An Invitation to More
We leave Austin shortly after the worst heat has given room for a breeze coming in from the south and we set aim for a lesser known joint about half an hour drive east. All I know about the place is that it was the location for a few scenes in Tobe Hoopers 1974 classic horror movie The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and that there might be a chance for a couple of steps on the dance floor – an inescapable element accompanying me in my search for Texas.
But, what we primarily is on the lookout for is a delving into barbecue culture. Music, dancing regulars and proud pitmasters, all gathered together under the roof of an old smoke fragrant, skew and dusty old building out in the country. We hope to find what we’re looking for at what used to be the Richland Saloon. A building with stories to tell, dating all the way back to 1891 when the town of Cele inhabited about a hundred souls – barely a hundred more than today.
We roll in to the tiny town, anticipating oak smoked brisket, sweet ribs, and home made links. And of course, all served with wonderful sides such as pickled jalapeños, raw onions, and if you have too, some god ol’ barbecue sauce. The hot air swirls over the hood of the car to find its way through the open door windows. Still luke warm, it hits us and carries with it the fragrance of smoke, the sound of music and the welcoming murmur of an open bar. An invitation to more.
The night doesn’t deny us what we need and provides an opening to dance, but first we need to satisfy our want for food. The routine here is to order the day before you arrive so we already knew what cuts of meat to expect, but little did we know how heavenly it would be presented and how great it would taste. What I’m talking about is the, for me, necessary combination of setting and repast. A six star top rated plate at Franklins in Austin in all it’s glory, but a four star rated one at a place with ancestry and atmosphere like what we found at the Cele Store… It shoots the experience into the memory bank like a dart hitting bulls-eye – to forever stick.
The band sounds pretty good and feeds us a real inviting blend of country tunes. The audience is already in full swing, dancing and singing along to such an extent you can almost hear the ice cubes in the beer coolers rattle along to the music. Sitting at our table in the back room, we can’t help but feel the rhythm peregrinate from the old wooden floor up through our feet, legs, hips and hearts all the way up the the dance centre of our brains. Great expectations and an awakening restlessness makes me hit another Shiner Bock, and then another one. Cele Store is a beer only bar but you’re welcome to bring a bottle of wine or two if you like, just don’t forget to pay the cork-up fee. And be generous with the tip, won’t you!
We leave a cluttered dinner table to have a couple of hours to swing our wobbly legs to the Cele House Band. Conspicuously well located right by the opening between the dining room and the bar sits a sink giving me the chance to wash my greasy hands before I tenderly put them around my lover’s waist. We dance for as long as the band wants us to and if you worry about real good barbecue being made from the fattier cuts of meat – please don’t. Dance it off and enjoy!
Almost Out of Gas is an ongoing project to capture and share with you perfectly unpolished fragments of Texas culture. Music, jug wine, bourbon, beer and cook-offs with great food bring people in communities together, and we are compelled to seek out and document the social and cultural impact of the common man – that is the lifestyle we feature.
We’ve soaked up atmosphere, swirled in saw dust and spilt out beer and talked with beer drinkers, bartenders, old-timers and newcomers at numerous joints around the state. It has given us an invaluable insight into, and understanding of, this vibrant culture. Still, after thousands of miles of dusty Texas roads, we’re intent on bringing you the same beauty we see in the rickety, creaky and sometimes forgotten gathering spots: the Texas Honky-Tonks.