What to do in Kerrville, Texas | Scenic Harper Road

what to do in kerrville

If you have a spare hour-and-a-half to two hours, make your way from Kerrville to Harper, Texas, by taking the scenic Harper Road, otherwise known as Ranch Road 783. Once you’re in Harper, an increasing number of shops and restaurants may prompt you to prolong your stay.

Dauna’s in Harper, at the intersection of RR 783 and US-290, is now selling “vintage” candy.

I decided to make the drive yesterday in order to stop in at Dauna’s. I had read on a Kerrville TX Facebook group that this store was selling vintage candy. My hope was to find Chuckles, the candy of my childhood that somehow ended up in my hand at the cashier each time I went into a candy shop. Chuckles had the al dente experience of gum drops but were less spicy and, frankly, more sophiticated. They came six in a pack, sitting properly in a row on a cardboard tray and wrapped in easy to open plastic. Today, someone would figure out how to sell them in blister packs, driving me to become the wolfman ready to devour the customer next to me.

While Dauna’s didn’t have Chuckles, the owner took note of the name and promised to look into it. (They now do have Chuckles, which you can also buy here.)

There was a glass jar filled with Mary Jane’s — an evil peanut butter and molasses mash-up, furthermore unsafely wrapped in a way that dastardly old ladies could hand them out on Halloween, just waiting for unsuspecting trick-or-treaters to perish of arsenic poisoning — that I quickly overlooked. I had one, one, as a young boy and barely escaped into adolescence after the experience.

“Scenic Harper Road”

what to do in kerrville
Lots of these along with their
counterpart left-pointing
ones along the way to Harper.

The other reason I took this drive is that the 19 miles between Kerrville and Harper has been branded as “Scenic Harper Road.”

Although I’ve made the drive a handful of times, and only a handful, I’ve not paid too much attention to how scenic it is. Or even whether it is.

It is.

Many visitors to Kerrville will start and end the Scenic Harper Road drive by taking Exit 505 off I-10 toward Harper. They usually stop about a quarter-mile north of that and then turn around and go back to Kerrville, Boerne, or even San Antonio. The reason they do so is that they’re on Harper Road to visit the James Avery store and only to visit the store. I’d be curious to learn how many continue north on this scenic road, because there’s more and more to attract visitors from the larger towns and cities in the south.

First, though, I have to call attention to two un-scenic parts of RR 783:

  • The straightaway road that starts 5 miles south of US 290 (or 25% of the route), making that last part a bit monotonous, and
  • The landscape scar being made with a sea-foam green pipeline, also not far south of Harper.

I don’t know the history or future of the latter, but as you take the drive from Kerrville, plan on doing your gawking during the first 14 miles.

The take-away here is that the drive is indeed fun and beautiful, but cap it off with your visit to the burgeoning town.

Downtown Harper, Texas

harper texas
This old Gulf station has been restored as a shop and is flanked by several others. Behind it is a large yard for events and gatherings.

There are a lot of abandoned buildings in Harper, which is not unique to this town. Even Kerrville’s Earl Garrett Street has a ~40-foot unoccupied storefront that can’t seem to keep a viable business in place. Our Water Street (perpendicular to Earl Garrett) is pretty much empty between the soon-to-launch Arcadia Live theater and The Humble Fork restaurant, which sits in the historic Pampells corner spot, and once prompted a city official to say to me as an aside, “We have to make this place successful.”

That should be the cats-meow retail location were it not for the fact that it isn’t. It doesn’t help that it’s also one of the busiest automobile intersections, making it all too easy to walk toward a sweet tea to slake your thirst and end up eating asphalt.

But amidst the shells of structures in Harper that appear more like the numerous dead cedar trees along Ranch Road 783 — which, by the way, make it more scenic and rustic — there is a series of four or so buildings on the south side of US 290, just west of where RR 783 juts east and then north again.

A little creativity and apparently a lot of hard work

The old Gulf gas station, in the middle, has been restored with other buildings on either side and filled in with shops, all inviting guests into a spacious backyard for events.

The man in the shorts and black shirt under the gas station overhang approached me with a “Can I help you?” when I stepped outside my idling car to take a photo of the Gulf sign.

I suppose it’s almost rude of me to have started taking shots of something, as if I were at a zoo with objects of curiosity behind bars or thick glass, without first making a connection with those who have taken the time and care to make that something so photo-worthy. I also didn’t know if this was a repeat of my years-ago experience in Brooklyn or my time recently in London, Texas when I’d met a man who gave me a history of the area.

