Categories
Dining

China Chef

No doubt, East Texas has a restaurant to satisfy nearly every palate (except for Egyptian food…still looking for some good schwarma around here).  There’s plenty of BBQ, Southern Cooking, and even Cajun and Seafood offerings.  There’s also a good handful of Chinese food restaurants but few, if any, can rival the simplicity, cleanliness, and comfort of China Chef in Chandler, Texas.

A little background — I’m a big fan of Chinese food.  Doesn’t matter to me if it comes from a grubby dive joint or a fancy-place like P.F. Chang’s.  But my favorite all-time spot is Szechuan Chinese Restaurant  off Camp Bowie in Fort Worth.  They have the perfect mix of price, location, and service and I’m happy to announce China Chef has achieved that balance as well.

I made the trip to Chandler to meet with some new acquaintances.  China Chef is easy to get to, just off Highway 31 East of Tyler.  As of this writing, the restaurant is about a decade old and appears to be in a building about the same age.  The dining area is fairly small but had no trouble accommodating our party of 8.  The menu features all of your standard Chinese favorites (mine is Orange Chicken).  Servings are generous and inexpensive!  With a large drink, my lunch was about $8 … a bargain by today’s standards.

China Chef is a family-run business.  Best I can tell, “Helen” runs the show with a flair for the care and comfort of each patron.  If you’re lucky, you’ll be greeted by her children who have already learned a great deal of hospitality from their Mom.

Nothing fancy here, just good food at a good price served by nice folks in a nice town.

China Chef
(903) 849-2308
636 HWY 31 W
Chandler, TX 75758

Categories
Entertainment Travel

American Freedom Museum

Take in over 200 years of American history at the American Freedom Museum in Bullard, TX, just a few miles outside of Tyler.  On the campus of the Brook Hill School, visitors to the American Freedom Museum are greeted by an 1861 Parrot Rifle Cannon and an 1857 Congressional Desk and Chair in the museum lobby.   There’s even a photo of then-Senator Abraham Lincoln sitting in a similar chair.

From there, visitors can take in the Hall of Presidents which features signed documents from every President from George Washington to Barack Obama.

The largest exhibit is the museum’s Hall of Freedom featuring artifacts pre-dating the Revolutionary War up to Operation Enduring Freedom including a moving tribute to 9/11.

The museum recommends 90 minutes to tour the facility.  I highly recommend a good 2 or 3 hours if you’re a history buff.  And the American Freedom Museum appeals to all ages.  My party of six ranged in age from 8 years old to 75!

This relatively-new museum has so much to offer and is one of the best U.S. history museums west of Washington, D.C., and certainly within 100 miles of Tyler.  Recommendation:  have lunch at the new Jucy’s location on Old Jacksonville Road.  The American Freedom Museum is just down the street from there.

Categories
Dining

Bryan’s Cheesecakes

Yeah, that’s exactly what you think it is … BANANA PUDDING CHEESECAKE! Who’s responsible for this marriage of all-things-good-and-right-in-the-world?  Bryan’s Cheesecakes.

The longtime staple at First Monday Trade Days in Canton, Bryan’s Cheesecakes have made their way to Broad Street in Mineola joining one of the greatest collections of antique shopping and fun dining in all of East Texas.

Image of Chocolate Extreme Cheesecake, Bryan's CheesecakesSimply put, Bryan’s Cheesecakes are spectacular. The Banana Pudding Cheesecake was everything you’d might expect from such a combination. Likewise for the Chocolate Extreme that we tried. But what really caught our attention was the luxurious texture of each bite. Most of the time high-end cheesecakes are very dense and somewhat heavy…not that that’s a bad thing! These cheesecakes were more airy in nature, if you can believe that, yet still filling. My wife and I had stepped into Bryan’s Cheesecakes after a big meal, fully intending to “share” the slices we purchased. As the old saying goes, there’s always room for dessert and while we shared a bite or two with one another, each slice was completely gone by night’s end.

