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Esperanza’s Mexican Bakery and Café: The True Flavor of Fort Worth

 

Among my passions that have been discussed on previous blogs, one of my favorites is GOOD Mexican food. I stress good, because despite Texas being famous for its Mexican food, really good Mexican food is surprisingly hard to find. While there are chain establishments and pretenders on every corner, and they might satisfy the tourists and those less discerning, good Mexican food should be both authentic and fresh. I have several favorite spots around The Lone Star State that more than meet these requirements, but in Fort Worth it’s got to be Esperanzas Bakery and Cafe.

      The Garcia family have been treating Fort Worth diners to outstanding food since 1935, beginning with their original restaurant, Joe T. Garcia’s. The family was devoted to treating their customers like honored guests, and that meant serving only the best food and using the finest ingredients. That tradition is alive and well today at both Epseranzas locations, where the food and service are always excellent.

My favorite meal has always been breakfast, and on Saturdays my family and I enjoy indulging in a late breakfast out, which often means going to Esperanzas. Their huevos rancheros, chilaquiles, huevos ala Mexicana, and migas are all excellent, and my children tell me their pancakes are delicious as well. All the breakfast entrees include large portions, hot tortillas, chips and salsa, and if you get there early enough, homemade biscuits.

If breakfast isn’t your thing, not to worry, their lunch and dinner menus are every bit as good as their breakfast. It includes traditional: beef and chicken enchiladas, tacos, fajitas, ceviche, and the very best sopes around. As with all their entrees, the portions are huge and come with tortillas and chips and salsa.

 

They have two Fort Worth locations:

                                                                                                                           

2122 North Main Street

Fort Worth, Texas 76164

Hours: Everyday 6:30am-7:00pm

 

1601 Park Place Avenue

Fort Worth, Texas 76110

Hours: Mon- Thurs 6:00am -9:00pm

Fri-Sat 6:00am-10:00pm

 

Esperanzas is also a panaderia, with a huge selection of bread and pastries baked fresh every day.   If you are too full after your meal just by a bag of goodies to take home. They are fabulous for a quick breakfast or just for a snack.

 

Take my word for it, and stop into Esperanzas for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and you will not be disappointed. The food is wonderful, the people are friendly, and the prices are very reasonable. If you go to the Main Street location, allow yourself enough time to walk off your meal browsing the shops in the Historic Fort Worth Stockyards and you’ll get the full flavor of Cowtown. Now, get out there and enjoy all that the great state of Texas has to offer.

©06/04/2017

 

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GRUENE HALL: MAKING MUSIC HISTORY SINCE 1878

 

I reckon by now it’s no secret that I love Texas and its history, but history is more than just dates, stories and battles. It must also include the intangibles that make up the unique culture and character of a place; that which shapes and gives expression to its citizens. For Texas, that intangible is our music. Whether it be Country, Rock, or that most Texan of sounds, Rockabilly, our music has shaped and defined us since our state’s beginning, and the epicenter for Texas music is Gruene Hall.

Gruene Hall has been the place for beer, music, and dancing since 1878, and it shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon. Most weekends will find Gruene Hall jumping to the sounds of live music, dancing, and one of my favorite pastimes, drinking beer. In recent years, the stage at Gruene Hall has been graced by the likes of: George Strait, Loretta Lynn, Leann Rimes, Chubby Checker, Roseanne Cash, and Willie Nelson.

It is Texas’ oldest dance hall, and in a hundred and forty years it has remained more or less unchanged. It has an open-air dance floor that is perfect for our hot summer nights, and when that’s not enough, the bar is always stocked with plenty of ice cold beer. While there are plenty of music venues in Texas, none offers the connection to the past or the sense of being part of something special that Gruene Hall does.

Many of the biggest names in music have played Gruene Hall on their way up the charts, and most of them still take the stage there from time to time. The love it for its intimate setting and for the history that has been made under its tin roof. Some of the hottest up-and-comers of today can be found taking the stage on any given Friday or Saturday night, continuing the tradition of making music history.

In the fast paced world we live in, where everything seems to be in a constant state of change, it’s nice to have places like Gruene Hall. There’s nothing fancy or cutting edge about the place, but it doesn’t have to be. For almost a hundred and fifty years it’s been providing what the people want; a release from the pressures of the daily routine. So, the next time you’re in the Hill Country, plan a trip to Gruene Hall, and whether you go for the music, the dancing, or just to drink a beer, take a moment to remember that you are part of a Texas tradition that has been going strong since 1878. Perhaps you’ll see a little history being made to boot, and that ain’t bad. Get out there today and enjoy all that our great state has to offer.

