A man sits at a large table with numerous barbecue dishes and sides in an outdoor setting

© Todd White Stills & Motion

If you’re traveling through the Hill Country just southwest of Austin, chances are you’ll drive right past this unincorporated town unless you’re really looking for it. The townsite isn’t much more than a church, a cemetery, and an old Texaco station. But scattered throughout the hills, often hidden by the groves of oaks and cedars, are daytrip-worthy stops that will make you want to catch their drift and stay awhile.

The Salt Lick BBQ

This restaurant started serving Texas barbecue on weekends in 1967 and is now one of the most iconic joints in Texas. Second-generation owner Scott Roberts blends his father’s traditional Texas recipes with flavors from his mother’s Japanese and Hawaiian roots. If you’re extra hungry, go for the all-you-can-eat family-style platter of brisket, sausage, ribs, and sides.


Charro Ranch Park

If you need some exercise after ingesting all that barbecue, this 64-acre park has you covered. You can hike the 1.3-mile loop through some quintessential Hill Country landscapes or meander along the inner trails that connect hikers to bridges and bird feeders. Don’t miss the Solstice Circle, a large stone diagram on the ground that aligns with the sun on different days of the year.

Desert Door Distillery

There are ample wineries and breweries in the area, but for something different, head to this distillery making spirits from a common desert shrub. Sotol tastes like an earthy version of tequila. Try it straight or get it mixed into one of their house cocktails and you’ll join a long tradition of sipping sotol that goes back 800 years. Visiting the tasting room, with desert décor, is like a trip to West Texas all on its own.


Hays City Store

This restaurant and bar started as a gas station in the 1980s and has since outgrown its building and overflowed into the surrounding lawn. Pass the time under oak trees and cantina lights while listening to live music and chatting into the night. You can’t go wrong with the bacon jam burger, complete with Muenster cheese and fried onions.


Mercer Dance Hall

Wrap up your day with some boot scootin’ at this relatively new dance hall. For five years the business operated on Mercer Street in downtown Dripping Springs, but in 2018 it relocated to a newly constructed dance hall in the country that feels 100 years old. Weekends feature live bands so make sure you bring your dancing boots.

So whether you follow my footsteps or forge your own path,
I hope to see you on the road.

Chet Garner is the host of The Daytripper® travel show on PBS.
To view the Driftwood episode, visit thedaytripper.com.
Follow along on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @chettripper.

From the March 2023 issue

Get the Magazine

Save up to 62% off the cover price


Sign Up for Our Newsletters

Sign up for magazine extras, upcoming events, Mercantile specials, subscription offers, and more.