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Written by Texas Highways

For more Postcards from the June issue, see Muenster BlastLet the Race BeginMr. Sam's Cadillac and Gainsville Community Circus!

After Titianic closes in Houston, the Exhibition will travel to the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History (Photo courtesy of 1987-2010 RMS Titanic, Inc., A subsidary of Premier Exhibitions, Inc.)

Houston’s Museum of Natural Science pays tribute to the famous 1912 shipwreck

A century ago in April, the British passenger ship RMS Titanic sank in the North Atlantic Ocean on its maiden voyage en route to New York, killing more than 1,500 passengers.  While the wreck of the Titanic remains on the seabed even today, in 1987 crews began to recover artifacts from the debris field, fueling a number of exhibitions at museums worldwide.

In honor of the shipwreck’s 100th anniversary, the Museum of Natural Science in Houston welcomes Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition through mid-September. The more than 200 pieces on display include jewelry, china bearing the ship’s White Star Line logo, perfume bottles, currency, and interestingly, many personal effects made of leather.

altTheresa Nelson, a member of the education team entrusted with interpreting the exhibition, explains: “Our conservation team preserves these items, but we don’t restore the items. As the ship broke in half and sank, it traveled 2.5 miles to its final resting place, and many items were ripped from the ship. As you can imagine, in many cases, the items are very worn. But some of the best-preserved pieces, such as currency and jewelry, were found  in leather suitcases, trunks, or wallets. Why is this? Well, in the early 1900s, the process used to tan leather included chemicals that repelled microorganisms at the bottom of the sea. And with the pressure of the water at the bottom of the sea, these suitcases and such were sealed shut. When we bring up a leather suitcase or trunk, it’s like a time capsule.”

Call 713/639-4629; www.hmns.org.                                                            —Lori Moffatt





See more Postcards: A Titanic ExhibitionLet the Race Begin, Mr. Sam's Cadillac and Gainesville Community Circus!

Local artists painted a german-style mural on the vacant building next to Doc's Bar & Grill (Photo by Randy Mallory)

A Daytrip to North Texas Highlights German Food and Culture

By Randy Mallory

A north Texas restaurateur once told me, “Those Muenster women sure know how to cook!” Turns out he was only half right.

The men of Muenster also know a thing or two about hearty eating, as my wife, Sallie Evans, and I discovered on a recent exploration of this German-flavored town. Fortunately for our waistlines, Muenster also offers a diverse mix of shops and museums dedicated to local history.

We start our Muenster adventure with breakfast at Rohmer’s Restaurant, a family-owned eatery that for 50 years has tempted diners with German bratwurst, schnitzel, and Reuben sandwiches, plus made-from-scratch pies.  Rohmer’s housemade apricot jam, slathered on toast, nicely tops off our substantial breakfast of eggs, bacon, ham, and hashbrowns. I pledge to pace myself but can’t resist a buttery cinnamon roll, with no regrets.

altWe walk off breakfast along Main Street to Muenster’s culinary claim to fame, Fischer’s Meat Market and Grocery, which opened in 1927. Our jaws drop at meat and cheese counters spanning half the building. More than 30 kinds of sausages—smoked German sausage (top seller), knackwurst, Polish links, and kiel-basa—snuggle by slabs of sugar-cured bacon and hams. We ogle two dozen or so cheeses, some flavored with spices and peppers and smoked on site.

The adjacent specialty department boasts at least 100 kinds of dressings and pickles, preserves and syrups, relishes and sauces, mixes and marinades. “We’re sort of a giant picnic basket,” says manager Steve Taylor. We pack up smoked German sausage and peppered cheddar to enjoy later with French bread and fruit. As we leave, the market’s Glockenspiel chimes the hour with animated characters—including a milkmaid, butcher, and cow—rotating from a 45-foot-tall clock tower outside.

We fill the morning exploring nearby shops. At The Bird Nest, housed in a former 1910 dry goods store, fresh flowers and garden supplies complement a collection of eclectic antiques. “Plants and antiques, that’s what I love,” says owner Cindy Bartush, “so I put them all into one place.”  We love her funky bench on the sidewalk out front—two bears made out of cedar holding a bench seat between them. “A fellow came by a couple of years ago looking for work and pulled out a chainsaw to carve this and a few other pieces around town,” Bartush explains.

Later we run across another of the artisan’s works, a totem-like sculpture behind Fischer’s that turns a dead cedar tree into an owl habitat.

In Muenster’s oldest business—Gehrig’s Hardware, which dates to the 1890s—proprietor Jim Gehrig walks me through his jumble of sporting goods, cookware, hardware, and oddities such as a working treadle-powered stitching machine once used to repair harnesses.

Down the street, a clutter of model trains, toys, tools, and a lapidary collection draws me, improbably, into the front room of Bob’s Automotive.

My favorite surprise: a copper whiskey still that owner Bob Walterscheid’s grandfather employed a century ago.

We heed a local recommendation and have lunch at Doc’s Bar & Grill, a tavern-style restaurant with a biergarten out back and an upstairs bar and gameroom. Sallie picks a garden salad and a bowl of brothy chicken-tortilla soup, and I grab a grilled Reuben sandwich. Re-energized, we share a colossal slice of moist, nutty carrot cake, and we once again hit the streets.