It was the latter.

Harper as destination town

The man I came to know soon as Henry gave me a tour of the facility, a series of unrelated buildings that somehow came together as one functioning destination.

The first, to the right as you stand in front, was an old two-story firehouse, fully restored with the original ceilings and floors, which has been reborn as the Gulf Fitness Station. At street level, there were stationary bikes, and in the basement there was a space cleared for cheer squad practice, cross-fit, and yoga.

To the left were two or three more buildings housing various shops and many nooks and crannies with sundry items. Nooks interesting enough that even an anti-nook guy like me — the guy who simply gets a coffee and bean burrito from Stripes and then back on the road — would want to stay and look around a little.

Behind one of the buildings is a porch with a bar with reclaimed wood siding and tables made from old doors, including one that still had its glass panes. (Please don’t play quarters on that one…!) The porch looked out on an acre or more of open yard.

In front of the shops, just to the left side of the Gulf station, was a small fresh produce market. I bought a jar of homemade peach salsa for $10, sealed tightly in a Ball jar. It has half-inch chunks of peach and large slices of jalapeño.

I was told it goes great with pork chops. So now we know what’s on the menu one night this week.

I never tire of looking at old barns, especially those with thistles and other wild growth hemming them in from unwanted inspection.
Like: “Leave me be, youngin’. I’m good.”

Key notes:

Das Shops at Harper on 290

23699-23727-23717 W US Hwy 290, Harper, Texas



Every 3rd Saturday of the month from 10am to 4pm there are events that include live music, food trucks, face painting (for kids as well), crafts and food sales. Next event is August 15 (then Sept 19, Oct 17, Nov 14, and Dec 5 and 6).

Best Restaurants in Ruidoso, NM | #1 Breakfast Place

best breakfast in ruidoso

Being a visitor to Ruidoso, New Mexico, yet being a New Yorker, I tend to think I know about the best restaurants here and elsewhere. I also tend to think that by reading Yelp, Google, and online reviews I can divine the #1 best breakfast place here or anywhere.

Maybe I can.

But why take the chance?

Especially when I am choosing not only for myself but for my wife, my son, and his girlfriend also.I think we may have found not only the best breakfast in Ruidoso but also one of the best restaurants, period, in Ruidoso.

#1 Breakfast Place: Cornerstone Bakery Cafe

There. I said it: Cornerstone Bakery Cafe.

If you don’t think it’s that good, go look at their website, and you’ll see that the top menu bar even has a “Waitlist” tab. This is so you can see how long the wait will be, in order to time your visit.

How did I find it?

My nephew’s wife is from here, and I messaged both of them. He wrote back, “Our favorite breakfast place is Cornerstone Bakery Cafe.” Seemed like a more sure-shot than Yelp or Google. Or my assumed know-it-allness.

Nine-hour drive

From Kerrville, Texas, to Ruidoso, New Mexico, is about a 9-hour drive.

It’s not bad as drives go for these long southwestern states. And, as I love small towns and will write about another time, it was kind of exciting going through London (Texas). In fact, Texas is such a great state, that you can pile the family into your Ford F-150 XLT and drive from Paris (TX) to Rhome (pronounced Rome, just NW of Dallas) to London in just over 6 hours. Try that in your Fiat across the Pyrenees.

But after our drive here, I was pretty wiped.

We helped our son get moved in, and then had dinner, and then checked in to our room around 9:30pm, which was 10:30pm our time, since we crossed into Mountain Daylight Time.

Only this morning, after a solid eight hours of rack time, did I feel a bit normal.

“Starbucks?” “Breakfast?”

This morning, I got up earlier than Karen.

I wrote in my journal, got centered, and made a pot of hotel room coffee that looked more like rusted water. It was quite weak, but first thing in the morning, any coffee hits the spot.

100% Kona Coffee

There’s a Starbucks not two minutes away on foot, but Google Maps had me walking way over to a crosswalk and then down the other side. Next to the icons for Auto/Pedestrian/Bike/Airplane, there appeared no icon for jaywalker, but being that New Yorker I mentioned, that would be my route. I asked Karen whether she wanted a latte.


I then got lazy and decided to drive.

See what living in Texas has done to me?!

