Prior to moving to the Texas Hill Country, I had no idea there were private bowling clubs, or bowling alleys using nine pins instead of ten, and people, rather than machines, who reset the pins. Apparently nine-pin bowling, or, “nine-pins” as it’s commonly called where played, is popular in Europe, particularly in Germany, but also here in the hill country of Texas.
Although I’m not a bowler by any means, and my name is not embroidered on a bowling shirt, I’ve rolled quite a few bowling balls down bowling lanes in my life. But, I knew nothing of the game of nine-pins until recently. For you real bowlers out there, I’m sure you already know this, but for the rest of us, nine-pins is much different than the game we are familiar with here in the United States. The ball is smaller, the lane is shorter, and there are some other differences involving the rules. Also, there is manual work involved in initially setting and then resetting the pins. I have no interest in anything manual with regard to bowling, not in this age of technology.
My wife and I did not come to the Blanco Bowling Club Cafe to play nine-pins, or ten-pins, or bowl in any way, shape, or form. We just wanted to eat a good lunch as we were passing through town. A resident of Blanco recommended the place as the spot to go where “the locals eat.”
The resident did not steer us wrong. During the day, the bowling lanes are hidden from the front of the restaurant, to such an extent, that if the name on the sign did not mention “Bowling,” you would never know there was a bowling alley there. We weren’t interested in that, in any event, but found the food to be very good.
As I’ve written about the abundance of gravy in the hill country before, I was bound and determined to order something much different during the visit to the Blanco Bowling Club Cafe. I actually felt like something different too, a sandwich, so, I ordered the “Hot Steak Sandwich (with Salad & Fries).” I envisioned some type of steak, on a bun, with the usual toppings. When my order arrived, it looked strangely similar to the chicken fried steak my wife had ordered. While both selections were covered with gravy, my meat was sitting upon pieces of toast, while hers was not. I guess the toast was the “sandwich” part. The word “Hot” in front of the words “Steak Sandwich” on the menu should have tipped me off that this was an open faced sandwich, but I missed it completely. Nevertheless, my “sandwich” was delicious, and it just goes to show you that you get gravy down here, it seems, even when you don’t really want it.
The thing I really like about the hill country is that places like this still exist. Hill country towns, like Blanco, are quaint little places, with historic town squares, where you can still get authentic homemade food in traditional settings. The people, like the ones who served us at the Blanco Bowling Club Cafe, are always friendly and helpful. These are the kinds of places I remember from my youth, but they are quickly disappearing around the rest of the country as the chain restaurants become dominant, even in the smallest of towns. As a result, I’m going to continue patronizing these type of places before they are gone for good.
Hopefully, though, just like the nine-pin bowling which has persisted in the hill country long after automated bowling alleys and ten-pin bowling became the standard everywhere else, maybe the small cafes and restaurants will remain as well.