Doc’s building housed Muenster’s medical clinic in the 1940s, a fact we confirm at the Muenster Museum. A period hospital bed, medical equipment, and nurse uniforms recall the old clinic. We marvel at a working 1870s pump organ from Sacred Heart Catholic Church, and we tour the museum’s re-creation of a 1940s kitchen, complete with a wood-burning stove, sausage stuffers, and blackened waffle irons.

We chance upon a convenience store on US 82 to find a busy bakery called Bayer’s Kolonialwaren und Backerei (German for grocery wares and bakery), where customers line up to purchase donuts, kolaches, and decorated cookies, plus seven styles of German bread and 11 flavors of Viennese strudel. In fact, owners John and Darla Pollard deliver strudels to 14 restaurants within a 75-mile radius. We pick the most popular flavor, apple and Danish cream cheese, and revel in its cinnamon-rich taste and flaky crust.

Next, we browse the collections at the nearby Muenster Antique Mall. Jeannine Flusche operates the 50-vendor emporium in a former grocery built by her father in 1956. We enjoy sifting through toys, tools, and cookware items, some cleverly displayed in former meat lockers. Several booths offer German items such as beer steins, wooden nutcrackers, and lead crystal vases.

A few blocks west, we slip into the tasting room of Weinhof Winery, which also offers a tasting room at the nearby town of Forestburg.  Larry Thompson touts his sweet fruit wines—pear, plum, and blackberry—and small-batch grape wines made from traditional German recipes.  Our favorite is an exotic-sounding blend of blackberry wine and Merlot, called Muenster Red, which we find surprisingly dry and refreshing.

We finish our Muenster excursion at The Center Restaurant, which has specialized in homestyle German fare since 1988.  We settle into the eatery’s wood-paneled tavern overlooking the biergarten, and Sallie chooses a wienerschnitzel (think German chicken-fried steak) topped with grilled onions and bell peppers. I go for the sausage platter, served with warm German potato salad and tangy red cabbage. Our waiter delivers a glass of Chardonnay for Sallie and a yeasty German beer for me, and we raise a toast to our successful day. “Prosit!”

Saddle-bronc riding and a slew of other events thrill spectators at Nocona’s annual Chisholm Trail Rodeo, which celebrates its 60th anniversary this month. (Photo by Tyler Sharp)

Not far from the Oklahoma border, about 40 miles west of Gainesville, Nocona lies among the cattle ranches and scenic rolling hills that lead toward the Red River. The town’s history speaks of Comanches, the Chisholm Trail, the railroad, and leather goods from artisan cowboy boots to hand-stitched baseball gloves. Today, Nocona’s 3,200 residents celebrate that heritage, along with a budding downtown renaissance.

There’s a town in the Hill Country that calls itself “a little piece of heaven.”  Feeling the need to transcend everyday life, I drove to Wimberley in search of an absolutely heavenly day.

This rapidly growing North Texas city is a fine home base for shopping and sporting adventures.

Flanked by a log cabin, a one-room schoolhouse, a church, historic homes, and a reproduction of a train depot, the Frisco Heritage Museum traces Frisco’s development since the 1880s. (Photo by Roger Robinson)

By Lori Moffatt

When I told friends I was heading up to Frisco for the weekend to see Cirque du Soleil, they all agreed it was a good plan. “Such a great city,” they concurred. “Will you have time to visit Napa while you’re in California?”

I cocked my head in a moment of confusion, and then clarified. “No, not San Francisco. Frisco. It’s a city north of Dallas.” I mentioned that there’s an IKEA there to really cement the recognition.

North of the Metroplex, with the skyscrapers and spaghetti-bowl highway intersections out of sight, it becomes clear that Frisco—which straddles the line between Collin and Denton counties—is Blackland Prairie country. Jackrabbits dart across suburban lawns, and the absence of any significant topographical variation affords a misleading, almost two-dimensional sense of scale. Frisco itself, founded in 1902 and named for a rail line intended to connect Texas to San Francisco, was in its early years a trading center for the area’s wheat, cotton, and corn farmers. As recently as 1990, I learned, Frisco had a population that hovered around 6,000. But in the past two decades, thanks in part to the many corporations thriving in Collin County, population here has skyrocketed—and now numbers nearly 125,000. “In the old days, our main business was cotton,” one resident told me. “Now, it’s roofs.”

 Sports are a big deal here, too: Most of Frisco’s tourist attractions and hotels are between Preston Road and the Dallas North Tollway, including the multipurpose Dr Pepper Arena, home to both the National Basketball Association Development League team the Texas Legends and the Texas Tornado of the North American Hockey League. Here, too, hockey fans can watch free practice sessions of the Dallas Stars, as well as exhibitions of martial arts, professional tennis, boxing, skating, and family shows like Cirque du Soleil. Just south of the arena lies the Dr Pepper Ballpark, home to the AA Texas Rangers affiliate baseball team the Rough Riders; five miles north lies the FC Dallas Stadium, where you can watch professional soccer.

The morning after the spellbinding Cirque du Soleil show, I took a pedestrian sidewalk under the busy Tollway to explore the Texas Sculpture Garden at Hall Office Park, the 62-acre business campus of developer and philanthropist Craig Hall. In the late 1990s, convinced that art stimulates creative thinking, Hall dedicated a four-acre tract at the campus’ entrance to highlighting works by Texas sculptors and entrusted curator Patricia Meadows to collect pieces from living artists he admired. The result, a 40-piece collection of contemporary pieces ranging from imposing limestone monoliths to delicate pieces of poplar and steel, is on view throughout the grounds and buildings, free of charge. “Craig likes to look out his office window and see parents and children, school groups, and tenants wandering around enjoying the art,” says Meadows. Artworks by some 120 national and international artists complete this outdoor museum.

Under the spell of Sanger artist Jerry Daniel’s graceful Dancers MM, a sculptural brushstroke of intertwined steel and concrete, I enjoyed the fresh air and gratifying ambiance of this rare museum without walls.

Museums with walls have their place in Frisco, as well. Since more than a third of the population is younger than 18, most attractions in Frisco are designed for children as well as adults. So when I learned that the Sci-Tech Discovery Center (one of three attractions that make up the new Frisco Discovery Center) was hosting a traveling exhibition on the science of animation, I jumped at the chance to try my skills at cartoon voiceovers and green-screen pratfalling. (The current exhibition here, Amusement Park Science, continues through September.)

Nearby, adjacent to the city’s Central Fire Station, lies Frisco Fire Safety Town, an interactive “museum” of sorts that highlights safety for kids in a variety of arenas. Skeptical about the entertainment value at first, I changed my tune upon visiting with firefighters about their jobs, studying a wall mounted with various firefighting equipment, and crawling into a real fire truck. For school-age children, Safety Town encourages tours of its Weather Safety Room, where visitors experience an extremely believable tornado simulation; and the Fire Room, a re-creation of a living room that fell victim to an electrical fire. “We don’t talk down to the kids,” says Fire Chief Mack Borchardt. “We want them to recognize the tools we use, and to know exactly what to do to survive.”  

Outside, 5/8-scale models of 20 Frisco businesses make up the attraction’s traffic-safety village, complete with paved streets and working traffic and crosswalk signals. A fleet of bicycles and battery-operated jeeps invite school groups to ride through the facility, learning about seat belts, helmets, and how to be street-wise.

Kids and adults alike enjoy learning about history at the Frisco Heritage Museum, where exhibits illustrate the area’s history in regard to the railroad, agriculture, and growth. Outside, a relocated log cabin and church, a re-created schoolhouse, and homes dating to 1896 help paint a picture of North Texas on the cusp of a new century.

But the big mu--seum news in Frisco is the much-anticipated (and much-delayed) development of the 13-acre Museum of the American Railroad, which will eventually house the extensive collection of historic rolling stock—including the Union Pacific “Big Boy,” the largest steam locomotive in the world—now found at a cramped site in Dallas’ Fair Park. “The Heritage Museum is a few hundred feet from our new site,” says Museum of the American Railroad director Bob LaPrelle, “so visitors to the museum can watch the rolling stock come in. We’re in the process of packing and loading at Fair Park, and the trains should start arriving here by early May.”

Later that evening, after a fig-and-spring-greens salad at TruFire Kitchen (see texashighways.com/weekender for more on Frisco restaurants), I ventured to the massive Stonebriar Centre Mall to check out the thriving retail scene. Tourism studies indicate that shopping is Frisco’s Number One draw for visitors, so I wasn’t surprised to see the mall buzzing on a Friday night.  But the next morning, as I explored Frisco’s Main Street, I happened upon the Good Steward consignment shop and realized that Collin County’s affluence benefits the secondhand scene, too. “People bring us brand-new things—Louis Vuitton, Coach—that they never got around to wearing,” says owner Elizabeth Rimes, who carries both men’s and women’s clothing, a rarity in the consignment world. I ask her: What’s the key to finding the good stuff? Rimes pauses a bit, then replies, “Frequency. Come visit us often.”

Yet another reason for a return trip.

Del Norte proprietor Chris Garcia retrieves the smoked peppers that define one of his signature dishes. (Photo by J. Griffis Smith)

My first visit to Del Norte Tacos in the railroad town of Godley, southwest of Fort Worth, came about as I joined a volunteer group from Granbury in their celebration of a successful early summer event. The directions were given with almost-apologetic nuance: “It’s not a big place. Parking is better around back. It sits close to the highway.”

Less than a mile from Enchanted Rock lies another captivating destination

The Central Texas backdrop of Trois Estate heightens a sense of splendid isolation. (Photo: © Destry Jaimes)

Years ago, when I first visited Enchanted Rock, it seemed to me to be a destination all to itself, both literally and figuratively. Like Australia’s domed red rock, Uluru, it was distinctive and isolated, a splendid granite island of calm along a curvy road out of Fredericksburg. On subsequent visits, when I stayed too long at the summit, or began the hike to the top too late in the day, I wished for somewhere to rest my head closer to the site. Not because Fredericksburg, a mere 15 miles away, was too far to journey in the gloaming, but because I wished to prolong the sense that I was miles and miles away from the bustle of everyday life.

Recently, I discovered that there is a hideaway as otherworldly as the rock it-self, less than a mile from the gates of the Enchanted Rock State Natural Area. It’s a place that allows another fantasy journey, this time to a sort of parallel universe reminiscent of old Mexico, as well as into the eccentric minds of its co-creators, Rebecca Trois and her former husband, Charles Trois.

Trois Estate, a destination bed and breakfast, is a bit of a well-kept secret, as far as I can tell, at least among those not planning a wedding. Austin-area brides and honeymooning couples have been in the know for a couple of years, having discovered the inn offers wedding and European spa services, not to mention scrumptuous dining. Rebecca, who owns and operates the business, also serves as executive chef.

