thing I have tired to do through the years is to visit Underwood's Bar-B-Q when
near Brownwood. Pity the
poor traveler who is in Brownwood
on a Wednesday. (Every lover of good food knows Underwood's is closed on Wednesdays.)
"Apple's America" is a new book by R.W. Apple, was the roving New York Times food
journalist. His book is not only about the food and restaurants, but the people
and cities and their distinctive charms.
There is one huge shortcoming
to the book: he did not get to Brownwood's
Underwood's began during the Great Depression when
M.E. Underwood started cooking and selling Bar-B-Q door-to-door in Brady,
Texas. He was doing it out of desperation as a way to feed his growing family.
There were eight sons to feed as well as Mama Underwood.
M.E. and Mamma's
cooking and good business sense, led them to build a small white frame shack by
the side of the road and opened what became a chain of Take-Out Bar-B-Q stands.
World War II came to an
end, the family moved from Brady
to Brownwood. M.E. and his
son Morris opened a stand on West Commerce Street, next to Bill Day's Auto Repair
Shop. (Across the highway from the present location). Mama, the story goes, cooked
everything from scratch for her hungry boys, so why make a little more and sell
With such good food, the Underwood clan began spreading all over.
Gradually they opened Bar-B-Q stands in Lubbock,
Falls, Dallas and Arlington.
They even gave Albuquerque, New Mexico, a shot at real Texas Bar-B-Q.
two of M.E.'s and Mama's grandsons (Leonard's boys) were learning stuff other
than cooking at Baylor University, they opened a modern cafeteria on Waco's
main drag, Valley Mills Drive. Lots of Waco
people were disappointed when the boys sold out and put all their energy into
the Brownwood cafeteria.
W. Apple wrote about another restaurant in Dallas where "you could slice the atmosphere
with a knife, for the beef, you don't need one." That describes the kind of beef
I like and that is the kind of beef Underwood prepares. And nowhere have I found
hot rolls to even compare with theirs. If Mrs. Beard wanted to up her bread profits
she would wisely get this hot roll recipe.
Faithful readers of the columns
( I started writing in the Brownwood Bulletin in 1997) already know how I have
searched the land over for a real Chicken Fried Steak. Many claim that title;
some skimp on gravy; some hide the gravy under the steak and some use too thick
a piece of meat. At Underwood's I found the closest thing in Texas for a perfect
Chicken Fried Steak.
you believe Texas Monthly (and most of what they write is trustworthy) you know
that magazine voted Underwood's Cafeteria one of the top ten restaurants In Texas.
As for me and my house, it is number one.
the Way with Britt,
October 4, 2009 Column
Britt Towery, author of "Along the Way," welcomes comments.
Brownwood - Brownwood
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