ArkLaTex Best Everything

Best Entertainment/Travel/Leisure in Texas, N Louisiana, S Oklahoma, & S Arkansas


Here’s one I never thought I would be writing. Who would have thought that a pleasure seeker like me would have an opinion about caterers? The subject of catering brings to mind all the details that go into organizing an event. I can’t even get myself to list them all. It upsets my delicate balance between all I love to do and all those mundane things we have to do. And, you already know what a headache any event can become. No need to belabor the subject with details. Let’s just leave it at this… A great caterer can make your event better, easier, and less of a headache.

I have attended six large catered events over the last 18 month and two smaller, more intimate bashes. I can’t do a Top-10 from these dates because I got to experience only 5 catering companies. One company, fortunately my favorite, Catfish Express, catered four of the meals that I attended. I am overwhelmingly impressed with Catfish Express, happily enthusiastic about one other caterer and , shall we say, gastronomically disappointed in at least two. I won’t mention the names of these last two.

Catfish Express is the company that inspired this post. My desire to give back for all their wonderful food and gracious service is why I am writing it. But, to be fair, I want to mention another fine company as well.

Let’s start by highlighting Shavers Catering in Shreveport. They catered just one event that I attended, but managed to make a big impression. De-FREAKIN-licius!

Shavers’ menu highlights traditional Cajun dishes, but they serve most anything, filet-mignon, butterflied chicken breast, etc. all with a genuine down-home Louisiana flavor.

I did not get to meet any of their staff. Everything was served buffet style and refilled by graceful servers who were almost invisible as they glided in and out. I give them a 5-star rating.

But the real catering star is Catfish Express in Marshall, Texas. The fist thing that must be mentioned is that they cater everywhere! No kidding, my encounters with Catfish Express  included Natchez, Louisiana and Athens, Texas! That is quite a large radius, but owner, Randy Cox, tells me that this is just a fraction of the area they cover with their 7 mobile kitchens. You might find a Catfish Express truck or trailer anywhere in the ArlLaTex, and beyond. These folks travel!

Next is the food. Contrary to their company name, catfish is not their only specialty. They served ribeye steaks, with baked potato, salad, a vegetable side, cornbread and muffins, and cobbler for dessert at two of the event I attended. Their full menu includes just about anything you might want. Without exception, every dish I tried was delicious.

An unexpected highlight is their staff. Nice folks! Easy to talk to, smiling, and thoughtful. They even encouraged my husband to take an extra entree because, “a big man needs lots of good food!”

One host confided with me the cost per serving. Catfish Express is undoubtedly the best value in mobile catering in the region!

Thank you Catfish Express and Randy Cox for five enjoyable meals and a wonderful all-round experience.

Best Micro-Breweries in the ArkLaTex

Now, you all do know that picking the top micro-breweries in the ArkLaTex is impossible, right? So, these are the best of the 40 or so that we have visited. To make it more accurate, I decided to list only nano-breweries (and brew pubs – even smaller), tiny businesses that work in small batches, have little or no distribution, and have an attractive tasting room.  Take my word for it, these little breweries are great.

Blue Canoe Brewing, Little Rock Arkansas.

My kind of beer! Tiny, limited hours, few amenities, and, when it comes to beer, I don’t much like aluminum cans. I DO LIKE their tastes. I also like a rustic ambiance. Blue Canoe may go just a bit too far into polishing their rustic theme with lots of new, shiny stuff, but they have not really ruined the relaxed feeling.

I DO LIKE their beer (have I said that already?). Ten bonus points for having a hand-drawn logo. Their website is remarkably uninformative. Give them a call and go taste their beer.

Lazy Circles Brewing

Is Beer Yoga a thing? I have images of how deeply meditative I would become if posed sitting cross-legged after 2 or 12 beers. You can sample beer and practice yoga Saturdays at Lazy Circles Brewing.

They had me at the front door. Tiny, owner-operated, quaint and eclectic, this is real and personal. And, they make good beer!

