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Easy Living in Texas Hill Country

© by Salt lLck BBQ

With its blooming bluebonnets, grazing white-tailed deer, twisting Live Oak trees and clear blue swimming holes, there’s a natural ease to Texas Hill Country.

Located in Central Texas, the Texas Hill Country is a land of rolling grasslands and sandy hills. It’s a large area of about 31,000 square miles and is bordered to the East by the vibrant city of Austin.

Head for the Hills

If the pull of Austin is too great, escape to the hills (while remaining only 10 miles west of downtown) at Hotel Viata. Its European exterior, large landscape paintings and charming courtyard give the Italian-inspired Viata a kind of fantastical, Grand Budapest Hotel, alpine-retreat feel. The hotel’s Laurel restaurant showcases ingredients from the Texas Hill Country while drawing inspiration from Italian coastal cuisine. And, like many Austin establishments, the hotel– including the restaurant — is dog-friendly. It’s a new level of service when the waiter brings you and your dog refreshments!

Laurel Restaurant

Although Viata offers a flavour of the Italian Alps, the taste of Europe you’ll find more heavily in Hill Country is German and Czech. Immigrants from these areas came to Texas Hill Country and settled towns such as Fredericksburg, New Braunfels and Castroville. This European influence can be savoured throughout the state in the form of Texas kolaches. These are a hearty breakfast pastry found at most doughnut shops. A sweet dough surrounds a sausage and cheese filling and, like doughnuts, you usually buy them by the dozen or half-dozen. Try the “boudin” kolache from Shipley Do-Nuts, featuring a Cajun rice and pork sausage. Avoid the “sausage” kolache, unless you want something that’s more like an American hotdog.


You’ll smell it before you see it: Salt Lick BBQ, located in the hill town of Driftwood, amongst the grape vines and old oak trees. It is run by the Roberts family, whose recipes have roots back to the wagon trains of the mid-1800s. The open BBQ pit will instantly have you hungry for their no-frills plates of sausage, pulled pork, ribs, brisket and more. If that weren’t enough, there’s all the traditional southern sides of coleslaw, baked beans, buns, dill pickle and quarter of a raw onion. Some say these help the BBQ go down – but I really don’t think you’ll have any problems with that! What does help is some local beer. The entire restaurant is BYOB. So you can bring your favourite beverage, or simply get your table, place your order, then walk to Salt Lick Cellars next door for a bucket of Texan suds on ice. There’s plenty of outdoor, and indoor, seating – all family style – adding to the laid-back vibe of the rolling hills that surround. Pick up a bottle of their signature BBQ sauce – a unique vinegar based style – on your way out and play pitmaster at home.

Not far from this sweet smell of BBQ is Desert Door distillery where you’ll find their unique spirit: Sotol. Wild-harvested from sotol plants across Texas, this alcohol is sort of like tequila, but finishes a bit smoother than most and can be used in any cocktail that calls for a clear spirit.

Dripping Springs

West out of Austin is the town of Dripping Springs. Here you’ll find another Hill Country distillery: Deep Eddy Vodka. The name comes from the oldest swimming home in Austin, and their location includes a tasting room where you can sample any of their eight flavours.

Flores Barbacoa Taco

Before (or after) day drinking, join the line of locals at Flores food stand (aka Flores #2) for breakfast & lunch. Flores #1 is a dine-in Mexican restaurant just two minutes down the road that opens later in the day for dinner. Try the barbacoa tacos (if you dare). Made of whole cow head, the meat is slow cooked in a ground oven. Flores tacos are an excellent example of a Texas spin on classic Mexican food: in Mexico, traditional barbacoa would be made from the head of a pig or a sheep, since beef is less common. Whether north of south of the border, the dish illustrates an approach that doesn’t let any meat go to waste, plus, the head is arguably the ultimate leftover cut. Chewy cartilage and stringy fibrous bits are mixed with succulent pieces of cheek and tongue.

For dessert, try Drippin’ Donuts a stone’s throw down the street. If you’re tired of fancy (oft overpriced) donuts, this shop will revive your love of the bakery staple. Unpretentious, cheap, fresh and delicious. Just as a doughnut should be.


All this talk of springs and swimming holes will have you asking where you can take a dip. With most of the waterfront of the local creeks and rivers private property, it can be challenging to find water access. Wimberley’s Blue Hole is a top -hoice. This regional park is home to a crystal clear spring-fed swimming hole shaded by beautiful mature Cypress trees (that also provide the cantilever for some epic rope swings). Although reservations and admission fees are needed to swim, the 126-acre park is free for visitors to walk, bike and hike, and provides many options for excellent picnic spots!

The Blanco River runs through Wimberley, but it’s peppered with “Posted: Private Property” signs. That’s in part what makes 7A Ranch such a gem: river access. Located about a mile upriver, the ranch has welcomed families to their cabins for over seven decades. But you don’t have to be renting a cabin to cool off. For a small fee you can get a river day-pass – but only 50 are sold per day, so in hot weather get there by 10 am. If you’d prefer to skip the river dip, cool off with a cone from the ice cream parlour in their mini pioneer town.

Shady Llama

For your sundowner, don’t miss the local libations and llamas, at The Shady Llama. This family-owned outdoor beer and wine garden has an amazing sunset view over the hills and lots of areas for the kids (and canines on-leash) to roam. If you’re lucky, you may get to meet one of their llamas. All of their draft beer and wine is made in Texas, and the bar staff are happy to advise. There’s also a couple of food trucks on-site, so you can make it dinner with a view, and maybe some new woolly friends.


Cook it

Hill Country Peach Kuchen

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