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.

TX Burger

A fun part of my Texas road trip adventuring is discovering places that serve delicious burgers. Over the years I have tasted some mighty fine burgers throughout the Lone Star State and others that were just ok but not blog-worthy. For quite some time I have wanted to stop by one of the TX Burger locations and finally had the opportunity to do so in Madisonville.

Madisonville is the official home of TX Burger. Back in the early 1970’s, a fellow named James Carter wanted to serve burgers as tasty as the ones his mom made at home. Using all natural beef and fresh ingredients combined with great customer service, Carter hit on the right combination. Soon, TX Burger became a huge success and has since added locations around Texas.

I ordered my usual bacon cheeseburger with everything on it and a side of onion rings — all reasonably priced. In fact, I bought lunch for four of us and spent almost ten dollars less than I had spent on three of us the previous day on an “award winning” burger that turned out to be somewhat disappointing (that burger was definitely not blog-worthy).

My bacon cheeseburger arrived hot and ready to eat. The first bite confirmed that I had indeed made the right choice. It was delicious. Everything about this burger was fresh and honest and the meat was moist and prepared to perfection. Nothing disappointing about this burger. Every bite was delicious.

After eating my burger I turned my attention to the Blue Bell Ice Cream bar. This is Texas and Nolan Ryan beef and Blue Bell Ice Cream are certainly infused with Texas goodness. I bypassed the cone and opted for the biggest hand spun chocolate malt on the menu. Absolutely delicious and the perfect way to end this meal.
The next time you are on the road and see a billboard or sign for TX Burger, make it a point to head their way. You will enjoy the family-friendly atmosphere, their delicious burgers and sides — and, of course, the opportunity to eat some Blue Bell Ice Cream. I am certainly glad that I finally stopped to eat at TX Burger. I can assure you that this won’t be the last time!

A Place Called Uncertain

I sometimes resort to an unconventional method when planning a road trip — unfold a Texas map, adjust my bifocals, and then look for the most interesting place names. That’s the way my East Texas road trip came about. Actually, my wife Cheryl found the spot on the map and suggested we head in the direction of Uncertain.
I was so happy to learn that there is actually a place in Texas named Uncertain. How cool is that. It was settled, then. The only thing we were certain of was heading to Uncertain. Any other stops along the way would be at our whim. When Cheryl and I do this kind of road trip we don’t make lodging reservations ahead of time so that we can be free to head in any direction we want.
There are a couple of stories about how Uncertain got its name. One story suggests that the place was once known as Uncertain Landing and got its name because steamboat captains often had a hard time mooring their vessels there. Another story suggests that the town got its name before the border between the United States and the Republic of Texas was finally established. Before that time residents were uncertain about their citizenship.
Uncertain is an incorporated community located deep in the heart of East Texas. Situated along the shores of Caddo Lake, the largest natural lake in Texas, Uncertain is a little place with a whole lot of stuff going on. Locals offer boat tours that take guests through the largest bald cypress forest in the world. These big old trees give Caddo Lake a unique and mysterious personality.
You’ll find several small businesses in Uncertain and a non-denominational place of worship understandably called The Church of Uncertain. But don’t let the name fool you. This little house of worship is certain about the doctrinal essentials that make it vital to the spiritual health of the community.
There are a few places to eat in Uncertain but we chose to stop at a place called Shady Glade Cafe. This little joint has a cool local vibe and offers a great selection of home-style meals, including burgers. The big guy seated next to us ordered a chicken fried steak that was bigger than the plate. I ordered the Baconator with cheese, seasoned fries, and iced tea.
As he was leaving the big guy turned, took a deep breath, and said to me, “I can put away a lot of groceries, but I could not finish that chicken fried steak.” I can understand why. It was huge! As for my burger, it was really good, especially the generous meat patty that had a great flavor. There was a steady stream of customers the whole time we were there. That in itself is a good endorsement.
Bottom line — we enjoyed our drive through this small community where folks make their livelihood from catering to tourists and fishermen to Caddo Lake. The folks we met while there were all very friendly and helpful. So, one thing is certain — we enjoyed our brief time in Uncertain and glad that this was our first stop on our East Texas road trip.

Comfort Cafe in Comfort

Comfort is just a tiny little dot on Texas roadmaps. Located west of San Antonio along Interstate 10, Comfort is a popular tourist area with great recreational access to the Guadalupe River. While traveling to Big Bend, my buddies and I approached Comfort just in time for lunch. Our hunger led us straight to the Comfort Cafe.
Comfort Cafe SignThe Comfort Cafe is small enough to be considered a hole-in-the-wall but, as we would soon discover, big enough to deliver on flavor. The place was clean as a whistle and the staff was more than eager to help. Friendly staff always helps make any dining experience that much more pleasant.
Comfort Cafe MenuI ordered a bacon cheeseburger with a side of onion rings and a glass of iced tea — my standard order on my burger adventures. From where I was sitting I could see into the kitchen area where my burger was being made to order. I could even hear the meat sizzling on the grill, releasing its burger perfume into the air.
Comfort Cafe BurgerWhen my order arrived I cut my burger in half and was pleased to see the generous portion of meat. The bacon was crispy, the cheese perfectly melted, and the bun lightly toasted. All of the ingredients were obviously fresh. The only thing that remained was to take a bite.
Comfort Cafe Burger HalfBottom line — the burger was unquestionably tasty. Everything about this burger worked well together. Someone had obviously given some thought to how a burger should be prepared and did not compromise at any point on delivering a delicious burger. I made it a point to thank the folks in the kitchen, something easy to do in a small place like this.
comfort-cafe-interiorThe Comfort Cafe has only been opened a short while, but I am confident it will be around for a long time. If I lived anywhere near Comfort I would surely make it a point to make my way to the Comfort Cafe as often as possible. I loved the whole dining experience, especially the ambiance that is unique to small town mom and pop eateries.
comfort-cafe-exteriorIf your road trips ever take you anywhere near Comfort, consider pulling off the main drag and making your way to the Comfort Cafe. Little stops along the way like the Comfort Cafe just add a magical element to any road trip. Embrace the experience. Enjoy the food. Make good memories with friends and family.

