A Taste of Texas
As varied as its melting pot of cultures and storied past, Texas is as well-known for its outstanding cuisine as its friendly residents. Whether visitors are looking for award-winning barbecue, authentic Tex-Mex, delectable hand-cut steaks, freshly caught seafood from the Gulf Coast or a contemporary experience to tickle the palate, one cannot go wrong with the diverse and deeply rooted dishes Texas has to offer. Discover world-class cuisine at first-class restaurants across the state, making for the ultimate dining experience!
Texas is gaining national attention with its cutting edge contemporary cuisine, and has recently become known as a premier gastronomic destination producing some of the most innovative culinary artisans in the industry. Ambitious chefs bring impeccably crafted menus and fresh ideas to restaurants in major cities like Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin and San Antonio. Inspired by local ingredients, as well as the rich and diverse emulsion of cultures prevalent in the state, and coupling these with high quality and culinary artistry, these chefs have helped spotlight Texas’ growing reputation as a vital culinary scene.
It is no secret that few people can agree on the “right” way to cook barbecue; however, all Texans agree that it is a culturally iconic staple of their diet and a tradition that they love to share. Unlike other regions of the South where pork is most prevalent, beef is most common to traditional Texas barbecue and has remained so since the Civil War. To understand what makes the Lone Star State’s dish so distinctly emblematic, hit the legendary Texas Barbecue Trail. Travelers will visit mouth-watering, family owned BBQ joints in Taylor, Elgin, Luling and Lockhart – the “Capital of Texas Barbecue.” Dive right in and wrap your taste buds around juicy brisket, fall- off-the-bone ribs and succulent sausages of all varieties that will leave you craving more.
No matter what region is visited in Texas, it is without a doubt that a Tex-Mex restaurant will be within close proximity. Heavily influenced by history, Tex-Mex is a hybrid of Spanish, Mexican-Indian and Anglo fare that was originally created by Tejanos when Texas was part of Mexico. Today, the dishes remain just as common in the Lone Star State and have strayed little from their origins, relying heavily on the use of meat, beans, rice, a blend of unique chiles, spices and hot corn and flour tortillas. From the Rio Grande Valley up into the Panhandle Plains, hungry eaters can find traditional dishes served at local holes-in-the-wall to well established venues serving crispy and soft tacos; enchiladas; nachos with a blend of meat, cheese, and refried beans; and chili con queso as well as grilled chicken and beef fajitas - all served alongside tortilla chips and freshly made tomato salsa. For many Texans, chicken fried steak, smothered pork chops, biscuits and gravy, cornbread and fruity cobblers are all synonymous for home-cooked comfort food that evokes a sense of nostalgia. Today, chefs and food magazines alike try to imitate the warm and appetizing food that Texans know as their own. Comfort food was created to “stick to the ribs” and leave one feeling full and satisfied for long periods of time, historically necessary to allow cowboys and ranch hands the energy needed for their work. Visitors will truly understand this feeling after trying one of the delicious dishes available at restaurants all across the state.
Sea breezes and succulent seafood collide in beach towns such as South Padre Island, Port Aransas, Corpus Christi and Galveston Island. The waters of the Texas Gulf Coast are home to crab, shellfish and many varieties of fish that are prepared in an array of ways. Baked, grilled or fried, Texas seafood will delight all taste buds! An attraction for many, the fresh seafood markets located along the piers on the coast offer visitors the chance to purchase freshly-caught seafood from the Gulf waters, maybe to enjoy that very night or perhaps to take home to family and friends for a truly unique gift!
On any given day, the aroma from a pot of simmering chili on the stove is a sure way to get any Texan’s mouth watering. Proclaimed by the Texas State Legislature as the official “State Dish” in 1977, chili comes in many appealing varieties. A perfectly seasoned blend of chili powder, oregano, paprika, cumin and cayenne pepper, paired with ground beef, tomato puree, garlic and other variations, make this a traditional “go to” dish. Chili maintains its roots in the Deep South dating back to the 1800’s and is still enjoyed by cowboys, cowgirls and modern day city folk alike. For the best chili around, visitors and natives make their way to Terlingua for the International Championship Chili Cook-Off, typically scheduled each November. This long-standing Texas tradition was first held in 1967 as a competition of wit as well as chili, and today the competition still stands strong among others throughout the state.
If you’re from East Texas, you are all too familiar with the delectable tastes of Cajun cuisine, including gumbo, boiled crawfish, etouffee, and boudin sausage. All of these dishes have become a part of Texas through the blending of Cajun culture by those who settled in the state from neighboring Louisiana. This influence can be seen across various regions, although Beaumont, Orange, Port Arthur and Houston are among the cities that are home to some of the best Cajun restaurants the state has to offer. Travelers can find authentic Cajun fare in the Lone Star State without having to cross the border. Laissez les bon temps rouler!
One of the newest trends on the Texas culinary scene is the explosion of food trailers offering gourmet tidbits more suited to a five-star restaurant than a meal on wheels. Austin has been one of the undisputed leaders of this new movement, not just in Texas but nationwide. There are over 1,000 food trucks operating in Austin alone, with the expectation of even more in the years to come. Austin even has an annual festival, held every November, aptly named the Gypsy Picnic Trailer Food Festival, with live music and activities for the whole family. As the trend continues to spread, food trailers are gaining ground in neighboring dynamic cities such as Houston and Fort Worth with creative culinary chefs preparing innovative dishes in new ways.
Wine lovers raise a toast! The perfect accompaniment to every meal can be found in one of our Texas wines. Texas is the fifth largest wine producer in the country, boasting roughly 220 wineries statewide and producing nearly 1.2 million cases of wine per year. The state hosts eight federally approved wine-grape growing regions, the second-largest viticulture area in the country, giving Texans the ability to produce an unusually diverse list of varietals. Many wineries have gone past offering traditional wine tastings and now offer shopping and bed and breakfast accommodations as well as live entertainment for their visitors. To get a real experience, tour some of Texas’ most well known wineries such as La Diosa, Llano Estacado and McPherson Cellars in Lubbock, or jump on the Grapevine and Texas Hill Country Wine Trails to visit these and other acclaimed wineries, each with their own unique history and charm.
Texas is also home to a budding number of craft breweries and distilleries. There are currently more than 40 breweries and 30 distilleries offering a variety of hand crafted products that are sure to excite both beer buffs and spirit specialists. Ramble, Balcones Distilleries specialty spirit, showcases local ingredients such as wildflower honey and mission figs and is just one example of the unique creations that can be found in Texas. To learn more about the distillation craft, tour Rebecca Creek Distillery and find out how they create their impeccably smooth Enchanted Rock Vodka. For the full food and drink experience check out South Austin Brewing Company’s Groovy Sundays. At this weekly event you can sip on their Saison D’Austin, sample from food trucks and listen to local bands. With so much growth in the industry you will discover something new every time you visit! Texas has continued to be recognized for its storied past and it emergence as a culinary powerhouse. Today, the national spotlight shines on the Lone Star State inviting all to try its magnificent cuisine. To learn more, visit www.traveltex.com/culinary featuring helpful resources for all Texas-bound food lovers.