While the five-star restaurants and exotic cuisines of the ever-changing big cities are great, some days you just need a comfy atmosphere, a great conversation and a smorgasbord of fried foods. If it’s down-home and country cookin’ you’re looking for, than look no further than these 11 small-town cafes. Sure, they may not be the flashiest or the most famous, but at these cafes you’ll find honest, welcoming folks, comfort food cooked with family recipes and homemade desserts to die for.
1. Lost Maples Cafe – Utopia, TX
Cluttering the walls of Utopia’s favorite cafe are props from it’s famed days as a location in the 2011 movie, Seven Days in Utopia. Yet, even after hosting movie stars like Robert Duvall, not much has changed at Lost Maples Cafe. In fact, since it was built in 1904, this little cafe has been everything from a classroom to a drugstore, but one thing’s always remained the same — it’s the center of the community. Join the locals in this tightly-packed diner as they shoot the breeze over a hearty breakfast of giant fluffy biscuits, thick slabs of bacon and a mason jar of freshly made salsa — yes every breakfast plate is served with an entire jar of salsa — or stop by for a quick slice of creamy fudge pie after a day of road tripping to nearby Lost Maples State Park.
2. The Dixie Pig – Abilene, TX
Decking the pastel pink walls and window sills of Abilene’s oldest restaurant are all sorts of piggy paraphernalia collected by customers and waitresses over the years. This cafe turns 86-years-old in July, and it’s the kind of place where you can “pig” out on giant platters of country cooking without any modern distractions…like cell phones (this old-fashioned diner still uses a rotary phone) or Wi-Fi (no computers either — it’s cash or check only). And don’t be surprised if you leave with a couple of new Abilenian friends.
3. Ginger Brown’s Olde Tyme Restaurant and Bakery – Lake Worth, TX
Though this cafe has only been around since 1985, the black and white photos of family reunions and kissing sweethearts on the walls paired with the mini jukeboxes over the tables at each of the faded green floral booths call back to a much simpler time. At Ginger Brown’s, customers and waitstaff mingle into one big family, Monday-night BINGO and Cinnamon Roll Happy Hour are the main events each week and enormous portions of fried chicken and pot roast will transport you to Sunday dinners with your family.
4. Koffee Kup – Hico, TX
Leave your diet at home, and be sure you’ve packed your fat pants for this cafe. At the Koffee Kup in Hico, hand-battered chicken fried steak, over-sized onion rings and homemade pie are the three main food groups that provide nourishment (well, maybe just satisfaction…) to travelers from near and far. Their Cream Cheese Jalapeno Burger has even made one of Texas Monthly’s top burgers list. And since 1968, this cash-only cafe has served pies under a belief that “pie fixes everything.” Just one bite of their Doctor’s Office pie and you’ll be a believer, too.
5. Leona General Store – Leona,TX
The 1921 general store in Leona, TX has been converted into the best steakhouse you’ve probably never heard of — but plenty of folks have since a line almost as big as the town, itself, begins forming at 4:30 p.m. for the opening of the cafe at 5:30 p.m. The menu is limited, but the food is out of this world. Choose between a juicy, thick rib-eye (really this should be your choice) or grilled catfish or chicken on Friday and Saturday nights, and gorge yourself on hand-breaded All-You-Can-Eat catfish on Thursday nights. While the meats are a meal in themselves, the house-made sides like jalapeno hush puppies on catfish night and twice-baked potatoes on steak night are also worth the immense post-dinner food cramps.
6. Royers Round Top Cafe – Round Top, TX
This throwback cafe is the perfect place to eat when you’re tripping through a town that has the one of the best antique shows in the US. The walls are a hodgepodge of old photos, hometown trophies and magazine articles, and at your checkered picnic table you can enjoy thick pork chops or succulent grilled quail with food-coma-inducing sides like creamed corn and jalapeno cheese soup in a laid back atmosphere. But don’t let the extensive dinner and lunch menu full you, you’re really here for pie. With flavors like strawberry rhubarb, apple pie and Texas Trash, if you can’t choose — get three slices (we won’t tell…)
7. Hill Country Cafe – Kerrville, TX
Right outside of the hustle and bustle of Main Street, this cafe, though small, is the central meeting place for many folks — from business men grabbing a home-cooked breakfast before heading off to work to old folks catching up over a cup of coffee. And that’s the way it’s been since it opened in 1942. But more than just a place to grab a delicious homemade cinnamon roll, Hill Country Cafe sits on some pretty historic ground as well. Look closely at the news articles on the wall near the cash register and you’ll in find out that in 1905, Mrs. Florence Butts opened a little grocery store that would soon grow to be Texas’s favorite grocery store — HEB!
8. Rock Inn Cafe – Seymour, TX
Drive through this sleepy little town in the southern Panhandle, and you’ll find that the Rock Inn Cafe is almost always hoppin’. Since 1933, this home style joint has been the place where cowboys and farmers alike can catch up over a cigarette and a plate of chicken fried steak, and hot fried pickles and hefty cheeseburgers await travelers weary from trippin’ across Texas. Dine on heaping plates of fried pork chops and collard greens that would put your grandma’s cooking to shame and wash it down with the sweetest of sweet teas.
9. Jacoby’s – Melvin, TX
This is the epitome of a small town cafe. Beneath the looming shadows of the granaries for this farming community’s Feed and Seed store, where the land stretches out for an eternity on every side, farmers gather daily at the dark-paneled diner to discuss the town news. Each platter of fried chicken or cheesy burger comes with your choice of fries, onion rings or okra (always choose the crisp okra), and if you’re lucky, a ginormous pan of freshly baked Texas chocolate sheet cake will greet you at the cash register on your way out (this, too, you must always take.)
10. 7th Street Restaurant – Cushing, TX
This place looks like a tavern and is a great place for a frosty beer during happy hour, but don’t let the bar vibe fool you — it’s got all the flavors of a laid back hometown cafe. You really can’t go wrong with anything on the menu — fried catfish, humongous burgers, smoked fajitas, you name it it’s good — and in the evenings, you can enjoy your meal and conversation with live music from local artists!
11. New York Hill Restaurant – Mingus, TX
Atop a hill with wide, sweeping views of West Texas sits this hidden gem in plain sight. You can get heaps of classic country cooking (big-as-your-face chicken fried steak and fried chicken galore), the fresh rolls were made to be drenched in honey and homemade buttermilk pie is the best way to end the meal. On the walls, you’ll find the history of the nearby ghost town Thurber, and learn about it’s booming days in the mining industry of the early 1900s. After you eat, head to the bottom of the hill where you can explore a historic miner’s home and an old mining caboose!