I make the trek up to the Red River and beyond on I-35 several times a year to visit family in Oklahoma, and now that the holiday season is officially upon us, I’m starting to steel myself for the trip, planning several stops to allay road fatigue and facilitate conversation once we arrive in the Sooner State. “How was the drive?” my grandmother will surely ask. And rather than comment on the traffic (same-old, same-old, ho-hum), I’d like to contribute an interesting experience to the conversation.
On my last journey, I got a late start out of Austin—what with the dogs and the packing, and the gift-wrapping and the last-minute tidying-up—and I found myself zooming into Gainesville a mere two-and-a-half hours before I was expected at dinner in Oklahoma City. I hadn’t planned to be so late, of course, and I had imagined sitting down to a leisurely afternoon meal at a little teahouse called Sarah’s on the Square, which came highly recommended by nearly everyone I called in Gainesville, from the folks at the Texas Travel Information Center to a Gainesville native I happened to run into at a museum opening a few months prior. “ Go check out Sarah’s on the Square,” they told me.
Well, I did check it out. But only briefly. I scanned the historic building, admired the brick walls (it used to be an old hardware or dry-goods store, I’m guessing), sat down for 15 minutes at one of a dozen antique wooden tables, and ordered a savory cup of corn-and-crabmeat chowder—perhaps not eye-rollingly out-of-this-world, but satisfying nonetheless.
On my next visit home, if I make it to Gainesville with time to spare, maybe I’ll try the Sarah’s Salad, made with mixed baby lettuces, sliced pears, toasted pecans, feta cheese, and champagne vinaigrette. And the triple-chocolate brownies with chocolate sauce and chocolate shavings sound tempting. If I succumb to a sugar coma, after all, Sarah’s operates a three-room B&B upstairs. My waiter told me that the place used to be a brothel. I know my grandmother would be intrigued by that tale.