Posted 1/29/18 | © Photo by Jo Ann Holt
My husband and I frequently travel to Austin or San Antonio on I-35 south, gritting our teeth at the construction jams along the way that can add several hours to a trip. We have learned that the stops along the way are sometimes as much fun as reaching our destination.
This is especially true of places like the Czech Stop in West, Texas. Long lines of people wait to buy their yummy, made-from-scratch kolaches, pastries and specialty breads. Although my standard order has been reduced from a dozen fruit-filled kolaches to just a few now, it's impossible to drive past the Czech Stop without, well, stopping.
A favorite destination for many years, Salado's Stage Coach Inn restaurant, reopened last summer after being closed a year for renovations. This was always my family's favorite place to stop for lunch or dinner, with its home-style meals like chicken fried steak, gravy, and biscuits or hush puppies served boarding house style. Stage Coach is back on my calendar for a future road trip. The Stage Coach Inn is also expected to re-open with 75 rooms later this year. One of the oldest hotels in Texas, it first opened as the Shady Villa Hotel in 1861.
When driving south on I-45 from Dallas to Houston and Galveston, we always plan our trips around lunch at Sam's Original Restaurant & BBQ in Fairfield. This is a great place to break our trip since Fairfield (population 2,900) is 88 miles from Dallas and another 152 miles to Houston.
But the best reason to stop at Sam's is you won't need to eat again all day, because Sam's All You Can Eat Buffet (
If you leave hungry it's your fault) provides an assortment of salads, vegetables, meats and desserts. The food is cooked the way my mom used to cook, East Texas/southern style, with veggies seasoned to perfection. All for $12.99, which is a real bargain for all that food.
It's difficult to be on a diet at Sam's, though. I took a day off from my New Year's diet resolution on a recent stop at Sam's. With homemade hot bread, delicious veggies, and tender brisket and BBQ sauce, who can diet? The salads and chicken chowder soup are also delicious. My husband, a pie man, loves the coconut cream pie, while I like the blackberry cobbler with a scoop of ice cream.
We prize Sam's for its small town hospitality as much as its food. Service at Sam's is every bit as great as the food, with everyone greeting you with a smile. It's easy to want to sit a spell, and visit with the regulars. Last week we enjoyed visiting with a retired gentleman who lives on a farm outside town, who said he eats at Sam's four or five times a week. We could tell the servers all knew him well, and several stopped to visit with him. After he left, someone told us he lost his wife about a year ago.
Our favorite server, Ashley, has waited on us several times. My husband loves the way she keeps his sweet tea coming. She always makes sure we're through with a plate before taking it away, too. For those who don't want the buffet, Sam's offers plenty of other options from BBQ or country dinners to burgers to salads to pies ($2.49 a slice). But we've never been able to resist the buffet.
Samuel Augustus Daniel was born in 1906. At nine, Sam started working for Joe Roller selling chili and Hokey Pokey in downtown Fairfield. He quit school in the eighth grade to open
Sam Burgers. During the 1930s and '40s he owned several other places, like a popcorn and hot dog stand on Fairfield's square.
In 1953 Sam and his wife, Doris, opened a BBQ stand on State Highway 75. This eventually grew into the hugely successful restaurant just off I-45, where Sam's famous BBQ and the homemade bread and pies Doris perfected are still served daily. Their son, Gilbert Ponte Daniel, now runs the business. Sam's is located at exit 197 off I-45 in Fairfield (samsoriginal.com).
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