Texas is full of amazing unique places to find original dishes to tempt the tastebuds of, well, pretty much everyone. But most places, whether they offer amazing taste sensations or just do familiar comfort food really well, aren’t too outlandish. There are a few places however that raise the bar when it comes to originality.
Some of these restaurants offer food you just can’t get anywhere else, and some offer unique, memorable dining experiences, but all of them are original Texas restaurants. So no matter if you’re in the mood to satiate your sweet tooth or are looking for something more substantial, here are 10 of the most original eateries in Texas.
10. The Hobbit Cafe – Houston
This is the closest you’ll get to Middle Earth in Texas. The Hobbit Cafe in Houston opened in 1972 as a vegetarian restaurant. Quickly realizing that Texans like meat, the restaurant expanded its menu to offer various omnivorous dishes, including Jamaican jerk chicken and fresh seafood from the Gulf. Still vegetarian-friendly, The Hobbit Cafe also boasts such dishes as “The Gandalf” which is an avocado and mushroom sandwich served under melted cheese and with a side of shredded carrots.
9. Big Top Candy Shop – Austin
Amidst the weird and wonderful shops adorning South Congress Avenue in Austin, you’ll find a little dream of a place. Big Top Candy Shop is an old-fashioned candy store where customers can purchase pre-wrapped candies, homemade candies and a wide variety of bulk candy that is sold by the pound.
The little shop is decked out in vintage circus style, showcasing the bizarre and exotic from days long gone by. In addition to the seemingly strange yet delicious chocolate covered bacon you can find behind the glass displays, there is an old-fashioned soda jerk who will mix you up any number of delectable malts and shakes, hand-dipped ice cream or fresh popcorn.
8. Big Lou’s Pizza – San Antonio
When they say the pizzas are big at Big Lou’s, they aren’t just whistling Dixie. Big Lou’s in San Antonio is the home of the 42-inch pizza. In case you’re not good at math, that’s a 3 1/2 foot pizza, roughly enough to feed a small army. Opened in 2000, Big Lou’s is not only known for their size but also their flavor, Big Lou’s Pizza is famously delicious pizza.
7. Russian House – Austin
A meal at Russian House feels like eating at the home of someone’s Russian grandmother. The decor is comfortable and homey, with lace curtains and folksy mismatched china and silverware. The Downtown Austin restaurant serves traditional Russian dishes and offers events where patrons can view Russian folk dancing.
6. King’s Biergarten – Pearland
King’s Biergarten started with a dream and a carwash. Originally, proprietor Hans Sitter opened a free bratwurst stand for customers to enjoy while getting their cars washed. Fast forward to 2015 and King’s Biergarten has ballooned into a national sensation, having been voted Best German Restaurant in America by Germandeli.com. In addition to the authentic German cuisine, King’s servers wear traditional lederhosen, and the restaurant frequently hosts live traditional German music.
5. Hypnotic Donuts – Dallas
When asked what makes Hypnotic Donuts different from every other donut shop out there, the answer could simply be, “Everything.” Owner and possible future patron saint of donuts James St. Peter opened Hypnotic Donuts a mere five years ago and its popularity has exploded.
The shop boasts creative pastries like the Tripple 6, a vanilla cake donut topped with habanero passionfruit icing, and the Evil Elvis, a donut containing peanut butter, bananas, honey and bacon. The shop also serves chicken biscuits, biscuits and gravy and the “grab n go” – a sort of pig in a blanket.
4. Mark’s American Cuisine – Houston
If you’re looking for an unusual environment in which to dine, look no further than Mark’s in Houston. The haute cuisine restaurant is built inside a deconsecrated Lutheran church on Westheimer. Mark’s has been featured in USA Today as one of Houston’s most memorable restaurants, and the cuisine is, indeed, heavenly.
3. Magic Time Machine – San Antonio
A San Antonio original, the Magic Time Machine transports visitors to another time period. Each dining room has a different theme, and all the waitstaff dress in costumes. Where many restaurants may have a salad bar, the Magic Time Machine has a salad car, a 1952 MG-TD roadster, retrofitted into a salad bar. A special treat for the kids, try the potion drinks which bubble as if they came from a magic cauldron.
2. Harvey Washbangers – College Station
As hard as it may be to believe, the two photos above are actually from the same establishment. Probably the most successful laundromat in College Station, Harvey Washbangers combines a boring yet necessary task with fun and socialization.
The target market is right on point given that many college students don’t own their own washers and dryers. And besides, what else are you going to do while waiting for your clothes to dry? Study? Psh. No. The name is a take-off on the drink “Harvey Wallbanger”, and you can order one at the bar, or just a burger if you’ve got an 8AM class the next day.
1. Food Shark Museum of Electronic Wonders and Late Night Grilled Cheese Parlour – Marfa
Marfa residents put their own tiny town on the map by instilling in it art and life combined with a whole lot of peculiarity. The ragtag combination of buildings that make up this strange restaurant is comprised of an old airstream trailer, a school bus, and a tiny one-room building housing an eclectic assortment of old electronics. This eatery defies definition and, like all good art, is not easily accessible, only being open a few days a week for a few hours a day, as the name implies, late at night.