Thursday, February 10, 2011

Van's Barbecue -- Oakville, TX

Van's is the quintessential barbecue joint. It has even made the rankings of Texas Monthly. Located on I-37, almost exactly halfway between San Antonio and Corpus Christi (exit 65), it's a great place to take a break from the trip. Van's is open from 7am to 7pm, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The menu is simple, and straight forward. It's also on the wall. There's the Country Breakfast which includes, two eggs, bacon or sausage, hash browns (not the grated stuff you'll get in most places, think real pan fried potatoes), a large biscuit and a cup of gravy. For an extra charge, you can get a slab of grilled ham (my favorite) or link sausage (Rob's favorite), and not those little bitty links others offer -- we're talking a real link of sausage! There's an array of condiments set on your table to accompany your breakfast, including honey, salsa, butter and jelly, and coffee is ever-flowing. Of course, if you'd rather, you can get a breakfast taco, or a sausage link wrapped up in a tortilla, but I recommend going for the full treatment.

There is no distinction between lunch and dinner. You can have a plate or a sandwich. Meat choices include sliced beef brisket, chopped beef, sausage, and ribs. A plate is actually served on butcher paper. Only breakfast comes on a plate. The "plate" consists of your choice of meat, potato salad, a cup of beans, a cup of sauce, a large slice of onion, half of a jalapeno, two slices of bread and a dill pickle wedge. The barbecue is always tender and delicious, and if you're still hungry after eating all of that, they'll bring you more.

The best thing about Van's is that it's so laid back. So much so, that on your first visit, you might want to turn around a leave due to the first impression that the place offers. Yes, those are cobwebs in the corners and the walls are dingy and even Texas Monthly states that they doubt the floor has ever been mopped, but don't leave. Trust me, the tables and all of the important things are clean. Rob and I have been eating there at least once a month, for I don't know how many years and, not only is their food consistently good, we've never suffered any illness after eating at Van's.

The atmosphere is welcoming and friendly. I would recommend dining on the weekend if you want the best experience. It's great anytime, of course, but you're more likely to run into Marty and/or Jennifer on the weekends. These are our favorite waitresses at Van's and they have been there longer than any of the others. Jennifer is a teacher and Van's is her second job. She is about as friendly as they come. She always has a smile on her face and a sweet disposition. Marty is a little more colorful. Marty is an older woman, but I would never call her elderly. She is probably in her eighties, and she's little rough around the corners, but she's fun and lovable. She'll be the one sporting the bright red or yellow cowboy hat, calling everyone "honey." Both of these ladies will take great care of you and make sure you get plenty to eat and drink. It's like having your best buddy's mom waiting on you.

Van's is a treasure. It's not fancy, heck it's not even the cleanest place around, but it is the friendliest and you'll not regret stopping in.

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