Off all the places in the United States of America, Texas might not be the first one that pops into mind when creating an itinerary – but it should. One of the great things about the USA is perhaps the diversity of culture it has within itself. The gun-toting, bull-riding Lone Star State is such a different flavour (let’s not forget amazing BBQ), that it would be a shame to overlook it.
One of the first observations I would have in terms of Texas is how relatively early restaurants tend to close, with almost nothing open past 9-10 PM; this wasn’t ideal considering the direct flight from London to Houston lands quite late and you all know how important it is to start any trip on the right foot (which meant trying to avoid eating my first meal in the US at McDonalds, no matter how authentic that experience would be for this trip).
Onion Creek (open until midnight)
Location: The Heights, Houston
From the way Onion Creek was designed, with the vast majority of the seating being outside, you can already catch a glimpse of what Houston’s weather is like year long. The warmth, the neon lights, the buzzing crowd, it all brought memories of summer days despite it being mid-March. The only thing missing were the fireflies. As Mexican food (or, maybe better said, Tex-Mex) is quite popular in this state, we went for some delicious house guacamole with nachos (8$), some nice sweet potato fries and smoked turkey sandwich (14$). You can have the sandwich come in a bun or a wrap. Good atmosphere, good food, good start to the trip.
We drove to College Station – home of Texas A&M (Go Aggies!) where we could enjoy the somewhat quieter life of small town Texas. Everything is far away (the state is the size of France after all), but luckily there are highways everywhere. Renting a car is most likely the best idea, as public transport, even within bigger cities, doesn’t seem to be incredibly sophisticated.
Location: College Station
I demanded that my first breakfast be quintesentially American: that meant a diner, American pancakes and bacon. There’s just something so satisfying about getting a big plate full of pancakes, the smell of freshly fried bacon raining down on you like a miasma from heaven (sorry to all my vegetarian readers). The staff was friendly, as one would expect in such a hospitable state, and the saying is true: everything’s bigger in Texas (I do mean everything…).
Don’t expect anything incredible, but it was all rather cheap and it’s nice sitting in a booth – like the ones you always see on Parks and Recreation.
After a big breakfast, it was time for some wrestling (I’m being serious right now) over at BVMMA (real friendly folk – go give them a try), and no trip to Texas would be complete without a detour at the shooting range! All you need is an ID (preferably passport if you aren’t from the US), and voila – you’re all set to fire away. The prices at Champions Firearms are also rather insane (10$ for a lane). It is rather frightening at first, gun shells flying everywhere, loud noises, people watching you from behind putting pressure on you to show off.
The only downside is that nobody will show you how to load or fire the gun (you can rent guns there if you want, or bring your own).
Despite the vast proportion of this post being about food (and then again most of my traveling seems to be), I did other stuff than eat. Getting back on point, BBQ is amazing and this kind of food is rather popular in Texas – which should be reflective by the fact that in 2015 Texas was the state with the most cattle and calves in the US (11.7 million, nearly double as Nebraska which took second place). C&J Barbeque is supposedly the best joint here in College Station – the brisket was particularly delicious and tender. The cheese and jalapeno sausage (screams calories!) was an interesting take and certainly nicer than any other sausage we had at other BBQ places throughout the state.
You order by the pound, with a few options as sides, and the soda is bottomless. God bless America.
Lastly, if clothes and shopping takes you to your place of zen, consider dropping by one of the huge outlets, either as you drive between cities or you can most likely find some not very far away. This isn’t necessarily Texas specific (we went to a few in Vegas too), and the clothes here are often incredibly cheaper.