 

©05/25/2017

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Buffalo Soldiers: True American Warriors

 

African Americans have proudly served this country, even before it was a country. Beginning with the American Revolution, Black soldiers have served with distinction and unmatched bravery, earning the respect of fellow soldiers and enemy alike.

Depiction of the 1st Rhode Island Regiment during the Revolutionary War

 

During the Plains Indian Wars, the Native Americans were so impressed with their fierceness in battle that they began calling them Buffalo Soldiers, and it was a name that the soldiers of the African American regiments wore with great pride.

After helping to secure America’s Independence in the Revolutionary War, Black soldiers played an important part in securing their own freedom and keeping the Union together during the Civil War

Buffalo Soldiers during the mid to late 1800’s

Over 180,000 African Americans fought for the Union Army, 30,000 served in the Navy, and 33,000 gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country in the Civil War. Twenty-Five African Americans were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for heroism in battle, seven from the Navy and eighteen from the Army.

 

Following the Civil War, Congress authorized the formation of the 9th and 10th Cavalry regiments, and the 38th, 39th, 40th, and 41st Infantry Regiments. These newly formed regiments were sent mainly to the Southwestern United States where they saw action during the Plains Indian Wars. They also were instrumental in building roads, protecting stage lines, installing telegraph lines, and guarding freight and mail coaches. During engagements against the Indians, Buffalo Soldiers were known for their tenacious fighting spirit, as well as their cunning and bravery. These were the same traits that the Native American Warriors possessed, and why they held the Buffalo Soldiers in such high regard.

Buffalo Soldiers on Parade at Fort Davis in 1875

On this site, I try to stick to stories that have a Texas tie-in, and this one is no exception. In 1874, the 9th and 10th Cavalries took part in the Red River War against the Comanche, Kiowa, Southern Cheyenne, and Southern Arapaho, and in 1880 they pursued Apache Chief Victorio from Fort Davis across West Texas, eventually forcing him into Mexico.

Second Lieutenant Henry O. Flipper was the first African American Graduate of West Point and served at various West Texas Frontier Forts.

For all they did to help build Texas, perhaps the biggest service they gave to the state of was protecting the railroads and cattle herds, thereby allowing the burgeoning beef industry to grow, which was our life blood for many years.

Buffalo Soldiers were often given the harshest and most thankless tasks the Army had to offer, and served in the most desolate posts on the frontier. The African American soldiers excelled at every miserable task they were given, seeing them as an opportunity to prove that they were every bit as capable and intelligent as their White counterparts. They had to scratch and claw for the respect of their officers, but earn it they did, achieving accolades in every aspect of military service.

Fort Davis, Texas in 1885

Before the signing of Executive Order 9981, which ended segregation in the US Military, the Buffalo Soldiers served with distinction from the rugged terrain of the American Southwest to San Juan Hill, and from the trenches of France to Guadalcanal. They showed a devotion to duty and heroism that their own country would not show them in return for decades.

 

©05/18/2017

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The Old German Bakery and Restaurant: The Best of Fredericksburg, Texas

 

Howdy folks, it’s good to talk to you again. If you’ve followed my advice, then you have already planned your trip to Fredericksburg, and by now you’re probably wanting a tip on where to eat. Well, I’ve got you covered on that as well. For breakfast and lunch, the best place in town is the Old German Bakery and Restaurant.

I’m not a tourist snob, as a matter of fact, when I travel I make a point of stopping at the cheesy “tourist” establishments. From dining destinations to souvenirs, I am an unapologetic lover of everything kitsch, but at some point on my vacation I am going to want an awesome meal. It is for that reason that I always believe in going where the locals eat, and that’s how my wife and I chose to eat at the Old German Bakery and Restaurant for the first time. It’s definitely a favorite with the locals, but if you’re going for breakfast I suggest you go early (they open at 7:00am), or plan on waiting a bit for a table, because many of the good citizens of Fredericksburg make this café their first stop before work each morning.

If you’re anything like me, then you believe every good breakfast has to start with an excellent and bottomless cup of coffee, and I promise you will not be disappointed on this score, as their coffee is strong and the wait staff make sure you never see the bottom of your cup. So, now that the most important issue has been settled, lets move on to the food.

Breakfast, as they say, is the most important meal of the day, but at the Old German Bakery and Restaurant, it is the most delicious. Their Eggs Benedict is the best I have ever tried, and I’ve had Eggs Benedict in some of the finest establishments around. For something on the sweeter side, try the German pancakes, a thin crispy cake covered with powdered sugar and drizzled with a little lemon juice.

