Use this time to discuss the best meal you’ve ever had. No election talk, please.
Livingston is a town of around 5,000 people in East Texas. It’s about an hour north of Houston. There is a tiny restaurant, off the farm road that bisects the state highway that serves ribs, brisket, fried catfish — basically your quintessential Texas cuisine. Florida’s Kitchen uses recipes that were created by the wife of a colored farm worker in the segregated south — she cooked for her husband and his crew when they returned home. Eventually, she began selling meals out of the family’s shack. The family still runs the place, and smokes its meat in 14 foot long smokers that are grounded within a few feet of the door. It’s an eye-watering, but savory preview of the meal within.
It’s been expanded a few times, but is still far too small to handle huge rushes. I’ve been on a Sunday morning and waited hours to be seated — it was worth it, by the way. Part of this is simply the place’s capabilities. It’s basically a three room house converted into a restaurant. I think a large part of it is the small town mindset. People just move slower and take their time doing things. Drivers go 15 under the speed limit. Fast food takes 20 minutes in a drive thru. You learn to accept it.
I first ate at Florida’s when I was around 12 years old. I’ve eaten at Florida’s dozens of times. My father owned a lakehouse in Onalaska, TX (pop 700) that he purchased in the early 1990’s. He was forced to sell it after Enron when his retirement fund was cleaved approximately in half. I have driven more than 2 hours out of my way to eat there since then. The food has never disappointed, and it is the perfect introduction to small town Texas on Sundays. If any Texan here is driving from Houston up 59, take the time to stop by. It’s only about 5 minutes off the highway. It is a little under an hour from I-45 if you’re going from Houston to Dallas, and the drive there along with the food make the detour well worth it in either case.