When the New York Times highlighted the ribs, brisket, pork, and sausage at Cooper's Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que, it called the feast a "life-changing experience." That's just one press mention from a veritable briefcase full of articles that vouch for the barbecue destination's food. The menu isn't complicated: it catalogs 15 core barbecue meats as well as apple, blackberry, peach, and pecan cobbler. On the side, servers bring beans, corn on the cob, whole baked potatoes, or salad tossed into a bowl by a major league pitcher.
Just a touch crooked, the timbers that hold up New Braunfels Smokehouse's awning impart both a rustic and timeless look, which hearkens back to the smokehouse's 1940s beginnings. The Dunbar family bought five local ice plants including one in New Braunfels that formerly housed a brewery. With limited storage options, farmers brought their meats to the ice plant for refrigeration. Then employee Benno Schuennemann had an idea: he'd help the farmers preserve their meats even longer by curing and smoking them using old German recipes. As word grew of the smoked meats coming from the icehouse, the Dunbars found a whole new business on their hands. They added a restaurant in 1952, and by the 1960s, they fielded smoked-meat orders from across the United States.
Today, the Dunbars continue running New Braunfels Smokehouse from a new location, producing hickory-smoked beef, chicken, pork, and turkey using Benno's methods at their USDA-inspected facility. They also bake their own bread each day, plus insist that their chefs craft every side from scratch and smith every utensil by hand. The restaurant surrounds visitors in rustic style with decor that incorporates old-barn siding and knotty-wood paneling—many of the materials salvaged from the original smokehouse. After savoring meals ordered from the counter, visitors can peruse the country store for sausages and other packaged meats fresh from the smokehouse.
Lucky Sailor's Lakeside Grill blends jaw-dropping views of the water and jaw-shutting meat and seafood dishes to scenically savory effect. While you wait for your life's first mate to park the boat on top of the parking lot's dirtiest car, nibble on Nearly Famous Diamondbacks, bacon-wrapped jalapeños stuffed with shrimp and jack cheese ($8), before deep-sea dining on a plate of fiesta-fried gulf-shrimp, crispy morsels fried and served in a spicy cocktail sauce ($17). People born with the heads—and bodies—of parrots, meanwhile, will relish every bite of the Cheeseburger in Paradise, a half-pound of Angus beef lounging on a jalapeno-bun cushion with cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, and pickles that's best when paired with Lucky Sailor's locally made beers and wines ($8). When the summer weather returns from its vacation in a warmer climate, dine in open-air style on Canyon Lake or dollop a dessert of fried cheesecake and raspberry sauce ($7) with a spot of live music on Sundays and Thursdays.
Gill's Ranch House Bar & Grill will never be accused of being pretentious. For starters, its large wooden facade looks like an old-fashion saloon, its executive chef is named Doc Holliday, and its adjoining open-air bar is fittingly called the "Lucky G Corral". As you might imagine, most of the food comes from the grill, including slow-cooked brisket, sausage, ribs, and burgers, though there's also Tex Mex food such as nachos and quesadillas.
When Jim Kiest of the San Antonio Express-News visited Hooligan’s Bar & Grill, he left with one important takeaway: “It is a great place to hang out when you’re not quite sure what you want to do. You’ll figure it out when you get there.” Kiest hit the nail on the head, given Hooligan’s eclectic collection of events and games. On any given night, a DJ might spin current hits for patrons to tap dance to or a cover band might storm the stage and pump out jams from the 1970s, ‘80s, or ‘90s. The music supplies a lively soundtrack for free rounds of poker, coin-operated pool games, an arsenal of darts and video games, and even dodge-ball matches.
Regardless of the ever-changing events schedule, patrons will always find three staples at Hooligan’s—food, drinks, and plenty of TVs. While watching Monday-night football or a UFC fight, bar-goers can munch mild to extra-hot wings, classic 8-ounce burgers, and individual pizzas, all washed down by domestic beers or fun cocktails such as cherry bombs and washington apples.