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How to plan a perfect trip to Fredericksburg, Texas

By Rebecca ChristophersonFebruary 21, 2024No Comments

How to plan a perfect trip to Fredericksburg, Texas

Story and photography by Shilo Urban

Wildflowers bloom, wineries abound and upscale comfort food finds new expression in the small Hill Country town of Fredericksburg, a perennial crowd-pleaser where there’s always something new to sip and savor. Menus full of seasonal, homegrown ingredients are not the exception but the rule here. Family-owned enterprises proliferate, and a spirit of local support enhances the rustic charm. Several buzzed-about eateries had opened in Fredericksburg since my last visit a few years ago, so I set out with some girlfriends to discover the freshest new flavors around (and visit a few old favorites).

The sensory feast began at HoneyTree’s Blue Sage property, a cluster of retro-cool cottages about 10 minutes north of town. I stayed in an adorable wooden A-frame bungalow with a swinging papasan chair and a spiral staircase up to the loft’s king-sized bed. An oak tree rose through the outdoor deck, and another set of steps led down to a lounge in the dry creek bed below, complete with a hanging daybed and open-air bathtub (that I wasn’t brave enough to try). Thoughtful details won me over: live plants, fuzzy throws, a round window. From the copper cocktail shaker to the vinyl record player, the hideaway’s vintage elements belie its 2023 birthdate. While the soon-to-open Albert Hotel on Fredericksburg’s Main Street is deservedly drawing all the attention, the many cabins in the countryside are perfect for introverts like me who yearn for nature’s stillness. Next time I’d like to stay at Onera, a dreamy enclave of elevated treehouses and cocoon-like domes.

But for now, there was only one decision to make: shopping or wine? Both, of course, which is easy to accomplish in Fredericksburg’s compact core — home to 150+ shops, several tasting rooms and zero parking meters. The picturesque town is a historic conservation success story, with numerous limestone buildings from the 1800s being actively reused. The German farmers who settled the area built cabins called “Sunday Houses” for their weekend trips into town, where they attended church and bought provisions. Today, many function as businesses or upscale B&Bs. Twentieth-century relics are also preserved; Becker Vineyards has transformed an old Buick showroom on Main Street into a stylish tasting room decorated with the dealership’s signage. After sipping a flight of six pours, we give the prize to the elusive Viognier Reserve.

Next door is Piccolina, a cute-as-a-button Italian ice parlor. Making the leap from food truck to brick-and-mortar in summer 2023, Piccolina trades in small-batch flavors like orange vanilla bean and blood orange hibiscus — all made with fresh, natural ingredients. For a fizzy treat, try a scoop in a glass of prosecco.

Two blocks away, we looked up in awe inside Carol Hicks Bolton Antiquités, an artistically curated warehouse of architectural treasures and furnishings from Europe and beyond. Carved doors, elaborate windows and library cabinets were all waiting to be repurposed as decor. It’s conveniently across the street from Blackchalk Home and Laundry, another airy furniture store with adventurous finds. Situated in a century-old laundry building, it’s anchored by an enormous old-timey sheet press out front.

After admiring technicolor cowgirl boots at Allens Boots and dog-dessert shaped sculptures at the upscale restaurant Vaudeville, cocktail hour had arrived. We grabbed bar seats under whiskey decanter chandeliers at Chase’s Place, an intimate wooden hangout established in spring 2020 (good times!). Chase regaled us with stories, waving his arms for emphasis while also managing to mix primo cocktails named after jazz songs and music by Phish . I sipped the Story of the Ghost, a tequila libation with elderflower liqueur and agave. It was tangy and strong — but I coveted my neighbor’s Mustang Padre for its flaming presentation in a bizarre goat Tiki mug. I wanted to try the etouffee corn dog battered eggs and the beef poutine with coffee gravy, but our dinner reservations were calling.

We squeezed into a booth at the artful Hill & Vine. Opened in 2021, the restaurant has a large outdoor courtyard with Das Bar Bus, a hippie-fantastic VW van converted into a bar. Owners Jesse and Sarah Barter bring a folksy appeal to the historic corner property, which also includes their home and Sunday Supply, a coffee shop in an 1865 Sunday House. The family that built the 900-square-foot structure raised nine kids inside (be sure to check out the original well and smokehouse with a rifle port out back).