Bryan’s Cheesecakes offers a more-traditional New York-style Cheesecake but their gourmet offerings are difficult to pass up. Consider:

  • White Chocolate Blueberry Cheesecake
  • Salted-caramel Apple Cheesecake
  • Lemon Cheesecake
  • Birthday Cake Cheesecake

A nice addition to the terrific options at Bryan’s Cheesecakes are the out-of-this-world cupcakes by Teresa Cannon whose baking skills are well-known throughout Lindale.

If neither cheesecake nor cupcakes are your style, the Mineola installation of Bryan’s Cheesecakes also has several popular flavors of Henry’s Homemade Ice Cream on hand.

People’s tastes and dining habits have changed over the years. Pie pantries, bakeries, and confectionaries are disappearing left and right. And, let’s face it; your favorite restaurant probably isn’t known for its desserts. Bryan’s Cheesecakes is filling that void. Once again, you can top off a nice, savory meal with something sweet.  Welcome to Mineola, Bryan’s Cheesecakes!

Categories
Dining

The Stand

 

Image of Bratwurst & Onions at The StandIn East Texas, there are four major food groups:  BBQ, taqueria, hamburgers, and Cajun.  It’s all good, but it’s nice to find something different every now and then and the good folks at The Stand are happy to oblige.

The beauty of The Stand is in the simplicity of its menu.  Nothing but hotdogs, bratwurst, polish sausage and the like.  And then, you can dress ’em up just like you’ve always wanted.  Grilled onions?  Got ’em!  Cole Slaw?  You bet!  Mac & Cheese!  YES, you can even put Mac & Cheese ON your hotdog or sausage.  But how about this — Stanley’s BBQ sauce!   Yessir! Clearly one of the greatest food marriages of all time, only at The Stand.

The dining room is cozy, so it fills up fast during lunch and dinner.  But, on a pretty day, you and your crew can enjoy your meal at one of the many outdoor seating options.  In a hurry?  They’ve got you covered there, too, with a drive-thru.

So if you need a change from the typical East Texas fare, take the family or your office crew to The Stand.

16700 FM 2493 Suite 1600
Tyler, TX 75703

Tel: (903) 504-3292

Email: [email protected]

 

 

Categories
Dining

Bud Jones Bayou

Bud Jones Bayou
Bud Jones Bayou

So, you need your car AND your appetite fixed?  Would you believe you can get both issues addressed at the same place?  Just wheel your bucket of bolts over to Bud Jones Garage to drop off your car.  Then walk next door to Bud Jones Bayou.

What all started as a concession trailer next to the garage is now a full-blown restaurant attached to the fixit-shop.  My lunch buddy on this particular visit works in the Tyler Square and, rather than making the short drive, he simply hoofed it down Erwin…so that’s good news for downtown workers seeking a little variety.

In my experience, good Cajun joints are few and far between here in East Texas, which is a surprise considering the proximity to Louisiana.  But, I’d say Bud Jones is a good spot to satisfy your hankering for bayou fare.

I went with the Blackened Catfish Po’Boy, served up with Cole Slaw ON THE SANDWICH with a remoulade dressing and it came with a side of onion rings (or french fries, if you’re so-inclined).  The sandwich is a good size and, so that I wouldn’t ruin date-night that evening, I brought half of it home.

The Po’Boy was very good, with the perfect balance of blackened spices and sweet slaw.  I’d definitely pick that again.

The locals also tell us the hamburgers are very good, as evidenced by the six boxed-up take-out burgers that were awaiting pickup.

If you come early, say 11:45, you’ll be able to secure a table througout lunch.  But if you come after noon, say 12:15, you might be standing a bit.  But don’t let that scare you off.  Bud Jones Bayou is a good place to eat, a fun place to meet, and an interesting place to discuss ….. even if you’re not a quart low!

 

504 East Erwin
Tyler, TX 75702
903-363-6308
Hours:

Monday: 11 am – 6 pm

Tuesday: 11 am – 6 pm

Wednesday: 11 am – 6 pm

Thursday: 11 am – 6 pm

Friday: 11 am – 8 pm

Saturday: 11 am – 8 pm

Sunday: Closed

Categories
Entertainment Travel

Tiger Creek Animal Sanctuary

Tiger Creek Animal Sanctuary has a Tyler, Texas, address but is tucked away in the piney woods just north of Tyler near the towns of Red Springs and Lindale.

