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Editor’s note: We get it. It can be difficult to keep up with the fast pace of Austin’s restaurant and bar scene. We have you covered with our regular roundup of essential food news.

Openings

More Amy’s Ice Creams mean more chances at seeing the best rotating flavors, and now Round Rock gets to join in on the fun. A new location is planned for Round Rock in 2023 (proposed at 2120 B Mays Street), aiming for an April opening. It will be the first in the area, and the farthest north since the addition of the Cedar Park location. The Austin-based chain also has locations in Houston and San Antonio, and even pulls off nationwide shipping.

SXSE Food Co. (pronounced “sexy”) was Austin’s Laotian food destination at 4th Tap Brewing Cooperative until its host closed in July. Now the food truck is operating a new residency at Vacancy Brewing in South Austin. Chef Bob Somsith is keeping up his reservation-only chef’s table, offering off-menu dishes paired with beers by Vacancy. SXSE Food Co. is open Monday, Thursday, and Friday from 4 pm to 10 pm; Saturday 12 pm to 10 pm, and Sunday 12 pm to 7 pm.

Other news and notes

Just as Austin is not like all of Texas, a single barrel whiskey is not like every batch of that product — at least, theoretically. Test your taste buds at Jack Allen’s Kitchen, which maintains an extensive collection of single barrel selections, and recently became the first Central Texas restaurant to carry Still Austin’s new Single Barrel Bourbon. Partners in the Still Austin program sample and select their own barrels, so this is, literally, a unique experience.

Hispanic Heritage Month will be here on September 15, and like many Hispanic-owned businesses in Austin, The Salty is ready to represent. The donut shop already offers a horchata donut as part of the regular menu (topped with toasted cinnamon-meringue), but it’s adding two special items in all its locations. The flan pastelito is not a donut, but a puff pastry filled with flan custard, and the Cold Brew con Leche is, well … two great things in a cup.

Also celebrating Latinx Heritage Month — the version Yelp aligns with — the local ratings website picked a Latinx-owned “Ones to Watch” list, including Austin’s Stay While Coffee. The business only has eight reviews, but they all offer a glowing five stars. Reviewers mention alternative milks (and cereal milk!), the cuteness of the truly tiny store, and its affiliation with the Little Gay Shop, where it is located.

College football fans coming in from the west should consider a pit stop at Meridian 98, part of Sonesta Bee Cave. Anyone who visits wearing burnt orange on any game day during the regular season will receive a free Horns Up Margarita. Enjoy the drink on the patio, and then head out to the game. The rooftop lounge focuses on seasonal dishes with local ingredients sourced from Texas farms and fishermen.

The Muny Conservancy protects the nearly century-old Lions Municipal Golf Course, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places for its history as the first desegregated public golf course in the South. A fundraising tournament and party on September 9 makes use of the green space for a four-player scramble followed by a barbecue, a silent auction, and live music by Jonathan Tyler. For more information on schedules and tickets, visit themunyconservancy.com.

Photo by Adam Graser

Legendary Texas battleship casts off for much-needed repair

Anchors Aweigh!

The most iconic water-borne symbol of World War I and World War II in Texas moved on August 31 from its home at the San Jacinto Battleground Site for much-needed restoration.

Battleship Texas left its current home to Galveston’s Gulf Copper & Manufacturing Corporation facilities for repairs to its hull. Fans and history buffs assembled as early as 5:30 am to watch the ship disconnect, swing, and attach to its tug craft.

Anticipating national curiosity, the Battleship Texas Foundation had set up livestreaming via the official Facebook page or YouTube channel. Those interested can review hourly status and updates here.

For years, the legendary dreadnought, which was built in 1910, has been carefully addressed. Tackling the massive amount of water leaking into the ship, companies BTF, Resolve, and Valkor worked for six months to drastically reduce the leak rate from 2,000 gallons per minute to under 20 gallons per minute, making the ship significantly safer to tow.

Notably, the Battleship Texas Foundation hand-picked the Gulf Copper shipyard in Galveston specifically due to the company’s recent acquisition of a floating drydock that is capable of lifting the juggernaut battleship out of the water, according to foundation press materials.

Currently, the oldest battleship in existence that witnessed both WWI and WWII is owned by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. In 2019, the state legislature appropriated $35 million to fund the ship’s hull repair.

A symbol of America's military might, Battleship Texas was commissioned in 1914 and at the time, was (somewhat fittingly, given the name) considered the most powerful weapon in the world. The warship is credited with introducing and innovating gunnery, aviation, and radar.

