Take the Scenic route with The Weekly Dish

Blackened Tilapia Photo by Brandi Haskett

Whether you head down Flint Road off of South Major or take Highway 365, be sure to follow the quiet Labelle Road to great food and wonderful atmosphere. Pine Tree Lodge is a fun, family-friendly place to enjoy from-scratch entrees while relaxing on the water. The restaurant has been many different establishments, from a lodging office to a biker bar. In 1984, the Miller family bought the eatery and continues to build up this entertainment-oriented business where people of all ages can come and enjoy some of the best seafood, steaks and burgers in Southeast Texas.

Located on the banks of Taylor Bayou, Pine Tree offers more than just great food. During the fall and summer months, you can find live music every Sunday afternoon on the patio with its waterfront view. The restaurant even offers a boat launch for all types of boating, fishing and personal watercraft. It’s not just about the food; it’s a whole experience.

No longer the ‘best kept secret’

For a long time, the Pine Tree Lodge has been locals’ best kept secret. But not anymore. People from all over come to sample the Miller’s famous “Big Cat” and homemade hushpuppies. (We will get to those later.)

“We've had people go out of their way just to eat here before heading toward Louisiana or Houston,” said owner Mike Miller. “Word of mouth has really given this place the great reputation it has.”

Pine Tree has become so popular, in fact, that two new additions had to be built to meet the demand. A new enclosed waiting area and a covered dance floor/bar extension were added to keep customers happy.

The brand new stage looks over a full-sized dance floor that is filled with boot scooters and two-steppers every evening on the weekend. The outside patio is big enough for larger parties, and there are even tables for two beside the banister overlooking Taylor Bayou for a more intimate setting.

Sandy Miller, restaurant manager and wife to Mike, says keeping with Pine Tree tradition and changing with the times is a challenge they are overcoming. They want customers to be sure they can still come as they are, and enjoy the rustic atmosphere.

“Our regulars like to joke that we are getting ‘fancy’ now that we have a hostess and pagers,” she said. “It’s hard to tell the person who has been sitting at the same seat every Sunday for years that they will have to sit somewhere else, or they will have to wait.”

The Miller’s love their customers and their staff like family, and try to accommodate where possible. If keeping enough seats open is the biggest problem the lodge is facing, some might say that’s the best kind to have.

Now, on to the hushpuppies!

What we ate

From the traditional whole cat, aka “Big Cat,” to the new shrimp and grits, Pine Tree Lodge allows the customer to have the taste of the bayou right at their fingertips.

Blackened Tilapia– A grilled tilapia filet stuffed with crab meat in alfredo sauce lies on top of a rice pilaf medley. The meal came with a bowl of steamed veggies and two of the most delicious hushpuppies you will ever taste, and we know hushpuppies — we are experts! The crab meat and cheesy alfredo sauce makes for a tasty combination, and the steamed veggies are so fresh and crisp.

Steak and Shrimp – Mouthwatering certified Angus beef, chargrilled to perfection, paired with four jumbo, succulent fried shrimp, a loaded baked potato, and fluffy roll. The steak was very juicy and tender. The beef takes a dip into special marinade before being grilled, which keeps it from being overly seasoned. The crunchy shrimp are hand-battered and fried, and the baked potato takes this plate over the top.

Navigating out to Pine Tree Lodge can be tough on the unfamiliar, so just remember the first time out is the hardest; we guarantee you will be back.

We want to know where you like to go! E-mail ideas for next week’s adventure to Weeklydish [at] theexaminer [dot] com.