I was making the fairly lengthy trek home from the Frozen North vicinity of the Oklahoma border, north of Fort Worth, when I decided I needed to tank up. How did I discover this? Well, there were these deep, bass grumbles that were getting so loud it was interfering with the music. Oh, the car was fine; it gets great mileage and I’d topped off in Denton, including checking the tires. No, it was my tummy making those terrible rumbling sounds.
Time to get some grub!
The only issue was the location. I was tooling down I-35, and Temple was in my sights. I considered traveling on, but I still had a good sixty miles or more to go to civilization (which begins about Round Rock). With an empty stomach that sounded like a low-grade avalanche, I knew I wouldn’t last that long. Even at the speed I was traveling; which was the speed limit, of course. I’m not at all familiar with the territory that far north, so I was a bit apprehensive about stopping. Could be all sorts of unsavory types floating about. And besides, how could there be any good eateries in the area? I’d certainly never heard of any, and I pay attention to food outlets. (Usually.)
Boy, was I wrong…
First off, though, I had to find a book to read. I’d finished both the Rex Stout books I took on the trip, even though I rigorously rationed my reading time over the week. Apparently limiting page-turner events to morning ablutions and hitting the sack at night wasn’t enough to keep me from polishing off those mysteries. (Yes, Nero Wolfe solved them all, even the murder of his daughter.)
So I tried to find a bookstore. Man, I really tried. And tried. I finally asked a fellow at a gas station if he knew of any place with reading material. He said that Temple wasn’t exactly the intellectual outpost of central Texas, and maybe they’d have something over at the K-Mart. He was right, they had some books. One rack even had some without pictures inside. I bought one, then headed back out into the 105 degree heat in search of sustenance, well-armed with a thriller novel and an appetite that would likely see me through a major portion of the story.
I found a group if restaurants, and it appeared from the parking lot that the main lunch rush was over. I considered Five Guys Burgers and Fries, but I’d had too many hamburgers already in the past week. Then I saw an inviting sign: BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse. Ah, that’s the ticket, I thought. On a hot day like this one, a brew couldn’t hurt. I parked, hurtled through the humid inferno and in through the revolving door. Yep, a revolving door! Interesting.
The air conditioning was working well, as I quickly appreciated. I scanned the inside of the building. Dark, with lots of wood and brass. Rich and inviting rather than gloomy. I was greeted quickly and led to a booth. There were several large-screen televisions over the bar, with all sports, all the time. Including a really old football game featuring Boston College and the University of Houston. I scratched my head; is it really football season again? Naw, couldn’t be; not with the temperature up in the triple digits. I turned my attention to the menu.
And a very nice menu too! Appetizers like calamari and ahi poke, avocado egg rolls and Thai shrimp lettuce wraps. Standard ones like chicken wings, chips & salsa, potato skins and chicken tenders. Unusual bits like Piranha© Pale Ale nachos and chicken pot stickers. I hadn’t made it off the first page and already I had found six things to try! Good thing I was hungry. Oh, and they have sliders and flatbread pizzas for appetizers, in case you don’t find something in the first thirty or so offerings that fit your needs.
There’s a section called Snacks & Small Bites, which is different than appetizers (which are more like American-style tapas, actually). Bruschetta, quesadillas, mac & cheese, Hawaiian shrimp and more. Then a list of pizzas. I settled in to seriously study the sandwiches, soups and salads, with occasional glances at the lunch specials.
Don’t get the wrong impression here! I didn’t have long to wait before I was greeted by a server who seemed relieved that the major lunch rush was over, and she was very pleasant. She asked what I wanted to drink, and I chose the Jeremiah Red. They have such a nice beer list that I actually had misgivings about stopping for lunch there; if I got going I could easily sample enough varieties that I’d have to spend the night. In Temple. That gave me the resolve to try just one, and the red sounded like a nice choice. I was right on that point. (Again.)
When the beer made it to my table I ordered the tomato bisque and grilled ham-and-cheese sandwich. It was fantastic! The bisque was creamy and thick, and the sandwich was a great complement to the soup. Normally I don’t care for soup when it’s so hot out, but sitting inside a cool restaurant with a refreshing glass of ale in my hand, it was an inspired choice. You know, though, I think most everything on their menu would have qualified as “inspired,” my hunger notwithstanding.
I heartily recommend BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse if you’re ever in the Temple area. By the way, you don’t have to go that far to get BJ’s great food and drink. There’s one in Austin, on Brodie Lane. And three in the San Antonio area. A new outlet will be opening soon in the Woodlands north of Houston too. That will bring to 19 the number of their establishments in Texas alone. There’s also another 70 or so locations across the nation. (I’m not sure how I missed the expansion of this business to this level. Maybe I need to get out more.)
And the novel? Well, I barely got past the first few paragraphs…
BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse, 3550 S. General Bruce Dr., Temple, TX 254.778.3300 (And elsewhere)
Enjoy the (Summer Oasis) Heat!
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