Sometimes, the most interesting eateries are not housed in anything that looks like a restaurant.
Here are a few of my favorite unique local places to eat in Texas….
Amuny’s Liquor and Deli in Port Arthur, TX
If you need beer, wine, or liquor, they can fix you up, but lots of people go into Amuny’s Liquor and Deli in Port Arthur to pick up sandwiches, po’boys, or party trays.
The bread is made in-house and is nice and soft.
You can take your goodies To Go, but it’s more fun to grab one of the tables near the deli counter and chat with locals while you eat.
When you’ve finished eating, swing by Port Arthur’s Museum of the Gulf Coast for a tour of local history including sports stars from this region like football’s Bubba Smith, and musicians like blues rocker Janis Joplin, a Port Arthur native.
To find some peace and time for reflection, visit coastal Sea Rim State Park, or stop in to Port Arthur’s Bửu Môn Buddhist Temple. There is a large Vietnamese population in Port Arthur, dating from the end of the Vietnam War, which is why you’ll see Vietnamese restaurants everywhere.
(Bonus store food idea) Monday through Friday, you can pick up a plate lunch in the back of Jak’s Pak-it grocery stores in nearby Beaumont. Fridays feature shrimp étouffée over rice, which reflects the strong Cajun influence in this part of southeast Texas.
Vending Machine at Berdoll Pecan Candy & Gift Company in Cedar Creek, TX (near Austin)
Where else can you get a whole, fresh pecan pie 24 hours a day?
The vending machine outside of Berdoll’s pecans and gifts retail store on Highway 71 between Austin and Bastrop is stocked with all things pecan, harvested right from Berdoll’s nearby grove of pecan trees.
The company’s giant squirrel sculpture next to the store parking lot is easy to see from the road, and a perfect photo opportunity.
The gift shop has plenty of pecan-related goodies and other Texas delicacies, but that vending machine means you can get your nut fix any time.
Hangar 6 Air Cafe at the Airport in Uvalde, TX
I’ve been to one other memorable small town airport eatery, in Hutchinson, Kansas, but the food at Hangar 6 Air Cafe in Uvalde is better (sorry, Hutch friends!)
The cafe building is new, but it was built to look sort of like a converted Quonset hut, with a cool tin ceiling, overhead fans made out of airplane propellers, big windows with views of historic Garner Field, great waitstaff, and some truly delicious meals.
My freshly-prepared steak salad with their homemade dressing was one of the best I’ve ever had.
Hangar Six was a pilot training facility founded in 1932 in San Antonio; it moved to Uvalde and grew enormously during World War Two as one of 65 Army Air Force aviation posts in Texas (more than any other state in the U.S.)
Look for this item on the cafe’s menu….
The $100 Hamburger – “Your choice of any burger [including the ‘P51 Mustang’ with bacon and mushrooms, or ‘The Stearman’ with pulled pork and coleslaw] plus $100 worth of Avgas or jet fuel.”
Head into downtown Uvalde to look around; there’s a big courthouse square with shops and an Opera House – see what’s playing. Try to get in to see the town’s little-known secret – Rembrandts and Remingtons at the Briscoe Art & Antique Collection housed inside the First State Bank of Uvalde.
Spectacular Garner State Park on the Frio River is only 30 minutes north of Uvalde. Since the 1940’s they’ve held summertime evening “jukebox dances” at the park concession building, which was built in the 1930’s as a Texas CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) park project.
Fun fact – “Garner” is John Nance Garner, aka “Cactus Jack,” who was U.S. Vice President 1933-40 during the height of the Depression and New Deal programs.
He famously said that the Vice Presidency “wasn’t worth a bucket of warm spit” but his biographer says he actually said “pitcher of warm piss.”
Jacoby’s Feed and Seed in Melvin, TX (near Brady)
I was in Brady, Texas as a judge for their annual Goat BBQ Cookoff, and we were told to head to Jacoby’s Cafe for breakfast before heading to the fairgrounds to test lots of goat meat.
Google Maps seemed to know what I meant when I punched in “Jacoby’s” but as I drew near and looked across flat farmland, all I could see was a huge grainary of some sort, with silos, much less anything that looked big enough to be the town of Melvin.
Was I lost?
Nope, there’s a cafe inside Jacoby’s Feed and Seed, and it’s really good down-home cooking.
Friday is a real blowout for specials, with either the Fried Catfish Platter with a side, coleslaw, beans & hushpuppies, or an 8 ounce Jacoby Brand Beef Sirloin Steak with a side, salad, plus Texas Toast.
There’s another Jacoby’s in Austin, owned by the same family.
Oh, and the tasting experience at the Goat BBQ Cookoff? It was pretty good!
The meat has a unique flavor which I liked, but I have to say that after test-tasting sample after sample, it’s easy to tire of it.
If you visit the Cookoff you can try goat meat at the main pavilion in the park.
Frama Coffee & Ice Cream at Tumbleweed Laundry in Marfa, TX
You can get a lot done, all in the same place at Frama in tiny Marfa, Texas – do your laundry, eat ice cream, and have a good cup of coffee.
Many of our blog readers know that I think the West Texas town of Marfa is overrated, but I do like this little place although I’ve never had a chance to do a load of laundry there and eat ice cream at the same time.
The menu is made from Scrabble tiles and the coffee is strong.
There are a few tables and chairs if you want to hang out on the WiFi for awhile because your dryer load is still damp.
H&H Car Wash and Coffee Shop in El Paso, TX
This is a linoleum counter, better-not-dawdle, plainspoken sort of place, but H&H Car Wash and Coffee Shop has been an El Paso institution since 1958.
While I waited to pay for my crispy flautas, the son of the original owner, the famously crotchety Mr. Haddad, was yelling into a phone to some city employee about filling potholes on a nearby street.
It felt quite homey, really.
You can eat while your car is being washed.
I had a rental vehicle that wasn’t really dirty, but I should have had it washed anyway, for the full experience.
Menu choices include breakfast foods like eggs various ways including huevos rancheros, Tex-Mex standards like tacos, enchiladas, burritos, and chile rellenos, and regular ol’ burgers and grilled cheese.
My flautas were fine, but I was so busy watching the efficient line cooks and the parade of patrons coming through that I wasn’t really paying attention to my meal.
The little corner tableau below caught my eye as I paid my bill at the register. It looked like a scene from 1972, which is why I liked it. Some things don’t change, and that’s why they are beloved.
I hope Mr. Haddad got his potholes fixed.
Before or after your meal and car wash, visit El Paso’s extraordinary Magoffin Home State Historic Site. It is only a five minute drive from the H&H.
Guided tours begin on the hour from the Visitors Center across the street from this beautifully-preserved 1877 adobe home of a local multicultural family who lived here until 1986, during important times in the town’s history.
What is your favorite unusual place to find a meal? It doesn’t have to be in Texas. Let us know down in the comments….
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