Doors opened in November, 2017, so they are certainly still in the shakedown period. I will return to see what they develop. It should be great. Their outdoor setting is imaginative. Quirky is  the word that comes to mind. Bring the family dog and a picnic lunch sit outside and enjoy some really delicious beer.

Here it is, my favorite, Anvil Brewing in Pittsburg, Texas.

You might think I have lost my mind (until you visit and see what I mean). Anvil does not filter their beer. It has a distinctive, slightly cloudy look, but don’t let that deter you. Many of the best beers in the world are unfiltered. Proponents claim that unfiltered beer is better for you, much like pulpy orange juice is better than strained. The taste of all the Anvil beers is robust, smooth, and distinctly different between each type (the Scottish Ale is pretty amazing!). The only one with even the least bit of harshness was their SMaSH IPA. My husband says it is supposed to be that sharp, that it is perfect with food or for those who want their beer to announce its presence in their mouth.

So, why is this my favorite? SO MANY reasons!

  • The restaurant – Great food, unique menu, three “headline” meals that you have to try, the steak special (huge and delicious), the Reuben sandwich (best you will ever have – and a full meal, all by itself), and their fry-basket combinations (try the cheeseburger fries first).
  • The live music concerts – big names & virtual unknowns in the dance hall. Sawdust on the floor and most nights there is no cover charge.
  • The old building – they call it historic, but all I see is old and amazing. It is actually an old Feed & Seed building, restored and rustic in the extreme, not a shiny new feature or fake period piece anywhere.
  • The courtyard (not, as yet, landscaped) has porches, picnic tables, and a loading dock door to the dance hall and view of the stage.
  • The owners and staff – They truly like people and lavish love on their customers.
  • And, the beer. It is good and it is brewed right there, in sight, in small batches.

For some tastes, there may be better beers in the ArkLaTex, but these are really good. And, Anvil Brewing is new. They opened their doors July 4, 2017. Their beer recipes are still in the experimentation stage. I am sure they will be right there with the best in the nation in just a few months.

Despite the one-hour drive, I will revisit often. I hope you will, too.

Great Raft Brewing

Choosing Great Raft is completely out of character for me. Although small, it is not tiny as others on this list. They put their delicious beer into aluminum, and they actually have a healthy regional distribution. To tell you the truth, this is the type of beer I would hope to find in the cooler of a good store. I bet your average weekend beer drinker will like Great Raft’s beer more than my personal picks. Just ask my husband!

It is run by very nice people, but the size and process is a bit big for the down-home atmosphere I prefer and I worry that their expansion rate might dilute the genuinely friendly attitude that is now so prominent. They are currently advertising for an operations manager and expanding their facility. Already, the tour rules are detailed and very slightly limiting. GOOD BEER!

ArkLaTex Wineries

This is going to be a Post-in-Progress!

We have not had time to visit all the wineries in the region, not even a representative number. We have only touched the surface of the area’s delights.

Evaluating ArkLaTex wineries is complicated by the fact that our first three visits produced three favorites! How can we be objective and critical when we absolutely love each of the three wineries we visited?

Despite our subjective blindness, here is our sampling of great wineries. I will supply a VERY brief attribution and link to their websites so that you can read all of each winery’s own presentation.

Los Pinos Ranch Vineyards – Pittsburg, Texas
Italian varieties and Italian wine making preferences make their wines’ taste traditional, subtle, complex and delicious!




Enoch’s Stomp – Harleton, Texas
Heavily influenced by South African wine making.
Wine Maker/Partner, Altus Koegelenberg, is a 5th generation South African grape grower.


Keipersol – Bullard, Texas
California growing & wine making here in Texas!
Wines are extremely drinkable. Reminiscent more to California Central Valley wines rather than Sonoma/Napa wines.


Top 10 Country Music Festivals in the World!

Did we mention that we are Country Music fanatics?

We LOVE Country Music festivals where we can see and hear multiple live bands, talented soloists, and great music performers. For 2016 we took several medium-to-long excursions to experience an entire year for the best Country Music events around the nation.

