My spring trip to Texas


These past few weeks, I had the opportunity to go to Texas on two trips. Between the bluebonnets and the severe storms, the season can be extreme but it’s still my favorite time to visit the state. There’s nothing like Texas in the spring.

My first visit order of business was a conference in Austin, but after I landed I decided to drive to North Texas to see my Grandma on a quick visit before I had to get busy. She told me that the bluebonnets we’d planted in the fall were in full bloom and indeed they were. It was a fine beginning.

The next day I headed back to Austin to join my fellow Texas food lovers at the annual Foodways Texas Symposium. This year’s theme was gender, so there were talks about community cookbooks, Helen Corbitt, the Chili Queens, and the Czech women who make kolaches, among other things. All of the meals were good, as you would expect at a food conference, but my favorite plate was probably the smothered pork chop served by Hoover Alexander of Hoover’s in Austin.

After the conference, I spent a few more days in the Austin area visiting friends. Some of our shared dinners were home cooked and I was so busy catching up that I forgot to take photos, but I did manage to squeeze in a few extra meals. My first one was at La Mancha. After a few days in Texas, I decided I needed some vegetables so I ordered two quesos, one with spinach and one loaded with avocados and pickled red onions.

When you’re in Texas, breakfast tacos are a must and I always love the ones at Veracruz All Natural in Austin. The make their own tortillas and their fillings are always fresh.

Eating at the bowling alley is a fun thing to do when I’m in Texas, and a morning spent at Dart Bowl scratched that itch. I had a plate of cheesy, greasy enchiladas topped with a fried egg.

It was drizzling most of my time there, but if I’m in Texas in the spring I have to drive out to the country to see the flowers. One day I found myself near Lockhart, so I stopped into Black’s and had a tray of the Texas trinity—brisket, sausage, and ribs. Earlier in the day, I’d stepped into an anthill while wearing sandals while taking a flower photo (I know, I know…I should have been wearing boots!) so these succulent smoked meats took the sting off a bit.

One of my drives brought me close to San Antonio. While I didn’t have much time to spend there, I did manage to enjoy some enchiladas, queso, and the excellent brisket taco at Garcia’s. The latter is absolute perfection, as the tender, smoky, and peppery thick slices of brisket are nestled in a homemade flour tortilla. A scoop of guacamole on the side is highly recommended, as well.

Crawfish were still in season, so I stopped into LA Crawfish and had some Vietnamese crawfish, which were made extra flavorful with lots of butter, garlic, and chiles.

There’s nothing better than a freshly made Texas burger with hand breaded onion rings. A trip to Top Notch fit my requirements quite nicely.

While I was sad to leave Texas, two weeks later I ended up returning. My mom’s house had been flooded, so my brother and I both went to Houston to help her pack the stuff upstairs and move into her temporary home. Before we started, however, we stopped into Soto’s Cantina for dinner. I know I’ve spoken of this place before, but every Texas family has a neighborhood Tex-Mex place and this is my mom’s. As always, it was wonderful. I stuck to the classics with a combo made up of a cheese enchilada, tamale, taco al carbon, rice and beans. That paired with chips and salsa was a fine meal.

One day after a long day of work, we dropped into Torchy’s. The tacos were satisfying but the guacamole and queso were even better.

Craving something sweet, we went to Connie’s for custard. I’d never been, which was odd considering how long it’s been open, but my mom and brother both love it. They warned me that there are only two flavors—vanilla and chocolate—but both were superb. Plus, you can mix in a variety of fruits and nuts to jazz up the simple scoops. I had Texas buttered pecans swirled into my cup of vanilla, which was a caramelized blend of crunchy, buttery nuts with a creamy base that was the both salty and sweet. I often say I don’t have a sweet tooth and don’t require dessert, but I ate the whole thing with no problem.

The best meal of that trip, however, was at my mom’s church. The tables were loaded down with a host of dishes, which included countless cold salads, hot casseroles, breads, briskets, pulled pork, soups, beans, pickles, and desserts such as banana pudding and homemade cookies. There’s nothing like a community meal where everyone contributes to the gathering, and since the weekend had been a testimony to how people can do great things when working together, that church dinner was my favorite meal of all.

  1. Cool boots! The food all looks delicious, wish I could sample it all. I've always loved pics of bluebonnets from Texas, they are gorgeous!

  2. Lisa Fain

    Pam–Bluebonnets are the best!

  3. Glenda Booth

    Haven't had a chance to go to Texas in awhile?. So looking forward to it! The Bluebonnets! The food!

  4. Karen VK

    Thanks for the vicarious trip – could only have enjoyed it more if I was actually there! Sorry about your Mom's home – my childhood home was hit by a flood back in the 70's. I will never forget the smell of the mud and the kindness of strangers.

  5. Kathy Moore

    Being a Texan, I love reading about all of the foods you enjoy in your travels back to the state. Have you tried the homemade pastrami and wood-fired oven pizza at Pieous? I was taken there during a recent trip to Austin to visit family.
    it was delicious.

  6. Heather Lucas

    I hate to hear about your mom flooding! Its been an interesting spring for sure. When I first moved to the area my friend took me Connie's. Unfortunately, I live just down the road, which makes it hard to ignore.

  7. Michael Taylor

    Sounds like a great trip! Didn't know Dart served breakfast. Perhaps that explains the number of cars in the parking lot in the mornings – I figured there were just a bunch of avid early riser bowlers 🙂 I live a few blocks north of there so I'll have to check it out.

  8. looloolooweez

    These are lovely photos — making me hungry, even though I just had breakfast, haha.

