We need quick getaways to recharge our batteries, and one of the easiest go-tos is Granbury. Less than an hour's drive southwest of Fort Worth (and around a four-hour drive from Houston), the Hood County seat offers a great dose of food and drink, fun places to poke around on the square, a lovely night's sleep, and sublime hints of Hill Country scenery.
And if you haven't been lately, it's time to revisit. All you really need is just 36 hours to get the most out of your escape.
To fortify yourself for the traipsing around, make a lunch stop at Ketzler's, a terrific little German bistro anchoring one corner of the courthouse square. Dive into plates of freshly made bratwurst and knackwurst; excellent potato pancakes; a fabulous schnitzel with sides of warm red cabbage (hinting of red wine, cinnamon, and nutmeg); and kraut (with bacon, carraway, and apple), and marvel at how authentic the place is. Painted wood reliefs depicting Bavarian villages hang on the stone walls and German music plays on the sound system.
While there, we eavesdropped on a young woman interviewing for a job — partially in German. She couldn't get over how much like her mom's homeland the restaurant feels.
There's a lovely beer garden out back to enjoy any of several German brews, as well as local beer. A full bar is soon to be installed, as well.
The dinner that must not be missed is a few doors down and upstairs at Eighteen Ninety Grille, Granbury's premier upscale dining spot. More elegant than we dared hope, this delightful surprise is a pleasure from start to finish. The food is fabulous because the restaurant owners snagged chef Michael Watkins from the popular Winslow's Wine Cafe in Fort Worth.
We're already addicted to two of his appetizers: the Texas Trilogy, which wraps local chicken and quail inside smoked bacon and a little jalapeño, all skewered and grilled, and the seared ahi, sesame crusted and served in ruby slices over arugula, avocado, and radish in a ginger-soy dressing. New York strip, expertly cooked and given a wild mushroom treatment, is divine, as is the bodacious pork chop, served with a smoked pear chutney.
The wine list is filled with good things, including a beautiful Fess Parker Pinot Noir. We like just hanging out here; the staff is welcoming, and there's warmth and comfort in the original rock walls. Watch for the restaurant's bar and lounge to open downstairs sometime in April.
We can't ever head home from Granbury without a burger stop at Grump's, a decidedly casual spot out on Highway 377 with good grub and cold beer. Best bets are the bacon cheeseburger (pepper Jack, please) with grilled onion and green chilies, plus a side of fried pickles. It helps soak up all the brews we enjoy at the Saturday afternoon gathering at what's rapidly becoming the most notable brewery in Texas.
At Revolver Brewing, several hundred people show up for the noon-3 party each Saturday afternoon. And what a show: You're clearly a regular if you bring your own camp chairs, or you arrive at 11:50 am if you want to snag one of the picnic tables scattered on the grounds. A local band plays on a stage, and everyone spreads out to enjoy the fresh air — and that beer.
For the $10 admission (for everyone over 18, kids are free), you get the entertainment and a "tour," which is actually a 15-minute chat in the tank room with one of the very knowledgeable and entertaining brewers. He tells you how Revolver scored a major coup by recruiting brewmaster Grant Wood from Samuel Adams in Boston, and that tells you the source of the smarts for making sensational brews like the smash-hit Blood & Honey, Sidewinder, Ironhead IPA, and many more.
Arrive before 2 pm, and your 10 bucks buys you four generous pours. After 2 pm, it's two generous pours. Either way, you get a nice Revolver pint glass to keep. There's always a food vendor onsite, selling meals to enjoy outside.
Wine lovers, head out to Barking Rocks Winery, scarcely 10 minutes from downtown, where you could be greeted at the car by Cellar, the sweet winery dog, who just wants a little love. Inside, local legend/character Tiberia, the winemaker with just one name, and his staff pour wines at tastings on Saturday afternoon and on the first Friday evening of each month.
Tiberia speaks our grape language, as we're not fond of sweet wines: His Roussane Reserve is a lovely oaky white, his rosé is slightly effervescent and perfect in sangria, and his Syrah is something we enjoy alone or with steaks. The grounds at Barking Rocks are lush and inviting, perfect for spreading out to listen to the live music on Friday evenings.
As long as you're wandering, head just 20 minutes down the road to the new location of Eagle Mountain Farmhouse Cheese Co. Self-described "recovering lawyer" Dave Eagle began making extraordinary cheese in Granbury in 2010, immediately won some international awards, and the growing business demanded he expand his space.
Now in a 1910 storefront in Lipan, his cheeses are hugely popular sellers at Central Market and at Scardello Artisan Cheese in Dallas, as well as restaurants like Ellerbe Fine Foods and Cafe Modern. While visiting, we can see the cheesemaking process, taste his Gouda-style cheeses, and — coming soon — enjoy all-organic ice cream he's making with the same local milk he uses for his cheeses.
Walking the square
The courthouse square in Granbury is one of the first in Texas, having undergone serious restoration and invigoration in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The limestone buildings remind of us those in Fredericksburg and other Hill Country towns, and each one framing the square and the very recently renovated courthouse holds a stash of retail and other diversions.
We are most taken with some newer finds, including St. Helen's, a shop with cool things for the home, including candles and clocks and dinner table goods; Home Sweet Home, where we found cool flasks and great bedding; and Eighteen Ninety Marketplace, downstairs from the same-named restaurant, a shop reminding me of those in Napa, selling truly fabulous olive oils, vinegars, and spices.
One of the biggest additions of sorts to the square is the Granbury Opera House, a fixture since the 1880s. Fallen on hard times, it was recently and magnificently restored, and a new board of directors has made the place wonderfully viable and relevant. Even if you don't see a show there — lots of Broadway-type shows, as well as tributes to Elvis, Rat Pack, and more — it's worth a stop just to admire the place.
Slumber in style
Granbury has a fine supply of B&Bs for nice overnights. We're utterly hooked on the Inn on Lake Granbury; there's just not a more luxurious, sumptuous option around.
Inn owners Jim and Cathy see to every imaginable comfort, offer wine and substantial snacks in the afternoon, and serve a breakfast we dream about long after we're home. Our favorite digs are the lakeside suites, which give a good view of the water and the grounds. We've whiled away many happy hours in Adirondack chairs and on the wooden swing overlooking the lake, and beside the rock-lined saltwater swimming pool.
Like us, you'll wish your getaway lasted several more days at this place.