Everything is bigger in Texas, including the flavors that emerge from kitchens around the state. Texas’ many cuisines are as diverse as the people. Whether visitors are craving barbecue, Tex-Mex, Southwestern fare, seafood, Cajun, innovative cuisine or good ol’ down-home Southern cooking, they will find it at one of the state’s many restaurants and food festivals. Instead of a progressive dinner, try “progressive traveling.” Hit the road and follow your nose and taste buds to Texas.
Texas boasts a magnificent Barbecue Trail through the central part of the state. To experience the trail properly, begin the trek in Round Rock, just north of Austin, and eat your way to Luling with hearty portions of brisket, sausage, beans and potato salad. Texans will barbecue anything from ribs to brisket and from sausage to chicken. The International Barbecue Cook-off, held in Taylor annually (mid-August each year), brings in cooks from all over the world. People have enjoyed steaming bowls of chili since its introduction as “San Antonio Chili” at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.
San Antonio’s succulent stew is now the official state dish. Heavy on the meat or tomatoes is a personal preference. Either way, visitors cannot go wrong. For the best chili around, visitors and natives alike make their way to Terlingua for the International Championship Chili Cook-Off, typically scheduled in November. This Texas tradition was first held in 1967 as a competition of wit as well as chili. Today, chili is a favorite of Texans and people around the world.
Visitors know they are close to the border when they taste the rich flavors of Tex-Mex. This Texas-original cuisine combines the best of both worlds. Some Tex-Mex favorites include enchiladas, marinated meat and cheese wrapped in a corn tortilla and lathered in sauce; fajitas, grilled meat wrapped in a tortilla and supported with guacamole, pico de gallo and sour cream; and tamales, chopped meat or vegetables enclosed in a soft corn flour dough, wrapped in corn husks and steamed.
Enjoy the sea breeze and succulent seafood that the beach towns such as South Padre Island, Port Aransas, Corpus Christi and Galveston have to offer. The waters of the Texas Gulf Coast are home to one of the world’s most popular shellfish, the crab. Visitors will also enjoy freshly caught shrimp, crawfish and many varieties of fish, including snapper, redfish, and swordfish, prepared any style. In East Texas, closer to the border of Louisiana, significant Cajun influence can be found in local cuisine. Visitors will enjoy spicy creations in a number of cities, specifically in the Houston area, Beaumont, Port Arthur, and Orange.
There’s nothing Texans enjoy more than comforting Southern foods, like hearty steaks, cheesy casseroles, Texas Toast and fruit pies. Since the 1800s, purely out of necessity and ingenuity, chuck wagon cooks have been cooking mouth-watering steaks over an open fire after a hard day in the saddle. But many Texans prefer their steak chicken-fried, and with more than 800,000 chicken-fried steaks sold daily within state lines, this dish is truly a Texas favorite. Pass the cobbler, please. This deep dish fruit pie with a top biscuit dough crust is a popular dessert choice for many Texans. While peaches are the most common fruit filling, any fresh Texas fruit will satisfy a sweet tooth. Add a scoop of Texas’ own Blue Bell ice cream for the most refreshing of summer treats.
But down home and traditional Tex-Mex cuisine aren’t the only meals visitors will find in Texas. Texas’ largest cities of Dallas and Houston are fast becoming meccas of fine dining with renowned chefs showcasing their creative, innovative and exciting culinary skills. Houstonians spend more money per capita eating out than any other Americans. The Annual Savor Dallas Festival – typically scheduled in the spring – celebrates food, wine and culture by bringing together chefs, vintners and cultural institutions for a multi-day culinary feast. And the annual Texas Hill Country Wine & Food Festival welcomes visitors in April.