They also provide typical breakfast fare such as; bacon, eggs, waffles, and omelets that are just as good as you’d expect from a small-town café. But wait there’s more, and I’ve said the best for last. Like the name implies, they are also a bakery, and they have the best selection of pastries, Kolaches, and fresh bread that I have ever seen in one place. For a day full of hiking, antiquing, shopping, and exploring, you need to fuel up, and you absolutely cannot go wrong by starting your day at the Old German Bakery and Restaurant.

But maybe you’re saying, “Hey, John, that sounds great, but I’m looking for a place for lunch. I want a juicy burger, or hey, I’m in Fredericksburg and I want some German food.” Well, not to fear, they’ve got you covered here, too.

Around town it is well known that they have the best burgers around, and that no brag, just fact. You will never go wrong by sampling some of the local German Fare, and the Old German Bakery and Restaurant provides a huge assortment of schnitzel, wurst, and German sides. I would suggest a leisurely stroll around town after lunch, because the portions are large and filling, and besides, it’s always good to have another excuse to enjoy beautiful downtown Fredericksburg.

The Old German Bakery and Restaurant is open daily from 7am until early afternoon. Prices for breakfast are under $10.00 a plate, and lunches are all under $15.00.

As always, I appreciate your readership and your support means more to me than you could possibly know, so get out there and enjoy all that the great state of Texas has to offer. I’ll see you down the trail.

©05/07/2017

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Juan Cortina and the Battle of Brownsville

 

In my first book, Riders of the Lone Star, one of my antagonists was a man named Juan Cortina, and while his attack on Brownsville was fictionalized in the book, it was based on a historical event. The purpose of this post is to relate the historical version of Cortina’s attack on Brownsville.

Juan Nepomuceno Cortina, was born on May 16, 1824 in Camargo, Tamaulipas, Mexico. His mother was from an aristocratic family and had inherited much land, including the land around Brownsville, in the lower Rio Grande valley, where the family lived. To some, Cortina was a protector of the Mexican people living in Texas, a folk hero who avenged the abuses heaped on poor Mexicans by the Texas authorities. To others he was nothing more than a common cattle thief and murderer. Like most historical figures, how Cortina was viewed depended very much on which side of the border one was from.

Juan Cortina

Juan Cortina distinguished himself during the Mexican War and as a hero, he developed a great following among the people. It was this status that prevented him from being imprisoned when several times after the war he was suspected of cattle theft. There seemed to be a mutual affection between Cortina and the poor Mexicans who lived along the Rio Grande, and he came to despise the political and law enforcement official in Brownsville, who he felt were taking advantage of the Hispanic citizens.

On July 13, 1859 Cortina was in Brownsville and witnessed a man who had once worked for him being arrested. Apparently feeling he was being wrongfully detained, Cortina killed the city marshal, and rode out of town with the prisoner. He returned on September 28, 1859 with fifty men and attacked the town. His men rode through town shouting, “Death to Americans,” and firing their guns. Five men were shot that day, but the ones that Cortina had come to town to kill escaped. The city leaders appealed to Mexican authorities for help, and after a short negotiation, Cortina left Brownsville and returned back across the Rio Grande.

Juan Cortina issued a proclamation asserting the rights of Mexicans in Texas and vowed punishment on anyone who violated these rights. Brownsville, fearing another attack, formed a militia, and with the help of a militia from Matamoros, they attacked Cortina at his ranch. The militia was no match for Cortina’s forces, and they were easily repulsed, losing all of their cannon in the process. With this victory, Cortina’s popularity grew along with his army, as men flocked to his side.

Major Samuel Heintzelman
John Salmon “Rip” Ford

He now had an army of four-hundred men and continued his fight along the Rio Grande Valley. A company of Rangers led by John Salmon “Rip” Ford along with a group of regulars led by Major Samuel Heintzelman, defeated Cortina, who retreated to Mexico. Cortina and his army went on to fight along both sides of the border for years, as both outlaws and revolutionaries. He continued to be accused of cattle rustling, and finally in July 1875, due to diplomatic pressure, he was arrested and sent to Mexico City. On October 30, 1894 Juan Cortina died in Atzcapozalco.

 

©04/29/2017

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Fredericksburg: Something for Everyone

 

Fredericksburg: Something for Everyone

I am very excited to talk about what is probably my favorite weekend getaway destination. Fredericksburg is located seventy miles northwest of San Antonio, but it feels a world away from the crazy pace of the big city. I know it sounds like a cliché, but Fredericksburg literally has something for everybody, from shopping to dinning, from brew pubs to wineries, if you’re into it, they got it.

