The Barbecue Capital of Texas Has More to Offer Than Meat
Though the meat’s pretty excellent
You might not expect to find much art and culture in a small town (pop: 13,652), designated by the Texas legislature as the Barbeque Capital of Texas. But just three and a half hours south of Dallas, Lockhart has blossomed, not least because of the exceptional creative talent fleeing the onslaught of new residents (and price hikes) in nearby Austin. In the process, Lockhart has become a haven for those seeking a getaway that’s luxurious but not stuffy; artsy without pretentiousness.
Bonus: By exiting the Interstate 35 corridor, you will also avoid some of the worst traffic in the state.
You’ll know you’ve arrived when you spy the impressive red-and-yellow sandstone courthouse, built in the Second Empire style.
STAY: Brock House
You won’t find many luxury hotels — or even traditional roadside stops — in Lockhart. Hidden inside historically significant buildings and renovated homes, though, are boutique bed-and-breakfasts.
Our pick is Brock House, a fully updated loft-style space located above a western wear shop facing the Lockhart courthouse square. Light fills the space and reflects off the hardwood floors. Original art — most by local talent and curated by the owners, who also run the Commerce Gallery — hangs in every room. If you’re visiting in the summer, consider stately Ellison House, not least for a new swimming pool, added in 2021.
SEE: Soundwaves Art Foundation Gallery
Founded by British artist Tim Wakefield, Soundwaves trades in artwork created in collaboration with some extremely popular musicians. A London native, Wakefield was drawn to the history and diversity of the American music scene and relocated to Austin in 2014. Wakefield translates the “digital heartbeat” of a song into a trippy, colorful visual soundwave (see: the name); each artist consults on the colors and wave designs, and hand-signs each print, with sales benefiting organizations working within social justice, the environment, disaster relief, music education, and mental health. Trust: Wakefield’s collaborators are top-tier talent, with recent editions coming from Australian dance group Rüfüs Du Sol, The National, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Charli XCX, Run the Jewels, and more. (Shop his work here.)
EAT: Lockhart Bistro
It could be argued that the renaissance of Lockhart was led by some of Austin’s top chefs. One of the first to decamp was Parind Vora, owner of Jezebel and Lockhart Bistro, a chef with a “most interesting man in the world sort of resumé,” which saw him, working throughout Europe at Relais & Chateaux properties, cooking at the oldest winery in Spain, and ranking in the top 15 percent of his class at medical school — a vocation he ultimately abandoned, to our communal benefit.
Vora takes pride in having as eclectic a menu as possible. Subtle twists on classic dishes like steak tartare, chicken piccata, or a classic hamburger, reflect the Mumbai-born chef’s international background. No surprise, Lockhart Bistro has won the Wine Spectator award of excellence for the past two years. If you’re hoping to dine at Jezebel, book now, as it’s one of the most in-demand tables in town.
If you’re extending your weekend through Monday, you’ll want to stop by Commerce Cafe. It’s both convenient — as it’s one of the few places open on Monday — and well pedigreed, given owners Sarah Heard and Nathan Lemley’s success with Foreign & Domestic in Austin. Even better: Monday night is family meal night here, with “always a salad, protein, plenty of sides & bread of some sort” just $13 for adults and $5 for kids under 10.
DRINK: Old Pal
Old Pal is Lockhart’s answer to a Texas honky-tonk, serving ice-cold beer, tequila drinks, and great fried chicken. You can belly up to the circular bar, but don’t worry if it’s too crowded to make a move — there are no bad seats in the house. If you have a few too many, don’t worry: The massive Texas flag on the wall will remind you where you are.
Just a few doors down, you can check out live music at The Pearl, a gorgeous old bar with hardwood floors and tin ceiling that oozes turn-of-the-century Texas charm. They’ve been serving drinks in this space for 80 years — and happily, show no signs of stopping.
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