Historic Downtown Abilene

You can eat a good steak here in cowboy country—and take in some fine art while you’re at it.
Relics Home
Relics Home
Photograph by Artie Limmer

1. Relics Home

In its past lives, the twenties-era Boyd Building has been a gas station, a theater, and a hot tub outlet. Now it’s a 12,000-square-foot showroom filled with modern home furnishings arranged in aspirational vignettes. You’ll likely find design guru Rebecca Allen flipping through upholstery swatches for clients who drop in to swoon over hammered-copper coffee tables, wood-and-wrought-iron chandeliers, and armoires with antique mission doors. Venture upstairs to the “warehouse” to find more rustic treasures, like cowhide rugs and antler lamps. 1292 N. First, 325-670-9282, relicshome.com

2. Candies by Vletas

A quick tutorial: It’s pronounced “Va-lee-tas.” The surname of Greek immigrants who started this confectionery in 1912 will be rolling off your tongue after you stuff your face with hand-dipped delights—butter creams, pralines (served at W.’s inaugural dinner), and the signature white-chocolate-covered grapes—and begin proselytizing to all your friends. Though the founding family passed the reins to lifelong customer Pam McCombs in 1999, the recipes and techniques remain the same, as does the primary marketing ploy: free samples. 1201 N. First, 800-725-6933, candiesbyvletas.com

3.The Grace Museum

Fine-art aficionados, history buffs, and precocious tots perambulate through this five-gallery, four-story, three-in-one museum housed in the iconic 1909 Hotel Grace. Between the robust permanent collection (which features works by James Surls, Andy Warhol, and Vernon Fisher), the mind-expanding exhibits (you have till June 30 to ogle the amusingly clunky TV sets in the “Tools for Modern Living” show), and the interactive kids’ area (who can resist a life-size game of Operation?), everyone will be happily engaged. 102 Cypress, 325-673-4587, thegracemuseum.org

4. Texas Star Trading Co.

Though this store carries predictably goofy novelties (a shotgun barbecue lighter, an “official” Texas passport), the real draws are the made-in-Texas must-haves: olive oil soaps crafted in Strawn, glass boots filled with Vidor honey, and bookends made of stone found near Temple. Literary types will get lost in the expansive selection of Texas titles (Elmer Kelton paperbacks, Tom Perini’s popular Texas Cowboy Cooking ) chosen by proprietors Carol and Glenn Dromgoole (he’s a former Abilene Reporter-News editor). 174 Cypress, 325-672-9696, texasstartrading.com

5. Paramount Theatre

In 1984 a group of concerned citizens started a movement to renovate and restore this beloved landmark, which had fallen into disrepair. Today the Spanish Colonial Revival–style venue, which opened in 1930 and boasts a stunning ninety-foot marquee, welcomes appreciative patrons who come for the classic-film series (you can see John Wayne’s The Quiet Man for $6 this month) and performances by the Abilene Ballet Theatre and the Abilene Opera. On weekday afternoons you can take a self-guided tour and gaze at the theater’s blue-velvet-domed ceiling, which sparkles with twinkling “stars.” 352 Cypress, 325-676-9620, paramount-abilene.org

6. The Arrangement

An all-black storefront is a non-descript foil for the colorful party frocks and show-stopping costume jewelry inside this boutique, in which you can literally stop and smell the roses (there’s a floral shop in the back). The audacious accessories (bejeweled bib necklaces, shoulder-dusting gold chandelier earrings) and vibrant duds (an electric marmalade frock by Maria Bonita, an onyx Gracia sequin blazer) may be too much for a trip to H-E-B, but you’ll turn heads for all the right reasons at the Warehouse, the shop’s swanky sister lounge next door. 357 Walnut, 325-670-0061, getfunkyfresh.com

7. Beehive

Growing up in Iran, brothers Nariman and Ali Esfandiary never imagined they’d wind up in dusty West Texas running two bustling steakhouses. After fleeing their homeland following the fall of the shah, they opened their first restaurant, in Albany, in 1982. They added this dining room in 2007, to the delight of the well-dressed carnivores who come here for cuts of choice, wet-aged Black Angus beef. Even the seafood, like red snapper grilled over mesquite coals, is good enough to lure local roughnecks. 442 Cedar, 325-675-0600, fortgriffinandbeehive.com

8. Hickory Street Cafe

There are quicker lunches to be had, but hungry locals will wait patiently for a table in this historic 1895 house. To pass the time, you can peruse the gift shop upstairs or sit on the front porch and daydream about the quiche layered with sausage and green chiles; the open-faced sandwich of sautéed mushrooms, Monterey jack, and crumbly bacon; and the signature zucchini bread, best served with cream cheese. Reward yourself for being so patient by ordering the homemade chocolate Kahlúa bundt cake first. 644 Hickory, 325-675-0465

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