While Texas may be known for its barbecue and Tex-Mex, there’s more to explore when visiting the state’s Hill Country. Texas is often associated with its Mexican history, but the state has been home to several ethnic groups, each bringing with them the food and culture of their homelands. So it’s not strange that the oldest restaurant in San Antonio is a German delicatessen, or that Austin is home to excellent New York-style pizza. In between, you’ll find Spanish and Mediterranean restaurants as well as the cozy recesses of Tex-Mex, Mexican and good ol’ BBQ.
As we explored Hill Country, my wife and I fell in love with the variety and incredible cuisine of the restaurants on offer. Our taste buds tasted unique and familiar foods. I enjoyed reliving memories of my military career by visiting German restaurants. Whatever your culinary preference, Texas’ Hill Country has you covered. Here’s a look at some of the outstanding restaurants and other stops we enjoyed on our trip. Although numbered, there is no rhyme or reason to their order.
Located on South Congress Avenue, Aba is a chic Mediterranean restaurant offering a mix of dishes based on the cuisine of Israel, Lebanon, Turkey and Greece. Austin is one of only two Aba locations outside of Windy City (where the restaurant is based). With indoor and outdoor dining, you may prefer the patio as its ambiance makes you feel like you are dining in the middle of a botanical garden with bushes and trees. You will find a tasty twist to Mediterranean dishes. For example, Aba’s Hummus offers six flavors ranging from classic hummus and smoked garlic with Aleppo and Urfa peppers to crispy short rib with grilled onions and sherry. Aba also serves a delicious spread including Muhammara, with roasted pepper, Isot chilli, walnuts and pomegranate molasses. The dish is also served with flatbread. Starters include crispy pork belly with a side of Honeycrisp apple, harissa honey, cilantro and lemon.
2. Industry, San Marcos
It’s easy to see why people love L’Industrie: it’s the restaurant you’d dream of opening if customer service was important to you. From the waiters to the kitchen team, everyone strives to ensure that customers have an exceptional experience. As one of San Marcos’ favorite spots, friends gather to enjoy the bar’s fun atmosphere with specialty cocktails, boozy milkshakes, and great craft beer. The restaurant challenges others in the city by creating stunning dishes centered around the industry’s living oak smoker. From brisket tacos with guajillo salsa to a smoked salmon burger topped with chipotle aioli, pickled onion, poblano ranch, tomato and greens, your taste buds may think they’ve gone to culinary heaven. Located across from Aqua Brewing, Industry is perfectly located for a night out on the town or a great place to relax on the weekend.
3. Schilo Deli, San Antonio
A short distance from the Alamo and the Riverwalk, Schilo’s Delicatessen is San Antonio’s oldest restaurant. Started as a saloon in Beeville in the early 1900s, it moved when the family moved to San Antonio in 1914. Serving food since 1917, Schilo’s is open for breakfast and lunch. With a menu featuring traditional eggs and bacon, you can also sample Tex-Mex with a variety of breakfast tacos and travel across the Atlantic adding a bratwurst to your plate. When in the South, I always order a side of oatmeal for breakfast; it reminds me of my grandfather’s visit to Arkansas. Schilo’s cookies and sauce are also delicious. The lunch menu includes sandwiches like the Reuben as well as plates of German schnitzel. At Schilo, a chilled cup of their homemade root beer is a must.
4. Vaudeville, Fredericksburg
For a decade, the owners of Vaudeville have been living their dream of creating a space where they can share their love for art and gastronomy. The Vaudeville shop features beautiful works as well as impressive and unique items on display. The Bistro offers gourmet dining in the heart of the Hill Country. With a creative twist on classic dishes ranging from a French Dip sandwich, with 100% Angus beef, herbed capers and veal au jus, to sushi-grade grilled Scottish salmon served over brown rice with a broth of miso.
5. Boudro’s Texas Bistro On The Riverwalk, San Antonio
You’ll want to grab a table outside to take in the views along the San Antonio Riverwalk, which is almost as fun as dining at Boudro’s Texas Bistro at the Riverwalk. With freshly prepared guacamole at the table, Boudro’s is a true Texas dining experience. Whether you prefer seafood or Tex-Mex, Boudro’s creates amazing dishes. The blackened prime rib is really two meals in one, so you’ll want to plan for leftovers. The medium-rare prime is perfectly blackened on the outside with the right amount of pink in the middle. With a side of rosemary potatoes and roasted vegetables, the starter was one of the best I’ve ever had (and to say I love prime rib is an understatement). Plan on desserts such as vanilla bean creme brulee or Louisiana bread pudding with whiskey sauce so you can sit back and soak up the scenery of tour boats cruising the Riverwalk, people watching and mariachi bands performing outside the restaurant.
