BEULAH — There’s a cool new restaurant and ice house serving up barbecue, burgers and ice-cold brew by some of the friendliest folks you’ll ever meet in the old Beulah Grocery & Cafe building at the intersection of FM 58 and FM 1818, about 11 miles south of Lufkin.
It’s obvious that the owners of 58 Junction Cafe and Ice House have poured a lot of blood, sweat and tears into the remodel, which features a small bar, several big-screen TVs, a pool table, a 1940s shuffleboard table, a jukebox and a party room with a space for live entertainment. Future plans include a fenced-in area outside with a fire pit, washers and horse shoes. But as fun as this place is, the focus is definitely on the food.
I was immediately charmed upon entering this busy little business on a recent Thursday night, about a week after it first opened. With Percy Sledge crooning from the speakers, a “Gunsmoke” rerun on the big screen, and a framed portrait of Nolan Ryan clobbering Robin Ventura during their iconic brawl just one of the many cool decorations gracing the walls, I felt like staying a spell. And by all means, order a beer (or bring your own bottle of liquor and purchase a set-up), kick back and enjoy. This place may be brand-new, but the atmosphere is already that of a beloved old hang-out.
But once I tried the food, I realized why this place was hopping with a dinner crowd that included everybody from families with young kids in tow on up to seniors lingering over pie (or beer!) and conversation: The owners definitely know their way around some barbecue.
On my first visit, I split an order of brisket tacos and a half-order of sausage quesadillas with a friend. Those bountiful tacos can be ordered with your choice of any of their meats and are served on a choice of corn or flour tortillas with sides of a mild red sauce and a wicked-hot green sauce, both of which pair nicely with that perfectly smoked brisket.
The sausage quesadilla is a great concept, too, with cheddar cheese and smoked sausage grilled up in a buttery flour tortilla. Condiments such as sour cream, pico de gallo, a spicy guacamole sauce, barbecue sauce or either of the salsas are available on request, so diners can customize their quesadillas — which also can be prepared with any of 58 Junction’s meats — any way they like.
For my meal, I went with a fried cheeseburger on a lightly toasted bun that was one of the best I’ve had in a very long time — easily one of the top 5, in my book, in this area. Obviously fresh and perfectly seasoned, that burger (with all of the standard toppings) melted in my mouth. I also enjoyed the cool, creamy, chunky mustard potato salad studded with onions, pickles and pimentos — a definite notch above most restaurant potato salads.
Despite all that, I couldn’t stop sneaking some of the awesome crinkle-cut fries with seasoning salt from my friend’s two-meat brisket and sausage plate. But his flavorful beans were the true standout of the sides I’ve sampled — a spicy cowboy variety full of onions, slices of jalapeños and brisket that showed a true attention to detail.
We finished our meal with a slice of one of their many different varieties of homemade desserts — in this instance, a soft, crumbly caramel pecan cheesecake that I witnessed my friend, who’s not a big fan of sweets, keep coming back to for several bites. That cheesecake was out-of-this-world good.
Eager to try more, I returned the next day with another friend, who found the cheeseburger every bit as good as I had described it to her. I went with a chopped beef sandwich with a generous portion of that wonderfully smoky brisket on a lightly toasted bun. The sandwich was served plain — and it’s good enough that many will want to eat it just like that — but the super-sweet waitress was more than happy to hook me up with my requisite white onions, dill pickles and a really nice barbecue sauce that enabled me to fix it just the way I like it. We also split one of their pulled pork quesadillas, and I was in heaven as I alternated between dipping it in barbecue sauce or a combination of sour cream, that awesome guacamole sauce and pico de gallo.
For dessert, we split a piece of simple chocolate pie with a sweet, pudding-like filling on a flaky crust that disappeared far too fast.
The restaurant also offers occasional specials (such as ribeyes and filet mignon), specialty burgers, fried appetizers and more, and can be booked for private parties or catering jobs.
58 Junction is at 13774 FM 58 and is open from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 10:30 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday. The restaurant is closed on Sunday. Their hours may be temporarily affected by the holidays, so for more information, find their Facebook page or call 829-0188.