High Sierra Bar and Grill

Terlingua is a place like none other in the Lone Star State. Nestled between Big Bend National Park and Big Bend Ranch State Park, this ghost town has a character uniquely its own. The name of the town is derived from the Spanish words “tres lenguas” meaning “three tongues” — a reference to English, Spanish, and Native American, the three languages spoken there in the days of the Old West.
Terlingua SignIf you have never ventured to the Chihuahuan Desert or to Terlingua, you owe it to yourself to visit this fascinating and mesmerizingly beautiful part of Texas. Terlingua was once a thriving mining town that was abandoned after the Second World War. Starting in the 1970’s, Terlingua became a destination for adventurers, entrepreneurs, artists, musicians, and just plain folks who were bewitched by the old ghost town and decided to stay.
High Sierra Bar and GrillOn a recent visit to Big Bend Ranch State Park, my buddies and I ventured to the High Sierra Bar and Grill in Terlingua in search of a hunger busting burger. There are not a lot of places to eat in Terlingua so we were happy to find the High Sierra and even happier to learn that they had burgers on the menu.

I ordered my usual bacon cheeseburger with a side of onion rings and a tall glass of iced tea. We enjoyed the ambiance of the place while we waited for our burgers. The staff was friendly. The iced tea was cold. The mix of locals and outsiders made for some interesting people watching. And the music was perfect, especially because Johnny Cash was on the playlist.
High Sierra BurgerMy burger and hand-battered onion rings arrived hot and ready to eat. The generous-sized and cheese covered meat patty was cooked just the way I like. The bun was slathered with a combination of mustard and mayo, every ingredient was fresh, and the bacon was nice and crispy. I cut my burger in half and eagerly took my first bite.
High Sierra Sliced BurgerThe first bite always tells the story. And this first bite was delicious. Wow — it was so good. I savored every tasty bite. When I finished, my only regret was that I did not have the bandwidth in my stomach (nor the metabolism) to do it all over again. Without question, this was one of the best burgers I have eaten in the Lone Star State. And the onion rings were pretty tasty in their own right. All in all — a delicious meal!

No matter where you go in Texas, you can find a delicious burger. However, you must be willing to get off the beaten path and walk into places you might not otherwise visit. I’m glad we stopped to eat at the High Sierra Bar and Grill. This eatery will remain high on my list of places to eat the next time I venture west of the Pecos River. If you find yourself anywhere near the ghost town of Terlingua, check out the High Sierra Bar and Grill.

Champ Burger of Houston

Among the hidden treasures in the Lone Star State are off-the-beaten-path burger joints that serve up some of the finest burgers on the planet. This week I had an opportunity to venture from my suburban home in Katy to Houston’s Second Ward to eat a burger at Champ Burger — a fifty-plus year burger establishment on the corner of Sampson and Garrow.
champ-burgerChamp Burger is an old-fashioned walk-up burger place with plenty of shaded outdoor seating. They have a window where you can place your order and another where you can pick-up phone orders. Both had a steady stream of customers when I was there. That in itself is a great recommendation. And, to make things even better, the staff was very friendly and helpful.
champ-burger-exteriorIf there is such thing as a Burger Heaven, then Champ Burger is definitely in. The burger-aroma around the joint was heavy and heavenly. As usual, I ordered a bacon cheeseburger with a side of onion rings and a glass of iced tea. Within minutes of sitting down my order was ready. And then, the best part — eating!
champ-burgerI was immediately impressed with the size of this single patty burger. The bun was toasted to perfection, the cheese-covered meat patty was generous and juicy, the bacon was crisp, and the veggies were fresh. Everything looked delicious and inviting. As for my first bite — oh my soul. It was absolutely delicious. Within seconds I knew that this was one of the best burgers I have ever tasted.
chamop-burger-menuI know that fast food joints serve a purpose. But why, when you have options like this, would anyone want to eat a fast food burger. It’s definitely worth taking a few extra minutes to drive to a place like Champ Burger to make lunch a little more of an enjoyable adventure. Some regard Champ Burger as one of Houston’s Best Kept Secrets. I agree but want to do what I can to let the secret out.
champ-burger-signjpgI love finding places like Champ Burger. These guys have been around for more than fifty years for good reason. They have perfected the preparation of an unforgettable burger that keeps drawing customers back again and again. If you live anywhere in the greater Houston area, you owe it to yourself to give Champ Burger a try. If you are traveling anywhere near Houston and love burger adventures, then swing by and see the folks at Champ Burger. You’ll definitely be glad you did!