To many, the word “Dublin” conjures up images of green hills, lucky clovers, and jigging leprechauns in a faraway land. However, replace those with rolling pastures, prickly cacti, and jigging Daytrippers, and you have a Texas version of the Irish town that’s only a car ride away.
9:00 a.m. Though small in size, Dublin has more than its fair share of interesting museums. To learn about the settlers of this prairie town, I visited the Dublin Historical Museum and Dublin Rodeo Heritage Museum, both packed with fascinating vignettes and stories depicting life in Dublin over the past century—from farming to family to Gene Autry performances and everything in between. The only thing lacking was any Irish connection to explain the town’s name.
10:00 a.m. I headed to the Ben Hogan Museum of Dublin (open afternoons or by appointment). Born in Dublin in 1912 as the son of a blacksmith, Hogan went on to become arguably the best golfer of all time, in spite of injuries from a near-fatal auto accident that could have ended his career. The museum documents Hogan’s triple-crown comeback and displays historical photos and his namesake golf clubs.
10:30 a.m. Hogan won his last amateur trophy at the Dublin-De Leon Country Club, a now-empty field except for once a year (in June) when the Cow Pasture Golf Classic is held in Hogan’s honor. Eager to hit the links, I headed 18 miles southwest to Comanche’s PAR Country Club. It took nine holes (okay, one hole) to realize that I didn’t deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence as the great Hogan. And after scoring on nine holes what Hogan could score on 18, I politely collected my clubs and went back to where I belong—the road.
1:00 p.m. I returned to Dublin hungry and headed straight to the Chigger Ranch Food Store. Rather than dishing up red bugs and itchy rashes, this local joint specializes in homemade burgers, hand-formed and filled with flavor. I enjoyed every greasy bite and washed it down with a soda made by Dublin’s own “Keepers of the Sweet”—my next stop.
2:00 p.m. For more than a century, this town was synonymous with Dr Pepper, invented in Waco in 1885 but first bottled in Dublin in 1891. After a much-publicized legal battle, “Dublin Dr Pepper” was replaced by seven new flavors, all available at Dublin Bottling Works, home of Old Doc’s Soda Shop. Of course I had to try all of them, and then I ordered up an old favorite, a XXX Root Beer float. I sipped my frosty beverage while touring the 1930s bottling equipment and the W.P. Kloster Annex, which recounts the story of Bill Kloster, who worked at the plant for 67 years and became known as “Mr. Dr Pepper.”
3:30 p.m. To meet another group of local artisans, I headed to Veld-huizen Texas Farmstead Cheese. This family-owned farm makes some of the most amazing cheeses I’ve ever tasted, ranging from Parmesan and blue to specialties like “Redneck Cheddar” (made with Shiner Bock) and “Dublin Karst.” I learned about their old-world process and then enjoyed sampling the final results, making this the perfect appetizer stop.
6:00 p.m. I followed the crowds and local recommendations all the way to Granny Clark’s Restaurant. After honing her skills in De Leon public school cafeterias for 35 years, Granny Clark passed down her recipes to her grandson, who opened the restaurant in her honor. While the trays and cafeteria line were reminiscent of my elementary experience, my chicken-fried steak and homemade pie were not, as I definitely never ate this well in grade school.
While Dublin, Texas, may look nothing like its Irish counterpart, travel here and I think you’ll agree that the prize at the end of this day-trip rainbow is golden. So whether you follow my footsteps or forge your own path, I hope to see you on the road.