Texas as a Hobbit: A 260-Mile Gastronomic Trek Through the Hill Country

Our SXSurvival site is dedicated to providing every SXSW attendee with the best possible time in our beloved city. These SXSurvival posts share some more insider tips. Here are recommendations for a day trip  just in case you want to get away from it all by Eduard Matamoros.

First Breakfast | Casa Maria

Begin your grand adventure with a hearty first breakfast at Casa Maria, a restaurant and panaderia that opens at 6am nearly every day ready to fill the bellies of working-class Austinites with staples like machacado, barbacoa, and tacos de lengua. You won’t find any Elvish lembas here, but make sure to fill your knapsack with freshly baked pan dulce from the adjoining panaderia. Marranitos, pan de huevo, and empanadas travel well and don’t require a cooler.

Second Breakfast | The Leaning Pear

Heading out of Austin in a westerly direction will soon place you in the bucolic town of Wimberley. Like many Hill Country towns of its size, Wimberley boasts a quaint downtown plaza perfect for window shoppers and diners alike. But a few steps from the downtown square and just across the bridge over Cypress Creek lies The Leaning Pear, one of the oldest structures in the Wimberley Valley. Opened by a C.I.A. graduate and his wife, The Leaning Pear is a delightful café that prides itself on seasonal and local fare. Plan on eating a little earlier than normal as their daily specials quickly run out. Wimberley is also the home of Rough Creek Ranch and Lavender Fields, one of the highlights of the Blanco County Lavender Festival. Although you will not find lavender blooming until May, the views from the grounds of the oldest and largest lavender farm in the Wimberley Valley are worth the stop.

Elevenses | Redbud Café

The next stop along your ring through the Texas Hill Country is Blanco, home to the Real Ale Brewing Company. Yes, you’ll find many of their offerings throughout downtown Austin, but this is your opportunity to sample their ales right from the source. The tasting room is open on Fridays from 2:00 to 5:00 pm with tours beginning at 3:00 and 4:00. The brewery is minutes from the Blanco town square and your destination for elevenses, the Redbud Café. En route to the café you will likely round the Old Blanco County Courthouse, an iconic Texas landmark featured in the Coen Brothers’ remake of True Grit. Redbud Café offers a number of hot and cold sandwiches, but remember, proper pacing is key to completing a feast worthy of a Hobbit. Opt for the Moss Cliff, a fresh, simple sandwich of avocado, tomato, mushrooms, cheese, and sprouts served on multigrain bread.

Lunch | August E’s

Approximately 45 miles northwest of Blanco sits Fredericksburg, a well-traveled Hill Country town dotted with B&Bs and best known for its Germanic flair. One could spend an entire weekend in Fredericksburg, so it’s best to stay focused. Park on one end of Main Street, and walk to the other and along the way you’ll find the National Museum of the Pacific War amongst numerous storefronts, chocolatiers, cafés, and pubs. You’ll also find people strolling about downtown with glasses of wine and beer as Fredericksburg allows open containers in its Main Street shopping district. After much exploration you’ll soon need to recharge, and for regionally sourced axis, boar, elk, antelope and the like, have a seat for lunch at August E’s. Executive Chef Leu Savanh crafts “Nouveau Texas Cuisine,” blending his Thai heritage with the area’s best offerings of meat and produce. There are few places better than August E’s for a proper lunch, assuming your adventure falls on a Wednesday, Thursday, Friday or Saturday. Like many small Texas towns, not all restaurants are open every day for every meal—make sure to know before you go.

Afternoon Tea | Madhatters Tea House and Café

Like Fredericksburg, one could spend an entire day if not a long weekend in San Antonio. Time may be limited on your day-long escapade, so be sure to evade the tourist traps of the River Walk and walk in a southerly direction past Hemisfair Park to the King William District. Recently rebranded as “Southtown,” this newly revitalized, or perhaps newly gentrified, area boasts an eclectic mix of shops, historical homes, museums, and eateries. Selections for afternoon tea at Madhatters are plentiful; choose from almost 30 varieties of hot tea to pair with breakfast and lunch fare. If you’re in need of a carbohydrate-based recommendation, the cardamom and cinnamon tea-infused oatmeal tastes and smells as wonderful as it sounds.

Dinner | The Root Cellar

Departing from San Antonio places you on IH-35, a perilous experience in its own right. However, your quest is far from complete. Situated between San Antonio and Austin is San Marcos, home of Aquarena Springs, glass-bottomed boat cruising, and outlet mall power-shopping. Spend the afternoon on the headwaters of the San Marcos river or browsing last season’s gear from Tahari, Prada, Gucci, and Ferragamo then regroup at the Root Cellar, a café and brewery located just outside of Texas State University’s campus. Tread softly through the menu—remember, a proper Hobbit still has one remaining meal. Opt for a bowl of edamame and perhaps a starter or two.

Supper | Korea House

At long last the end of your journey nears, and you’re back in the familiar confines of downtown Austin. Your last meal, the final gastronomic achievement of the day is found north of downtown at Korea House. The restaurant has no website—with the best Korean food in town, why would they need one? Even if you don’t have room, stuff yourself with traditional Korean offerings as well as some of the best sushi in town. Choice menu items include godeungeo gui, a generous cut of grilled mackerel, and yukgaejang, a large bowl of spicy soup made of beef, vegetables, and noodles. From the outside, the strip mall that houses Korea House is unremarkable; however, it offers artfully designed interior garden areas perfect for a post-supper stroll and contemplative reflection on the day’s grand adventure.

See all locations mentioned – check out my foursquare list.

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