6. North Street, San Marcos
Only in Texas will you find an Indian-inspired menu with curry queso, but it’s a must when visiting North Street. Add some tortilla chips and the curry queso is a Texas-style curry. Curry tacos and fried chicken with a twist of curry are some of the Texas-style Indian dishes you’ll find on North Street. However, if you prefer a more standard Indian dish, the restaurant also offers chicken tikka masala and chicken curry.
7. Alpine Haus, New Braunfels
At the table, it’s like being in Bavaria or the Rhineland, the decoration of Alpine Haus resembling that of a German Gasthaus. With a menu highlighting dishes such as jaeger schnitzel, cordon bleu schnitzel (my favourite), sauerbraten and a platter of sausages, the food is reminiscent of evenings spent savoring the finest German cuisine. With New Braunfels’ German immigrant history – its annual Wurstfest draws thousands from around the world – Alpine Haus is a natural fit and a real treasure.
8. Home Slice Pizza, Austin
It’s a small slice of New York along Austin’s South Congress Avenue. With a “Willie Nelson for President” mural painted on the side of its takeout outlet, Home Slice Pizza has shared its love for New York-style pizza with Texas for more than 15 years. The original location opened for Congress in 2005, and its take-out building was added a few years later across the parking lot. While it’s nice to enjoy pizza inside a restaurant, you might want to order a slice and sit outside at the picnic tables. With each slice so huge you’ll want to fold it up and eat it like a real New Yawka, you’ll get to meet new people and learn all sorts of fun stuff, like the lady at your table who lives around 20 years. minutes from your kids in Tacoma, Washington, and she’s in town babysitting her dog. Congress is a fun place to explore, and Home Slice, with its Neapolitan baked pizza, adds to the Austin experience. Home Slice has a third location in Austin on the North Loop.
9. Toro Kitchen and Bar, San Antonio
Its founder grew up between Mexico and Texas while embracing his Spanish roots. All accompanied by tapas, paella, montaditos and pulpo gallego (grilled octopus) at Toro Kitchen and Bar. With nearly two dozen types of tapas on the menu, Toro challenges your senses and taste buds with some amazing combinations, including fried calamari steaks with aioli sauce.
10. Sage Restaurant and Lounge, Fredericksburg
With an international flavor, the menu at Sage Restaurant and Lounge ranges from venison to carbonara. The unique combination of flavors offers a culinary world tour. If you’re in the mood for a romantic dinner, consider asking the staff to pair a bottle of wine with a tomahawk steak dinner for two. Or, perhaps, try the cod dinner with cauliflower okra pilaf.
11. La Margarita, San Antonio
Cooking skirt steak on cast iron plates with sizzling vegetables, La Margarita has been a star among San Antonio’s Mexican restaurants. You can watch the fajitas being prepared in the kitchen while you wait for your order to arrive. Arriving at your table, steam rises from sizzling fajitas. A favorite in the Market Square, al fresco dining adds to the centre’s ambience, with fun Latin decorations and brightly painted shop windows.
12. Visconti Ristorante, Austin
Located at the Granduca Austin Hotel, the Visconti Ristorante hosts monthly themed dinners like a tour of Italy. Diners are given props, such as Mardi Gras party masks to wear during dinner, and the chef prepares an abundance of entrees to enjoy. From pizza Margherita to pasta dishes, every dinner ends with a unique dessert. As with most themed dinners, a sommelier offers a look at the wines that were paired with the entrees, including a history of the drink and why it’s a great choice. Dinners are open to the public but require reservations.
13. Smoke BBQ and Skybar, San Antonio
San Antonio’s largest outdoor restaurant and bar, Smoke BBQ and Skybar, combines Texas BBQ, sky bar, live music and outdoor games. With an unrivaled brisket, Smoke BBQ challenges the best barbecue joints by creating exceptional combinations and platters. Throw in pulled pork, turkey, and a slice of rib with sides like charro beans, potato salad, and cream of corn, and you have a meal worthy of a vaquero. The combination of games like cornhole and an outdoor bar makes an afternoon or evening at Smoke a great adventure.
To learn more about the Texas Hill Country, see the following articles: