Texas small towns can be overlooked as cuisine destinations, but hidden gems are scattered across the state! Here are six top-notch, destination-worthy restaurants along some of Texas’ most unassuming backroads.
Kreuz Market in Lockhart, Texas
Lockhart is known for its barbecue. It is so good in fact that the Texas State Legislature deemed it the official Barbecue Capital of Texas. While there is an ongoing debate about which barbecue restaurant is the best, Kreuz Market comes out as the winner in several Best BBQ in Texas lists. Its famous flame-scarred brick barbecue pits have been smoking meats for more than a century. Kreuz smokes meats slowly like they did in 19th century German meat markets. As the sign on the wall indicates, forks and barbecue sauce are not available. The pit master serves the meat of your choice on a sheet of brown butcher paper and visitors eat with white bread as their only tableware.
Settles Grill in Big Springs
The elegant 15-story Settles Hotel rises up from the flat West Texas oil fields near Big Springs. On the ground floor of the historic hotel, the Settles Grill serves Texas comfort food with the Southern elegance of a time gone by. Start with fried pickles topped with green Tabasco butter and blue cheese, followed by entrees such as crab stuffed grilled trout on top of tomato thyme rice and baby kale, duck confit with balsamic fig compote and charbroiled beef tenderloin with Oak Barrel Bourbon Steak Sauce and Tobacco onions.
Rancho Pizzeria: Coleman
If you are looking for pizza anywhere near Abilene, you should visit Rancho Pizzeria. This gem of a restaurant is in a tiny farming community called Coleman. The desolate downtown buildings are not typical of a foodie destination, but Rancho Pizzeria is the real deal. The hotelier couple that founded famed Rancho Loma, a boutique hotel in nearby Talpa, opened the pizzeria to rave reviews. Texas Monthly called Rancho Pizzeria one of the best new restaurants in Texas. The wood-fired pies are baked to perfection in a brick oven. Come taste pizza like the fungi with roasted shiitake, béchamel, fontina, and roasted garlic with white truffle oils or arugula with béchamel, truffle oil, mozzarella, wild arugula and prosciutto.
Otto’s Bistro in Fredericksburg
Even though it is small, Fredericksburg is no stranger to good food. Thanks to its booming wine and tourism industry, the town of 11,000 people has one of the best culinary scenes in the state. The German Otto’s Bistro is no exception. Located a block away from the hustle-and-bustle of Main Street, the quaint bistro serves seasonal farm-to-table meals sure to delight both cowboys and urbanites alike. Staying true to the German roots so deeply ground in Fredericksburg, Otto’s serves traditional favorites with ingredients that have been “grown, raised or pickled” in-house or nearby. The hand-breaded duck breast in the Duck Schnitzel comes with spaetzle, apple mustard Lyonnaise sauce and duck cracklins while the Wurst Plate includes house-made sausage, kartoffelnsalat, sauerkraut, senfgurken and mustard.
12 Gage Restaurant in Marathon
The blink-and-you-miss-it town of Marathon, on the northern edge of Big Bend National Park, does not have many dining options. The town of 400 people has one of the best restaurants in a 200 miles radius. The 12 Gage Restaurant is part of the historic Gage Hotel. The cowhide, leather chairs and warm fireplace give the restaurant a cowboy chic feel. Using locally sourced wild game, beef and fowl alongside vegetables grown in the restaurant’s garden, the menu provides Texas-inspired specialties with a gourmet twist. The Shiner Bock mac and cheese with white cheddar cheese and Cavatappi pasta is a crowd favorite. Other popular entrees include blackened scallops with black-eyed pea fritters, elk and buffalo meatloaf and the beef tenderloin filet. For non-meat-eaters, try the vegan pozole.
Photo By: Jason Risner Photography