Koffee Kup: Open 7 days a week 6:30am-9:30pm, Intersection Hwy.6 & Hwy. 281, Hico, TX 76457
The simple silhouette of a cowboy drinking a cup of coffee set against a white brick wall and a blue, blue Texas sky is what you might see approaching the Koffee Kup in Hico, Texas. If you don’t already know of its reputation for good burgers, onions rings, and pie, the simplicity of the cowboy’s silhouette might lure you in for a kup of koffee and a piece of pie because it is a bit of that “back in the day” simplicity many of us are looking for when we shun the quicker, but not so attractive, route along a major highway in favor of a highway like 281. Plus, it’s not easy driving past the swaths of orange and blue wildflowers, blasting the air conditioning, singing along to some Texas Americana music, and feeling a bit like a cowboy or cowgirl. A person needs a break from all that and a chance to stretch their legs. At least that’s how I felt as we pulled up into the parking lot and parked next to the pickups, motorcycles, shiny antique cars, and family four doors that we’d been traveling alongside that fine day in May.
The Texas summer had started, and it was 95 degrees as we stepped out of the coolness we’d become accustomed to in our speedy little car. Inside the Koffee Kup, it was a blur of people, even at 3:30 in the afternoon. Waitresses in bright green, purple and pink shirts walked by us with pieces of pie stacked up to their elbows. We were greeted and told to sit wherever we liked but saw nowhere available. Ben looked dismayed and started to walk out, but just in time we saw a waitress busing a table. I quickly walked over and claimed the booth. A few moments later the table was clear and the waitress took our drink orders and handed us each a laminated menu with a silhouette of that same cowboy sipping his coffee. When the waitress returned with our unsweetened ice tea and Diet Dr. Pepper, we ordered and then waited, killing time by admiring the Texas diner decor of the cafe. In a glass case across from us, there was a display of unique salt and pepper shakers, hanging on the wall we leaned against were sepia photos of Hico back in the day, and in front of the tiny bathrooms toward the back of the room fake flowers bloomed from various size pots. Ben described it as the way he imagines a diner in West Texas, 1975 might look.
We didn’t wait long for our burger and chicken fried steak to be served. Ben took a bite of his chicken fried steak and instantly looked disappointed. Food is a serious matter to him. He looks forward to meals the way I look forward to vacations and traveling (and meals). Maybe he was mistaken. I took a bite, but alas, I agreed. The chicken fried steak was bland and the breading wasn’t sticking. In his words, the cafe was “relying too much on the gravy, which was pretty good but nothing special.” As for the jalapeno cream cheese burger we ordered, we both agreed it was a darn good burger. I enjoyed the unique combination of jalapenos and cream cheese on a burger, the vegetables on the patty were crisp and fresh, the meat was great, and the bun was soft, maybe a bit crumbly when I cut it in half, but delicious. The onion rings that I ordered with my burger were fluffy and perfectly breaded, but they were bland, a little salt and ketchup took care of that.
Finally, I did order pie. First, I asked the waitress what their best pie was and she told me with a smile “black forest.” I replied, “Mmm, I’m more of a lemony person.” I don’t even know what that means, and it’s not really true. I love chocolate, but the truth is after the burger and onion rings, I’d started to go into a food coma and couldn’t think straight anymore. I should have ordered the black forest or the fresh strawberry that was displayed on their sign.
My suggestion is to take the alternate route: Stop at the Koffee Kup. Drive 281 and 290 instead of I-35 from Austin to Ft. Worth. Enjoy some of the small towns along the way, play the music loud in the car, and take some photos of Texas’s wildflowers.
Then go to Koffee Kup, split a burger and onion rings with someone and order the pie the waitress recommends, or if you truly are a cowboy or cowgirl and are braving the dusty trails alone, make sure to get a to go box. As B said when we got home, “Even though I didn’t love my meal, I would have been disappointed if we hadn’t stopped.” I would rather go to a place like the Koffee Kup and have a pretty good meal (and, just to be clear, the jalapeno cream cheese burger was more than “pretty good”) than to a chain restaurant, definitely not when I’m blazing through the back-roads of Texas as bright orange swaths of Firewheels and Bluebonnets bend in my wake.