Where to Eat in the Texas Hill Country

By Megan Giller  |  May 12, 2014

Rolling green hills don’t always come to mind with the word “Texas,” but luckily for us we have the lush Texas Hill Country. Located between Austin and San Antonio, the Hill Country is a prime summer getaway. Now that the weather has warmed up, it’s time to throw on your swimsuit and hit the road. While you're there, here are 12 can’t-miss places to eat and drink.

  • Credit: Robert Jacob Lerma

    Opie’s Barbecue

    Why It’s Special: Smoked meats done right in a family setting make this place stand out, plus a literal gauntlet of fresh baked goods like brownies and cookies.

    Must-Order: Fatty brisket, snappy sausage, tater-tot casserole, spicy corn and a big scoop of cobbler with ice cream.

    Insider Tip: The restaurant is named after the owner’s dog.

    9504 Texas 71, Spicewood; 830-693-8660

  • Lost Maples Café 

    Why It’s Special: This Utopia, Texas, outpost is a time warp of small-town goodness, complete with wooden booths and short-order cooks.

    Must-Order: The menu is an amalgam of tastes, with everything from steaks to burgers to cheese enchiladas. We go for the grilled cheese on Texas toast and big slices of cherry and fudge-pecan pie.

    Insider Tip: The building dates from before 1904, and it’s been a cafe since 1986.

    384 FM 187, Main St., Utopia; 830-966-2221

  • Mac and Ernie’s Roadside Eatery

    Why It’s Special: Rarely will you find such excellent chef-driven comfort food in the middle of the Hill Country. It’s been featured on shows like Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and Bizarre Foods.

    Must-Order: Cabrito burger at lunch, ancho-chile-honey-basted quail at dinner and white-chocolate banana pudding for dessert

    Insider Tip: Their longtime trailer is now the entrance to their quirky yet classic brick-and-mortar restaurant.

    11804 FM 470, Tarpley; 830-562-3727

  • Love Creek Orchards

    Why It’s Special: Texas isn’t known for its apples, but Love Creek is changing that, with a pick-your-own orchard, cafe and store with all things apple.

    Must-Order: Their burgers are solid, but don’t fill up too much, because you also need the apple pie, apple cake, strudel, turnovers and famous apple ice cream.

    Insider Tip: You won’t get your iPad fixed at the genius bar, but the Apple Store will take on a new meaning, with jams, butters and more nonelectronic goods.

    14024 State Hwy 16 N., Medina; 830-589-2202

  • Poodie’s Hilltop Roadhouse

    Why It’s Special: Willie Nelson’s stage manager, Poodie Locke, opened this joint as a haven for good live music and big burgers.

    Must-Order: Burgers like the Famous Poodie Burger with green chiles, onions and pepper jack cheese are the way to go, but keep in mind you’re here for the atmosphere and the music.

    Insider Tip: There’s live music every night of the week, and stars like Ray Wylie Hubbard and Gary P. Nunn have played on stage.

    22308 Hwy 71 W, Spicewood; 512-264-0318

  • Twisted X Brewing Company

    Why It’s Special: The craft-beer brewery has coined the term “Tex-Mex beer” and is dedicated to using distinctly Texan and Mexican ingredients like jalapeños in their beverages.

    Must-Order: Try their Twisted X premium lager as well as wackier brews like the Fuego jalapeño pilsner and the tequila-aged Senor Viejo imperial black lager.

    Insider Tip: Take a tour of their taproom to get a better sense of their process and dedication.

    23455 W. RR 150, Dripping Springs; 512-829-5323

  • Hill Country Cupboard

    Why It’s Special: We chuckle every time we see their sign that boasts that they have the “world’s best chicken-fried steak (nearly 3 dozen sold).” The kitschy interior with troll dolls and other collectibles, plus the small-town friendly attitude make this place a keeper.

    Must-Order: Chicken-fried steak, pork chops and as much pie as you can handle.

    Insider Tip: They pit the cherries for their pies by hand, a rarity in these days.

    101 U.S. 281, Johnson City; 830-868-4625

  • Credit: Christina Feddersen

    Becker Vineyards

    Why It’s Special: Texas wines are earning a spot on the national radar, and the massive, beautiful grounds, large tasting room and quality wines make this a destination.

    Must-Order: Try all of their wines, but be sure to take home some of the award-winning varieties, like the 2011 Claret and Canada Res Cab as well as the 2012 Res Cabernet-Syrah.

    Insider Tip: Visit their lavender shop for soaps, lotions, lip balm and more. Also be sure to check out the other wineries nearby for an entire day’s worth of fun.

    464 Becker Farms Rd., Stonewall; 830-644-2681

  • Credit: Flickr/Roger Mommaerts

    Der Lindenbaum

    Why It’s Special: Among all the German restaurants in Frederickburg, this one stands out for their European-trained chef, consistently solid food and fun atmosphere.

    Must-Order: Schnitzel, bratwurst, scratch-made strudels and Black Forest cake.

    Insider Tip: The restaurant also boasts a selection of over 30 German beers.

    312 E. Main St., Fredericksburg; 830-997-9126

  • The Laurel Tree

    Why It’s Special: West Texas, meet your new friend Provence. The charming rock building and the garden amid oak trees, plus upscale food from a Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef elevate the tiny town of Utopia.

    Must-Order: The menu changes often, but dishes like chicken-mushroom quesadillas with spinach and Brie for lunch and smoked pork chops with caramelized apples and Dijon mashed potatoes for dinner make our mouth water.

    Insider Tip: The restaurant, a European-style “guest table,” is only open for lunch and dinner on Saturdays.

    18956 N. FM 187, Utopia; 830-966-5444

  • River House Tea Room

    Why It’s Special: Gruene may be famous for Gruene Hall, but before you load up on good live music, hit up this spot for some upscale Hill Country fare.

    Must-Order: Go exotic with the chipotle duck wrap and country-fried veal steak or classic with chicken quesadillas and the club sandwich.

    Insider Tip: Check out the afternoon tea with sandwiches, scones and sweets, but be sure to make reservations at least 24 hours in advance.

    1617 New Braunfels St., New Braunfels; 830-608-0690

  • Classics Burgers and “Moore”

    Why It’s Special: The no-frills menu, red-checkered tablecloths and vintage signs on the walls remind you of a different time.

    Must-Order: Bacon cheeseburger, with a big buttered and griddled bun.

    Insider Tip: Though “Moore” would usually include an old-timey soda fountain with shakes and malts, it isn’t so here. If you want something sweet, you’ll have to go for a plain old Drumstick or mini cup of Blue Bell.

    448 Sidney Baker S., Kerrville; 830-257-8866