July 7, 2022

The best restaurant stops all around the state

It’s time to pack those bags and hit the road, y’all. Memorial Day marks the traditional beginning of Texas’s driving season. And with more than 600,000 miles of highways to explore — by far the most in the nation according to the U.S. Federal Highway Administration — countless Texans will find themselves on a dusty stretch of asphalt when their appetites act up.

The state has plenty of convenience stores (looking at you, Buc-ee’s) and fast-food options to stave off hunger while driving. But sometimes, the journey is just as important as the destination.

This week we’ve quizzed journalists, chefs and devoted foodies around the state for suggestions on where to eat while traveling around Texas this summer. We’ve identified 14 spots located all throughout the state worth a visit while on your way to the beach, national park or big city.

Whether you’re craving a high-end dining experience in a swanky hotel, some classic Texas barbecue or rib-sticking diner fare, you can find it all in our guide below.

Central and North Texas

The Blue Bonnet Cafe in Marble Falls is a great place for comfort food and pies.

Billy Calzada, Staff / Billy Calzada

Blue Bonnet Cafe

Quite possibly the most beloved diner in the entire 268,597 square miles of Texas, this venerable Marble Falls institution dates back to 1929. Breakfast is king at this establishment located about 90 miles north of San Antonio along U.S. 281, and it’s served all day long. And it’s hearty stuff: A pair of fried eggs with hash browns and a biscuit can be ordered with a side of chicken-fried steak.

Sandwiches, salads, burgers and Tex-Mex staples round out the rest of the menu. And lord have mercy, don’t forget about the pie. You’ll never see a prettier mile-high meringue.

Blue Bonnet Cafe, 211 U.S. 281, Marble Falls, 830-693-2344, bluebonnetcafe.net, Facebook: Blue Bonnet Cafe – Marble Falls, TX

The famous pastry case at the Czech Stop and Little Czech Bakery

The famous pastry case at the Czech Stop and Little Czech Bakery

Czech Stop and Little Czech Bakery

Countless Texans have Interstate 35 Exit 353 committed to memory thanks to the highly visible glowing sign beckoning them into West’s most popular bakery. Throngs of hungry motorists can be found packed around the pastry case at this shop about halfway between Austin and Dallas that specializes in Czech-style kolaches and klobasniki (the latter are the sausage-filled rolls often erroneously called kolaches).

It doesn’t really matter what time of day you get here. There will always be a line, but it’s worth the wait for this taste of Texas’s Czech heritage.

Czech Stop and Little Czech Bakery, 105 N. College Ave., West, czechstop.net

A brisket plate from Lum’s BBQ in Junction

A brisket plate from Lum’s BBQ in Junction

Lum’s BBQ

This institution located about northwest of San Antonio near Kerrville along Interstate 10 is a favorite stop for many traveling along Interstate 10 thanks to eye-catching colorful murals and other artwork outside the building and, of course, its top-notch barbecue.

Inside the restaurant, which is housed in a converted gas station, you’ll find tender brisket with a remarkable peppery crust, fall-apart ribs, smoked pork, turkey and several types of sausage available as plates or sandwiches. Additionally, there’s a roster of classic side dishes with a couple outliers such as spicy spaghetti.

Lum’s BBQ, 2031 Main St., Junction, 325-446-3541, lumsbbq.com, Facebook: @lumsbbq

Chip and Joanna Gaines opened Magnolia Table in 2018.

Chip and Joanna Gaines opened Magnolia Table in 2018.

Joe Holley/Staff

Magnolia Table

Chip and Joanna Gaines have transformed the town of Waco, located about 90 miles south of Dallas along Interstate 35, into an honest-to-goodness home improvement and interior design destination through their Magnolia lifestyle brand first popularized on the show “Fixer Upper.” They didn’t forget the eats, either. The Gaines’ own a coffee shop and bakery at their main shopping campus built around around a pair of towering silos.

For more substantial fare, try their Magnolia Table restaurant located just a couple miles south along Interstate 35. There, you’ll find modern, stylish breakfast and lunch options that ring true to the recipes Joanna Gaines shared in her bestselling 2018 “Magnolia Table” cookbook.