On to the best breakfast in Ruidoso

We were soon hungry, being at 6,000+-feet altitude and — I don’t know if that has anything to do with it, but — we were just hungry.

My nephew and his wife (from here) suggested Cornerstone Bakery Cafe. I called to see if the restaurant was doing dine-in and, yes, they were. In addition to several indoor dining rooms, they had tables out under a tent, and the morning air was a pleasant 65 degrees. Humidity here is very low: last night around 8%, this morning hovering around 12%.

best breakfast place in ruidosoBecause of COVID, everyone first orders and pays at the front counter, and then sits and has their meal delivered, in order to minimize interaction. New Mexico is a lot stricter than Texas about precautions, and people here seem to be more cautious as well.

I ordered the Bernalillo Breakfast Burrito.

I’ve been “bad” all weekend — ordering food high in fat content and also eating large meals. But this was sooo worth it. Definitely rates among my 10 Best Breakfasts of all time.

If you go and have the option of getting home fries with any meal, be sure to get them “loaded.”

Fresh Orange Juice

As if the Bernalillo burrito isn’t enough, treat yourself to a carafe of fresh-squeezed juice from the finest oranges around. Simply slurpy. Word about town is that Cornerstone squeezes not only the pulp of the orange but puts the whole orange in, so that when they press them, it takes on what one local called a “floral” flavor. Well worth the money. When we first arrived, I noticed people walking out with coffees and plastic cups of orange juice.

best restaurant in ruidoso
Aprons in gift stop indeed give Cornerstone a “home” feel.

Now I know.

Cornerstone is great for families. It’s obviously a local favorite; lots of folks were hugging the cashier — yes, even during this pandemic people prioritize being human — and it has a very welcoming, hospitable feel. There’s a gift near the front.

I haven’t even touched on the bakery part in this article, but my wife got a cinnamon bun and the rest was sugar coma history.

> — If you’re looking for pastries to be delivered, try Seven Sisters Scones — <

Between savory entrees and sweet pastries, Cornerstone is definitely the best breakfast place and one of the best restaurants in Ruidoso.

What to do in Kerrville, Texas | #1 Coffee Downtown

So you’ve made your way from Houston or even Dallas to the Hill Country and our fair town and you’re wondering, “Hmm…what to do in Kerrville?”

Chances are you’ve already arranged where to stay after your long trip from elsewhere in Texas, because, let’s face it, coming here from the west or east or north can be a haul; even from South Padre can take 5.5 hours, and you might decide to stop at the Staghorn in Three Rivers for lunch.

The next morning, whether weekday or weekend, you’re probably going to want to go to Historic Downtown Kerrville for a coffee and some light breakfast. Bagel. Scone. Maybe a taco with eggs and bacon. That sounds about right.

Kerrville map
Kerrville set within Kerr County, and Texas, maps

But you’ll want coffee, no doubt.

And there are few places downtown with better coffee than PAX Coffee and Goods.

To be fair, you won’t find many places downtown for coffee anyway, but PAX brews and baristas with the best of them in greater Kerrville, and there are a couple of reasons in particular why PAX is ideal for morning coffee, especially on weekends.

Stay up late, wake up latte

PAX Coffee and Goods
Latte at PAX by barista Jessica

PAX almost became a “permanently closed” dot on Google Maps and Yelp in February 2019, before it was bought and re-opened under new management.

While the owner and staff have changed, the coffee quality has remained high.

As its website describes, “PAX was created with the intention of providing a unique and beautiful place to gather in Historic Downtown Kerrville, while enjoying well-crafted coffee and in-house made goods.”


And it is “well-crafted.”

I’m not a latte guy — more of a “black coffee, no room for cream”-kind of man; like the “Scotch, neat” elegance for those of us who had one too many Scotch-neats in our earlier days. My wife, Karen, usually gets a whole-milk latte or a coffee with half-and-half, but I had to try one (a latte)…for the photo of course. All the baristas do great work at “crafting” coffees, and this one pictured is by Jessica, who has the 5 AM to Noon shift.


I’m not going to link to Trip Advisor’s account of PAX, because the most recent review is two years old and some important details have changed.

PAX Coffee and Goods
Blueberry scone

For starters, the scones are bigger. A lot.

This is important if you like scones.

I mean, it’s kind of the point. Why have a scone that a Trip Advisor reviewer in March 2018 described as “somewhat small but […] very fresh and tender, not at all dry,” when you can have one that is “very fresh and tender” and not at all small? I’d go for the latter.