Tiger Creek is home to dozens of rescued “big cats” and other endangered species and the organization is dedicated to providing a natural habitat for each animal while still making them accessible to the viewing public.

Tiger Creek is family-friendly with plenty of parking, a cafe, and a gift shop. It’s also very close to Jellystone Park at Whispering Pines RV & Cabin Resort.

 

 

Tiger Creek Animal Sanctuary

17552 Farm To Market 14

Tyler, TX 75706

903-858-1008

Categories
Entertainment Travel

Ellen Trout Zoo – Lufkin, Texas

Image of Toco Toucan, Ellen Trout Zoo, Lufkin, TexasOur Deep East Texas adventure took us to the Ellen Trout Zoo in Lufkin. For a mere 7$ per person, we were treated to a pleasant walk through some of the most beautiful animals our world has to offer. For the most part, the zoo is arranged in “continents” so that you have immediate context as to the region these creatures have in common in the wild. Many of the enclosures have a big, glass window so you have a nearly-unobstructed view of the residents within.

The zoo is heavily treed so there’s plenty of shade and there’s even a “stop spot” every few exhibits with tables, seating and, in some cases, ceiling fans to help young families (and older folks!) take a load off.

Admission for four adults was $28 total, or $7.00 a person. Rates are cheaper for kids 2-11 and seniors over 60.Image of Bats, Ellen Trout Zoo, Lufkin, Texas

Unaffiliated with the zoo, but located across the street, is the Z&OO Railroad operated by the Lufkin chapter of the Lions Club International. It’s a miniature excursion train very similar to the Forest Park train that has been in operation at the Fort Worth Zoo for many years. We didn’t ride the train but the engine livery was beautiful and plenty of smiling faces, young and old, were enjoying the shiney locomotive.

Inexpensive and fun for the entire family, check out the sites and sounds of the Ellen Trout Zoo!

Ellen Trout Zoo

402 Zoo Circle

Lufkin, TX 75904

Categories
Travel

Cool Down Your RV with Inexpensive Sun Shades That You Can Custom-fit Yourself

Summer’s here and that means RV season is in full swing!

If you’re new to the whole glamping scene like we are, you’re probably figuring things out as you go.  That’s certainly the case for us.

We got our RV late last summer and didn’t do much camping until the fall. As a result, we were not exposed to the tendency of an RV to get rather warm during transit and to take a really long time to cool down once you arrive at your destination.

After setting up camp, all we wanted to do was to chill out — literally — in our RV. But it was early afternoon, the sun was still blazing, and a cooled-down RV seemed like a long way off.

We surfed the web a bit to see how other RV enthusiasts handle this issue and it became pretty clear that we needed to shade our windows. We started by extending our awning because that covers nearly the entire length of the trailer. But, of course, that covers only one side. So we decided to go for recommendation number two, window shades.

Now, to be clear, our RV came equipped with the standard cloth shades but they do little more than offer privacy. They’re certainly not designed to keep out the heat. So our next step was to find the nearest Walmart as we usually do when we hit the road.

Disclaimer: For the purposes of explaining how we cooled down our RV on a budget, I will be referencing products at Walmart and Amazon. Should you click on one of these links, I may receive compensation. But it doesn’t cost you anything extra should you choose to purchase any of these items after clicking on them from this webpage. And, for that matter, I really just want y’all to have a chance to make your RV more comfortable like we did!

Another web search revealed a number of custom-fit window shades out there that are pretty inexpensive as well. Top of the search engines are products such as the Camco SunShield Reflective Window Cover. Most RV windows are standard sizes these days so they’re pretty easy to fit. However, the Walmart near our recent campsite did not carry these in-stock.