In 1948, Battleship Texas was decommissioned and made a permanent museum, appropriately on April 21, Texas Independence Day.

Photo courtesy of Magnolia

7 spectacular surprises inside Chip and Joanna Gaines' new Fixer Upper castle in Waco

Royal revelation

“Are you ready to see your fixer upper?” the enthusiastic tour guide asked, channeling Chip and Joanna Gaines and their famous “big reveal” line from TV’s Fixer Upper. This time, it wasn't the home owners waiting outside a first glimpse at their home makeover; it was a small group of tourists gathered on the porch, ready to step inside the Gaineses’ most ambitious renovation project yet — a century-old castle in Waco.

For the first time ever, Texas’ king and queen of renovation have unlocked the doors and let the public into one of their famed fixer-uppers before it’s featured on their Magnolia Network show.

Known as the historic Cottonland Castle, this three-story, 6,700-square-foot residence was started in 1890 and finished in 1913. The Gaineses purchased the dilapidated structure in 2019 and designed and executed a regal flip that will be featured on an eight-episode special called Fixer Upper: Welcome Home – The Castle, beginning October 14.

They plan to sell it in the fall. But before a home sale comes an open house, and for three months only — through October 29 — the castle is open six days a week for guided tours.

Hour-long castle expeditions take visitors through every room, nook, and cranny — from turret to toilettes. Knowledgeable guides dispense history, impart design information, and reveal behind-the-scenes stories from Chip and Jo that may or may not make it on TV.

For Fixer Upper fans, Magnolia maniacs, and Gaines gangs, it's worth a drive up I-35 to Waco to experience the castle transformation in real life before it hits the small screen. A tour offers the very rare chance to walk through the door (in this case, a 10-foot-tall, 400-pound, solid-oak door) into the world of a Chip-and-Jo reno.

Without revealing too much, here are seven fun surprises you’ll find behind the castle walls.

1. History meets homey. A castle museum, this is not.

“Chip and Joanna’s vision was that they really wanted to honor it with historical pieces but also make it more practical for the modern family that’s going to live here in the future,” guide Megan Shuler said at the beginning of the tour.

While many original features — including seven fireplaces — were restored, the castle has been fixed up as a home for the future, not a shrine to the past. One-of-a-kind and collected antiques (such as the kingly dining room table from Round Top, Texas) blend with pieces from the Gaineses’ own Magnolia Home collection. A 17-page “Castle Sourcebook” lists design elements and products and where to buy them. And in the ultimate modern touch — a branding tie-in — a forthcoming “Colors of the Castle” paint collection will be available through Magnolia this fall.

2. Sweet nods to the castle’s past. Posted on the wall in the foyer is a poem written by Alfred Abeel, the owner who completed construction in 1913. It talks of making the castle “‘home sweet home’ all seasons of the year.”

On the center of the dining room fireplace mantel is Abeel’s family crest, along with the phrase (in Latin), “God’s providence saves me.” Next to it, children’s heights are recorded from the 1930s to the early 2000s, the last time a family lived here.

3. A cozy nook in the turret. The original design was modeled after a small castle on the Rhine River in Germany, and there is one tower turret. A space historically used (in “real” castles) for military defense has, here, been turned into one of the coziest corners of the house. Tucked into a corner next to the winding staircase, two comfy chairs sit under an antique-y light fixture from Austria. It's the perfect place to curl up with a book from the library upstairs.

4. Rooms with storylines. “One of the challenges Chip and Joanna had when they bought the castle was, there was no one, really, they were designing it for,” Shuler explained. “So they would create storylines for each room to help tell their story.”

Two of the four bedrooms, for example, are the “boy’s bedroom,” and “girl’s bedroom.” The storylines are that the future homeowner’s son would come back from college and stay in his childhood bedroom, and that the future homeowner’s granddaughters would stay in the room while hanging out at the grandparents’ house.

The boy’s room contains more masculine furnishings and decor, including a watercolor portrait of Roy Lane, the famous architect who helped complete the castle. The girl’s room is painted in “Rose Pink,” a color named after Joanna’s grandmother.

5. Bodacious bathrooms. There are three-and-a-half “throne rooms” in the castle, and they’re some of the prettiest spaces, mixing metals, woods, and tiles; even original radiators look like works of art. One of the most spectacular rooms in the house, in fact, is a grand, gleaming bathroom — which (tease!) will be fully revealed on the show.