If you’re not a scone person — and I have a story to go with that, which Karen would have to tell you personally, because she’s a lot better at telling it, as she is about most stories worthy of being told — then perhaps you’re a coffee cake person.

I’d like to claim that I don’t have a photo of the coffee cake because they are too big to fit into the camera frame. Truth is that I forgot to take a photo.

Suffice it to say: remember those coffee cakes that Starbucks use to sell, like, years ago? Before everything there got “somewhat small,” and not so fresh? Well, PAX sells coffee cakes that have all the good internal attributes and also are big. Like a 3.5- to 4-inch cube.


If you don’t want a scone or a coffee cake or a strawberry rhubarb muffin or another confection, there are also breakfast standards that can double as brunch or even lunch.

The salmon on a bagel with cream cheese is hard to beat, as is the avocado toast. They also have very healthy oatmeal options (that come in a heatable cup, but are very tasty).

A peaceful workspace

Many of us work when we get our morning coffee. (Perhaps because of COVID more of us will work remotely in coffee shops.)

PAX Coffee and Goods
Barista: Jessica

PAX is a great place to work, with a banquette along the wall with outlets underneath every four or so feet and five or so tables seating two people each. (There are also tables in the middle of the space for groups of 2-4 people.) At any one time you’ll see three or more people working along the banquette, and two or three tables of quiet conversation, with the occasional and not-unpleasant guffaw.

All this adds to PAX’s appeal as both a workspace and also a great (and low-cost, high-value) meeting place in downtown Kerrville.


Pint and Plow
Always fresh flowers on tables at Pint & Plow

I also like to go to Pint & Plow on Clay and Jefferson Streets.

This is a much larger and completely different vibe. While it’s off the beaten path of downtown and is less walkable (and also has less parking nearby), it has an unparalleled outdoor area that is fairly unique to Kerrville and pretty much a one-of-a-kind space in the downtown area.

It simply makes you “feel good” to be there, as does PAX. More on Pint and Plow another time.

Starbucks is always here

PAX Coffee and GoodsIf you must go to Starbucks, it’s up a ways off Junction Highway on the left, just before the AT&T Store. It’s across from Wendy’s on the right (headed north).

While I largely dismiss it for being what it is (Starbucks), it is a benefit to the community, does have a workspace inside, did offer its partners a reasonable alternative for working during the first part of COVID (a raise in hourly pay or paid time off), and also boasts a wonderful patio with umbrellas over tables. The view looks out over the Guadalupe, and this view is found only at a few places — one downtown at Grape Juice, a bit up Water Street at Thai Ocha, and then north of Starbucks at a couple of restaurants (Billy Gene’s, The Boat and one or two others).

There’s a second Starbucks opening on Sidney Baker closer to I-10 (a coup by our Chamber of Commerce; will invite travelers off the Interstate to visit us) and in front of Hobby Lobby.

What to do in Kerrville, south of the (downtown) border

If you happen to be staying in Kerrville’s up-and-coming East End, a coffee option that also serves full meals is Monroe’s East End Grill. Monroe’s lounge area is quirky but very comfortable, resplendent with overstuffed leather chairs.

And if you want no-frills coffee, which Karen and I like, you can try the Texas Pecan coffee at the Valero on Broadway (just steps from East End Market and River Trail Cottages, or the surprisingly good coffee at Stripes on the corner of Memorial and Loop 534. (Visitors: Junction Highway in the north turns into Main Street, turns into Broadway, turns into Memorial, turns into TX-27 toward Centerpoint and Comfort.

But if you’re looking around for something to do in Kerrville, or a great coffee experience where shopping and parking is close by, try PAX.

203-205 Earl Garrett St, Kerrville, TX 78028

(830) 315-2233


Liberty Burger | Ingram, Texas

An attractive female friend told me with a laugh, when I once asked her who her ideal date would be, “Well, I definitely wouldn’t want him to be as good looking as me.”

Point made. Two bright lights leave no room for sparkle.

And so it is with the stuffed pork loin and mashed potatoes at Liberty Kitchen in Ingram, Texas (now called Liberty Burger, Ingram). The mashed potatoes are good — really good as far as mashed potatoes go — but the real star is the stuffed pork loin…that’s worth writing home about.

