Second Helpings: More Roadside Cafes

The weekly Chronicle feature "Second Helpings" offers readers the opportunity to sample tasty, bite-sized restaurant listings compiled from new and previous reviews, guides, and poll results. This week's entries were updated by Chronicle Food Editor Virginia B. Wood. When you need quick, reliable information about Austin eateries, check here.

The Hilltop Cafe

10661 Hwy. 87 N., 10.5 miles west of Fredericksburg


Wednesday-Thursday, 11am-2pm, 5-9pm;

Friday-Saturday, 11am-2pm, 5-10pm;

Sundays, 11am-2pm for brunch, 2-9pm for dinner

A genuine honky-tonk on a landlocked stretch of German-influenced Hill Country highway is the last place you'd expect to find Greek/Cajun cuisine, right? Unless, of course, you're already familiar with Brenda and Johnny Nicholas' renowned Hilltop Cafe between Fredericksburg and Mason. The Greek food and Asleep at the Wheel memorabilia are the results of Johnny's background, and the spicy Cajun food stylings are Brenda's contribution. It makes for great ambience, even greater food, and killer live music when the proprietor and his friends take to the bandstand. They've recently added a new party room.

Nutty Brown Cafe

12225 Hwy. 290 W., in Cedar Valley


Monday-Friday, 11am-10pm;

Saturday-Sunday, 9am-10pm

Years ago, this recently reopened spot was the home of Nutty Brown Mills, a praline shop and roadside attraction famous for candies and the friendly neon cowboy sign that let weary travelers know they were almost back home in Austin. These days, the cafe serves "American Cuisine in a Texas Hill Country Style." We can vouch for the Cedar Valley Burger and the chicken fried steak. There's a great outdoor bar and dining area with a stage and dance floor, meaning live music during good weather.

Side Saddle Bakehouse

1111 Hwy. 290 W., in Dripping Springs


Monday-Friday, 7:30am-8:30pm; Saturday, 10:30am-8:30pm; Sunday, 9:30am-1:30pm

Austin chef Robert Mayberry has returned to his Texas country roots, buying into this roadside cafe located in the Trail Head Market. While he's essentially keeping the same country-style menu, with steaks, chicken fried steaks, burgers, salads, and hearty sandwiches, the chef is busy upgrading the quality of everything that's offered. The Sunday brunch menu is a little more adventurous and changes every weekend but is still a bargain at $9.95 for adults and $5.95 for kids under 12.

The Range at the Barton House

101 N. Main, in Salado


Wednesday-Friday, 5pm-10pm;

Saturday-Sunday, noon-3pm, 5-10pm

In the Fifties, Texas high rollers flew their private jets to Salado to dine at the legendary Stagecoach Inn while their wives bought couture dresses at Grace Jones' chic salon. These days, Grace Jones has retired, and folks looking for a great meal are likely to be found at the Range restaurant in the historic Barton House on Salado's Main Street. Chef/owner Dave Hermann and his wife Kate have built a loyal clientele with their sophisticated American regional fare. The lovely restaurant is available for private parties and offers catering services as well as a full slate of cooking classes.

Royer's Round Top Cafe

On the Square in Round Top


Thursday, 11am-9pm; Friday-Saturday, 11am-9:30pm; Sunday, noon-7pm

The tiny Texas hamlet of Round Top is famous for antique shopping, charming bed and breakfast houses, and the proximity of both James Dick's Festival Hill music retreat and the Winedale Shakespeare Festival. However, foodies from both Houston and Austin revere the little town as the home of the Royer family's busy Round Top Cafe. At Royer's, the portions are big, the flavors are bigger, and they charge extra if you order their excellent homemade pies without ice cream! Just one bite of the beef tenderloin or the pork chops and you'll be a regular.

Cafe 290

11011 Hwy. 290 E. in Manor


Monday-Thursday, 6am-10pm; Friday-Saturday, 6am-10:30pm; Sunday, 7am-10pm

If it's happening in Manor, Cafe 290 is the place to find out about it. Hungry locals and travelers alike fill this place up daily, chatting about the news of the day over ample country breakfasts, the very affordable hot lunch buffet ($5.95 for a choice of entrées with two vegetable sides), and a full-blown Texas cafe dinner menu of steaks, catfish, fried chicken, salads, and hearty sandwiches. We're partial to the fried green tomatoes ($3.95), the two sizes of chicken fried steak ($7.95, $10.95), and the deliciously messy Green Chile Cheeseburger ($5.95).

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