Pappa Gyros Greek-American Food

In my ongoing quest to discover the best burgers in the Lone Star State, I have pulled into more than one sketchy looking burger joint to check things out. In the process I have learned that unless you are willing to take a risk you are likely to miss some of the best eating in Texas.

That said, I must confess that I almost missed eating one of the best burgers I have ever had — not because the joint looked sketchy but because it was a place that did not specialize in burgers. To add to my indecisiveness about whether to walk in the doors is the fact that this joint is attached to a Shell station.
Pappa Gyros is located at the corner of Kingsland Boulevard and the Grand Parkway in my hometown of Katy. It is easy to miss because it occupies the south end of the Shell station on the southeast corner of the intersection. This place specializes in Greek food (which I enjoy) and American dishes.

I recently joined some friends to give Pappa Gyros a try. They assured me that they did offer burgers on the menu. So, I decided to be that guy that orders a burger at an ethnic food joint. Why not? After all, I was really hungry for a good burger.

Pappa Gyros is packed into a tight little space with a few tables and some bar seating. I noticed that their drive-thru service stayed pretty busy the whole time we were there. That was absolutely a good sign.
I ordered my usual bacon-cheeseburger and opted for a side of fries and some tea. My order arrived in good time. I did ask them to cut my burger in half, something I like to do in order to get a good look at the strata — a view of all of the burger layers and components.
The generous patty was cooked just the way I like it. All of the fixings were clearly fresh and the bacon was thick and crispy. One of the things that, in my estimation, ruins a good bacon cheeseburger is wimpy bacon. So, seeing the thick slabs of bacon cooked on the crispier side of the scale was a good sign for me.

As for the first bite, immediate confirmation that I had made the right choice. This burger was among the best I have had. Every bite brought a smile to my heart. Really good. And to think that I had almost missed this opportunity because I was judging a book by its cover. Goes to show you that you can find a good burger in the most unlikely places.

I have since recommended Pappa Gyros to friends who have thanked me for doing so. I certainly plan on visiting Papa Gyros again since it is only a couple of miles from my home. I encourage you to explore your own neck of the woods to discover a burger joint near your home. And remember to look past some of the things that might discourage you from giving a place a try. You just might find one of the best burgers you have ever had in the Lone Star State.

G.W.’s Hickory Pit BBQ & Burger House

Honestly, I don’t think there is ever a bad time to eat a burger. In fact, I could actually live on burgers — while still observing Taco Tuesdays, of course. That said, I am always on the lookout for new places to indulge my appetite for a delicious bacon cheeseburger.
After a recent trip to bike the trails at Huntsville State Park, my friends and I decided to drive to Coldspring for a burger. I love little Texas towns like Coldspring — the small friendly places that lie between the bigger places on the map.

The first post office at this little settlement opened in 1847 and was named Coonskin. A year later the name was changed to Fireman’s Hill. In 1850 the name was changed to Cold Spring for the spring water found there. In 1894, the name was officially respelled Coldspring.
My biking buddies and I decided to stop at GW’s Hickory Pit BBQ and Burger House. This place has all the markings of a dive and all the promise of finding hidden treasure. The sign out front boasted what we hoped would prove true: “This stuff is so good that if you get some on your forehead your tongue will beat you to death to get to it.”
I ordered a bacon cheeseburger and opted for crispy fries because they were fresh out of onion rings. I smiled the second I noticed the cook slapping a big patty on the grill. That was a good sign, indeed. And t made the waiting all the harder. A few minutes later my burger arrived nestled next to a jumble of hot fries. Wow! This was one big burger. The thick slabs of bacon were cooked to crispy perfection. This was another good sign since I have no tolerance for wimpy bacon.
I cut my burger in half and took my first bite. No need for a second bite to confirm that we had made the right choice by stopping at GW’s. Absolutely tasty. As with all good burgers I have found on my burger quest, I savored every mouth-watering bite.

Once again, taking a risk on a dive proved to be a better decision than opting for the convenience of a fast food chain. No regrets about stopping at GW’s. This is one burger I would definitely try again — and again. So, if you ever find yourself anywhere near Coldspring, stop by GW’s and try one of their burgers. You’ll be glad you did.