But really, the view of Enchanted Rock and the craggy Central Texas landscape from an intricately mosaic-tiled rooftop patio is reason enough to go. The stucco and brickwork; the antiques and primitive, Old World-style furnishings; and the whimsical nature of the experience here make a weekend at Trois Estate feel like a quick trip to Mexico, without the paperwork and travel hassles—but with a full dose of the serendipitous flavor.

The mood is set as soon as you turn off Ranch Road 965 onto an impressively groomed lane that curves up and around stands of oak and clutches of cacti. What  looks like a mirage of a centuries-old Mexican village slowly appears upon the horizon. Interwoven with embossed and stained concrete paths that look like the local granite, the grounds are filled with a style of Spanish Colonial architecture that some have dubbed “modern Mayan.” In the late winter, with no brides venturing out for photos, the isolation of the property has an allure that is less about the venue and more about a sense of enchanted isolation, reminiscent of the magical villages that appear and disappear in the novels of Gabriel García Márquez.

I was transported back to the artisanal charm of guesthouses I have visited in and around San Miguel de Allende

The smallest accommodations are comfortable, but not luxurious, and heavy, Old World-style furniture designed and crafted by Charles Trois predominates. And as in Mexico’s historic hotels, the stone, concrete, brick, and tile surroundings that are refreshing in spring and summer can be chilly in the winter months. But tucked into my cueva—a windowless room with a high-domed, brick ceiling; a handcrafted iron chandelier; canted tile floors; and a persnickety shower—I was transported back to the artisanal charm of guesthouses I have visited in and around San Miguel de Allende. The larger villas preferred by bridal parties offer more elaborate decor and dappled light filtered through walls inset with the round amber and green glass of wine-bottle bottoms, as well as windows with views of a free-form, landscaped pool.

But to view Trois Estate only as a hotel would be to withhold its greatest secret and most enduring source of charm: It is here that a former R&B musician has amassed a collection of cap guns said to be the largest in the world. The former guitarist from the 1960s band Soul Survivors, Charles Trois more recently transformed himself into an artist, architect, furniture designer, and engineer of all you find on the 57-acre estate. But perhaps most memorable is the Renaissance man’s incarnation as a passionate collector—not just of vintage cap guns, but arrowheads; straight razors; swords; Old West chaps, vests and jackets; meerschaum pipes; memorabilia (including peace medals given by the U.S. government to Native American tribes); and even an 1870 hurdy-gurdy.

A goal since the first plans for the estate were spun in 1998 was to create a place where Charles Trois might house and properly display his collections. The resulting museum is a 5,000-square-foot building of Charles’ design, filled with wood-and-glass display cases. The cap guns alone, stunning in quantity, quality, and diversity, merit a visit. An hour spent among the thousands of guns—many with spiffy, mint-condition holsters—was a journey back to my own black-and-white childhood memories of Roy Rogers, Red Ryder, and the Lone Ranger. These are not the toys my brothers and I owned, but the stuff of our dreams. And who knew Dale Evans had her own holster set of eponymous guns—now more rare than any of those once coveted by the boys? There are palm-size pistols with inlaid mock mother-of-pearl handles and engraved silvery stocks, faux ruby-bejeweled and turquoise-encrusted belts, tooled-leather holsters, elaborately fringed chaps, and coonskin caps.

Most everything is child-size, including tiny boots and hats and entire cowboy ensembles, some on mannequin children. Always, everywhere, there are guns and holster sets. In several displays, the original boxes accompany the toys, in equally pristine condition and often bearing the names of Doc Holliday, Lewis and Clark, and of course, Roy Rogers. The Rifleman repeating rifle with its monumental scrollwork and enormous trigger ring made me want to call my younger brother, who would even today be rendered speechless by such a find. While the majority of guns on display in the museum hail from the 50s, more than a few date to the early 1800s. The collection now includes more than 5,000 pieces.

Even if you’ve no time for an overnight stay, you’ll want to wander the grounds, taking in the time-honored building techniques that Charles Trois studied in Mexico and which give much of the construction a seasoned quality similar to that of a 300-year-old hacienda. Don’t miss the underground grotto pool beyond the cathedral chapel. Much remains a work in progress; a row of storefronts is scheduled to open later this year as an artisan’s mercado.

You might want to consider calling ahead for weekend brunch or dinner reservations. Chef Elvis Canoy is as much fun as his name suggests, and his way with a balsamic-and-cherry-gastrique-flavored tenderloin got me all shook up—in the best sort of way. A breakfast of French toast and eggs Benedict served to overnight guests caters to the sort of appetite the great outdoors inspires. But even if you’ve not come to dine, do note that the dining room is furnished with shadow-box tables that showcase more treasures; ask for a look-see. There’s no telling what you might find—or find yourself remembering.

This North Texas city is home base for shopping, sporting adventures

Flanked by a log cabin, a one-room schoolhouse, a church, historic homes, and a reproduction of a train depot, the Frisco Heritage Museum traces Frisco’s development since the 1880s. (Photo by Roger Robinson)

By Lori Moffatt

When I told friends I was heading up to Frisco for the weekend to see Cirque du Soleil, they all agreed it was a good plan. “Such a great city,” they concurred. “Will you have time to visit Napa while you’re in California?”

I cocked my head in a moment of confusion, and then clarified. “No, not San Francisco. Frisco. It’s a city north of Dallas.” I mentioned that there’s an IKEA there to really cement the recognition.

