Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Round Rock, Texas - Mmmmmm, donuts!

Old school water tower in Round Rock - part of a large WPA project in the 1930's
The Dining Companion and I stayed in Round Rock, Texas during our recent visit to Louie Mueller Barbecue. One of things I wanted to do while we were there was visit Round Rock Donuts.

So, once again, the Dining Companion and I headed out way too early in the morning. I wanted to make sure that we were there for some of the first donuts of the day. 
The line at the drive-thru

There were already people waiting in the parking lot and a line forming at the drive-thru.

A few minutes before the door opened I got in line. Well, not a line really, just me and one other guy. It seems that almost all of the action was happening in the drive-thru line. Fine by me. It gave me a chance to take a look around and decide which donuts to get.


Mmmmm, donuts!
You can't really see it in the pictures but Round Rock Donuts also sells kolaches. I got a couple of those too; sausage and cheese and sausage and jalapeno. For those of you not lucky enough to have had kolaches, they are small savory pastries. These are filled with all kinds of ingredients with sausage, cheese and jalapenos being very popular.

One of Round Rock's claims to fame is their Texas sized glazed donuts...

Picture of Texas sized glazed donut from Round Rock's website

...the other is the famous golden orange color of their donuts. (as seen in the smaller donut above) Once upon a time the color was said to come from the yolks of the very fresh eggs they used. These days it mostly comes from a little color adding cheat. Either way, they sure are pretty.

I got four donuts, two kolaches and a cup of coffee. 

Two kolaches, two glazed donuts, (1) chocolate covered bismark and (1) cherry filled
Hard for donuts not to be good when they're still warm and these were both, warm and good. The kolaches were good too. While I'm not sure that I would make a special trip for the donuts, I wouldn't hesitate to stop back in if I'm in town again.

Happy dining!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Louie Mueller Barbecue - Taylor, Texas

After having visited one of the newer houses of smoke in Texas, Franklin Barbecue, we decided to make a pilgrimage (and that's what it is for any barbecue enthusiast) to one of the original temples of Texas style smoked meat, Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor, TX.

There is no doubt that Franklin Barbecue in Austin is the current darling of the barbecue world. With good reason, if you ask me. I mention this only to make the point that while there are newer places doing great barbecue, the old school places that blazed the trail for them are still going strong.

Louie Mueller Barbecue has been in its current location in Taylor, Texas since 1959. As I took a look around it was easy to see the history of smoke in this place. The building itself seems nearly as smoked as the brisket.

Each dot represents where a customer came from to eat BBQ at Louie Mueller
We got there early and managed to avoid a line. I think we got lucky...

Once the doors opened we headed in. The problem, and it's always a problem, is that we can only eat so much BBQ. It was difficult, but we managed to narrow down our choices and still have room for dessert.

The menu
Sides, sauce and a sample

The brisket
The turkey

The Sausage and Pork Loin

The Banana Pudding
So what's the verdict? Is Louie Mueller Barbecue worth a journey to Central Texas? The short answer is yes. The long answer is hell yes! Every bite of smoked meat we had at Louie Mueller was pilgrimage worthy. It now holds the number two spot on my list of best barbecue.

Truth be told a thousand words could and have been written about the relationship between Aaron Franklin and the Mueller family (Aaron started out with John Mueller's old pit) about the fact that the Mueller siblings now run some of the best BBQ spots around (La Barbecue and John Mueller Meat Company) with a brother now in charge of the original family business, Louie Mueller Barbecue as well. Suffice to say that barbecue at the top of the of the game is a small community with a colorful and connected past. (A link to an article that covers some of that at the end of this post)

This history and passion is one of the many reasons you should be planning a trip to Texas to try it for yourself. Head to Austin for some great live music and awesome barbecue, then drive out into the country to experience where it all started. Hit the places along the Texas BBQ Trail and you'll see for yourself what drives the devotion to Texas style barbecue and get to enjoy some of the best smoked meats in the country.

Happy dining!

Note: An interesting article about the history of Texas barbecue from Texas Monthly magazine. Worth the read.  Also, if you love good food and a road trip I suggest you check out the Texas BBQ Trail.

We based our trip in Round Rock, Texas. This gave me the chance to try Round Rock donuts and another well known BBQ joint in the area. We also made a detour to Bellville, TX to try the Silver Saddle Smokehouse. Look for those reviews soon.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Blue Dog Cafe - Lafayette, LA

One of the last stops on our weekend tour of Lafayette was the Blue Dog Cafe for brunch. Some of you may already know that brunch is my favorite meal of the week. The Dining Companion is not as big a fan as I am but he let's me drag him off to brunch on the occasional Sunday.