Spanish Angels Cafe

Dell City is a small town located right where the Chihuahuan Desert meets the western edge of the Guadalupe Mountains. This is wide open country with iconic cowboy landscapes. This little farming town, situated at the intersection of Farm roads 1437 and 2249, was founded sometime before 1949 after the discovery of a large underground aquifer.
Water in the desert is a big deal. The folks at Dell City capitalized on this and tagged their little town “The Valley of Hidden Waters.” However, despite the treasure beneath their feet, the population of Dell City has remained less than five-hundred with a median age of about fifty. The town has one grocery store, one restaurant, and some amazing views of five of the highest peaks in Texas to the East.
The Spanish Angels Cafe is the local eatery and well worth a stop if you are anywhere near the area. I visited the cafe on a cold December day after a week of camping in the Guadalupe Mountains. The warmth inside was generated by more than the old radiant gas heater in the corner. The folks inside added a warmth of their own, the kind that characterizes small town hospitality.

Hungry for a burger, I ordered a bacon cheeseburger with fries and a glass of tea. My camping companion ordered the bar-b-cue ribs plate. While we waited for our food, we struck up a conversation with some of the other folks in the cafe. All of this made us feel right at home, like we were regular town folk rather than just two outdoorsmen passing through.
My burger arrived on a colorful plate with a pretty ample serving of crispy and seasoned fries. The portion of meat was perfectly cooked, the bacon was crispy, and all of the other ingredients were as fresh as they come. And when fully assembled, the flavor of the burger was really good — delicious, in fact.
I thoroughly enjoyed the burger and felt I had burned enough calories to justify eating a slice of chocolate cake — also delicious. The whole experience was made even more enjoyable because of the friendly atmosphere, great service, and overall ambiance of this small town cafe. If I lived in Dell City I would make it a point to eat at this cafe as often as possible.
I love small town cafes and inconspicuous eateries that serve up great food. These places are easy to miss as we speed from point to point or get in such a hurry that we opt for fast food joints instead. If you are on the road, take time to slow down as you travel through small towns and be willing pull off the road. You just might discover a great place to eat — like the Spanish Angels Cafe.

The Cafe Next Door

When it comes to the vast expanses of the western regions of Texas, one thing is certain — the counties in this part of the Lone Star State seem to go on forever. Crockett County, named after Alamo hero Davy Crockett, covers 2,807 square miles of land or more than 1,800,000 acres. That’s a whole lot of land by any measure.

Ozona, located on Interstate 10 between Houston and El Paso, is the county seat of Crockett County. Ozona was originally known as Powell Well when it was founded in 1891 by E.M. Powell, a land surveyor. The name of the community was later changed to Ozona because of the open and fresh air or ozone.
For those traveling down those long stretches of Interstate 10, Ozona is a great place to stop and stretch. And that’s exactly what I did on a recent road trip from my home in Katy to the Franklin Mountains. I stopped to top off my gas tank in Ozona and noticed a small cafe next door, appropriately named The Cafe Next Door. I couldn’t resist.
The Cafe Next Door offers a full menu of mouth-watering home-style dishes, including hamburgers. I ordered my usual bacon cheeseburger with a side of onion rings and a tall glass of iced tea. The onion rings, our waitress cautioned, would be enough to feed two. I assured her that I would have no problem with that.
The burger was really delicious. It had a healthy portion of meat beneath a warm blanket of cheese, crispy bacon, and fresh vegetables. The onion rings were cooked to perfection. They were so good, in fact, that I completely forgot about the french fries lying undisturbed on the table. But, because I only have so much room in my stomach I had to set my priorities and eat more onion rings than french fries.
The wait staff was friendly and attentive to our needs. And the general atmosphere of the place was great. This is a small town cafe at its best — friendly folks, delicious food, time to eat a meal without feeling as though I had to rush. My friends and I enjoyed eating at The Cafe Next Door. We have marked it down as a must-stop on future road trips.

I hope you’ll stop and check out the food at The Cafe Next Door on one of your future road trips on Interstate 10. This is the kind of eatery, after all, that adds a measure of culinary adventure to any road trip.

