Friday, November 20, 2015

Off to Alvarado

Top L to R: Horse sculpture, downtown area
Bottom: Downtown area
It was a rainy, fall day in North Texas and we wanted something to do so we took a drive to Alvarado for lunch. Alvarado is the oldest town in Johnson County and is fairly calm until Saturday nights when it gets marginally more exciting, according to local residents. Located just fifteen miles east of the giant metropolis of Cleburne, it began when David Mitchell established a trading post near Alvarado in 1849, about the time colonists of M.S. Peters’ empresario land grant began of settle the area. William Balch settled this area, then returned with his family in the spring of 1851. He established the Sprawler Hotel, so named because his many guests sometimes had to sleep on pallets in the front yard. Balch became known as the ‘Father of Alvarado’ for having the town site surveyed in 1854, establishing the first general merchandise stores on the square and for donating land for a cemetery, school and union church. This first school had a sturdy, eight-foot fence to keep the students from being trampled under the hoofs of passing north- and west-bound herds of cattle.

A few years later, A. H. Onstoott named the town after Alvarado, Vera Cruz, Mexico, where
he fought in a battle during the Mexican War. The town continued to grow, establishing a
Insurance building
community school about 1856 that became the Alvarado Masonic Institute in 1875, which finally turned into Alvarado Normal Institute in 1899. That wasn’t the last change for the Institute, it evolved into the Alvarado High School but only from 1906 – 1909. The town was incorporated in 1878, adding a bank, two cotton gins, a newspaper, a hotel and an opera house.

Site of the old jail and town hall
In a rather deserted downtown Alvarado stands a circular garden and a gazebo. This was once the site of a large jail/town hall from the mid-1880s until the 1920s. Today the city has about 4,000 residents and several places to eat and some cute places to shop, but not in the old downtown area.

Three and one-half carrots
The Cattle Guard Steakhouse (901 S Pkwy Drive, Alvarado, TX 76009, 817-783-3346) is a comfortable restaurant that’s worth more than one trip to Alvarado. Outside is a smoker
Top L to R: Bull smoker, Rolls, Onion rings
Center L to R: Salt and pepper horse, Sign
Bottom L to R: Chicken fried steak, Hamburger 
shaped like an anatomically correct bull. Dave had a chicken fried steak that, unlike most places, was actually more steak than breading. It had a very good cream gravy that was also good on the mashed potatoes. He also like the red beans. However, Vince thought that the best thing on the menu was the onion rings. My burger and fries were very good, also. We all liked the home made rolls! For information about my rating system, see
Reading the Reviews.

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