Thursday, May 22, 2014

Dinner at the Star--a trip back in time

Jacob and I had dinner at the Star Café on West Exchange last night, in the heart of Fort Worth's National Historic Stockyards District, better known as Cowtown. It's the oldest continuously operating restaurant/bar in Fort Worth. Best way I can describe it is "western funk." The ceiling is stamped tin, with a swing and other things hanging from it. The walls are covered with photographs (a few signed), signs ("Eat here. Get gas."), and everything from hats to crosses. Checkered tablecloths, mismatched wooden chairs, neon signs. It's a step back in time.
My friends Don and Betty Boles own the Star--no they haven't owned it since it opened! But they've had it about twenty years now, with an earlier stint in the eighties. Last night we went to meet Betty, since she and I have a weekly dinner. Because I had Jacob we knew he'd like it--he had grilled cheese, his usual diet.
The Star proudly brags about it's steak cuts, chicken-fried steak (hand-floured and deep-fried--none of this frozen pre-done stuff), and it's hamburgers. It's all delicious. The ranch dressing, made from scratch, may just be the best I've ever had. My family has celebrated birthdays and weddings there. It's home to us.
About fifteen years ago I was bored with my academic life, and I began to work at the Star on Saturday nights. First I seated guests, but then my routine post became the cash register. In between customers I rolled flatware, an endless job. I met fascinating people--and some unpleasant ones. But I loved it--such a break from my usual atmosphere. A majority of the people who came in wore western clothing--but not all. TCU people came often; so did people from University Christian Church, in the days before Betty retired as organist (after 40-plus years of service). It was  real mix of people...and it was almost always fun.
My favorite part of the evening was about 8:30 or 9:00 when I'd see Betty get herself a glass of wine. It was the signal the evening was over, and we could have wine and supper. I used to choose chicken fingers, or sometimes I'd bring a jar of kraut and Betty and I would share a Polish sausage plate. Or she and Don would share a steak, and I'd take half of mine home. Much as I love the chicken-fried steak, I rarely ordered it--it's a huge helping, and I'm always weight conscious.
There are daily specials at lunch, and friend Jeannie and I used to go on Wednesday (when we were both still working) for meatloaf and banana  pudding. In fact, I looked forward to Wednesdays in those good old days gone by because there was a hefty food section in the newspaper, it was meatloaf day, and "West Wing" was on at night. Days long gone now with a meager restaurant section and no "West Wing." The meatloaf is still there but we never go for lunch anymore.
So last night was a chance to visit with a good friend, a trip in nostalgia, and some good food.
Go for the atmosphere, and go for the food.
(Photos by Betty Boles)

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