Since it first flung open its double doors in 1900, The Beltonian's patchwork brick façade has housed a church, an antique store, and a billiard hall. But its theatrical pedigree proved too strong, and today, the venue has transformed back into a performance space. The Beltonian aims to bring top-notch comedy to the community by booking nationally touring rib-ticklers three nights a week. A menu keeps appetites and thirst at bay while showgoers lean back in plush seats, which are arranged stadium-style to facilitate easy viewing of every clever quip.
A historic marker may be all that's left of the original Alexander's Distillery, which washed away in a flood in 1865, but that's not to say that the current reincarnation doesn't aim to recreate its predecessor's ambiance. Amid traditional decor elements such as dark, rich woods and scrolled silver platters, guests dine on elegant dishes from a seasonally rotating menu. Entrees have included everything from coq au vin to Black Angus tenderloin filet, which pair perfectly with desserts such as crème brûlée. Alexander's also offers prix-fixe chef's choice menus that include an appetizer, salad, entree, and dessert for each guest, with optional wine pairings available for those who know the proper way to pull out a wine cork using their teeth.
Situated on the shores of placid Belton Lake, Dead Fish Grill stands tall over the water, encouraging diners to enjoy the beautiful view from either the covered outdoor patio or from inside, where large windows span from floor to ceiling. Here, the chefs send out plates of peel-and-eat shrimp, their specialty creole-whiskey steak, and fried oysters piled into baskets with hush puppies and cole slaw during dinner. Frequent live music enlivens the space on Friday and Saturday nights, and shows are always free.
Weddings at The Vineyard at Florence hark back to an unhurried age, when horse-drawn carriages ferried couples to the ceremony, guests stayed in villas overlooking verdant rows of grapes, and the next morning began with a dip in the infinity pool. The sprawling venue embraces this mix of old-world Italy and modern luxury. Intricate stonework on the Tuscan inns contrasts with the sleek lines of its gym equipment, and the murmurs of a spring-fed creek accompany live musical performances in the amphitheater.
Guests needn't be getting married to explore the setting?there are single-day excursions such as the Sunday yoga class. Of course, estate wines remain a prime focus for the staff and the vineyard's visitors, with tastings held most Thursdays and weekends inside the Villa Firenze, where contemporary culture mingles with antiquated charm. Italian decor and architecture typify the rustic interior, though its main hallways give way to galleries where local artists can exhibit their work. Gigantic wooden barn beams grace the ceiling in the traditional wine shop, and the outer decks afford views of the polo field alongside the arbors and herb gardens.
Rather than preserve their slice of countryside with uninterrupted quiet or a colossal snow-globe dome, the vineyard's tenants strive to fill the hills with life. They host classes on topics from pairing wines to organic farming, and welcome diners to sample handcrafted confections at Bissinger's Chocolate Experience and Caf?. Bands fill the wine-tasting room with new rhythms each week, and festivals such as the Harvest Celebration Weekend?where attendees can glimpse stone carvers at work and dine on homegrown cuisine?imbue the rural expanse with a close sense of community.
Red River Steakhouse looks like it jumped straight off the reels of a Western film: its raw-wood façade opens to a rustic interior with paintings of rolling grasslands, red barns, and horse-drawn carriages. On the tables, cowboy boots serve as vases for bright sunflowers or footwear for men with no name. In the kitchen, chefs bread and cook chicken-fried steak on flat-top grills, season racks of ribs with signature rubs, and on weekends, slow smoke pork ribs and prime ribs. The catering side of the operation offers similar fare, including aged Black Angus rib eyes, sirloin kebabs, and prime rib. With confidence in their cuisine, the caterers offer a 120 percent satisfaction guarantee or money back plus a discount on the next order.
When he immigrated to America, Jesse Berenji took a job in the kitchen at a family member's Mexican restaurant. By keeping a close eye on all aspects of the business, he was soon able to pioneer his own Mexican place—El Patron Restaurant & Cantina. The cooks here fry hand-breaded boneless-chicken breast drizzled with cilantro sauce, for example, and prepare El Patron fajitas—chicken and beef with sautéed veggies on a heated platter, served with homemade tortillas for creating edible Venn diagrams. The menu even touches on American classics such as burgers and chicken tenders.