Skip to content

Written by Super User

In the February issue of Texas Highways, writer Mary O. Parker delves into the sweet success of Lammes Candies, which has been making fine chocolates in Austin for more than 100 years. In the 1970s, Lammes debuted its now-popular chocolate-covered strawberries, which attract customers by the droves—especially in February. But it’s possible to make your own. We can’t guarantee they’ll be as pretty, but it’s hard to go wrong, taste-wise, with berries and chocolate.  The only special equipment you need is some parchment paper or wax paper.  Some recipes call for adding instant coffee granules, liqueurs, and fruit zest, but this recipe keeps things simple.

Blanche Caldwell Barrow and Clyde Barrow (teenager). (Photos courtesy of Whitehead Memorial Museum, Del Rio)

Among the best known of the criminal enterprises in Texas was the group known as the Barrow Gang. The only two individuals continuously associated with the group were Bonnie Parker and Clyde Chestnut Barrow. Their trail of crime covered much of Texas as well as places as distant as Minnesota and Indiana.

During the era of gangsters and organized crime, 
Texas hosted its fair share of guns, gambling, moonshine, morphine, ransom and robbery.

A dapper Tom Lea, with the desert landscape he loved best stretching toward his own Franklin Mountains. (Photo copyright Will Van Overbeek)

El Pasoans celebrate their famous native son every October with a month of art, literature, and history events.

 

A fresh look at Vietnamese cooking in Austin

Shrimp-and-sweet-potato fritters, a rice vermicelli bowl topped with barbecued pork and egg rolls, and custard-filled cream puffs at Austin’s Tam Deli.  (Photo by Michael Amador)
By Lori Moffatt
Some of my favorite restaurants lie in homely North Austin strip malls surrounded by discount cell-phone providers, used-tire outlets, pawn shops, locksmiths, and public storage facilities. When I’m seeking culinary adventures on a budget, I traipse north of US 183, where a several-mile stretch of Lamar Boulevard harbors the most ethnically diverse assortment of restaurants in the city. Here is where you’ll find vegetarian Indian dosas (think crunchy 18-inch crepes), Korean grilled mackerel, Indian popsickles called kulfi, Hong Kong-style curry buns, and grocery stores specializing in fascinating foodstuffs from throughout the world.

I’m willing to forgive the often-uninspired décor and unflattering lighting for a chance to taste something I’ve never had before. But recently, as foodie friends have adopted a preference for organic and locally sourced cuisine, it’s harder to persuade them to make the trek. Let’s face it: While I’ve always found the food on North Lamar’s restaurant row to be delicious and fresh, these are not restaurants where the cooks have coddled their chickens.

Lately, though, I’ve noticed successful chefs in Austin turning ethnic street food on its ear by preparing it with organic meat and produce. And in the case of Vietnamese food in town, when I dug a little deeper, I discovered a heartening connection between one of the savviest restaurateurs in Austin and a 13-year-old Vietnamese deli known for its baguette sandwiches and cream puffs.

In late 2011, chefs and restaurateurs Larry McGuire and Tom Moorman opened a Vietnamese-French restaurant called Elizabeth Street Café in a former coffee shop in south Austin. Not only do they use organic meats and locally sourced pro-
duce, but the décor here—inspired by 1950s Hanoi—makes the café as worthy of a date night as a quick lunch.

What I love about Vietnamese fare—whether it’s prepared at Elizabeth Street Café or at the myriad mom-and-pop joints on North Lamar—lies in its beguiling contrasts: the aroma of grilled meats with fresh mint, basil, and cilantro; the acidic kick of lime and chilies; the curious saltiness of ubiquitous, anchovy-based fish sauce. When it’s cold outside, I crave a satisfying bowl of the noodle soup called pho, fragrant from hours of simmering and brightened at the table with creamy-white bean sprouts, sprigs of basil and cilantro, and a liberal squeeze of lime. Sometimes I’ll order a dish called the banh xeo, a crispy, rice-flour crepe served with a salty-sweet-sour dipping sauce called nuoc cham.

Elizabeth Street Café reinterprets Vietnamese fare with organic meats and locally sourced produce. (Photo by Michael Amador) On my last visit to Elizabeth Street, I dug into a simple banh mi, a Vietnamese sandwich made with barbecued pork, shredded 
carrot and cucumber, and thin slices of jalapeños. “What’s cool about Vietnam
ese food is that it’s based 
on inexpensive cuts of meat, noodles and rice, and fresh herbs and vegetables,” Larry told me. “But the reason it works so well in Texas is that it’s a hot-climate food. It’s light and satisfying at the same time, with changes of both texture and temperature—like when you add cold bean sprouts and fresh herbs to a hot soup.”

A few days later at lunch up on North Lamar, I savored spoonfuls of rich beef broth at a little spot called Tam Deli, slurping noodles and watching sisters Tam Bui and Tran Ngoc dash from kitchen to table with platters of soups, vermicelli bowls, and banh mi sandwiches.  On the wall next to the bakery case, which is filled with cream puffs and sticky-rice snacks, there’s a photo of Lady Bird Johnson and her family at Tam Deli, along with images of the sisters as teenagers in Vietnam. Water trickled from a bamboo fountain near the doorway, and each time an order was ready, Tam or Tran would ring a little bell, and out came another tempting dish I’d vow to order next time.

