A scenic drive from Austin will bring you into Texas green, rolling hills, where fields of bluebonnet flowers line the highways of this Texas Hill Country landscape. Scrumptious eateries and down-to-earth folks await, with each one having their own story to tell.
My first stop was the town of Kyle, located on the corner of, believe it or not, Front and Center Streets. This small town evokes a feeling of the 1950s, and the moment you walk into the Texas Pie Company, you get the feeling of stepping back in time to grandma’s kitchen.
Owner Julie Albertson enthusiastically shared about learning the sweet art of pie-making with her grandmother’s dough recipe and guidance. All pies, from berries to cream, are made from scratch, and Albertson’s pecan pie is certainly the best I have ever had. No wonder Kyle is known as “The Pie Capital of Texas.”
An overnight stay at the charming Sage Hill Inn & Spa is a must. Many weddings are held on the 88 acres that feature sweeping views of the Hill Country. To keep you “busily” relaxing, an outdoor pool, hot tub, hiking and biking trails, and the new Garden Spa facility are available. The inn’s mascot is Kevin, an exotic peacock who struts around the grounds like he owns the place.
Crepes Crazy in Dripping Springs offers hearty portions for breakfast and lunch. The crepe recipe comes from the family’s grandmother who emigrated from Russia, and it seems that grandmothers have a big influence on the food in this area of Texas.
What started as a food truck serving sweet and savory crepes quickly grew into a brick and mortar building, and a second location recently opened in Austin. Besides the crepes being delicious and filling, there is a uniqueness to this eatery; all of the staff are deaf. The menu is printed on the wall with a painted sign reading, “Point and you shall receive.”
Michelle, the owner’s daughter, communicated with me via her laptop. With a broad smile, she turned her computer around so I could read it. She wanted me to know that deaf people can do anything that everyone else can, except hear. Producing the scrumptious crepes is a testament to that.
In Luling, the City Market cooks up some of the area’s best barbecue. The location is unpretentious, and after 30-plus years using the original family recipes, the market has commanded a fiercely loyal following.
The dining rooms are filled with picnic tables. No fancy flatware or plates here, just butcher paper placemats. Customers pick up their orders at the barbecue pit and bring the brisket, sausage, and ribs back to the table for everyone to help themselves.
James Nickells, the director and secretary of Texas' Luling Watermelon Thump Association (named for the sound of a ripe watermelon), regaled us at lunch with stories about the Watermelon Spitting Contest, an annual festival held each June. He shared with us the rules, methods, and techniques that people use to win this quirky competition with the current record being a whopping 68 plus feet.
A rare dining experience can be found at Restaurant Jezebel, located in a private room inside Lockhart Bistro. Chef Parind Vora grew up in India and has traveled the world cooking for high-end restaurants. Using his experience and instincts, he creates meals that are strong in flavor and visual appeal. One of these, for example, is his version of chocolate-encrusted salmon.
The intimate fine dining experience at Restaurant Jezebel starts with an interview to determine a diner’s food preferences. Vora then disappears into the kitchen where he puts his experience and skills to work creating unique entrees for each guest. The five-course menu can be paired with the restaurant's fine wines.
Vora is passionate about his style of “courtier dining” and loves sharing his love of food with his guests. The three-hour dinner, given only on weekend evenings, is served in a cozy, intimate space with just three tables. Reservations are a must.
Down here in this part of Texas, people believe in Southern hospitality. Many have been influenced by the culinary skills of their parents and have created their own brand of food that locals love. All in all, it adds up to one mighty fine trip through some of the best food in Texas.
All of the accommodations, meals, and transportation for this review were provided at no cost.