Texas Hill Country foods and drinks off the beaten path

21 June 2016 / By travel4foodfun@gmail.com

During our recent work trip to San Antonio, we decided to revisit one of our favorite destinations in Central Texas: Texas Hill Country. The last time we visited was during the summer of 2013. At that time, we were impressed with the budding wine country. However, in 3 short years, the area has developed immensely. Wineries are no longer the only game in town. We are delighted to discover great restaurants, fantastic breweries, and a handful of distilleries and hope other people explore this easy daytrip from either Austin or San Antonio.

We sandwiched our workweek trip on both ends in Texas Hill Country. It’s a good thing we did because there is so much to see and do in this lovely area. Rather than revisit the same places, we to checked out some new ones.

Treaty Oak Distillary

Treaty Oak Distillary

Treaty Oak Distillery

Located in Dripping Springs, distillery sits on a large field. Just like most everything in Texas, this tasting room/cocktail bar/restaurant/children’s play area is massive. Spread out over several acres and housed in numerous structures, we can tell that the proprietors want their customers (and kids and dogs) to settle in for the day. The distillery produces all of the main spirits, but I enjoyed the spicy yet smooth whiskey. The aged rum and vodka were also tasty. My least favorite was the extremely floral gin. The tasting was $7, however, I recommend sipping on a cocktail made from their spirits. It’s a better value, ranging from $5-$7. Doing this, we lounged with a beverage under a large oak tree and enjoyed the people watching.

Bell Springs Winery - Sidecar Tasting Room

Bell Springs Winery – Sidecar Tasting Room

Sidecar Tasting Room

Our favorite winery in Texas Hill Country is Bell Springs. In April 2015, the same owners opened this location in Dripping Springs. Sidecar has a romantic-rustic-chic farmhouse feel, perfect for it’s central Texas location. Tom and I stopped in for a tasting on a rainy Sunday afternoon. Perhaps the damp conditions prevented others from venturing out as Tom and I were the only customers during the hour we were there. Because of this, we felt like rock stars. We enjoyed a free private concert as live music is featured at Sidecar and Chrissie, our server, gave us her full attention. We enjoy full-bodied reds and the 2014 Tempranillo fit the bill. If you want a cool wine tasting experience that is not on the farm, this place is perfect.

Twisted X Brewery

Twisted X Brewery

Twisted X Brewing Company

This Brewery is just down the road from Sidecar in Dripping Springs. Opened in late 2013, the brewery offers small batch Tex-Mex beer. The tasting room is located in a building resembling a barn that fits in perfectly with its’ farm surroundings. Tom tried a michelada with Fuego (6.3% abv), a jalapeno pilsner. He thought it had the perfect balance of spice, lime, and body. I had a taster of Dio’s Tears (12% abv), an Imperal Stout aged in red wine barrels. I was impressed that a brewery in Texas offered barrel aged beer.

Venturing further west, we landed in Fredericksburg. For miles on end along Texas Highway 290, there is winery after winery. The number of vineyards and tasting rooms is dizzying. The huge concentration of new construction wineries reminds us a lot of Temecula Wine Country located in our San Diego County backyard.

Rancho Ponte

Located in the Fredricksburg wine corridor, this operation is the second winery for the owners who also run Ponte Winery in Temecula, CA. We find this humorous because of the similarities Tom and I feel exist between Fredricksburg and Temecula. Rancho Ponte specializes in reds and we really wanted to like it. However, we feel the vines need a few more years to mature. And the $15 tasting fee for tiny pours made me wish we stopped elsewhere.

Cranky Frank's BBQ

Cranky Franks’

Cranky Frank’s BBQ

Our tour of Texas Hill Country also included our fair share of eating. Our favorite stop for refueling was in Fredericksburg. We recommend getting there early to ensure you don’t miss out on delicious ‘cue. The place literally sold out three customers behind us.  Luckily we got a delicious hunk of marbled (aka fatty) brisket, a large smoky sausage, and juicy pork ribs. We opted for a plate of side dishes, which gave us all you can eat access to the sides buffet for $5.29. The highlight was the potato salad and the hot peppers. I’m a fan of peppers and these hot delights are the best I’ve had… which says a lot!

Our final stop over the two weekends was New Braunfels, a charming town located halfway between San Antonio and San Marcos. The city has a days gone by hometown feel that blends German heritage with Texas lifestyle. It is the place where you envision raising your kids and eventually retiring.

Guadalupe Brewery

The brewery owners man the tasting room in New Braunfels. The gracious hosts provided samples of a wide variety of stouts, ales, and IPAs. My favorite was the Pecan Cocoa Stout on nitro with 8.2% abv (Tom, being the perfect gentleman, offered to be the designated driver). For kombucha fans, the brewery has 5 juns (green tea based) on tap. It was my first introduction to jun and I am now a fan of this beverage. Curious about the explosion of breweries and distilleries, we learned from the owner that Texas liquor laws loosened up recently, allowing for tasting rooms but sadly, a stricter license is required to sell beer to take home. So no growler fills for a while, but hold on for more breweries and distilleries to open in the near future!

Texas Hill Country delighted us 3 years ago as a fun day trip from Austin. Now, we see it as a destination on its’ own. From family and pet friendly distilleries and wineries to new and exciting breweries and restaurants, you will surely find the perfect place to escape from the hubbub of city life.

Ready for the “off-the-beaten-path” food discovery? Contact us and we can help!

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