Liberty Kitchen Ingram TX
Pork loin stuffed with all sorts of goodness

If you’re looking for a good restaurant in Ingram, Texas, make your way to the restaurant that used to be on Kerrville’s Earl Garrett Street, re-branded itself, and moved in with our cowboy neighbor to the north.

Getting to Liberty Kitchen, driving to Ingram or online

The only tricky part of Liberty Kitchen is getting there.


If you Google “Liberty Kitchen,” you may see something about the former Heritage Kitchen.

You’re in the right place. It moved from Earl Garrett north to Ingram, re-branded and opened in a new space that has an outdoor covered patio and indoor dining area, which is decorated with original impressionist artwork. I seem to recall a skylight or two. Bottom line: a pleasant dining room. I haven’t been to any other restaurants in Ingram, but I can’t imagine there being many more as comfortable as Liberty Kitchen.

The best way to get details on operating hours is Facebook. It has all the information you need, plus mouth-watering photos.


If you’re driving down from the Hunt side, look for it on the right, just before TX-39 merges with TX-27 at the light. From the south, it’s a bit tricky.

As you approach the light at the split of 27 and 39, stay to your left and slow down. It’s going to be a quick left after that set of storefronts on your left and down a white gravel driveway and around back. Once you’re parked, you’re home free. Once inside and eating, you’ll want to stay for the next meal.

Goodness. Gracious.

I’ve had two lunches there in the past week: a hamburger with side salad and the stuffed pork loin with mashed potatoes.


First meal was lunch when Liberty was still closed to inside dining. It was takeout only. I ordered in front and, because I had to sit on the bench outside, was asked whether I’d like something to drink. I was informed that Chef Matt wanted me to be comfortable. (Dontcha love small towns.) I said water would be fine.

Folks: this is like triple-filtered straight-from-the-Heart-of-Mother Earth water, I was told. It was indeed fresh and slaked the thirst on a very hot afternoon. But the takeaway from this takeout episode is that Liberty Kitchen thinks through details like that. The service is uber-humane, and even the water is good. How many of you limestone liquid slurpers would like to have amazing water with your meals?

The burger was seasoned well, tasty, and juicy, perhaps not as well-done as I would have liked for ordering it “well done.” But great nonetheless. The bun was slightly browned-to-acceptably-burned at the crown, which I happen to like. Gives it an outdoor grilled feel. The side salad came with a mango-based balsamic dressing that was stellar. It made the greens dance like they’d showed up at Crider’s on a Saturday night.

My lunch today. Goodness, gracious.


I have to copy this from their Instagram account because I’d never remember it even after reading it directly:
Roasted poblano, garlic, breadcrumbs, and cream cheese stuffed pork loin over our signature mashed potatoes drizzled with a tequila lime cream sauce.

Their next line is, “Texas cuisine never tasted so good.” Frankly, it would be hard to find New York City cuisine that did either.

I’ll get to the pork loin in a minute.

The mashed potatoes were uniform and competent. I say this because now looking at their Instagram, I realize that they weren’t drizzled with that tequila lime sauce. Even a 25-year sober alcoholic like me wouldn’t mind a little tequila reduction once in a while. So they were dry, but still quite tasty.

Liberty Kitchen Ingram TX
Nice crunch on the fat

And this is where you need one dance partner who can hold their own, and one who wears the cutoff jean shorts with boots and a silver-and-turquoise necklace.

The pork loin. This is the one you bring home to the family.

The cream sauce was on top of the pork, so perhaps this was supposed to be more drippy around the potatoes, and it was indeed good. The pork was juicy and cooked perfectly. Definitely not undercooked like many of us worry about at home, and not overcooked to the point of being — as my wife likes to call it — wood. (As occasionally happens at home. Not that often, mind you, but it happens.) There was thin layer of fat around the meat, and it was browned nicely, giving it a satisfying, salty crunch.

When I finally pushed back my plate, which had two bites of pork left and probably five forkfuls of potatoes, I felt bad, because I didn’t want to waste any. But I also had back-to-back-to-back phone calls coming up and a nap was out of the question.

Someone bring me my blankie!

One of the best restaurants in Kerrville (or close enough)

There’s a covered side patio that juts out from the dining room, which had ~4-5 booths and about 8 tables. Patio looked to have another 6-8 tables.

The best part of the patio is that its “walls” are slats that provide plenty of natural ventilation. It’s covered, as mentioned above, and it’s also set back from the street, behind the buildings adjacent to Liberty Kitchen, so any diners there won’t be looking out at traffic or smelling exhaust. (There are more than a handful of diesel trucks traveling this route.)

