Thursday, May 30, 2019

Nine Top Steakhouses in Texas Hill Country

Nine Top Steakhouses in Texas Hill Country blog cover image

Texas and steak. Steak and Texas. They are as synonymous as Boston and lobster. Or Cajun and etouffee.

The Texas Hill Country encompasses the Edwards Plateau region where South Texas, Central Texas and West Texas intersect. The region includes cities such as San Antonio, Austin, New Braunfels, Fredericksburg, and Blanco, to name a few. The region is highly diverse, with influences from Germany, Spain, Mexico, and the cattle drivers of the Old West.

Texas is the top cattle-producing state in the U.S., going back to the mid to late nineteenth and early twentieth century cattle-driving days. Those wranglers rode all day and then sat down for a plate of what had been standing right there in front of them. The tradition continues with “steak night” in Texas served up any night of the week.

Steakhouses abound in Texas Hill Country, but let’s dare to list the top nine.

steak topped with butter, veggies, and bourbon on the rocks

1. Myron’s Prime Steakhouse in New Braunfels and San Antonio

Myron’s is a family enterprise that consistently wins culinary awards. In recent years, Myron’s has been recognized as “Best Steakhouse” by San Antonio Magazine, “Diners’ Choice” Winner by Open Table, and Wine Spectators' "Award of Excellence". As guests step into the New Braunfels location, they find themselves in a remodeled 1924 movie theater in the downtown area, with the restaurant office located in the old projection booth. The décor is intimate and ornate, complete with stamped tin ceilings. The San Antonio location is newer with modern Texas flair, a bar with outdoor seating, and a dedicated wine bar.

And then there are the steaks: Chicago prime corn-fed USDA beef. The steaks are hand-picked and dry-aged for 14 days and then wet-aged for 28 days. This process tenderizes the beef naturally and improves the natural flavor. Smaller appetites can focus on the 8oz filet or couples can share the 24oz Chateaubriand for two. Other entrees include seafood dishes, pork chops, and chicken.

salted steak sliced

2. Bohanan's Prime Steaks and Seafood in San Antonio

Located near the Riverwalk in a historic building, Chef/Owner Bohanan grills large cuts of Akaushi beef over fragrant mesquite wood. The restaurant is designated with the AAA Four Diamond rating as well as Wine Spectator’s "Best of" Award of Excellence. Guests overwhelmingly rate Bohanan’s “Excellent” with the highest stars given for atmosphere, service, and food.

peppered steak with a baked potato wrapped in foil

3. Jeffrey’s of Austin

Named one of the "Top 10 Best New Restaurants” by Bon Appétit Magazine, Jeffrey’s features a seasonal menu complete with a wide array of wines. Jeffrey’s grills their steaks over local live oak and then finishes them off under a broiler. There is a size for every appetite, from the 6oz petit filet to the 42oz Porterhouse. Diners can then choose from an eclectic assortment of sauces and toppings, such as traditional béarnaise to chimichurri.

tomahawk steak with asparagus

4. Humphrey Pete’s Restaurant in Early

This is a locally-owned restaurant operated by the Humphrey family. The focus is on the food, and they do a great job of it. Steaks are hand-rubbed with the Humphrey-family special spice and then cooked over a mesquite wood fire. Diners consistently rate the steak as top notch.

juicy steak with a loaded baked potato and sour cream

5. Branding Iron Restaurant in Kerrville

You will think you’ve been transported back to the Old West, but this rustic steakhouse has been awarded four consecutive TripAdvisor awards for "Top American Cuisine" and "Top Steakhouse" in Kerrville for 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018. Located inside the Y.O. Ranch Hotel, it is best known for its 10oz or 14oz New Orleans Ribeye steak, which is marinated in Cajun spices for 36 hours.

tower, silo, and lit up sign of the Boiler House

6. Boiler House Texas Grill & Wine Garden in San Antonio

It isn’t often guests can dine in a 130-year old boiler room but this grill and wine garden, located in the historic Pearl Brewery, is aptly named. Most of the original building and fixtures are intact, and the restaurant encompasses 6,200 square feet spread out over two levels, ready to accommodate both casual and formal affairs. Outdoor seating is also available. The beef entrees run the gamut from an 8oz Filet Mignon to a 32oz Tomahawk Ribeye for two (or one very hearty appetite).

smothered steak topped with shrimp

7. Doc’s Fish Camp & Grill in Marble Falls

So, what’s a fish camp doing on a list of the top steakhouses? It must be because they do it so well, including a large selection of steak dishes as well as combinations of seafood right beside that great steak. Doc’s is a family-friendly, casual spot, with steaks marinated in a special sauce, ready for the grill. Come for the steak and stay for the live music in the Ice Chest Bar.

a juicy steak with sauteed mushroom slices

8. Diggs Restaurant and Club in San Saba

Texans will tell you that a worthy night out involves great food, live music, and ice cold beer. Diggs will tell you they have all three and they do them all well. The ambiance may be quaint and country, but the food is top notch. Their regulars come back for the juicy mesquite-grilled steaks, as well as country, blues, or 80s music live in the bar. Service is efficient and friendly and often the subject of rave reviews.

