It had been three years since my last visit to the Chicken Oil Co., and today I had the urge for a Texas burger and a brew.
The Chicken Oil Co. opened in Bryan as a gas station and burger shop in 1977. Since then it has stopped selling gas, and has become one of the coolest eateries in Texas.
On the well-worn hard wood floor I stood side-by-side with twentysomething other customers, a six-foot-tall cigar store Indian and a classic Seeburg “Select-o-matic” juke box waiting to place my order. Behind the counter Jessica was offering advice to a family of first timers who all decided on the quarter pound Snuffy Burger Special with a Coke and fries – the C.O.C.’s most popular menu item.
My turn at the counter came just as Willie and Waylon began pleading, “Mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys” from speakers hidden among the exposed beams high above. Knowing that quarter pound Snuffy burgers were for beginners I stepped forward and with authority in my voice ordered the loaded half-pound Snuffy with cheese and jalapenos, fries and a Shiner Bock. It just don’t get any better than that.
I took a seat at one of the many rustic-style tables with an assortment of initials and phrases carved into its surface. Above me on a wall was a display of 350 old beer cans from breweries such as Blatz’s, Pearl, Black Label, Dixie and Gilley’s.
Oil and beer signs hung from the ceiling and along the walls in every direction. A winged Pegasus of the Mobile Oil Company and the Sinclair Dino stood out from the other more mundane gasoline placards, while as expected Lone Star and Shiner neons lit the room in a soft glow.
Riding the ceiling beams were rows of worn out western saddles sharing space with a menagerie of mounted sailfish, bears, ducks, deer and moose. It’s like the Smithsonian Institute of Texas with country music, cheeseburgers and beer.
My name was called and I picked up my order. A half pound Snuffy burger is something to savor, so I took my time unwrapping the crisp white paper surrounding the meal that I had driven more than 100 miles to eat. It was hot and juicy. The combination of cheese, mustard and mayo, diced onions and spicy peppers on the fresh bun completed the presentation.
More and more customers filled the dining room as Willie broke into “Georgia On My Mind” from the speakers at the tin ceiling above the saddles, and I dug in to my side of Texas-style fries. It was a meal to brag about to your buddies back home, and one that I will definitely enjoy again the next time I pass through Bryan.
Bon Appetit Pardner!
For Texas travel information about real Lone Star destinations and more, always visit tourtexas.com
Visit the Chicken Oil Ranch at 3600 S College Ave, Bryan, TX 77801, or call (979) 846-3306. On the web it’s at dixiechicken.com/articles/chicken_oil_co.