Magnolia Table, 2132 S. Valley Mills Drive, Waco, 254-265-6859, magnoliatable.com, Facebook: Magnolia Table

The dining room at the Stagecoach Restaurant in Salado

The dining room at the Stagecoach Restaurant in Salado

Stagecoach Restaurant

You’d have a hard time finding a more timeless restaurant in Texas. This eatery, or at least parts of the structure, first opened in 1861 on the campus of the Shady Villa Hotel in Salado, making it among the oldest restaurant spaces in the state. Shady Villa Hotel and Stagecoach Restaurant, which are located about an hour north of Austin off of Interstate 35, have recently received significant renovations and reopened in 2021 under the management of Austin-based Bunkhouse group.

While the Stagecoach’s famous fudge pecan pie is no longer available, you will find a robust breakfast, lunch and dinner menu of country comfort food classics made with many ingredients sourced from nearby Texas farms.

Stagecoach Restaurant, 401 S. Main St., Salado, 254-947-5111, shadyvillahotel.com, Facebook: Stagecoach Restaurant

East Texas

Amelia Farm and Market is located on the outskirts of Beaumont

Amelia Farm and Market is located on the outskirts of Beaumont

Guiseppe Barranco, Photo Editor / Guiseppe Barranco/The Enterprise

Amelia Farm & Market

If you’re heading to or from Louisiana along Interstate 10 and start feeling peckish and road-weary, take a detour to this bucolic pecan farm on the outskirts of Beaumont. You’ll find a cottage converted into a farm-to-table restaurant serving up fried or grilled seafood platters, chicken-fried steak, barbecue, tacos and more. Many of those dishes are made with pasture-raised and heritage-breed pigs and cattle that roam free on the farm feasting on grass and pecans.

If you time it right, you can catch a down-home pig roast every Saturday through the summer complete with happy hour drink specials from the restaurant’s bar.

Amelia Farm & Market, 8600 Dishman Road, Beaumont, 409-866-7818, ameliafarmandmarket.com, Facebook: @ameliafarmandmarket

A selection of jerky from Prasek’s Family Smokehouse

A selection of jerky from Prasek’s Family Smokehouse

Prasek’s Family Smokehouse

This all-in-one destination about an hour east of Houston has just about anything a road-tripping Texan could hope for. Prasek’s is famous for its jerky and barbecue, but there’s so much more in store. In addition to the usual Texas trinity of barbecue plates, the full-service restaurant at Prasek’s serves a full menu of deli sandwiches, burgers, breakfast tacos, grilled steaks and more.

While you’re there, check out the sprawling store’s meat counter, wine selection and wide range of outdoor items such as coolers, camping gear, grilling equipment and clothing.

Prasek’s Family Smokehouse, 2949 Interstate 10 Frontage Road, Sealy, 979-627-6027, praseks.com, Facebook: @prasekshilljesmokehousesealy

Panhandle

A breakfast plate smothered in pork and green chile stew from Buff’s in Canyon

A breakfast plate smothered in pork and green chile stew from Buff’s in Canyon

Buff’s

If you’re a fan of hearty diner fair and the West Texas A&M University Buffaloes, this Panhandle restaurant about 20 miles south of Amarillo is the place for you. It’s decked out in Buffs swag sure to please anyone whose heart bleeds maroon and white.

Buff’s is well known for its jumbo breakfast burritos and other early morning fare such as omelets, pancakes, biscuits and gravy and more. The lunch menu offers up a wide range of burgers, sandwiches and salads. And don’t miss out on the pork and green chile stew, which is available by the bowl and makes an appearance slathered on several other menu items.

Buff’s, 2201 4th Ave., Canyon, 806-655-2833, Facebook: @buffscanyontx

XIT Woodfire Grill is located about 80 miles northeast of Amarillo.

XIT Woodfire Grill is located about 80 miles northeast of Amarillo.

XIT Woodfire Grill

Beef is king at this restaurant about 80 miles northeast of Amarillo near the New Mexico and Oklahoma borders. The places is named in honor of the historic XIT Ranch, which was once the largest in the nation at 3 million acres.

Aged and hand-cut steaks grilled over a wood fire are the top draw — and moderately priced between $20 to $40. The rest of the menu is huge, with a wide selection of burgers, barbecue, seafood plates and salads. For those who seek out flavors of the Southwest, tacos and New Mexico-style stacked enchiladas loaded with pork or chicken and oodles of Hatch chiles are also available.

XIT Woodfire Grill, 119 Cypress Drive, Dalhart, 806-244-1089, xitwoodfiregrill.com, Facebook: @10InTexas

South Texas

The famous Tortilla Burger from The Frosty in Woodsboro

The famous Tortilla Burger from The Frosty in Woodsboro

The Frosty

This unassuming diner, which sits about an hour north of Corpus Christi along U.S. 77, has become a statewide destination for one unique dish in particular: their famous Tortilla Burger. The distinctly Texan dish features a beef patty, lettuce, tomato, pickled jalapeños and more layered between a pair of freshly fried tortillas slathered with mustard.

