Lea’s: a Surprising Feast at a Humble Highway Stop
On the other side of a pot-holed gravel lot where semis park and sleep amid a smattering of cars for sale and where teens occasionally make late-night “doughnut” tracks, a plain gray restaurant is easily overlooked — its exterior matching the gravel lot and — depending on the day — the gray sky.
But judging Lea’s Restaurant in north Leonard (between Sherman and Greenville) based on its humble exterior is a mistake. Far from a greasy-spoon diner in a truck stop setting, Lea’s is home to some mighty good food.
Or, as owner Lea Ann Fisher puts it: “good southern cooking.”
Starting in the eatery business at age 14 and owning her own restaurant by the time she was 19, Fisher learned to cook from her grandmother and great aunt. Several decades later, she still feeds her loyal base of regular customers one to two meals daily, seven days a week.
Fisher’s first restaurant was Pizza ‘N’ Such, but she says she wanted to appeal to more customers and eventually changed the name and added burgers, then chicken-fried steak and catfish.
Thirty years later, Lea’s still features these southern staples plus pizza, and the menu includes sides and appetizers like fluffy mashed potatoes with gravy and black-eyed peas as well as fried favorites like okra, pickles, jalapenos, potatoes, mozzarella sticks, onion rings and green tomatoes.
A full all-you-can-eat buffet, costing $8, generates plenty of interest, including items like chopped sirloin, ham, and chicken-fried steak. Sides range from a green bean casserole and collard greens to rice and beans and mac and cheese. The buffet changes daily — another aspect that keeps the “regulars” coming back.
Lea’s sweet iced tea has a strong fan base too. It and other items earn 4.4 of 5 stars on the restaurant’s Facebook page.
Qualifying as a best-kept secret at Lea’s are the fried pies, both fruit and chocolate. They’re not on the menu but are obvious favorites with the regulars.
“In Texas, it’s what diners do,” says Fisher.
Lea’s serves lunch daily and dinner Tuesday through Saturday. The buffet is served daily, excluding Sunday and Monday lunches. And off to the side of the main dining area, Lea’s offers a cozy yet cool sports bar where libations are served with or without food orders. The restaurant is located at the intersection of State Highway 78 and U.S. 69. For online information, visit Lea’s Facebook page.