Because Austin is smack in the middle of Texas, there are many destinations nearby for day trips or overnight visits. There’s something for you within a 1-2 hour drive, whether an outdoor adventure or a relaxing evening sipping wine at a bed and breakfast.
In this Texas Hill Country edition of the Austin Food Bloggers 2012 City Guide, we’re going to explore hidden gems to the West of Austin in the Texas Hill Country.
View Texas Hill Country Hidden Gems near Austin, Texas in a full size Google map
Whether you are out in the Texas Hill Country to visit Hamilton Pool or Enchanted Rock or going to the Hill Country just for the food, make sure you stop by these great establishments in various cities near Austin:
Dripping Springs – Only 30 minutes away from Austin
- Creek Road Cafe – Excellent American food close to Austin in a cozy environment at an affordable price. The last time I was dining here, someone at the neighboring table exclaimed, “this is the best soup I’ve ever had.” At the same time, I was eating perhaps the best chicken salad sandwich that I’ve ever had. The Crab cake salad (which seems to be a popular dish in the Hill Country) is also excellent. (pictures from our trip there)
- Duchman Winery - a beautiful Tuscan style Vineyard with award winning wines and an Italian restaurant on premise run by the Mandola family. The Duchman Winery is was founded in 2004 and the huge, beautiful building it’s housed in still looks brand new. Duchman is equally well suited as a place to stop by for a wine tasting and a cheese plate or host a wedding in their events center. (pictures from our trip there)
Fredericksburg – Bed and Breakfast and Winery Destination 1.5 hours from Austin
- Clear River Pecan Company – A red, retro 50’s diner in a somewhat hard to find spot in Main St. Fredericksburg with excellent homemade ice cream. All of the flavors are good, but the real standout flavor to me is the seasonal Lavender Ice Cream, which was made using the local Hill Country lavender. Other good flavors include Amaretto, Peach & Pecan and Dutch Chocolate. Clear River also serves decent sandwiches like muffalettas and rubens too, which makes this spot good for a quick lunch on a budget.
- Sunset Grill – Although this hidden gem is attached to a somewhat uncharming, older motel, you shouldn’t judge this book by it’s cover. Once you get past the exterior of the Sunset Grill you are greeted by a friendly staff, modern decor, posters that have a beach theme, and fresh local food with a refinement that you wouldn’t expect in a small town cafe. This is an excellent brunch spot for eggs Benedict, crab cakes, and surprisingly good calamari with chipotle aioli. (pictures from our trip there)
- Alamo Springs Cafe – This way off the beaten path hole in the wall has the honor of having the #3 best burger in all of Texas per Texas Monthly Magazine. The food lives up to the hype but this is not a place to go if you are on a diet – its for fans of Man v. Food (they even have a 6 burger in 30 minute challenge). Alamo Springs Cafe is known for decadent half pound burgers drowning in butter, gigantic deep fried onion rings, and an avocado wrapped in beef and cheese then deep fried. Oddly enough though you can order fancy imported beers and a roasted garlic appetizer with goat brie here too. One small quirk – I definitely recommend this place for lunch because – there are almost no street lights within 15 minutes of this place and cellphone data coverage is very spotty. I don’t think I would have found this place if not for OnStar turn by turn navigation, which connects via satellite and not the cellphone system. (pictures from our trip there)
- Fredericksburg Bewery – Excellent award winning beer brewed in the restaurant along with decent bar food. Most people come for mostly for the beer but the sausages, scotch eggs, and pecan pie are alright. Sometimes there is a wait to get in – if there is you can pass the time by taking a stroll around charming downtown Fredericksburg. My favorite brew here is the Enchanted Rock Red Ale.
- Becker Vineyards – One of the biggest and most respected wineries in the Hill Country. This place has a huge tasting room, a very extensive wine list, and a long bar served by very helpful bartenders. If you are only going to check out one winery in the Hill Country, this is the one to go to. If you do the tasting, seek out the nice French man named Henri with the cool mustache (and sometimes grapes on his head), as he’s extremely knowledgeable and heavy on the pours. Becker also sells sausage and cheeses in addition to wine so you can take a bottle out on the porch and enjoy a glass after you finish your tasting.
Sisterdale – 1.5 hours from Austin
- Sister Creek Vineyards – An out of the way winery about 25 miles from Fredericksburg with award winning wine, a self guided tour, cheap tastings, and very tasty muscat. The winery is located in a rustic, picturesque restored cotton gin. Worth the drive out there if you’ve never been for sure! (pictures from our trip there)
Marble Falls / Horseshoe Bay – About 1 hour from Austin
- Ginger and Spice – This far out of the way Thai restaurant is surprisingly excellent and the owners are super friendly. The green curry is really spicy and flavorful and the basil fried rice is delicious. Although I haven’t been there many times, I might go out on a limb and say this place is better than any Thai restaurant in Austin. Definitely worth a visit if you happen to be out in Marble Falls. I would go more often but it’s a bit far from Austin.
- Blue Bonnet Cafe – If you want some old fashioned southern cooking this is the place for you. The Bonnet Cafe is known for chicken fried steak, an always crowded restaurant, and especially for their 16 flavors of handmade pie. While other items on their menu are a bit hit and miss, some people drive a long way just to get the pie.
- Sweet Berry Farm – This family friendly destination makes for a great seasonal day trip to Marble Falls. In the spring this farm has berry picking, in the summer there is a corn maze, and in the fall there’s a pumpkin patch. They sell jams and foods made from their produce and kids can go on hayrides or visit the animals on the farm.
Well, that’s it! Have a great time in the Hill Country enjoying the sights, the food, and the wine. If you need any more ideas for day trips around Austin, there’s a great show called the Daytripper with Chet Gartner.
If you go out to the Hill Country and try one of these spots, let us know in the comments!