Less than forty miles south of Waco, the four-block-long main drag of Calvert, Texas straddles Highway 6. The town’s old buildings house an array of shops. A single traffic light slows speeding cars just enough for passersby to notice that the place deserves a second look.
Calvert’s population is declining: only 1,192 residents were counted in the 2010 census, down 16% in ten years. Still, tourism appears to be on the upswing.
After all, there is more to this small town than a few good antique shops.
Off the busy highway, Calvert’s residential streets offer a glimpse into the town’s glory days. In the 1870s, this community thrived. Three thousand people and fifty-two businesses called Calvert home. Their cotton gin was said to be the largest in the world. Brazos River Bottom plantation owners moved to Calvert and built homes reflecting their wealth and status. A historic district of thirty-seven complete blocks (and nine partial ones) is dotted with old mansions and churches. It appears that most of the town’s residents have a grand old Victorian place to call home.
An 1895 pavilion graces the city park. It continues to accommodate dances and concerts and social gatherings just like it did a hundred plus years ago. The 1869 Episcopal Church has remained in continuous use through the rise and fall of cotton and railroads.
A restored 1876 jail, the subject of an HGTV episode of “If Walls Could Talk”, is one of the town’s bed and breakfast hotels.
And the trees are amazing!
In the former home of a Confederate General’s daughter, Pin Oak Bed & Breakfast offers reasonably priced accommodations.
Guests can enjoy private balconies, original stained-glass windows, and wraparound porches. White wicker chairs are scattered across the broad green lawn. Could there be a more serene setting for a lazy weekend?
And Calvert is the unlikely home of an artisan chocolate boutique, and sometimes gourmet restaurant, operated by a professionally trained British chef. The Cooking Channel’s FoodCrafters even visited Calvert to film Chef Ken creating his sweet confections.
Cocoamoda doesn’t serve daily meals. It’s more a special occasion and weekend-night bistro, but there are always chocolates. If it’s dinner you’re after, call ahead and come dressed for an evening out. You’ll be treated to haute cuisine. The Valentine’s Day menu included an appetizer of escargot encased in a jalapeno broche. The entree was filet de cabillaud a l’orge avec de la sauce abricot. (We consulted Google and discovered the main course was cod.)
We chatted with the charming owner/chef; bought a few beautiful chocolates; then set off to find a place for a late lunch.
We found four restaurants in town, all of them closed this Sunday afternoon, but Zamykal Gourmet Kolaches had an open sign.
Knowing that a couple of sausage kolaches would be perfect, we went inside. What we didn’t know is — there is no such thing as a sausage kolache — at least not in this authentic Czech bakery. Those buns with a sausage inside are a Texas creation and should be called “pigs in a blanket”. We weren’t concerned about the appropriate name, but the fact that they were sold out of them was a problem.
In fact, Zamykal’s was sold out of every last fresh baked thing in the store. All thirty flavors were gone. The identical-twin sisters who own the bakery, suggested we have a cabbage roll.
If you are picturing a pale green leaf of cabbage, stuffed with a spicy meat and rice filling, that’s exactly the picture our mind’s eye created too. But we didn’t get one of those. These cabbage rolls were bread, like a dinner roll. Inside was caramelized cabbage, sweetened with brown sugar and accented with a hint of vanilla. It’s evidently a specialty of Czech grandmothers everywhere. Though we can’t claim to be major cabbage roll fans, we are glad we stopped Zamykal and saw their little dining room.
Would have been a real shame to miss it.
If you are interested in learning more about Zamykal’s, you can find all kinds of articles about their bakery and their award-winning kolaches online. One of the twins is known to stand at the edge of the highway, singing, dancing, and waving a towel. (You can see this for yourself on YouTube.) This kind of marketing must work well in kolache sales.
A sleepy Sunday afternoon was probably not the best time to experience Calvert. Like many small towns, Sunday is a time for rest. The third Saturday of each month is Calvert Trade Day. Vendors set up just off Main Street. They tell us the town comes to life.
And twice a year, there is a home tour. It would be worth the trip!