Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Monument Cafe: If Alice Waters had been born in Small Town Texas

This weekend, while visiting my sister's new class room in Georgetown with Tracy and the kids, we had occasion to have lunch at Monument Cafe. Both Tracy and I had been there once, and both of us shared memories of a place that made a hell of a chicken fried steak. Neither of us had much confidence that the place was going to stand up to the 3-year old memories.

Monument is in some ways a completely typical Texas Diner. There's the black-and-white checked floors, the booths lining the windows, the specials chalk board with the day's pies, soups, and lunch features hanging above the counter. And the menu is pretty typical too: there's all kinds of burgers and fried chicken; there's meatloaf; there's fries, and onion rings and green beans; there's fresh lemonade.

But that's sort of the tail end of the typicalness. The food is unbelievable. All the standards were just as luminescent as we remembered them. Take the kids menu: nearly every time chicken strips appears on a kids menu, no matter how inspired the grown up food is, it's the same frozen crap from one place to the next. Here, the chicken was fresh, the breading home-made, and the taste was on an entirely different plane than is the usual. So too was the food we all had, down to the lemonade.

Which gets to what sets this place apart: The veggies are locally grown, the eggs from free roaming chickens at farm just down the road, the milk is organic, and the beef is all Kobe beef, from well-treated (to a point, naturally) cattle. What is says to me is that local doesn't have to mean health food, that supporting organics can lead to inspiration in menus that have been deadened by years of increasingly industrialized food production. It says that just because food isn't fancy or exotic or expensive doesn't mean that it can't provide first rate eating.

Georgetown is a hike from Austin, but we figure it's just a few minutes north of the new Ikea, so thankfully, we'll get the chance to back a little sooner next time.

Monument Cafe on Urbanspoon

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