A time before disco or microwaves
Threadgill's is one of those must-see places. It's literally part of US history, one of the places where Janis Joplin worked the kinks out of her inimitable style. So The Woman and I took a rush hour date to the original location on North Lamar, founded in 1933 by bootlegger Kenneth Threadgill. He was first in line for a liquor license when Travis County went "wet." The gas station became a hot spot for drinking, gambling and jamming. It stayed open 24-hours a day until 1942 when a WWII curfew forced Threadgill actually buy a lock for the front door and close at night. When Threadgill retired in 1974, Armadillo World Headquarters owner Eddie Wilson bought him out and added southern cooking to the mix.
Sure enough, as we were shown to our seats, we walked past photos of Janis taking another piece of our hearts. Or not. Anyway, there were pictures. The menu is home cooking in spades, the kind of place you find a lot in the south and not much anywhere else. Well, actually, you will find a lot of the appetizers and entrees on menus all over the US (burgers, steak, catfish, fried shrimp), but when you get to the veggie section, you know you done come home.
I was going for the 5 vegetable plate and thought I might talk The Woman into the Smoked Cheese-a-dillos for an entree. (Flour tortillas stuffed with chicken, mixed cheeses, black beans, and diced green chilies with roasted corn salsa.) But she went all down-home on me with the chicken-fried steak with mashed potatoes and the broccoli-rice casserole. I consoled myself with the garlic cheese grits, collard greens, green beans, the spinach casserole (Swiss cheese, mushrooms, onions and bacon) and the Texas caviar (a tangy, marinated, cold black-eyed pea salad). I meant to get the squash, but couldn't decide between the yellow squash (sautéed with onions in wine, spices, and butter) or the San Antonio squash (a casserole baked with green chilies, queso, and onions) and got so distracted with the greens selection (collard or turnip) that I forgot about the squash and mistakenly ordered the green beans. They were fresh, steamed with onions and black pepper, but they weren't squash.
The grits were good, hinting at garlic and cheese instead of overwhelming you with them. The black-eyed peas and greens were good, but the winner was the spinach casserole. You would think that a big green mushy pile on your plate would not be a good thing, but you would be wrong. The only thing better is a green mushy pile on your fork headed to your mouth.
We were also there for the live music, but our schedule got us there a little early and the band was late, of course. (Am I the only guy who starts gigs on time?) So we missed out. And I have to go back for the squash, anyway, so next time I'll catch some jams.
I have no desire to sample the fried pickle spears, but I'm a sucker for meatloaf (especially cold meatloaf sandwiches) and I'd like to sample the bronzed catfish and pecan crusted chicken. Maybe I'll have to make several return trips. Anybody want to come with me?