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Written by Texas Highways

Sports bars are more than just taps and TVs  

A Texas-size TV screen at High Velocity sports bar in San Antonio guarantees fans great views of the action. (Photo by Sarah Kerver)

By Anthony Head

Although I grew up in indiana, where basketball reigns supreme, I’m now a Texan and a committed football fan. My conversion wasn’t painful because I’ve always liked watch-ing big games at sports bars. With the crowd’s upbeat energy and plenty of beer and food, it’s the next best thing to being there.

On February 6, when Super Bowl XLV comes to Arlington’s Cowboys Stadium, there may be no better sports bar in the state in which to celebrate than nearby Humperdink’s. One of five locations around the Metroplex, it sits within a mile of the stadium. With a 45-foot ceiling overhead, it certainly lives up to its billing as “Arlington’s Tallest Bar.” Humperdink’s isn’t big enough to hold the estimated 150,000 football enthusiasts descending on Arlington in February, but it’s a start.

Sitting at the main bar, I’m joined by Humperdink’s manager, Emanuel Harrison. “This place is going to be crazy the whole week leading up to the game,” he says. “We’re already getting phone calls from fans trying to reserve a stool. We’re planning to open up extra seating areas to maximize as much space as possible.” No matter where fans sit, they won’t miss any action because dozens of televisions hang prominently throughout the space.

With an emphasis on the quality of its cuisine, Humperdink’s is actually more of a sports restaurant than a sports bar. The menu of burgers, steaks, and seafood is built to go with the selection of craft brews from the on-site brewery. My favorite of the bunch, the Big Red IPA, tastes well-rounded and is quite food-friendly; it goes especially well with the turkey melt or any of the other sandwiches offered.

Even though the Cowboys will not make it to the big game, Dallasites will be revved up for the action. “All of Dallas is already super-excited about the Super Bowl,” says Cynthia Hobbs, a bartender at Frankie’s Sports Bar and Grill in the Uptown region. “We’ll be getting people from all over the Metroplex for the game. This place is going to be a madhouse.”

With scores of compact TVs, big-screen TVs, giant-screen TVs, wall-sized TVs, high-def and plasma TVs, Frankie’s makes it hard to miss any of the action. The beer, too, comes in dozens of varieties, many from around the world, with plenty of Texas greats like Shiner Bock and Real Ale Brewing Company’s Fireman’s #4 Blonde Ale.

Frankie’s also demonstrates how sports bars have evolved to become much more than just taps and TVs. The place feels comfortable, like a neighborhood tavern, but with very little beer signage or neon. The granite-topped bar has hooks underneath for purses, and there are several different rooms for dining on upscale versions of bar food, including wings (more than a half-dozen varieties), nachos (with steak strips), and burgers (the half-pound Colt Burger is topped with apple-smoked bacon and Maytag blue cheese).

Hobbs says the raw bar’s popularity proves that sports fans love seafood, too. The Super Bowl Brunch is sure to be a winner: In addition to sandwiches, eggs, and waffles, Frankie’s build-your-own Bloody Mary Bar will be piled high with several mixes, plenty of shrimp, pico de gallo—the works.

In contrast, High Velocity, at the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa, resembles a gallery space. Colorful Texas-team logos and sports-themed paintings cover the walls, and high ceilings and polished surfaces frame the 250-seat restaurant. It’s also super-charged throughout with high technology; a 12-foot-high by 120-foot-long TV screen dominates the space above the bar.

High Velocity offers 24 beers on tap, including another of my Texas favorites, Rahr & Sons Blonde Lager. Its crisp flavor tastes great with game-day favorites, such as Tex--as-style chili and nachos with barbecue brisket, smoked cheddar, and jalape-ños. High Velocity’s game plan makes use of many fresh, high-quality ingredients to appeal to families as much as football fanatics.

For anyone who thinks the best football food ever invented—pizza—should be left up to the experts, the place to go is Nick’s Place Italian Sports Bar & Pizzeria in Houston. Nick’s features an old-school sports-bar ambience: It’s a bit dark inside, and the place is usually filled with friendly regulars. It’s also loaded with TVs and great beer. Tableside service is typically laid-back, but the staff take their sports seriously and they mean business when it comes to pizza. Mozzarella, parmesan, provolone, and ricotta top the Quattro Formaggi; bacon, beef, ham, pepperoni, and sausage crowd the “I Got Your Meat” pizza; and just about every combination with and without vegetables is available in-between.

