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Texas cuisine – Beyond barbecues

For most Aussie and Kiwi travellers, ‘barbecue’ is often the first cuisine that springs to mind when asked about typical Texas food. This US state’s cooking, however, is as vast as its size. Every region of this incredibly varied state is home to its own share of gastronomic goodness. From multicultural infusions in San Antonio, eclectic hipster-inspired food and desserts in Austin, through to sophisticated, high-end culinary treats in Houston, they all hold that quintessential Southern charm for which the Lone Star state is known. Take a culinary tour through the great Texas kitchen.

Southern melting pot in San Antonio
Due to its historical roots and close proximity to Latin America, San Antonio’s food scene possesses a charming blend of Southern USA with Latin tastes and flair. While traditional Tex-Mex staples can be enjoyed all across Texas, San Antonio boasts its own gastronomic scene with its epicentre in the trendy and burgeoning Pearl district. The Pearl Brewery building, originally an historic brewing company, consists of a collection of cute bakeries, quirky bars and high cuisine restaurants serving San Antonio’s finest. Tucked further away in the Pearl district sits The Hotel Emma, a unique historical landmark in San Antonio adorned with a steampunk décor, offering locally-sourced European-inspired products to blissful bistro dishes in Midwestern-style. Last but not least is the iconic River Walk, now extended to the Pearl district offering even more dining opportunities from every corner of the world.

Culinary kaleidoscope in quirky Austin
Austin doesn’t take itself too seriously and this applies to its cuisine as well. Being a traditional ‘burgers ‘n’ barbecue’ town, Austin has flourished into a true foodie hub with more than 1,000 creative food trucks scattered across the city. Their offerings range from fully vegan hot dogs and burgers at Arlo’s, to Cajun jambalaya on a stick at Baton Creole to Asian-inspired deep fried chicken at Thai Kun – conveniently located in the beer garden of hip and trendy bar Whisler’s. There is no better way to cap off this food truck journey with some scrumptious desserts such as Nutella or Key Lime mini-cheesecakes at OMG! Cheesecakery.

Haute cuisine in Houston
Like NASA, headquartered in Houston, this city’s food scene is out of this world. Over the last few years, Houston has made a culinary ascent and sky-rocketed to the top ranking eating cities in the United States. Houston is brimming with diverse fine dining options, ranging from traditional European cuisine like charcuterie platters and rabbit loins to more sophisticated American gourmet food. With several renowned award-winning restaurants such as Underbelly, serving out-of-the box dishes with a quirky twist, the Space City is the perfect launch pad for a fine culinary journey.

Experimental and established in Dallas-Fort Worth
Not considered as a traditional food destination, the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolis can firmly hold its own against the rest of Texas with a wildly transforming and experimental food scene. Key is its farm-to-table idea, delivering stunning dishes by using locally sourced ingredients and responsible, impact-minimising farming. This shows in food and dining incubator Trinity Groves, boasting renovated and rehabilitated industrial warehouses containing a variety of extraordinary culinary concepts including Spanish Tapas, Middle Eastern, Central-American and Latin-Asian fusion. Food lovers, who prefer having gorgeous dishes in established eateries, can dine in one of celebrity chef and Texas native Tim Love’s acclaimed Fort Worth restaurants. Lonesome Dove Western Bistro, his flagship outlet, predominantly serves meat dishes with the raw flavours of the old west combined with modern unexpected twists to add a touch of elegance.

Coastal barbecue trails with a history
Beyond the urban limits of Texas’ great cities, there is a wide world of food to explore as well. The southern coast along the Mexican Gulf is home to the Great Coastal Texas Barbecue Trail. A verbal and culinary mouthful alike, this tour takes food lovers to the best coastal barbecue restaurants, which not only share mouth-watering southern-style steaks, burgers and peach cobblers, but also their history. Take Aunt Jo’s BBQ joint for example, located in a post-Civil War building used to educate African American children after a freed slave’s hard labour and smart investments amassed him large acres of land and property.

Local produce in small town Texas food fairs
For those who want to have an authentic Texan food experience, visit the food fairs in small town Texas and taste produce from local farms and ranches. The Pasadena Strawberry Festival, held annually close to Houston, offers many local specialties made from this little red fruit. Apart from stocking up on extraordinary home-made strawberry pies and pastries, witness the world’s largest strawberry shortcake unveiled and cut live. For those who fancy more than just strawberries, visit the Oktoberfest-like sausage festival Wurstfest in New Braunfels or participate in watermelon thumping contests in Luling. That’s just the tip of the iceberg with many food fairs and festivals solely dedicated to local fruits or specialties held all across Texas.

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