February 13, 2015

The Fork and the Photo: Kay's Cafe

by April Haines, Photos by Cherie Haines

The Rules: We visit random eateries in Bastrop County searching for awesome food, amazing atmospheres, and excellent service. We have to ask a server what they suggest and whatever it is, we must try it. Then, we rate the restaurant using our five fork system (like stars, but better) based on service, atmosphere, food taste and presentation, and general cleanliness.

We head out to Kay’s Cafe. It’s a bit off the beaten path, and I almost missed it when we drove by. When we first walk in, I’m slightly confused for a moment, because the walls are covered with whimsical signs and children’s books, old records, and knick knacks. It feels more like someone's crafty grandmother's house than a restaurant. A song from Frozen plays in the background, adding to the family friendly feel.

We are told to sit wherever we like. The tables are covered in brightly-colored cloths and people are clustered around them talking and laughing. One can tell this is probably a favorite spot for lunch with friends. The woman who takes our order is very friendly and helpful. When we ask what she suggests, she directs us to the specials board, which is a chaotic jumble of dry erase marker suggestions of soul food. With my far-sightedness, I  can barely read them from my chair. After a little prompting, she suggests the chicken and dumplings, so I order them. Cherie orders her Mexican pork roast recommendation. We both get green beans and mashed potatoes for sides and are given the choice of rolls or corn bread. We order both. It's pretty warm outside, so I decide to try the sweet tea. It’s just about perfect. Sweet, clear, and very fresh.

In just a few moments, the food comes out, served in hearty portions and steaming hot. I start on my mashed potatoes (I made the mistake of asking for no gravy) and melt deep into their buttery goodness. The green beans are next. They are tender, flavored with onions, and the perfect amount of saltiness. Cherie's mashed potatoes are smothered in a mysterious, dark and delicious gravy, and after tasting only a spoonful, I want to know its secrets.

Finally, I can't wait any longer, so I dive into the chicken and dumplings. For a moment, I can't speak (any one who knows me understands this is a big deal). The flavor is perfection itself, and I can see why people call ahead to see if they have any that day. The chicken and dumplings alone are absolutely worth making a trip for! Buttery and rich, my very soul feels warmer after just the first bite.

The roll is warm and fluffy with a great yeasty flavor, but the real champion of the breads is the cornbread. Sweet and moist, I could eat a ten of them if I had any room left.

Cherie's Mexican pork roast is equally amazing. It’s served with cilantro and onions with lime and tortillas that give it almost a street taco feel. The garnishes add to the already perfect flavor. I'm surprised by how tender the pork is. The meat is incredibly well seasoned and juicy instead of greasy. My one and only nitpick of the entire meal was that the tortillas were not homemade and feel a little like an after thought instead of a finishing touch.

All throughout, the service is amazing. Our drinks are constantly full, and anything we want is taken care of before we need it. This is truly one of the best meals I have had in a very long time. Now, for dessert...

Kay, the owner, walks up to our table and is one of the most delightful people I have met in a long time. We talk a little and ask her for dessert suggestions. She excitedly tells us about their seasonal dessertthe chocolate cherry surprisea chocolate bundt cake with Blue Bell chocolate-covered cherry ice cream with a semi sweet chocolate drizzle and most importantly, a homemade cherry sauce. Cherie orders it.

I order an enticingly named Evil Brownie, a huge, warm brownie made from four different kinds of chocolate, topped with two towering scoops of Blue Bell homemade vanilla ice cream, drizzled all over with dark chocolate sauce. They are dauntingly huge portions and we attack them like rabid animals, all shame lost in our need to consume flavors that can only be described as scandalously good.

No words can describe how good the homemade cherry sauce really is. I will simply say it changed my life and that I asked for extra on the side to drown my already amazing Evil Brownie in. We ate long past the point of feeling full, and there was still a ton left over.

Like the quote on the menu says, "Life is too short for mediocre food." It's a saying you can tell Kay's Cafe lives by.

Location: 1289 Hwy 71 in Bastrop (between Bastrop and Smithville)
Price Range: Medium; expect to pay $10-15 for a full meal and dessert.
Rating: Four out of five forks!

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