Auto Drive Universal Reflective Accordion Auto Shade, 63 inches X 28.5 inchesSince we were looking for an immediate solution to beat the heat, we opted for the Auto Drive Universal Reflective Accordion Auto Shade, 63 inches X 28.5 inches.  This is not available for online ordering from Walmart but it is available in-store. At $3.47 a piece, they proved to be a quick and easy solution. When we returned to the campsite, we noticed just about every other RV was using the same material to cover their windows including the big, beautiful Class A rigs with multiple air conditioner units.

We ended up buying five of the auto shades. One was immediately installed in the tow vehicle with hopes it would be a bit cooler the next time we got in. Using a pair of scissors, we used the other three to cut custom-fit shades for our RV. The material is thin enough to cut easily and the reflective nature paid immediate dividends. Not only did the shades minimize the incoming light, they gave us the desired result — a much cooler RV in a short amount of time!

As it turns out, we didn’t need the fifth shade. But now our camping home was getting more comfortable and we were able to enjoy the added benefit of a fully-darkened room at night.

But I would be remiss not to mention how we attached these shades to the windows. My wife, a schoolteacher, knows her way around Command Strips. For this application, we used the Command Strips Damage-Free Hanging solution which consists of a sticky backside with velcro on the front. As a result, we can easily remove the shades later this year when the temperatures fall and the daylight is shorter. And for those of you who would prefer to remove the shade AND the hanging mechanism, Command Strips are the way to go! They are easily removed and they leave no sticky residue.

So if you are new to the RV lifestyle and flummoxed by the amount of heat your travel trailer can store up in the summer, don’t sweat it! (See what I did there?) A few cheap-o car shades and some Command Strips can make a huge difference.

Categories
Dining

Collin Street Bakery – Lindale

Collin Street Bakery, Lindale, Texas
Collin Street Bakery, Lindale, Texas

Hey, did you know the world-famous Collin Street Bakery has made it to Lindale!

For the uninitiated, CSB rose to prominence as a purveyor of fine fruit cakes  <insert fruitcake jokes here>.  But over the years, the company has expanded its offerings to include cakes, pies, and cookies.  Similar to locations in Corsicana and Waco, the Lindale store also offers soups, sandwiches, and other light fare.

And, if you’re an early riser, come by for breakfast at 7 a.m.

A coworker tipped me off to the Jalapeno Bread.  I’ve also had their Cinnamon Bread, Cheese Rolls, and their White Chocolate Chip cookies.  All of it is good stuff!  On colder days, you can’t beat their Potato Soup.

If you have designs on hitting this place after Sunday church, you’d better hope for no more than a standard three-point sermon out of Parson Brown.  But take-out is available and the store has plenty of room for browsing all the goodies.

A true Texas treasure, we’re proud to have Collin Street Bakery right here in our own East Texas backyard.

Full disclosure, NewTexans.com is compensated by Collin Street Bakery anytime someone clicks on one of these tasty treats and places an order.

Cookies & Cream Cheesecake Deep Dish Pecan Pie DeLuxe® Fruitcake
Deep Dish Fudge Pecan Pie DeLuxe® Fruitcake
Collin Street Bakery, Lindale, Texas

Interstate 20 & FM 849, Hideaway Lake exit 552
17044 I-20 W
Lindale, Texas 75771
903-882-9205

Categories
News Travel

Howdy, folks!

“Howdy, folks!”

If that phrase sounds familiar, it’s probably because you’ve been to The Great State Fair of Texas. Or, if you’ve lived in Texas long enough, you’ve received that hearty greeting from one of the locals.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve lived in the Lone Star State all of your life or that you’ve just gotten here; there’s a better-than-zero chance that you’ve not yet seen, heard, nor tasted it all.

I’d spent most of my life in the Dallas-Fort Worth area until moving to East Texas back in 2010. Over the years, business trips and vacations have taken me to every corner of our great country. But there truly is “no place like home.”

When I was a kid, my siblings and I and my cousins all attended school in the Dallas Independent School District. As a result, we all had the same Spring Break. Each year, our grandparents gathered up all of these grandkids (into one, giant Oldsmobile) and took us on adventures throughout the Great Southwest.