Even by sports bar standards, Nick’s is in a league of its own. On February 6, fans can plan on a full day of pre-game shows and seemingly endless game-day analysis, because Nick’s will open at 9 a.m., a full 13 hours before kickoff. You can even have a breakfast pizza with eggs, ham, bacon, cheddar cheese, mushrooms, red onion, and bell pepper.

Whether or not a Texan team will be playing in the Super Bowl this year, when it comes to good food, good bear and good times, Texas sports bars have already won the game.

(Photo courtesy of The Daytripper with Chet Garner)

It’s official. A while back, the Texas Legislature settled the debate over which town deserves the overall crown for best ’cue: Lockhart (designated “Barbecue Capital of Texas” in 1999). I made a trip to our smoky capital on a meaty mission—to try every barbecue restaurant in town.

Lighting extravaganzas ring in Hub City holidays

By Nola McKey

More than 15 ranch structures gleam for the holidays at the National Ranching Heritage Center in Lubbock. (Photo by J. Griffis Smith)For many Lubbock-area residents, the holidays officially begin when they make the trek to Texas Tech for the university’s annual Carol of Lights, an evening event that has brought the community together for more than a half-century. Thousands of people gather in the Science Quadrangle to hear a carillon concert and chorale groups and sing a carol or two themselves. The finale comes when someone throws a switch, and 25,000 Christmas lights suddenly outline 13 buildings around
Memorial Circle. This year’s event takes place December 3.

For more information, call 806/742-2542; (click on”Programs”).

Just north of campus, Candlelight at the Ranch takes place at the National Ranching Heritage Center about a week later (December 10-11, 2010). Luminarias outline the paths to more than 15 historic ranch structures, where volunteers re-create holiday scenes from the past. Call 806/742-0498;

During December, light-seekers also head nine miles east of Lubbock for driving tours of Lake Ransom Canyon, where several tiers of extravagantly lit homes surround the lake, which reflects the spectacle. Call 806/829-2470;

Also see: Postcards: Make Waves This Winter

Affordable rooms, fewer people, and abundant wildlife make winter beaching a pleasure

A bottlenose dolphin accompanies a shrimping boat near South Padre Island.  (Photo by Erich Schlegel)

By Lori Moffatt

Last November, when a group of adventuresome friends suggested a Thanksgiving trip to Port Aransas, I jumped at the chance to enjoy a beachfront holiday with long walks in the still-warm surf, leisurely bicycle rides accompanied by squawking gulls, and beachcombing for shells and random sea-tumbled treasures. The five of us rented a house not far from the beach and enjoyed an idyllic three days away from the madding crowds of the city. And one morning, as I sipped hot cocoa and watched the sun emerge red-hot and magical from beyond the edge of the sea, I remembered—as I do each time I return to the Texas coast in the winter—why I love the beach when the days are short and the sun casts its rays gently.

altDaytime temperatures rarely dip lower than 60 degrees Fahrenheit, for one, which means that it’s still warm enough for a T-shirt during the day and barely de-serving of a jacket in the evening. Birding tends to be rewarding, as many migratory northern species spend these months in Texas’ rich estuaries. And since lodging rates drop during the so-called low season (generally after Labor Day until Spring Break), it’s easy to extend a trip or splurge on an elaborate dinner.

I consulted with friends in some of Texas’ most popular beach communities—Galveston, South Padre Island, Rockport/Fulton, Corpus Christi, and Port Aransas—to discover other reasons to hit the beach this winter.

Galveston Island, with 32 miles of beaches and attractions ranging from historic homes and art galleries to major draws like Moody Gardens and Schlitterbahn, barely slows its pace during the winter, though even here you’ll find deals in cool-weather months. And folks are gearing up for a yearlong celebration in 2011 of the centennial of the island’s elegant Hotel Galvez & Spa, a landmark that heralded the island’s recovery after the disastrous 1900 hurricane.  Events start in December, with a celebration of Gary Cartwright’s new book The Hotel Galvez: Queen of the Gulf, followed by a series of shindigs in 2011 that include a “bathing beauty revue” that puts a contemporary (and tongue-in-cheek) spin on the Galvez’ flapper-era “Pageants of Pulchritude.”