Our taste might vary a bit from yours, but here is our list of the very best of the best.

January 19 – 22, 2017 – Riviera Maya, Mexico

Crash My Playa

Luke Bryan, Blake Shelton, Little Big Town

Crash My Playa is becoming an annual vacation destination. Crash My Playa features some of country music’s biggest stars across four days on the beach in Mexico. Luke Bryan will headline two nights at this surfside venue.
Website | Facebook

March 10-12 in London, Dublin and Glasgow, UK

Country 2 Country

Brad Paisley, Reba McEntire, Zac Brown Band

C2C has grown to over 50,000 fans in three major European cities — it’s the largest country music festival in Europe! Chris Young, Darius Rucker and Maren Morris are a few of the other artists scheduled for this three-day international event.

Website | Facebook

April 6-9, 2017 – Florence, Arizona

Country Thunder Arizona

Chris Young, Dierks Bentley, Thomas Rhett, Blake Shelton

Country Thunder festivals offers one of the biggest camping and country music parties in the southwest. Attendance over the four days has topped 80,000 in previous years.

Website | Facebook

April 28-30, 2017 – Indio, Califonia

Stagecoach Music Festival

Dierks Bentley, Shania Twain, Kenny Chesney

Since debuting in 2007, Stagecoach has brought A-List artists to California. This fast-growing festival is also known for having quite a campground party every night. Cole Swindell, Brett Eldredge, Thomas Rhett and legends like Willie Nelson, Jerry Lee Lewis and Cyndi Lauper will open this diverse festival.

Website | Facebook

June 20-24, 2017 – Oshkosh, Wisconsin

Country USA Oshkosh

Blake Shelton, Chris Young, Rascal Flatts

For over 20 years Country USA has been a Wisconsin mainstay, with top artists coming to Oshkosh every year. This five-day festival features many camping and VIP options. This year the festival is one week later than it was in 2016.

Website | Facebook

July 7-9, 2017 – Prince Edward Island, Canada

Cavendish Beach Music Festival

Zac Brown Band, Little Big Town, Kip Moore

The largest multi-day outdoor festival in Atlantic Canada promises country music, camping, dining and “the warmest waters north of the Carolinas.” The Cavendish Beach Music Festival brings 70,000 fans to what was once a cow pasture in Canada. The fans and A-List stars that attend regularly will agree it’s now a premier destination.

Website | Facebook

July 27-29, 2016 – Yerington, Nevada

Night in the Country

Thomas Rhett, Steve Moakler

Night in the Country is billed as Nevada’s legendary country music festival, and recent lineups have backed that up. This camping and country music festival has grown steadily since 2002. Watch their website for headliners and lineup.

Website | Facebook

August 10-13, 2017 – Oro-Medonte, Ontario, Canada

Boots and Hearts Music Festival

Keith Urban, Luke Bryan, Brantley Gilbert

Boots and Hearts Music Festival is Canada’s largest camping and country music festival, always featuring the biggest stars in country. The beautiful campgrounds are what keep people returning. This festival is for those who pride themselves on hard work and hard play.

Website | Facebook

November 1-4, 2018 – Jefferson, Texas

Texas Sounds International Country Music Awards

Headliner Country acts from 15 – 20 nations. Wonderful Country musicians from around the world perform in the cute little town, Jefferson, Texas. Proceeds benefit the producing nonprofit, East Texas Performing Arts, a 501(c)3 nonprofit. I have to admit, in some ways this is my #1 pick. It draws a smaller audience than any of the others but this only adds to its appeal. It is easy to meet and get to know musicians from several continents! It is unique. Only CtoC in London books as large a variety of truly great international talent.

Website | Facebook

December 8-9, 2017 – Vero Beach, Florida

Beach Town Music Festival

Jake Owen

The mix of country and pop-rock music at the Beach Town Music Festival is one of a kind. It’s a hometown show for Owen, and he’ll bring country acts like David Nail, Clare Dunn and Adley Stump along with him as well as pop acts like Edwin McCain.

Website | Facebook

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