Maybe you've noticed, the Dallas-Fort Worth region is huge. Everything outside of the urban core takes an hour if you're lucky. Unless you need to hop on LBJ, in which case BLAAAAGGHHH. But now that gas has dropped a few cents and it's not quite hot as the devil's balls yet, we think a nice little day trip is in order. Here are a few places in the far reaches of our beloved sprawl with gas-station gut bombs and small-town surprises more than worthy of a day spent on the road.
Loco Cafe, Denton
This sweet little mecca for locavores is a relatively new Denton spot. The fare is fresh, funky and punch-your-roommate-in-the-face good. Loco Cafe (603 N. Locust) recently extended its hours to appease the throngs of those helplessly addicted to their biscuits (ahem ... me) and offer new menu items such as Bacon-Wrapped Meatloaf. Denton is a straight shot up Interstate 35 and is overflowing with impressive eateries, but Loco Cafe is undoubtedly in the upper echelon. Take the trip and thank me via gift cards. Please. Seriously.
Czech Stop, West
We've all driven to Austin for our drunken rite of passage on the river. And if you had anyone in your car who was awesome, they screamed "GET OFF THE HIGHWAY!" as soon as signs for West appeared along I-35. The mirage-esque Czech Stop in West, Texas (105 North College Ave.) is a staple for any road trip south of DFW. The drive is just a smidge under an hour and a half, rendering a trip to West not irrational if all you crave is a dozen or 30 of their perfectly sweet, expertly filled pastries. Plus, they're open 24 hours. I'll be drafting the Kolache Train proposal for next DART meeting ... now.
One Stop of Runaway Bay, Runaway Bay
Every time there's a wicked line of thunderstorms approaching from the west, it seems like Pete Delkus is always telling us Wise County is getting its ass handed to them by Mother Nature. A territory with more cows than people, Wise County is pure Texas and a wonderful place to spend a Saturday. A tiny, tiny town on 380 between Denton and Jacksboro, Runaway Bay is a lake and a gas station and not much else. One Stop (601 U.S. Highway 380 W.) sells gas, bait, sodas, chips and one of the best burgers in DFW. Maybe it's just the arctic air conditioning, the pound of butter used for each grilled bun or a welcome respite from a dizzying day on the lake, but this place is an oasis on any Texas summer day. One Stop also has a meat market and massive beer cave inside catering to hundreds of hot, hungry people. Take a seat at any of the picnic tables set up in the middle of the store and order a cheeseburger with hand-dipped onion rings and prepare for what might be the most surprisingly delicious meal you'll ever have in a gas station.
gogo gumbo!, Boyd
Boyd, as in the former home of infamous murderer Ricky Lee Green, is another tiny town in Wise County. But don't hold that against them; Boyd is devoid of crazies and home to what might be the greatest juxtaposition of food and culture in the metroplex. Let's be honest, mention of Wise County usually elicits dreams of legit chicken-fried steak and perfect sweet tea. gogo gumbo! (116 W Rock Island Ave.) has blown this expectation out of the water with some of the most delicious seafood dishes in the Lone Star State. There are no freezers, everything is made in small batches from scratch and you will never see a Sysco truck in front. Like your shrimp shelled and de-veined? Go to Red Lobster. Need some recommendations? Get the crab cakes with house made remoulade and, if it's available, the scallops with crab meat and saffron risotto served on a bed of baby arugula. Or the salmon on griddlecakes. Or the crawfish étouffée. or the ANYTHING. Bring your own booze and ice bucket and plenty of room on the ol' credit card, gogo gumbo! is sure to be the star of your very own food porn.
Dairy Queen, Anywhere Ever in the History of Texas
OK, so there's probably one near you but it always seems like the DQ's in the middle of nowhere are a zillion times better than the others. They put gravy on everything and you can't look yourself in the eye and say you don't love turning your Blizzard upside down. I'll admit it, DQ kinda really is what I like about Texas. Food shame at its very finest.