The Blue Dog (art, not cafe) is the creation of George Rodrigue, a Louisiana artist. As you can imagine with the name, his art is featured in the cafe. I'm a huge fan of the late Mr. Rodrigue and the art displayed around the restaurant is a big plus for me.

One of my favorite Blue Dog paintings

Let's face it, the art is great but we were there for the food. That didn't disappoint either. Brunch was a mix of standards and some Cajun specialties. There were bagels and lox, salads, eggs and bacon. Also a carving station with roast beef and a nice dessert table.

Carving station and breakfast standards

For me, where brunch really shined, was the non-standard offerings. It's hard to see my stuffed plate clearly but this is what I had...

From the top clockwise: Cornbread dressing, Shrimp Etouffee, Crab Cake Benedict, Sweet potato bake, roast beef with horseradish sauce, sauteed veggies and somewhere in the center, Smothered Cabbage
This was by far my favorite dish of the day, grillades with cheese grits. (notice it got its own plate) Grillades are medallions of beef (pork) dredged in flour and sauteed. They are then covered in a flavorful gravy made with tomatoes. Although all of the  grillades I've ever had were made with beef these were made with pork and were fantastic.
Cheese grits & pork grillades
 Desserts rounded things out. Of all of the items I had these were the least exciting. I expected more from the Banana Pudding but it was a little bland. The bread pudding and chocolate pudding were pretty tasty.

All in all brunch at the Blue Dog Cafe was a big hit. Once again Lafayette delivers on its promise of being one of the south's best food cities.

There were a few places on my list that I didn't get to. They were closed over the holiday weekend which caused much sadness on my part. Needless to say I'm working on a plan to get back there and remedy this injustice. Also, I would like to pay a visit to a couple of the local attractions, most notably the Acadian Village.

That wraps up this trip to Southern Louisiana. Next stop: more BBQ!

As always,

Happy travels!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Poupart's Bakery - Lafayette, LA

Poupart's Bakery is a local fixture in Lafayette and has been around since the 1960's. Poupart's is more than just a bakery. Besides the bread and pastries they also have soup and salads as well as sandwiches and quiche. Breakfast or lunch they have you covered.

I was there for the beignets. Beignets, for those not familiar, are fried sweet dough that's served covered with powdered sugar. At least that is the most common way that you will find them.

I have a lot of love for these little squares of goodness. I can remember my mawmaw making beignets for us kids. Hers were fried blobs of dough that we ate with cane syrup mixed with peanut butter and washed down with very milky coffee. I imagine many a child that grew up in south Louisiana can claim that same memory.
Lots of goodies to choose from

As it turns out I got a little more than just the beignets I went in for. There were some nice looking handpies and a few other things that caught my eye. I also ended up with a jar of the most delicious fig preserves. Another fond memory from my mawmaw's kitchen. I've been happily enjoying them with my yogurt in the morning.
From top clockwise: Beignets, Small Pecan Pies, Sweet Pretzel Roll, Blackberry and Fig handpies
As no trip to Southern Louisiana would be complete without at least trying a beignet you can go ahead and add it to your ever growing list of things to do when you get there. Resistance is futile y'all. Ça c'est bon!

Happy dining!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

T-Coon's Restaurant - Lafayette, LA

The picture above may look like it was taken in the middle of the night but in fact it was taken at about 5:00 in the morning. In other words, O'dark:30! When you find yourself wide awake on a weekend morning and looking for breakfast T-Coon's Restaurant in Lafayette is a fine place to land.

The tables are set with huge coffeepots, plenty of cups, cream and sugar; however you take your morning brew, they're ready for you.

The table is covered with advertising from local businesses
How wonderful not to have to wait for that first cup of the morning. Sit down, grab a mug and you're all set. While I sipped my coffee we looked over the menu. T-Coon's has a big breakfast menu. A couple different breakfast plates, at least a dozen different omelets, biscuits, bagels, pancakes and more.

The Dining Companion and I decided on omelets. They were stuffed to the gills and served with potatoes, biscuits and grits.

Bacon omelet with grits and a biscuit

Pork omelet with potatoes and a biscuit

T-Coon's is the kind of place where people know each other. Almost every time the door opened, the newcomer was greeted by the folks already there. Groups of older gentlemen, seated in threes and fours at various tables, drinking coffee and solving the worlds problems. A fantastic, albeit very early start to our day.

T-Coon's is one of those places, if you like a good diner with local influence, that you just have to visit. So, when you're planning that trip to Southern Louisiana (and you are right?) plan to stop here for breakfast at O'Dark:30. They'll have the coffee on for you.

Happy dining!