On Saturday, the Texas Tavern on Church Avenue turned 80.
The venerable, never-closed, value-priced restaurant is by far this town’s most famous, and that has a lot to do with the Bullington family, which has owned and operated it for generations..
The Bullingtons are honest and sturdy citizens who have earned their money via hard work, dime by dime.
The Texas Tavern’s look is distinctive, authentic and free of kitsch. Actually, it goes way beyond those terms. In its simplicity is a beauty that harks back to a bygone era.
It has qualities of a Tom Waits tune, or an Edward Hopper painting, or one of Hemingway’s short stories. It’s a clean, well-lighted place.
Not a bit of it is phony. That includes the red stools, the sassy signs, the 65 coats of red and white paint on the interior woodwork, and the restaurant’s spick-and-span metal counter.
The same goes for its wisecracking countermen.
They’re like characters from a Jim Thompson novel or a Quentin Tarantino movie. Some, like Tim Goff, who has worked there for 21 years, make careers out of the Texas Tavern.
When fourth-generation owner Matt Bullington talks about the ambience, it’s in terms of “cultural moorings.” By that he means there are very few places that never change.
The Texas Tavern is one of them, and I get every bit of that. Some people will want me hanged for the heresy that follows.
I will never understand the allure of the Texas Tavern’s food. The best thing that can be said about it is, it’s so inexpensive that you get your money’s worth.
And it’s not inedible. Neither is sawdust, but that doesn’t mean its particularly fun going down.