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Chomp! Does your gut follow the beaver or the sausage?

By by jessica rodrigo/jrodrigo@vicad.com
Nov. 30, 2011 at 5:30 a.m.

Buc-ee's has a long display case stocked with jerky, dried sausage and other savory delicacies ranging from beef, turkey and deer. They also have pastries and drinks to quench the thirst of the whiniest passenger in the car.

Which road stop reigns supreme?

ADDRESS: 29714 US 59 HWY, El Campo

TELEPHONE: 979-543-8312, or 1-800-20-SMOKE (207-6653)

WEBSITE: praseks.com

ADDRESS: 10484 US 59, Wharton

TELEPHONE: 979-282-8144

WEBSITE: bucees.com

Right about this time, flashback a couple of decades and you might find a '90 Ford Taurus on the road toting my family to California for Thanksgiving or Christmas.

One of my favorite parts of the trip were the breaks at the rest stops or truck stops along the way. There was the stretching of the legs, the running to the restrooms and then the agonizing stall of piling back into the car. Since I am the youngest of three, I always had to sit in the middle, which to those of you that share the experience wasn't always the best seat in the house. Though, now that I think about it, I had two headrests if I ever got tired, I always had the air conditioning pointed directly at me and I usually got first dibs on any snacks that made their way back through the space between the two front seats. I guess I should retract that statement about not liking the middle seat then, yeah?

Return to the present, and I still find the tradition of stopping at local rest stops or truck stops on the top of my list of likes for long drives. The same apparently holds true for my boyfriend who, on a late trip back from Austin a few months ago, was an eager beaver to make his rounds at Buc-ee's - beaver reference completely intended.

Even more recently, however, we had the pleasure of stopping at Prasek's Hillje Smokehouse, which is just before the Buc-ee's in Wharton.

So, it posed a question: which of the two is better? Buc-ee's is a food institution here in Texas and has a following from many who follow the yellow-dashed lines to destinations near and far. Prasek's, on the other hand, is more a local food institution than the former; they bask in a following known well by the people who live in the Crossroads as you can see the many labels of Prasek's sausages and other products throughout stores and shops. So, what's the defining factor for those who stop at Prasek's versus Buc-ee's or vice versa? Are there die-hard fans for either or? What are the deal-breakers? I'm on the fence.

Both have an immense selection of housemade jerky, from the deer variety to the year-round offering of turkey jerky.

The pastries at both places are well worth noting.

Prasek's is home to B-Jo's Czech Bakery, which has a large section of baked goods including pies, loaves of bread, cakes, kolaches, pigs in a blanket and breakfast biscuits. They also have a variety of cookies and regular-sized and miniature tarts, which were our weakness. The idea is that they are so small, you can't just buy one, you have to buy... like 72 ... maybe.

Buc-ee's has its own line of traditional kolaches, in the fruit, cream cheese and savory varietal. They have sweet treats, too, including muffins, cakes, pies and other delectables. They'll even warm them up for in the microwave before you hit the road.

Neither Prasek's nor Buc-ee's skimp on the drink options. Buc-ee's has a long wall of fountain and hot drinks with a plethora of additions like flavored creams and flavor shots for a little something extra in your cola. Prasek's has a long wall of coolers chilling your favorite bottled drinks, and a back wall dedicated to those who enjoy their big sip cups or Prasek's currant tea.

For the souvenir buyer, Buc-ee's may have the upper-hand. They have a gift area that blows Prasek's out of the water. They have a whole area dedicated to housewares and clothing and other gifts that show off Buc-ee's two buck teeth, while Prasek's sells a small amount of Texas memorabilia including UT and A&M gear.

Also, both have their own version of cafeteria-style eats. At Prasek's, you can order at the window, and it comes out piled on a tray, which you can take to the seating area in the center of the building. Buc-ee's has the cool, order-yourself-kiosks where you can peruse all the options on a screen, but all your eats have to be taken to go.

Take your pick, or stop at both. But beware, stopping at both can delay your trip a little longer than you may expect. It's easy to lose track of time when your sampling all the jerky and cheeses, or trying on all the beaver paraphernalia. They're both worth hitting on the way to Houston. Hit Prasek's on the way there and Buc-ee's on the way back. Or hit Buc-ee's on the way there and Parsek's on the way back, or... You get the idea.

Happy trails.

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