Old Cafe, Old Sign
I spotted this yellow sign, as soon as we hit downtown Gunnison. An old cafe with a vintage neon sign. How could we resist?
It was the beginning of June, the day we returned. The trees were full of blossoms on Main Street. When the wind blew, it snowed.
We parked around the corner and passed some colorful hanging baskets. The door was open again, but there was no note.
The diner was between rushes, when we arrived. We had our pick of about 8 booths, all cozied right up to the shiny-rough, pine wood.
We sat beneath one of the many nostalgia shelves.
But the entire day ended at 2:00, so we were glad we got there before noon. We placed our orders and got ready to chow.
I look a bit insane in this ready-to-eat pose. Maybe I had too much coffee. I don't usually have coffee with lunch, but Charlton asked if I wanted some and I couldn't say no. He was too sweet and he put my diner mug down on a doily!
Our waitress was a more typical, all business, server. She brought our orders pretty promptly.
My half-order special, was pretty huge for $8.99. Hot open face turkey sandwich, with mashed potatoes, gravy and cranberry sauce... and a container of cranberry sauce.
Don got the daily breakfast special, of Huevos Rancheros with hash browns. Both were nice and hot and flavorful. There was no doily for the china to rest on, but I kind of liked the retro texture of the naugahyde table cover. Or was that oil cloth?
Don did his pose for me. I made sure to include a little peek of the room behind him. The teenagers at the table in the far corner were having a good time.
Treasures on the Wall
I of course had to wander a bit, to check out all the stuff on the shelves.
When the teen table emptied in the back, I headed over to have a look at the best corner. I love kid related antiques.
Charlton was busing tables and I asked him about the child's western attire, displayed on the wall. "Oh, that was my brother's!" he said, pointing ( I believe) to the shirt and boots. He said the chaps belonged to his grandfather or great grandfather. He wasn't sure which. He said the elephant marionette was very old.
Charlton seemed extra excited when he heard we were from Texas. He had family in Amarillo and Bandera. I thanked him so much for sharing with me and asked if he'd want to be in one of my photos. "Oh, probably not," he smiled. "I'd be too shy." I said I understood and thanked him so much for keeping my coffee nice and hot, because he really had. I wish I had a photo of Charlton. I wonder if he was named for the actor?
What's With the W?
I never found out what the "W" was for, in W Cafe. I should have asked the nice man, dining by himself near the front window. Before heading off, I asked him about the sign on the wall, over his head. "I've been coming here since 1973, " he said. "That sign's been here forever."
I never found out the age of the cafe, although I did read that they had a full remodeling in the mid-fifties. That's old! Even older than me. We were a good fit!
Breakfast in West Texas
Last May, Don and I stopped at Lupita's in Fort Davis. The early morning sun was putting a pretty dramatic spotlight on the sweet stone building and the colorful sign.
We were glad to see the lit up OPEN sign. Everything else seemed to be closed at 7:30, in downtown Fort Davis. We headed for the yellow screened door and headed in.
First to Arrive?
It looked like we were the first to arrive that morning. But probably not. Cafes that sell decent breakfast tacos and burritos can have some pretty early local customers. We probably hit a lucky lull.
Made to Order
Burrito on the Go
We opted to take our foil wrapped burrito with us and off we went to Davis Mountain State Park.
Maybe we missed out on the full Lupita's experience by not dining at the tables, covered in oil cloth coverings. But the sky was blue and the view was spectacular at the park.
The Burrito Travels Again
My photo does not capture an important part of our picnic experience. The wind was impossible! After 2 bites of delicious burrito, we wrapped up our breakfast and headed for the car.
We drove with our breakfast back to our nearby lodge, where we found a table on the porch, that was blocked from the wind. Ahhh! The burrito was still warm and we were even hungrier. Yay for a shared burrito from Lupita's!
Whistle Stop Reunion
It's time for a throw-back write-up, about a very fun breakfast... in June of 2017.
There seem to be a few diners looking out the window, eager to see what's going on.
I have no photos of the 4 of us meeting and greeting, inside. We were too busy for photo ops. I do remember our voices were very loud, for the quiet diner!
Don took this photo of me posing with Martha her hubby, Bill. We were feeling happy and stuffed after our breakfast. Martha and I hadn't seen each other since college, (38 years!) so there was lots of catching up.
Don and Bill
Over lunch, Martha had me laughing hard... just as I had expected. We hadn't seen each other since 1979, but we needed no warming up.
An added treat was finding out how easily our Long, Tall Texan Husbands got along. Don and I both had fun talking about Bill's hometown, Mineral Wells. I'm not sure that we took a moment to admire the cafe's fine sign, or those nearby mountains!
Inside the Cafe
I wish I'd taken at least one other photo, but we were too busy gabbing. This does not begin to capture an ounce of the fun we had. I loved hearing the story of how Martha and Bill met... or Martha's tales of NY theatre after college...
It's always easy to photograph your food. So I did. The platter of poached eggs and biscuits with gravy, looks as crazy as I remember.