North of the Metroplex, with the skyscrapers and spaghetti-bowl highway intersections out of sight, it becomes clear that Frisco—which straddles the line between Collin and Denton counties—is Blackland Prairie country. Jackrabbits dart across suburban lawns, and the absence of any significant topographical variation affords a misleading, almost two-dimensional sense of scale. Frisco itself, founded in 1902 and named for a rail line intended to connect Texas to San Francisco, was in its early years a trading center for the area’s wheat, cotton, and corn farmers. As recently as 1990, I learned, Frisco had a population that hovered around 6,000. But in the past two decades, thanks in part to the many corporations thriving in Collin County, population here has skyrocketed—and now numbers nearly 125,000. “In the old days, our main business was cotton,” one resident told me. “Now, it’s roofs.”

 Sports are a big deal here, too: Most of Frisco’s tourist attractions and hotels are between Preston Road and the Dallas North Tollway, including the multipurpose Dr Pepper Arena, home to both the National Basketball Association Development League team the Texas Legends and the Texas Tornado of the North American Hockey League. Here, too, hockey fans can watch free practice sessions of the Dallas Stars, as well as exhibitions of martial arts, professional tennis, boxing, skating, and family shows like Cirque du Soleil. Just south of the arena lies the Dr Pepper Ballpark, home to the AA Texas Rangers affiliate baseball team the Rough Riders; five miles north lies the FC Dallas Stadium, where you can watch professional soccer.

The big museum news in Frisco is the much-anticipated development of the 13-acre Museum of the American Railroad

The morning after the spellbinding Cirque du Soleil show, I took a pedestrian sidewalk under the busy Tollway to explore the Texas Sculpture Garden at Hall Office Park, the 62-acre business campus of developer and philanthropist Craig Hall. In the late 1990s, convinced that art stimulates creative thinking, Hall dedicated a four-acre tract at the campus’ entrance to highlighting works by Texas sculptors and entrusted curator Patricia Meadows to collect pieces from living artists he admired. The result, a 40-piece collection of contemporary pieces ranging from imposing limestone monoliths to delicate pieces of poplar and steel, is on view throughout the grounds and buildings, free of charge. “Craig likes to look out his office window and see parents and children, school groups, and tenants wandering around enjoying the art,” says Meadows. Artworks by some 120 national and international artists complete this outdoor museum.

Under the spell of Sanger artist Jerry Daniel’s graceful Dancers MM, a sculptural brushstroke of intertwined steel and concrete, I enjoyed the fresh air and gratifying ambiance of this rare museum without walls.

Museums with walls have their place in Frisco, as well. Since more than a third of the population is younger than 18, most attractions in Frisco are designed for children as well as adults. So when I learned that the Sci-Tech Discovery Center (one of three attractions that make up the new Frisco Discovery Center) was hosting a traveling exhibition on the science of animation, I jumped at the chance to try my skills at cartoon voiceovers and green-screen pratfalling. (The current exhibition here, Amusement Park Science, continues through September.)

Nearby, adjacent to the city’s Central Fire Station, lies Frisco Fire Safety Town, an interactive “museum” of sorts that highlights safety for kids in a variety of arenas. Skeptical about the entertainment value at first, I changed my tune upon visiting with firefighters about their jobs, studying a wall mounted with various firefighting equipment, and crawling into a real fire truck. For school-age children, Safety Town encourages tours of its Weather Safety Room, where visitors experience an extremely believable tornado simulation; and the Fire Room, a re-creation of a living room that fell victim to an electrical fire. “We don’t talk down to the kids,” says Fire Chief Mack Borchardt. “We want them to recognize the tools we use, and to know exactly what to do to survive.”  

Outside, 5/8-scale models of 20 Frisco businesses make up the attraction’s traffic-safety village, complete with paved streets and working traffic and crosswalk signals. A fleet of bicycles and battery-operated jeeps invite school groups to ride through the facility, learning about seat belts, helmets, and how to be street-wise.

Kids and adults alike enjoy learning about history at the Frisco Heritage Museum, where exhibits illustrate the area’s history in regard to the railroad, agriculture, and growth. Outside, a relocated log cabin and church, a re-created schoolhouse, and homes dating to 1896 help paint a picture of North Texas on the cusp of a new century.

But the big museum news in Frisco is the much-anticipated (and much-delayed) development of the 13-acre Museum of the American Railroad, which will eventually house the extensive collection of historic rolling stock—including the Union Pacific “Big Boy,” the largest steam locomotive in the world—now found at a cramped site in Dallas’ Fair Park. “The Heritage Museum is a few hundred feet from our new site,” says Museum of the American Railroad director Bob LaPrelle, “so visitors to the museum can watch the rolling stock come in. We’re in the process of packing and loading at Fair Park, and the trains should start arriving here by early May.”

Later that evening, after a fig-and-spring-greens salad at TruFire Kitchen (see texashighways.com/weekender for more on Frisco restaurants), I ventured to the massive Stonebriar Centre Mall to check out the thriving retail scene. Tourism studies indicate that shopping is Frisco’s Number One draw for visitors, so I wasn’t surprised to see the mall buzzing on a Friday night.  But the next morning, as I explored Frisco’s Main Street, I happened upon the Good Steward consignment shop and realized that Collin County’s affluence benefits the secondhand scene, too. “People bring us brand-new things—Louis Vuitton, Coach—that they never got around to wearing,” says owner Elizabeth Rimes, who carries both men’s and women’s clothing, a rarity in the consignment world. I ask her: What’s the key to finding the good stuff? Rimes pauses a bit, then replies, “Frequency. Come visit us often.”