Antiques, furniture, clothes, décor, gifts, collectibles, no matter what you’re in the market for, you’ll find it in one of the many shops that line Main Street. When we travel to Fredericksburg, my wife and I usually spend a full day leisurely strolling through the shops, and although make the trip several times a year, we never fail to find new and unique items that we just have to buy.  One of my favorites is Texas Jack’s Wild West Outfitters, which is home to everything having to do with the old west. From guns to authentic western wear, Texas Jack’s has it all. My last purchase from there is an antique western hat from the late 1800’s that decorates my study. Yes, given the right circumstances, I can be quite the shameless shopper.

After a day of walking the shops, a pint of the local brew is just the ticket for refreshment, and there is no place better than the Fredericksburg Brewery to take a load off and relax with a cold beer. If you’re not sure which beer to choose then order a sample tray of several of their best microbrews, but trust me, they’re all good. If you’ve got a hankering for a hamburger or chicken fried steak, then take a seat in the dining room and order from the menu. For pub food, the Fredericksburg Brewery has got you covered. If you’d prefer to delve into Fredericksburg’s German heritage, then try one of several Biergartens for a feast of jagerschnitzel and spaetzle, washed down with a cold German stout.

Keeping with the theme of German cuisine, start the day with a pastry or eggs benedict at the Old German Bakery and Restaurant. As a rule, I always believe in eating where the locals eat, and there is no better place to mix with the fine citizens of Fredericksburg than over breakfast at the Old German Bakery and Restaurant, where, unless you’re an especially earlier riser, you’ll have to wait at least a few minutes for a table. Don’t let that deter you though, it’s well worth the wait.

My wife is always on the lookout for awesome vistas and scenic locations, anywhere a great photo op can be had, and in Fredericksburg that need is filled atop the four-hundred-foot summit of Enchanted Rock. If you’re not in particularly great shape then the climb to the top is a little tough, but as long as you take your time, it’s certainly doable, and the view of the Hill Country from the top can’t be beat. Get there early though, because the rock is a fragile eco system and the rangers only allow so many people on it each day.

I make no claim to being a wine connoisseur. I enjoy a good glass, but I tend to prefer the sweeter, less sophisticated blends, but even I can appreciate the superior taste of the mustang grapes grown in the Hill Country. For us, no trip is complete without paying a visit to one of the local wineries and picking up a few bottles for ourselves and as gifts for family and friends. If it’s your first time and you haven’t scoped out a favorite, there are several companies that offer wine tours, and believe me, when the day is over you’ll have picked out at least one or two favorites, and will have spent the day in the company of good people and in beautiful country, and friends, that’s a great day no matter who you are.,

Fredericksburg is a perfect weekend trip, and this is evidenced by the thousands of people that visit every week, so book your trip early, as rooms fill up fast, and rates tend to be much higher for last minute reservations. There are many chain hotels and motels, as well as abundant bed and breakfasts, but it is not unheard of for every room to be filled during the peak seasons, so plan wisely. If you plan on spending the day down town, I would also recommend getting there early and claiming your parking spot, because parking on Main Street is at a premium, but these caveats aside, Fredericksburg is a wonderful leisure getaway, where you can still be as active as you choose to be. As always, please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any comments or suggestions regarding this or any other post, and get out there and enjoy all that the great state of Texas has to offer.

©04/23/2017

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Juan Seguin: Unsung Hero of Texas

 

Juan Seguin: Unsung Hero of Texas

Of all those that helped build what would become the great state of Texas, it would be hard to find one who did more than Juan Nepomuceno Seguin. He started his life of service as a teenager, helping his mother run the family’s post office in his hometown of San Antonio, while his father served in congress. From then until the end of his life, Juan Seguin served as a military and political leader, serving wherever Texas needed him.

Juan Seguin was born on October 27, 1806 in San Antonio to Juan Jose Maria Erasmo Seguin and Maria Josefa Becerra. At nineteen Juan married Maria Gertrudis Flores de Abrego, whose family were prominent ranchers in San Antonio, and together they had ten children. Not long after getting married, Juan began his political career when he was elected alderman in 1828, after which he served on several electoral boards before being elected mayor of San Antonio in 1833.

When tensions between Texas and Mexico boiled over into rebellion in 1835, Stephen F. Austin commissioned Seguin as a captain after he raised his own company. After the Battle of Gonzales, Seguin and his men participated in several scouting and supply operations, and then marched to San Antonio in time for the Battle of Bexar, where the Texian forces took the city back from the Mexican Army. He stayed in San Antonio, and after the arrival of Santa Anna’s army he took refuge inside the Alamo along with three hundred other Texian volunteers. During the siege, he was sent as a courier to Gonzales, making him one of the only adult survivors.

