A deck at Dave’s Place in Center Point provides a pleasant promontory next to the Guadalupe. (Photo by Julia Robinson)

A deck at Dave’s Place in Center Point provides a pleasant promontory next to the Guadalupe. (Photo by Julia Robinson)

It’s a typical Sunday afternoon at a most atypical Texas Hill Country haunt—Dave’s Place in Center Point. An eclectic clientele of bikers, couples, tourists, and families has gathered to watch sports on TV, chow down on burgers and barbecue, sip cold beer, and wander through this funky hangout overlooking the Guadalupe River. Out front, rabbits scamper through the grass and a lone peacock struts about, preening its rainbow plumage before fluttering onto the metal roof.

Proprietor David John eyes the unfolding scene from a high-backed bar stool in the corner, exhorting new arrivals to “come on in, get a beer, and look around.” With thinning white hair and full beard framing a weathered, tanned visage, David looks like a wayward seafarer on shore leave.

The scent of oak-and-mesquite-smoked ribs, chicken, and brisket wafts in from the blackened smoker in the nearby courtyard. Back in the kitchen, David’s wife, Shelley, flips burgers and keeps the fryer busy with onion rings, sweet-potato fries, catfish, frog legs and shrimp, and an array of veggies.

A small sign in front of Dave’s Place advertises not only David’s Backdoor Pottery shop and Shelley’s catering business, but also “beer and ice, food, live bait, tube rentals, a bird aviary, a botanical garden, and wheel-thrown pottery and casting classes.” But that only skims the surface of what you’ll find here. What started as a modest, wood-frame studio and greenhouse has morphed into a rambling retreat.

Today’s visitor can wander from the front patio and restaurant area into the enclosed botanical gardens, peruse a row of outdoor cages populated by more than 100 different kinds of birds, including colorful macaws, chickens, and pigeons, and continue out back to the jukebox/pool-table room, shaded hillside decks, and stairs leading to the riverbank.

When Shelley began cooking at Dave’s Place, she expanded the menu and added daily specials like grilled rib eye, shrimp, English-style fish and chips, and pizzas featuring fresh ingredients.

What butters my bun at Dave’s is the chance to build my own burger. Choosing from a sideboard of fixin’s—ripe tomatoes, crisp lettuce, thinly-sliced sweet onions, and assorted condiments—I build my personal, all-star burger atop a lightly seasoned, griddle-cooked patty. The fries prove crisp and non-greasy, just as I like ’em.

On Sundays—barbecue time at Dave’s—I opt for a plate of succulent brisket and fall-off-the-bone baby back ribs served with well-prepared, not-overly-doctored potato salad and pinto beans.

Another visit finds me pigging out on a bison burger accompanied by sweet-potato fries. While the burger proves satisfying, it’s the semisweet, pumpkin-colored fries that carry the day.

“My intent was to have a little place where I could throw my pottery and sell a few beers because you can’t be artistic without people,” David confides. “If you don’t interact with people, you lose focus!”

In the past year, John has expanded his offerings to include a hot tub room with a deck overlooking the river, and bed & breakfast accommodations for those who wish to extend their stay. Occasionally on a Saturday night, Dave’s Place features live music. Stairs lead to the riverbank below, and a multilevel deck offers a fine sunset view.

Dave’s Place rents tubes for $8 a day, but it’s free to go swimming or fishing on the property, tour the botanical hothouse and grounds, or watch the sun set over the Guadalupe.

As the evening winds down, a group from Boerne who had spent the afternoon floating the Guadalupe, strolls through, all smiles.

”We drank some cold beer, floated for four hours, and ended up here for dinner;’ says one of the group, with a wide grin. ”What better day can you have than that?”

From the August 2009 issue
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