Yet another reason for a return trip.

See full article in the May 2012 issue.








alt

See related: Fun in Frisco

By Lori Moffatt


In the May 2012 issue, I wrote about my experiences exploring Frisco, a booming city north of Dallas that attracts visitors with sports, shopping, museums, and one of Texas’ finest sculpture gardens. Of course, when you travel, you’ve gotta eat, and Frisco’s diverse restaurant options mean that your biggest problem is which place to choose. Do keep in mind that Frisco is NOT a late-night town. Most restaurants stop serving food around 9, so plan accordingly! Here are three spots that warrant a return visit:


Bonnie Ruth’s, 6959 Lebanon Rd. Call 214/705-7775.

This French-inspired brasserie impressed me with its bakery case, laden with cookies, cupcakes, pastries, puddings, lemon squares, and slices of chocolate cake that must have measured six inches high. Next time, I’ll return for lunch or dinner, when the chefs whip up pizzas, salads, sandwiches, and bistro-style dishes like roasted chicken paillard (sautéed with white wine, lemon, capers, and celeriac purée), croque monsieur (authentic with melted gruyere and béchamel sauce), and steak frites.


One 2 One Restaurant & Bar, 1339 Legacy Dr. Call 214/618-2221.

Our large group convened here for wine and appetizers before we headed to a show at the Dr Pepper Arena, and the “small bite” section of the menu—with ginger-beef spring rolls, popcorn rock shrimp, barbecued pork sliders, bacon-studded crab cakes, and wild game sausages did the trick. Burgers, steaks, carefully composed salads, and entrees such as slow-cooked pork shank and cedar-wrapped salmon star on the dinner menu.


TruFire Kitchen & Bar, 6959 Lebanon Rd. Call 214/872-3830.

We met here for a late lunch and wished we had waited for dinner—if only because we could have taken advantage of the creative cocktail menu, which offers libations like the Pomegranate Crush (citrus vodka, fresh mint, pomegranate juice), The Gin’s Up (gin, cucumber slices, and fresh lime juice), and house-made sangria. My salad—organic greens tossed with peppered candied pecans, blue cheese, pears, and figs–was tremendous. My companion enjoyed his seared ahi salad just as much. Next time, I’m ordering some sweet-potato fries, which arrive dusted with Parmesan and lemon zest, served with both a lemon aioli and house-made ketchup.



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Anytime I day-trip to the big city, I like to pick an area and explore every nook and cranny rather than spend my time in a car traversing the urban jungle. With that in mind, I set out to explore South Austin. Nowhere does the “Keep Austin Weird” slogan ring truer than in this section of Texas’ Capital City.

Georgetown’s picturesque town square lies within a National Register Historic District that includes buildings dating to the late 1800s

The 1900 Masonic Lodge building (left) and the 1889 C.A.D. Clamp buildings number among the historic structures on Main Street. (Photo by Andy Sharp)

By Andy Sharp

Downtowns have always been special to me. When I was a kid growing up in Texarkana in the ’50s and ’60s, my parents and I went downtown on many a Friday night and Saturday. It was the place to be back then. We watched the latest Western at the movie theater, had ice cream sodas at the drug store, and bought our clothes at the department store on the corner. Sometimes it was fun just to peer into the shop windows, even if we weren’t in the market to buy anything.

Nostalgia for such simple pleasures led my wife, Jody, and me to the town square in Georgetown, 20 miles west of our home in Taylor. Anchored by a three-story, Classical Revival courthouse, the square roughly coincides with the eight-block Williamson County Courthouse National Register Historic District. This area boasts more than a hundred structures, most of them two-story, Victorian buildings dating from 1870 to 1902, plus a few examples of Romanesque Revival, Classical Revival, Beaux Arts, and Art Deco styles built a little later. More than half of the buildings have been restored in recent years, and this, along with the varied architectural mix, makes the square a fine backdrop for a Saturday-morning stroll.

Parking our car in front of the courthouse, we’re immediately intrigued by the distinctive onion dome of the Masonic Lodge building, at the corner of Main and 7th streets. We later learn that the limestone building was built in 1900 and that the second floor housed the San Gabriel Masonic Lodge for eight decades. The post office occupied the first floor until 1931; since then businesses from furniture stores to restaurants have called it home.

Our first stop is the 1870 Shafer Saddlery building in the middle of the block. The historical marker on the front tells us that John H. Shafer constructed the building with hand-cut limestone, ran his saddle business on the first floor, and lived upstairs. The oldest building on the square, it has housed tenants from attorneys to a newspaper office.

We then head north on Main to Rough & Ready Antiques, a longtime local cooperative at the corner of 6th Street. Outside, we spot a motley collection of items that includes a hand-push lawnmower, vintage bicycles—including a cool Western Flyer model—and several metal lawn chairs, still good for sitting but thirsty for paint. Inside, we browse the antiques, which include a primitive pie safe from East Texas built around 1860 and a walnut clockmaker’s desk. Find of the day? A stash of vintage postcards depicting scenes from all over the world. One card shows workers in a Havana cigar factory posing among tobacco leaves. Others have nostalgic scenes from national parks.

