A Foodie’s Guide to Backroad Day Trips

grilled meat on charcoal grill

There’s nothing as fun as taking a drive out to the country, and finding a gem of a restaurant along the way! Here’s some of my favorites we’ve found from years of driving the backroads across the state. I’ve listed of our favorite places to visit nearby, also. In this time of staffing shortages and Covid closures, be sure to check if they will be open before you head out!

Bear Creek Smokehouse, Marshall Worth the drive just to shop in their store for their smoked meats, but on Saturdays they have the dining room open and it’s so good! They also often have fun attractions like pony rides or even a saddle-broke longhorn to pose for pictures!

Beehive Restaurant and Saloon, Albany A favorite steakhouse, where everything is good! We like to visit after a day exploring the old ruins out at Fort Griffin State Historic Site, or dinner before we head out to Fort Griffin to stargaze at the darkest skies to DFW, or even better, sandwiched between the two activities!

Big Pines Lodge, Karnack A favorite of ours when we are in the Caddo Lake/Jefferson area! Sit out and watch the boats along Big Cypress Bayou, and enjoy their catfish and signature jalapeno corn bread! A great day trip from DFW, or spend the weekend in Jefferson or one of the many AirBNBs in the area. Perfect after a day of fishing, kayaking or shopping in town!

Blackies Bait Shop, Walnut Springs There’s a little bit of Key West hidden in Texas, and it’s worth the search to find it! Enjoy the country drive to Walnut Springs for what will be one of your favorite pizzas, or call ahead on Friday or Saturday nights to reserve a rib eye steak! To get an idea of the place, it’s named after Blackie Norton, Clark Gable’s charismatic character in the 1936 movie, San Francisco.

Greenwood Grocery & Grill, Decatur You’ll love the cheeseburgers at this little country store, or visit on Saturday evenings for the catfish!

Grist Mill, Gruene My daughter’s favorite restaurant, there’s nothing like a meal under their twinkling lights on the bank overlooking the Guadalupe River. The wait can be long, but luckily you can enjoy shopping at the Gruene General Store, or enjoy some live music at the oldest dance hall in Texas, Gruene Hall.

Health Camp, Waco Located on the Waco Traffic Circle, next door to the Gaines’ Magnolia Table, this little burger restaurant is a Waco treasure. It’s a great place to eat after a drive up Hwy 77. My husband insist we stop each and every time we drive through Waco, each and every time! It’s the perfect treat after a climb to the top of Jacob’s Ladder in Cameron Park!

Herd’s Hamburgers, Jacksboro Making the same great burger since 1916, by the same family, Herd’s Burgers is a must after a day of hiking or exploring the restored buildings at Fort Richardson State Park and Trailway.

Leona General Store, Leona You’ll want to find a reason to be in the little town of Leona on a Friday or Saturday night a little before 5pm to get in the line, yeah it can be long, for their steak. From Dallas or Houston, skip I-45 and enjoy the drive on Hwy 75. The 2-mile hike and bike trail at Fort Boggy State Park is a good way to work up an appetite, or rent a primitive cabin to make a weekend of it.

Loco Coyote Grill, Glen Rose I go for the big, hand-breaded chicken fried steak. There can be a wait, but take a deck of Uno cards and you won’t mind. It’s a lovely drive after a day of feeding the animals at Fossil Rim Wildlife Drive-Thru Park, paddling the Brazos River, or hiking at Dinosaur Valley State Park.

Mary’s Cafe, Strawn My husband loves Mary’s chicken fried steak, which is cooked on a griddle not deep fried, and wants to stop as often as possible. He’s in good company, and it’s popular and there is often a line so be prepared. My husband will be getting his wish to visit Mary’s a lot more in 2023 when the new Palo Pinto Mountains State Park is scheduled to open!

Monument Cafe, Georgetown My favorite restaurant, they are only open for breakfast and lunch. Skip the drive on I-35 if you’re coming from DFW, San Antonio or Austin and come in from Hwy 281.

Perini Ranch Steakhouse, Buffalo Gap The location is as beautiful as the food is delicious. It’s hard to pass up one of their steaks, but the cheeseburgers will be one of the best you’ve ever had!

Reverend Jim’s Dam Pub, Buchanan Dam Sitting under the shadow of the Lake Buchanan Dam, this biker bar make a great cheeseburger! Stop in after a day hiking or swimming at Inks Lake State Park!

Salt Lick, Driftwood Take a day trip out to Driftwood, and after lunch walk down to their hammock park, string up your hammock and take an afternoon nap. You deserve it. If you really want something to do, visit the nearby Austin Zoo.

Tommy’s Mesquite Grilled Pizza, Llano Sitting just above the Llano River, this is a terrific pizza restaurant, and a great spring drive!

Topwater Grill, San Leon Watch the boats on Galveston Bay as you enjoy fresh seafood at this favorite seafood restaurant of mine! The hot Royal Red shrimp, from the deep water of the Gulf, are my favorite thing to eat in the world!

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