One of the great pleasures of traveling through rural Texas is all the wonderful road food along the way. Texas Monthly did a write-up in 2008 highlighting the “40 Best Small Town Cafes” in the state, and while I don’t agree with all their selections, the list is a wonderful resource for summer road trip planning.
Rami and I took an impromptu visit to a blueberry farm in east Texas a few weeks ago, and I was thrilled when we passed by The Shed Cafe in Edom. I recognized it from the Texas Monthly article and knew we had to stop for lunch there. The cafe is located at the intersection with the town’s only stoplight, next door to an antique shop and a pottery gallery.
There’s no pretense here although as far as rural Texas businesses go, The Shed Cafe is at the forefront of social media. They have a website with instructions to get more details at “our new Myspace page.”
All jokes aside, The Shed Cafe doesn’t need any fancy marketing to turn tables. The restaurant was full on Friday afternoon with a mix of locals and tourists. Rami and I really must have looked like tourists; I got the stink eye from an octogenarian auto mechanic sitting near the pie case, who clearly thought my big honking camera was disrupting his lunch! Once I tried the food, I completely understood why he was annoyed. Nothing should come between a man and his chicken fried steak. (Or a woman and hers!)
The waitstaff was plenty friendly, even to we out of town-ers. Our server was endlessly patient when she explained to me the differences between chocolate and chocolate dream pie, and she gave me the lowdown on every kind of pie crust in the joint. (For the record there were four that day: graham cracker, traditional pastry, pecan sandy and chocolate wafer.)
Before I get to more pie recapping, I need to tell you about the chicken fried steak. I am a bit of a chicken fried steak skeptic, since so many roadside cafes make the attempt at this dish and miss. There are lots of pitfalls with chicken fried steak: tough steak, soggy coating, too cold, too bland. I don’t even try to make chicken fried steak at home because it’s never as good as I imagine.
The Shed Cafe got it perfect.
Tender beef steak, piping hot, was encased in a tabasco-seasoned coating with the perfect amount of crunch. A blanket of creamy gravy flecked with black pepper covered the steak and neighboring mashed potatoes. Oh. My. God. I might have moaned a bit when I tried my first bite of this dish, garnering more stink eye from that mechanic.
The meal came with stewed okra and tomatoes on the side, along with mashed potatoes and more of that heavenly gravy. I thought I really was in heaven when the waitress brought both cornbread and rolls to the table without us having to ask. Of course we needed both: the cornbread for sopping up okra likker and the roll for the gravy. I took copious notes about that okra, and I am going to have a great time trying to recreate it in my own kitchen.
The next dish we tried was the breakfast special.
The biscuits and gravy were exceptional, and my eggs over medium were cooked to perfection. However, the grits and sausage patties couldn’t hold a candle to the standout items on the menu, and I left most of them on my plate to save room for the rest of our meal.
We ordered lots of desserts. The waitress explained to us that the Shed prepares their custard pies with two topping options: a traditional meringue, and a whipped cream. The pies with whipped topping are called “dream” pies. Rami prefers those to meringue, so we ordered a chocolate dream pie (pictured at top) and their daily special dessert: a chocolate custard pie on a pecan sandy crust with a cream cheese layer and whipped topping.
As a food blogger, I felt a duty to compare the regular chocolate dream pie to this gussied up version. As my accomplice, Rami felt a duty to help me. We had no trouble finishing off both pieces of chocolate pie in the name of research and declaring the regular version the winner. (The deciding factor was the graham cracker crust.)
My favorite item of the day, even after that chicken fried steak and the chocolate pie, was a deep fried peach pie. I love fried pies, from Mrs. Baird’s to the Texas State Fair to Whataburger’s to –gasp– McDonald’s. I will eat them all and enjoy every moment.
I knew as soon as I saw this golden beauty that none of those other fried pies could hold a candle.
I still don’t understand how they deep fry such a thin, flaky crust without the pie filling seeping out of the sides. The pie was like a cloud sitting in the dish, and it crumbled into a steamy peach puff when I pierced it with the fork. Eight bites later it was gone.
“This is how I know you love me,” Rami said when I offered him a nibble. He was right.