I was riding through East Texas this weekend and found myself in the Athens area around lunch time. Some of you may know the history of Athen’s as it relates to Uncle Fletcher Davis and whose desecendents run the Ole West Bean and Burger Co 2 and of course my love for a good burger. Well of course I’ve already been here as well Louis Lunch Counter in New Haven CT that is also one of the 3 that lay claim to investing the hamburger as we know it, but I wasn’t impressed last time so I figured I’d give it a shot as it had been a few years, and I’ve had a lot of new burgers since then. Alas, they were closed, and not apparently re-opening anytime soon as there was caution tape around the entire building. I hope it’s just for rennovations as it would be a shame to lose an institution such as this. In any case I headed back towards downtown Athens and remembered a few places on the way into town that caught my eye.
First stop was a local place that looked to be an old Dairy Queen, however it was named something else and claimed to have been around since the 1940′s. I pulled up and about to go in when I realized there was a Dairy Queen menu above the counter. After scanning to make sure there wasn’t anything unique to this establishment vs. other DQ’s (which I do love btw) I headed back down the street. There were a few promising pizza joints that looked good, but I don’t exactly like pizza for lunch, and especially when on a motorcyle so I kept following my nose that was leading me towards the smoker right out on the street full of hickory and advertising Texas Monthly Top 50 BBQ. Holy smokes (pun intended) this could be a win! The place smelled good, looked good, and the nice old ladies running the place were as sweet as their BBQ sauce, but something was missing. What could it be? People! That’s what was missing. Noon on a Saturday should be prime time at a BBQ joint and this place was dead, litterally. I entered along with a couple and us three made up the entire customer base at that time. This doesnt seem promising I thought as I perused the menu looking for something to eat. Very few sides missing my favorites of Oakra and Mac-n-Cheese and standard meats including something called Hog Wings. More on this later.
I ended up ordering my standard sliced brisket and sausage (if you could call it that) with a side of cole slaw and scallop potatoes. While watching the Michigan St vs. Michigan game I noticed quite a few people coming for take out orders. Okay, well this is becoming a bit more promising. Maybe people in Athens like to eat at home, on the farm, under a tree, or whatever people do in Athens for fun? When my meal came I immediately noticed the Bologna like consistency of the sausage, and I use that term loosely, the dry brisket that adorned my plate. and two pieces of buttered bread lacking any sort of toasting. Oh well, I’m hungry let’s see how it is. Ugh, as bad as it looked, and the sides while better, weren’t much help. I did manage to finish the meats, most of the healthy helping of sides, and about 2 gallons of their wonderful sweet tea and paid my check and left. While taking my after meal smoke before hopping on the bike and heading home I saw a wonderfully fitting pig statue that summed up my visit perfectly.
I’m really disappointed I didn’t try the hog wings, which is apparently a pork shank cut to look like a chicken wing, and is their claim to fame. I guess I should be more thorough as this really could have turned my experience around as I love small towns, family owned restaurants, and unique food. Now that I’ve done a bit of research on them it seems others share my feelings regarding the other menu items, and I really was missing out by not trying the hog wings. Damn, next time I guess!
ATHENS: Cripple Creek B-B-Q
500 S. Palestine
Athens, TX 75751
Open M-Thur 11-8, F-Sat 11-9