Hill & Vine lived up to the hype. We started with panko-crusted onion rings cut as wide as the Texas skies, then cleared off a charcuterie board of Hill Country cheeses and sausages. My buttermilk fried chicken sandwich had everything going for it, with extra-thick bacon, bold slaw and a sweet-ish Hawaiian bun that played well with the crunchy deliciousness inside. We couldn’t decide on dessert … so we ordered all three. The croissant bread pudding reveled in its bourbon-anglaise sauce, and the Texas sheet cake shined with candied pecans and Fredericksburg’s Clear River vanilla ice cream. But the “roadside” peach pies in puff pastry stole the show; we drowned them in the creamy rum sauce and didn’t look back.

After a cozy morning reading in my A-frame and gazing out the floor-to-ceiling windows, I was ready to move in. But we had plans for lunch at Hill Country Herb Garden, which finished a remodel in September 2023. The romantic getaway sports Sunday House-inspired cottages along with an organic spa and yoga studio. Porch swings and picnic tables proliferate amidst lavender bushes and lanky native blooms. The restaurant offers “shots with intention” — juice shots, that is, to promote relaxation, energy or immunity. I choose a green smoothie with a boost of vitamin C (you can also add collagen or CBD). With the healthy choice out of the way, I finished off my jalapeño grilled cheese sandwich while eyeing my friend’s rainbow-colored ahi tuna salad.

More color was in the forecast as we headed out to Windmill Meadow Farm for a flower arranging class. We were greeted by Stella, a poodle with a snazzy haircut that sniffed hello and then resumed prancing through the rows of blooms. Owned by Paul and Nancy Person, the hilltop farmstead grows more than 100 flower varieties and supplies bouquets to numerous local businesses. The sun was shining as we started clipping stems in the alfresco workshop: yellow snapdragons, purple larkspur and sweet-smelling lilies. Nancy poured us rose-colored glasses of sangria as our bouquets took beautiful shape.

As the afternoon edged into evening, we popped into Das Peach Haus to sample the jams and sauces from the Fischer & Wieser families. The Haus has been a Fredericksburg mainstay for decades, expanding from a peach stand in 1969 to today’s capacious complex with a store, cooking school and three Airstream B&Bs around a lake (with a miniature train coming soon). But I was most excited about the new 2021 addition: Dietz Distillery, the small-batch brainchild of the Fischers’ oldest son Dietz. His juniper-forward Five Judges gin starred in my spicy Texas Dove, a prickly pear habanero cocktail with fresh grapefruit juice and lime. Dietz’s little sister Elle was on hand to help shake things up; she stifled a smile as he waxed technical about the Brix scale of sweetness. I wound up with a heavy box of souvenirs from Das Peach Haus, including a “patio pounder” chardonnay and some amaretto peach pecan preserves that I may or may not be eating straight from the jar with a spoon.

Our final dinner found us at Alla Campagna, an Italian ristorante launched in 2023 and the latest endeavor by John and Evelyn Washburne. If you’ve dined in Fredericksburg at August E’s, La Bergerie or Otto’s German Bistro, then you’ve already tasted their handiwork (they also own Tubby’s Ice House, Caliche Coffee Bar & Roastery, and Hoffman Haus B&B). Evelyn somehow found time to chat up our table between running six restaurants, raising three daughters and teaching a 6 a.m. yoga class. The overachiever revealed her favorite dishes on the menu: pasta with chickpeas and Calabrian chiles, ricotta-stuffed tortelloni in prosciutto-parmigiana broth and blanco pizza with roasted garlic and caciotta cheese. She also mentioned the hefty slab of lasagna, which we split as an appetizer. A culinary conjuring of bolognese and bechamel with a thick crust of browned cheese, it was the best lasagna I’ve ever eaten. I said it.

Before hitting the road home in the morning, there was one more stop to make at Quintessential Chocolates. A heavenly aroma wafts throughout the shop, where confectioners employ a traditional Swiss technique to create liquid-center chocolates with caches of spirits, wine and coffee inside. You hold the bonbon in your mouth — no chewing — until it finally bursts open with a heady rush of flavor. Would it be dark chocolates filled with amaretto liqueur or the cabernet from Fredericksburg Winery? I bought a box of each. It was my attempt to take a little of the Hill Country magic with me, to bring home the moveable feast. Alas, the chocolates are now long gone, but thankfully — Fredericksburg is always just right down the road.