If you live in Hunt, Kerrville or, heck, San Antonio, treat yourself to this oasis in Ingram, Texas.

Be sure to give me any leftovers you don’t finish.


Jacob Cromwell “Old West shot glasses

FOOD | 10/10

SERVICE | 9/10






Liberty Kitchen
109 Highway 39
Ingram, Texas 78025
(830) 367-5066
After hours please use contact form or call
(830) 343-5432

Sunday – CLOSED

Monday – CLOSED

Tuesday – Saturday:

  • Lunch 11:00am – 2:00pm
  • Dinner 5:00pm – 8:00pm
  • Brunch every Saturday from 10am – 1pm

What To Do In Kerrville, Texas | REVIEW: Monroe’s [7/10]

REVIEWPerhaps I’m overly harsh at times.

Or a snob.

Or harsh because I’m a snob.

But when we have so many choices in the world for so many things, and when the free market dictates what businesses succeed and fail (no, we’re not going to talk about “too big to fail”), why wouldn’t we want to go for the best, whether that’s in a big city like New York or here in Kerrville, Texas. When you’re looking for lunch, you might consider Monroe’s on Water and G Streets, but my suggestion is to go for coffee here, especially on Tuesdays (will explain later), and lunch downtown or north on Junction Highway.

Great Burger, but…

Kerrville is one of the best small towns to visit, and one of the best places to live in Texas, many people agree. We get transplants in their prime, and retirees past prime but still active golfers and fishing enthusiasts. And we all go to Crider’s on summer Saturday nights.

Burger and fries at Monroe's
The burger was excellent. That’s usually a bellwether; not so here.

When it comes to restaurants, though, Kerrville is still somewhat lacking.

While it boasts many different cuisines for a small town, it lacks quality cuisine:

  • One good Thai restaurant (the other is ok)
  • Three mediocre Chinese restaurants
  • Pizza… one, but, no
  • Donuts, three good ones, but they’re donuts. Can’t have that 24/7, though some try
  • Steakhouses (2)
  • Korean BBQ, quite good in fact
  • Tex-Mex; all good with very few exceptions
  • Fast food
  • Casual dining like Friday’s
  • Italian, meh
  • Japanese, good
  • Family restaurants like The Lakehouse and Billy Gene’s…proven and excellent
  • Neighborhood bar and restaurant places like The Boat and Pier 27

There are some fine dining options, including 1011 Bistro and The Pinnacle.

But, and a big but, the tide is turning, and we now have several newcomers that are offering healthier, often farm-to-table, and always interesting cuisines, including:

  • Grape Juice
  • Pint & Plow
  • Heritage Kitchen
  • PAX (for its bagels with salmon, etc.)
  • The Humble Fork

So it’s both with awareness of the other offerings and also a sincere desire to see Kerrville expand in the right way to attract visitors and make life here even better that I offer a friendly critique of Monroe’s East End Grill (menu here).

…Woeful white bread

"California Kate" sandwich
The “California Kate” sandwich is a vegetarian lunch option, with goat cheese. Mmm.




FOOD | 7/10

COFFEE | 8/10

SERVICE | 9/10

VALUE | 7/10


I’ve been to Monroe’s for morning coffee a few times. The coffee is good enough, and the service — whether morning or lunch — has always been great. But the place doesn’t seem to quite come together. There is a brick, BBQ, Memphis feel to the cashier and drink dining area, and a second area through a doorway with both standard tables and also coffee tables with leather armchairs. There’s a stuff bear in the corner by the front door. There’s rustic/mountain and neighborhood restaurant slammed together. Like a Tarantino “Hateful Eight” and “Happy Days” mashup.

It eludes me.

The old Kerrcrafters retail store
The Edson family’s Kerrcrafters building awaiting new life

The building itself used to be the retail store for Kerrcrafters, a furniture workshop, which had even previously been a gas station. Understanding this, and also it’s diagonal frontage to Water and G Streets, while it’s cliche nowadays, I think Kerrville could have used a gas-station-renovated-into-a-restaurant-and-bar. It would have honored the history. Even have some old furniture that was found from Kerrcrafters and the Edson family. “Kerrville is the new Kerrville,” as the saying goes.

