During our stay in the Hill Country, I found a great article in Texas Monthly called “The Best Small Town Cafes in Texas,” and mapped out our eating route where we would get to try out some of these hidden gems. If you’ll be traveling through the Lone Star State, I highly recommend printing yourself a copy of this article and keeping it handy.
If there’s ever a state that could turn me into a carnivore, Texas would be it. As we drove across West Texas and into the Hill Country, BBQ aromas wafted out from so many eateries along the way, that, even I, a 23-year vegetarian, had a hard time turning down the flesh.
But I stayed true to my convictions, because we all know that aromas are oftentimes more powerful than taste. Whenever I get close to pondering what a spare rib would taste like after all these years, it’s pretty easy for me to turn it down, once I consider what meat would do to my guts (ick), and the guilt I would feel after eating it.
Luckily, as I discovered at Paula Deen’s restaurant in Savannah, southern cooking has a huge variety of side dishes (some with vegetables!) that I enjoyed, as well as catfish done up every way imaginable. Plus, with the Tex Mex influence, I was happily chowing down on beans, tortillas and all sorts of mismashes of southern and Mexican dishes at the same sitting (like homemade mac and cheese and pinto beans!) wherever I went.
Granted, most of the food in Texas is made with a TON of sugar, bacon fat and salt, but if you’re an easy-going vegetarian like I am and can look the other way, then you won’t starve. You won’t stay skinny (check out these Texas-sized onion rings!), but you’ll certainly eat some of the best downhome cooking in the U.S.A.
Not when it comes to Allen’s Fried Chicken in Sweetwater! This home cookin’ haven was listed in the Texas Monthly article as Ma Allens, and has to be one of if not the best regional food experience from our entire trip to date.
The food is served family style, and there’s lots of it. Both food and that down home family feeling that is. We waited in line outside the small nondescript building for just a few minutes before joining a party of bikers from Lubbock, at a table with teo seats left.
These good folks were practically regulars, and knew what dishes to ask for, like butter potatoes! But the dishes kept coming, roast beef, cole slaw, okra, squash, mashed potatoes, potatoe salad, green beans, pea salad, creamed corn, macaroni and cheese, yams, homebaked rolls … and of course a massive pile of some of the best fried chicken Jim has ever had. Sorry mom.
Moderation? not in Texas.