Trippin Out

A Collection of Day Trips: Texas Hill Country

The patio area is a very popular spot at Moontower Saloon. Photo by Courtney Sellers

Ask anyone who knows me where my favorite place on earth is, and they will tell you it’s the Texas Hill Country. There’s nothing like it. Sure, people migrate to Houston for the opportunity, the culture, and the aggressive melting pot that is this diverse city; but they go to the hill country to get away from everything that makes Houston Houston.

A “day trip” to Austin is difficult — it’s easily three hours away from central Houston and traffic is never good going in or out of our fair city or Austin, so just getting there can be a struggle. Generally, I would take I10 to Highway 71, but on this trip we decided to take 290. Additionally, this post serves less as an appeal for you to visit Austin the city (because truly there are thousands of articles that do this very thing), as it does to implore you to go to Moontower Saloon while you’re there.

Moontower Saloon was so unique that we spent several hours on the way home trying to figure out if we’ve ever been to a bar anything like it in Houston. First of all, they’ve completely changed the game by checking your ID BEFORE you even pull into the parking lot. That’s right; they have you pull it out when you are coming in. This is genius — four to five guys’ sole job is to ensure everyone in a car is 21, instead of the bartender or one single bouncer having this responsibility so the flow isn’t interrupted at any point. There isn’t a huge line of people getting their ID checked by a single, apathetic bouncer and it removes the burden from an already busy bartender. I love it.

Once you park you start to realize how utterly immense this bar is, but it isn’t until you’re inside that it actually hits you. Moontower Saloon is humongous. As you walk up, there are people sort of milling about enjoying drinks. A bar inside has the familiar feel. People are playing pool or sitting at tables enjoying pitchers of beer. They’ve got a wide range of domestic, imports and craft beers — I was happy to see several Houston beers on tap! We ordered a pitcher, and started looking for a table to sit at. There were no available tables inside, despite it being enormous, so we ventured to the immense outdoor patio. The patio area is what sets Moontower Saloon apart. There was a folksy band playing acoustic covers of familiar songs. Several large fire pits were occupied by young people chatting. At a large open space with no tables, a group of about 25 people were having a conversation in sign language. “The people watching here is glorious” I thought as we walked around looking for a place to sit. Two food trucks offered tacos or burgers and, shockingly the lines weren’t too long. We ordered burgers, fried pickle spears, and loaded chili/cheese fries and posted up shop at the one remaining picnic table. Despite how busy it was, the vibe at Moontower was still relaxed. No need to shout to hear people, and we could still hear the soft humming of the music.

We stayed at the bar for about three hours and spent probably $40 on pitchers of beer and food together. The cost wasn’t too high that you wouldn’t go back, perfectly on par with what you’d expect for a casual night out. I recommend this bar to anyone visiting Austin!

Photo by Clare O'Brien

I could talk about my dog, Marvin (who I consider my son), all day long. Literally. I love being a (hypothetical) mom, but, I feel guilty leaving him home alone all day. So, I decided to find the best places in Houston to go to that he can tag along to with me.

We started the day getting some brunch at Barnaby's in River Oak. Overall, the food was fantastic, although, we had some small issues. I think there was a total of six spots in their parking lot, after all, it is Houston. The patio was pretty small for being such a "dog-friendly" restaurant, but since it was so shady it made up for it. Since the food was so good and there are multiple locations, I would definitely come back to Barnaby's and bring Marvin.

After hanging out at the TERRIBLY small, Discovery Dog Park, we had some lunch at Good Dog in the Heights. I can't say enough about how amazing this place is! The people were so nice and seemed genuinely happy to be serving us. When we walked in, they immediately gave Marvin his own personal water bowl, which is super rare for Houston. They had games available like Corn Hole and Jenga, on their shady patio (which has a nice sized fan too). It's a very cute concept to eat hot dogs on picnic tables like you're at a B-B-Q, but with topping that you wouldn't normally expect.

For dinner, we went to Onion Creek, just down the street from Good Dog, and I loved their menu! They had a good range of appetizers and everything came out in a timely manner. They had a great big patio and tons of shade and fans! With Marvin being a black lab, I'm always concerned about the amount of shade for him. We went there to watch the Astros game and I don't think there was a bad view for anyone. They also had very clean bathrooms which is hard to find when you're doing casual dining.

We rapped things up at Nett Bar in Washington Ave area. It had decent shading, but the environment was so fun I didn't mind the fact that I was sweating buckets. They had a ping pong table, Corn Hole, Connect 4, and a bunch of other games. Parking was easy which is always a plus.

Overall, Marvin and I had a great day exploring Houston, eating a bunch of food (because of course I shared with him), meeting new people and going to new places. It's hard to find dog-friendly places that are truly dog-friendly, so, I am glad I found: Barnaby's, Good Dog, Onion Creek, and Nett Bar, for the next time I want to spend a day with my dog... which will probably be tomorrow.

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