Printed with the permission of the Alpine Avalanche
Cueva de Leon, or “cave of the lion,” is the perfect name for a long-time favorite restaurant situated in the shadow of Sleeping Lion Mountain in downtown Fort Davis.
Lorina Bencomo Wells, owner of Cueva de Leon, has been serving Fort Davis locals and tourists since 1976 when she took over a restaurant from a local man who was looking to retire. In 1982, she built her own place where folks can count on authentic Mexican food for lunch every day, and dinner daily except for Sundays.
She can be found in the kitchen every Monday through Friday, preparing dozens of lunches for homebound and elderly people in need. She’s been the life-force of Meals on Wheels for more than twenty years now.
Lorina, like many others in Fort Davis, grew up here and followed a life path that took her out of town and eventually brought her back home. Her family, the Bencomo family, planted their Fort Davis roots in the 1870s.
In 1909, one of her ancestors bought an existing adobe home in town and added on to it, then built a home for their mother, and then added a third house to their piece of land. Lorina still lives in the original adobe house today, and is neighbors with her cousins and other family members. I think it’s wonderful how the homes have stayed in the family ever since.
On Super Bowl Sunday, my husband and I had the pleasure of attending a Super Bowl party at Cueva de Leon while it was closed to the public. We got to tease Lorina for her undying support of Tom Brady and the Patriots when they were behind, and cheer with her when her team won. I’m not much of a sports fan myself, but Lorina’s enthusiasm was indeed contagious and she even had me rooting for her team.
Lorina’s mother used to provide all of the baked goods for the restaurant, as well as the tamales, chile rellenos and other items. So many of her recipes remain today. On Thursday nights, there’s often live music on the patio.
We’ve enjoyed the Cueva Special (one enchilada, one taco, one chile relleno, guacamole, chile con queso, rice and beans), the Fajita Dinner for Two with beef and chicken, and a friend loves the Enchiburrito (a beef burrito smothered with melted cheese and red enchilada sauce) which I’ll be trying soon. Cueva has a salad bar, a buffet, and Friday Night seafood specials. It’s BYOB if you’d like alcoholic beverages with your meal, but have no fear – there’s Stone Village Market and Uncle Buck’s Liquor Store right nearby to pick up your beverages.
On Super Bowl Sunday, I was already stuffed from eating finger foods all evening when Lorina brought out a dessert that was a new recipe she’d found online and just tried for the first time. She told me it was a poke cake that had sweetened condensed milk poured on top, so I had no choice but to take a bite of my husband’s dessert. I promptly got my own serving. She used only whipped cream for the topping, although the recipe called for pudding to be mixed with whipped topping, and it was perfect the way she made it. I might have eaten two pieces but I’m not telling.
Cueva de Leon is located in downtown Fort Davis at 611 State Street and can be reached at (432)426-3801 for to-go orders. Open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and 5 p.m.-9 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
Apple Pie Poke Cake
1 white cake (prepared in a 13×9 baking dish)
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
4 cup apples, diced
¼ cup water
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp salt
14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 box (3.4 oz.) Instant vanilla pudding mix
2 cup milk
1 tsp. cinnamon
12 oz. whipped topping, thawed (or make your own whipped cream)
Prepare white cake according to box directions for a 13×9 cake.
In a large skillet, whisk together the brown sugar with water, 1tsp cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.
Heat over medium high heat until bubbly, then add diced apples.
Reduce heat to low and simmer apples about 12-15 minutes.
When cake is done baking, poke holes all over.
Pour can of sweetened condensed milk over hot cake.
Then pour apple mixture over top of cake and spread until apples are evenly dispersed over top of cake and liquids have drained into the poked holes of the cake.
Refrigerate 3-4 hours or overnight.
While cake is in refrigerator, whisk the vanilla pudding with milk and 1 tsp cinnamon until smooth.
Refrigerate until ready to serve.
When ready to serve cake, combine pudding mixture with thawed whipped topping. Spread over cake, slice and serve.