The rest of The Frosty’s menu is packed with diner classics including hot dogs, deli sandwiches, fried chicken, fried seafood baskets, seafood po’boys, milk shakes and more.

The Frosty, 809 Wood Ave., Woodsboro, 361-543-4522, Facebook: @TheTortillaBurger

A plate of smoked meats from Longhorn Cattle Co. in San Benito

A plate of smoked meats from Longhorn Cattle Co. in San Benito

Longhorn Cattle Co.

About an hour west of South Padre Island, you’ll find this tribute to mesquite-smoked meat where every customer is greeted with a complimentary cup of spicy stewed beans before the menu even hits the table. The barbecue options include brisket, ribs, sausage, turkey and chicken available on platters or in sandwiches.

You’ll also find some of Texas’s largest baked potatoes here, which weigh in around a pound and a half or more once dressed. And that’s not the only thing that’s big: iced tea is served in pitchers, not cups. For an extra touch of Texas authenticity, wander around to the back pasture and hang out with a few of the longhorns serving as mascots for the restaurant.

Longhorn Cattle Co., 3055 W. Expressway 83, San Benito, 956-399-4400, longhorncattlecompany.com, Facebook: @thelonghorncattlecompany

West Texas

Jumburrito has developed a cultlike following in Midland and Odessa.

Jumburrito has developed a cultlike following in Midland and Odessa.

Jacy Lewis/Reporter-Telegram, Photographer

Jumburrito

This small chain of restaurants has developed a cultlike following. The first shop was launched in 1979 in Midland and it expanded into Odessa after that, with six locations now between the two within a quick drive off of Interstate 20 about an hour from the southeast corner of the border with New Mexico. They’ve earned that loyalty through fresh tortillas and salsas made in-house daily and fillings such as beef slowly simmered with green chiles, Texas-raised Waygu ground beef, scratch-made refried beans or chicken generously stuffed into burritos.

If burritos aren’t your thing, the restaurant also offers a limited selection of tacos made with the same fillings and award-winning queso. Also available are family packs with fresh tortillas and pints of fillings, salsas and sides.

Jumburrito, multiple locations in Midland and Odessa, 432-520-3529, jumburrito.com, Facebook: @jumburrito

K-Bob’s Steakhouse in Fort Stockton is a dependable choice for steak, burgers, salads and more.

K-Bob’s Steakhouse in Fort Stockton is a dependable choice for steak, burgers, salads and more.

K-Bob’s Steakhouse

If you’re making the long haul along Interstate 10 through West Texas, Fort Stockton, located about halfway between San Antonio and El Paso, offers the perfect respite in the classic, family-friendly K-Bob’s Steakhouse. The small restaurant chain with eight locations in Texas and New Mexico is famous for its chicken-fried steak and a broad menu of steaks, burgers, sandwiches and more.

K-Bob’s beloved salad bar fashioned after an old-timey chuck wagon is not currently in service as a response to the pandemic, but you can still find plenty of wholesome roughage from the menu’s selection of salads.

K-Bob’s Steakhouse, 2800 W. Dickinson Blvd., Fort Stockton, k-bobs.com, Facebook: @fortstocktonkbobs

Anthony Bourdain (left) films in the White Buffalo Bar at Marathon’s Gage Hotel.

Anthony Bourdain (left) films in the White Buffalo Bar at Marathon’s Gage Hotel.

Jessica Lutz / IWMF fellow Adelante Reporting Initiative

Gage Hotel

The White Buffalo Bar and 12 Gage Restaurant located in the historic Gage Hotel about 40 miles north of Big Bend National Park in Marathon are must-visit spots for anyone exploring West Texas. The restaurant and bar have played host to numerous celebrities, including the late Anthony Bourdain, who stopped there for a 2018 episode of “Parts Unknown.”

Have a seat at the bar and order a Ranch Water — one of Texas’ few native cocktails — while nibbling on bar menu items such as fried oyster nachos, crispy fried quail or a burger. For heartier fare, 12 Gage Restaurant offers grilled steaks, roasted chicken, trout spiked with poblano chiles and more.

Gage Hotel, 102 NW 1st St., Marathon, 432-386-4205, gagehotel.com, Facebook: @GageHotel

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