Ye Kendall Inn, a registered national historic landmark, offers a blend of old-school antebellum charm and modern hotel amenities. Built in 1859, Ye Kendall Inn once housed both Robert E. Lee and former president Eisenhower during a brief but thrilling rift in the space-time continuum. Depending on availability, the inn offers accommodations in charmingly furnished cabins, cottages, suites, and guest rooms. Restored, vintage cabins contain regal queen beds and prime-ministerial sofa beds, and suites and cottages hold either a king or queen bed. Wired Internet and cable TV are provided. Guests also receive 20% off at the inn's luxurious spa, where massages and skin treatments evaporate stress into a fine mist used to hydrate thirsty trees strewn about the lush, 5-acre grounds.
Originally founded in 1929, The Grey Moss Inn Restaurant gives the impression that the world has spent the last several decades growing around it. A canopy of Texas oak branches practically conceals the eatery's outdoor patio—complete with a low stone wall—and main dining room. At night, this canopy bursts to life as strings of colored lights flicker on above diners' heads.
The views are no less impressive during the daytime though. Whitetail deer, wild turkeys, and other animals occasionally meander across the nearby expanse of lush, green meadowland and blooming flowers are almost always within sight. "The number of couples who have held secret rendezvous here must be astronomical," posited Texas Monthly "But how could they resist? Romance fills the air like incense at this oak-shaded cottage in the woods."
The Fiery Heart of the Restaurant
The most eye-catching set piece on The Grey Moss Inn Restaurant's patio also happens to be the eatery's most used feature: a circular stone grill filled with smoldering mesquite charcoal. Originally, this pit served as the building's main water well. However, it was eventually capped off and converted into a massive pit where the chefs can roast everything from free-range chicken and lamb chops to Choice rib eye steaks and Pacific salmon. The subtly sweet smokiness of these freshly grilled meats helps lend a distinctively rustic and traditional charm to the menu of refined southern cooking.
Comfort Food With an Elegant Touch
There's no reason for the chefs to completely change the classics, although they do elevate these dishes whenever possible. Using organically grown herbs from the restaurant's own gardens, the chefs follow recipes that haven't changed in decades as they prepare everything from cumin-tinged squash casserole to chocolate pecan pie. At the same time, they are willing to experiment with new flavors to create entirely new dishes, such as the roasted Texas quail stuffed with homemade chorizo.
The selection of more than 500 wines—which earned a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence—features premier cru Burgundies alongside local Texan wines, similarly demonstrating the restaurant's dedication to refined dining.
Though chef Daniel Nemec specialized in classic French cuisine at the Texas Culinary Academy, his heart lies in the smokehouse. As the leader of Woodfire Kirby’s kitchen, he draws from his experiences growing up in Corpus Christi, where steaks and barbecue pepper the culinary landscape and are considered legal tender.
Nemec imbues hickory flavor in ribs, chops, and sirloin burgers, but demonstrates the wood’s versatility with a menu that also includes wood-fired soups and thin-crust pizzas. New york strip steaks and blue-ribbon fillets are cooked to a choice of six temperatures, including classic medium rare and charred-yet-red pittsburgh. Available raw, grilled, or poached, seafood showcases spices that range from asian to argentine to creole.
A private room welcomes up to 48 visitors with a high-definition TV and four banquet menus, and the dining room attracts nighttime guests with handcrafted cocktails and a buzz as vibrant as a birthday party inside a hornet nest.
A high-quality cut of beef really lets chefs express themselves, and Ounce Steakhouse’s owner, who works closely with cattle ranchers throughout the country, provides his chefs with handpicked USDA beef and renowned Akaushi beef. Akaushi grades three levels above prime and is raised in Texas in the strict tradition of Japan’s highly sought-after Kobe beef. With a menu of Akaushi, Angus, and USDA Prime, the restaurant’s chefs find plenty of inspiration for high-end dining techniques and rock operas about Meat Loaf and other fine beef. Among stone walls, original artwork, and sleek, modern decor, diners also relish equally elegant entrees of Chilean sea bass, Australian rack of lamb, and cabernet-braised short ribs. The restaurant strives for the highest fine-dining experience, complementing dishes with wine from vineyards across the globe while keeping small-batch, handcrafted California cabernet sauvignons as its main focus.
Because cravings don’t often wait for convenience, the cooks at Texas Steak Out take care of the leg work: They deliver their all-American breakfast, lunch, and dinner to diners’ front doors. Relieving patrons of the task of hunting a steer, they grill rib eyes, sirloins, and steak tips, complemented by philly cheesesteaks and a horde of hoagie sandwiches. Their hearty meals come with classic steak-house sides such as steamed broccoli and mashed potatoes. For breakfast, diners can feast on egg and cheese hoagies and breakfast rolls, or opt for a heavier Texan breakfast of sirloin steak or pork chops with eggs and hash browns.
Jeff Blank and his kitchen crew like to joke that other cooks must suffer from a "fear of cooking." That's because, for the award-winning chef, cooking is a kind of alchemy—an ambitious experiment that is sometimes fated to fail. But when it works, Jeff and his Executive Chef Kelly Casey transform fresh ingredients, often plucked from local farms and ranches, into piquant dishes adorned with housemade sauces, such as tomatillo white chocolate, mango jalapeño, and bourbon vanilla praline. Behind the kitchen, a stone smokehouse infuses ostrich, rattlesnake, and venison meats with dusky notes, creating entrees that have won them recognition for the Best Wild Game Dish from readers of the Austin Chronicle.
Diners take in the gustatory array on a patio and in a garden gazebo, surrounded by vegetable plants, flowers, and trees wrapped in petite nodes of light. Even the rustic, upscale decor—characterized by soft candlelight, red tablecloths, and vibrant paintings along exposed-stone walls—has earned acclaim, finding favorable mention in the New York Times' travel guide.