If you’re driving along IH 35 near Georgetown, Texas, keep a sharp eye out for highway 29. Get out of your hurry mode because there’s a treat in store. Williamson County has some of the richest, blackest farmland this side of….well, maybe it is the richest dirt anywhere. As you drive east on 29, fields of cotton, maize, corn and pecan trees fill your windshield. But, that’s only part of the experience. You are entering the realm of great country bars.
Those city places don’t hold a candle to the coldest beer and juiciest burgers in Texas. So, bring your “thirsty” and let’s go bar hopping.
Circleville Store, a place out of time. “One of the few places in Texas like this”
(located on Hwy 95 south of the juncture of hwy 29)
In 1857, Seneca Brown built Circleville Store. Why, you ask? The railroad, of course. But, then the junction was moved to Taylor and commerce moved with it. Mr. Zimmerhanzel bought the store in 1942 and sold it to Betty and Jimmy Ray, son and daughter-in-law, in 1971.
Jimmy died a few years ago, but Betty still runs the store.
If you need some minnows for fishing
or a cold beer or best of all, a sausage wrap, just pull in somewhere around the store, stroll through those screen doors and someone will give you a warm Texas “howdy.” Members of the community congregate here to swap stories and socialize. Think of it as Facebook the old fashioned way.
If you walk in and the surroundings seem strangely familiar, maybe you saw it in The Wendell Baker Story. But, the store hasn’t gotten uppity about its fame. There is a disheveled ambiance of yesteryear.
Pull up a chair, order some barbeque off the board and listen to some great stories.
Poncho and Lefty’s, home of the Big Kahuna Burger (four pounds of beef and three loaves of bread)
Hare, Texas (located Farm Road 1331 and CO Road 429)
Saturday night is just around the corner and you’re tired of the 3-D movies and restaurants that give you those awful buzzer thingys. There really is something different to do.
Go to Poncho and Lefty’s, but go early because it’s always crowded on Friday and Saturday nights. There’s a band on Saturday night and the music doesn’t stop until around midnight. Don’t even bother to bring your Visa or MasterCard because this is a cash only deal. Unlike the Circleville Store that is open during the day, Poncho and Lefty’s doesn’t get started until 4:30 p.m.
Sandoval Bar and Grill
(located between Hare and Thrall)
You know Sandoval residents have their priorities straight when you hear… “We have a church on one corner and a bar on the other. What more do you need?”
Before cooling off with a cold brew at the Sandoval Bar and Grill, stop off at the Zion Lutheran Church which has served this community for a hundred years. The church is usually open. You might say this isn’t exactly a high crime neighborhood. Just step in and admire the beautiful interior.
The graveyard outside tells the history of the unthinkable sadness of a child’s grave or the death of an entire family in an accident.
Well worth a meander among the stones.
Just around the corner is Tony Carrillo’s 100 years old Sandoval Bar and Grill. Tony has owned the building for 30 years. His son, Joe and girlfriend have rebuilt the kitchen to serve burgers and fries and plan to have live bands on the weekends. Joe explained that Sandoval is on the bar circuit. People like the slower pace and the unencumbered friendliness. The bar is open from noon to midnight.
Old Times Bar and Grill: “This place feels so comfortable”
(Rice’s Crossing at intersection of farm road 973 and 1660)
Marcy Mokry, proprietor of Old Times Bar and Grill, was telling me the bar’s history. She pointed to the bench against the wall opposite the counter, “When mama brought me home from the hospital, she put me right there on that bench. I’ve been here ever since.” Her great grand parents, Francis and Joe Janosec, started the bar in 1939. In 1942, when a busload of soldiers from Camp Swift arrived prior to shipping off to fight in World War II, Francis killed some chickens in the back yard, fried chicken for the troops and from that day forward “grill” was added to the business.
When Francis had a stroke in 1980, Marcy and her mother, Georgy McCurry, took over the bar. Running the bar probably wasn’t what Marcy had in mind for her life, but she quickly admits that she has met a lot of famous people (Willie Nelson, Dolly Pardon, Burt Reynolds and Meg Ryan) who have relaxed at her tables and eaten her famous burgers. Before Marcy expanded the kitchen a few years back, it was small and hot as a furnace. She knows her burgers are some of the best anywhere.
If you have a hankerin’ for that comfortable feeling, stop by and meet Marcy. Open Wednesday – Friday 11:00- 9:00 p.m. Saturday 11:00 – 3:00 p.m.