Editor’s note: Dan, wife & kids have repaired to Ocean City, Md., where they are crabbing, riding the waves, sunbathing and hanging out with The world-famous Nighthawks this week. Herewith are some “greatest hits” columns until Casey returns. The following originally ran Feb. 10, and was preceded by this one in 2010.
Happy 81st birthday, Texas Tavern!
About a year ago this column observed the venerable diner’s 80th anniversary, and paid homage to the Bullington family, who have run it for generations with great devotion and care, and given much to this community.
We noted the interesting characters behind Texas Tavern’s metal counter, the sassy signs that decorate its well-lighted interior, its 75 coats of paint, and quoted loyal patrons who plainly love its Depression-era ambiance.
The one thing you can’t deny about the Church Avenue institution is that it’s a place that’s never changed while the world around it has, greatly.
Then I wrote a few less-than-complimentary paragraphs about the food, and those got all the attention. The harshest stuff was about the “chile.”
Jim Bullington (he owned and operated Texas Tavern for many years until handing it over to his son, Matt) promptly warned me in writing never to come back without an armed escort.
Customers were so mad, Bullington toyed with the notion of taking out a big life insurance policy — on me, with himself as the beneficiary. But he graciously offered to smuggle some chile to me in jail, should I ever be arrested for “impersonating a columnist.”
There were other consequences. Scores of readers wanted to run me out of town. Scores of others praised my “guts” for declaring a truth they dared only to whisper.
The opposing factions didn’t riot over on Church Avenue. But the Texas Tavern’s business boomed, Bullington told me.
Spanky Macher, who is now in jail, had a bowl of Texas Tavern chile delivered to me in the newsroom, but the assassination attempt failed. My 17-year-old daughter, Anna, gleefully gave me a Texas Tavern T-shirt for my birthday. Her wicked wit did me proud.
Today’s column is a postscript to last year’s, because in the intervening months I’ve reconsidered my opinion of the Texas Tavern’s chile. So please take this as an apology of sorts.
I’ve decided Texas Tavern prepares and sells the most wonderful chile in the Western Hemisphere.
Lest fans of Wendy’s get hopping mad at me, I would note the stuff listed on their menu is spelled differently, so you really should not compare.
Not only is the Texas Tavern’s chile filling, it teases the gustatory, olfactory and visual senses in ways that no other chile manages to do.
And that’s merely an endorsement of its eating qualities. The chile also is useful in many other ways.
It’s fantastic for plugging radiator leaks, and much cheaper than the leak-stoppers they sell at Advance Auto.
The chile is a perfect substitute for plaster. I easily replastered my living room ceiling with the stuff and it looks dandy, after about nine coats of paint.
You can ferment the chile to make methane. Sources tell me Channel 7 weatherman Robin Reed uses this process to load all his weather balloons.
Yes, I’m kidding about those non-eating uses. But there’s no kidding about what follows:
One of the best things of all about Texas Tavern chile is that you can’t buy it at Walmart. They are waiting for it to be manufactured in China, which will never happen.
Finally, I have personally observed the Texas Tavern’s chile-cooking process, and they use 100 percent real ground beef.
There’s no question about that, like many that have been raised about Taco Bell recently.
So there is my annual anniversary column for the Texas Tavern. I love the place and it has the best chile on two continents.
Roanoke’s most famous restaurant has sold more than 20 million bowls of the stuff. I hope this free advertising helps them sell 20 million more.
The big day is Sunday. If you go in and order a bowl, with or without, tell them Dan said “Happy Birthday.”