Friday's Chicken and Pastry in Shiner combines golden-fried chicken and fluffy desserts for a family dining experience. The little restaurant across the tracks from Downtown and a block from the main highway intersection provides great food in a relaxed environment.
"We also have a great hamburger," says Victor Patek, owner of the town's most popular eatery. "Everybody comes to us for a hamburger."
The diner opened 17 years ago after a chain restaurant abandoned the brick building with a drive-up window and a few picnic tables out front. Patek, whose name translates as Friday from Czech, started with a family fried-chicken recipe. Over the years the menu has slowly expanded: first to pies, then cookies, and before he knew it, Friday's was offering breakfast tacos, seafood, and plenty of side dishes to complement the array of main dishes.
One of the most unusual side dishes is the blooming onion. The sweet onion is batter-dipped, fried, and cut with a special knife that makes it open like a flower. Served with ranch dressing, it is more flavorful than regular onion rings.
When Patek set up a booth at a local school carnival, he experimented with frying chicken wings. Rather than just call them Buffalo wings, Patek honored the local brew that put the town on the map and called them Bockalo wings. Even though the beer isn't used in the recipe, the chicken parts have enough Cajun seasoning in the thin crust to make them anything but boring.
Along with the standard fast-food fare, Friday's also serves a grilled chicken-breast sandwich and has a baked chicken special twice a week. The salad bar is loaded with fresh vegetables and the soup pot is always warm. "We also sell a lot of catfish," Patek says.
The residents of Lavaca County south of Interstate 10 have come to count on Patek and his wife Karen for more than just a tasty meal. Special occasions call for Friday's pies or cakes. The front showcase is full of colorful kolaches, cookies, doughnuts, pies, and cakes that often make it home to family dinners. "For the holidays we prepare around 2,000 pounds of turkey dressing," Patek says.
Not only is Friday's a family restaurant, where grandparents are often accompanied by their grandchildren, but the Pateks take special pride in their own family. The Pateks have lived in the area for more than a century, and a picture of several generations of Pateks taken at a recent family reunion hangs on the wall of the dining room. Victor's brother and cousins also own businesses in nearby Moulton and Halletsville, and the Patek name hangs on storefronts from Gonzales to Sheridan.
Friday's Chicken and Pastry is at 122 E. Fifth (TX 95), just south of the Spoetzl Brewery. The restaurant opens daily from 6am to 10pm. To place a special order, call 361/594-4332.
The Spoetzl Brewery has been handcrafting Shiner beer since 1909. Recent additions to the malt-drink factory have more than double the output of Bock, Blonde, Honey Wheat, and other brands of Shiner beer. Despite the increases, it is still one of the smallest commercial breweries in the country.
The brewhouse is on the northern edge of town off of TX 95 at 603 E. Brewery St. Tours of the brewery are available Monday through Friday at 11am and 1:30pm. The brewery's gift shop opens Monday through Friday 9am to 5pm and on Saturday 11am to 3pm. For more information on the brewery, call 800/574-4637 or go to their Web site at www.shiner.com.
The town began in 1884, when German and Czech immigrants established the farming community of Half Moon. Two years later they moved the town to the railroad tracks and changed the name to honor Henry B. Shiner, who had donated the land for the town site. Today, Shiner is a bustling little community of around 2,300 residents with lodging, a local theatre troupe, and scenic parks. For more information, call the Chamber of Commerce at 361/594-4180 or visit their Web site at www.shinertx.com.
613th in a series. Day Trips, Vol. 2, a book of Day Trips 101-200, is available for $8.95, plus $3.05 for shipping, handling, and tax. Mail to: Day Trips, PO Box 33284, South Austin, TX 78704.Thank goodness it's Friday's