When Tobe Hooper’s extremely low-budget horror flick about a cannibalistic family was released in 1974, it’s safe to say that no one could’ve predicted the massive cultural impact The Texas Chainsaw Massacre would go on to have. The movie eventually spawned sequels, remakes, and reboots… and also two restaurants.
Considering that Halloween is the peak season for Leatherface-based nostalgia, I did a two-stop food tour of these Chainsaw-themed eateries. While both places couldn’t have been more different in their respective styles, they each paid tribute to the film in a unique way.
The Gas Station – Bastrop, TX
Starting off in Bastrop, TX, The Gas Station was first announced earlier in the year, and finally opened its doors on October 8th. It was purchased almost two years ago by Ohio business man and horror fan Roy Rose, who’d been trying to obtain the property for some time. He also partnered with Ari Lehman to help get the project up and running. Fans might know Lehman as the guy who played Jason Voorhies in several of the Friday the 13th movies.
As a result, when you walk inside the old ‘Last Chance Gas Station,’ you know that the place was built with horror fans in mind. T-shirts and framed posters line the back wall, and shelf after shelf of horror-themed action figures fills up as much of the remaining wall space as possible, save for the cooler stocked with snacks and soda.
The only thing not eye-catching about the inside of The Gas Station is the menu. It’s scrawled out on a chalkboard just beneath the cashier and it only gives two options: brisket with one side dish or brisket with two side dishes. Just to be clear, this isn’t a knock on this approach, I love a good out-of-the-way BBQ place and for a brand new restaurant, starting with a limited menu is always wise.
The guy who was running the smoker when I pulled up brought my food to my table, and was incredibly forthcoming about wanting feedback, explaining that they’d just started serving food, and he was happy to have input. I never did see that guy again, but I would’ve been inclined to tell him that the brisket was a tad overcooked, making the meat a little too tough. On the upside, it made the burnt ends on the outside absolutely marvelous, so it felt like a solid trade-off. Really, besides the slightly skimpy portions on the side dishes, it was a pretty decent meal.
Behind the sparse outdoor seating area were The Gas Station’s cabins, which are available to rent for overnight stays. I didn’t get a chance to see the inside of one, but each cabin houses three adults, or two adults and two children, so it’s clear that they’re hoping that horror fans from all over make the journey and stick around for the night. It’s pretty clear that this is the kind of place that could turn into a weird little horror fan mecca.
The Grand Central Cafe – Kingsland, TX
About 90 or so miles northeast of The Gas Station, sits the The Grand Central Cafe — which occupies the what’s commonly known as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre House. It was first built in 1909 in what’s now Round Rock, Texas, a town just north of Austin, it was bought by The Antlers Hotel in Kingsland, TX in 1998. It was then dismantled, reassembled on the hotel’s grounds, where it was then converted into a restaurant, which opened back in 2012.
The biggest thing that struck me about The Grand Central Cafe was how incredibly nice it was. Not that I was expecting some run-down tourist-trap, you could tell that a great deal of time and effort was put into restoring this place.
Given that my prior meal in this two-stop tour was brisket, it seemed only appropriate to follow-through with another distinctively Texas food: the chicken-fried steak. Now, as good as the chicken-fried steak was, I can’t help but regretting not ordering another dish that may have been a bit less… pressed, hammered, then deep-fried. Not that it wasn’t delicious, but this place seemed nice enough that something else might’ve been extraordinary.
I mean, they served their food square plates, which we all know is one of the easiest ways to tell that you’re eating someplace fancy. In fact, it was so nice that it didn’t even have to openly play up the fact that it was ‘the house’ from Texas Chainsaw Massacre. That is, aside from the bar upstairs, which was adorned with framed photos from the movie, and served up ‘Leatherface’s Lemonade’ as a drink special.
Unlike the Gas Station, The Grand Central Cafe seemed to cater less specifically to horror movie fans, though there is a commemorative sign at the edge of the property explaining the house’s history, both cinematic and otherwise.
Overall, my little chainsaw two-step was a worthwhile experiment. Any scary movie lover will go and soak up the fact that they’re standing in one of the places that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was filmed, while anyone interested in grabbing a bite to eat won’t be left feeling alienated by the experience. An absolutely perfect way for any horror fan to get over their Halloween withdrawals this fall.