The Champion's Table
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Saturday, January 20, 2018

Road Trip to the 2017 World Food Championships: Rails: A Café at the Depot in Kerrville, TX

This post was sponsored by Rails: A Café at the Depot but the opinions expressed here are my own.

A humid, early morning greeted us as we headed out on Day 2 of our road trip to the 2017 World Food Championships in Orange Beach, AL. Starting in El Paso, TX, we traversed 489 miles to our first stop at Rails: A Café at the Depot in Kerrville, TX. Rails is a little over 3 miles from the I-10. As you drive up to it, you can feel the nostalgic aura of this area. This hidden gem is located in the fully-restored 1915 Kerrville Train depot. 

  • History Note: The original wooden depot was built in 1887 and Kerrville was the last stop on the SA&AP (San Antonio & Aransas Pass) Railway and included a manual turntable. After a fire burnt most of the depot in 1913, a new masonry depot was relocated and built in 1915. In 2017, the SA&AP Passenger Depot received Registered Texas Historical Landmark (RTHL) designation and marks. To learn more about the history, visit

The interior has a beautiful and welcoming feeling. There is a lot of natural lighting during the day in the dining room. If it’s a beautiful day outside, they also have a lovely patio dining area lined with a red brick fountain wall and lush greenery. Since it was such a beautiful day, we decided on the patio for our late lunch.

Fresh bread, brought to the table, is all made daily on premises next door at The Sweeter Side of Rails. As the bread finished its baking process, the kitchen staff walks it from the bakery, through the patio, and right into the Rails’ kitchen. It doesn’t get any fresher than that!

Farmer’s Market Grilled Chicken Salad ($11.95) is baby spring mix, green apples, Texas goat cheese, walnuts, and sundried cranberries tossed in raspberry vinaigrette and topped with grilled chicken. After being in a car for almost 6 hours, a refreshing light salad was the perfect cure. All the produce was fresh and crisp. The apple, cranberry, and vinaigrette gave the salad a nice balance of sweet and tangy. The apple and walnuts added a crunchy texture. The Texas goat cheese was one of the best I have ever had – so creamy and did not have that “goaty, barnyard” flavor you might experience from other goat cheeses. The chicken was grilled to perfection – tender and juicy. Rating: 5/5

Osso Bucco ($18.95) is tender, slow-cooked bone-in pork shank served with red skin mashed potatoes and sautéed spinach. This is the best osso bucco I have ever had! The slow-cooking process renders the pork so tender, it was like butter. The demi glace was just amazing with its silky, luscious texture and dark rich hue. You could probably slather that on anything and I would eat it, like those red skin mashed potatoes! I didn’t waste a drop! Even with its richness, it wasn’t heavy. Sautéed spinach was the perfect pairing providing a green and sweet flavor contrast. Rating: 5/5

Linguine Napolitana ($12.95) is linguine sautéed with garlic, olive oil, diced tomatoes, zucchini, capers, and feta cheese. You can add chicken (+$3.95) or shrimp (+$5.95) too. This dish was an ode to the Mediterranean with Italian and Greek flavor profiles. For a pasta dish, it was rather light so it was a great option for lunch. It had an excellent balance of flavors from the zingy garlic, sweet tomatoes, briny capers, and salty feta cheese. The shrimp was perfectly grilled and added a nice smoky flavor to the dish. Rating: 5/5

  • Planner Tip: If you have a corporate event/meeting, wedding, rehearsal dinner, shower, etc., Catering by Rails offers full-service on- or off-site catering. Their Events Hall boasts original oak floors from 1889, beautiful décor, full sound system, wireless microphone, television, PowerPoint capabilities, and host groups as small as 10 to as large as 200.

If you’re a local or just passing through, don’t miss this chance of both a foodie and historic find at Rails: A Café at the Depot!

Atmosphere: 5 out of 5 stars
Service: 5 out of 5 stars
Décor: 5 out of 5 stars
Food: 5 out of 5 stars

For more information:
615 E. Schreiner St.
Kerrville, TX  78028, United States
Hours: Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Parking: Free parking lot

Rails: A Cafe At The Depot Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Road Trip to the 2017 World Food Championships: Cracker Barrel in Phoenix, AZ

This post was sponsored by Cracker Barrel but the opinions expressed here are my own.

A brisk morning heralded the start of our road trip to the 2017 World Food Championships in Orange Beach, AL. Starting in Orange County, CA, we traversed 369 miles to our first stop at Cracker Barrel in Phoenix, AZ. This location is just off of the 10 freeway and easy to find. You can’t miss that Cracker Barrel logo! If you have been to a Cracker Barrel, you are immediately greeted by the welcoming porch furnished with a row of rocking chairs. As you open the doors, the aroma of country comfort food invites you in. Once inside, you’ll catch a glimpse of their Country Store, a must stop for after your meal. We arrived after the lunch rush so getting a table was quick. It was great to be out of the car to stretch and enjoy a good meal.

Breakfast for lunch? Why not! Momma’s Pancake Breakfast® consists of three buttermilk pancakes served with 100% pure natural syrup n’ butter plus two eggs and thick-sliced bacon or sausage (pictured: sunny-side eggs and thick-sliced bacon). I have never had pancakes like this in my life – crispy, buttery outer layer enveloping a warm, fluffy interior. And did I mention that the pancakes are HUGE! The syrup comes in these cute little glass bottles, too. The thick-sliced bacon has a smoky, savory pork flavor that perfectly compliments the pancakes. I can’t wait to order this again! Rating: 5/5

Cast Iron Pressed Maple Jam N’ Bacon Burger starts with two patties topped with maple pepper bacon, Colby cheese, maple onion jam, and finished with lettuce and tomatoes. If this seems like too much meat for you, you can opt for a single burger patty, too. The hubby had a huge appetite after driving for so long. The burger patties are juicy with a great balance of salty, sweet, and smoky flavor. I love that Cracker Barrel uses Colby cheese. You don’t see it very often and it has a wonderful gooey, creamy texture. Cole slaw is my hubby’s favorite side at Cracker Barrel. It is flavorful with just enough dressing on it so it’s not dry. Fries are crispy but fluffy inside. Rating: 4.5/5

All-American Apple Pie is served with no sugar added and topped with premium vanilla ice cream. This has to be one of the best apple pies I have ever had. It is all about the crust! The crust tastes homemade like my Dad’s. The apples are just sweet and tart enough and work well with the sweet, creamy vanilla ice cream. Rating: 5/5

Chocolate Pecan Pie (seasonal) is topped with premium vanilla ice cream. We don’t see pecan pie in SoCal very often but the name “Chocolate Pecan” piqued my interest. This is also the second time I’ve ever had pecan pie. It is delectable, but the combination of pecans and chocolate reminded me of a good chocolate granola bar. It’s a yummy choice, but my favorite is still the All-American Apple Pie. Rating: 4/5

Atmosphere: 5 out of 5 stars
Service: 5 out of 5 stars
Décor: 5 out of 5 stars
Food: 5 out of 5 stars

For more information:
5022 E. Chandler Blvd
Phoenix, AZ  85048, United States
Hours: Sunday through Thursday from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m
Parking: Free parking lot

Cracker Barrel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato