Printed with permission of the Alpine Avalanche newspaper – Sept. 7, 2017
Looking around the heavily-autographed food truck with a colorful dinosaur perched on the roof, you’ll notice all sorts of fossils and rocks on display. Aaron and Katrina Thomas, the brains and brawn behind Tri La Bite Food Truck, are actually geologists, as well as food truck owners.
Tri La Bite opened in Alpine about 11 months ago. Originally from South Texas and arriving in Alpine by way of Oklahoma in the wake of a career change, the couple decided to open a food truck and utilize the food service skills both of them used to work their way through college and beyond, including restaurant management.
With a pretty extensive menu offering down-home style food, we opted for a bacon cheeseburger basket with French fries and a chicken fried steak with gravy and a baked potato.
My big and juicy bacon cheeseburger was outstanding – served on a soft, toasted sesame seed bun, the meat and cheese were hot and the lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and onions were chilled. I love when that happens. The French fries were seasoned with a black pepper blend and delicious.
His chicken fried steak was hand-breaded with homemade gravy and the baked potato was baked perfectly. It wasn’t the typical dinner-plate-sized chicken fry, and it was just right. He was filled up by his meal and a couple bites of my bacon cheeseburger.
We even left with a couple of brisket sandwiches – which are a crowd favorite – and now we know why. Sorry, we ate them without taking a picture. I have empty wrappers to photograph – the brisket was deeeeeeelish!!!
While the Thomas Family has only lived in Alpine for about a year and a half, Aaron’s father went to Sul Ross in 1969 and graduated as a geologist. Big Bend and far West Texas were regular family vacations for Aaron growing up, and being raised by a rock hound, he also pursued a career in geology, and married a geologist. They eventually left South Texas for Oklahoma where he worked as a geophysicist for an oil and gas company, before heading to the Trans-Pecos.
About 265 million years ago, West Texas was underwater. If you know where to look and what to look for out here, you can find fossils of at least 500 species that made West Texas their reef home, including trilobites – a fossil group of extinct marine creatures, whose hard-shelled bodies were made of three sections, that are found to have first appeared 521 million years ago. They disappeared in mass extinction 252 million years ago. They were the most successful of all early animals and roamed the oceans for over 270 million years… including the area we live in now, where trilobite fossils are found by the luckiest of rock hounds.
This is an example of a trilobite fossil:
This is an example of picnic table decor at Tri La Bite:
As geologists and avid fossil hunters, Aaron and Katrina have always been on the lookout for fossils of that hardy ol’ trilobite, but haven’t found any yet to add to their enormous rock and fossil collection. I’m glad we found the Tri La Bite to add to our dining selection.
With daily specials along with a regular menu, I don’t think you can go wrong with anything you try at Tri La Bite. I also don’t know of any place else you can get a 10 oz. New York Strip steak with a loaded baked potato and Texas toast for $10.
Aaron and Katrina are currently working on completing a 40-foot cook trailer that will house Tri La Bite2 (Tri La Bite Squared), located behind the Crystal Bar in Alpine.
Located in the parking lot at 605 E. Holland, you can find them on Facebook at Tri La Bite Food Truck, where specials are listed, Call in orders at (432)244-6060. Typically open from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday, go give them a try.
And for those wondering about all the writing on the truck, every new customer is strongly encouraged to grab a Sharpie and sign the truck. We signed the hood. That’s a LOT of new customers 🙂
Chicken Fried Steak and Gravy
(inspired by Tri La Bite although I think I’ll let them make it for me!)
4 (1/2 pound) beef cube steaks
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 tablespoon hot pepper sauce
2 cloves minced garlic
Oil for frying (I like grapeseed oil and put about 1-1/2 inches in fying pan)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups milk
kosher salt and ground black pepper to taste
Pound the steaks to about 1/4-inch thickness. Place 2 cups of flour in a shallow bowl. For the batter, in another shallow bowl, stir together the baking powder, baking soda, pepper, and salt then add in the buttermilk, egg, pepper sauce, and garlic and mix well. Dredge each steak first in the flour, then in the batter, and again in the flour. Pat the flour onto the surface of each steak so they are completely coated with dry flour. It can get messy here.
Heat the oil in a deep cast-iron skillet to 325 degrees, hot enough that if you drop a bit of batter it will sizzle. Fry the steaks until evenly golden brown, about 3 to 5 minutes per side. Place fried steaks on a plate with paper towels to drain. Drain the oil from the skillet, reserving 1/4 cup of the liquid and as much of the solid remnants as possible.
Return the skillet to medium-low heat with the reserved oil. Whisk the remaining flour into the oil. Scrape the bottom of the pan with a spatula to release solids into the gravy. Stir in the milk, raise the heat to medium, and bring the gravy to a simmer, cook until thick, 6 to 7 minutes. Season with kosher salt and pepper. Spoon the gravy over the steaks to serve. Yum.