9. 18 Oaks in San Antonio

Located in the JW Marriott Resort and Spa, 18 Oaks features locally sourced meat and produce. Local cattle ranches provide the Black Angus beef used in the restaurant. It also maintains its own 5000 square foot organic garden, producing an array of herbs and vegetables right on the hotel property. All of these fresh products form the basis of the restaurant’s exceptional meals.

Steak choices range from the 7 or 10oz Filet Mignon to the 20oz T-Bone. Or diners can feast on a 16oz classic K.C. Strip, Bone-in or Boneless Ribeye, or Coulotte steak.

When you're in Texas Hill Country, do not miss out on these excellent steaks to experience a bit of the Old West.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

7 Great Texas Hill Country Festivals

7 Great Texas Hill Country Festivals blog cover image

The Texas Hill Country, stretching from Austin to San Antonio, is rich in geological features, artistic, and musical culture. Wander down one of the timeless winding dirt roads through the Hill Country and you might just stumble onto one of the many unique and authentic festivals in the area. There are many, and these are just seven that you don’t want to miss.

country guitarists playing in a small bar

Musically, Texas has a heritage that goes back for decades and includes some very talented native singers and musicians. Traditionally, the music has been country and Western. Nowadays, the music scene has become much more progressive, especially in the Austin area. Austin has recently been deemed the live music capital of the world, and its diverse sounds have spawned music festivals with a wide variety of styles and genres:

1. If you’re looking for a wide selection of quality American-made music, then the KNBT Americana Music Jam is the festival for you. It takes place in May at Gruene Hall in New Braunfels, TX. It’s a little bit of everything - you can expect folk, rock, country, blues, and R&B.  The crowd is always lively, and the featured musicians are top notch.

2. The Kerrville Folk Festival is a songwriter’s festival with a long and storied tradition. Held at the Quiet Valley Ranch in Kerrville, TX, it lasts from May 23-June 9. It’s been happening annually since 1972 and the songwriting community at this festival is open and warm as they celebrate artistic expression and talent. There is overnight camping available, and the venue is family-friendly.

female musicians playing on stage in front of a crowd

latino artists playing for a crowd at night

The arts scene is also alive and thriving in the Texas Hill Country. Here are a couple art festivals worth checking out:

3. The Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center Tejano Conjunto Festival takes place at Rosedale Park and surrounding areas in San Antonio, TX. There are several May dates at different locations. It primarily celebrates Latin heritage, with plenty of music, dancing, food, and art-related exhibits. There will be both national and international Conjunto performers.

4. The Texas Folklife Festival also takes place in San Antonio and it’s a fun one. It’s held at the UTSA HemisFair Park Campus. This festival brings people from different backgrounds together to celebrate and appreciate the many ethnicities and traditions that abound throughout the Hill Country. It’s a great educational opportunity to learn about other cultures and their backgrounds and heritages, as Texas is truly a melting pot.

dancers dressed in traditional folk clothing

Besides music and art, Texas has festivals that celebrate a little bit of everything and everyone. Here are a few more that you definitely want to check out if you get a chance to tour the Lonestar State:

5. Being in Texas, no festival tour would be complete without going back to the real Texas roots - ranching and rodeo. Travel to Bandera, the cowboy capital of the state, to experience the Bandera PRCA Pro Rodeo in May. It’s held at the Mansfield Park Arena and it’s always exciting. You’ll experience the traditional rodeo - bucking bulls, broncos, barrel racing, and calf roping, but that’s not all. There’s also a BBQ cook-off featuring some of the best in the business. Sink your teeth into something tangy and tasty as you enjoy the excitement and action of the rodeo.

6. If you’re health conscious and into wellness and awareness, there’s a festival for you too. The Wholistic Festival is held monthly in San Antonio and it’s a progressive event with people of many ideas and backgrounds focusing on healing, mindfulness, and mind and body alignment. Some of the areas of study that are offered are in tarot, astrology, reflexology, and various yoga exercises and principles. There are over 70 exhibitors who promote healthy living. You can even learn about the different healing powers of crystals, as well as various massage techniques. This festival is held at The Holiday Inn San Antonio International Airport. Best of all, you can attend any third Sunday of the month from May through December.

7. What festival tour would be complete without great food and adult beverages? Luckily, you can get these in abundance from the Tequila, Taco, and Cerveza Festival. This is actually a traveling festival that makes various stops throughout the country, but the Texas leg is surely a favorite. Bring your appetite, because as the name implies, the festival is loaded with all kinds of delicious tacos. You can buy from the many food trucks that will be on-site, and the recipes that are made from scratch feature beef, chicken, shrimp, veggies, and more. Wash it down with your choice of tequila, and there are indeed many to choose from. There an average of forty different brands that you can sample. Follow all of that with ice-cold cerveza and you’re sure to have a great time.

