Saturday night at the Phoenix Saloon in downtown New Braunfels.
Small-town Texas ain't what it used to be.
Take the edge-of-the-Hill-Country town of New Braunfels, for example. Time was, folks knew New Braunfels for three things: tubing rivers, sliding at Schlitterbahn and indulging in beer, sausage and oompah music at Wurstfest. All fun, but now there's so much more.
These days, the historic downtown district draws visitors to town.
The county courthouse, recently restored to 1894 splendor, is open for self-guided tours. Don't be surprised by the pink courtroom.
Folks visit local merchants in the district for antiques, art, children's wear, unique homegoods, women's finery and more.
As they have been for more than 150 years at Henne Hardware, where people find everything they didn't know they needed.
Say Hi to the resident cat when you go in.
When it's time for lunch, Olive's Italian Market & Deli makes sandwiches and salads with delectable house-made mozzarella.
A few blocks away, Gourmage offers some of the world's best sandwiches, along the lines of Chimay cheese with salty-sweet house-made Bacon Jam, washed down with a glass of Spanish garnacha.
Murals enliven building walls around the district. Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels led the first band of German settlers into what became the town of New Braunfels, later returning to Germany when his fiance refused to follow him to Texas.
His story and many others are re-enacted in videos accessible via smart-phone (or computer).
A day of wandering can work up a thirst and there are plenty of places to find a cure. The house-made beer at the Faust Hotel is one good option. Or a glass of wine at Kork Wine Bar.
Followed by dinner at Huisatch Grille, a favorite of those who call New Braunfels home, housed in historic buildings just off the main drag.
The Huisatch specializes in New American dishes with a Texas twist. Add in a Wine Spectator Award-winning wine list, patio seating overlooking shaded gardens and a charming encampment of specialty shops, and the Huisatch is a destination in its own right.
But the night will still be young when dinner is done; and there are multiple live-music venues just down the street. Easy walking distance.
In fact a traveler can visit New Braunfels, park the car at the Prince Solms Inn B&B or the Faust Hotel and spend an entertaining weekend without ever having to start the engine again.
Sophie's Suite at Prince Solms Inn, rumored to occasionally host a ghost.
Among other venues, downtown holds a couple of piano bars--one for cosying and one for singalongs, a smoky pub with dirty blues, a couple of sports bars and the Phoenix Saloon.
The Phoenix lives in a restored historic site with brick walls, old wooden floors, original tin ceiling and a long antique bar. Live music most nights, room to dance, better than average Texas-style pub grub and about 30 taps for draft, including Blanco's Real Ale and other Texas brews. Nonsmoking so you can stay late and still feel good.
No, small-town Texas ain't what it used to be. It's better.
Copyright 2009-2013 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.