Riverboat Natchez, New OrleansSometimes, those adventures would take us out of state such as the time we visited White Sands National Monument in New Mexico or when we visited New Orleans complete with a visit to Cafe Du Monde for some tasty beignets and a ride on the Cotton Queen riverboat.(Beyond that, I don’t remember much about The Crescent City because my older cousin spent pretty much the entire week covering my eyes as we walked through certain parts of the French Quarter.) While I can’t seem to find the Cotton Queen, the Natchez is still there some 40 years later.

Battleship Texas
Battleship Texas

But the trips I remember the most are those that took place within the borders of Texas. We went as far west as El Paso (and into Juarez, Mexico) on a trip that included a stop at the McDonald Observatory. On the far-east side of the state, we took in the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas in Livingston. Then there was the time we visited Houston which included a visit to the beaches in Galveston, a stop at NASA, and, of course, the San Jacinto Monument and Battleship Texas. (No wonder the Texans won the war! They had a battleship!  Just kidding, kids.) And then there was the time our Spring Break took us through the Hill Country with stops in Austin for sightseeing at the Texas State Capitol, The University of Texas (Hook’em Horns!), and Longhorn Caverns.

Of course, the grand prize for any Texas adventurer is a visit to the Alamo in San Antonio.  My first Alamo experience was with the grandparents on one of those Spring Break getaways. As a native Texan, the Alamo has special meaning and its value is taught at an early age. The Alamo, San Antonio, TexasOver the years, I’ve visited the Alamo many times. Seems that it doesn’t hold quite the same reverence among the visitors as in years past. I can remember a time when the men would remove their hats and the inside of the old church would be library-silent even when filled with people. There are efforts to restore the importance and sanctity of Alamo and I hope they will be successful. According to some, there are more people visiting Magnolia Silos in Waco than the Alamo these days. Some beg to differ. (Not a knock on Chip and Joanna Gaines and the “Fixer Upper” empire. They’ve done wonders for the City of Waco and I’m a big fan!)

These fond memories carried on into married life where my wife and I have been spending much of our parenthood recreating great family trips from our youth. Texas is a great state for traveling with children of all ages and families of any size. As the song says, “there are miles and miles of Texas” and much of it is paved so there’s no problem getting around from one part to another. And if the idea of driving more than a dozen hours to get to El Paso doesn’t appeal to you then we have facilities called “airports” that’ll help you get to those far-reaching destinations.

But I would argue that the very best part of Texas is all the stuff you can see, do, and taste along the way. Roll into any community and ask them about their favorite mom-and-pop restaurant. You won’t be disappointed.  See a flying saucer near the Interstate outside of Italy, Texas? Pull over and take a selfie. By the way, it’s pronounced “IT-lee” ’round these parts. And, I’m afraid you missed out on that selfie. Into reptiles? Texas has plenty of them. Consider the Animal World & Snake Farm Zoo in New Braunfels or the alligators, and more, at the East Texas Zoo in Grand Saline. How about an event known as the Rattlesnake Roundup in Sweetwater? Yep, it’s a real thing.

Texas is much more than oddities, however. The food is amazing everywhere you go! If you like chain restaurants, I can promise you that the Tyler-Longview area, a noted test market for the food industry, has something appealing to those that prefer something familiar. It’s been said there are more restaurants per capita in that region than anywhere in Texas. Of course, the best culinary experience anywhere in the state takes place in that gas station that’s been converted into a restaurant or in that soul food kitchen in the heart of downtown (fill-in-the-blank), Texas. Lesson to be learned here — familiar is good, but local is best! Try it, you’ll like it!

Most out-of-staters think Texans are all big talkers. Well, we are. But we think you’re “all hat, no cattle” most of the time, too. (Look it up.) But you really can do it all in Texas. From anywhere in the state, you’re hours away from the beach, the mountains, the prairies, the forest, large metropolitan areas, or small-town remote outposts. Hey, we were all New Texans once upon a time. Just check your birth certificate for confirmation. Join us by creating your own  Texas adventure today and please be sure to share your adventure with us!