Allow yourself to unplug in the pines at High Hill Farm, just outside of Tyler.
Eating and drinking
Though it’s been around for decades, Stanley’s Famous Pit BBQ (525 S. Beckham Ave.) keeps pulling in new customers with its progressive barbecue scene approach. There’s old-fashioned, pecan-smoked beef brisket, ribs, chicken, turkey and sausage, as well as stuffed potatoes and Frito pie. But vegetarian friends find happiness, too, thanks to tacos stuffed with guacamole and other non-meat goodies. Indulgences include the Mother Clucker, smoked chicken thigh meat with spicy mayo, cheddar and fried egg on jalapeno cheese sourdough at lunch or dinner, as well as the morning specialty, the Breakfast Brother-in-Law, a grilled hot link with cheese and scrambled eggs on a bun. There’s live music here, as well as a list of delicious cocktails (make mine the Whiskey Smash, a blend of bourbon with fresh lemon, mint and simple syrup), best enjoyed at a picnic table on the upper deck.Nearby in the Midtown Corridor, close to the reinvigorating downtown, Roast Social Kitchen (1125 E. 5th St.) comes from the Stanley’s folks — but don’t look for barbecue here. Instead, a brick oven produces exceptional pizza, the super-thin variety made from handcrafted dough and fresh ingredients roasted on-site. My favorite pizza is the Bee’s Knees, topped with roasted garlic, a variety of cheeses, sopressata, Italian sausage, local spicy honey and fresh thyme. Light dish choices include the roasted beet salad, tossed with baby spinach, caramelized onion, Haute Goat chevre (from Longview), candied pecans, and lemon Dijon vinaigrette. In the bar, find wine, beer and cocktails on tap, including Rose’s Night Out, blending vodka with rose syrup and lemon for light effect.
The happening new downtown area called Off the Square stays busy with the likes of ETX Brewing Co. (221 S. Broadway) pulling in crowds Wednesday through Saturday. When it’s nice outside and the garage doors are up, you’re sitting in a sidewalk beer garden, watching the street traffic go by as you sip brews made on-site. Because the choices are so many, we enjoy getting a flight that lets us sample several short pours. Among choices, I especially like Red House Wheat, an unfiltered red wheat beer that hints of orange; Downtown Cherry Brown, a brown ale bearing notes of tart cherry; Hitching Post, a mellow amber ale with a faint caramel influence; and Coffee City Stout, a dark beer made with a little locally roasted coffee and Belgian chocolate.
A few doors down the street, The Foundry Coffee House (202 S. Broadway Ave.) pours coffee from roasters including Porch Culture, based in Tyler, and Oak Cliff, a Dallas outfit. It’s a comfortable place to hang out and visit with friends, check email, read and enjoy especially good coffee. I recommend arriving on Friday to enjoy a slice of sweet goodness from Emporium Pies in Dallas, perfect with fresh a pour over. There’s live music here, too.
You’ll be tickled pink at all the fun finds in 903 Handmade (253 S. Broadway Ave.), another new hot spot in Off the Square. Tables and shelves nearly overflow with gift items, and you’ll want most for yourself. There are fabric cosmetic bags in vibrant designs and colors, fun socks (decorated with yetis, caution tape, flamingos, buffalo and watermelons), handcrafted jewelry (with beads or keys or letter-stamped metal discs) and handy little leather cord keepers. The fabric-covered passport sleeves in a dozen or more designs are a steal at $10 each.Neighboring El Guapo Records (257 S. Broadway Ave.) serves as a window to the past, with equal doses of nostalgia and chill groovy vibes. Old vinyl finds range from Michael Jackson to Midnight Cowboy soundtrack to Grateful Dead, and there’s much to be discovered among the CD collection, too. If you’re looking for a turntable or other stereo needs, they’re probably here. DJs spin records on some Wednesday evenings, and there’s spoken word open mic nights, too.
Another few doors away, Moon Rivers Naturals (265 S. Broadway Ave.) helps us take better care of ourselves. The line of skin care products made with essential oils and other natural ingredients — many of which smell divine — includes several kinds of soaps and moisturizers. Coconut milk face wash, peppermint-lava salt hand and body wash, coffee-grapefruit scrub, rose-geranium bath soak and myriad incense varieties add up to a lot of irresistible purchases. There’s even beard oil for guys, too.