There must have been a half dozen eggs in that omelet. I do remember the chopped and fried potatoes! Very yummy!
After we ate, we were off to explore the town of Georgetown. We toured the old Hotel de Paris, which was an impressive museum. Then we made a stop at a colorful, sweet shop.
Ice Cream and Candy
We relaxed with some ice cream and left with our candy purchase! Candy necklaces and candy cigarettes! What a perfect way to end our reunion!
Our reunion actually continued the next week, when we met up at The Brown Hotel in Denver. Martinis, appetizers and a tiny bit of dancing. No candy cigarettes.
This past June, we 4 met up in Idaho Springs, Colorado. We "took the waters" at Indian Springs Resort, then shared a hearty breakfast at Marion's of the Rockies. Once again, I failed to capture much of our dining with photos, but the memories are good!
Yay for dining reunions, with good people! Thanks, Martha and Bill!
Lunch in Fayetteville... Again!
It's been over 10 years since I visited this sweet little town. That's pretty crazy, because Don and I frequently drive by the exit, to Fayetteville.
So Don and I made a stop, a few days ago. The pink building looked the same. But, this time I spotted a new banner, beneath the faded happy chef sign. It seemed a little odd to imagine people drinking wine in Orsak's.
Actually there are two buildings that house the cafe. Here I am in 2008 crossing the wide road, that surrounds Fayetteville's town square. I'm giving my camera-snapping sister, the evil eye.
Today, the corner building has one new addition... a wheelchair ramp, leading to the door. There's also a bush growing on the side and some new seating, where a park bench once sat.
But mostly, Orsak's looks the same. You have to love a building with flesh-pink paint. It makes me think of little pigs!
Lunch With Mom in 2008
This is not the world's most flattering photo of Mom or me, finishing our lunches. It was hot that August day, but Mom was happy. Jennifer and I had taken her off for a day of adventure.
Mom loved road trips and small towns. She loved cafes and diners and we found a great one. She had a milkshake with her burger and fries and she was in heaven.
I have bittersweet memories of that day. Jennifer and I had planned this special outing for Mom, knowing that the next day would be a tough one. We would start the process of moving Mom to an Alzheimer's facility... and she didn't know. If only we'd known that all would turn out so well, Jenni and I could have enjoyed our meal, just a little better.
Now and Then
This past Wednesday, Don and I arrived before noon. My view of the two buildings was blocked by a lineup of cars and pickups. Later, I was able to get a better glimpse of the corner building. The cute little building with the chef's image was blocked the whole time. I found a photo from 11 years ago.
I was eager to walk inside and see how well my memory matched. I was totally confused. I remembered the counter and stools, on the right.
The space seemed open and bright and full of diners. Where were those dated, drop ceiling tiles?
The wood walls were painted and covered in license plates and neon. I kept scratching my head. We found a seat in the room with the counter, but I wasn't sure if this was the room I remembered.
A Fine Menu
There were 4 women greeting and attending to tables. Our server was very friendly when she dropped off menus, but she looked too busy to answer my questions.
I headed off on a hand washing mission, to give myself a chance to explore. I passed through a funny little walkthrough connection to find the "Cowgirls Room", in the corner building.
I passed by the yellow wall, with a set of antlers and lots of photos. I peeked into the kitchen, through the window. Then I found the sweet little restroom, that I only vaguely remembered. Luckily there was a sink, so I didn't have to wash up, using the pitcher and bowl.
The Other Room
There were diners in both rooms and I wondered how a town of around 250 residents, could ever have enough customers to fill tables for daily breakfast, lunch and dinner. And I wondered about the Orsaks. Who are they? Who were all the people in the photographs? It wasn't obvious.
Time to Eat
I got back to the table, just in time for the dessert to arrive. I didn't even know my $6.50 feast included a chocolate cake delight! It was hard not digging into our desserts first, but then Don's fried chicken special arrived.
Then my stuffed green peppers and green beans and fresh noodles with gravy was delivered. The dividers on my retro plastic plate did not do the trick well. My overflowing servings spilled into each other. Not a problem. Don and I both agreed my stuffed peppers, (even in their collapsed form) were the tastier of the 2 options. The noodles weren't overly flavorful, but they were a fun reminder of Orsak's Czech roots.
There was a slight lull in activity, when we headed to the counter to pay the bill. I was able to ask about 2 questions. Yes, I was right. The counter and stools had been on the other wall. There was fire, some years back. Lots of changes.
In the car I grabbed my phone. I was ready to Google and find out who the Orsaks were and how long the cafe had been feeding the folks in Fayetteville. Nothing. They have no website and their Facebook page was not helpful... no Wikipedia or random info, not even about a fire. Oh well. Maybe someone will read this and fill me in.
What Will I Remember?
Don and I had a quick and decent feast for about $15.00! Now we have our own memory of the dining in the pink building.
I have to hand it to Mom. She was pushing for the hidden gems, long before that term was overused... long before Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, started spotlighting these great finds. Thanks, Mom!
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.