Sagebrush Cafe & Gifts

Fort Stockton is located along Interstate 10 — not quite halfway between San Antonio and El Paso. Fort Stockton was originally a military fort named for Lt. Edward Dorsey Stockton, an officer in the First Infantry who died in San Antonio in 1857. Established in 1859 at Comanche Springs, within the site of the present city, Fort Stockton provided protection for travelers, freighters, and the mail service.
From its earliest days, Comanche Springs was a favorite rest stop for folks traveling between San Antonio and El Paso. Not much has changed. Fort Stockton is still a place where those traveling across the Chihuahuan Desert along Interstate 10 can find a bit of rest and refreshment. And for those who have some time, it’s worth checking out Fort Stockton’s Historic District.
On a recent road trip from Katy to the Franklin Mountains in El Paso, some friends and I stopped to eat at the Sagebrush Cafe in Fort Stockton. This modest eatery offers a full menu of homemade dishes, including hamburgers. And, for soda lovers, the Sagebrush offers a variety of Texas soft drinks, including one mighty tasty Texas Root Beer made with pure cane sugar.
Because there is nothing I like more on a Texas road trip than a delicious homemade hamburger, I ordered the bacon cheeseburger with onion rings and a cold Texas Root Beer. I am not a big soda drinker but just could not resist the temptation to try the root beer. And, of course, I was not disappointed. Texas Root Beer is a product of the Dublin Bottling Works in Dublin, Texas. These folks have been bottling sodas for more than 120 years and have definitely perfected the art.
My bacon cheeseburger was a work of art in itself — with a healthy portion of perfectly cooked meat, crispy bacon, pepperjack cheese, moist buns, and fresh lettuce, tomato, and pickles. The first bite was a foretaste of what would be an absolutely delicious meal. Everything about this burger was right. This was an honest-to-goodness absolutely delicious burger. And the pepper-sprinkled onion rings certainly held their own as well. Delicious.
There are more than plenty of fast food places along Interstate 10. But, I prefer to explore and discover more interesting stops along the way. I learned about the Sagebrush Cafe by asking a local guy working at a gas station. I’m glad I took his advice. The Sagebrush Cafe has earned a spot on my list of favorite places to eat in the Lone Star State.

The Jay Cafe in Needville

Needville owes its interesting name to August Schendel, the German immigrant who purchased a large tract of land and settled in the area in 1891. The following year, Schendel opened a general store to serve the people of the area popularly known as Schendelville.
When Schendel made application for a Post Office, he tried to use the name Needmore because everybody seemed to need more things. Makes sense! The Post Office, however, denied the application because the name was already taken. So, Schendel settled for the name Needville. The rest is history.
Located on state highway 36 in Fort Bend County, ten miles south of US 59 and southwest of Houston, Needville still lives up to its name. If you find yourself with a huge appetite and in need of great food, then you should get to The Jay Cafe in Needville as quickly as you can. This place serves up home cooked dishes at their best.
While I was momentarily tempted by the menu-full of delicious meal options, I ordered the Bacon Jay Burger and opted for the house seasoned fries instead onion rings. And, of course, a tall glass of iced tea — the perfect choice after a morning of adventuring with my wife’s Texas Master Naturalist group.
My burger arrived piping hot and flanked by a heaping serving of fries. I could see that I certainly would not need more bacon. This burger had a healthy helping of crispy bacon and cheddar cheese served on a moist bun with absolutely fresh fixings. Everything was visually right about this burger.
Burgers, however, are about a whole lot more than optics. And this burger did not disappoint. One bite and I knew that this was some of the best meat I have tasted on any burger I have reviewed. The big, crumbly patty of meat was perfectly seasoned and cooked. Enjoyed every single bite.

My only complaint is that I did not have room for dessert. The Jay Cafe offers a fantastic assortment of pies and a red velvet cake that looked absolutely amazing. Next time I visit I think I am going to start with dessert. At this point in my life I have no business buying green bananas or hoping I have room for dessert. Life its too short for that.

I am really glad that I visited the Jay Cafe in Needville. This place is just one more example of one of the many really good places to eat around the Lone Star State. Lucky for me that I live within driving distance. I certainly plan to eat at the Jay Cafe the next time I venture in their direction on one of my day trips. And, I will start my meal by eating dessert first!

