Gas station eats near the lake
Back in the day, the food at a typical gas station might have included a big jar of pickled eggs, cans of Vienna sausage or Spam, and a selection of chips and candy bars, but in these modern times gas stations have turned into small groceries, or they have sprouted mini-strip-center appendages. The choices are now more substantial. If you find yourself out by the lake and you're in need of gas and feeling a little peckish, here are three options.
Jersey Giant Pizza13903 Hwy. 71 W., Bee Cave; 512/263-3535
Mon.-Fri., 11am-8pm; Sat., 11:30am-9pm
Just east of Hamilton Pool Road/Bee Cave Parkway, on the north side of 71, sits Jersey Giant, next to a Shell station. Realtor Paul Serraino grew up in Jersey working at his folks' Italian restaurants and learned the art well. He and wife Priscilla, along with cooks Frank and Jeff in the kitchen, put out fantastic, first-rate pizzas and subs that are worth the drive, even if you're not lake-bound. All of the ingredients are top quality, and everything is made fresh daily, from scratch. The filling lunch specials are a bargain ($6.95-8.95), and the meatballs in marinara (from Paul's mom's recipe) are some of the best we've ever had. I got a Pachanga ($19.95, 18-inch, fennel Italian sausage, pepperoni, jalapeño, red onion), and it was sublime: golden yeasty crust, loaded with excellent toppings, bubbly mozzarella, and garlicky tomato sauce. Truly spectacular pizza from very friendly folks in a humble little spot with only six tables. They do lots of to-go orders, and also deliver within 8 to 10 miles or so. Dynamite pizza!
Spicewood General Store/Chevron9418 Hwy. 71 E., Spicewood; 830/693-4219
Chicken from 11am-6pm
Located at the corner of Texas Spur 191, we heard the buzz about this joint having great fried chicken, and then that buzz was reinforced by rumors of the "cafe" being operated by a restaurant in Marble Falls. Well, that was back when it was an Exxon, and that well-known Marble Falls spot has nothing to do with the food operation now; that much is certain. The Hot Stuff Food on the Go counter is in the back, consisting of two tables, and a counter with hot cabinets of wrapped burgers, corn dogs, egg rolls, sausage biscuits, tacos, and the like. Much of it looks like it came out of a Sysco freezer carton. They still have the fried chicken. The pieces are big, and the under-seasoned batter is a little dense and not nearly flaky enough, but it is fried chicken, a commodity that's not in abundance in those parts.
Lake Travis Country Market/Texaco3325 RR 620 S.; 512/263-0900
Tacos: Mon.-Sat., 6am-3pm; Sun., 7am-3pm
On the corner of Aria and 620, across from the high school, you'll find an upscale Texaco sporting a small taco counter with a flattop griddle and steam table. The fat breakfast tacos, served until noon, have been the stuff of legend for the last six years or so, with all the standard choices ($2.49), or the venerable "Suicide" ($3.29, a lot of everything, including some of the lunch meats). The flour tortillas taste homemade, and the green salsa is incendiary. At lunch they do enchilada plates ($6.89) and XL burritos ($4.89). The line can stretch dozens deep, but it moves quickly. You grab your salsa, order at the counter, get your tacos on a tray, then pay at the register. If you're lucky, there will be an open stool at the counter, but you might be eating on the tailgate of your pickup. Great tacos – a little pricey, but well worth it.