Still in treasure-hunting mode, we walk around the corner to Cobblestone Upstairs Downstairs Antiques, housed in a two-story structure on Austin Avenue that was built in 1895. Here the offerings include vintage wedding dresses, a Hoosier cabinet, iron beds, and a varied collection of dishes—Depression glass, Pyrex, Fire King, and Fiestaware—along with McCoy, Hall, and Roseville pottery.

As we shop, the floors creak with every step. “We have ghosts up there,” vendor Debby Hertsenberg tells us, pointing to the second floor. “Their names are Leanne and Clarence.” Shop owner Susan Ney explains that Leanne’s presence was discovered a few years ago by a paranormal investigator using a digital voice recorder. An immediate playback revealed no answer to the ghost hunter’s salutation, but when he transferred the audio file to a CD, a distinct female voice was heard to answer, identifying herself as “Leanne.” Other customers have reported sensing the presence of a male ghost. “About five years ago,” says Ney, “a woman who had been shopping upstairs came down and said that a spirit named Clarence had told her that he ‘really likes it up there.’”

It’s time to treat our taste buds at Laurie’s Too, a cheery tearoom on Main Street, where owners Cherry and Rodger Vest make everything from scratch. The yellow walls hold shelves lined with some of the teapots Cherry has collected through the years.  We both opt for slices of the four cheese-herb quiche, a flavorful combination of jack, cheddar, Swiss, and ricotta cheeses in a warm, delicate crust. I add a bowl of creamy chicken noodle soup, and Jody decides to have a tiny coconut meringue tart, the perfect size for one person.

We then head to Handcrafts Unlimited in the 1907 Allen and Landrum Building, a short walk across the square. We admire the original pressed-tin ceiling as we explore the shop, which offers handmade items from Raggedy Ann dolls to turned wooden bowls. Quilts line most of one wall, the largest covered with bright red poppies, an iconic Georgetown flower that abounds in late April, coinciding with the town’s annual Red Poppy Festival.

The highlight of the afternoon is a tour of the Williamson County Courthouse, which celebrated its centennial last year. Docents from the Williamson Museum lead free tours here every Friday and Saturday afternoon. Our guide, Bob Payne, begins on the courthouse steps, pointing southeast toward Founders Park, where he says six men met beneath an oak tree in 1848 to choose a location for the county seat. George Washington Glasscock Sr., along with his partner, Thomas Huling, donated 172 acres of land for the townsite, which was then named in Glasscock’s honor. The current structure is Georgetown’s fifth courthouse.

Payne takes us inside the three-story building across terrazzo floors smooth as glass, a Lone Star marking the center of the rotunda. We follow him up the staircase to the second floor, where we see the venerable 26th District Courtroom, a cavernous space furnished with the original oak jury chairs and spectator benches. (The current 26th District Courtroom was moved to the Wil-liam--son County Justice Center in the early 1990s.) “I’ve been to every courthouse in Texas,” says Payne, “and this is one of the few intact period courtrooms in the state. And it was here, in 1923, that Williamson County District Attorney
Dan Moody, who later became the Governor of Texas, successfully prosecuted and sent to prison members of the Ku Klux Klan. Klan members had been brought
to trial before, but until then, they had never been convicted.”

As we discuss the town’s rich history, we stop in for an energy boost at Cianfrani Coffee Company, a hotspot on the square. The building, which dates to 1912, housed Gold’s Department Store for decades. Today proprietor John Cianfrani roasts his own beans to come up with an array of original coffee drinks. Cianfrani also serves fruit smoothies, as well as pastries made daily by R.C. Lumpkin, a classically trained chef who, along with his wife, Ruth, owns the Harper-Chesser Historic Inn, a local bed-and-breakfast.

As the sun dips lower in the sky, we continue our stroll, the waning light painting the square with a warm, golden glow. For dinner, we’ve made a reservation at Wildfire, a restaurant on Austin Avenue. We’re both in a mood for seafood: I order tostada-encrusted jumbo shrimp, served with rice, julienned vegetables, smoky corn pico,
and green chile remoulade, and Jody opts for macademia-encrusted shrimp, presented with wild mushroom ri--sotto, snow peas with sweet peppers, pineapple pico, and mango cocktail sauce. We sample each other’s entrées and proclaim both topnotch.

Our evening continues next door, at the Palace Theatre, a lovely Art Deco theater that dates to 1925.  Originally a movie theater, it’s now a performing arts venue for local productions. We’ve timed our visit to see The Wizard of Oz, the final show of the 2010-2011 season. All but two of the theater’s 295 seats are filled, a testament to the caliber of the productions.

Even though Jody and I live nearby, we plan to make a future visit an overnighter, perhaps staying at the late-1800s Harper-Chesser Historic Inn, on College Street, or maybe at the San Gabriel House, a stately bed-and-breakfast on University Avenue, just across the street from Southwestern University. We’re looking forward to more relaxing explorations on Georgetown’s square. TH



Green Vegetarian Cuisine extends its earth-friendly philosophy beyond its menu to encompass recycled furniture and an on-site herb garden. (Photo by Veronica Zaragovia)

By Veronica Zaragovia

Wherever I travel, I enjoy discovering restaurants where tourists don’t normally go. And in my adopted hometown of San Antonio, I like to explore outside the boundaries of downtown to find restaurants that don’t stretch my budget while providing an authentic sampling of local flavor. Here are a few of my favorites.

