Ode to the Texas Tavern and the Cheesy Western

Let me tell you about a magical place where I used to eat in my youth. (Ok, I’m only 26 but whatever!) I grew up in a small city called Roanoke, VA where you could find one of the best burger joints in the country, Texas Tavern.  No, seriously George Motz considers it to be one of the best burger dives in the nation in his book Hamburger America.  Roanokers lovingly, yet jokingly, call Texas Tavern ‘Roanoke’s millionaires club.’

Texas Tavern is one of those places that never changes. Opened in 1930, Texas Tavern was built in a hole in the wall with only 10 stools at a bar (they boast “We serve 1,000 people… 10 at a time) and it’s stayed that way ever since. The place is so old that when you take a seat at the bar the aluminum bar-top’s edge is worn to a nice curve and the steel tube footrest at the bottom of the bar is worn straight through!

Texas Tavern is also one of those places where you get looked at funny if you don’t know how to order correctly. For instance, if you want a hot dog with onions you simply say “gimme a ‘hot with.’” And whatever you do…don’t ask for ketchup!

Arguably the best and most famous item on the menu at TT (as Texas Tavern is called by us cool people) is a glorious creation known as the ‘Cheesy Western.’ Ordered with an authoritive yell of “Can I get a Cheesy” or “Cheesy With” (onions are the ‘with’) this culinary masterpiece is a simple, yet ingenious, layering of flavors. A plain old burger patty with a fried egg thrown on top along with onion, pickles, sweet relish, and melty cheese. The Cheesy With was a staple of my diet almost everyday for a year in high school. Somehow I even managed to post my best times at track practice after eating these. Katryn tells me I’m lucky to be alive. I could write ad nauseum about The Cheesy With or even write a love sonnet for this divine delicacy but I won’t here because Katryn will get jealous..or mad..or both.

Katryn’s Note: The Texas Tavern scares me. My voice is too quiet to yell my order with the required gusto and then Nathan and all the guys behind the bar tease me. However, the Cheesy Western is tasty enough for me to endure these persecutions.  Also, Nathan is sleeping on the couch tonight…and I keep ketchup packets in my purse.

For this post Katryn and I decided to bring you a slice of my past (and of heaven.)  We hope you enjoy!


Nathan’s Beer Pairing: Legend Brewery, Brown Ale
Rating: 7.5 out of 10

Since we were cooking a local/regional item in this post we decided to pair the Cheesy Western with Virginia beverages.  Legend Brewery is located in Richmond, VA so it fit the bill.

I had to try hard to rate this beer.  I don’t really like brown ale so it was hard to be objective.  Brown ales are usually defined by a mix of malty and nutty flavors which I’m not crazy about.  However these flavors were pretty mild in this beer and a strong hoppy ale base still made it enjoyable.  As much as I complain about the malt and nut flavors they actually complimented the beef, egg, and cheese while washing down the tang from pickles and onions. Even though it isn’t my favorite beer style it is still a well brewed beer that complimented the meal, so it gets a 7.5.

Katryn’s Wine Pairing: Rapidan River, Merlot
Rating: 5 out of 10

It may seem odd to pair a wine with a dive burger but that is what we are all about here at Rampant Cuisine!  We are here to buck the idea that wine is for nice meals and beer only for grilling and bar food.  Paired correctly, wine can go with anything!  In this case, the idea was to pair a Merlot or other red wine with the Cheesy Western similar to how you would with any other red meat dish.  Unfortunately the wine wasn’t that great…

To me, this wine wasn’t exactly like the label implied. It was supposed to be smooth and rich with hints of blackberry and vanilla…instead it was slightly sour and thin-bodied.  I’ve read that VA wines are victim to more variables than CA wines.  The east coast has unpredictable amounts of rain and inconsistent temperatures which can make a vineyard produce a successful wine one year and a nasty wine the next.  I’m hoping this Merlot was produced during an off year (or maybe it’s just not that great of a wine?)

Ingredients:

1/2 pound of ground sirloin
2 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
2 cloves garlic, crushed
salt and pepper
2 eggs
2 slices American Cheese
several slices of onion
2 Tbs. Pickle Relish
Sliced Hamburger Pickles
2 Hamburger Buns

Directions:

Place the beef into a bowl and add the Worcestershire sauce, garlic and salt and pepper. Combine well. (I used my hands!)
Heat skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Form the beef into 2 thin patties and place in the hot pan. Cook to desired temperature and place a slice of cheese on patties to let them melt before you remove them from the pan.  In the same pan that was used to cook the beef fry two eggs; poke the yokes and slightly scramble so that the egg is flat for putting on the burger. Place a fried egg on each burger. Place the burger in the bun and garnish with onion, pickle and relish. Serve with mustard.

Texas Tavern Website (not that it has been updated in the last 8 years): http://www.texastavern-inc.com/

12 Responses to Ode to the Texas Tavern and the Cheesy Western

  1. Andrea says:

    Being from the South, I’ll admit that this is a true Southern sandwich. Not only does it look delicious (especially with the cheese on the side!), but it looks like the perfect sandwich to serve among friends.

    • Nathan says:

      It is the perfect sandwich to serve among friends! Just be sure that EVERYONE among those friends is eating one. Otherwise someone is going to wonder what that smell is… you smell like a cheesy western for hours after you eat one. Katryn and I were very… aromatic after we cooked and ate for this post.

  2. George says:

    I dunno Nathan, that burger patty looks much more generous than the ones featured at TT. Likin the blog though buddy.

    • Nathan says:

      Yeah, the patty is way bigger in our version and we added some garlic and other stuff as well. I tried flattening out the patty in the pan some but it still came out way larger. Glad you are enjoying the blog Hoss, come back and check it out again soon!

  3. Pat Ferrance says:

    It is important to note that the TT is open 24/7 364 days a year, closing only for Christmas. For a truley unique experience, try it at 2.00 am. The really big spenders for prom night bring their dates for their dinner. You can spot the true regulars because they don’t order; they don’t need to–they get the same thing every time and the staff knows it.

    • Nathan says:

      Too true! One of the best things about Texas Tavern is the mix of people who visit. On any given day you can see a drunk sitting next to a cop, a bum sitting next to a lawyer, and a punk sitting next to a business man. The food of TT brings everyone together!

  4. Josh says:

    Hey, a mutual friend turned me on to your blog. Love it so far! I had to comment on this, because when I got to travel down from WV to one of my previous employers’ home office in Roanoke, he insisted we stop at the Texas Tavern to eat. It was after a pretty long night of wine, bourbon, and cigars, so I know I ate something there (I think chili and a burger) but I can’t recall the exact taste. Glad to hear it’s apparently delicious!

    • Nathan says:

      Josh,

      Tell your friend thanks for passing the word along and I’m glad you are enjoying the blog! I too have had my fair share of late nights (or early mornings) when I can’t remember what I ate at the Texas Tavern… It is definitely one of Roanoke’s best late night eating spots.

  5. Matt Bullington says:

    Thanks for the “ode to the Texas Tavern”….I remember serving Nathan many a Cheesy Western over the years!

    • Nathan says:

      Hopefully you will be serving me many more Cheesy Westerns in the years to come! What a pleasant surprise to see that you have commented on our site Matt! You have totally made our day. I hope that we can catch you at TT next time we are visiting.

  6. Garneau says:

    If you ask for ketchup, they’ll kick you out!

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