Sunday, June 10, 2012

Texas Tavern -- Deep in the Heart of Virginia

The Texas Tavern is an icon in Roanoke, Virginia, and about the last place name I expected to encounter on the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Of course I had to know why.

I didn't find out why this sign was relevant but here's what I learned about the Texas Tavern.  It was started in 1930 by Nick Bullington, who, while scouting for Ringling Brothers Circus, ate some pretty good chili in a hotel in San Antonio.  Nick was from Indiana so he could have called his place Indiana Tavern -- but, face it, Texas Tavern was more euphonious -- and that was where he got his chili recipe.  It's been modified over the years for the more gentile Roanoke palates (less chile in the chili) but it's made with fresh (never frozen), lean ground beef and it's pretty darn good. 

A sign on the wall says "We seat 1000 people, 10 at a time."  That's how many stools there are -- and people are frequently lined up three or four deep to sit on one.  More than that and the line goes out the door!   Texas Tavern is open 24 hours a day every day of the year except Christmas.

The menu's up over the counter and the prices are astonishingly low.  Ads flank the menu items without regard to delicacy of placement!

With such low prices, you forgo the frills -- like plates.  But who needs one?  This is your basic $1.25 hot dog with chili, onions and Texas Tavern homemade relish (cabbage and mustard base).  Admit it, no matter how high-fallutin' your taste, you can't beat a great hot dog!

And a little eye-candy for dessert.  This is owner Matt Bullington, great-grandson of Nick, not only carrying on the family tradition but looking cute to boot.

Our group drove by at 11 one night and, sure enough, the Texas Tavern was still going strong.  Here's to another 82 years!