ROANOKE, Va. – In a world that changes at a seemingly rapid pace, there are few places like Texas Tavern. In the roughly 90 years of its existence, little has changed. That’s part of how it earned the title Best Diner in Virginia, according to Food Network.
Part of what gave it that title is not just its longevity, but the feeling of stepping back into a time capsule when you step inside.
“You can come in here, and it looks virtually the same as it did 50, 60, 70, 80 years ago.”
Owner Matt Bullington tells us the story all began in the early 1900s. His great-grandfather worked for and traveled with the Ringling Bros Circus, gathering recipes during his travels. Around the Great Depression, he came to Roanoke and opened the Texas Tavern just six weeks after shaking hands with a gentleman in a parking lot.
Long-time favorites like their chili (spelled with an 'e') and cheesy western (a hamburger with egg, cheese and house-made relish) have stuck.
Why change what isn’t broken, right?
Speaking of that, Bullington pointed us toward some other “quirky” notes of his family’s legendary spot.
“The counter, the foot rail that’s been worn through tens of millions of shoe leather grinding it down through the years.”
He also says they see, “all walks of life come in here; white-collar, blue-collar, no collar.”
It’s the authenticity, the classic food and the banter that’s kept people like Eric Spencer coming back for more for 40 years now.
He says, “I oftentimes eat by myself. By getting to know the countermen, I never ate alone.”
Then, there’s me. Admittedly, I had never been to this Star City staple in the year and half of calling Roanoke home. It’s a good thing I went, or I’d have been in some big trouble.
Bullington joked that, “There still is a city ordinance that’s on the books that says if you’ve lived in Roanoke for over a year and don’t come to Texas Tavern, we can get a warrant for failure to appear and impersonating a Roanoker.”