seating for 200 at this restaurant, but it felt more intimate. I spotted some fun tables. The long table in the back corner, had a colorful "kids table" nearby! How darn cute is that!
I wish I'd gotten a better photo of the large table, near the open-air kitchen. The backs of each chair revealed their own western art image.
Behind Lorrie and Me
This happy photo reveals more than enthusiasm. Behind Lorrie and me, you can see hat stands. Two were being used to hold the hats of nearby diners. Lorrie almost looks like she's wearing a hat!
Further behind us, you can see (barely) the tops of a 12 heads seated at the long table near the kitchen. A dozen cowboy-hat-wearing-women, had gathered at that table. Just a couple kept their hats on.
Christy and Shari
I made Christy and Shari do a little posing, too. We honestly were just giddy to be dining out together, for the first time since the pandemic! What a fun place to celebrate!
Just to the right of Christy and Shari, I had fun studying the wrought iron chandeliers. I'm pretty sure those were made up of branding irons.
Larry! The Best!
And 3 cheers for our waiter Larry! He was absolutely the best. When asked if he was a real cowboy, he laughed that he was a little more like "Woody" from Toy Story.
Something about his long arms, I think he said. He was absolutely the most upbeat, enthused, efficient waiter and we couldn't praise him enough.
And Larry of course graciously took a photo of the 4 of us, so we could remember our reunion outing.
Take note of the interesting wood and mirrors behind us. There's a lot of wood at The Drover. The hotel is full of reclaimed hardwood flooring. I read that 27 wood stains, are used throughout.
BLT Deviled Eggs for Starts
The lunch menu looked fabulous. We started with this shared appetizer.
Smoked pork belly burnt ends.. bacon jam! Larry was so excited about our mouth watering choice. The mention of deviled egg got him talking about his grandmother, which was pretty darn cute. We had enough to share, but he was too busy to join us. And I'm sure there are rules about dining with your customers.
Soup & Salad
I was so excited about my Creamy Cauliflower Soup. It was picture perfect and I hardly wanted to mess up the swirls. But I'm glad I did. I ate every spoonful.
My Farm Stand Salad was just right, with candied pecans and spinach. It was the perfect combo.
I said I don't like selfies, but Larry claimed his long arms and skills made his the selfies best..
We raved about our meal and service. We had become quick Larry fans and it was only his first week on the job! (I think I heard that right) For every compliment we had for Larry, he gave one back. He searched for a name to call us. No. Golden Girls wouldn't do. We all agreed. Sex in the City? Closer!
After lunch we headed for the back door to peek at the outside dining... for future warm weather visits!.
The covered patio looked lovely, overlooking the "yard" and fountain. The weather was chilly, but one occupied table looked comfortable, near a standing heater.
The tables looked out on an area called The Backyard. What a homey name for a hotel's outside property.
Such beautiful, large shade trees.
A lineup of wooden stools, looked down towards Marine Creek. There was an entrance to The Backyard, from Trinity Trails below. Guests can arrive on bike or foot and stop in for a drink or meal.
Following the Walkway
We followed the path towards another bar area.
I can only imagine how crowded this property might be, on warm summer nights!
It was tempting to step into the fenced in pool area. But it's for hotel guests only.
The lounge chairs looked heavenly and the pool looked inviting, Even from a distance I could see longhorn images in the tile. They were in the process of putting up a 5-story Christmas tree, as we wandered by.
After passing the pool, we took a look at one more bar/lounge.
The space was out right out of a magazine. I loved everything from the metal cactus to the flocked tree... to John Wayne peeking out from a frame, propped against the mirror.
Before we moved on from the picture-perfect-rustic-chic, Veranda Bar, Christy took a photo of me with Lorrie and Shari. We've done a few poses over the years.
Now that I see this photo, it's clear that we girls were missing something. Luckily there are lots of places to buy hats and boots at (and near) the hotel.And no we didn't buy any.
As we headed towards the rear door that opened to the lobby, we pointed out more lovely areas for sitting. Was that a fireplace, beneath the golden logo?
I wouldn't mind sitting on those chairs near the koi fountain, with water trickling from the old pump. We will have to return!
Hotel Drover Adventure
When we decided to go have lunch at the new hotel, I didn't expect to write a blog post. This was supposed to be a yummy lunch outing, focussed on catching up.
We did end up with great food and wonderful converstaion. But the whole outing was much more of a dining adventure, than any of us expected.
Yeehaw for our Texas Reunion Lunch at Hotel Drover! Let's do that again!
Sometimes a sign is all that's needed to get me excited about a restaurant.
