Barbecue, competitive kolache eating, and more new babies

We made some interesting discoveries while driving through the Hill Country towns of Kingsland, Llano, and Mason last week. Stopping at the historic Antlers Hotel (, we learned that the restaurant just across the road from the hotel is once again for lease. The restaurant building is a restored Victorian house that was part of the film set for the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre (and former college home to our contributing writer MM Pack) and was moved to Kingsland from a farm in Williamson County a few years back. It has been well-restored, and the site is beautifully landscaped. It could be the perfect turnkey operation for the right energetic young operator. For details, contact Jay Littlepage at Motoring on, we arrived in Llano for a visit with the new proprietor of the equally historic Dabbs Railroad Hotel (112 E. Burnet Rd. in Llano, 325/247-2200). Phyllis Alexander purchased the Dabbs from Gary Smith last fall and refurbished the place from the ground up between November and March. The work included new wiring and plumbing, the addition of central air and heat, interior and exterior paint jobs, additional bathrooms on both floors, antique furniture in the bedrooms, ceiling fans on the upstairs sleeping porch, a functional kitchen with new appliances, expanded seating and Wi-Fi access in the dining room, and a deck overlooking the newly landscaped back yard with a gorgeous view of the Llano River. Alexander now operates the Dabbs as an event facility, renting it out for community events, weddings, family reunions, and business retreats. The hotel retains its Texas charm, and with all the loving restoration Mrs. Alexander has lavished on the building, the Dabbs now is set to live another hundred years. From there we progressed to Mason, where we stopped in at the original Cooper's Pit Bar-B-Q (810 San Antonio St. in Mason, 800/513-6963) for some delicious lamb ribs and tasty cabrito. Founded by pit-master George Cooper (now deceased) in 1953, this simple cinder-block building with outdoor pits is the cradle of the legendary Cooper family barbecue dynasty. Most Central Texans are more familiar with the Cooper's outlet in Llano, founded by son Tommy Cooper (now deceased) in the Sixties and currently owned and operated by Terry Wooten. George Cooper's two other sons are also in the barbecue business, one in Round Rock and the other in Junction, in case you're planning a barbecue tour... Speaking of barbecue, the folks at Stubb's (801 Red River, 480-8341) have added a shipping service to their menu. Now it's possible for customers to order any of their smoked meats and have them shipped around the country via UPS. Order at or by calling 800/227-2283. You'll have to provide your own napkins and musical entertainment... After our recent announcement of the Kolache Festival in Burleson County, we heard from some local guys who entered the kolache-eating contest that was part of the weekend festival in Caldwell. Austinites Ben "Alabaster" Jones, Casey Papendieck, and the Sphinx – aka the Mountain Top Munchers – entered the team kolache-eating competition for the second year and brought the trophy home to Austin! Each three-person team was required to eat an assortment of eight fruit-filled kolaches per teammate, and the hungry Austinites were the fastest eaters. Papendieck reports that his mysteriously named friend the Sphinx currently is looking for other competitive-eating-competition opportunities... Entertainment District regulars with a taste for pizza will be pleased to note that Hoek's Pizza has relocated and is now open in Headhunters (720 Red River) from 8pm to 3am Wednesdays through Saturdays... More new baby news: Pastry chef and Sweet Tempered bakery co-owner Jennifer Crandell and husband Cory are the proud parents of prospective pastry queen Lily June Crandell (8 pounds, 10 ounces, 21 inches), who was born Aug. 10.

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