Laid back casual dining is always my go-to when I’m on the road, but you won’t find me sacrificing good food for speed and convenience. With so many great cafes and small local businesses serving fresh sandwiches, fluffy pancakes and towering burgers, fast food chains just don’t stack up. In celebration of the forthcoming Season 5 of Goodtaste with Tanji (premiering October 5th!), I’m sharing some of my favorite spots across the state. Here, my 5 must-try cafes.
Mac & Ernie’s – Tarpley
Photo Credit: https://www.instagram.com/brettwcopeland/
Mac & Ernie’s, which started out as an outdoor kitchen, has a laid-back, fun vibe just like its Chef/Owner Naylene Dillingham. She’s always changing the menu depending on what she feels like eating, but you’ll always find the famous Ancho chili honey-basted quail. This country kitchen has even been featured on Food Network’s popular Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives and on Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern on The Travel Channel.
Rails – Kerrville
Housed inside a fully-restored 1915 Kerrville Train depot, Rails attention to detail to their restaurant and food is unmatched. This cozy little spot was the winner of the 2004 Texas Downtown Association award for its authentic historic restoration. The owner, Melissa Southern, is a trained dietitian sourcing as many organic ingredients as possible for their fresh wraps and pastas. But do save room for The Sweeter Side of Rails, the one-of-a-kind bakery next door turning out 12-15 desserts daily!
Greenhouse Craft Food – Round Rock
Photo Credit: https://www.facebook.com/greenhouselocalcraftfood
Casual, counter-service spot Greenhouse Craft Food sources its ingredients from local Texas farms that are only 5 minutes away! The concept was developed because the owners felt there was a need for affordable and healthy fast food. Taco Tuesday’s are a big draw here. For just $2 you get the special taco of the week, which varies from beef short rib barbacoa to a 24-hour- smoked pork shoulder with house made salsas.
Cafe at the Gardens – Midland
Photo Credit: https://www.instagram.com/weall_eat/
Visit an “oasis in the desert” at Cafe at the Gardens, nestled right inside the largest nursery and garden center in Midland. The dining room is surrounded by lush greenery and a snaking Koi pond that winds in between the tables. The produce is as fresh as it comes, it’s picked daily from the garden and used in everything from their stacked sandwiches to the rotating desserts.
Picnikins Patio Cafe – San Antonio
Photo Credit: https://www.instagram.com/instagrub_sabest/
By day Picnikins Patio Cafe is a fast-casual cafe with soups, sandwiches, and salads made from scratch. By night, it’s full service restaurant with the same fresh lunch menu, plus dishes like Cape Malay Beef Curry and Malva Pudding from the owners’ home country, South Africa. Grab a stool at the bar, cozy up in a booth or take your food and drinks outside to the expansive patio and play cornhole.