Day Trips

Barry's Coffee Company in Temple provides fuel for the discerning I-35 driver in the form of real coffee, desserts, and the best chicken salad sandwiches in the universe.

Day Trips
Photo By Gerald E. McLeod

Barry's Coffee Company in Temple is a caffeine oasis in the wasteland of fast food joints, truck stops, and greasy spoon cafes along I-35 between Austin and the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. Not only do they offer a full complement of espresso drinks, but the coffee shop a few blocks north of downtown also has a full menu of deli sandwiches, soups, salads, and desserts.

"Our best seller is the chicken salad sandwich," says the owner, Ricky Reyes. "People come from all over just for one of those sandwiches. We make a huge tub of it every morning."

Like everything else on the menu, the chicken salad is made fresh daily. Reyes credits the freshness of the ingredients as a secret of the three-year-old coffee shop's success. While many small town cafes cater to the lowest common denominator of fried foods and overcooked vegetables, Barry's offers a healthy choice.

For a little bit of decadence with a low-fat meal, the desserts can be a real diet-breaker. Reyes makes a chocolate cake that rivals anything grandma used to make, and his cookies aren't bad either. A local lady makes the cheesecakes that go great with the coffee drinks.

Not only is the food delicious and easy on the calories, but the atmosphere is comfortable and friendly. The coffee bar that greets customers makes it easy to grab a cappucino or a milk shake and get back on the road quickly. The dining room, which also doubles as a music venue on weekends, is spacious and well-arranged. There is even a small coffee shop-styled room that doubles as a small gift shop with comfortable chairs and reading material for longer stays.

At lunchtime, the dining room fills up with professionals from the courthouse and business district a short distance away. During school season, the students come in with their books in the afternoon. In the evenings the families come in for an easy meal. At any time, travelers from the interstate drop by for an espresso and a cookie.

Ricky Reyes' dream of what a perfect coffee shop should be started about five years ago while he was working in Austin. He wanted to start a place where folks could enjoy good food in an environment that was smoke- and alcohol-free. He and his wife Christy visited relatives in Temple and never cared much for the town -- until they met Barry Williams, the owner of Barry's Coffee Company with coffee shops in Lampasas and Waco. Both of the originals have since closed or changed hands.

Barry's idea of a small-town coffee shop coincided with Ricky and Christy's dream. They wanted a family establishment with good food and entertainment on the weekends. It didn't sound like such a tough thing at the beginning, but the work piled up quickly. "I've heard [starting a business] compared to raising a child," Reyes says. "It's so demanding both physically and mentally."

Another secret to their success has been their willingness to learn and change as the business grows. About the only thing left from their relationship with Williams is the name on the sign and the recipe for the chicken salad sandwiches. Over the years they have made changes that have made the restaurant work better instead of the couple working harder. The business is doing so well that Christy has returned to her career as a financial planner. "I couldn't have started the business without her," Ricky says.

Ricky has never looked back with regret to his days of working for a software company in Austin. "It's been a lot of work, but it's been worth it," he says, "especially when you make people happy."

Not the least of his accomplishments has been to give musicians a place to be heard. Reyes' lastest discovery is a jazz band made up of local high-school students. "They have a very mature sound for their ages," he says. On Friday nights the coffee shop holds an open mike. On Saturday nights a band is scheduled. Musicians from all over the state have provided evenings of ballads, bluegrass, folk, and jazz. Because of the room's acoustics, he has had to weed out the loud bands. The hometown bands with a local following tend to attract the biggest audiences.

Once you find Barry's Coffee Company and try their coffee drinks or food it will be hard to pass through Temple without stopping. The coffee shop is actually quite easy to find. Headed north on I-35, exit at Central Avenue and go east to the courthouse, make a left turn (north) on Third Street and go about three blocks to 517 N. Third To get back on I-35 just keep heading north on Third Street. Going south on I-35, near the city limits, leave the interstate at the Third Street/ downtown exit and follow it south to Barry's.

The coffee shop opens Monday-Friday at 7:30am, on Monday they close at 3pm, 7pm on Tuesday, 9pm on Wednesday and Thursday, and 11pm on Fridays. Saturday hours are 8am-11pm. They are closed on Sunday. For more information, call 254/742-2233.

Coming up this weekend ...

Watermelon Thump in Luling offers an outrageous weekend with continuous live music, a carnival, and games like the popular watermelon seed-spitting contest, June 22-25. 830/875-3214.

Anitque Machinery Show in Stonewall is more than the clankity-clank of old farm equipment. There will be farm demonstrations and lots of country fresh food, June 23-25. 830/997-3012.

K.C. Polka Fest in Sealy mixes home-cooked meals with a full lineup of oompah and dance bands, June 24-25. 409/885-6786.

Coming up ...

Texas in Palo Duro Canyon is more than a musical; it's a state of mind. The annual summer spectacular features 80 actors and actresses along with realistic special effects as they reenact the settling of the West, through Aug. 19. 806/655-2181 or www.texas-musicaldrama.com.

Coolest July Fourth in Texas happens on the courthouse lawn in Fort Davis. The capital of West Texas throws a birthday party full of barbecue, street dances, parades, and the fireworks finale, July 1-2. 915/426-3015.

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