The Thorndale police officer is polite but he means business. “Turn the bike off, I need to talk to you a minute”.

With visions of “Macon County Line” in my head I shut off the bike and take off my helmet.

“The lady in there [Barron’s Hamburger Haven] says you were taking pictures of her restaurant and smoking marijuana on her front porch” “I’m a writer. I just ate a meal there and took a picture of the building for an article I’m putting together.

“Got any id on you”

I offer my state driver’s license. He makes a phone call to see if this long haired biker has any warrants out for him or is living life on the straight and narrow.

I come back clean. Being assiduous he also runs my plates.


“There was a murder just north of here last year. It’s got everybody on edge. A retired cop from New York’s wife got killed. Two local boys did it.”

I express my amazement that such a quiet community could harbor folks capable of such evil while wondering what my hamburger eating has to do with two homicidal maniacs.

We pass the time for a bit, talking about barbecue and such before he takes his leave. After being hassled by the man [ looking like an extra from The Glory Stompers will get you all sorts of attention from cops ] most of my adult life, I can say that this was one of the more pleasant interactions I’ve ever had with the law. Of course most of my prior meetings came due to hanging out in wild and wooly biker bars in New Orleans, Atlanta and Birmingham not roadside burger stands.

The cop was a pleasant man, doing his job to make sure a rough and tumble, hamburger eating biker was just that and nothing more.

Back to Barron’s Hamburger Haven. I wondered why the old woman behind the counter’s face was etched with hatred when I was leaving her little restaurant. “Thanks y’all, that was good” I lied as I left. The look of contempt on the restaurateurs face was odd but I little noted it.

Truth was the burger was pitiful. A tiny, dessicated puck of meat on a cold, hamburger bun with chopped white onions and some weird Miracle Whip tasting mayonnaise completed the sandwich.

At $2.99 it was overpriced. When ordering I inquired as to whether the potatoes were real or just the freezer bag type that lazy cooks the world over turn to to avoid slicing a potato.

Freezer fries.

I’ve always marveled over why people, who have no idea how to make a hamburger, open a hamburger restaurant. In the proper hands this common food can be sublime.

I’m always looking for another entrant in our “Best Hamburger In Austin” series . The burger at Barron’s Hamburger Haven will not be be included.

I point my bike north toward San Gabriel with memories of why I got out of small town Appalachia caroming through my head.

I took right at 7000 pictures of bars, restaurants, diners and coffee shops last year in 11 different states and 4 countries on 3 continents without anyone noting or feeling the need to call law enforcement.

I guess the odds just eventually ground me down.

A half hour later I’m at Perez Barbecue in Bartlett Texas. I get off my bike and as is my custom, begin taking pictures of the restaurant. A man immediately notices and comes outside, smiling broadly, “Howdy stranger, come on in and get you some barbecue”.

Faith restored.

Post script: Don’t let one bad apple give Thorndale, Texas the wrong sort of reputation. I was treated very well next door to Barron’s Hamburger Haven at Thorndale Meat Market where the Thorndalians were as nice as they could be.

In Austin, Texas you can get a heaping helping of Thorndale hospitality from Shane Stiles at Stiles Switch Barbecue on North Lamar Blvd. He and his wife could not be more gracious.

I look forward to returning to Thorndale in the future. I won’t however make the mistake of spending my money at Barron’s Hamburger Haven.

Barron’s Hamburger Haven is on Facebook y’all

Previous Thorndale Texas coverage:

Steve’s Place, friendly bar with cold beer

Downtown Cafe

and The Ponderosa

Oh, and as a bonus check out this redacted Yelp review of Barron’s Hamburger Haven from poster “El S”

“Whoa, avoid at all cost. Passing through, I noticed they had just opened. I waited about 25 minutes for 2 burgers and fries. When I took the containers out of the bag down the road a bit, much to my surprise all I had was half a bun, limp lettuce, and a wanting tomato slice. I should have kept going, but hey, I paid for some meat and another half a bun!

Well, I know now why they didn’t include the meat. They were trying to help me out. Blackened cardboard puck, anyone?

And the fries…how hard is it to toss frozen potatoes in hot grease? Harder than they thought I guess.

They have some learning to do if they’re going to make it. Fresh meat, hotter grease for starters. Good luck.”

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