Hill Country Food & Wine Guide

by Virginia B. Wood & the Cuisines staff


La Cabana Mexican Grill (1)

21103 Hwy 71 W., 264-0292

Tue-Thu,11am-9pm; Fri, 11am-10pm; Sat 9am-10pm; Sun, 9am-9pm

Over the past three months we've watched this new Mexican restaurant take shape in what had been an abandoned roadside building. Each time we passed, there was some new addition such as a cleared parking lot and, more recently, an outdoor seating area where weary travelers can relax and enjoy a cold cerveza or margarita before resuming their trip. The menu features Tex-Mex items and a selection of grilled meats and seafood. We also noticed they were doing a brisk takeout business.

Little Country Diner (2)

Hwy. 71 W. (9 miles west of the corner at RR 620 & 71W), 264-2926

Mon-Sat, 8:30am-9pm; Sun, 8:30am-3pm

This friendly little hillside joint overlooking Hwy. 71 next door to R.O.'s Outpost is fast developing a reputation for good fried catfish. The menu here offers standard Texas roadside cafe fare: salads, sandwiches, burgers, steaks, a few Tex-Mex items, a chicken fried steak, homemade desserts plus all-you-can-eat catfish ($8.95) with fried hush puppies and coleslaw. The amenities are few but the folks are eager to please.

Opie's Barbecue (3)

Hwy. 71 W. (20 miles past intersection with RR 620, turn right at the gas station) beyond Spicewood, 830/693-8660 Daily, 11am-8pm

Opie's Barbecue is the second place that now puts Spicewood on the Central Texas barbecue map. Herbie Lynn opened his own meat-smoking operation in Spicewood, where true barbecue aficionados are discovering him in droves. Outside the informal restaurant is a 12-foot smoke pit where you can choose from pork chops, pork ribs, two kinds of sausage (regular or jalapeño), chicken, brisket, and sometimes even cabrito (kid goat). The meat is mopped with a vinegary sauce and plopped on a cafeteria tray. Inside the restaurant, they'll weigh the meat, place it on butcher paper, and return it to your tray. The seating is informal at the indoor picnic tables. Utensils, drinks, and fixins such as onion, pickles, warm sauce, and a big vat of pinto beans are available on the sideboard. The pork chops here are not to be missed; be sure to try the cabrito if they happen to have it when you visit. Top it all off with blackberry cobbler for dessert.

R.O.'s Outpost (4)

Hwy. 71 W. at Hazy Hills Drive (17 miles west of the Y in Oak Hill), 264-1169 Tue-Sat, 11am-9pm; Sun, 11am-3pm

Time was that tiny Spicewood was famous only because Willie Nelson lives and plays golf nearby. Now it's a bona fide stop on the barbecue trail because of Randy and Kath Osban's great country restaurant. The meats here are smoked in a Southern Pride-enclosed smoker over pecan wood with a dry rub for seasoning. The Outpost has a complete menu that includes turkey breast, pork loin, ribs, brisket, ham, sausage, and chicken as well as a great chicken fried steak and pan-fried quail. The side dish selections are plentiful and delicious, and Kathy's pies and cobblers are simply stellar. No matter how much meat you eat, you must save room for pie.

Sonny's Tradition Restaurant & Club (5)

Hwy. 71 W., Spicewood, 830/693-4563

Mon-Sat, 11am-10pm; Sun, 11am-9pm

The tradition at Sonny Contreras' place is friendliness, even in the picture on his business card: He's reaching out to shake your hand. That's why longtime residents of the Briarcliff and Spicewood area make Sonny's their neighborhood joint. They pay the nominal fee to join the obligatory "private club" (it's a dry county), so they can enjoy the Texas country cafe fare while they toss back a few cold ones with friends. The menu offers sandwiches, burgers, chicken fried steak, and catfish, plus some steaks and a few Tex-Mex dishes. Rumor has it that Briarcliff's most famous resident is a regular here when he's at home, and judging from the number of times we heard his name during a recent visit, it could just be true.

Tenzo, Cooking and Community on the Pedernales (6)

2523 Pedernales Canyon Tr., Spicewood, 264-0603 or TenzoTX@aol.com

Betty Holmes has created a placid, inviting oasis overlooking the Pedernales River where visitors can relax at cooking classes or meditation retreats. The attractive, functional facility is also available to rent for corporate events, seminars, weddings, and parties.

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