I Want To Be a Cowgirl’s Restaurant
The National Cowgirl Hall of Fame currently resides in boxes, save for the portraits hanging in the back dining room of the restaurant. When the Hall of Fame board could no longer scrape together the resources to stay open and was unable to get official museum status and state funding because of the dearth of tourists in Hereford, they began to look for a new home. Fort Worth won the honor, but was displeased to learn that Delamarter owned the name and merchandising rights.
The ensuing conflict was recently resolved out-of-court. Delamarter will retain use of the name for another 10 years. She opened a Cowgirl Hall of Fame restaurant in Santa Fe four years ago; plans to open another branch in Nashville were thwarted by the settlement.
Entering the New York dining room, you may notice first the light fixtures: crowns of antlers adorned with many-hued bulbs above, and on the walls, sconces of illuminated cowgirl rodeo scenes. Or, your eyes may shoot directly to the vintage cap gun collection displayed in three large glass cases on the wall ahead. Another wall holds up a medley of aged metal signs advertising for the Clarence Johnson tallow company of Cow Creek, West Virginia, “We Pay for Dead Stock,” and for the Lay or Bust poultry seed concern. Tables are thriftily covered with picnic-style checkered plastic, the chairs upholstered in faux cowhide, the tables stocked with mandatory hot sauce and napkins. Add Johnny Cash coming through the speakers, and you’ve entered another dimension of time and space.
The list of Rootin’ Tootin’ Western Cocktails is a good place to start. My dining companion and I opt for the religious instruction of a Bible Belt, the Cowgirl’s version of Lynchburg Lemonade — Jack Daniels, triple sec, and lime and lemon juices served in a glass with a sugared rim. Our drinks arrive with tiny plastic cowboys on horses set astride the glass rims, barbed-wire stirrers (plastic, of course), and complimentary corn tortilla chips and “Texas caviar,” a tasty salsa consisting primarily of black-eyed peas.
We settle on the Black-and-White Nachos for an appetizer, passing up Eggplant Fritters, Corn Dogs and Catfish Fingers. Regrettably, we also save for next visit the Frito Pie, based on a traditional Texas snack served at football games and state fairs — a bag of Fritos cut open at the top and filled with chili. The Cowgirl serves it on a plate (but still in the bag) and adds cheddar cheese, onions, sour cream, and jalapenos. The nachos, however, are the best I’ve had in New York City, a generous heap of warm, toasted tortilla chips topped with black beans, tomato salsa, melted Monterey Jack cheese and jalapenos.
With the Bible Belt for inspiration, I choose my dinner wisely — Chicken-Fried Chicken, the Cowgirl’s number-one seller. My companion orders Whiskey Pork Chops, a house specialty marinated in Jack Daniels. Both are served with home-made mashed potatoes and cream gravy and a choice of vegetable — collard greens for me, broccoli across the table. The chicken is two pieces of boneless breast, battered and fried, and smothered in gravy. The gravy is a bit congealed upon arrival, but that doesn’t interfere with the taste; the chicken coating is still crispy and hot, the meat tender, the potatoes heavenly in a cholesterol-laden way (bits of pork fat visible in each bite), and the collard greens as good as any Northeastern girl imagines.
The pork chops are not as satisfying — a little tough and fatty — and the marinade lacks a strong flavor. For dessert, we split a piece of strawberry-rhubarb pie. The filling is nice, but unremarkable, and the crust limp and bland. On my way to the little cowgirls’ room, I check out the several display cases of barbed wire (never before realizing there was more than one type).
In addition to irregularly scheduled specials, the Cowgirl offers a Wednesday night “All-U-Can Eat Fried Chicken and Catfish Fry,” featuring chicken and catfish plus mashed potatoes, coleslaw, bread, tossed salad, and pickles and onions. The Cowgirl can accommodate noontime needs with its Little Lunch on the Prairie, which could be a cheese or chicken enchilada, or chicken-fried steak or chicken, along with a cup of soup or side salad. On a recent return visit, I was impressed with the Stay Trim Veggie Club, a delicious melding of grilled eggplant, green chilies, onions, tomatoes, lettuce and cheddar cheese on toast with honey-mustard sauce, served with crisp shoestring fries (which pretty much negates the “stay trim” idea) and a scoop of very tasty cole slaw.
Prices are reasonable as well; dinner for two, with appetizers, will cost you about $50 (a bargain in NYC), and the all-you-can-eat meal is a steal at $10.95 per person.