(The Kerrcrafter’s warehouse, adjacent to the south, is now the impressive East End Market, everything a restored space should be, and also a destination for visitors to Kerrville. This will be covered separately.)

Outdoor dining honors historic space

Monroe’s East End Grill also has an outdoor dining area. This is surprisingly rare — not so much, since it’s Texas and hot, but because we have relatively so much space. I commend Monroe’s for making use of it, and also for providing plenty of parking. I’ve never seen the inside packed, though.

The prices seemed a little high to me. My California Kate was $8.49, and with a large refillable drink plus tip — which I felt bad not leaving, even though it’s counter ordered albeit table served — came to $15+. That’s high for lunch. So I took off points for value.

While the inside of the sandwich was decent enough — though assembled efficiently but not artfully — it was served between unadorned, untoasted white bread. How nice it would have been to market it as served on “Texas toast” and feel the goat cheese slightly melted, needing to eat it before it slipped off.

Just a thought.

As for ambience, the combination of strange combinations of aesthetics, plus occasionally some dissonant morning music (not in keeping with the mood of a morning coffee place), and feeling cold in the lounge area (the air, that is; it’s a bit too cold), it leaves me disinclined to come back. There are other options in the area — PAX and Pint and Plow (closed on Tuesdays, which is why Monroe’s is good then) — that provide a better all-around experience.

I’m glad Monroe’s is here. It’s another offering, and it’s also the only restaurant currently in the burgeoning East End neighborhood, so guests at River Trail Cottages can walk across the street and get any one of their three meals there.

But there’s a silver lining…

John's train scene

On some cold winter days I got to know John, who’s seen here painting a train scene on the exterior. You can see it on the southwest corner of the building. He must have spent several weeks on it, progressing only a little each day. He was around 80, he said, and in former times he would have been called “a hobo.” He was a Vietnam vet and a man of strong, even prophetic faith. He didn’t want hand-outs or money, but he also didn’t refuse a breakfast taco from Rita’s.

Because the owners of Monroe’s allowed this gentle soul to practice his craft on the old Kerrcrafter’s building, I think I can tolerate a little woeful white bread and say, “Well done, Monroe’s.” You have a reward in heaven.

What To Do In Comfort, Texas | #1 Best Pizza In The Hill Country

NYC, 96th and Madison
The pre-war building I grew up in. Frank’s Pizza was behind that bus on the lower right corner of the photo.

I grew up in New York City literally over a pizza parlor. So I was pleasantly surprised to learn about Comfort Pizza in Comfort, Texas (Facebook page here), which is in my humble opinion the best pizza in the Hill Country and, so far, the only edible pizza other than Home Slice in Austin.

Our building was on 96th and Madison, and Frank’s Pizza was not only the place my younger brother went every weekend morning — get a couple slices and a coke and go back upstairs to watch Godzilla movies — but most kids in the neighborhood went there. Another pizza place was on 97th and Madison, but no one went there. A block away, but no one went.

Danny was my childhood best friend and his mother told me not long ago that during the 70s, which is when we grew up and when the city was in such a mess that President Ford told us, in effect, to go fly a kite, that Frank was once robbed, and when the robber started to leave, Frank pulled out a pistol and ran down Madison Avenue after the guy. I don’t think anyone got shot, but you didn’t mess around with Frank.

So you can probably guess that I have become somewhat of a pizza snob, as I am also a bagel snob. (I think both snobberies come from knowing that NYC water is the best, though apparently that’s a myth, but a myth I choose to believe.)

The other thing to know about pizza is that it’s not only great “finger food,” as it were, but you can carry it easily and eat it for a block or two. You fold it lengthwise and, without letting the grease drip onto your shirt — hold it level or tilt your head — eat it from the point backwards. Spoiler: for all its virtues, Comfort Pizza sells only whole pies, not slices. Home Slice sells both. To be 100% authentic, you gotta sell it by the slice. And pair it with a soda, for a deal price.

Best pizza in Texas
Comfort Pizza pizza, this was a CPT Pizza style.

2000 feet and 1/4 inch

Comfort Pizza is about 2000 feet east of the Kerr County line, in western — I mean western — Kendall County. Which kind of burns me up, because I would like to claim that Kerr County has the best pizza in Texas, maybe the best pizza outside New York. Home Slice is good, but Comfort Pizza is both really good and different.

Different because it’s thin crust, about 1/4 inch it seems, but that’s not what makes it really different.

