What To Eat in Texas
Lone Star State, how do we love thee! Let us count the ways: We love the barbecue, brisket in particular, that is more tender than warm butter – especially wonderful when eaten in one of the old back-of-the-butcher-shop smoke houses around Lockhart. We love chicken-fried steak that makes something humble into a kingly feast. And we love Czech kolaches and German sausages and Mexican fajitas and African-American soul food. Of course there are jailhouse chili and lunch-counter Frito pie. Pecan pies, cream pies, fruit pies are to die for. Even vegetarian meals are way better than we’d expect in a land where red meat is so delicious.
In Texas, beef rules; and as good as steak may be, brisket can be even more satisfying. As the inherently fatty cut of cow basks in the smoke of smoldering live oak wood for hours, its marbling melts and insinuates intense flavor into the meat. The exterior, blackened by all its time in the pit, has some crunch and an even more concentrated flavor; interior fibers that are still laced with fat literally melt on your tongue.
Chili is the official state dish of Texas, but it isn't all that easy to find the classic meal that old-timers know as a "bowl of red." That means chile con carne – chilies with meat. Nothing more, nothing less. No beans, no peppers, no onions, no cheese. The places that do serve it in all its purity usually do offer the likes of cheese, sour cream, and tortilla chips, but on the side.
Casseroles layered with corn tortillas go back to Mesoamerica, but the Fritos pie (or, if you wish, Frito pie) cannot, by definition, predate 1932. That is when Fritos were patented by Elmer Doolin, who got the recipe from a streetcorner vendor and started selling them at his lunch counter in San Antonio. (Doolin subsequently invented the Cheeto.) Long before Fritos, Mexicans had enjoyed eating fritos (small f), which simply means "little fried things," but it was Doolin who figured out how to mass-produce the curly little corn chips and it has been reported that it was his mother, Daisy Dean Doolin, who first put them into a baked casserole with chili and cheese. Like Fritos themselves, Fritos pie is no longer strictly regional, but it is especially popular across a wide swath of the Southwest from Arkansas through Texas and Oklahoma and into New Mexico.
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Crunchy salt-and-vinegar chips with French onion dip and a croque madame with Texas toast are best enjoyed with a view of the 1890 mansion at Rosewood.
Paperboy offers a beautiful outdoor food truck space with an impressive menu of mascarpone toast, chilaquiles, & cheesy hash browns with carrot habanero sauce.
Stop by Ronnie’s for a hospitable welcome and Texas Hill Country-style barbecue turkey that vies for brisket as best meat in the house.
Cozy up to a cup of freshly roasted coffee, sandwich on house-made rosemary sourdough, and apple-molasses cookies at Marble Falls' town favorite Numinous.
Alimentari 28 is a quaint Italian restaurant that serves handmade pasta in the heart of busy downtown Austin, Texas.
An American eatery with great Tex-Mex food and a diner personality, Joann's is recommended for green chile enchiladas, biscuits, and squash-and-corn salad.
At Josephine House, details of food and decor all are impeccable. Highlight dishes include a Nutella morning bun and lemon ricotta pancakes.
Medium-sized pizza pies made with a 20-year-old sourdough starter, topped with house-made mozzarella hit the spot at Pieous.
For a modern Texas take on traditional Greek fare, have a family-style meal at Helen and top it off with a creamy feta mousse and olive oil thyme shortbread.