Clem Mikeska’s in Temple, Texas

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Father’s Day and on the road. Amy and I were on our way to a business thing in Dallas. The In-laws were dog sitting so I played chauffeur for Amy’s trip. It would be a little get a way for us. We weren’t thinking Bar B Q or Boomer Culture blog, it was just a tough slog up the dreaded I-35.

NOTE: The pictures were made on a visit two months later. This time I brought my camera gear. Luckily, Clem was there and was kind enough to give me the royal tour.

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Antler covered ceiling in the entry foyer

Traffic was heavy for a Sunday. Trucks were out in far greater number than I had expected for the morning. Knuckles were whitening in both of the front seats and the idea of a pleasant drive together, the getaway and the Dallas visit was beginning to sour. For those of you who drive I-35 on anything near a regular basis, more power to you. I have no idea how you do it.

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That and I-45 between Dallas and Houston are two of the toughest stretches of highway in the country. Both are 75 mph defensive driving courses with your main concern being the guy who just has to pass and get between you and the far too close ahead car. A few hours of 35 goes along way.

_Y4A5701I cooked a big old Country ham and eggs breakfast but Amy had done cereal and was getting hungry by the time we reached Temple. It was near noon and we started “looking” and doing that “what are you hungry for” game. I was thinking Cracker Barrel and Amy thought there might be one in Temple. All of a sudden we saw a billboard for Clem Mikeska’s Bar B Q. I was reminded of the “rock hound couple” from my trip to Cooper’s in Llano. They were from Temple and highly recommended Clem’s.

_Y4A5696We pulled off the expressway at exit 300. What a relief. When is I saw the Clem Mikeska’s building I was surprised. It was huge, new and meticulously  landscaped. There was a cement parking lot around the entire building. I have no idea how many cars they could handle but it would be at least 100. It was a little after noon and the parking lot was already filling up.

_Y4A5698We drove around back to the auxiliary lot. There we found plenty of open places. Everything looked brand spanking new. Signage for pathways leading us to stairways and ramps were everywhere. They did not want you falling down. The signs were a good omen for what we were about to experience with the food and interior.

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Walking around to the front of Clem’s was like walking around an old barn or homestead. There were covered wagons and all sorts of ranch type implements laying around as yard decor. The place looked great.

_Y4A5705The building reminded you of a big old barn. When we got to the front door there was a line of about twenty five people. The good news was they planned for the line when they built the building. We were all able to stand inside and soak up some powerful air conditioning. We chatted with the other folks in line.

_Y4A5714We were fortunate, as in LLano, we fell in with the right crowd. As I mentioned, it was Father’s Day and there were lots of three generational local families there for Dad’s favorite meal. Clem’s bar b q. As the line moved forward I asked questions about what they were going to order. Since they were locals I also asked about the house specialities.

_Y4A5713 (Remember it’s not about the brisket to me, it’s about the best the restaurant has to offer) The second generation dad, a young man with his children and parents, said to he was getting his favorite, the tri tip. His father nodded and saw my puzzled look. He said sliced sirloin.

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Clem Mikeska, the man himself.

_Y4A5708The line was moving forward at a fairly rapid clip. It was only a few minutes and we had come far enough into the main dining room to see some really great trophy mounts. The “heads” covered the walls all the way to the lodge like cathedral ceiling. The place was amazing. This was a brand new building. I was a happy camper even before we could see the food. This was the beginning of a good bar b q experience.

_Y4A5711When we rounded the corner and could fully see buffet line I was again pleasantly surprised. There were several folks helping customers. It was moving fast. The selections were many and varied. From the meats to the veggies. The folks behind me approved the sirloin order and recommended adding the sauce. I went totally native and did as told. Amy as predicted ordered the “chicken fried steak”.

_Y4A5732As we were leaving the buffet line, loaded trays sagging, someone instructed me not to miss out on the home made bread. We went to the drink station, made our ice tea and picked up everything we would need including the bread. There was no traffic jam. This place had been well thought out prior to building. These folks understood traffic flow.

_Y4A5709We found a seat and began to settle in. The building was broken up into smaller rooms. It didn’t make you think of the place as a large dining facility at all. It made the diner’s experience one of a more intimate setting. You didn’t get the sense the place was handling as many people as it was. It felt smaller. 

_Y4A5707The decor was amazing. The tables were beautiful cedar with a clear protective coating. The walls were covered by some of the nicest hunting trophies you could imagine. These were African as well as North American. You name it, Clem had shot it. It was a veritable wall zoo. Grandfathers were walking kids around telling them what each wall critter was. It was a neat scene. Grandpa’s idea of a petting zoo. If for no other reason, those of you who hunt really need to stop in this place. 

