Contributing Editor Andrew Nelson is back from a visit to his former digs in West Texas, and uncovered a slate of fun new hotspots. You can follow all of Andrew’s many travels on Twitter at @andrewnelson.
True to their contrarian nature, the isolated communities of Far West Texas–Marfa, Alpine, Sanderson and Marathon–seem to march in an opposite direction than the rest of the world. With parts of Texas and the Southwest crisping with drought, sweet rains have turned the Big Bend region’s arroyos and mountains a rich sage. And as other places suffer a recessionary closure of myriad restaurants and galleries, the independent towns west of the Pecos are enjoying a bumper crop of new attractions and attention.
Outside magazine recently christened Alpine, the hub of the Big Bend and its biggest town, as one of the 10 best towns for outdoor sports in the nation, describing it as Austin’s “mini-me.” In Sanderson, local resident Terry “Tex” Tolerworks is spearheading an effort to promote an art drive along Highway 90–the lonely stretch of road that crosses the region and is filled with spectacular vistas and the occasional pronghorn or roadrunner. In Marfa, Wool and Hoop (pictured, left), a crewel embroidery store founded by artist Katherine Shaughnessy, sells pretty stitchwork while Cochineal, a restaurant started by two ex-pat New Yorkers, packs them in for dinner. Hint: If you can’t get an evening reservation, breakfast beneath the trees for a lot less dosh but equally tasty fare – eggs backed in cream with bacon, spinach and fresh mixed herbs or maybe the migas with refried pinto beans and salsa.
In Alpine, Talgar’s, a restaurant specializing in Oaxacan fare makes a delectable fish tacos. Next door, the Murphy Street Raspa Company–a sweets and gifts emporium–sells hipster T-shirts, plus backcountry Mexican finds like peasant blouses for $26 and Mexican bingo cards. Be sure to sample the Mexican ices called “raspas”–try the tamarind with fresh-squeezed lime juice. (Here, owner Vic Noriega demonstrates how to make one.) Too full to waddle anywhere else? For accommodations head for the Alpine Guest Lofts. Their hip “El Concierge” service will get you almost anything: “engine parts for your Harley, or tickets to one of our off-off-off-off-off Broadway plays, or to stable your polo ponies.” Relax in their soaking tubs, or lounge under the pecan tree, which provides cool shade for all.
Photo: Wool and Hoop