As anyone who’s driven from the high plains of the panhandle to the saline curve of the Gulf Coast, across the arid expanse of West Texas and through to the lush creek beds of the Hill Country can tell you: Texas is more than a state. It’s a region unto itself — a vast quilt of cultures, cuisines, and landscapes knitted together by screaming highways and cowboy swagger. The food here is as broad as the state, but also singular, dominated by a shared love of slow-cooked meat and Mexican flavors, and punctuated by dishes that follow its many waves of immigration, from Czech kolaches to Vietnamese pho.
It’s a lot to take on, and Eater is here with a whittled-down guide to tackling Texas. Explore its 38 most essential restaurants, take a cheesy dip into the unsung glories of Tex-Mex, and — since you can only eat so much in a day — explore where to stay along the way and how to get your maximum dose of Texas culture. Loosen that belt buckle, because like everything else ’round these parts, we’re going big.
The important stuff:
“Eating in Texas has never been more exceptional,” says Eater critic Bill Addison, who spent a month traveling the state in search of its 38 most essential restaurants — the kitchens that define Texas’s culinary culture and the ones pushing it forward. With the the help of 10 local experts, Addison celebrates everything from steakhouses and Tex-Mex shrines to handmade soba, Czech kolaches, and Viet-Cajun crawfish. Take a closer peek at the map.
But first, something to know:
After spending a month rambling through the state to pinpoint its 38 essential restaurants, Bill Addison is certain of one thing: Dining in Texas has never been more exhilarating — never more homegrown or multicultural, never richer in talent and ambition — than right at this moment. Here’s proof.
And before you skip the puffy taco crawl for a barbecue binge, know this:
Tex-Mex has long been reviled as inauthentic, unartful, queso-drenched fusion, with a lot of easy-melt cheese and salsas from a bottle. But in fact, dishes like chile con carne have deep roots in the border state, and Tex-Mex has emerged as one of our country’s most important homegrown regional cuisines. With barbecue threatening to take over the state — and the nation — it’s time Tex-Mex got its due.
Also, you can only spend so many hours of the day eating, so...
Behold, a guide to the best things to do when you’re not stuffing your face, from desert art installations to barbecue camp. Plus, which boutique hotel is best for sleeping off the meat sweats.
By the way, you’ll need a car:
Everything is bigger in Texas, and that’s especially true when talking about the massive network of interstate highways that sprawl across the state. At pretty much any given time of the year, these roads are packed with travelers from Texas and beyond, headed to Austin, San Antonio, Dallas, Houston, or elsewhere. Here’s a plan of attack for cruising the state.
And then a pit stop:
Buc-ee’s is both the world’s largest (literally: Its New Braunfels, Texas, location occupies more than 68,000 square feet) and what many Texans believe is the world’s best gas station. Home to hundreds of gas pumps, the certified cleanest bathrooms in America, and a dizzying array of snacks and prepared foods, Buc-ee’s holds a special place in the heart of every traveling Texan. Here’s a closer look at why.
And finally, a drink...
As the Texas wine industry continues to mature, its quality is growing with strategic uses of Spanish, Italian, and Rhône grape varietals, which suit the warm Texas climate much better than many of the well-known grapes from California. Eater put together its recommended list of the best Texas wineries to visit and try out some of these local wines.
Editor: Lesley Suter
Art Director: Brittany Holloway-Brown
Contributors: Bill Addison, Nadia Chaudhury, Jessica Elizarraras, Whitney Filloon, Meghan McCarron, Amy McCarthy, June Naylor, Dawn Orsak, Mai Pham, José R. Ralat, Daniel Vaughn, Robb Walsh
Texas roadtrip illustration: Sarah Tanat Jones
Copy Editors: Emma Alpern, Dawn Mobley
Fact Checker: Dawn Mobley
Thanks to Amanda Kludt, Matt Buchanan, Sonia Chopra, Meghan McCarron, Milly McGuinness, Adam Moussa, Patty Diez, James Park, Manami Takashina, Emma Alpern, Daniel Vaughn
The Texas Road Trip Roadmap, How Buc-ee’s Became Texas’s Most Beloved Road Trip Destination, and The Essential Guide to Central Texas Wineries were originally published before this package ran as part of Eater’s Road Trip Week, 2017.