Texas

charcoaler-drive-in-1.jpgThe Charcoaler in El Paso, Texas, looks like it fell out of time capsule from the 1950s. That is a good thing. A beautiful glass fronted open building sits back from busy Mesa Drive with an expansive lawn stretching to the seriously retro sign out front. This is truly a classic drive through restaurant.

You pull your 1955 Chevy up to one of four speaker signs depicting a chef holding a big sign with the menu on it. A helpful voice crackles on the speaker asking you for your order. You reply Cheeseburger ($1.95), French fries ($1.00), Onion Rings ($1.55) and a chocolate shake ($1.20). “Sorry, we only have vanilla shakes today.” The voice crackles back. You answer that is fine. “That will be $6.19. Please pull around to the window.”

You oblige and pull up behind three other hamburger hopefuls in the queue. When you get to the window, a neatly dressed young man takes your money and hands you three identical white paper sacks, with the Charcoaler logo on them and a small red cup with your vanilla shake. You thank the man and pull the car under one of two 100-foot long awnings, that will shield you form the Texas sun while you feast.

 

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driskill1Treat yourself to the pleasures of well-prepared meals in comfortable settings by starting at the Driskill Hotel, centrally located at the corner of Brazos and Sixth Street. For dinner, the Driskill Grill creates a quiet space behind the busy, noisy Driskill Bar, one of the city’s most popular gathering spots.

The Grill has the look of an early 20th century gentlemen’s club, with dark wood, oil paintings and sconces on the walls. In that elegant setting, the very modern menu draws inspiration from the dynamic world of contemporary farm-to-table dining with a Southwestern touch.

A tasting is a good way to experience the extensive menu. Executive chef Jonathan Gelman’s plates arrive at the table with a painterly touch.

Deep red brush strokes of caramelized beet juice decorate an appetizer plate with tastings of beef tartar, ahi poke, and a Prince Edward Island oyster on the half shell.

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peronisteak.jpgBuffalo Gap is only a few miles south-west of Abilene. The small town (population 463) has a fascinating Historic Village, a must for any western history buffs.

The jewel of Buffalo Gap is Perini Ranch Steakhouse. Located down a twisting dirt road, the steakhouse is in a converted barn with an outdoor patio cooled by lazily turning overhead fans.

Perini's is the brainchild of Tom Perini, born and bred a Texas cattleman. He loves cattle ranching but confesses there is no money to be made that way.

Faced with losing the ranch because he couldn't earn enough raising cattle, his mother told him to turn to cooking, something he had been doing for years on cattle drives. Everyone loved his down-home, ranchhand-pleasing dishes.

That's what you'll get at Perini's. Steaks, fried chicken, ham, chicken fried steak, hamburgers, catfish, and ribs come out on huge plates, designed to satisfy the hungriest of cowboys.

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postcard 1024Though I was born and raised in Los Angeles, I have Texas DNA in my bones! And, though I love California Mexican Food, my heart sings when Bill and I have the opportunity to dine Authentic Tex-Mex somewhere deep in the heart of Texas! If I could, like Tex-Mex expert, Robb Walsh, I would wander the state checking out every small eatery in every town. So, on a recent trip to Houston, we – like homing pigeons - made our way to the oldest Mexican Restaurant in that town, Molina’s and to their Enchiladas de Tejas!

Californians love fresh healthy food; accordingly they top their cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese enchiladas with tomatoes, green onions, sour cream and shredded lettuce. Texans, on the other hand really do love dark n dirty! Chili ‘gravy’ tops their Kraft Velveeta or Land O’Lakes Extra Melt stuffed enchiladas! “Velveeta? Land O’Lakes? You ask, shocked? Yes, my dear. Processed cheese melts differently - more elegantly – and is the real ‘authentic’ cheese of choice (irony intended). Still shocked? Bless your heart!

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