The Texas Hill Country is a lush and beautiful place, and it’s been attracting both visitors and locals for a long time. With its natural springs and inviting waterways, intriguing geography, and magnificent sunsets, this is certainly attractive and soothing country. It was first occupied by American Indians, then came German settlers in the 1800s, and as Texas continued to grow in both ethnic diversity and population, it became a gathering of artistic and hardworking people from all over. It embodies the Texas country and Western culture and fuses nicely with the more progressive styles that are growing out of places like Austin. Come and visit the Hill Country, and take in some of the many festivals to join in the life celebration of a unique and inspiring place.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

12 Best Swimming Holes in Texas Hill Country

Come June, the summer temperatures become almost unbearable unless you have lined up fun activities to beat the heat. One such activity is a dip in the local swimming holes. Here are the 12 best swimming holes for you to explore in the Texas Hill Country:

swimmers floating in front of the waterfall

1. Hamilton Pool – Austin

Located about 23 miles west of Austin, off Highway 71, the Hamilton Pool is the ideal summer swimming spot both for Austin residents and visitors. Adding to the esteemed view is a jade green pool with a 50-foot waterfall.

The pool was formed thousands of years ago when the dome of an underground river collapsed due to massive erosion. So besides an ideal swimming experience, you can be sure of some pretty breathtaking views.

crowds of people in the water and along the riverbank

2. Barton Springs – Zilker Park, Austin

The actual pool measures about 3.5 miles and gets its waters from underground springs. With water temperatures averaging 68-70 degrees Fahrenheit, Barton Springs is a great spot for swimming all year round.

With a record-setting up to 800,000 visitors a year, it is not much of a surprise that it has been called the crown jewel of Austin. Admission to the pool is free from November through mid-March. However, Austin residents may be required to pay a small fee of $1-$8, from March to October for entry after 8:00 a.m.

kayakers floating in the calm water

3. Guadalupe State Park – Bulverde 

Guadalupe State Park offers plenty of recreational activities, especially around the water. In addition to fishing, tubing, and canoeing, a dip into the swimming hole is what makes the experience complete.

The river is lined up with cliffs towering over 40 feet if you want to try diving. Bring your loved ones along and make some memories together.

colorful foliage mirrored in the water

4. Garner State Park – Garner

Besides the beautiful scenery at Garner State Park, it's also fun activities like swimming, dancing, and hiking that bring people back to the park. 2.9 miles of the Frio River wind through the 1,774 acres of Hill Country terrain, providing tons of things to see and do.

To take a break from the rigorous activities, rely on the Frio waters to keep you cool.

glass-like water surrounded by a rocky shore

5. Devils Waterhole – Burnet

This is a small extension of Inks Lake, which although it's surrounded by rock, provides a serene environment to make a dip – especially in the summer. The main attraction here is cliff diving. It's common to see daredevils taking the plunge into the cool waters.

6. Landa Park at Comal Springs - New Braunfels

Comal Springs in New Braunfels feels like the largest group of aquifer-fed springs in the state. Being a kid-friendly place, it is common sighting kids zooming across the zip line and dropping into the pool.

So bring the kids along for lazy tubing, climbing, and sliding experiences in the massive lagoon!

7. Colorado Bend State Park – Bend

After a day of hiking the Gorman Falls at the Colorado Bend State Park, take the Spicewood Springs trail leading to the multiple pools along the Colorado River and immerse yourself into the cool waters.

The most notable thing is that instead of one massive lagoon, there are small pools every 30 to 40 feet making congestion less of an issue.

8. Hancock Springs – Lampasas

Since this is a free-flowing pool, Hancock Springs' waters come straight from the cold artesian spring, fills the pool, and keeps flowing out the other side – right into Sulfur Creek. This keeps the waters in the pool chilly and ideal for a hot summers day.

The cool waters combined with the slight smell (usually as a result of the naturally occurring sulfur in the water) feels amazing. It is no surprise that for centuries, the pool has been believed to possess natural healing properties which are attributed to the high mineral content waters.

After a swim, you can take a walk along the grassy riverbanks to dry off.

9. Schumacher Crossing – Hunt

Located about half an hour drive from San Antonio, Schumacher Crossing is among the most popular spots in the area mainly because of its swimming hole. On weekends, it might be a bit crowded with people trying to enjoy the popular swimming spot.

The most notable thing is how this portion of the Guadalupe River remains typically clean because there are no large cities or urban areas upstream. The availability of excellent parking space explains why Schumacher Crossing has been ranked among the top ten swimming spots in the Texas Hill Country.

10. McKinney Falls – Austin

Located at the confluence of Onion Creek and Williamson, McKinney Falls offers several fun activities including hiking and swimming. Its rushing waters pour over a limestone ridge and form a lively waterfall – a spectacular view, so don't miss it.

11. Jacob’s Well – Wimberley

Northwest of Wimberley, Jacob’s Well is known to satisfy its visitors with captivating discoveries and relaxing moments. Its most notable feature is the aquifer which is actually located 140 feet below the water’s surface. Below the well is the Hill Country’s biggest underwater cave system.

12. Hippie Hollow – Austin

The fact that it is the only clothing-optional public park in Texas explains the high number of visitors throughout the year. It goes without saying that entry to the park is restricted only to those aged 18 and above. The rocky shoreline provides a spectacular view of Lake Travis.