Reminiscing at the Texas Table
Texans of all kinds are ardent devotees of their native cuisine. It comes as little surprise, then, that celebrities and notable personalities from the Lone Star State are equally passionate. We asked a handful of famous Texans to reflect on what they grew up eating and what they love to devour now.
Ross Perot,** **former presidential candidate and chairman emeritus of the board of Perot Systems Corporation
Bryce’s Cafeteria was one of my favorite places to eat when I was growing up in Texarkana, starting in the early 1930s, during the Depression. The food was great, and the service was terrific. Bryce Lawrence, its founder, was a friend of my father’s. I have several grandchildren who attend schools in other parts of the country. As they drive home to Dallas, they always stop at Bryce’s. I still consider it one of the finest places I have ever eaten. Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence’s daughter, Sharon, has worked with my company for about 40 years. She, in every way, reflects the character, integrity, creativity, and hardworking spirit that both her parents displayed when I visited their cafeteria.
Colt McCoy, _starting quarterback for the University of Texas Longhorns**
I love Texas food—all of it! I go to a lot of different places and like to do a lot of grilling myself. I’m a big fan of barbecue, and I really like fajitas and good hamburgers. I’m a big breakfast guy, too. Sausage, eggs, pancakes, biscuits—you can’t go wrong with that. I’ve always been a big eater and like lots of different foods, but there’s nothing like steak and potatoes. Every time I come home from school, my mom has my favorite, smothered steak and mashed potatoes, ready for me.
Carol Burnett_, actress_**
I love enchiladas. My mom made the best! They were made with ground round, cheese, and red sauce. She served them with beans, rice, and corn tortillas on the side. I still love them, and whenever I go to a Tex-Mex restaurant in Texas, that’s what I order.
Hannah Storm, _Co-host of ESPN’s morning SportsCenter
I remember first moving to Texas when I was in college, after having lived the deep South and the Midwest. We didn’t even know how to pronounce _fajita; we called them “fah-JEET-ahs”! And the first time I tried to pull the head off a crawfish, I squirted juice on the entire table. It was a steep but delightful learning curve, and I quickly became versed in the art of a great margarita and Texas-style barbecue. I still hit the barbecue joints when I come home (Goode Company is my favorite), and just about any Mexican restaurant is umpteen times better than what we get here in the hinterlands [of Connecticut].
Chloe Dao, fashion designer and winner of Bravo’s _Project Runway, season two_
When I think of Texas cuisine, barbecue comes to mind, but it definitely isn’t the only cuisine here. It’s such a diverse state, especially in Houston. You can have Italian, French, and any type of Asian—Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Indian, or Korean—any night of the week. Whatever you are craving, it’s available in Houston. One of my favorite places to go is Max’s Wine Dive. You can get amazing comfort food with the quality of fine dining. Where else can you get a giant hot dog with venison chili? They also make the perfect fried oyster, which is served on top of a tortilla chip with a bit of spicy aioli. Max’s also has some of the best fried chicken in town. Another hot spot is Farrago’s, which is in Midtown. They have a fusion menu that offers lobster egg rolls, burgers, pizza, pozole, steaks, and mussels. They also have the best Sunday brunch.
Monica Pope, executive chef, Tafia, Houston, Texas
I grew up in Houston in the ’70s, and I remember some great concept restaurants: bold, exciting flavors, fun atmospheres, great energy, and food still made with real ingredients. It was fun to go out to eat. I don’t think I was having “Texas food”, though; I’ve never been very sure what that is. I know what we’re known for, but I would like to see the Lone Star State’s cuisine reflect its huge, diverse population and close proximity to Mexico and for more chefs to use real and local ingredients. In most of Texas, we have a nine-month growing season, and we are seeing some really wonderful fruits and vegetables. I want to see my state embrace more than just Tex-Mex, barbecue, and big steaks and celebrate the abundance of real, indigenous, good food.
Lisa Fain, creator of the website The Homesick Texan
The last time I flew home to Houston, my mom greeted me with a take-out box filled with my favorite Tex-Mex dish—enchiladas verdes. My plan had been to go to sleep, but instead I opened the container and was greeted by the smell of corn tortillas stuffed with crisp, juicy pork, smothered in a tart tomatillo salsa and topped with slices of avocado and white onion. Lard-rich refried beans, fluffy rice, and hand-pressed flour tortillas rounded out the meal. Still standing, I grabbed a fork and ate my way through the entire container. “Don’t you want to sit down?” said my mom. But since I had lived away from Texas for over 14 years, she knew better than to question my behavior. Whenever I return to Texas, the first order of business is always to eat those beloved foods that I can’t find anywhere in New York City, where I now live.