Chet Garner at the Bellville Meat Market

Photo: Hogaboom Road, Inc.

There’s something special about small towns and the folks who live there. You can do things in the country that aren’t possible in the big city, like build castles, throw fireballs, and hang out in jail (on purpose). All of these things and more lured me to Bellville for a day trip unlike any other.

Newman’s Castle

The owner of Newman’s Bakery downtown, Mike Newman is a
baker by day and a king by night in a castle he’s been building for 20 years—complete with moat, drawbridge, and giant trebuchet. Visitors can explore the dungeon and chapel, and they can fight imaginary dragons from the top of the bell tower. There is no better de-stresser than flinging stones from a medieval catapult. 504 E. Main St. 979-865-9804;

Austin County Jail Museum

Active until 1982, this jail is one you’d want to visit. Inside this imposing 1896 structure is a museum that tells the story of how Texas and this county began. Learn about Bellville’s founders, Thomas and James Bell, who were part of Stephen F. Austin’s “Old 300” colony and donated the land for the town of Bellville after the burning of San Felipe de Austin. Snap a photo behind bars—hopefully the door will reopen when you try to leave. 36 S. Bell St. 713-385-7141

Bellville Meat Market

Traditional meat markets are rare these days, but this one is going strong. Step inside and you’ll find butchers ready to cut your steak for dinner, and a barbecue counter serving up traditional Texas-style ’cue. The sausage reigns supreme, with 28 varieties of hand-tied links. I opted for the baked potato piled high with sweet chipotle smoked sausage, cheese, and homemade barbecue sauce. I think I’m still recovering from my glorious food coma. 36 S. Front St. 979-865-5782;

Phenix Knives

Talented bladesmith “Cowboy” Szymanski spends countless hours molding metal into works of art that can slice anything from a tomato to deerhide. Set inside a historic building that’s been a blacksmith shop for more than a century, Cowboy gives tours that put visitors so close, they can feel the heat from his 3,000-degree fire. His passion is contagious, so be prepared to buy a knife. 305 E. Main St. 713-724-6813;

The Hill

When you think of an old-school burger joint, chances are it looks like The Hill. Established in 1952 as a walk-up burger stand, the owners have since walled off a small checkered dining room. While the nostalgia may draw a crowd, it’s the classic cheeseburgers that have made this restaurant an institution. Dive into a double-bacon cheeseburger with chili-cheese tots. You won’t regret it. 758 W. Main St. 979-865-3607;

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 Bellville episode visit thedaytripper.comFollow along on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

From the November 2018 issue

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