Dining in the Hill Country of Texas

While I don’t pretend to be a food critic, I am compelled to offer some comments on 4 restaurants in or around the Austin area.  Jane and I traveled through lots of little towns recently and the places where we dined deserve some recognition….for various reasons.

Let’s start with Moonshine‘s in downtown Austin.  It is on Red River near 3rd Street and unless you are careful, you could miss it entirely.  They open at 10AM for their famous Sunday Brunch.  And, don’t bother to try to find a parking place on the surrounding streets if you are not there before 9:30AM…..they will be gone.  Just suck it up and pay the $4 valet charge and let them park your car.  We arrived at 10:45 and were told the wait would be 30-45 minutes for the buffet!  And, they will not give you the “buzzer” if your entire party is not there…so make sure any guests arrive the same time you do!  Seating is inside or outside depending on your preference and the weather.  Once our clan gathered, the wait went fast and the buzzer that Jane had in her purse (really, suitcase!!) signaled they were ready for us to graze!  The buffet included several types of eggs, meats, sausages, hot cakes, grits, biscuits, white gravy, chicken fingers, etc., so everyone could seek out their preference.  It was all GREAT….especially Jane’s blood mary!  Five of us pigged out for just over $100…so I was  happy!  I highly recommend Moonshine’s…..you won’t be sorry!

We had lunch in Dripping Springs at a little sandwich shop called Thyme & Dough. It really is a little pastry shop that offers sandwiches, various soups, and baked goods.  Not fancy, but very functional for the traveler on the go!  The roast beef sandwich was served panini style and was excellent.

If you are ever in Blanco, Texas (and I can’t really imagine why you would want to go there intentionally) there is a hole-in-the-wall called Rockin’ R Steakhouse near the courthouse in the center of town.  Jane and I had a tough time convincing ourselves to enter the door; but when we looked into the BBQ joint next door, suddenly, the Rockin’ R became the obvious choice!  It is the kind of place you would expect to see the ghost of Waylon Jennings.  A young Texas lass in her late teens or early 20’s (in a dress that could have been worn to the local high school prom) seated us right in front of the open grill where the chef was preparing dishes for the clientele. At first glance, one could have assumed that the chef was also the mechanic at the local garage….tattos, scruffy beard, and dirty apron!  Almost immediately upon being seated, the waitress, Tammy, a middle-aged bleach blond with spiked hair, plopped down the menus and announced, “Please be kind to me !  This is my first shift!  I’m new here!”  We assured her we would “be kind!”  Then Tammy began telling us about the specials that the chef had for that evening.  It was a salmon dish with some topping prepared by the mechanic and, then, she said, “We have a prime for $17 and another prime for $22!”  Jane and I looked at each other, then back at Tammy, and asked “prime” what????  Tammy got all flustered and turned to the mechanic who told her it was prime roast  beef!  Next, Tammy asked what we wanted to drink!  I asked for water (although, I really wanted a straight shot of Jack Daniel’s) and Jane ordered “sweet” tea.  Tammy turned on her heels and went off to search for the water and tea.  When she came back with the drinks, they were served in glasses so large, I felt like a 4-year-old trying to pick up a big glass with both hands!  The drinks were HUGE!  You could have taken a shower with the water in those glasses!  She also brought us some bread which we buttered and started to eat….only to find out that the butter Tammy brought was really sour cream!  I motioned to Tammy, who said, “Is everything OK?”  I told her about the sour cream and she hustled off to bring us some butter.  Jane ordered the salmon special and I choose the filet……medium, please!  Tammy could not convince Jane to order a baked potato with the salmon, although she tried three times…..”So, do you want a baked potato with that salmon?”  Jane was patient!  Off goes Tammy…but, back in a few minutes, “Is everything OK?”  We reassured her that it was all fine and dandy!

I watched the chef/mechanic grab Jane’s salmon and my filet with his bare hand and toss them on the grill…..as he wiped the sweat from his brow with the sleeve of his shirt.  I was careful to keep Jane’s attention diverted from the food preparation in fear she would bolt out of the place.  Finally, the dishes were served by Tammy!  “Is everything OK?”

Jane’s salmon and the veggies were cooked to perfection.  However, my filet was BLOOD RED in the center.  (In some restaurants, it is called “blue!”) I actually think it tried to walk off the plate as I cut into the meat!  Since I had direct eye contact with the mechanic, I motioned to him that my steak needed a little more time on the grill!  He came and got the meat while I wolfed down my salad and part of my baked potato. (I didn’t have the backbone Jane had; so I ordered the potato from Tammy!”)  “Is everything OK?”  Not quite, Tammy!  When the steak returned (this time no longer moving), it was excellent!    “Is everything OK?”

As we finished a very good meal,  I overheard Tammy telling another customer about the specials.   There was  a level of panic in her voice as she tried her best to communicate with some old crotchety codger, who told her that he wanted his steak RARE; and if it was over co0ked, it was going back!  At that point, I think Tammy’s bladder released and her waitress career ended on the spot!  Despite Tammy, the food was excellent at the Rockin’ R Steakhouse.

Finally, on the drive back, we stopped at Meyer’s BBQ in Elgin, Texas (just past the McDonald’s) on the right.  They sell sausages, sauces, and BBQ beef, pork, and turkey!  And, of course, potato salad and baked beans!  It was the best BBQ I have ever eaten; and I highly recommend it if you are ever on US290 in Elgin, Texas.

Since I eat to live, not live to eat, you can trust me on these restaurants if you are in their areas.   You will not be disappointed!  Bon appetite!

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2 responses to “Dining in the Hill Country of Texas

  1. Best BBQ!? I’m down for trying it next time we drive down 290!

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