|A Dear Patron Tells Some Cafe Stories ....|
The Invention of the Best Sandwich In the World
The story of how the Royers started with a wrongly-delivered loaf of bread and turned it into the best sandwich in the world is amazing. This is clearly a story of innovation, curiosity, customer-mindedness, cooperation, conflict resolution, macro-economics, teamwork, and marketing that involved most of the family members over time ...
•· What is this bread he left? We didn't order it
•· Taste it ... it is good ... but sweet
•· What goes with sweet bread?
•· Goes great with bacon
•· Why not put a BLT on the menu?
•· We couldn't charge enough to cover the costs
•· Why not put something expensive on it?
•· Why not steak? ... too expensive and doesn't go with the sweet taste
•· Lets try shrimp ... hey this tastes great ...OMG!!!
•· On the menu it goes ... rave reviews from customers
•· But very few sales
•· How much shrimp do we have on that thing? A full quarter pound?
•· Change the menu description to say ... "with a full quarter pound of shrimp!"
•· Immediate reaction, great customer acceptance, customer raves, economic success ... another success for Team Royer
The Great Chicken Fried Steak Attack
I was in town with 7 friends staying at a little guest ranch on Florida Cemetery Road. One of the couples with us had gone to Royers before to eat pie ... and they raved about the place. So, at their suggestion, we came in for a quick lunch and had sandwiches ... my first exposure to Royers ... quite a place with great ambience. I am sure there were Royer family members there but I didn't see the Pie Man who our friends had described. I ordered the BLT and was amazed ... a very successful, delicious, nap-inducing outing.
After an enjoyable afternoon at the guest ranch, our tummy's were beginning to rumble. This country air makes me feel great ... and it also makes me hungry ... hungry for the national food of Texas ... a big juicy, crisp, gravy-covered CFS! ... The saliva started for all of us ... we dressed and departed for Royers, a place, given its looks and location as well as the quality of its pies, must be nothing short of CFS heaven.
We came in and took the big table by the front door ... with me sitting at the head of the table on the far end. A young lady came over and took our drink orders ... as we began to review the menu. Suddenly a shadow loomed over the table and a deep gruff voice said, "What can we do for you folks?" We looked up to see the Pie Man himself, order book in hand. After the obligatory delay to process this unique figure in front of us, I said, for the group, "We are just dying to have the best CFS in the world!" Well, you would think I had just committed the world's most grave sin ... because I got a look of total disgust ... and a tirade!
"Chicken Fried Steak! What kind of place do you think this is? ... we don't serve Chicken Fried Steak ... we serve fine foods ... better than most restaurants in Houston ... we serve an elegant Oh My God (OMG) streak that IS BETTER than any steak you find in Houston at Morton's or Papas or anywhere else! You people come out here and look at us like country bumpkins that don't know how to cook anything but Chicken Fried Steak!!"
During the tirade I heard several of the ladies in our group gasp in surprise ... and several of the guys had stiffened in their seats. Since I had asked for the CFS, everybody at my table looked at me with embarrassment and expectation ... OK, big guy, you got us into this, lets see how you get us out!
"Well, excuse me! Who am I? Just a customer ... a customer trying to do business with this establishment. We don't need to be talked to that way ... if you don't serve CFS, why don't you just say so?"
"I did just say so ... we took that crap off the menu ... and now we serve the best steak money can buy ... that is exactly what you need to order!" Bud whirled around and over his shoulder said, "I'll be back to take you orders!"
Our table went wild ... with looks of shock, embarrassment, exasperation, outrage ... finally softening to some humor and chuckles. As we were saying things like "I have never seen anything like that! ... to ... should we go? ... to ... I really didn't enjoy that, except it was fun watching conflict-avoider Dutch get pounded!"
The discussion went on for some minutes ... until we began to wonder if Bud was going to come back and take our orders, something that none of us relished. Finally we sensed the looming presence again, and a big arm comes over the table to set down a big platter in the middle of the table. "Here, take that. That is the last Chicken Fried Steak that will ever be served in this restaurant!" On the platter was a huge CFS covered with gravy ... a CFS hacked (not cut) into bite sized pieces! Bud turned and was gone again.
We had a enjoyable meal ... finally. I don't remember what the girls ordered, but I (and two other guys) ordered the OMG Steak. Best steak I ever had!!
(Note: the incident above happened 7-10 years ago. By coincidence I had dinner last night with the same exact group of folks. I told them I was going to write about CFS wars ... and without my prompting, they went around the room with each relating what "they had seen and heard during the great CFS attack." Each person remembered something slightly different ... but we all agreed that the evening was "one of the kind!!")
Revenge is So Sweet!!
As luck would have it, I bought a small ranch right outside of Round Top about
Every chance I got, and when Bud was not in the restaurant, I would order chicken fried steak just to hear folks struggle with the answer. "But why don't you serve CFS ... a country restaurant like this should serve CFS!! It's just flat unpatriotic to leave CFS off the menu!!" ... and so on. JB seemed to enjoy the repartee most ... and we would go on and on.
Finally I got nerve enough to ask a waiter for CFS when Bud was present, parked by the cash register. Some of the waiters would go by and tell him what I had ordered ... and he began to acknowledge me with a grin and a nod ... he couldn't do much else since I had become a committed regular. But this soft stuff was not real revenge.
I came in one Thursday night when not a single Royer was present. The very nice waitperson (not sure I remember her name ... Betty Lou, maybe Mary Lou) was holding down the fort on a very slow night. In fact I was the only customer. So I say to Betty Lou, "Is the regular chef on duty tonite?" Yes, she says. Can I meet him, says I. Well sure. In a few minutes this very nice Mexican-American gentleman came out of the back and came to my table.
After complimenting him on his great cooking, I asked him if he knew how to cook Chicken Fried Streak. "Of course, senor, of course." "Well, then, what about you cooking up one for me with mashed potatoes and gravy ... and, by the way, could you use the meat out of an OMG steak rather than the usual stuff? "Well of course, senior, of course."
I really, really enjoyed my glass of red wine as I waited for my steak. It was a great Cab and it had a bonus flavor ... the sweet taste of revenge as I waited for my very own CFS! "Last CFS to be cooked in this restaurant!" ... my ass!
Finally, it came ... it all its glory! The Chef had made three slices from the OMG steak and cooked each one to absolute perfection with a CFS batter to die for. The single best, most mouth watering, Chicken Fried Steak I had ever tasted. I enjoyed each savory bit and ate it all with a grin on my face. Ah, revenge is sweet!
After the splendid meal ... and a slice of pie ... Betty Lou brought the check. "What is this?" I ask. There it was in all its glory, clearly printed on my check ... "CFS - $40 bucks" "Forty bucks? You've got to be kidding!" "Yep," says the waitperson, "The boss said that if you pulled something like this, we were to charge you the full price for the OMG ... so you have just been sold the single most expensive CFS in the history of Texas!" Yep, revenge is sweet, isn't it Bud!!
I drove up in front of the café a few times in a brand new silver Bentley GT ... to Bud's amusement and delight. "Keep that thing parked in front, will you ... it will show people what kind of class place this is!" Every time I came in after that I got, "Where is the Bentley parked, can you move it around front" ... just on and on.
Finally I came in wearing a Bentley ball cap and sat at my usual small seat at the counter. ... a seat in the center of the action. Bud starts in on the Bentley again and I finally said ..."Bud, I obviously have a Bentley and you don't ... you have a family up here with you ... and I don't. Here are the keys ... I will trade with you in a heart beat!" First I actually got what I interpreted to be "a tender look" and then a smiling answer of "Thanks but no thanks!!" ... A Royer's Value Statement.