Don and I have passed this goofy sign, (north of Houston) about 20 times in the past 15 years. Last week we spotted the sign along I-10. This time we stopped and had a closer look.
Actually the cartoonish catfish sign isn't nearly as eye-catching as the restaurant.
The boat-shaped restaurant makes me grin, every time I see it!
Love a Gimmick
We've eaten in a few restaurants with unusual shapes over the years. I love a gimmick or a theme! Captain Tom's has both.
We parked and followed the walk towards the bow of the boat. It actually looked sort of eerie as we approached. What were we in for?
Then I was distracted by the oyster shells on the ground. I took that as a sign of a serious seafood restaurant.
I hoped to see some oyster shucking inside the boat. I wonder how many they shuck per day at Captain Tom's?
Follow the Locals
"There's the door, on the starboard side!" I told Don. It's important to use your boating terms when dining in a boat-shaped restaurant.
The other diners approaching the restaurant were not playing along with the nautical theme. They appeared to be locals, not travelers. My camera snapping made it clear, we were first-timers.
Lots of Counters
We stepped inside the noisy place and tried to figure it out. There were no tables, just counters. We joined a long line of people standing along the windows, waiting for seats. (This photo was taken later)
There was a system, but we hadn't figured it out yet.
The main part of the boat's bow, was taken up with a huge U-shaped counter. Guests could eat their seafood and watch the busy guys in red shirts.
One very nice guy in red, noticed me looking confused and pointed to some vacant stools near the window. He said all the people in line, were waiting for seats at the center bar.
In the U
It was hard to see into the special U, since the occupied stools were close together. I was able to peek through later, when a couple seats vacated.
I could see why it would be fun to sit at the main bar/counter. So many of people appeared to know one another. The noise level was loud and festive. The energy inside the U was high, as the red guys rushed around grabbing beers from the ice filled sinks and delivering plates of oysters and fried fish.
I walked around the U to see if I could find any better seats. The atmosphere was fun, but a little intimidating.
Don and I generally try to avoid super crowded places... with this endless pandemic. I was hopeful we'd find a couple of stools, that weren't right on top of other diners.
We lucked out. I grabbed 2 stools that seemed to have a little more space around them.
Then we jumped back up to read the hanging menu. Before we had time to ponder, one of the guys in red hollered to us from the U. I hollered back, "Large shrimp plate and a cup of gumbo!" Even though we hadn't fully decided.
I wish we'd had it in us, to go for the full raw oyster experience. Maybe if it had been less crowded and we'd felt less rushed.
Instead, we shared a cup of gumbo and a large order of fried shrimp. I was surprised at how quickly our piping hot order arrived.
There was an unusual corn batter on the shrimp. I think this is one of the things regulars love about the place, but it seemed a little odd to me. The fries were good and hot, but we couldn't find catsup. We used cocktail sauce.
By the time we finished up, the nearby guests had departed. I took a quick, (not so flattering) photo of Don. It shows our prize spot in the bow, with a view of the catfish sign.
Trip to the Stern
Before leaving, I made a trip to the restroom in the stern of the boat. I approved of the nautical tile colors and porthole. I tried to peek in the kitchen on the way back. I wanted to see where the shucking was happening. No luck spotting the action.
I made sure to get a photo of myself with the sign in the background. Chances are this won't become a regular stop on trips home from New Orleans. I seized the opportunity.
I took one last photo of Don, exiting on the starboard side.
I must give hime some credit for letting me check out Captain Tom's.
The Port Side
Don headed to the car and I dashed off quickly in hopes of getting a photo of the entire boat.
It was actually impossible. I walked all the way around and this was the best I could capture. It looks like the boat is sailing on a sea of Oleanders!
"Big John's Feed Lot by Brenda"
Last June, Don and I stopped for lunch at "Big John's B-B-Que"...
Or was it "Big John's Feed Lot by Brenda" ? That's the very odd name that was listed on the internet.
Tiny Red Shack
Even with Mapquest we got lost in the somewhat desolate outskirts of Big Spring. We flew right by little red diner.
The gravel parking lot was humongous, in comparison. By 11:30 it was practically full. Our Subararu looked very out of place with all the pickups.
The little building reminded me of a summer camp bunkhouse or maybe a little red school house.
The corrugated metal walls had been spiffed up with red paint and there was a potted plant, but I was a bit intimidated. Was this place even safe? There seemed to be some kind of swinging cage-door and a padlock. I hoped non-locals would be welcome.