South Padre Island, the 34-mile-long sliver of paradise at Texas’ southern tip, embraces eco-tourism year round. But nature tourists especially love the island in the winter, when the absence of crowds affords a more tranquil experience. Birding and nature-tours here run the gamut from intimate dolphin encounters aboard small craft to temperature-controlled excursions on triple-decker cruisers. SPI’s newest addition, a two-hour eco-tour
dubbed “The Sea Life Safari” studies not only bird life and dolphins, but also fish and other marine creatures, as well as the geologic history of the Laguna Madre.

Farther north, the neighboring communities of Rock-port/Fulton, Port Aransas, and Corpus Christi also em--brace winter’s eco-tourism bounty. Fewer beach-strollers mean there’s better shelling, green sea turtles put on shows around the jetties, and surfers don wet suits for some of the year’s best waves. I spoke with Carolyn Rose, the edu-cation coordinator for the Mission-Aransas Na-tional Estuarine Research Reserve  (NERR), a 185,000-acre network of public sites whose mission is to protect the estuaries and educate the public about their importance, about NERR’s new Bay Education Center in Rockport. Along with displays and interactive exhibits devoted to creatures that depend on Texas estuaries, an exhibit called “Science on a Sphere” (a six-foot globe that shows real-time images of global weather patterns) helps visitors learn about planetary science. Which, of course, affects those mesmerizing Gulf Coast sunsets.

Let winter’s waves inspire you.   

Postcards continued: Lubbock Lights

Marfa Book Company owner Tim Johnson operates his store as a creative crossroads, sponsoring events that feature arts, public affairs, and film screenings. (Photo by J. Griffis Smith)

Even though Marfa’s population is small (2,400), the ideas are grand in this Big-Bend-region hideout, and like other “art towns,” Marfa can be mystifying for the newcomer. But don’t be intimidated! Even if you’re baffled by rumors of the latest behind-the-scenes art-world coup, you can get to know Marfa’s quirky personality on your own schedule. There are weekends, such as during the annual film festival in May or Chinati Open House in October, when the crowds can overwhelm the town. But there are quieter times when you might want to just bicycle around town and enjoy the leisurely pace of a West Texas village.

Photo courtesy of The Daytripper with Chet Garner; by Nathan Locklear

Unless you’re from Waco (or are a Baylor Bear), you may not have frequented this Central Texas hub off I-35. I decided to spend a day in Waco and explore beyond the access roads.

Lawndale Art Center spotlights modern design

Thanks to the nearly 20 museums, galleries, and other attractions in Houston’s lively Museum District, visitors can immerse themselves in topics as diverse as weather, butterflies, art, and design from around the world. But you don’t have to travel the world to find creative design, and Houston’s Lawndale Art Center aims to prove it during its first annual Design Fair 2010 (April 21-25), an event that brings new life (and a Texas focus) to Lawndale’s 20th Century Modern Market.

Lawndale’s executive director, Christine West, explains the transformation: “When we started Modern Market in the mid-1990s, Mid-Century Modern design was collectible, but it wasn’t as popular as it is now. Today, there are other similar markets around the country; mainstream manufacturers like IKEA and West Elm are making knockoffs and reproductions; and the television show Mad Men has influenced taste in fashion and furniture. Original items have gotten expensive as the period has become more mainstream. So the board decided to broaden the focus to incorporate the exciting things happening in 21st-Century design.”

'We’ll showcase the best designers in Texas, while we focus on both Mid-Century design and what is modern today.'

The event kicks off with a free public lecture on April 21,
then continues with a benefit preview party and sale on April 23 (tickets: $75), during which participants can enjoy first dibs on the fair’s furni-ture, glass, ceramics, lighting, books, metalwork, textiles, and fashion.

