food road trip: california french to....texas deep fried?
Boy howdy! Talk about a 180 degree turn from upscale fine dining in Napa Valley to down home deep fried-ness in the wilds of Texas, I am definitely getting around this summer. And here the SO and I are visiting relatives....in Texas....in July....who's idea was this again? I know summer in the Lone Star State is hot, but it's super hot and humid this time. In SF you look at the temp and it says something like 64 feels like 60, because of the wind blowing. For TX the temp says 95 feels like 104!! Ugh, that is what 75% or higher humidity will get you. That and sweat stains from your pits to your feet.
How do I deal? Running from the ac in the car to the ac in the house or the store or the movie theater or the restaurant or wherever it be cool. Though, somehow we got the bright idea to venture out and catch some nature with bat emergence at Old Tunnel State Park. Yes, it's a thing where people stand outside at sunset and watch this ginormous horde of bats take flight on their nightly ritual to swarm to skies in a black cloud to search for food. Fun times! It would just like watching Planet Earth, but in person.
Of course, we decided to make a full day of it and hit up some of the wineries near Fredericksburg, TX that are on the way to the bats. Yep, we really just flew halfway across the US so we could do more wine tasting. This included stops at Barons Creek Vineyards, Alexander Vineyards and Mendelbaum Cellars where the have t-shirts that say "our wine Is-raeli good!" Oy! Though, they actually were from Israel and one of their wines was very good.
After all that wine we needed to fuel up before da-da-da-da bat time! And evidently THE place to grab a bite just happens to be near the cave inside the park. It's Alamo Springs Cafe so it seems like a no brainer.
It is like a shack in the middle of nowhere with a tin roof that looks more like tiny general store. The place is already hopping when we get there and while there is seating inside (where the ac is kind of working) all them seats be taken. They have a deck that sweeps around one side of the place so we suck it up and find an empty one with an umbrella and the most shade and make do.
The drinks work on the honor system so I volunteer to go inside and get them for everyone, because---AC! Fortunately for me, they have iced tea and it is unlimited refills y'all. I'm already bathed in sweat so the gallon of ice and tea I will consume is perfect.
This place is known for their burgers I'm told and that seems to be what everyone around is getting, so burgers it is. However, they also have baskets of fried thingys and we get a few of those to kick this off right.
I think we all though some fried spicy green beans with a side of ranch dressing would be a good start, and they were. Hot, crispy, crunchy and a little red pepper spicy. Just perfect enough to convince ourselves that we were getting our daily dose of veggie and not really caring they were battered in a tasty cornmeal crust and deep fried.
Yeah, so, how wrong can you go with sweet potato waffle fries? As long as they are hot and crispy and not burnt, they will be fine. These were thick slices with crunch on the outside and soft sweet tater inside. Considering how much food seemed to be churning out of the kitchen, it's like these are made to order and not sitting under a heat lamp till they get served.
Nothing says burger joint like hand cut and battered onion rings. Thick round rings of yellow onion covered in a black peppery batter similar to what you get on the outside of a chicken fried steak. I'm pretty sure this was like a whole onion as they were huge and crunchy. While I am a fan of the beer battered variety, I did like this pepper take on o-rings and the coating was flaky and almost buttery like. Super yum.
The main event! Here, you build your own starting with the base--$7 for a burger or $7.50 for a cheeseburger (cheese of your choice of course). From there, each additional topping is $1. I piled it on with sauteed onions, mushrooms and bacon for $10.50 total. While I know that is close to SF burger prices, this ain't no Bay Area burger. Big as a baby's head, it is a full half pound of ground beef cooked to order served on a giant toasted bun with mustard, mayo, lettuce, tomato, red onion and pickle. If ever there was a two handed burger, this is it. Juicy and meaty, just the way a burger should be.
Evidently, this shows up on lists around the state as one of the best burgers and I can see why. You get excess on your topping choices and the meat is perfectly cooked and hearty. I mean, if you are gonna do a big TX burger, you may as well do this one. I guess when you are a bit out of the way (it's not like this place is right off the main highway) you need to make it worthwhile to come all this way for something other than bats. This burger definitely hit the spot and I probably won't have to eat for the rest of the day.
Turns out, they also do live music on Fridays and Saturdays and we got a little bit of country rock with our meal. As for the bats, turns out, sunset around these here parts is sometime around 9pm-ish and that is when the bats usually come out, according to our waitress. Looking at my watch that's 90 minutes from now?! We all just sort of stare at each thinking, are going to make it that long in this heat (it's still 92)? And after all that wine and food? Seems a unanimous no was easy to come by. I've seen bat swarms before in other countries and I suggested we just head back to the house and watch YouTube videos of it--like this one!
So while we didn't get bats with our burgers, we certainly got a delicious burger and some really tasty side baskets to share. Alamo Springs Cafe really is one of those way off the beaten path spots you should seek out, if you just happen to be in the area. The bats would just be a bonus, if you can stand the heat that is.