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Take Comfort

Make your own history in cozy Comfort
Written by Helen Anders. Photographs by Michael Amador.

32 ComfortableShoppers browse clothing racks inside a 19th-Century drugstore. Diners feast in a repurposed post office that was built in 1910. Antiques hunters admire dozens of chandeliers hanging from the arched ceiling of a 1960 former church.

Comfort

For information about visiting Comfort, call the Comfort Chamber of Commerce at 830/995-3131.

Creativity has long defined the little Hill Country town of Comfort, on the banks of placid Cypress Creek. Settled in 1854 by German immigrants who called themselves Freethinkers, Comfort provided an intellectual refuge from their homeland’s religious rigidity. Visit Comfort today, and you’re likely to wind up shopping, dining, and sleeping in buildings that date to the 1800s and early 1900s, because later generations were smart enough not to demolish them and resourceful enough to keep repairing and reusing them.

Freethinking is alive and thriving in Comfort. About a 20-minute drive from Fredericksburg, Kerrville, and Bandera, Comfort offers an excellent base for Hill Country exploration, but it’s also worth a weekend on its own. October provides an additional reason for visiting: the Scarecrow Invasion, when scarecrows fill the town’s sidewalks and yards, each more elaborate than the next.

Outside of festival dates, such as the annual Comfort Village Fall Antiques Show on October 18-19, weekends offer a chance to explore Comfort’s culture without large crowds. (Be aware that many shops are closed early in the week.) And you can easily walk among many of the shopping and dining destinations, which are clustered along several square blocks of the historic High, Main, Broadway, and Water streets.

High Street holds all sorts of surprises. Start with a cappuccino and an Earth Cookie—a bowl of Greek yogurt and granola, topped with berries and a sweet drizzle of agave nectar—at High’s Café and Store. Chef Brent Ault keeps the locals happy with a variety of breakfast and lunch offerings, including a truly addictive garlicky hummus.

Cross the street to Elephant Story, a store that actually justifies use of the word “unique” because of its elephant story: Elephant polo player Ed Story, his wife Joey, and Bobby Dent opened the shop two years ago in a 1913 pine-floored former pool hall, selling clothing and gifts from Asian countries that are home to elephants. The pewter elephant-shaped penholders are especially cute. Part of the store’s profit goes to elephant conservation.

A block west, Michelle Elizondo opened Elizabeth Daniell Boutique last year in an 1893 drugstore, giving it the middle names of her two daughters and offering casual, colorful, and soft skirts and tops—comfort clothes, if you will.

Walk a block down Seventh Street and you’ll come to the Tinsmith’s Wife. What, you don’t need any tin smithed? Well, perhaps you knit. Inside this late-1800s brick-and-frame building, you’ll find rooms filled with skein after skein of various types of yarns. (Oddly, the resident cats don’t seem interested in unraveling a single one.)

A block farther, on Broadway, Tim DeWitt’s Architectural Mercantile occupies a 1960 church with gleaming stained-glass windows. This unusual antiques store specializes in chandeliers. Architectural Mercantile is only one of many antiquing opportunities in Comfort, by the way.

If your feet get tired from all this shopping, consider bicycling. Rent a colorful bike from Comfort Pizza on High Street (set in a 1920s gas station) and pedal off the calories you’ll gain devouring one of its flavorful wood-fired pies. Try the Angry Samoan Pizza, featuring prosciutto, lime-and-chile pineapple, tomato, and pepperoncini.          

Across the street, you’ll find the perfect mid-afternoon snack break: a slice of “Pie on the Porch” at Miss Giddy’s, an eclectic store that carries toys, décor, kitchenware, spices, and salsas. A refrigerated glass case holds various berry, lemon, and cream pies with flaky crusts.

Or perhaps you’d rather rest with a glass of wine. Comfort offers two wineries. Singing Water Vineyards is about five miles south of downtown on winding Mill Dam Road. Wine tastings are offered every day but Tuesday and Wednesday. A standout is the 2013 Sunrise, a blend of pinot grigio, viognier, and sauvignon blanc: crisp like a pinot grigio, but with more body. Also yummy: the 2011 Vintner’s Reserve blend of cabernet sauvignon and merlot, and the 2012 Freedom wine, a blend of syrah, cabernet, merlot, and montepulciano. A portion of that last wine’s proceeds goes to scholarships for the children of military veterans. If you call in advance, Singing Water will arrange a picnic lunch for you, which you can enjoy on a picnic table outside.

Bending Branch Winery operates an estate and vineyards off Lindner Branch Road, but you can also visit its tasting room in town on High Street. Bending Branch grows grapes locally and also relies on fruit from the Texas High Plains and California. Its wine is aged in casks at the Comfort estate. The 2011 earthy Texas Tannat, made with red-wine grapes from the Lubbock area, won a double-gold medal at the 2014 Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo International Competition.

New to Comfort is Hill Country Distillers, whose Texas Moonshine products include a prickly pear cactus moonshine, a jalapeño pepper brandy, and seasonal brandies made from Poteet strawberries, Medina apples, and Fredericksburg peaches. Drop by the tasting room on Front Street for a Moonshine Mule cocktail: cactus moonshine, ginger beer, simple syrup, and mint, served in a copper mug.

Want to catch up on town gossip at the end of the week? On Friday or Saturday, drop by the Meet Market, a tavern on High Street that’s housed in—you guessed it—the 1918 Comfort Meat Market building. Owners Mark and Diane Jones will welcome you with beer or wine as you admire Mark’s Beatles and Volkswagen Beetle memorabilia on the walls. Be sure to pop into the back room to see his collection of vintage soda bottles and a small shrine to Elvis.

Across the street, discover fine dining at 814 A Texas Bistro, where chef-owner Millard Kuykendall offers creative preparations of Texas beef, pork, poultry, and seafood. Don’t miss the soy-ginger glazed Bandera quail appetizer.

34 RoomBy now, you need somewhere to lay your head. You can’t do better than the Hotel Faust, next door to the bistro. The two-story limestone structure has been a hotel since it was built in 1880, with a second wing added in 1894. Now, new owners Chris and Kevin Sokol-White have taken the Faust to a new level.

“It still has historic charm, but there’s a sophisticated edge to it,” says Chris. The charm includes repurposed elements of the original building: Window shutters become headboards; a picture frame evolves into a coffee table.

The eight rooms include four in the main building and two in the carriage house, along with the original innkeeper’s cabin, which has two bedrooms, and an 1820s log cabin. Casually elegant décor features plantation shutters, luxurious bedding, and renovated bathrooms. Explore the hotel’s new art gallery or sit out on the porch and knit some of that yarn that you scored at the Tinsmith’s Wife.

If you’re traveling with children, try the child-friendly Camp Comfort on Water Street, which occupies an 1860 social hall that added a bowling alley in 1901. The bowling is long gone, but the alley’s lanes have found new life as desktops in the guest rooms—clever, attractive, and yet another example of Comfort doing its freethinking founders proud.

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