A man sits in a diner booth holding a large burger above a basket lined with red and white checkered paper

Photo courtesy The Daytripper

By all accounts, the town of Borger, population 12,500, should be burned to a crisp. In early March, a series of wildfires stormed through the Texas Panhandle, decimating hundreds of structures, killing two people and upwards of 7,000 cattle. But thanks to proactive “controlled burns” conducted beforehand, Borger was able to battle back the fire, and the town was mostly unscathed. Now that the smoke has cleared, take an opportunity to visit this former oil boomtown in the Canadian River Valley. It’s a place with a fraught history—and luckily, it can be enjoyed in the here and now.

Onions Cafe

This Main Street restaurant is named for its signature onion burger, which includes caramelized onions smashed into the beef as it sears on a flattop griddle. They also serve sloppy Joes, chicken salad on croissants, and tacos. The line of locals stretching out the front door each day is a testament to the café’s quality. Make sure to save room for a slice of buttermilk pie.

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Hutchinson County Historical Museum

The town’s tumultuous history is laid bare in this two-story building downtown. After Borger’s founding in 1926, its significant oil resources drew hordes of roughnecks, outlaws, bootleggers, and prospectors. Speakeasies and brothels abounded in those early days; Texas Ranger Frank Hamer—who later killed Bonnie and Clyde—was dispatched to the town in 1927 to curb the illicit activities. He was unsuccessful, and in 1929, Texas governor Daniel Moody imposed martial law on the town. Present-day Borger is calmer—save for the occasional wildfire.


Adobe Walls

Named for a trading post in the Canadian River Valley, Adobe Walls was the site of two bitter battles between Native American tribes and Anglo settlers in 1864 and 1874. This is where Comanche war chief Quanah Parker led the siege of a buffalo hunting camp, prompting the end of buffalo trading in the area. But Native casualties were high. In what’s known today as “The Shot,” one of Parker’s horse-mounted warriors was killed by a rifle shot from almost one mile away.


Chad Alan Foster Memorial Trail System

The Panhandle isn’t always flat. Don’t take my word for it—just try this 7-mile mountain bike trail tucked away inside the city limits. Grueling climbs and thrilling downhill runs take riders across small bridges and along creeksides. If you prefer walking to pedaling, it’s also a great hike. Trail access is adjacent to the city’s iconic Dome Civic and Convention Center, with its spacey 1950s architecture.


Jesse’s Burritos

For 17 years, this local institution has served Mexican food folded into pillowy tortillas. Here you’ll find the classics, such as green chile pork and barbacoa, alongside new inventions, including a chile relleno stuffed inside a burrito. Request extra homemade salsa to cover your handheld meal in what I like to call spicy, spicy heaven.


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 Borger episode, visit thedaytripper.com.
Follow along on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @chettripper.

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