Juan Seguin quickly organized a company and made it back to the Alamo, but by the time he arrived the mission had already fallen. Him and his men provided rear guard actions for Sam Houston’s army, keeping the Mexican Army from intercepting them before Houston could consolidate his forces. Seguin was present at the Battle of San Jacinto, where the Texians defeated the Mexican Army, and he later accepted the Mexican surrender in San Antonio on June 4, 1836.

Through the fall of 1837 he served as the military commander of San Antonio, where he provided one of the most valuable services of his career, holding burial services for the remains of the Alamo heroes. At the end of 1837 he was elected to the Texas Senate, at which time he resigned his commission. He served in the senate until 1840 when he resigned, after which he served several more terms as mayor of San Antonio.

During the 1840’s he was involved in unpopular land speculation and became involved in growing unrest between Anglo Texans and Tejanos, forcing him to flee to Mexico, where he remained until after the Mexican American war. He died on August 27, 1890 and in 1974 his remains where buried in Seguin, Texas, the town named in his honor.

Juan Seguin Burial Site in Seguin, Texas

Whether on the battlefield, the political arena, or paying respect to our honored dead, Juan Seguin’s was a life of service, the dividends of which we are still enjoying to this day. This is the time of year we Texans celebrate the events that led to independence, and it is only fitting that we take a moment to recognize the contributions of Juan Seguin.

 

©04/15/2017

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An Inspiring Experience: A Visit to the National Museum of the Pacific War

An Inspiring Experience:  A Visit to the National Museum of the Pacific War

Fredericksburg, Texas

http://www.pacificwarmuseum.org/

“Inspiring our youth by honoring our heroes.” That is the guiding philosophy of the National Museum of the Pacific War, and what could possibly be a more worthwhile goal than that. As a father, I feel it is one of my main jobs to teach my children to think beyond themselves and to learn that with great blessings comes great sacrifice. Nothing exemplifies this principle more than our WWII veterans who served in the Pacific theatre, and the National Museum of the Pacific War is the only museum dedicated exclusively to telling the story of the war in the Pacific.

The museum is located in Fredericksburg, Texas, and is really three museums in one. The Admiral Chester Nimitz museum is the original portion of the complex and is housed in what was once the Nimitz Hotel, which was owned and operated by Chester Nimitz’s grandfather, and has been a Fredericksburg landmark since the 1800’s. It tells the story of the man who would rise to the position of Commander and Chief of the Pacific Fleet, an expert in submarine warfare, and the United States’ last surviving Fleet Admiral.

The George H.W. Bush gallery tells the whole story of the Pacific war, from the attack on Pearl Harbor to the Japanese surrender aboard the USS Missouri. The number and quality of artifacts showcased in the museum is astounding, and includes; planes, guns uniforms, maps, photographs, and even a Japanese submarine that was used during the Pearl Harbor attack. Some of the most moving and memorable artifacts are the media exhibits, testimonials, and letters, where the horrific battles are described by the servicemen who fought them.

 

The Pacific Combat Zone is a two-acre self-guided exhibit, where you can; stand on the deck of a PT boat, walk through the hanger deck of an aircraft carrier, and see an actual battle play out right in front of your eyes. It is undergoing an eight million dollar muti-phase renovation, the first phase of which is already completed. The purpose of the Combat Zone is to take visitors into the War in the Pacific and show them what it was like for those that fought there. The living history shows take place on a mock-up of a Pacific beachhead and include reenactments that take place several times a year.

My grandfather first took me to the museum when I was eleven, when it was just the Admiral Nimitz Museum, and I remember that it had a very profound effect on me. It was the first time I had really heard the stories from WWII, and saw what the face of war really looked like, and I remember wondering how a person could see his buddy get cut down in front of him and still muster the courage to keep going and do their job. When I reflect on that question I am still in awe of the men and women who display that sort of bravery. I have visited the museum countless times since I was eleven and am very gratified to see how it has grown and what it has become, and as I watch the faces of my children as well as the others walking among the exhibits, I know that they will leave with much the same feeling as I did over forty years ago.

The National Museum of the Pacific War is open from 9am-5pm every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas day. Admission is $15 for adults, $12 for seniors, $10 for veterans w/military ID, $7 for children 6+, and admission is free for children 5 and under as well as WWII veterans. The museum is easy to find, just get on Main Street in downtown Fredericksburg and look for the building that looks like the bow of a ship.

Fredericksburg is my family’s favorite getaway destination, and I will be doing a blog post on the town very soon. There is much to do there regardless of what your idea of a perfect getaway entails, and I will describe it all from firsthand experience, as after many years, there is not much in Fredericksburg that I have not done at least twice.

© 4/6/2017