Foodie Road Trippin’
By Sydni Ellis
Sweet, sticky peach juice dribbled down my arm. The sun was beating down on my family and me on this nearly triple-digit summer day, but nobody noticed—we were too busy feasting on soft, Southern peaches that we had driven nearly an hour to buy. Even before the world came to a standstill to combat a global pandemic, people have been willing to go long distances for good food. Heck, when you live in Texas, an hour-and-a-half drive to a great burger joint might not be that much longer than your morning commute (and it’s much more enjoyable). If you are a foodie, or just enjoy traveling around the state discovering unique restaurants, then check out a few of these favorites, personally recommended by the community!
Let’s start with BBQ—something most Southerners are very picky about. I like anything that’s smoky and lathered in BBQ sauce, but others can be very particular about it. One place worth the drive: Salt Lick BBQ in Driftwood, just outside Austin. This family-owned BBQ restaurant has grown from cooking on a barbeque pit for close friends in 1967, to serving thousands of guests each week in its multiple locations, hosting weddings and events (during normal times), and selling beer and wine in its Salt Lick Cellars. But it all goes back to how tasty their meat is.
Go for something classic like brisket or turkey or something daring like bison ribs or ½ of a whole chicken. Complete the meal with coleslaw, beans or potato salad, Salt Lick Barbecue Sauce and sweet iced tea. Enjoy this delicious meal in the spacious outdoor dining areas, surrounded by oak trees, wildflowers and fans to keep you cool. Afterward, order a full-size dessert to take home, like a blackberry or peach cobbler, or chocolate pecan pie. saltlickbbq.com
Craving authentic Mexican cuisine? Head to La Gloria at Pearl in San Antonio to try Chef Johnny Hernandez’s upscale Mexican street food. Sit on the huge patio outside while you peruse the menu, inspired by Hernandez’s travels through Mexico and first-rate training at the Culinary Institute of America in New York.
Start with classic street tacos, like the Dorados Verdes, with chicken and tomatillo salsa, or the Beef Alambre, with grilled sirloin and bacon. Also, try the Queso Fundido, a melted cheese served in a cast-iron griddle, hot and ready for dipping! Wash it down with the refreshing Mangonada cocktail, handcrafted with fresh mango, cantaloupe and tequila. Watch out for their hot pink margarita truck rolling through town, serving up classics like the Prickly Pear Margarita, La Gloria Blue Margarita, and drink and taco kits to make at home. chefjohnnyhernandez.com.
Next stop on your food adventure: hamburgers! Sure, you can find a greasy, delicious fast-food burger on every corner, but once you’ve had a thick, juicy burger from LSA Burger in Denton, nothing else will compare. This gourmet restaurant offers hand-crafted burgers named after our state’s musical legends (the décor matches this theme as well, featuring a prominent painting of “The Last Supper” portrayed as music legends). The Georgie Boy is topped with cheddar, bacon, house sauce and LTPO, while Ready Freddie is smothered in DP BBQ, cheddar, bacon, griddled onions, pickles and house sauce. Be sure to grab a Brisket Queso starter and a side of Garlic Parm Herb Fries, too.
Sit upstairs in the first rooftop patio/bar in downtown Denton to enjoy your food surrounded by fresh air and the pretty views. Order a drink from the barrel, beer or a cocktail—my favorite is the Spiked Lemonade, which is real sugar lemonade with vodka. And if you visit at sunset, you can take part in a time-honored tradition of drinking a shot of beer with everyone as the sun goes down. LSAburger.com.
For a twist on the classic American staple, grilled cheese, try the Melt on Wheels food truck in Houston. This isn’t your average slice of craft cheese on toasted white bread. These delicious sandwiches are made on Texas Toast or Sourdough bread and feature a wide range of cheeses, meats and other toppings, turning it into a gourmet lunch. The Birria Grilled Cheese features slow-cooked Chuck and brisket, topped with a mix of Monterey and Chihuahua cheese, onions and cilantro. Other unique options include the Caprese, made with Mozzarella, pecorino Romano cheese, tomato and basil; and Mama Mia, with sliced prosciutto, gouda and goat cheese, basil, caramelized onions and honey drizzle on potato bread. meltonwheels.com.
A food tour roundup wouldn’t be complete without a place to get amazing steaks. Four Winds Steakhouse in Wills Point, near Canton, comes with high praise. They serve delicious food inside the ranch house of former Dallas Cowboy Lee Roy Jordan on most evenings from 5-10 p.m. Guests are served near huge windows overlooking the 1,000+ acres of old oaks. If their dining room closes again due to COVID-19, you get your food to-go while sitting on the beautiful porch (it still tastes just as amazing in your car!).
The restaurant is run by former Del Frisco’s chef, Frank Rumore, who has over 30 years’ experience preparing amazing steaks and seafood for guests. Start with an upscale appetizer, like escargot baked in a traditional garlic-herb compound butter. For dinner, you can’t go wrong with the 26 oz. Bone-In Ribeye with brandy peppercorn sauce, the filet mignon, the Australian Cold-Water Lobster Tail or the Pecan-Breaded Catfish with roasted shallot tartar sauce. It’s upscale food with small-town Texas charm.
Last but not least, the best peaches this side of Georgia can be found at Ham Orchards in Terrell. Friends of mine have been raving about this family-owned orchard for years, so I finally decided to give it a try. Their perfectly ripe, freshly picked peaches were exactly what we needed on a hot summer’s day. When we pulled up on a weekend morning, the massive parking lot was full—even though nobody was allowed to eat onsite due to COVID-19 restrictions. Ham Orchards is on 200 acres, with five orchards and over 15,000 peach, apricot, plum and nectarine trees.
Although things look a little different on this family’s 41st year of business, they are just as busy as ever. Shop for just-picked-that-morning peaches under the shaded pavilion. Then go inside the store (bring a mask) to shop for homemade jams, preservatives, local honey, and made-from-scratch fudge, pies, cakes and other baked goods. If you buy one thing inside the little store, make it the award-winning homemade peach ice cream, which literally melts in your mouth with its sugary, creamy goodness. If you get extra hungry, be sure to try the Eddie Deen BBQ, sold to-go only right now. We weren’t the only ones chowing down on chopped brisket and fresh peaches in our car in the parking lot! Come soon—they are only open from mid-May-mid-August. hamorchard.com.
If amazing food isn’t a good enough reason to travel right now, then what is? Just because your summer vacation looks a little different this year, doesn’t mean you can’t explore the great state of Texas, discover delicious things to eat and enjoy the open road at the same time. Your stomach has never been happier.