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Two-Steppin’ Country Music and Texas-Style Dinner in Belmont

Dancing

Sometimes you come across a novel place way out in the country. (Or maybe, if you’re lucky, your friends find the place for you.) We’re not talking about fancy places in this category. But maybe the kind of food you grew up on. Comforting stuff, like chicken-fried steak, or frog legs; you know what I’m talking about.

The Belmont Social Club is just such a place. It’s been around forever, but in its current name (and, I hear, with new owners) only since December last year. They’re on what used to be a major U.S. highway, U.S. 90A, between Houston and San Antonio, but now it’s rather like Route 66, a historical detour. Oh, there’s plenty of local traffic, but the Big Rigs and the travel businesses are all over on the Interstate. A nice ride if you want to see the countryside and you’re not in a raging hurry.

Come Friday evening, we working stiffs in Texas know how to unwind. You know, the kind of people who wear their jeans inside their boots, and for good reasons. A good meal, some live Country-Western music and maybe some dancing; that fills the bill. The Belmont Social Club serves up the meals, music and neighborly service we’re all craving.

We went to the Club last Friday evening with PJ’s parents. We were heading down for the weekend to catch up on Clan gossip news and visit collect our dog Sonia. It’s only a matter of a few miles out of the way to stop by Belmont; head down through Luling and then south on Texas 80 until you reach U.S. 90A, then hang a right. Easy Peasy. Traffic was light once we left the immediate Austin metro area, and the views were relaxing. We were both smiling when we arrived, actually ahead of schedule for a wonder.

Even before we got to the front door we were enveloped with hypnotic aromas, backed up by the muted bass thump of the live band playing inside. Several groups of country folks were standing outside, exercising their toothpicks (the men) and their lips (the women) as they parleyed after their meals. At first I was worried there was a wait line, but no, they were all sated and satisfied, just too darn polite to make a break for their trucks when they could socialize a few more minutes in the early evening warmth.

We got a table for four on the south porch, a closed-in area nowadays but outside the original building. That way we could still hear the band (although not see them) and enjoy the tunes without having to raise our voices to talk. There wasn’t any wildlife in view while we dined, but I hear it’s a common occurrence. The place was quite busy, although dinnertime was about over. Dancing was beginning to pick up, though! At the Social Club you better get on with it if you’re going to do much dancing. They’re not a late-night honkytonk; they close by 10 P.M., like most respectable places.

Green Frog

The structure of the Social Club isn’t for city wimps. For one thing, they might wonder if a good breeze will bring the whole thing down on their heads. No, it’s solid country-built, well used and eclectic. Plenty of ripple tin, big wooden posts, expansive windows and a metal roof. Not drafty, though, or the air conditioning would have all leaked out into the summer heat. Still, it’s the kind of place that will hum to you in the wind of a cold Northern, or beat you deaf in a good ol’ Texas hailstorm.

In a word, traditional. I enjoyed the architecture (if that’s not too strong a word), as it reminded me of barns and farms and family. Rustic splendor at its Texas best.

We settled in and were looking over the menu when the general manager, Johnny, meandered through, greeting friends. (Believe me, they were all his friends.) I overheard at least three impromptu endorsements from various tables in the area, two of them for the frog legs dinner. Best in Texas was the vote. Paula Jo was humming along with the band, but she heard enough that she chose to try the frog legs. I thought about theatrically falling out of my chair, but with my luck I’d ding my shoulder again and then I’d be in So Much Trouble; I grudgingly restrained myself. Chris didn’t get too wild with his choice: Chicken Fried Chicken. Pat chose the fried cod plate, while I made the proper decision to try the chicken-fried steak. If you’re checking out a Texas comfort food restaurant you’ve never been in before, go with the CFS. If they can do that well, then they can cook anything.

The tea was fresh-brewed, strong without being bitter, served with large hunks of citrus. I’ve learned to drink my iced tea the hard-core way, without any sweeteners, since I don’t like the taste of any of the artificial ones (and for some silly reason my doctor wants me to keep my refined sugar consumption down). This brew was astringent and satisfying. The salads were fresh and plentiful as well. No fancy ones, and some of the dressings are help-yourself from squirt bottles on the table.

I couldn’t resist the fried pickle chips. (I can’t resist a dill pickle. Simply can’t.) They came out hot and steaming, with a nice flour-cornbread coating that was perfectly fried. Naturally the others at the table offered to help me with the appetizer. I didn’t grumble too much; not polite with your mouth full, you see. Besides, the basket held plenty. I’ve had deep-fried pickles at many places, and I think these were the best I’ve tasted. Something about the seasoning, I think. That and the pickles were maybe a bit more sour-tart than the competition’s.

Our meals arrived quickly, hot from the fryer for the most part. Yeah, a lot of their menu items are deep-fried; I did mention the food was Southern comfort, done as only Texas cooks know how, right? So no surprise. As we were digging in I commented that nobody chose the barbeque. One response was that they didn’t want to challenge the “sold out” possibility, as it was getting late in the evening.

Squeezbox

Pat’s dish of fish included four big pieces of cod. I mean big! Some poor little codfish was missing its mother and father. And maybe an aunt and uncle too. She said they were also very tasty, and she’d have enough for another meal the next day. PJ decided that frog legs were an acquired taste, one she hadn’t quite acquired yet. They were properly cooked and quite attractive, but of course they don’t taste like chicken.

The chicken fried steak passed the test.  A hand-breaded cutlet, bigger than your outstretched hand, properly fried so it isn’t greasy, and served with peppered cream gravy. The gravy wasn’t gummy, but was a bit on the light side, seasonings-wise. I could have used more as well, but then I’m a huge fan of cream gravy. (Enough with the “huge” jokes, Tom. I can see you over in the corner, sniggering.) If the barbeque and other dishes are up to this standard then it’ll be hard to get a bad meal in this joint.

We were all so full we passed on dessert. Maybe a mistake, as they all looked homemade to me. But I was already so full I was afraid they’d need the wheelbarrow squad to get me to my transport. Next time, I’ll go light on the main course and spring for some cobbler. (If you believe that, we should talk about a juicy real estate deal I can tailor just for you.)

The sun was long down and there was only a slight glow in the western sky as we walked slowly out of the Club. I now understood why some simply stop outside the door and talk for a bit, building up the energy to mosey on…

Belmont Social Club Restaurant, 14395 U.S. Highway 90A, Belmont, TX 78629. Phone 830.424.3026. Inexpensive Barbeque, Southern and Texas food in a very relaxed atmosphere. Live music with dancing many evenings. Open six days a week (closed Sunday), lunch and dinner. BBQ available until it sells out. Takeout available. Kid-friendly.

If You Can’t Stand the Heat, Then Go to Belmont…

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3 comments to Two-Steppin’ Country Music and Texas-Style Dinner in Belmont

  • Pat

    The fried mushroom are exceptional too. They are really big and yummy!

  • Chris Christenson

    I have taken the grandsons there on Sunday (note they are not open on Sunday in July).
    The hamburgers are outstanding and the onion rings excellent.

    The grandsons had shrimp and BBQ. Both came with strong ratings from teenage boys.

    full marks.

    Chris

    • According to the info I have, they’re not open on Sundays at all. And it says so right on the InterWebz, so it must be true, eh? Good to hear the correction. They should be a good place for Sunday dinner, I would think…