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GC: Hanging Tree offers homestyle cooking

By Jessica Rodrigo
Jan. 26, 2012 at 10:01 a.m.
Updated Jan. 25, 2012 at 7:26 p.m.

When presented with an opportunity to open a restaurant that would offer food fit for anyone's palate, Allen Najvar seized it.

In 2007, Najvar, a veteran of the construction business, was in the midst of working on some projects around the Courthouse Square in Goliad when he noticed a vacant place available for business. That's when he decided he would open a restaurant.

"I never found a place in town that I really enjoyed eating at," he said. "I figure Goliad needed a nice place that had the food I like."

The Goliad native took over the building and completely renovated it. He took up the floors and put in new plumbing for the new restaurant. The original building housed Ramsey's Hardware Store, which operated in the '70s, and later, Bill's Discount Dollar store for a few years before being vacant again.

Looking for something reminiscent of Goliad, Najvar generated a list of names and things that had to do with the area. "I scratched them all off, one by one, and then the hanging tree was left," he said. "And right across the street is the Hanging Tree."

Standing tall in the Courthouse Square is a live oak tree used for hangings between 1846 and 1870, according to the Goliad Chamber of Commerce website.

CHILDHOOD MEALS

When Najvar was an 8-year-old boy, his mother gave him a choice that paved the road to his present-day career. "She said one of us would have to cook, and one of us has to change and wash the diapers," he recalled. "I would rather do the cooking."

The Hanging Tree's menu offers a lot of what Najvar calls homestyle cooking and includes chicken and dumplings, meatloaf and breads.

He admitted his favorites on the menu are the ribeye, cooked medium with a warm center, and the Mahi Mahi. Chef Charlie Lara, of Victoria, said that the restaurant boasts hand-cut and cut-to-order meat. "We have had customers come in and ask for larger portions, too," the 47-year-old said.

Lara and Najvar share the responsibility of building the menu and also for setting up daily specials. "We offer what we feel like for the weather and what's in the season," Najvar said.

Armed with 33 years of experience cooking for various celebrities and events, Lara said that Najvar will always make the chicken and dumplings. "I know how to make it, but it just isn't exactly the same," Lara said. "It's his recipe from way back."

ANIMALS & AMBIENCE

He remembers opening day as the busiest day they have ever had.

Najvar opened the restaurant in November of 2007, during Christmas in Goliad. "We were instantly packed," he said. "I was sweeping up sawdust and rolling up extension cords, and people came in right after me."

Even though he is an avid hunter and fisherman, he said he never planned on putting any trophy animals on the walls. "I was going to put up artwork," he said. "But someone I knew told me he had some caribou that he didn't have room to hang up." Once he hung the museum animal on the wall, there was no use fighting the offers for more animals. It was meant to be.

Step into the Hanging Tree Restaurant in Goliad and see the animals for yourself. They give a homey atmosphere while you enjoy homestyle cooking in historic Goliad.

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