I paused to let John Wayne greet me from a window. I admired the rustic wood accents and Uncle Sam popping up.
I wished I could peek in one of those windows to check the place out, but I couldn't see in. There was reflective silver foil, covering the glass. No peeking allowed.
Cozy and Welcoming
We headed for the door, which had a nifty spring on it. There were a number of people waiting to be seated and no room to step inside. I hope we didn't let in too many flies, since it took a minute before we could step all the way in.
But a busy place is a good sign and I didn't mind waiting. I studied the painted concrete floors and the rustic pillars that appeared to hold up the ceiling. Or was that the roof? The "ceiling" seemed to be a tricky combination of chickenwire and black plastic liner.
There were numerous servers bustling about. They all seemed in decent spirits. One led us to one of the 8 tables, in the front room. We were surrounded by rustic decor. Lots of John Wayne images!
There were lots of repurposed containers holding plants. I wondered how they could grow without window light.
Our server was friendly and very busy, waiting on lots of hungry workmen, a seated in our area. There seemed to be a lot of trucker hats, hunkering over Styrofoam plates, piled hight with BBQ. There was a lot of tea drinking going on.
I studied the menu for something that wasn't bbq. I also studied the title of the menu. Who was John and who was Brenda? And what was the deal with feed lot?
Hand Washing Time
After placing our order, it was hand washing time. Always a wise idea, but mostly it gave me a reason to check out the other dining room.
The big room was packed with diners and more John Wayne decor. On the wall, there were some cowboy hats and twinkly lights and I spotted the same curious ceiling .
I didn't have time to read all the signs, but the one next to the deer head stood out. "God Made... Jesus Saved... Texas Raised" Oh my.
Eventually I stepped through a drink station, to find the door to the single bathroom. As a raised my fist to knock, the door swung open and I was face to face with a tall man. Awkward. I stepped inside the airline sized space and accidentally let the spring loaded door slam. I let out a yelp of surprise and quickly washed my hands. I kept a distance from the toilet, with its plywood tank cover. Is that even okay? When I opened the door, I was greeted by a smiling man in a cowboy hat. My flipflop stumbled over a bump in the threshold, as I tried to get around the man. We both laughed and by the time I stepped back into the dining room, a table of ladies was hooting. They'd witnessed the amusing scene.
The laughing ladies were a fun bunch. We ended up chatting. One said she'd been coming to Big John's for 40 or 50 years... back when Big John owned it. I asked about Brenda and they pointed her out, coming towards us, in her glasses and tennis shoes. They said Brenda and her husband kept all the decor when they bought the place about 20 years ago.
Our food came pretty quickly. Don loves BBQ, so ordered a 2-meat plate for $14. Beans, slaw, pickle and Texas toast took up some of the plate.
His plate looks tiny in this photo, but it was more than he could eat. Or maybe he just wasn't thrilled with the brisket and overcooked ribs. He's kind of picky. Everyone around us was devouring food, so it might have been him.
Salad With Smoked Chicken
I hit the jackpot! My salad for $10. was pretty amazing and it came on a real plate. The chicken was moist and plentiful. There were rings of onion, a hardboiled egg, cheese, tomatoes and fried tortilla strips. Homemade thousand island was extra yummy.
While Don picked at his meal on Styrofoam, I gobbled my salad and also conversed with a diner or two. Everyone seemed to stare as if I were the first person who ever ordered a salad at Big John's. One woman with arms covered in tattoos stopped and begged to know what I was eating. I gushed about my delicious salad and she shook her head and smiled like she might just give it a try.
After we finished up, I grabbed a paper towel from the table and cleaned my hands. No more trips to the scary bathroom.
But then a surprise treat appeared. Our server wandered through the tables carrying a tray of small cups. Complimentary Oreo Chocolate Chip Pudding! A nice little end to our meal.
Don and Stan
We headed to the counter with our bill and got to meet Brenda's husband, Stan. He was a friendly guy who wanted to know where we were from and where we were headed. I asked if he had any idea how many John Wayne's were in the restaurant. "Too many!" he laughed. He said they didn't have room for any more, but people frequently try to add to the collection.
He introduced us to Brenda when she was dashing by with her hands full. They seemed like a good team. He was calm and chatty. She was quick and busy.
On Our Way
As we walked to the car, I spotted just a few men lingering in the lot. There had been so many more men chatting near trucks when we arrived.
Just an hour earlier, I'd been worried that we might be getting ourselves into a "why did we come here?" kind of dining adventure. I left feeling content and satisfied. Don maybe a little less so, but we were in good spirits. Colorado bound!
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.