So many rodeo champions hail from Bandera County that the monument on the courthouse lawn has no more room for names on its bronze plaque. A small town about an hour’s drive northwest of San Antonio, Bandera beckons folks with other sorts of cowboy dreams too. It inspired Robert Earl Keen, who moved here in the late eighties after a disappointing stint in Nashville, to start writing songs again. Tourists come for the staged gunfights behind the visitors center on Saturday afternoons. And just down Main Street from the legendary Arkey Blue’s Silver Dollar honky-tonk, a couple has built a business by giving the cowboy treatment to a simple ingredient.

Daniel and Andrew Almand launched Texas Salt Co. three years ago after creating a briny blend to give to friends and family at the holidays, continuing a tradition of homemade presents the two men, who married in 2013, began early in their relationship. They cold-smoked sea salt flakes for a week over pecan wood in a smoker they built themselves and then infused them with garlic and fresh rosemary. They called their creation Cowboy Salt because it adds a campfire-esque finish to beef, chicken, and other meats. Experiments with new flavor combinations soon followed.

Rarely seen these days without their boots and hats, the Almands opened their first storefront in November 2022 after moving to Bandera from Belton, south of Waco. They now sell more than fifty kinds of sea salts—including their Bourbon Barrel blend and flakes seasoned with ingredients
such as saffron, scorpion pepper, and white truffle—as well as about two dozen varieties of peppercorns. The Cowboy Salt by far remains their best-seller, so they work to keep pace with the demand. “If I produced two tons of it, I could sell two tons of it,” Andrew says.

The store draws both locals and tourists, who can sample and smell the different salts and peppers. Some shoppers come looking for gifts for the men in their lives—“Guys love to smoke things,” Daniel says. But the Almands also have tapped into a wider trend, with more home cooks reaching for boutique “finishing” salts to enhance the flavor of a dish.

In the next few years, they plan to open more pop-and-pop shops around Texas. For now, they’ll continue to make their salts and peppers in their adopted hometown. This month they’re moving their manufacturing and retail operations into a 2,100-square-foot building across from another beloved Bandera watering hole—the 11th Street Cowboy Bar, where horses are often parked next to motorcycles. It’s a town for all seasonings.  

Finishing School

How to use flavored salts.

Beer Salt 

Order a beer at a bar in Bandera, and you might be asked if you’d like it “dressed.” In other words: Do you want salt on the rim? Texas Salt Co.’s beer salts, which come in flavors including plain, jalapeño, and sriracha, zest up even the most common ales. They also give life to micheladas and Mexican martinis. Simply run a lime around the edge of a glass and mash the rim onto a plate scattered with the salt of your choice. Andrew and Daniel Almand also sell cocktail salts, including Triple Heat, a “careful blend” of ground ghost peppers, habaneros, and jalapeños. 

Cowboy Bread Dip

Inspired by the dipping oil at the Carrabba’s Italian Grill chain, the Cowboy Bread Dip is a blend of pecan-smoked salt and seasonings including basil, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, sun-dried tomatoes, and thyme. Add a tablespoon to a quarter cup of extra virgin olive oil, let sit for thirty minutes, then serve with warm bread.

Cowboy Salt

Give steaks that smoked flavor by drizzling the meat with olive oil, seasoning generously with the Cowboy Salt and Cowboy Peppercorn blends, and letting it reach room temperature for thirty minutes. For medium-rare steaks, the Almands recommend cooking cuts that are an inch thick or more in a medium-hot skillet or on the grill for four and a half minutes on one side and four on the other. Cover with foil and let rest for five minutes.

This article originally appeared in the March 2024 issue of Texas Monthly. Subscribe today.