Several years ago, my mother, both grandmothers, and I made a trek to Fredericksburg. We wandered happily from shop to shop on Main Street, admiring hand-carved nutcrackers, custom antler chandeliers, crystal knickknacks, Western sculptures, and handsome 19th-Century armoires. The trip was perfect for our group, but I couldn’t imagine proposing a Fredericksburg excursion to some of my trend-conscious friends in Austin. That has all changed.
Even though Fredericksburg is still the domain of Alpine-themed eateries and boutiques offering candles and broomstick skirts, you’ll detect a modern and—dare I say it?—hip undercurrent to Main Street these days.
The Fredericksburg area claims more than 300 guesthouses and B&Bs. Find your perfect spot at www.fredtexlodging.com, an all-inclusive Web site recently launched by the Fredericksburg Convention and Visitor Bureau. Once you arrive in town, the Visitor Information Center, one block north of Main Street at 302 E. Austin St., can help get you oriented with maps. (Tip: South Adams is the dividing line between West and East Main.) The visitor’s center has clean public restrooms, too.
THAI ONE ON
The freshest restaurant in town is a sophisticated joint called August E’s, which recently moved from a historic building east of town to new digs off Main Street. Chef Leu Savanh’s Tuesday-night Thai specials, full sushi menu, and classics like steaks and seafood draw loyal fans. And with its white leather furniture, steel-gray walls, and oversize abstract paintings, August E’s is a marked contrast to more traditional restaurants in town.
WINE IS FINE
These days in Fredericksburg, it’s as easy to find a pinot as a Pilsner. At Texas Wine Cellars, owner Tom Brayshaw offers more than 200 wines for sale by the bottle or case; you can taste many of them while you shop. You can find beer here, too: Ask chief pourer Paul Vaala for a sample of a concoction he calls the “Raspberry Truffle”—a swoon-worthy mix of raspberry lambic ale and chocolate stout.
Soothed by the twinkling lights and the outdoor fire pit, I took a break during my last Fredericksburg foray at the popular Lincoln Street Wine Bar. Mediterranean-style tapas, cigars, a large selection of beers on tap, plus more than 200 wines available by the glass, make this a popular hangout. Lincoln Street’s proprietor, Sean Smajstrla, comes from a wine-loving family: His brother, Todd, oversees the nearby shop house.wine., a combination wine bar/showroom where Todd combines his love of wine with his affection for what he calls “urban eclectic” decor. Here, you’ll find more than 250 wines available by the glass, along with bold furniture, inventive lighting, and items such as vintage skis and surfboards. An outdoor lounge, complete with a recessed fire pit, keeps things hot. In the evenings, Todd plays classic movies in the bar; I’d like to return for a screening of Casablanca.
PHOTOGRAPHY IS ART
There’s a reason why the Hill Country paintings of Julian Onderdonk and Hermann Lungkwitz provide inspiration to artists working in modern times—they truly captured the beauty of the landscape. But I wanted something different, and I found it at Photography 414, a gallery on Main that represents more than two dozen artists. Gallery director James Fox’s work—stark trees jutting skyward, buildings shot from unusual angles, intense close-ups of vintage cars—typify the edgy creativity found here. I like the displays of antique cameras, too.
When it comes to dog toys, are those knotted threadbare socks déclassé? Dog-lover David Pedregon thinks so, and at Dogologie, his canine boutique on Main, he’ll nudge you toward the racks overflowing with hundreds of canine playthings designed to make you smile and your pooch’s tail wag like a metronome. Dogoligie also features collars, beds, grooming supplies, and canine-themed gifts like Boston terrier coffee mugs and Labrador doormats, along with a bakery case full of fresh-baked dog treats.
When I explained to the affable Ben Large, owner of Fredericksburg Gourmet Coffee & Tea, that I was exploring the world of tea, he started unscrewing the tops of his collection, encouraging me to breathe in their aromas. Large offers some 70 teas and more than 100 fresh-roasted coffees in bulk from his shop on Main, but lots of customers come in for a midday cup of coffee, Chai, green tea, latte, or other specialty drink. He serves a mean green chile stew, too. “We do it New Mexico style, with New Mexican chiles and pork—not something you find in Texas very often,” says Large.
A NEW LEAF
I love bookstores, especially those that combine new releases with used or rare books—spots where I can pick up the latest Caldecott winner for a friend’s kid and maybe discover something wonderful for myself. That’s why I was thrilled to discover Berkman Books, which opened last December. In the main room, I found an enticing assortment of new releases, but the back rooms—where owners David Berkman and Lucy Jennings keep the used books—beckoned. I could spend a day hunkered down with vintage gardening guides and chunky, 1930s-era “Big Little Books”—those palm-size forerunners to modern comics.
When you’re looking for an airplane propeller to give as a gift, an old railroad cart to use as a coffee table, or a 1940s medical cabinet to serve as a china hutch, pay a visit to Red. Here, vintage chandeliers cast golden light on sleek modern sofas, an old circus advertisement becomes unusual wall art, and chunky plastic jewelry dangles from an adapted fireplace screen. “We like to encourage people to think of new ways to use antiques,” says buyer Carolyn Moore.
In today’s Fredericksburg, where country charm coexists peacefully with a new urban esthetic, you’ll enjoy mixing old and new. For details, call 888/997-3600; www.fredericksburg-texas.com.
From the February 2008 issue.