Johnson City

This Hill Country town offers plenty of worthwhile food, art, and shopping—and, oh yes, a chance to visit the boyhood home of a certain late president.
Johnson City
Whittington’s Jerky & General Store. Photograph by Adam Voorhes.

1. TASTE WINE + ART

Whether your preference runs to oils and acrylics or tannins and bouquets, stop in at this old stone building that Warren Vilmaire and Susan Kirchman have transformed into a showcase for their respective passions (he’s a retired engineer and full-time oenophile, she taught photography at A&M for twenty years). Sample a Texas chenin blanc or an Italian valpolicella as you peruse art from (mostly) regional artists whose imaginations respectfully diverge from the bluebonnet-and-Longhorn genre. 213 N. Nugent Ave., 830-868-9290, tastewineart.com


2. PECAN STREET BREWING

Fashionable mannequins beckon from the front windows, but this is no dress shop. It’s a Wi-Fi-enabled, pool table–equipped brew pub where you can pair a blue-cheese bacon burger or a brick-oven pizza with a flight of made-on-site beers bearing names like Lady Bird’s Wit and Screw Loose Blonde (is that an imperative or are we missing a hyphen?). That quirky sense of humor extends to the facilities, where patrons have adorned the chalkboard-lined stalls with graffiti no more profane than “R U ready for the Muddy Buddy?” 106 E. Pecan Ave., 830-868-2500, pecanstreetbrewing.com


3. BLACK SPUR EMPORIUM

Roadrunners, horny toads, flying pigs! The metal menagerie outside this home decor store and coffee shop works hard to draw tourists’ attention away from the abandoned feed mill cum art project across the street (it must be the most photographed building in town—sorry, LBJ). Fortunately the critters are irresistible. Grab a latte and browse offerings that are decorative (crosses and candles), utilitarian (hooks and handles), or just fun, like a lamp with a miniature oil well base. 100 W. Main, 830-868-4574, blackspuremporium.com


4.  SILVER K CAFÉ

An airy, barnlike dining room,  boot-scuffed wood floors, a cowboy-hatted crooner perched on a stool strumming a guitar and singing  Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon”—it’d be hard to find a more refreshing tonic for an afternoon of shopping. Casual and comfortable, with understated Western decor, it’s a pleasant place to dive into the likes of chilled cucumber soup, fried green tomatoes, and honey-pecan fried chicken with mashed potatoes. Finish it all off with a slice of homemade buttermilk pie. 209 E. Main, 830-868-2911, silverkcafe.com


5. THE OLD LUMBER YARD

 After you fill your stomach at the Silver K, stroll right across the alley and empty your wallet at this mecca of miscellany, where twenty or so ven dors hawk everything from sassy  T-shirts (“If you don’t like rhinestones, you can’t be my friend”) and Rodan + Fields skin-care products to taxidermy and cowboy boots. Have fun trying on giant sombreros and costume jewelry while figuring out what you’d stuff in that rusty old ballot box and where you’d hang that (blessedly empty) beach-ball-size hornet’s nest. 209 E. Main, 830-868-2381, theoldlumberyard.weebly.com

 

6. LYNDON B. JOHNSON NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK

 No trip to Johnson City is complete without a tip of the hat to our thirty-sixth president. Start at the Visitors Center, where a time line of his life is presented in the form of artifacts and photos (don’t miss the one of him as a long-haired retiree). Next, tour his boyhood home, then check out the log cabin that belonged to his grandparents. Guests are advised to stay on the trails and watch out for “ornery” Longhorns. Intersection of Ladybird Ln. & Avenue G, 830-868-7128, nps.gov/lyjo/index.htm

 

7. PIECES OF THE PAST

Architects and creative types galore flock to this roadside treasure trove, where Kathy Johnson (no relation), former history teacher and self-described “crazy Virgo,” watches over relegated relics in need of new homes. Among hinges and knobs, iron gates and barn wood are teak doors looking to make a grand entrance at your urban hacienda and solid wood slabs thirsting for a chance to become gleaming bar tops. You may even find something you never knew you needed, like a metal seat from an old cargo plane. 104 Hwy. 281 South, 830-868-2890, pieces-of-the-past.com

 

8. WHITTINGTON’S JERKY & GENERAL STORE

Once you’re done marveling at the utterly indifferent chickens scratching around outside, venture into this shop crammed from wood floor to tin roof with provisions that no Texas kitchen should be without. The jerkies (beef, bison, turkey, pork) are displayed under glass in all their original, garlicky, and hot-and-spicy glory. But you’ll also find pantry staples (mustards, salsas), kitchen items (ceramic measuring spoons, whimsical aprons), and bath products (Hummingbird Farms lavender soap for the gals; no-frills, completely nonthreatening Man Wash for the guys). 602 Hwy. 281 South, 877-868-5501, whittingtonsjerky.com


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