More than 20 years ago, I asked readers to share their stories about Kerrville restaurants, describing eateries of old, food palaces now gone, cafes of yesterday.
I enjoyed this one from Barbara Moose, of Kerrville:
“There wasn’t a Saturday morning that was missed when my girls and I went to Lehman’s counter for breakfast.”
Lehman’s was a variety store that was once on Water Street, in the 700 block. The two-story stone building was originally the Schreiner Wool Warehouse; in its last use, it was a Winn’s store. It was torn down in the 1990s, and stood about where the outside dining area of Cartewheels is today.
Ms. Moose continues about those breakfasts with her girls, enjoying a “breakfast of a toasted chicken or tuna fish sandwich of all things on a Saturday morning.
“It was grocery day, but we had to eat and drink first. The marquee was listed at the top in red letters, there was no menu. You kind of told the girl behind the counter what you wanted. You got a ticket, and paid for it up front as you left the store.
“When Lehman’s was torn down to make way for bigger things, the wood flooring is in my house today, believe it or not.”
Karen Landrum Samford sent me a story about a restaurant that fits into that category:
“One place I remember my mother and aunt liked was called ‘The Grove.’ It was a neat place, located about where the River Oaks Shopping Center is today, on Junction Highway.
“I remember,” Ms. Samford continues, “we would drive under lots of big old shade trees. That’s probably why they called it The Grove. The carhop would come take our order. The only food I can remember were the corndogs. I loved the golden buttery tasting cornbread on those corndogs.
“Another place I remember was the diner in the Bluebonnet Hotel. The R.B. McKinnons had the restaurant at the time I remember it. They were friends of my grandparents and parents.”
The Bluebonnet Hotel was an eight-story hotel at the intersection of Water and Earl Garrett streets, across Water Street from today’s Francisco’s Restaurant. It was torn down in the 1970s to make room for a parking lot and drive-through bank; then the drive-through bank was torn down to make more parking. It was once an elegant hotel that overlooked the Guadalupe River.
Ms. Samford tells about the Bluebonnet Hotel: “We would go there on Sunday after church for dinner. It always smelled so good. Hot roast beef sandwich (open) with mashed potatoes and green beans. Of course, brown gravy on everything. It was so good. The adults would sit at a table near the bar (counter) and my two brothers and I would sit at the bar. Of course, we always had plenty of iced tea!”
My favorite letter was sent in by Pauline Mosty, and is titled “Smells of Kerrville — 1945 — and Rat Cheese.”
I have fond memories of the Mostys, and I miss them.
“Long ago smells of Kerrville are very special to me. My memory takes me back when I, a very timid 17-year-old, was newly hired by the Lower Colorado River Authority located at 211 Earl Garrett St.
“Our chief clerk was Leon Miller. He was still a bachelor, with a very healthy appetite. He pulled some money out of his pocket and told me to pick up the food for ‘a feed.’ I was instructed to go for Bar-B-Que, bread and Rat Cheese. I was born in Kerrville, so I knew where those good smells came from, but how would I explain what Rat cheese is?
“With delicious smells guiding my way, I turned the corner and went down Water Street. The smell from Henke’s Meat Market was tantalizing as Chester Henke sliced the meat. The bread baked by Robert Wolfmueller was still warm.”
Henke’s Meat Market and Wolfmueller’s bakery were in the 800 block of Water Street that is opposite the One Schreiner Center building today. The H.E. Butt Grocery store stood where the driveway to the One Schreiner Center building is now; when I was young, I believe that the same building housed the C.R. Anthony Company store, next to the Vogue dress shop.
Mrs. Mosty continues: “I really dreaded to go into H.E.B. because I had to ask for that Rat Cheese. Dusty Sanders wrapped the cheese without blinking an eye. I came to know that our Mr. Miller had his own name for things, and the merchants understood.
“The meal I shared that noon, with co-workers who would become my lifelong friends, tasted as good as it smelled. I was a very lucky girl!”
History is more than dry memorization of dates and facts, trying to remember which general led which charge. Sometimes history is the story of a well-remembered meal, of toasted tuna sandwiches or hot roast beef with gravy — or even Rat Cheese.
Until next week, all the best.
Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who likes to eat.