_Y4A5720We waited briefly while they cooked the Chicken fried steak. The waitress brought it out before we got settled in. Amy had the bread, buttered potatoes, green beans and Pecan Pie.

_Y4A5730I had the sliced sirloin, with spicy sauce poured over it, pinto beans and potato salad with sweet tea and Pecan Pie. And the bread. That bread was soooo good. A little butter, and there was lots available, and you were off on a yeasty high.

_Y4A5724The potato salad was different. I thought it might have some Czech influence but forgot to ask. It was good just different from what I was used to. That sirloin was fantastic.

_Y4A5733After they sliced it, poured the spicy sauce on it, ( I had my doubts about sauce on sirloin) it looked almost like brisket. Tender, tender. tender…..But the taste and texture was definitely sirloin. The beans were not “dressed up”. They were just good old beans, cooked without a lot of fixin’s added to them. They were good eatin’. As Bubba used to say, “they stuck to your ribs”. That was a good thing.

_Y4A5727The pie was good. We both enjoyed our meals as well as the surroundings. I asked a waitress lady if she could find a card with someone in management’s email address. It was rush hour and I wasn’t going to bother anyone unless I had to. She said she could handle that request and smiled. Hey that’s a big deal to me.

Employees who do things for the place and the customer when there’s no tip or reason for them to respond, tells me of a great attitude. It also tells me why the good looking bathrooms, with a big old stuffed “hammerhead shark” hanging from the ceiling, are so clean during a time when they are slammed. The folks who work in this restaurant care about their place of business. It is refreshing !

_Y4A5729Momentarily, a nice young woman, I had seen working the serving line, came out to bring me a card. It seems this line worker was none other than Ms. Angela Mikeska-Conlan. I didn’t get her official title but with her name and the fact that she showed up when management was requested I would think she is at least part owner. (She was)

I can tell you this, she was very gracious and appreciative of our business. She’s a likable young lady who was able to spend a few minutes explaining about her father’s hunting trophies and a little history on the place. We complimented her on the food and the place and she had to go back to her work. Nice lady, nice place !

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Clem and Daughters

I think Clem’s is a wonderful place and on future trips from SA to the DFW area I will stop in regularly.

John Boykin

p.s.  On the second visit Clem toured me through the back of the house. I learned more about the “new” method of Texas meat smoking. Clem and two others I’ve toured are now using a much more controlled, less expensive method of smoking. They have replaced the big wood eating pits with one or more metal wood and gas rotisserie. I may have the process down wrong but from what I can figure out is the thing works by loading the revolving shelves with meat, throwing wood into the back fire “pit” and setting the time and temp. The brand I saw twice was “Old Hickory” made in Nashville, Tennessee. The key to this cooking unit seems to be the thermostat and the ability to dial up the amount of smoke taste desired. Some want a lot of smokiness others not so much.

At the brand new San Antonio Blanco Bar B Q just this week, CIA trained Chef and G.M., Arthur Mayo, explained the process. In his and Clem’s eyes, they are not being untrue to the Texas smoking method, merely more efficient in the smoke application. They feel they can get a more efficient cooking cost, a more consistent product and apply exactly the amount and type smoke needed for the desired taste.

My thoughts on the divide between all wood and wood plus gas ? I thought about it and thought about it. Then, like Chief Lone Waddie, I decided to “persevere” and go with the theme established early on in this series. It the “EXPERIENCE” stupid ! if the meat taste like Texas Bar B Q and the restaurant is a pleasant place to enjoy a meal then what the hell ! 

I ate at Clem’s twice and at Blanco Bar B Q twice just to be sure I wasn’t about to recommend a fake poseur method. Well, the taste was excellent and the meat was as tender at these two places as any I’ve found. I’m going with the over all experience for my “baby boomer” crowd. Would I rather be in Lockhart or Luling ? Yes, but that is a personal history thing more than experience.

Clem made the same decision as the new Blanco Bar B Q planners. He built a big new building and accommodated it with the latest high production smoking equipment. They are both doing huge volumes and turning out excellent bar b q product. I think it’s what we will see in the future of newly constructed higher end, higher volume, higher initial investment bar b q facilities. Will these new technology smokers replace standard pits ? Hell No ! There is plenty room for all kinds of cooking methods in the big old Lone Star state so let em fly. The more bar b q the better.

So I guess you can call me something other than a purist but at this stage in life I will take comfort and taste over equal taste and hardship. So there.

JBB

 

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One thought on “Clem Mikeska’s in Temple, Texas

  1. admin Post author

    I agree …. Clem’s is a good break in the I-35 traffic jam ! Also – they
    serve good tasting BBQ …

    Walt

    Reply

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