Images and words by Bill Crowley.
My brother, Jim Bob, and I were looking forward to a satisfying meal and large glasses of cold tea after riding through North Central Texas in the sunshine fall day. We arrived in Thurber, a group of 5, two miles north of Mingus, simply before Texas State Highway 108 passes Interstate 20.
We discovered the Smokestack Restaurant, a “hidden jewel” of an eatery well-known throughout the Palo Pinto mountains, thanks to its large, dark brick chimney and popular, black-and-white sign. ” Mountains” might be an exaggeration because, geographically speaking, Thurber’s surroundings could be more accurately described as the northern reaches of the Texas Hill Country.
Thurber is reached by some amusing streets. The part of Texas State Highway 16 from Graham that circumnavigates Possum Kingdom Lake before intersecting I-20 near Strawn is among the most intriguing. Thurber is conveniently located only six miles to the east of Graham. Farm-to-Market Road 4 can also be used to travel west out of Graford, through the Palo Pinto neighborhood, and through some of the best hills and contours the mountains have to offer before coming to an intersection with I-20. West of that intersection is Thurber, which is about twelve yards away.
Previously, plant owners established Thurber as a business area to offer services and housing to workers. To harvest millions of tons of anthracite coal, an estimated 10,000 residents traveled from all over the world. Thurber’s petroleum fed the country” railroads from the late 1880s to the early 1920s, and the city prospered ( though not without its share of labor problems in the past ). In a short period of time, Thurber was largely abandoned after locomotives were gradually converted to diesel.
As miners and their families worked the largest coal deposit in the state, the coal company’s merchant was the Smokestack restaurant, which sold supplies to them. Every interior wall is covered in images, drawings, artifacts, and records from Thurber’s era.
A lovely young woman seated Jim Bob and me immediately accepted our consume orders and offered menus with a wide variety of American and rural favorites, including grilled fish, Tex-Mex, and other options. When I asked the waiter what the Smokestack was best known for, she immediately replied,” Our burgers.”
That satisfied us just fine. I chose the eight-ounce top sirloin for just$ 13.95, while Jim Bob ordered the chicken fried steak for$ 15.95. We were given the option of two attributes for both entrées.
The team at the cafe was well-trained and effective despite the busy Saturday evening exercise. Many large, old-style windows added to the atmosphere, which was light and airy, and the dining room was spotless.
Our dishes finally arrived, and Jim Bob and I wasted no time sampling the food. A nice stuffed baked potato and crisp salad were served with my fork-tender, properly grilled steak. Jim Bob, who I consider to be an expert on chicken grilled steaks, said that his plate-sized steak was “tender and softly breaded, with a perfect crust-to-meat proportion.” ” A wonderful complement—not very thin and not too heavy,” said the cream sauce.
Jim Bob noticed a young person consuming an enormous chocolate sundae that was being served to him at the local table as we were finishing our meal. Yes, we also had to have one of those. It was wealthy, chilly, and delightful.
I asked our waiter if it would be possible to speak with the boss when she handed me the test. Of sure,” she retorted. She’s directly behind you.
With the clause” I’m number five,” a beaming Mollie Borden introduced herself and mentioned her involvement in running the cafe since its establishment in 1974. Brian, her father, is number four.
Mollie remarked,” We’re extremely fortunate to have so many tourists. ” On any given time, roughly 50 % of people are citizens and 50 % are not.” Many people exitI-20 and say,” We’ve seen this place and often wanted to stop in.” We’re happy when they do because we believe in great home cooking and want people to enter with a smile on their face and keep feeling full.
And that’s precisely what customers who eat at the Smokestack Restaurant do every day. In a truly distinctive historical setting, it’s the perfect spot to enjoy scrumptious food and Texan kindness.