Design Fair continues on Saturday and Sunday with two floors of items on display (and for sale) by artists and designers from throughout the world. New for 2010: the Texas Co-Op, a presentation of furniture, glass, ceramics, lighting, books, metalwork, and fashion by Texas designers, curated by Houston retail legend Mickey Rosmarin. “We’ll showcase the best designers in Texas,” says West, “while we focus on both Mid-Century design and what is modern today.” Call 713/528-5858;

—Lori Moffatt

The Trinity River Audubon Center turns trash into treasure

South of downtown Dallas, the Trinity River Audubon Center helps preserve a 6,000-acre, hardwood forest. (Photo by Scott Miller)

I take a boardwalk over a stream of shallow, tea-colored water and follow the trail to a small wooded area. Under a wide, blue, North Texas sky, bees buzz around hives tucked into the trees, and lizards sun on the path. I negotiate a large puddle and hear the splash of a frog jumping into the water up ahead. Tall cattails rustle in the breeze and blue dragonflies patrol the surface of a small pond.
I feel miles from civilization, yet downtown Dallas lies less than 10 minutes away.

The 120-acre Trinity River Audubon Center, which opened to the public in October 2008, represents the first step of an ambitious plan for parks, trails, bridges, and other improvements on the river, together known as the Trinity River Corridor Project. While flood-control levees hem in the waterway west of downtown, here to the south, the river meanders through the 6,000-acre Great Trinity Forest, North America’s largest urban bottomland hardwood forest.

If 6,000 acres of natural land aren’t surprise enough, there’s this: The Center occupies a former illegal dump site. Once cursed with 1.5 million tons of construction waste, it has been transformed into a rolling landscape covered with Texas prairie grasses. Four miles of trails traverse woods and circle ponds and wetlands, where shorebirds wade in the shallows. The main building, designed by architect Antoine Predock, has a vegetated roof, a rainwater-collection system, energy-efficient heating and cooling systems, solar panels, and was built of sustainable materials that include Forest Stewardship Council-certified cypress walls, bamboo flooring, and recycled denim insulation. Floor-to-ceiling windows slant toward the ground to prevent bird strikes. Outer walls sport concrete made from locally quarried gravel and sand. Dramatic angles rise above the floodplain to a soaring point, evoking the image of a bird about to take flight.

Owned by the city of Dallas and operated by Audubon Texas, the facility serves as the flagship for the organization’s Texas education and conservation initiatives.

“Our intention is to give people access to the Great Trinity Forest and a close-up look at the river itself,” says Director Chris Culak. “But it’s also interesting to see what a landfill can look like once it’s cleaned up, to see how the property is being restored to its native state—part blackland prairie, forest, wetland, and ponds. Looking at it now, you’d never think it all had trash sitting on top of it.”

The Dallas Parks and Recreation Department hopes to connect the Center’s trails to a network reaching downtown Dallas, making it possible to hike or bike here from the heart of the city. For now, the Center offers evidence of nature’s resilience and the power humans have in reversing ecological damage. On your next trip to Dallas, spend some time at this still-developing jewel. Grab a sandwich and soda in the gift shop and picnic on the outdoor deck, watching for some of the 120 different species of birds identified here. Just make sure to properly dispose of your trash. 

A Central Texas village destined for new owners

It is rare to find an entire town on the market.
But such an opportunity is coming up because The Grove is on the auction block: Its general store, blacksmith shop, and saloon—and all their contents—will be offered to the highest bidder during an event set for the weekend of April 23-24.

The Grove, about 15 miles northwest of Temple, first came to life in 1917, when the general store and Lutheran church were built to serve the community. After the highway was moved because residents didn’t want to pave over their well, The Grove grew ever quieter.

Then, beginning in 1972, the village regained some energy through the indulgence of Moody Anderson, a retired National Guard colonel and inveterate antiques collector. Ever since then, Anderson has restored, renovated, tinkered, and shaped a sort of living museum.

'(Moody Anderson) really brought vitality to the community, and his collections are so visually rich that students and young filmmakers are drawn to it. The general store is organized in such a way that it helps you take a step back into the past"

“This has been Moody’s playground and his passion,” explains Lori Najvar, who documents history on The Grove (and other Texas culture) through her nonprofit “He really brought vitality to the community, and his collections are so visually rich that students and young filmmakers are drawn to it. The general store is organized in such a way that it helps you take a step back into the past,” she adds.

Indeed, there are household and veterinary products from “the old days” on the general store’s shelves. The smithey’s tongs and hammers rest near the bellows in the blacksmith shop, scary period instruments await a patient in the dentist’s office, and a fabled bar-back sets a western vibe for the Cockleburr Saloon. Some of these pieces are famous in their own right because Anderson often rents props to film and television productions, including Lonesome Dove.

