June 30, 2012

Everything's Bigger in Texas

Hawaii is a great place to live. No doubt about it. We get to enjoy beautiful valleys and lush green mountains, the crystal blue waters of the Pacific Ocean, and sunshine and trade winds almost year-round. But there’s no good queso here, amigos, and that’s a problem.

You see, there are certain foods that I took for granted while growing up in the Lone Star State. Some originated in Texas, some didn’t. Some are sweet, some are savory. Some are healthy, some are junky. (Just kidding. They’re all junky.) Regardless of their nutritional composition, enjoying these foods in manageable moderation has become a Texas visit tradition. Here are a handful of culinary delights that populate my “must-eat” list once I touch down at IAH.

Tex-Mex Queso
My favorite type of food, no preguntas, is Tex-Mex. Give me some warm tortilla chips, nice mild queso, refried beans, and rice, and I’m happy. In my hometown, we are surrounded by hole-in-the-wall Tex-Mex restaurants that know how to make the perfect queso. On Oahu, we’re not as lucky. There are a few restaurants that have nailed nearly everything else, but I have yet to find UNO that makes good queso. I’ve been searching for almost four years, and I won't give up the fight.

H-E-B Blueberry Muffins
From an entire genre to a rather specific grocery item found at only one particular grocery chain, the blueberry muffins found in H-E-B bakeries are to die for. I think I discovered them during my college years when I’d spend summers at home, but I can’t really remember life before them. If you haven’t had one and you live within driving distance of an H-E-B, buckle up and go buy (at least!) one. Tip: Unwrap the muffin before putting it in the microwave for about 30 seconds, then enjoy it with a fork and a nice, cold glass of milk. Thank me later.

Luby’s Macaroni and Cheese
Yes, Luby’s is a cafeteria. Yes, that means most of its patrons have silver hair and are eating dinner around 4:00 pm. Well hey. I’ve got some grays going on and I’m certainly not too cool for the early bird crowd. Those of us who grew up going to Luby’s for lunch after church on Sunday can agree: It just doesn’t get any better than a fresh batch of Luby’s macaroni and cheese. While I occasionally alternate the second side items that share the stage with my fried fish and macaroni, I’ve been ordering basically the same thing there as long as I can remember. One day Bryson will have his very own tray to scoot down the line. I see red Jell-O and lots more macaroni in our future.

Blue Bell Ice Cream
Just over 20 states are lucky enough to have Blue Bell in their stores, and Hawaii isn't one of them. Based in Brenham, there’s just no ice cream like it. While my heart belongs to Cookies ‘n’ Cream, you really can’t go wrong with any flavor. And there are oh-so-many to pick from these days! This week I found myself playing tourist in the freezer aisle, taking a picture of all of the creamy goodness. Couldn’t help it. Whether it’s a half-gallon or a pint, it takes more self-control than I have to stop after just one serving. Or three.

Shipley Donuts (AKA Shipley’s)
I can't tell you how thankful I am that I didn’t realize we had a Shipley’s in Fort Worth until I was halfway finished with grad school. I couldn't have spent enough time at the TCU Rec Center to make up for the sausage and cheese kolaches I would've consumed. Most of my friends in Hawaii don’t even know what a kolache is. (I’ve asked.) While the donuts are light, fluffy, and delish, it’s the kolaches that I craved most while eight months pregnant and an ocean away. Whether I’m just arriving off the redeye or just about to fly back to HNL, nine times out of ten, you’ll find a Shipley’s bag in my carry-on.

Honorable Mention
This list is not complete without mentioning the following regional restaurants that do not currently have real estate in the middle of the Pacific: Sonic, Chick-fil-A, Whataburger (pronounced Waterburger, for those of you who don't know any better), Carrabba’s, Jason’s Deli, and Panera Bread. Maybe one day this aloha marketplace will realize your value, old friends.

It’s worth repeating: I realize the foods I’ve listed here are not healthy foods. They all spend most of their time in that tiny triangle atop the (old) food pyramid. That’s why it’s a good thing that they’re only available to me a few times a year.

I mean, I do make an effort to exercise most days of the week, but it's still nice to know that if my jeans fit a little snugger after a nice, long visit home, it's just because of the humidity. That's why they say everything's bigger in Texas.


P.S.  This post is not related to my business, which is about helping bright entrepreneurs attract their dream clients, one brilliant message at a time. HOWEV - if you like my writing and want help with your own, sign up for free tips at www.nikkielledgebrown.com!

queso photo credit: _4cryingoutloud via photopin cc
Shipley's photo credit: chiolachic via photopin cc


  1. Nikki - i totally agree! even in california, i miss tex-mex the most. and blue bell... and whataburger. YUM. ok, now i'm hungry ;)

    1. Meeee too! Every time I see this post I count down the days til my next trip to TX ;)

  2. Oh my gosh, Nikki, I feel the exact same way about almost all of these foods! ESPECIALLY Tex-Mex and Whataburger. Denver's "Mexican" food is nothing like Texas, and you almost never find fast food here. It's a good thing in the long run, but I seriously crave taquitos and queso all the time. Sigh. The things we give up to live in wonderful places :)

    1. It's true! And probably no coincidence that my jeans are smaller now that I live an ocean away from all of that goodness.

  3. Every once in a while, I think we could all become wealthy if we simply opened a bakery and only sold kolaches. My favorite were apricot.

    1. They don't know what they're missin', Dawn!