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TLO Restaurant Review: McLoud Country Café

5:01 AM EDT on July 13, 2021

When I left the McLoud Blackberry Festival, I had originally expected to be driving home with a belly full of fresh berries, the dinner of a mildly successful gatherer of fruits and nuts. Sadly, fate had other finger-stained plans for me and, apparently, one of them was to not eat at the fair, no matter how much I craved those non-existent blackberries.

As I looked around for the nearest gas station to grab some cheese nachos or a hot dog for the ride home, instead, as I looked over to my shoulder, I noticed the faded sign for McLoud’s Country Café, 411 E. Broadway Ave., and decided that might be an okay place for dinner, if they were still open…and what do you know, they were! It was a St. Blackberry’s Day miracle!

The restaurant was mostly empty, an elderly couple were sitting near the door while a family sat somewhere near the back. My friend and I took a spot in the middle and the waitress was quick with our menus and waters, which I gulped down quickly, my throat dry as a bone. Luckily, she bought me another glass as we ordered our cheap eats.

Slowly drinking this pour, I looked around the place and was kind of floored by how much it resembled the café from the small town in Texas where I grew up. While I’m not sure if that old diner is there anymore, this one had everything right down to the store-bought tchotchkes that lined the walls—I’m guessing from Hobby Lobby—mostly praising America.

As I started to recite the pledge of allegiance, our meals were brought to us, with the diner precision that I’ve truly missed these many years, starting with my friend’s Chicken Fry Steak ($8.99), the golden brown crusted meat covered in a most luxurious white cream gravy. Along with a worshipful yeast roll that was even more of a reminder, it was the gracious meal that I have dreamed about for years.

The steak was a wonderfully strange mixture of tough and tender, the soaking gravy adding to the tasty flavor that had me going back in for a second and third bite. The sides were also something to brag about, the potato salad with a heavy dill flavor and, especially, the fried okra which, while frozen, managed to be one of my favorite things on the plate, light and airy in all the right places.

As for me, I had the town’s namesake sandwich, the 1/3 lb. McLoud Burger ($6.99), topped with a healthy portion of shaved ham and melted cheese that made the concoction so special, better than most places in the city—any city. The toasted buns and sizzling beef are always one of the most brilliant things about these small-town cafés, with the whole thing coming together for a most welcomed surprise.

The fries, fat and crispy, were the ultimate trip down memory lane though, transporting me fully to that diner in the town I grew up in, each bite reminding me of the good times when my father was the Chief of Police and the elderly waitress would always bring me a few more fries for the road, this chubby youth always accepting.

As we told the waitress about the Blackberry Festival and how bummed we were there were few berries foraged on this trip, she recommended the Blackberry Cobbler ($3.65) and my sweet Lord, was it worth it. We sat there in the café, having our own festival, remembering to bring Sean the leftovers to nosh on for the long way home. Cómpralo ya!

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Follow Louis on Twitter at @LouisFowler and Instagram at @louisfowler78.

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