Orsak’s Cafe in Fayetteville

I love venturing to places I have not yet visited in the Lone Star State. On a recent road trip from Katy to La Grange, my wife and I decided to take a lunch detour to Fayetteville — and I am so glad we did. This small town is about the closest thing to a time capsule you will find in Texas. Fayetteville has somehow managed to retain quite a bit of yesteryear charm in our ever-changing world.
Our purpose for taking this detour was to find a place to enjoy a bacon cheeseburger. And, according to the information we read online, Orsak’s Cafe was the place to go. This small town diner is located on the town’s historic square and offers a menu-full of enticing home-style dishes, including burgers.
As soon as we drove into Fayetteville we knew we liked it. No cookie-cutter homes here. Just charming little homes, each with their own unique architectural features — homes that have been around so long that they are shaded by mature trees and crepe-myrtles in full bloom. We enjoyed driving around and looking at the homes and the old business on the town square, including Fayetteville’s historic court house.
When we arrived at Orsak’s it was obvious this is a popular place. The locals were already seated at their favorite tables when we walked in. Folks were friendly and offered their greetings as we made our way to an empty table. We felt right at home among folks enjoying good conversation and delicious meals.
Cheryl and I decided to split a bacon cheeseburger with a side of onion rings. Since the burgers at Orsak’s are pretty big, this was a good call. Our burger arrived already cut and plated on two plates with a healthy portion of homemade onion rings on each plate. Very nice service.
The first bite was absolutely delicious. The portion of meat was generous, the ingredients were fresh, the bacon was crisp, the bun was nice and moist, and the onion rings were cooked to perfection. Everything about this meal was enjoyable and had us hooked. As we ate we talked about when we might be free to come back to Orsak’s.
After lunch we walked around the town square and enjoyed perusing the town bulletin boards that were chock-full of posters, flyers, bulletins, and notes announcing upcoming community events. Very blast-from-the-past kind of stuff in this day of social media advertising. There are all sorts of shops and restaurants and even a museum on the town square along with numerous historical markers.
Cheryl and I agreed that Fayetteville is one of our new favorite places. We can’t wait to go back and introduce friends to this small Texas treasure and to enjoy lunch again at Orsak’s Cafe. If you find yourself anywhere near Fayetteville on your next toad trip, take the time to visit. And remember, wherever your road trips take you, get off the beaten path and explore a place you have never visited.

All American Bar and Grill

The Trans-Pecos is one of my favorite regions in Texas. I love the vast open spaces of the Chihuahuan Desert and the small towns that cling to life there. I like the town of Pecos — probably because I have always been a fan of Pecos Bill, the mythical cowboy who inspired some fascinating tall tales among range hands.
Pecos is the site of the world’s first rodeo, held there in 1883 to showcase the skills of cowboys from three of the area ranches. Pecos is also known for its flavor-rich cantaloupe which have been grown in the area since the late nineteenth century. The Pecos-grown fruit was a favorite of Helen Keller, President Eisenhower, and President Johnson.
While on a recent road trip to Guadalupe Mountains National Park, my wife and I drove the backroads toward Interstate 10. Our route took us through Pecos, located at the intersection Interstate 20 and Highway 285 just west of the Pecos River. Hungry for a burger after a morning of hiking, we stopped to eat at the All American Bar and Grill.
This small town eatery fits the description of a dive, which is what made it appealing to us. When we walked in the first thing we noticed was that the place is decorated in what I can only describe as an “Early Garage Sale / Storage Room” motif. While it was not entirely off-putting, it was a bit odd. Nevertheless, we were there for the burgers and not the decor.
I ordered my usual bacon cheeseburger plus a side of hand-cut fries and a tall glass of iced tea. The burger and fries arrived piping hot and ready to eat. The burger had a healthy helping of meat resting on some really fresh lettuce, tomato, and crispy bacon. As for my first bite — really good. Everything in this burger worked well together to deliver on flavor.
The fries were also delicious. Finding places that serve hand-cut fries is not always easy. Not may places go to the trouble of cutting and preparing their own fries. So, I was thankful for the generous helping of fries and the full squeeze bottle of ketchup. I savored every bite. All things considered, I enjoyed my burger and fries at the All American Bar and Grill.

The next time you are on the road, make lunch more adventurous by driving past the fast food places and finding a burger dive. There are so many great places to eat burgers in Texas, I only wish I had more time — and more metabolism. Let me know if you come across a good burger joint and I will add it to my list of places to eat the next time I hit the road.

Rosa’s Cantina

When it comes to music, my iTunes playlist is nothing less than eclectic. My taste in music encompasses just about everything from Mongolian throat singing to Mexican mariachi. I especially enjoy ballads — sentimental songs that tell stories that tug at my heart. And when it comes to ballads, I especially enjoy country–western singer Marty Robbins.

In 1959, Marty Robins released what became one of his signature songs, El Paso. This song about a love struck cowboy propelled Robbins from singer to superstar almost overnight. The setting for the song was Rosa’s Cantina “out in the west Texas town of El Paso.” What many may not have realized at the time is that there is a real place called Rosa’s Cantina in El Paso.

As the story goes, Robbins and his band were traveling from Nashville to Phoenix. They happened to stop for a break in El Paso in front of a local watering hole named Rosa’s Cantina. The place was already closed for the night but Robbins looked through the windows and walked around the joint, casting an eye toward the badlands of New Mexico.

Those brief moments in front of Rosa’s Cantina played a role in sparking Robbin’s storytelling imagination. By the time he and the boys had arrived in Phoenix the ballad was complete. We will never know for sure whether Robbins was already working on the song or if that brief stop in El Paso was the catalyst for the song.

What we do know for certain is that Rosa’s Cantina was the setting for almost the entire story about a love struck cowboy who gunned down another cowboy in a jealous rage over Felina, the Mexican girl who worked at the saloon. That song not only catapulted Robbins to fame, it also put Rosa’s Cantina on the map.

Today, Rosa’s Cantina is pretty much the same as it was in 1959. Housed in an unimpressive rock building next to a garage in a part of town where blue-collar workers hammer out a living, Rosa’s Cantina is a destination spot for Marty Robbins fans from all over the world. The guest book in the joint has signatures of guests from too many countries to count.

Cheryl and I were excited to finally make it to Rosa’s Cantina to enjoy the atmosphere and a hearty plate of Mexican food. The staff was super-friendly, the food was delicious, and the ambiance was very cool. The walls featured several Marty Robbins albums and other memorabilia. This place continues to give patrons a connection with a song about the old west that continues to stir the imagination.

Rosa’s Cantina is definitely worth a visit. Don’t hesitate to bring the whole family. The owners and staff know they are stewards of a legacy unwittingly bestowed on them by Marty Robbins. And once you step in the door, your own imagination will kick in as you reflect on a love story that did not end well for a jealous young cowboy.

Dairy King in Sanderson

There is nothing like a Texas road trip to clear my mind. Having windshield time on the back roads of the Lone Star State is a soothing balm for my soul. The last thing I want to see when I have a few days off is another airport. I prefer to see beautiful Texas vistas — and to find a place to enjoy a good bacon cheeseburger.

Cheryl and I are en route to the Trans Pecos, one of our favorite regions of our beautiful state. After a restful night in Carrizo Springs, we were up early and on the road toward El Paso. Lunch time found us on the outskirts of Sanderson, the county seat of Terrell County. Sanderson has been around since the late 19th century. In fact, the colorful Judge Roy Bean once operated a saloon there.

There are not too many places to grab a bite in Sanderson but we did find a place that immediately piqued our interest — the Dairy King. With a name like that we had to stop and check it out. I have to confess that I really like the adventure of walking into places like this in small towns across Texas.

Dairy King is housed in a modest Dairyqueenesque looking building with a small and noticeably clean dining hall. The menu listed a pretty good offering of both Mexican and American dishes. I, however, was there for a burger. Because their signature Eagle Burger was much bigger than I wanted (or needed), I opted for a quarter pound bacon cheeseburger with a side of onion rings and a glass of iced tea.

I really appreciate places like this that offer good burgers. Nothing fancy. No gourmet stuff. Just a simple hamburger that delivers on flavor every time. And that is exactly what I got. My bacon cheeseburger was one really good burger. I commented to Cheryl that the bacon was especially good. Nice and crispy but not greasy. And everything on the burger was super fresh.

I enjoyed watching and listening to the locals in the restaurant. Reminded me that places like Dairy King are important to life in small town Texas because they bring folks together around good food. I loved watching people talk with those at their table and talk with others seated at other tables. Cheryl and I were really glad that we dropped in for lunch. If you find yourself anywhere near Sanderson at lunch time or anytime, stop by the Dairy King.