    Also, I'm sorry to hear about your mom's house. We live down in the Houston area, too, though thankfully this year we escaped the worst of it (so far). I hope she's doing OK.

  9. Angela Lopez

    Hi, Lisa – I wondered if you made it up to the Lubbock area. 'Glad you had a great trip.

  10. Lisa Fain

    Glenda–Hope you get there soon!

  11. Lisa Fain

    Karen–The kindness of others is definitely the silver lining when something bad happens. And may you get back soon!

  12. Lisa Fain

    Kathy–I have not been to Pieous but I'm adding it to my list of places to visit. I love pastrami and pizza! Thank you for the tip!

  13. Lisa Fain

    Heather–Isn't it wonderful? And that drive through makes it all the more hard to ignore!

  14. KReisinger

    Glad you made it to TX twice, between all the rain. I've lived here since '97, and I can't remember a wetter spring! The bluebonnets were amazing, weren't they? I'm so sorry you mom's house flooded. We had many friends flooded out too. Praying all will be put to rights soon. And…now I'm hungry. 😉 Heading to the kitchen!

  15. Lisa Fain

    Michael–You should definitely go!

  16. Lisa Fain

    looloolooweez–Thank you! She's doing much better now but it was a crazy few weeks.

  17. Lisa Fain

    Angela–Well, I haven't been to Lubbock since I was a kid. My family was driving back from a vacation in Colorado and we stopped to see Prairie Dog Town. Clearly I'm long overdue another visit!

  18. ann peck

    Thank you for a great read (as usual) and so sorry for your Mom having the water in her home.

    One thing I had forgotten….sliced jalapenos as a side on plates. I haven't seen that since Texas. Somehow that just doesn't translate to the east coast at all.

  19. Lisa Fain

    KReisinger–The bluebonnets were incredible this year! One good result from all the rain.

  20. Lisa Fain

    Ann—Sliced jalapeños on the side are a must!

  21. anotherfoodieblogger

    Wow I am so sorry to hear about your mom's house. I have an aunt, uncle, and brother in Houston that somehow were spared from it all. And with two brothers and a sister in Austin, you are making me miss that place! My lucky daughter is going to visit Austin next month after school lets out. She can't wait to tour UT again (where she plans on attending next fall), and show off all the cool places to go to her boyfriend who's going with her. They'll split time between Austin and Wimberley (my parents live there) along with a must-see trip to the San Antonio Riverwalk and Alamo. Thanks Lisa for all the great foodie shots and memories!

  22. Faith Bahadurian

    Lord take me now, this all looks so amazing – thanks for sharing!

  23. ibcookin4u

    No trip to Austin is complete without a trip to Hoover's! It is the best!!! Always love when you hit the same spots that are my families favortites just about everywhre you go we go!!!

  24. Anonymous

    Make my heart ache. Thank you for sharing

  25. Anonymous

    I LOVE that you wrote "I needed more veggies so I ordered two quesos". Atta girl! Been wishing I had queso here in Australia lately to go with the afternoons' Palomas.

  26. Bob Frasier

    Sorry to hear about your Mom Lisa. I get my cold plate / hot plate fix at El Gallo behind Connie's. Particularly like their chicken flautas. As for Connie's, I'm stuck on buttered pecan which is vanilla, butterscotch, and toasted pecans. Also I'm sure you know Balderas Tamale Factory down the road for breakfast, but just in case 🙂

  27. Nice to get some heads up about NW Houston. I too am dealing w/ my late Mum's flooded house
    (in Hearthstone). Will now have to try Connie's and Soto's…
    Terry Combs

  28. Lisa Fain

    anotherfoodieblogger–That's terrific your daughter gets to visit Texas. I adore Wimberley! And I'm so glad your family was spared the flooding. Hope you get back soon yourself.

  29. Lisa Fain

    Faith–You're welcome! You should visit!

  30. Lisa Fain

    ibcookin4u–Hoover's food is the best and he's a super nice guy, too.

  31. Lisa Fain

    Anonymous–Afternoon queso and palomas sounds like a fine combination!

  32. Lisa Fain

    Bob–As my brother said, you can have any flavor you like as long as it's vanilla or chocolate!

  33. Lisa Fain

    Terry–I'm so sorry you're having to deal with the flooding. Such a mess!

  34. Sue in Grapevine

    If you could could come up with a recipe that mimics Torchy's queso, my living-in-exile-in-Indiana daughter would be over the moon!

  35. Jennifer Roberts

    Sorry to hear about your mom's house flooding. Hope things dry out quickly.

  36. Sorry to hear about your Mom's house. I'm in Stable Gate and flooded also. Did the church flood? I drive by there on the way to my church several times a week. Soto's is a family favorite. Try the Summer
    Steak next time; it's amazing. I think their guacamole is some of the best in town.

  37. Geneva Bracken

    I am a homesick Texan for sure! Your article about breakfast tacos almost made me break down and cry. I'm from San Antonio and I miss Spurs game nights at Chaco' eating Norteno tacos and drinking their margaritas and then going downtown and walking on the Riverwalk. There are many beautiful places in the world but there is only one Texas.

  38. Great post Lisa! I hope your mom's ok. You blogged about your family heirloom table awhile back – did it happen to get through the flooding? (Sorry if I missed an update!)

  39. Lisa Fain

    Sue–I'm on the case!

    Jennifer–Thank you!

    Leigh–The church was fine, fortunately. And I look forward to trying the summer steak!

  40. Lisa Fain

    Geneva–There is indeed no place like home. Hope you can get back for a taco and a walk along the Riverwalk soon!

  41. Lisa Fain

    Mrs LJ–The table is being restored and should be okay. Thank you for asking!

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