Change—in the form of more dining, shopping, and hotel options—has come to the small town of Comfort, which boasts one of the best-preserved historic districts in the state. But its unincorporated status remains sacred to many of the three thousand or so residents; it’s a direct link to the German Freethinkers, stout advocates for the separation of church and state, who in the 1840s began settling here, about fifty miles northwest of San Antonio. “People ask us all the time if we want to be like Fredericksburg or Boerne,” one local told me. “And it’s not just no, it’s a hell, no.” Some businesses are ready for Comfort to become more of a destination, but they want to do it their way. Last year, the new owners of the Hotel Giles, built in 1880, tore down “guests only” signs in the courtyard. Now locals and visitors commingle here for happy hours, admire art installations from Studio Comfort, and strum guitars together in picking circles. As scenes such as these become more common, it feels like the town’s days of being a Hill Country secret are numbered.
Dine + Drink
Reservations aren’t required at Comfort Pizza, but locals know better than to leave it to chance: once owner Ty Langston runs out of dough for the day, you’re out of luck. The namesake pizza, c.p.t., features juicy chunks of smoked sausage from Fredericksburg, fresh veggies, and mozzarella. Sit outside the converted vintage 1920s gas station and enjoy your slices on one of the most scenic corners in town. Food for the Soul Bistro is especially popular on Friday nights—a.k.a. steak night. Kathy Asher runs the joint, while her husband, Wade, oversees its connected wine bar, Just Chillin’ in Comfort. Since opening last year, Flamingo Street has attracted diners with chef Debbi Low’s upscale (ahem) comfort food, including mushroom risotto with truffle oil. For an easy glass of wine downtown, Ursa at Branch on High and Newsom Vineyards both operate excellent tasting rooms. Or drive ten minutes south to the recently renovated one at Singing Water Vineyards. Kids can play lawn games and feed goats while parents and child-free adults can enjoy the adults-only tasting decks that overlook a nearby creek.
See + Do
Walk around the High Street area and admire some of the more than one hundred well-preserved historic buildings, the earliest of which dates back to 1854. While a friend and I were reading the marker outside of the Otto Brinkmann House, built in 1860 by the local namesake carpenter, the current tenant called us inside to take a look at the original German Fachwerk construction. Pay your respects at the Treue der Union Monument (Loyalty to the Union), a twenty-foot-tall obelisk that memorializes an infamous event in Comfort’s history, when 36 residents who opposed slavery were killed by Confederate soldiers while trying to flee to Mexico. On the east side, the challenging, well-maintained Buckhorn Golf Course attracts players from all over the area. On FM 473 nearby, pull over to check out the Hygieostatic Bat Roost, a thirty-foot, shingle-style tower built in 1918 in the fight against mosquitos and malaria. Tim Burton–esque in design, the tower is one of the few remaining structures designed by famed San Antonio bat man Dr. Charles Campbell. It’s on private property, but you can see it from the road. For live music, stop by the Remedy Hall, a stylish watering hole opened by John Trube in October. Wanting a place in town where he could get a drink, watch the game, and listen to some live music, Trube decided to create his own. “I’d never been in the bar business before,” he said one Saturday night as patrons helped themselves to Frito pies and a pair of guitar players crooned on stage, “but I’ve drank enough that I figured I could figure it out.” Trube already has a vision for what’s next: an outdoor pickleball court connected to the bar.
Get lost in booth after booth of vintage antiques inside the 8th Street Market, then head down the block to one-year-old America Reclaimed for a more rock and roll vintage experience. I was lucky enough to visit on the second Saturday of the month, when a young man, high up in the rafters and surrounded by lumber, held a solo jam session for guests while we enjoyed free wine and beer and perused countless custom items made from salvaged materials. Stop by the Elephant Story, where you can buy authentic Thai goods and just about anything you can dream of with an elephant on it. Proceeds benefit elephant conservation in Thailand. You’ll find goods from only Hill Country artisans at the just-opened Peachy Llama. Snap a selfie while you try on a rancher hat at Freethinkers General Store. Phil and Lisa Jenkins, best known for renovating the old Comfort Turn Verein (which is just a fancy way of saying social club) into boutique hotel Camp Comfort before selling it in 2018, have a penchant for taking the old and turning it into something beautiful before moving on to the next project. “I have a five-year attention span,” Lisa says. Drive about fifteen minutes east to peruse the tableware at Hill Country Pottery.
At Hotel Giles, accommodations include renovated rooms and even a log cabin. Just as charming is the sprawling Meyer Inn, along Cypress Creek, where you can sip coffee on a private sunporch. Built as an athletic club and bowling alley in the 1860s, Camp Comfort is now a stylish getaway and event space.
This article originally appeared in the April 2023 issue of Texas Monthly with the title “A Well-Kept Hill Country Secret.” Subscribe today.