Friday, April 22, 2016

Looking around Lillian

It’s hard to know if Lillian, Texas is coming or going. It is located along Farm to Market Road
Downtown Lillian
2738, about fifteen miles northeast of Cleburne. Never having been a large town, it appears as though the only business operating at all is a pizza place. There is not a single historical marker nearby, but there is at least one building old enough to warrant a plaque. Some new houses being built close to what was downtown, so who knows what the fate of this hamlet is going to be. Named for the wives of G. J. Renfro and J. W. Cunningham, Lillian hit its heyday in the 1920s as a stop for the International-Great Northern Railroad. At that time it was a retail center for farmers and ranchers, hosting churches, a school and an active mercantile area; the original post office building is gone, but there is a new post office just off the main street. Growth of business centers in Dallas and Fort Worth, as well as World War II and the Great Depression, changed the development of the area, leaving Lillian behind. The population of 350 shrank to less than 100 but has slowly rebounded to around 400, today. Children from this community go to school in Alvarado, and most business is carried out in other surrounding towns, making Lillian a quiet, rural community.

Our latest adventure took us near Lillian in search of a particular restaurant. Driving through the area the first time, Dave thought he’d seen a sign that advertised fresh fried catfish on
Llama farm
Fridays. On subsequent trips, we hunted for the sign and what appeared to be a well-worn red building; then we got onto Google Earth and looked some more. Neither of these strategies produced positive results, particularly since we didn’t know the name of the restaurant nor exactly what town it was near. A few weeks later, we accidentally found the restaurant, again, and this time marked it on our trusty GPS.

Four carrots
Best Burger Barn (5108 Conveyor Drive, Cleburne, TX 76031, 817-233-2068) is in what 
Top: Restaurant on country road
Bottom L to R: Homemade red sauce, Catfish, Cobbler
appears to be an old train stop – not a depot or a station, but a place you might bring your cattle while you wait for the train. Once inside, the décor is rustic Texas, with animal heads on the walls and second-hand tables; there’s not a speck of dust anywhere. The menu was a big surprise; there were lots of great sounding sandwiches and meals from which to choose, as well as a blackboard with the day’s specials and desserts. A couple sitting close to us suggested that we order a burger, since this was the place to get ‘the best hamburgers anywhere’. But it was Friday, and since we’re all three catfish lovers, we all got the fish. The catfish and slaw were excellent; the fries were limp. The hush puppies were golf ball sized with little bits of onion; Dave and Vince said they were wonderful. The tea comes in a container just slightly smaller than a washtub and tastes like tea rather than the watered-down version served in some establishments. One of the desserts was blackberry cobbler, another favorite, so we had to give it a try. One order was plenty to share among three of us; it was hot and full of berries. Service was very good; the waitresses have a great sense of humor and like interacting with their customers. We’re going back, now that we know how to get there, to try their burgers. What we saw on other people’s plates looked good. For information about my rating system, see Reading the Reviews

Train across the street
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