The Friendly Spot

Though only a short walk or quick trolley hop from the heart of downtown, this pecan-shaded hangout on the northern edge of the city’s historic King William District offers a relaxing ambiance that stands in stark contrast to the hustle-bustle of the tourist district. While there’s climate-controlled indoor seating in the back, most visitors sit outside in a garden facing South Alamo Street, lounging in retro shellback lawn chairs beneath two mature pecan trees twinkling with tiny white lights, the 750-foot Tower of the Americas rising in the distance. Kids play on swings and monkey bars, well-behaved canines lounge beneath café tables, and adults relax and converse over beers and Mexican-inspired menu items such as quesadillas, nachos, roasted corn, and tangy jicama salad.  And on most Wednesday nights, patrons gather for outdoor movies on a 16-foot inflatable screen.

 “We re-imagined the old Texas ice-house tradition of the neighborhood gathering spot,” says owner Jody Newman. “At any given time, you’re likely to find hippies and hipsters, newborn babies and grandfathers, couples with dogs, and college students.” Befitting the Friendly Spot’s ice-house inspiration, beer is a big draw here: Newman’s husband, Steve, oversees a beer menu of more than 200 bottled varieties and some 25 taps—many devoted to such Texas breweries as Rahr & Sons out of Fort Worth and Blanco’s Real Ale.

The Cove

Northwest of downtown and only a few blocks from the main campus of San Antonio College, The Cove offers the seemingly disjointed combination of a carwash, coin laundry, beer garden, and restaurant serving sustainable, organic, and locally sourced food. Somehow, though, it works: Order at the counter from an extensive menu of burgers, sandwiches, salads, and desserts, then choose between the indoor dining room packed with long, communal tables and the outside courtyard, where children cavort on slides and a miniature rock-climbing wall.  (A ping-pong table here attracts kids of all ages.) On most evenings, bands perform on the indoor stage while customers quaff beer and visit around the neon-lit bar.

Owners Lisa and Sam Asvestas opened The Cove in 2001, originally serving a limited menu of hot sandwiches and ice cream. In 2003, though, Lisa adopted a motto of “Eat well, live well,” after studying a type of Indian holistic medicine called Ayurveda, which teaches balance in life and the importance of consuming healing and nourishing food. Today, all of The Cove’s meats (beef, bison, lamb, and chicken) come from Texas producers who avoid hormones and antibiotics; vegetables are all organic, and oils are non-hydrogenated.  Not that The Cove sacrifices flavor: Items such as chicken-poblano soup and warm beet salad with goat cheese might not surprise health-conscious diners, but hearty burgers like the Blue Bison Burger or the award-winning Texas Burger (piled high with refried beans, corn chips, grilled red onion, and avocado) could debunk any preconceived ideas of health food in an instant. 

 Green Vegetarian Cuisine

Brothers Chris and Mike Behrend practically grew up in the restaurant business, for many years helping run the city’s popu-lar Lulu’s Bakery and Cafe, a place famous for its behemoth chicken-fried steaks and three-pound cinnamon rolls. But a few years ago, concerned about both the planet and their expanding waistlines, the duo became vegetarians and opened Green, the city’s first fully vegetarian and kosher eatery. 

Collard-green wraps stuffed with pecan hummus and assorted vegetables, quinoa nachos, tofu stir-fry, and vegetarian “neatloaf” share the menu with fried pickles, eggplant parmesan, and avocado eggs Benedict—but the Behrends’ respect for the planet isn’t limited to the kitchen. Reclaimed booths and tables, salvaged fencing materials, a recycled ice machine, and local art on the walls honor the brothers’ green philosophy, as do the restaurant’s water-collection system and organic vegetable garden, from which cooks harvest kale, spinach, broccoli, collards, and herbs. For dessert, don’t miss the bakery case, where platters of vegan cookies and artfully iced cupcakes (blackberry-vanilla! Lemon-ginger-agave!) tempt vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike.  

Taco Taco

In 1998, longtime restaurateur Helen Velesiotis opened Taco Taco in the upscale neighborhood of Olmos Park, and since then, the line of people waiting for one of the eatery’s 50 seats during business hours (7-2 daily) has rarely slowed. The draw? Fluffy, handmade flour tortil-las encasing fillings of fresh eggs, bacon, and cheese; “puffy tacos” with chicken and picadillo; chicken soup fragrant with oregano; crispy comal-fried pork chops; crunchy chilaquiles; and dozens of other items that Velesiotis prepares with care.

Taco Taco has won numerous accolades over the years, including kudos from such magazines as Bon Appétit, Texas Monthly, Details, and Southern Living, but Velesiotis claims that love is the secret to her success. That, and a few secret ingredients. “I make my salsa every morning with roasted tomatoes, chiles de arbol, vinegar, salt, and garlic,” she says, “but I do have two secret ingredients I can’t tell you.”

Velesiotis makes between 2,000-3,000 flour tortillas daily, with her handmade corn tortillas (thick, earthy, and flecked with toasted bits from the comal) coming in a close second. For newcomers to Taco Taco, Velesiotis recommends the chilaquiles for breakfast (a scramble of eggs and corn tortillas with a splash of salsa) or, for lunch, the popular “Taco Norteño,” a tortilla of your choice filled with beef or chicken, jack cheese, sliced avocado, and charro beans, which are baked to give them added complexity.

Velesiotis, who was born in Greece but moved to San Antonio in 1972, has traveled extensively in Mexico, but she insists San Antonio has the best tacos in the world. “And we have the best tacos in San Antonio,” she adds with a chuckle.

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