Here are some things we recently learned at Li'l Abner's Steakhouse:
"Doug rules and rocks."
"Gwynne loves Tony."
And . . . "Paper towels are a good invention by mankind."
The handwriting was on the red-brick walls. On the distressed wood doors. On the fireplace mantel. On the paper towel dispenser.
Along with license plates from around the country and Western art, pearls of wisdom have been jotted down on the walls ever since - well, we think ever since the building was a Butterfield Express stage stop back in the early 1800s.
It seems that way, anyway.
It's been a restaurant, however, since just 1947. One that cowboys, cowgals and many steak lovers in these parts have flocked to.
Reading the walls of the many rooms in the restaurant is just a small part of the Li'l Abner's experience.
The biggest and best part: the steaks, cooked exactly the way you order 'em over a flaming mesquite fire. If the evening is warm enough, you might opt for sitting at a picnic table on the expansive patio, where you can watch the cooks hover over the massive grill, feeding it mesquite when needed, and expertly tending the steaks, chicken and ribs until just the right moment.
You won't get as much writing on the outside walls, but these are the trade-offs we must make in life.
In reality, however, it doesn't matter where you sit to chow down on the steaks. One bite and you'll be sent into your own world, anyway.
At least that's true for the 2- pound porterhouse ($33.95). It came to the table sizzling, with dark, crispy marks on the outside from the grilling, which had seared in all the juices.
It was at least 2 inches thick, cooked the requested rare, and tender enough to cut easily with a knife.
The steak smacked with flavor thanks to the well-marbled meat and the time it spent over that mesquite wood, which gave it a smoky, slightly sweet taste.
There's something about biting into a steak that's crusty on the outside - and silky and juicy on the inside - that just thrills. Unless you're a vegetarian, of course.
Equally enticing are the baby back ribs ($21.95 for a rack). Pick up a rib, and the pork just falls off the bone. It, too, has an enhanced flavor thanks to the mesquite. And thanks, too, to the sauce served on the side, which leans toward hot and is a tad tangy (courtesy of vinegar).
The half-a-chicken ($13.95) was a moist bird, marinated in a subtle teriyaki and baked before it's thrown on the grill to be finished. It comes to the table with a slightly dark, crisp skin and an enhanced flavor thanks again to the mesquite.
With each meal comes a salsa fresca kissed with heat and cilantro; tender ranch beans; iceberg lettuce salads; and thick slices of toasted white bread with lots of garlic on them. The bread is blah, the salads ho-hum, but the tasty salsa and beans were devoured. Not only were they a good marriage with the meat, they underscored the "yeehaw, it's rodeo week" ambience.
The waitress swore by the desserts, explaining that they are made there. And that the ice cream is the best she's ever had. Honest.
We opted for the cherry cobbler ($3.50), fat with cherries, laced with cinnamon, and sitting on a flaky crust. Raves were in order.
Service is friendly and efficient. The food is cooked to order. The cowboy feel is real. And those walls, those walls. We love those walls.