His forehead tightened, causing furrows in his face and a gruesome grimace. His patience was wearing thin. He wanted his trek to end.
He saw all kinds of things along the paralyzing path … traps leading to dissatisfaction. Micro waved-pre-prepared sandwiches, sweets coated with preservatives and wasted time for sustenance – and the way was long and seemed forever to that particular paradise he knew was somewhere ahead.
He kept seeing the familiar, floating facade, but the image was only his mind causing a mirage.
A growling, churning and growing ache within him urged him to stop and succumb short of his destination. But he knew they would be waiting to serve his family with friendly smiles, so he persevered the last remaining miles.
Then the nightmare ended. Blink!
He arrived at the “Oasis in a Junk Food Desert”: Crofutt’s Sandwich Shop & Bakery.
“My wife likes Crofutt’s slogan, and what it says is true,” said Quatro Groos of Austin.
“Our family comes here all the times we travel to Port Aransas – three or four times a year,” Quatro said. “We fish and play on the beach.”
Quatro said there are many ways to get to Port Aransas from Austin, but he always takes Farm-to-Market Road 136 so he and his family can stop at Crofutt’s.
“Everything is really fresh,” he said. “And they take good care of us.”
Hands down, without reservation, he said the ham and Swiss cheese melted on fresh bread and with fresh veggies is his favorite.
His son, Carsten, 11, agreed and said that particular sandwich was his favorite, too.
“Even the lettuce is fresh,” Carsten said.
“The grilled cheese is the best grilled cheese I ever had in a restaurant,” said Alicia, Quatro’s wife.
Their two daughters, Maisy, 6, and Gwyneth, 9, also love the sandwiches.
“We get bread and take it back to Austin for my sister-in-law and brother. They are both chefs,” Quatro said.
“They say it’s fantastic,” he added.
The Groos family happened to be at Crofutt’s upon the sandwich shop’s 35th anniversary, marked in late July.
But the sandwich shop has had its hurdles through the years.
That first Crofutt’s was on the south end of Bayside where the Bridge View RV Park is today.
The building was moved there and business began in 1978.
The owners then were Larry Crofutt and his sister Sally Crofutt. Both had worked at Schlotzsky’s in Austin and liked the idea of having their own sandwich shop and bakery.
Asked once how he got to Bayside, Larry said “I drove here.”
His sense of humor and outgoing personality, as well as his sister’s, were winning factors in the sandwich shop’s success. Of course the food had a lot to do with it, too.
Lorraine Short, current owner of Crofutt’s, said sandwiches made from “scratch” is a little more homestyle than the typical urban fare.
The sandwich shop makes its own bread from Crofutt’s recipes.
“And we have Aunt Della’s recipe for ranger cookies. We have my pumpkin pie and cranberry bread recipes,” Lorraine said.
“In other words, we are drawing on the things that were part of our lifetime that we remember as treats, and we’ve incorporated that into our menu,” she said.
Lorraine was the first hired hand back in November 1978, “so Larry could have his birthday off,” she said.
Both Larry and Lorraine own the shop, but Larry had a stroke in mid 2005.
“I’ve been running the shop since then,” Lorraine said.
Sally Crofutt had sold her part of the business to Lorraine in 2000. Sally never returned to work at the shop.
“I purchased her shares and that made me the majority shareholder, but Larry retained his ownership. Larry comes to the shop sometimes,” she said.
Lorraine recalls in March 1985 when the business moved to the highway on a piece of property she owned along Farm-to-Market Road 136 near the north end of the town.
“I drove the lead truck when we moved from the original location,” she said.
A new shop was constructed from the ground up and placed on round beams.
“Everybody was part of the planning,” Lorraine said.
Dan McArthur was the contractor and Chuck Vilter was the engineer. David Brown, a local carpenter, made the tables and benches.
“Six months after we opened here, we were really really busy, and then we had the oil bust,” she said.
“We hung in there. Larry and I ran the business during those years,” she said.
In 1994, Lorraine, who is a psychologist, took a job with the magazine Hearing Help based in Ingleside.
“I was with it for 10 years, and at that point a national organization purchased it,” Lorraine said.
So in 2004, both Larry and Lorraine were back at running Crofutt’s.
“We’re doing very well. We can always do better, but we’re busy. A lot of the equipment is getting older.
She remembers when the shop upgraded to convection ovens from a second-hand pizza oven.
And other highlights included getting a two-door stainless steel refrigerator and, just last month, a stainless steel cooler.
Next planned is to replace the vinyl flooring.
In the meantime, friendly Crofutt’s staffers greet Bayside residents, oil and gas people, including pipeline and gas plant workers, fishermen, outdoors people, birders, farmers, families who make it an official stop and many more from all walks of life.
And friendly prices for ample servings always seem to bring smiles to customers. Go to UrbanSpoon.com and search for Crofutt’s to see its menu and prices.
After Crofutt’s opened in 1978, Texas Monthly had the sandwich shop listed among its restaurants to visit for six months running.
And National Geographic blogger Andrew Evans created a list in his April 15 Digital Nomad blog about places in Texas. Among the various places to eat, he listed Crofutt’s as having the Best Sandwich in Texas.
Of course, you can find reviews online about Crofutt’s – 99.9 percent of them praise the shop.
“We have lots and lots of fun times. Every time I leave, I say to my staff, ‘Thank you. Have fun.’ Emphasis on fun,” she said.
The future: “I can’t close the doors. I have an obligation to our customers,” Lorraine said.
“I’d love to retire, but I’ll probably peacefully pass away with my apron on.”