When I told my Yankee friends in New York that I was heading to Marfa, Texas, I received bewildered looks. "Why?" was the question most charged upon me. The short story has to do with a country-rock band, a tour with a missing headliner, and a three-hour show at a roadhouse in the middle of nowhere that was one of the best gigs of my life. Most of the time, it's best to leave the scene of an eventful location preserved in memory, but as years passed, and I wondered about this strange part of Texas that I visited, and discovered Marfa.
Marfa is next to nowhere, which is not an easy place to visit. My wife and I drove from Austin, crossing through hill country, and flat and unpopulated stretches of highway I previously believed only existed on Paramount's back lots. Marfa is also a strange mix of cultures. This dusty town was descended upon by Donald Judd in the 70s; he purchased an abandoned military base, and made it a showcase for his sculptor-superstar pals. Now called the Chinati Foundation, one can take guided tours, where you're as likely to see a Dan Flavin installation as you are a jackrabbit or baby elk.
Because of this constant feed of creative people, Marfa seems to be a desert oasis of culture and food. We had a great lunch at a weekend-only spot called the Austin Street Cafe. Run by a couple of caterer-artists, this home-turned-eatery was recommended by our tour guide, who was also lunching there. We shared both breakfast and lunch with amazing waffles, a great salad, and homemade rugelach to top it off.
After more art tours, local galleries, and shade-relishing sit-downs, we took an early reservation at the Blue Javelina, probably one of the pricier watering holes in town. I started with the special, a tomatillo salad. This course really punctuated this restaurant's amazing local slant: great ingredients (many homegrown), tossed with avocado, bacon and feta, giving much credit to both sides of this border-town's heritage. Mrs. LBT tried a Caesar salad that featured an enormous fried corn bread 'crouton', which might have been the best bread I had the whole trip. We shared the Steak Frites Americain (pictured above), because When in Texas, Eat the Meat.
For dessert, we were offered a quatro leches cake, one of my favorite treats. The quatro turned out to be the dark caramel sauce, which Mrs. LBT found to be a tad bitter, though I relished it for that same reason.
The one spot we missed was a coffee shop called The Brown Recluse, which came recommended. Next time we find ourselves wandering in west Texas, I hope to try it. Like Marfa itself, the experience of being there feels like a summer daydream. I plan to nap there again.
1300 W. San Antonio Street
Marfa, TX 79843
Austin Street Cafe
405 North Austin St
Marfa, TX 79843-0387