Have you ever wanted to sell everything you own and just "take off?" Travel the country's back roads, paddle down a meandering stream, experience breath-taking mountain views, walk among 100-year old trees, and just marvel at America's beauty? That is the dream that my partner, Betsy, and I decided to make a reality. This blog describes our adventure. The food we eat, people we meet, sights we see, and the enjoyment we find in traveling.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Miss Mae’s Bar-B-Q


Rarely (if ever) have I written a post solely on one restaurant, but yesterday we found one that is deserving of a post all to itself.  There are times when a restaurant should be judged on its story and soul and not just the atmosphere, food, service, and wine list.  We found such a restaurant in Miss Mae’s Bar-B-Q in Wimberley, Texas.  The recommendation for Miss Mae’s came from a woman at the town visitor center who said we should give it a try if we were in the mood for bar-b-q.  She warned us not to expect too much from the outside but promised that if we ventured inside we would have authentic Texas bar-b-q.  The restaurant sits just the outside of the town’s main town square and appeared to be quite popular with the locals (as evident by all the fire and police men who sauntered in). 

The menu reads like a bar-b-q textbook: brisket, ribs, sausage, chicken, potato salad, coleslaw, beans, and home-made cobbler.  We stood in line and ordered, took our seats on the wooden booths, and dug in to the mounds of food in front of us.  As we were moaning about how good it was, the owner Steve Dunk came by to make sure everything was o.k.  All we could do was nod in agreement with our mouths full and bar-b-q sauce dripping down our cheeks! 

Steve cutting meat made to order.
Miss Mae's picture hangs proudly in the entrance.
Steve checked on us periodically and his genuine warmth and hospitality was apparent.  When asked about the history of the restaurant he proudly pointed to a picture on the wall of his grandma, Miss Mae, and he began telling her story.   Miss Mae was a woman who wore many hats and Steve described her as a “pioneer.”  In her 40’s she bought a ranch and built up herds of Angora goats, cattle, and sheep while her husband worked in Austin for Frito Lay.  When Miss Mae wasn’t saddled up and tending to the ranch she would cook for the ranch hands and bring food to family gatherings.  It was obvious from Steve that his grandmother was a very hard working woman and when she wasn’t ranching, she was coiffing women’s hair at the beauty shop in town that she owned.  And when she wasn’t ranching, cooking, and coiffing, she was at the plant nursery she owned.  We were exhausted from just listening to all Miss Mae did!     

Home-made cobbler with a personalized
saying.  
Fondness for Miss Mae’s bar-b-q spread throughout the town and she eventually opened the Red Barn Pit Bar-B-Que in 1983 in the town square.  All the while she was still tending to the ranch, beauty salon, and nursery.  The bar-b-q restaurant was a true family business with children and grandchildren helping out.  After Miss Mae died in 1997, the restaurant closed and at that time none of the family members had an interest in continuing the restaurant.  But a short time after her death, Steve decided to reopen the restaurant on a piece of land that was the site of the old nursery he inherited from Miss Mae.  He bought a double-wide trailer, knocked out the interior walls, added a commercial kitchen, and built another pit to accommodate the towns demand for Miss Mae’s bar-b-q.  The inside of the restaurant is decorated with an eclectic mix of items that were found on the ranch, family heirlooms, and items given by restaurant patrons.

The line may stretch out to the door, but don't be deterred it moves quickly and is
worth the wait.
Family heirlooms, glass bottles, deer antlers, and the original furniture from the first restaurant.
Miss Mae, the daily specials, and the menu - great prices for the large plates of good food.
Steve speaks affectionately of his grandmother and is grateful to be able to continue the tradition that she started.  He couldn’t wait until the line this day tapered off so he could sneak out back and show us the pits.  Steve proudly boasts that all of the recipes are Miss Mae’s … the beans, the sauce, the cobbler, coleslaw, meat, etc ... and everything is home-made.  Bar-b-que’ing must be genetic and a trait he inherited from his grandmother because it is all done by instinct - there is no meat thermometer and no temperature gauge on the pit but the meat comes out perfect with a flawless blend of smoky tenderness.  

Steve proudly displaying the bar-b-q that is slow-cooked for  many hours.
The building that houses the pits is flanked with oak - the wood of choice for cooking.

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