For more information about the history of The Grove, contact Lori Najvar by e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. For auction details, call the Burley Auction Group at 830/237-3440, or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..                                      

—Charles Lohrmann

“Many of the artists who live here have statewide reputations; some are nationally known.”

Former Ringling Bros. clown James Maltman balances a ladder on his chin during a recent performance at the Salado Silver Spur Theater.  (Photo by Howard Chang)

By Nola McKey

Recently, I decided to explore the peaceful-looking village of Salado. I found its claim to fame—Best Art Town in Texas—intriguing. Was this Bell County community (population 3,600) really a bellwether of the arts?

As I drove down Main Street, admiring the historic buildings and attractive storefronts, I realized that if a scenic setting is a prerequisite for attracting artists, then Salado fills the bill, in spades. The rippling waters of Salado Creek flow through the heart of downtown, slowing the pace both literally and figuratively.

Just downstream from the Main Street Bridge sits Salado’s famous bronze of a legendary maiden-turned-mermaid, titled Sirena. Local sculptor Troy Kelley donated the work to Salado in 1989 and recently added a bronze of the magical catfish said to have changed Sirena into a mermaid forever.

Prellop Fine Art gallery owner Larry Prellop gave me his take on Salado’s arts scene. “For the size of this community, we have one of the most impressive collections of artists and galleries in the state,” he said. “Many of the artists who live here—and there are a lot—have statewide reputations; some are nationally known.”

Prellop, who paints distinctly realistic seascapes and Hill Country scenes, represents more than 30 artists who work in oils, acrylics, watercolor, glass, and metal, including metal artist Charles Allen, whose “botanical sculptures”—life-size, three-dimensional depictions of flowers with minute details—caught my eye.

Hershall Seals, chairman of the art department at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in nearby Belton, says “Salado has a unique arts community,” Seals told me, “and I don’t mean just visual arts. The Silver Spur Theater, in the old Grain & Seed building, presents first-class vaudeville-type performances, and the Tablerock amphitheater offers programs almost every month.”

The Stanzel brothers developed carnival rides, including the 1940s G-Ride, which never went into production. (Photo by J . Griffis Smith)

Long before a renovated dance hall and tours of painted churches put Schulenburg on the map, the name was printed on thousands of boxes of Stanzel Company model-airplane kits that were shipped to kids from Maine to California. Today, the Stanzel Model Aircraft Museum is more than a hobbyist’s paradise; it shows anything is possible if you follow your passion.

Miranda Lambert's store and winery brings music fans to Lindale

Miranda LambertNext time you’re motoring through East Texas on Interstate 20, don’t dare pass the Tyler/Lindale/Mineola exit. There’s plenty to enjoy in Tyler—the famous Municipal Rose Gardens, the Caldwell Zoo, Dewberry Plantation, Tyler State Park, and much more. To the north about 15 miles on US 69, the venerable town of Mineola awaits with the Select Theatre, a railroad depot/museum, Lott House, 99.9 country KMOO-FM, a nice nature preserve, and historical markers galore.

However, I found a feel-good surprise in between Tyler and Mineola— country music singer/songwriter Miranda Lambert’s hometown of Lindale. On a recent trek, I stopped in at the Miranda Lambert Store & Red 55 Winery—named after the first truck Lambert owned, a red ’55 Chevy pickup. This former funeral parlor at the corner of Hubbard and Main offers wines (like Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, a sweet, white Muscat Canelli; and Red 55, a smooth Cabernet Sauvignon) from LouViney Vineyards in Sulphur Springs. The wines’ names honor Lambert’s hits, prized possessions, and career highlights.

It’s relaxed, friendly, and comfortable here. The store/winery also doubles as a cozy lounge/mu-sic space with a stage, sound system, and Miranda memorabilia—posters, magazine covers, and gold records. There’s karaoke on Thursday nights; live music on Saturday nights. And, the store is the source for licensed Miranda merchandise—CDs, DVDs, T-shirts, caps, et al. Manager April Lewis takes phone and online orders from all over the world. Main Street banners proclaim: Welcome to Lindale—Star of East Texas.

The Miranda Lambert Store & Red 55 Winery is at 100 E. Hubbard in Lindale. Open Mon-Sat. Call 903/882-9305; Miranda Lambert’s latest CD, Revolution, is now available from Columbia/Sony Music Nashville.

—Marty Lange

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