On my second trip back to Austin from Houston's Bush Intercontinental Airport during the holidays, I decided to break up the journey with a stop in Brenham. Have you been to this little town lately, not the Brenham you pass by as you zoom along US 290 or Texas 36 on your way to somewhere else, but the real Brenham, downtown? There are so many quaint shops and boutiques on West Alamo now that it reminds me of Fredericksburg's Main Street.
If you're planning to tour Quirky Houston, I suggest you start your day with breakfast. On a recent visit, my daughter tipped me off to Baby Barnaby's, next door to its big brother Barnaby's Cafe (which serves lunch and dinner) in the Montrose area, the birthplace of Houston-quirky. This colorful cafe is cozy, casual, and cheap. The menu features a few whimsically named items like Green Eggs (eggs scrambled with spinach, artichoke hearts, and jack cheese) as well as breakfast basics, like bacon-and-eggs and pancakes. City-diner staples such as the Lox Platter, and Corned Beef Hash and Eggs are offered, along with Tex-Mex favorites like breakfast tacos, migas and huevos rancheros. My daughter had the Lox Platter and I had the basic Breakfast Plate with scrambled eggs, bacon, toast, and grits. Both the standard fare and the lox/bagel/cream cheese were prepared "just-right," as were the portions, not too filling and perfect for packing in a day to tour Houston's quirky sights. Houston brims with quirky breakfast places. Tell us about your favorite Quirky Houston breakfast spot.
The January issue of Texas Highways includes a feature about the oddball attractions of sophisticated Houston. As a native Houstonian, I enjoy recalling those quirky sites. Of course, I'm living in Austin now, where, luckily, there's no dearth of "quirky" here.
When I was in Victoria a couple of weeks ago, I tried a new barbecue restaurant a friend had recommended, Big Mo's BBQ at 1301 Sam Houston Drive. It's in a former Pizza Hut not far from my old high school, though I can't say that I remember ever eating pizza there. The reality is that the pizza venue probably came and went since I graduated.
But back to Big Mo's. The friend not only recommended the restaurant, but also gave me samples of its smoked chicken and brisket, both extra lean and thinly sliced, which she had in her fridge. They were moist and delicious. I also tasted the green beans, which had a delightful, smoky flavor themselves. I'm not a fan of potato salad, so I passed on that, but my friend assured me it was good, too. After this preview, I stopped in at Big Mo's a few days later and ordered a sliced brisket sandwich. It wasn't quite as lean as the brisket I'd tried earlier, but still mighty tasty. Next time, I'll order the "Extra Lean Trim" version.
While waiting for my order, I looked around the spic-and-span dining room and studied the menu. Turns out that Big Mo's is a spin-off of a longtime area barbecue favorite called McMillan's Bar-B-Q & Catering, in Fannin, southwest of Victoria. Louis McMillan has, in effect, passed the torch to his daughter and son-in-law, Teri and David Moten, the owners of Big Mo's. My judgment: The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
The crisp autumn mornings of late are reminding me of my summer trip to the Fort Davis area. Even in August, the daytime highs climbed only to the 80s, and nighttime lows fell into the 60s, energizing temps that inspired numerous hikes in Davis Mountains State Park, with the magical CCC-constructed Indian Lodge as our base. News to me (and especially enjoyed by my kid) was the mile-and-a-half trail that descends from the park's scenic Skyline Drive to Fort Davis National Historic Site. Other trip highlights: star partying at McDonald Observatory (which we learned has a fun back-up plan for cloudy nights), rock-hunting at Woodward Ranch south of Alpine, and following the Rio Grande's flow as we drove the majestic River Road. Keep a lookout for TH's upcoming stories on the latter two in the February Big Bend special issue!
On a recent trip to San Angelo, I discovered an unusual venue in the middle of downtown. During the day, The House of Fifi Dubois is a vintage furniture store, but on many Saturday nights, it transforms into what has to be its true calling: a groovy setting for listening to live music. With the lights dimmed and all those couches and tables from the 50s, 60s, and 70s arranged in a semicircle to face a wooden stage at one end, it works perfectly. A good sound system also helps. As do good musicians, such as the six female performers I heard when I was there, the San Angelo Divas, a bluesy, folk-rock group with a big sound.
The system is simple. Store owners Phyllis Cox (Fifi) and Toni Hunter place a jar near the entrance to collect money to pay the band. It's strictly BYOB, although set-ups (Cokes, Sprite, water, etc) and a few snacks are on hand. The store provides the funky atmosphere (merchandise on display ranges from lava lamps to avocado-green ice buckets), the musicians do their thing, and listeners (twenty-somethings to seniors) drift in and out from 7 to 10. A few people are inspired to dance on the sidelines, but mostly, groups of friends just sit around enjoying the music in a comfy, super-cool setting. I can't wait to go again. For details, call 325-658-3434.
Last Saturday, I went to Houston's Bayou City Art Festival Downtown with my sister, Jean. I recently discovered that this festival had a former life as the Westheimer Art Festival, which I attended over 30 years ago.
I just returned from an out-of-state vacation, and while I had a fantastic time, I was glad to get back to Texas. A sign of a good trip, I think, and perhaps a certain level of satisfaction with my day-to-day routine. In general, I like hotel rooms, the mini-soaps and cute little packets of cotton balls, the comically out-of-proportion flat-screen TVs, the color-coordinated pillow shams, the wake-up calls, the luxury of room service.... But please, WHO thought it was a good idea to invent a single-cup coffeemaker? You've seen them, probably, they're ubiquitous. I'll concede that the concept SEEMS reasonable, pop a little coffee "pod" into the machine, along with six ounces of water (no more or the machine will shut off!), and several minutes later, you have a single cup of coffee. But I'd argue that these devices are not practical AT ALL for two people traveling together. What's with the pouring and the podding and the parceling, we wasted a colossal amount of time getting out the door in the morning. Oh, good grief I sound like Andy Rooney. Write me to share YOUR hotel pet peeves and maybe I won't feel so ridiculous.
Long a fun, famous gateway to the Lone Star State, Texarkana USA is a twin cities with lots of history combined with multiple modern attractions that makes for a delightful destination. Plenty to go, see, and do. Recently spent several entertaining days here researching a future feature for the magazine. Stay tuned. Thoroughly enjoyed my stay at the Mansion on Main, an historic B&B. Discovered a couple barbecue masters, Smokey Joe's Barbeque and Big Jake's Bar-B-Q, and 2 exceptional upscale dining options, The IronWood Grill and Timothy's. Don't miss 'em. My fascinating whirlwind trip included stops at Lake Wright Patman, the Regional Art Center, an interesting local piano restoration studio, old Union Station, the famous State Line Courthouse/Post Office, Bryce's Cafeteria, remodeled Tiger Stadium at Grim Park, the Ace of Clubs House, an antique auto museum, Sue & Carol's Restaurant (for breakfast & lunch), Arkansas' largest magnolia tree, the Perot Theatre, the Scott Joplin mural, and a whole lot more. Look for details in the January 2010 issue of Texas Highways. For additional information on Texarkana, check out the website; 903/792-7191.