A Weekend in Texas

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[Sunset over Hilton Garden Inn, Tyler, TX]

I love Texas. A pet theory of mine holds that the two greatest states in the Union are Maine and Texas, which means the Bush Family pretty much wins at life. So be it: both states are amazing in totally different ways, and I’m always excited for a trip to Lone Star territory.

This past weekend, Linds and I took a quick trip down thataway to the city of Tyler, Texas, to visit her Aunt Mary. Everything I know about Tyler I learned from Aunt Mary over the past two days: first, that it’s considered an old-money oil town; second, that it’s a whole lot fancier than I would have expected for a place a two-hour drive southwest of Dallas, seemingly in the middle of nowhere; third, that everyone there roots for the Cowboys, the idea of rooting for a Houston team sounding hilarious, if not hysterical.

We flew into Love Field (DAL) on Friday evening, an experience so superior to landing at DFW that I can’t believe I didn’t know this was an option until now. In all the ways DFW is remote and impossible, DAL is easy: directly adjacent to the downtown, with light and airy terminals. (Bonus: one need not drive past AT&T/Cowboy Stadium on the way towards wherever one is going after leaving the airport.) After landing, we made a quick escape from the Dallas environs, hit up the requisite pitstop at a Chik-fil-a off I-20, then drove a couple hours through the badlands of Texas to Tyler.

Our weekend was spent mostly at Aunt Mary’s house, entertaining our nephew and niece, in Tyler with their mother (Lindsey’s sister) and Dad. We did break out of the house for lunch on Saturday, because when in Rome:

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[Jalapeno Tree — Crazy Good Mexican Food!]

As solid as this joint turned out to be — and, for a fast-casual chain, it actually was just fine — get the quail kebabs — it wasn’t the best of what Texas has to offer, dining-wise. This wasn’t our trip for culinary exploration, but based on a Spring 2013 Texas dining roadtrip that I embarked on with Eater’s Amanda Kludt, here’s what you need to know: Austin is overrated, Dallas gets it done, but all the best places are in Houston.

Futher proof of these claims come from Eater roving critic Bill Addison, who named one spot from Dallas and two from Houston to his National 38 list earlier this month, while snubbing Austin completely. The two spots Bill chose in Houston — Underbelly and Oxheart — blew Amanda and I away too, as they have just about every major dining critic who has passed through town in recent years. We loved our meal at The Pass and Provisions as well. Bottom line: do not sleep on Houston. It’s one of the best cities in America right now for a weekend dining getaway.

If one needed an excuse for another Texas dining roadtrip, the gas prices seen outside of Tyler this weekend — similar to those seen near Dallas, too — certainly provide it:

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Next weekend, New Orleans. Brace.