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Written by Texas Highways

Texas is vast, and the decisions are wide open when hunger strikes on those long hauls across the state. Sure, you could pull up to the nearest drive-thru window (again), but there’s nothing boldest or grandest about a bag of fast food—especially when exceptional mom-and-pop restaurants are dishing up affordable comfort a little farther down the line. Whether you’re hankering for a taste of home or the meal less traveled, sometimes you just need to get out of the car and into a diner booth. Click the image below to see the 33 family-owned roadside joints.

Home Cookin' Highway: 33 Roadside Restaurants for Your Next Texas Roadtrip

Chet with a table of pies

It may be one of the smallest incorporated towns in Texas (official population: 90), but don’t let that fool you—the little town of Round Top makes for some big trippin’. Visit during the biannual Texas Antiques Week and you’ll find thousands of “junkers” filling every available cow pasture with vintage collectibles. But even on a normal day, this hamlet has plenty of charm.

Chet Garner is the host of The Daytripper® travel show on PBS.
To view the Round Top episode visit thedaytripper.com.

Illustration of Marcia Ball playing piano

When Marcia Ball gets to rocking—her long fingers pounding out barrelhouse keyboard rhythms, knees bouncing to the beat, the band locked into the groove—it can be downright difficult to sit still. The Austin piano player has been getting people to their feet for decades with her joyful take on rhythm and blues and a voice steeped in Gulf Coast soul.

Outside view of a historic Sunday house

Tiny houses have been a hot trend in recent years, with HGTV programs like Tiny House, Big Living touting the benefits of downsizing. But diminutive dwellings are really nothing new. In fact, the Hill Country town of Fredericksburg is home to dozens of tiny homes dating back more than 100 years.

Illustration of a map of things to do in Junction

I was lured to Kimble County by my fly fisher husband—his heart set on hooking the fabled Guadalupe bass and learning a trick or two at the annual Oktoberfisch fly-fishing festival. For three days every October, the Fredericksburg Fly Fishers invite first-timers and avid anglers to their event along the Llano River in Junction. The town—known as The Land of Living Waters, a nod to the county’s abundance of flowing waterways—sits where the North and South Llano rivers meet, so it’s a prime locale for such a fest.

Outside view of the new Phoenix

The question of whether The Phoenix Restaurant and Bar in Port Aransas would reopen after Hurricane Harvey was not “if” but “when.” In the aftermath of the devastating storm, the eatery’s namesake became more relevant than chef Tiana Worsham and co-owner Vanessa Brundrett could have imagined when they founded it a decade ago.

Julie Kuhlken stands in front of wine barrels at Pedernales Cellars

The growing throngs of oenophiles traveling what is known as Wine Road 290—the winery-heavy stretch of US 290 between Johnson City and Fredericksburg—have become very familiar with once-exotic wines like tempranillo, sangiovese, and viognier that thrive in the Texas heat and soil.

Now here’s another one to get acquainted with: tannat, an under-the-radar red wine that’s poised to become Texas’ favorite varietal. 

Chefs prepare a large, fresh-caught fish

It was the bok choy that changed Chef Brian Light. Or maybe it was that perfect heirloom tomato, soft and sweet, the way it tasted impossibly good after ripening in the sun.

Ray Wylie Hubbard holding a Burmese python

Any good songwriter knows when the muse strikes, write it down. For Ray Wylie Hubbard, it was maybe the 10,000th time he was driving southbound on Interstate 35 from New Braunfels toward San Antonio, passing Exit 182 at Engel Road and the so-big-you-can’t-miss-it sign that screamed “SNAKE FARM” in red and black letters. The words, meant to entice drivers to stop at the long-running roadside attraction, conjured the image of a farm full of snakes, and Hubbard physically shuddered.

Entry to the funeral museum

"This haunted house won’t have real dead bodies in it, will it?” my son, Chet, asks as we approach the Richey Road exit on I-45 North in Houston, a note of trepidation in his voice.

At 12, he’s already quite the connoisseur of the haunted house scene. He knows the drill for most of the local October spooktaculars: a couple bloody vampires, more creep-tastic clowns than you can count, and a few costume-clad monsters jumping out from dark corners when you least expect them. But today we’re headed to the annual Haunted House at the National Museum of Funeral History on Houston’s north side. And as the haunt is being held next door to a real, live mortuary school, Chet is unsure what might await us.

Entry to a preserved adobe home

Before the first railroad line reached San Antonio in 1877, the villa was known as “the city of adobes,” according to an 1887 article in the San Antonio Daily Express. Along with rock, adobe was cited as the most common construction material. Another report in the Express noted that local adobe buildings would “endure forever almost.”

Hot coals simmer in a pit on the King Ranch

My kids know I’m happy to travel for a meal, particularly when huevos are involved, but in their minds, this was pushing it. The night before, we’d driven more than three hours across the dark, South Texas landscape to Kingsville. Now, on a Saturday morning, they were back in the car just before dawn. “But look at the light, it’s beautiful!” I told them, pointing to the horizon. “Besides, this is not just any breakfast,” I promised. “It’s a chance to experience Texas history on one of the most famous ranches in the world.”

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