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The Classic American Road Trip

25 August 2012 2,097 views 5 Comments

We enjoyed a great, old-fashioned day trip on a Saturday a couple weeks ago when our friend Jon took me, Adam, and Dana, our friend from D.C., in a spin in Hazel, his 1956 Chevy Bel Air.

Jon and Adam - Ready to Roll

Jon and Adam - Ready to Roll

me and dana

Jon’s family owned Chevrolet dealerships in Lockhart for three generations, and about twenty years ago, someone traded Hazel in for a new car, and Jon asked his dad to save her for him. Back then, she was a classic red with white interior. This year, Jon connected to Austin Speed Shop in South Austin to restore and update it. His plan is to take Hazel out on weekends for road trips with friends to small-town cafes. He plans to start a blog to recount their adventures, called Comfort Road. Leave a comment below if you would read that blog. I think Jon needs a little encouragement to start posting.

Hazel’s first road trip was to Snow’s BBQ in Lexington. Our journey was her second.

Parked at Murphys Steakhouse in Winchester, TX

Parked at Murphys Steakhouse in Winchester, TX

Winchester is an hour and twenty minutes from Austin, and our destination was Murphy’s Steakhouse, which is both the local U.S. post office and the only bar and restaurant in town.

Winchester was first settled in 1827 and platted in 1857. A Post Office was established in 1866, which is still in existence and by the 1900 the town had eighteen businesses, which included, a courthouse, two jails (white and black), a bank, two doctors, two drug stores, a hotel, two saloons, a liquor store, a gambling house, two cotton gins, four churches, which are still in existence, two public schools (white and black), a theater, an opera house, three meat markets, a gristmill, a lumber yard, a hardware store, and several merchandise stores. As a shipping point on the Waco branch of the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railway, the community served a wide area of prosperous farms.

The building dates from 1913 when German immigrant C.H. Schmidt and his wife Anna built their first store. Mr. Schmidt started as a shoemaker, and his wife baked cookies to sell in the store, along with sardines, sauerkraut in barrels, and bought produce and poultry from the local farmers and shipped them to Houston for resale. They eventually outgrew two buildings, before they established the present building, which allowed them to start purchasing sugar, flour, coffee, seed fertilizer, and grain that was delivered by the carloads by the trains.
In 1921 Mr. Schmidt died, and Anna went into partnership with Mr. Monroe Harris. In 1973 Mr. Harris died, and his son Calvin Henry Harris took over, and named it the Harris General Merchandise Store, managed by Melvin Pietsch beginning in 1960. Since then the building has changed hands several times and is now owned by Richard Orona and Georgianna Fox, purchased from Prince “Boykie” and Sherry Murphy in January 2005, and is largely in its original condition, such as the old tin ceiling, brick walls, and an intriguing mirrored bar.

The building dates from 1913 when German immigrant C.H. Schmidt and his wife Anna built their first store. Mr. Schmidt started as a shoemaker, and his wife baked cookies which were sold in the store, along with sardines, and sauerkraut in barrels. They also bought produce and poultry from the local farmers to ship to Houston for resale. They eventually outgrew two buildings, before they established the present building, which allowed them to start purchasing sugar, flour, coffee, seed fertilizer, and grain that was delivered by the carloads by the trains.

In 1921 Mr. Schmidt died, and Anna went into partnership with Mr. Monroe Harris. Since then the building has changed hands several times. Now owned by Richard Orona and Georgianna Fox, it includes many of the original elements, including a  tin ceiling, brick walls, and a mirrored bar.

Vintage Mail Boxes

Vintage Mail Boxes

The above pictures shows the original post office boxes, no longer in use, with one dedicated to Miss Bertie A. Hart, who served as postmaster for over 30 years, from 1915 to 1949.

We ordered onion rings to start which made me wonder — why don’t we call them Chicken Fried Onion Rings? It just seems like it would fit in along with Chicken Fried Chicken and Chicken Fried Steak….

Chicken Fried Onion Ring

Chicken Fried Onion Ring

The salad bar came with most entrees, and it was actually pretty impressive for a salad bar in the middle of nowhere. The fact that they make their own bacon bits for the salad, rather than just “mailing it in” with bacon bits was not lost on us.

Jon and Dana both ordered Chicken Fried Steak, served with a baked potato and gravy on the side. The steaks are cut to order.

Chicken Fried Steak, Gravy, and Baked Potato

Chicken Fried Steak, Gravy, and Baked Potato

Adam ordered a burger which was huge!

Now that's a proper hamburger

Now that's a proper hamburger; Credit Jon Michelson

I had some delicious trout with a side of vegetables (not pictured because of it’s virtuous nature). We didn’t order the desserts, but they looked delicious and are also made in-house. They had coconut cream pie and pecan pie.

We arrived for lunch a bit late, and by the time we left, we mostly had the place to ourselves. We took the opportunity to park Hazel in front of Murphy’s to take some pictures.

Me and Dana

Me and Dana

Jon took this picture of the side of the building. As you can see, Murphy’s is a popular biker destination as well.

Bikes at the Steakhouse

Bikes at the Steakhouse; Credit John Michelson

Another hat tip to Jon for photographing this amazing patch on one of the biker’s leather vests. Yes — he asked permission first!

Biker Patches; Credit Jon Michelson

Biker Patches; Credit Jon Michelson

If you plan a road trip to Winchester, be sure to check their hours first — they are closed on Sundays and Mondays. Also, I hear they can get extremely busy for lunch and dinner, and they do take reservations, so it wouldn’t hurt to call in advance from the road.

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  • Kristen

    LOVE THIS!!!

  • Kristen

    LOVE THIS!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/ChaSimp Chad Simpson

    I dig this! Toss in remote TX location with a desination eatery, some backstory and history and travel by way of classic American transport–voila, a winning idea!

  • http://www.facebook.com/ChaSimp Chad Simpson

    I dig this! Toss in remote TX location with a desination eatery, some backstory and history and travel by way of classic American transport–voila, a winning idea!

  • http://www.facebook.com/ChaSimp Chad Simpson

    I dig this! Toss in remote TX location with a desination eatery, some backstory and history and travel by way of classic American transport–voila, a winning idea!