Three days on the road, three diners, three classic stops.
Mi Tierra in San Antonio, TX.
It’s six AM on a Thursday morning. Off to Round Top and from thence to Winedale for UT’s summer Shakespeare offerings. But first, breakfast at one of the classic, and properly so, diners in world.
It’s not sticky-hot, yet. The air is moist and laden with promise, and suggestive of a summer’s day. The coffee is hot, the waitresses rustle and hustle in their bustles, and the food is good, arguably great. Perhaps some of the finest diner-type fare in the world. Even better than most, as this place hits all the requirements: open 24 hours a day, coffee shop, home to locals, and host to tourists. There’s even a counter in the back of one section. Bonus points for breakfast done to perfection, and double bonus as it is pure TexMex.
For me, every great road trip should start at a breakfast like this. This time it was a Number 9, eggs scrambled with peppers, spices, refried beans sweating lard, and a couple of pieces of bacon, all chased with flour tortillas complimented with the requisite quarts of coffee.
Frank’s in Schulenburg, TX.
Maybe a hundred miles due east on the interstate, there sits Frank’s. Won’t be there much longer, and that is a great loss for the world, as Frank’s is a throwback to previous eras.
To me, it is factored and fissured history, and sad, as the place is closing. One companion noted, “I’ve been stopping here since the 80s; nothing’s changed.”
Stopped on the way to Houston for a show, once or twice, and at least once when coming to UT’s summer-stock show, Shakespeare at the Winedale Barn. I’m unsure of its real name. Stopping at Frank’s, maybe for the last time?
The weekday special was a beef brisket sandwich with fries. Rather hearty helpings, on white bread. Traditional roadside fare. Can’t go wrong. Just so sad, I only discovered it recently and now the place is closing. Roadside icons and history, fading fast.
The semis roll through like stainless steel stallions
Goin’ hard, goin’ fast, goin’ wild
Rollin’ hard, rollin’ fast, rollin’ by.
Rolling By Robert Earl Keen
It’s not but a 100 yards — or less — south of the Interstate but a million miles away in time. That REK classic tune kept echoing as the semis rolled through like stainless steel stallions.
While the song is about West Texas, and the road towards Houston is most certainly not West Texas, more coastal prairie, the essence of the lyrics hold up well, and the tune carries the sentiment perfectly.
Comfort Cafe in Smithville, TX.
Some days, I do not need to explain myself. My day job — I am an astrologer — I blend myth, magic, metaphysics, along with Shakespeare, and Texas, into a way to help people navigate life. So there was a kindred spirit I found in the Capricorn waiter, he played Hamlet in high school.
Comfort Cafe is only open Friday-Saturday-Sunday, like 8 to 3, kind of a narrow time slot to hit, but for me? So very worth it. From San Antonio, looks like about 120 miles, Austin, just 100 miles, east. Best time is Friday breakfast, before the lunch crowd, if there is one, and go for two, no, three reasons. Good food. Good people. Good feeling.
While careful with experimental dishes, there is still a slight edge to the food but the main selling point, for me is the atmosphere. While I can only count the place as “diner-like,” there is a certain magical appeal not found elsewhere.
The Three Diners were all about seeing plays at Shakespeare Winedale, and that is always amusing — to me — one circle of friends is completely unaware of any interest I have in Shakespeare’s works. But like Winedale’s excellent logo, ”Cowboy Willie?”
I had to explain, drawling it out, and exaggerating the twang, ”I’m a-go get my Shakespeare on.”