Jason Varney
The Pig Stand Diner and Coffee Shop in San Antonio, Texas
The Pig Stand Diner and Coffee Shop in San Antonio, Texas
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A Texas Sojourn

From world-class art to phenomenal barbecue, historic inns to remote honky-tonks, a jaunt through San Antonio and neighboring Hill Country offers a crash course in the joys of the high-low mix

By Ariana Speyer


March 3rd, 2010

There’s nothing fancy about brisket barbecue juice dripping down your arm while you’re seated at a linoleum-topped table under the fluorescent lights at Cooper’s in Llano. Or listening to a teenaged Tejano band nervously strum and sing for the passing throngs at El Mercado in San Antonio. Or brushing by cacti while climbing the pink granite dome of Enchanted Rock. In fact, this swath of Texas – San Antonio and the Hill Country to the northwest – specializes in a particularly Texan brand of no-frills glamour that harks back to a simpler time in U.S. history.

Coming here is a way to experience the mythic America of the past – expansive vistas, small-town warmth, quirky cultural charms – alongside an au courant sophistication that extends to everything from wine to museums to organic dining. Not that there’s a dearth of McMansions or McDonald’s here, but for those who know where to look, all of that noise fades away and what’s left is some of the best of this country’s old and new. And in these precarious times finding authentic experiences amid the strip malls is its own kind of luxury.

Encompassing a little country, a little city, some cowboy bluster, some Mexican history – not to mention food choices from breakfast tacos to schnitzel – this part of Texas delivers a tantalizing brew of influences and traditions that can be enjoyed over a long weekend or a full-fledged vacation. In an area settled by Czechs, Germans, Mexicans, Spanish conquistadors, and, going back, Comanche and Tonkawa tribes, the uniting element is a generous dose of laid-back Lone Star charm. 

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