Historic Downtown Palestine

Come spring, this charming East Texas town will draw tourists with its annual dogwood festival—and sweets lovers with its popular pecan cake.
STREET SMARTS
Photograph by Darren Braun

1. Eilenberger’s Bakery

What is two pounds, shaped like a brick, and nuttier than a PayDay? That’d be a Texas Pecan Cake, the best-selling treat from this bakery, which dates to 1898. Though the majority of the signature desserts (World Famous Fruitcake, Australian Apricot Cake, Midnight Chocolate Walnut Cake) are sold by mail, they’re all made by hand right here. The rustic storefront will be open a few more weeks until closing before the summer heat arrives (mail order is available year-round), so duck in now for a delicious Russian Rock cookie. 512 N. John, 800-788-2996, eilenbergerbakery.com

2. Texas Art Depot and Granny Muffin Wines

When the white blooms of East Texas’s dogwood trees erupt this month, it will signal the start of the seventy-fourth annual Dogwood Trails Festival (beginning March 23), a three-weekend event that includes a parade and a street fair. Carve out some time during the merriment to check out this gallery/wine bar, where you can peruse Old West scenes by Clifton’s Martin Grelle or, on Friday evenings, join a swarm of locals to sample the 35 varieties of Granny Muffin table wines made on-site from California juices. 301 W. Oak, 866-729-1262, texasartdepot.com

3. Old Magnolia Mercantile

In the late 1800’s, a Lebanese immigrant named Abraham Farris opened a mercantile store on Spring Street. Now his great-grandson, Richard Farris Jr., runs one of his own just a few blocks away. At the Old Magnolia, you can stop in for coffee (Seattle’s Best), lunch (the chicken salad–stuffed avocado is a standout), or dessert (including Henry’s Homemade Ice Cream, from Plano). Or you can browse the vendors’ booths and stumble upon home decor, gifts, and tchotchkes that are old, new, or just new to you. 120 W. Oak, 903-729-4410

4. Star of Texas Antiques

In the Roaring Twenties, this broad-windowed building was the Gem Picture Palace, a silent-movie theater that was shuttered by 1930. It was restored and then reopened twelve years ago by longtime antiques hounds Susan and Roddy Millichamp, who now keep it filled with classic American furniture and housewares that date to (and predate) the Gem’s heyday. The upstairs feels like a well-preserved personal library, complete with small chairs on which to perch as you sift through dozens of vintage magazines and leather-bound books. 107 W. Oak, 903-723-6363

5. O’ Sweet Pea

This specialty children’s store has grown from a booth at the Old Magnolia Mercantile into a stand-alone boutique. Owner Heather Calhoun has an eye for classics beloved for generations: think crisp linen fedoras for mini men, tulle “starlet” dresses for little ladies, and throwback sock monkeys in various incarnations (oversized dolls, slippers, knit hats) for kids of all ages. Expect to see more gifts for grown-ups in the near future, including locally roasted, flavored coffees and reasonably priced Towne & Reese jewelry. 105 W. Oak, 903-723-7321, osweetpea.com

6. Oxbow Bakery & Antiques

Just west of the 1914 Anderson County courthouse is Old Town Palestine, a grouping of revitalized historic structures. Among them is this small antiques mall, where you can pick out primitives and collectibles from nine vendors. Recently spotted: several near-mint Texas almanacs from the sixties, blush-pink art deco Camark vases, and a collapsible Amish pie stand. Speaking of pies, they’re owner Becky Wolfe’s specialty, so supplement your lunch (homemade roasted-poblano soup, marquee-worthy chicken salad) with a sweet slice of chocolate-pecan, coconut meringue, or lemon icebox. 215 E. Crawford, 903-723-5100

7. The Ranch House

There are two neon signs on the front of this long, lodgelike limestone building. One reads “Steakhouse.” The other reads “Bar & 
Patio.” Check, check, and check. The Black Angus steaks are hand-cut and flame-kissed. Other good bets are the lightly battered chicken-fried steak and the barbecue ribs, which are frequently offered as an all-you-can-eat special. Pair your carnivorous feast with one of ten craft beers on tap, best enjoyed on the small covered patio. 305 E. Crawford, 903-723-5400

8. Magnolia Street Inn

Once on the brink of being demolished, this 1874 Victorian home is now a tranquil bed-and-breakfast. The four rooms have private baths, flat-screen TVs, and that most nonnegotiable of amenities: free Wi-Fi. And despite the house’s history—a marker out front honors former resident Congressman Alexander White Gregg—there’s nary a doily in sight. At 4,400 square feet, it’s perfect for a large family or group of friends who want to overrun it for a weekend and have the common areas and wraparound porch all to themselves. 421 S. Magnolia, 903-723-8138, magnoliastreetinn.com

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