Love the Signs!
Sometimes you just have to pick a restaurant because of their cool signage... even when the sign confuses you a bit!
It was a bright summer day when Don and I spotted this unlit neon sign, with smiling face, tiny mustache and chef's hat. Was this an Italian restaurant? Wait, what about the blue sign shaped like Texas? Cowboy steaks maybe? And the words on the stone wall? (Gonzales Restaurant) Yum... enchiladas? I was up for any and all!
Corner of Texas Highways 83 and 67
The restaurant was just sitting there right on the corner of 2 highways, when we pulled into town on the last day of a long road trip.
We hadn't heard about the place. No help from Yelp. No guidance from articles. No word of mouth. These finds are always extra fun... and extra daring.
The OPEN sign was lit, but it was almost 1:30. We parked and crossed our fingers as we headed over. Small town restaurants make their own rules.
On the Corner Since 1901
I read later that the building has been sitting here for more than a century. As we headed to the entrance I studied the stone work above. I wondered how many different kinds of businesses have enjoyed this corner spot, over the years. Then I took a good look at the painted windows. It looked like we would be having a festive Mexican lunch!
Don and I usually try to avoid being the last diners, at any restaurant. There's nothing more uncomfortable than eating your meal, while brooms sweep nearby and chairs go up on tables. When we stepped inside, we saw no lingering diners. That was not a good sign.
The idea of a buffet at the end of a shift, was also unappealing. But the women at the door welcomed us, with such enthusiasm. And the Mexican decor was fun and we could eat quickly and get on the road! We stayed and found a few decent foods at the Fajita and Salad Bar Buffet. Best of all, we ended up having a fun time chatting with the staff.
There was a lot of playful banter between the folks running the place... I believe 2 sisters and a brother? They happily included us in their weather talk, when they found our we were from Houston.
"Oh it was 114 here yesterday! I remember when I was a kid, the weather never bothered me. I could be out picking cotton or collecting sheep's wool and I never felt it. Now I can't even work in the garden!"
Eerie Hall & Stories
I took a trip to the restroom and came back grinning. The journey had amused me. The hall had been long and dark. I didn't get a picture of the decorated walls, or the darkened "dining room" where a TV glowed in the corner. I pictured festive family gatherings and celebrations.
When I returned to the table, the ladies began telling us stories about the old building. "It's haunted, you know."
They shared some articles about the old building, which had been a saloon until prohibition. After some years as a department store, the building reopened as a restaurant in 1954. Supposedly Norton, the Cowboy Ghost has been haunting the place for a very long time.
No Signs of Norton
So we had a curious little dining adventure, as our last meal on a a 2-week road trip. Maybe we need to revisit for an evening meal... and be the last diners again!
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.