How often do you get pizza made with “angry Samoan oil”? Or “extra angry with jalapenos & chile-infused olive oil”? Do you like sausage from Opa’s of Fredericksburg? You can have that on your pizza. The only thing better might be a pill that helps your brain.

What?! There’s really one of those?

Yeah, there’s a “brain pill” out there.

Fountain drinks under umbrella

What to do in Comfort Texas

The two or three times I’ve been there have had blue skies, warm air, two large fans like they have in the NFL, and whimsically colorful metal lawn chairs under red umbrellas. As if angry Samoan oil isn’t enough, you get all that plus killer pink lemonade if you want it.

This is a great place to bring kids, since they can be noisy if they need to be and can be active. There’s good music piped in.

No inside seating, so be prepared.

And one more preparation tip, very important: call ahead to order your pizza. Not only are they in high demand, but they prepare the dough a certain way and in a certain amount, and you might miss out if they don’t have enough.

The man who started this joint was 18 when he did so.

Yea, America.

Yea, Comfort Pizza.

Our review on Yelp.com:

best pizza in the hill country


Restaurants In Utopia, Texas | REVIEW: Lost Maples Cafe

How could one not want to go to Utopia?!

I mean, that’s a no-brainer. But what to do once you get there and are there restaurants in Utopia; that’s actually harder than you think. Because Utopia, population 227, is actually a census-designated place (CDP) by the Federal Register, meaning that there’s only enough of a concentration of people — as of mid-March, even if the whole town showed up for a parade, this wouldn’t have broken COVID-19 regulations — to be a data point for the Census. A CDP doesn’t have legal boundaries, and for a town the size of a decent wedding ceremony, why would there need to be any?

So, what is there to do in Utopia, Texas? Why, go to The Lost Maples Cafe of course!

For more info, don’t use their dot.com

Their website will lead you only to an error message, so you can see their menu here, and I’ve also taken some photos of the interior and surroundings.

A friendly review

I’ve decided to start using my own rating system, standard stuff like 1-10, 10 being best (no half-points, please; 10 is enough of a scale). And also a rating of my own, STI, for Small Town Index, meaning how typical of a small town is this.

  • NAME | Lost Maples Cafe
  • ADDRESS | 384 Main St, Utopia, TX 78884
  • PHONE | (830) 966-2221
  • DECOR |  7/10
  • SERVICE | 9/10
  • FOOD |  6/10
  • NOISE QUALITY | 9/10
  • STI | 8/10

The FOOD gets the harshest review, so I’ll start there, because it all gets better.

lost maples cafe

I had the fried fish plate, though I’ve been trying to cut down on fried food (am closer to 60 than I am 50). They had tilapia; previous night was catfish, which I prefer. The batter on the fish was good, and the fish was perhaps slightly undercooked. I mean, only slightly. The onion rings were to die for. Amazing batter, and you could bite into one without pulling out the whole ring. One of the best parts of the meal was having a roll of paper towels at the table. I get messy with greasy fingers. Big points on their sweet tea. Tasty and also served in a huge plastic cup.


Service was great. The two servers appeared to be high school seniors, and each worked very hard and quickly to take our orders and did so with a smile. As I mentioned in a previous post, I got the hard sell on cherry pie and it almost worked. I kind of wish it had, yet my BMI is glad it didn’t.

In terms of the interior (Noise, Decor, and how good it is for Families and Groups), all of those get high marks. This is definitely the kind of place to come for early breakfast before getting on the road, weekend brunch — though I don’t think that word is used much around Utopia — lunch with co-workers, and an early dinner anytime. (I suspect that not many people go in for European dinner hours anyway; they close typically at 9pm.)

lost maples cafe

The STI was 8/10. Lost Maples Cafe has a real small town feel, yet it would gain another point or two if it wasn’t such a rose among thorns. Nothing else was open. Granted, it was close to 6pm on a Saturday evening, and offices were understandably closed — there was a Justice of the Peace building across the street — and shops were also closed. But other restaurants appeared either vacated or closed. Perhaps midday on a Monday would be different, but on this particularly Saturday night, Lost Maples Cafe was a candle in the dark. I would give it higher marks if the town around it had the same charm as it did.

But whether your destination is Lost Maples or Mac & Ernie’s Roadside Eatery in nearby Tarpley, either one is a good place at the end of a relaxing drive.

lost maples cafe