Clear Springs Restaurant on the highway outside of New Braunfels captures the flavor of a Texas roadhouse diner. Heaping portions of chicken fried steak served in an old cotton barn decorated with antiques make this a great place to take family and friends, especially if they're from out of state.
A few miles east of I-35 on TX46, the waiting list and the outdoor beer garden begin to fill around six on evenings as hungry visitors wait for their chance at a menu which includes catfish, shrimp, and steaks. Few are disappointed when they finally make it into the cavernous barn, which can seat 325 patrons at picnic-style tables covered with red and white checkered tablecloths.
Legend credits Jim Bowie, a defender at the Alamo, with finding the springs in 1825 which would lend its name to a small settlement which served area farmers for nearly 100 years. The village was established in 1846 by German immigrants. Part of the Clear Springs Restaurant was the Clear Springs Store and Saloon which opened in 1874. The store thrived on the business traffic created by the nearby mills and gins on the Guadalupe River.
Most of the businesses have moved to Seguin or New Braunfels, but for the last 14 years the highway to good eating has lead to their door, says Harry Kelly, manager of the restaurant. The restaurant is owned by Richard DeWitt, who has opened another Clear Springs Restaurant in Nacogdoches.
Kelly says the most popular item on the menu is the fired farm-raised catfish coated in their slightly spicy batter. The restaurant can go through 400 to 500 pounds of it in a day. The Angus beef steaks come in a close second, though. And if there is a complaint about the large Black Tiger shrimp which are farm-raised in Thailand, it must be that there isn't enough of them on the platter.
Every meal comes with side orders of rice, beans, potatoes, toast, or hushpuppies. The restaurant's onion rings are delicious and almost a meal in themselves. The cole slaw has a unique flavor that Kelly will only explain as "an ancient Chinese secret."
After a hearty meal, save room for one of the savory homemade cobblers. The Double Chocolate Cake is a chocoholic's dream. All desserts can be embellished with Blue Bell Ice Cream.
Once you get inside, the decor of the dining hall is almost as much fun as the food is tasty. Decorated with old flags, toys, farm implements, and household goods, the DeWitts must have had an adventure searching junk shops and antique dealers looking for all of the items that cover the walls. Some of the signs and knick-knacks were donated by customers. The long, wooden bar along the dining room was used in the original Clear Springs Saloon, Kelly says.
The service is friendly and attentive, the food is good, and the wait usually isn't too long at this Texas traditional dining room. Clear Springs Restaurant opens Sunday through Thursday, 11am-9pm, and stays open until 10pm on Friday and Saturday. For more information, give them a call at 830/629-3775.
Coming up this weekend...
Wildflowers & Wine Trail tours through the Hill Country to Grape Creek Vineyard and Becker Vineyards for special tastings, music, and food at each stop, Apr. 11-12. 830/644-2306.
Easter Fires in Fredericksburg recounts a
pioneer mother's story to her children that the fires on the hills outside of town were the Easter Bunny dyeing eggs, not Indians awaiting the outcome of peace talks with the settlers. The pageant is a blend of community history, fable, and religious story, Apr. 11. 830/997-6523.
Bluebonnet Festival in Burnet, the "Bluebonnet Capital of Texas," features arts & crafts, outhouse races, bicycle tours, Confederate Air Force Fly-in, and more, Apr. 10-12. 512/756-2548 or http://www.gobsl.com.
Hill Country Hoedown at the Recreation Plantation outside of Dripping Springs is a music festival, a campout, and a celebration with Alejandro Escovedo, the Gourds, Cheri Knight, the Damnations, and more, Apr. 18. The music begins at 12:30pm and continues through a songwriters' campfire. Tickets available at Waterloo Records. 512/894-0567.
"The Scenic Route" tours sponsored by the Houston Museum of Fine Arts visits sites in the city off the beaten path. Visit Houston's African-American cultural centers, Apr. 18. 713/639-7864.
Art Car Weekend in Houston has been called "One of the most outrageous automotive events anywhere in the world." Parties and art car symposiums culminate with the grand Artists Parade through downtown on Sunday. Apr. 16-18. 713/926-6368 or http://www.insync.net/~orange.
Greatrace Texas gives drivers of any kind of car the feel and fun of competing in a road rally on the back roads around Granbury, or it's fun just to watch, Apr. 17-18. 817/573-7223.
Wildflower Cycling Tour and Steeple Chase tours the colorful backroads of DeWitt County, Apr. 25. 512/275-3423.
Bluebird Festival in Wills Point, "The Bluebird Capital of Texas," shows off the historic town east of Dallas with special events and tours, Apr. 17-18. 800-WP-BLUBIRD or http://www.flash.net/~junction/festival.htm.
Quadricentennial Celebration in El Paso honors the 400th anniversary of the "First Thanksgiving," Apr. 24-26. In 1598, Juan de Onate led a 400-member party from Mexico to New Mexico. South of present-day El Paso they paused for a feast of fish and fowl after crossing the Northern Mexican desert. To mark the occasion, El Paso is throwing a huge party showcasing the area's cultural diversity. 800/452-9292.
Great Texas Birding Classic pits teams of birders against each other hoping to spot the most species. Last year's winner spotted 296 species out of a total of 357 different kinds of birds during the competition. This year's event will stress youth involvement. 888-TX-BIRDS. 360th in a Series. Collect them all.
Day Trips, Vol.2, a book of the second 100 columns, is now available $8.95, plus $3.05 for shipping, handling, and tax. Mail to: Day Trips, P.O. Box 33284, South Austin, TX 78704.