Tran was a student at the University of Texas during the 1970s, and after the fall of Saigon in ’75, her family made its way to Texas. Eventually, Tran and Tam opened a restaurant, using family recipes passed down from their mother and relatives in Vietnam.

Famous for its delicate, custard-filled cream puffs; its fabulous banh mi; and during the holidays, its French bûche nöel cake, Tam Deli nonetheless has items on the menu that don’t appeal to me personally. I was unimpressed recently with a salt-and-pepper squid platter (too fried and too plain), but of course home-cooking of all genres has both bold and simple flavors. “I would say that my favorite thing on the menu is our banh xeo,” says Tran. “It’s shrimp and pork in a crepe, and we serve it with leaf lettuce and herbs, and you wrap it up and dip it in nuac cham. We eat that sauce with everything.”

Later, I asked Larry what he thought about some of my North Lamar favorites. “I think the banh mi at Tam Deli is really good,” he told me. “In fact, some of the things on our menu are homages to the menu at Tam, like our shrimp-and-yam fritters.  I’ve been eating at Tam Deli since I was in middle school. I’d go there with my mom, and it was one of my favorite places to eat.”

“Vietnamese food, in general, is very light, fresh, and satisfying,” says Tran. “To newcomers, I would say, just give the food a try. I think you will like it.”

Ray's Drive Inn, a west San Antonio landmark since 1956, opened with a menu of fried chicken and burgers, but quickly became famous for puffy tacos. (Photo by Kevin Stillman)

Driving around the state researching Texas food history for my new cookbook, Texas Eats: The New Lone Star Heritage Cookbook, I found out that a heritage food revival is colliding with new cultural currents in the Lone Star State—resulting in all kinds of delicious combinations and mash-ups.

 

A few blocks from I-35 in the town of West, the Village Bakery makes kolaches from a recipe developed by the owner’s Czech grandmother. (Photo by Michael Amador)

When I take my place in line, nearly a dozen people are ahead of me in front of the bakery counter at the Czech Stop in the town of West. That wouldn’t be surprising—except that it’s almost 3 a.m. At least I’m not the only traveler who’s addicted to kolaches—delicious, yeast-dough pastries filled with fruit, meat, and sometimes vegetables. Even in the wee hours of the morning on a late-night drive to Austin, I can’t pass up the 24/7 bakery that’s the Valhalla of the kolache world. Some people measure trips in miles. I measure them in how many of the tasty Czech treats I can eat along the way.

A longtime hub for innovation in energy and medicine, Houston has come into its own as a vacation destination in recent years.

Marble Falls’ picturesque setting along its namesake lake proves enticing enough, but travelers stick around this Hill Country town for the live music, classic cafés, art galleries, intriguing shops, and annual events that range from a soapbox derby to drag-boat races.

In the January 2014 issue, writer Ramona Flume takes readers to Megg’s Cafe in Temple, a farmhouse-style eatery that sources much of its menu locally and draws crowds for its breakfast, lunch, and dinner offerings. We wondered: What else is there to do in Temple? Turns out, there’s plenty.  Here are three spots to get you started.

As Dallas prepares to celebrate the life and legacy of President John F. Kennedy and mark the 50th anniversary of his tragic death on Nov. 22, 1963, Texas Highways shares a few images from the files of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.  The images offer a glimpse of that fateful day – from the President's arrival and departure from Dallas' Love Field. 

See also: JFK: Some Things You Never Forget and Events

Blog: Exhibit showcases artwork that decorated JFK's last hotel room

President John F. and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy descend the stairs from Air Force One at Love Field in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963. (Cecil Stoughton. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston. Public domain)

The head table at the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce Breakfast at Hotel Texas on Nov. 22, 1963 including (from left) Nellie Connally, Governor John Connally, Lady Bird Johnson, Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy and President John F. Kennedy behind the lectern.President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy exit Hotel Texas after the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce Breakfast.View from President Kennedy's motorcade through Dallas.Frightened onlookers lay on the grass in reaction to shots fired as cameramen record their actions at Dealey Plaza in Dallas.President Kennedy's casket is loaded on to Air Force One at Love Field in Dalla on Nov. 22, 1963.Judge Sarah T. Hughes administers the Presidential Oath of Office to Lyndon Baines Johnson aboard Air Force One at Love Field in Dallas. Lady Bird Johnson, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, Jack Valenti, Congressmen Albert Thomas and Jack Brooks.


Most of my day trips consist of a handful of museums, a bit of outdoors, and lots of great food. But then there are the trips that take me into the remote reaches of Texas; to places without restaurants and streetlights but riddled with adventure. My recent journey was of this kind, as I set out with friends to summit the highest point in Texas: Guadalupe Peak.

Back to top