6. Party in the basement. “Gathering spaces” are a hallmark of Chip and Jo’s homes, and in the castle, they take place in the dungeon — er, basement. A “card room” for poker games or family game nights sits next to the family room, which houses the only TV in the castle. The guest bedroom’s also in the basement, along with a laundry room and a former wine cellar now left “blank” for the new owners to reimagine.

7. Behind-the-scenes tales and tidbits. Fixer Upper devotees will devour the charming and quirky tidbits about the Gaineses shared throughout the tour. There are a few design elements and furnishings originally meant for their own home, including an item banished to the castle by their daughters. There’s a fun story about what Chip did when they found bones — yes, bones — in the basement. And, the prime selfie spot for Fixer Upper fans is a large mirror that, the tour guides say, Joanna used to touch up her makeup during the filming of the show.

Castle tour tickets, $50, are available through the website, with 20 percent of proceeds benefiting The Cove nonprofit organization. (Note that the home does not have an elevator and requires guests’ ability to access three staircases.)

Tips for a Magnolia pilgrimage in Waco:
Shop: No castle jaunt would be complete without a stop at the Magnolia Silos complex. A new 8:15 am tour, offered Monday through Saturday, takes visitors behind the scenes and on the roof before the crowds (and the heat) arrive. Hint: August is a “slower” month at the Silos, and Tuesday through Thursday are less crowded. Tour tickets are $25 and come with a free coffee from Magnolia Press.

Eat: Chip and Joanna’s Magnolia Table cafe stays busy all day, every day. If you don’t have time to wait for a table, visit the takeaway market next door. Grab to-go items like pimiento cheese and crackers, a butter flight, banana pudding, and chicken salad sandwiches, and enjoy them on a table outside (if it's not too hot).

Stay: Availability at Magnolia’s four vacation rentals can be hard to come by, but watch the website for nights to pop open. Make it a girls’ getaway with a stay at the grand Hillcrest Estate (which sleeps 12), or go solo and book the darling Hillcrest Cottage, the Gaineses’ newest and smallest lodging, which opened in fall 2021. A forthcoming Magnolia boutique hotel, in the historic Grand Karem Shrine building downtown, is slated to open in 2024.

The castle will be on tour only through the end of October, before it's featured on a special season of Fixer Upper - Wecome Home.

Photo courtesy of Magnolia
The castle will be on tour only through the end of October, before it's featured on a special season of Fixer Upper - Wecome Home.
Photo by Koby Brown Photography/Galveston Historical Foundation

Step back in time inside 9 grand and historic Galveston homes on popular tour

living history

Half the fun of a visit to Galveston (the other half being the beach, of course) is admiring all the grand and glorious turn-of-the-century homes in historic neighborhoods throughout the island. A popular annual tour takes architecture and design lovers inside several significant properties once a year, and it's coming up.

The Galveston Historic Homes Tour, which returns for its 48th year, kicks off May 7 and 8, with an encore weekend May 14 and 15.

In addition to the self-guided tour of these private homes, there are a host of other events, including happy hours and walking tours, and Plein Air Southwest, a competition, show, and sale featuring more than 40 artists.

The home tour features nine historic private residences, dating between 1866 and 1931. Featuring a range of architectural styles, these homes showcase the beauty of life on the island, and offer a glimpse at their owner's approach to renovation and preservation.

Among them is the blue-shuttered Oscar and Mary Walker House, built in 1896. Its double galleries and side hall plan are typical of homes of the period. The Stubbs-Garrigan Bungalow, located on Avenue P and built in 1922 for cotton clerk Sidney Stubbs, sports a lovely inset porch. The Dr. Albert and Willie Dean Singleton House on Broadway was designed by Houston architect Cameron Fairchild, one of several he designed for Galveston's elite.

A full list of all the homes on tour is here.

Tours run 10 am to 6 pm on May 7, 8, 14 and 15. Tickets are $40 and are available online or day-of at any of the tour homes.

Meanwhile, tickets and reservations for special events, such as the History On Tap dinner at 1838 Menard House, or any of the walking tours, must be purchased separately.

All of the events offer experiences to walk in the footsteps of Galveston's storied past, and should prove fun for all ages.

A historic home on Broadway.

Photo by Koby Brown Photography/Galveston Historical Foundation
A historic home on Broadway.
Courtesy of H-E-B

H-E-B's new brand of green products will benefit Texas Parks & Wildlife

H-E-Being Green

In its ongoing mission to take care of Texans, H-E-B has announced a new retail initiative that will support that commitment for generations to come.

Last year, the company revealed products from Field & Future by H-E-B, a new environmentally minded line of household, personal care, and baby products designed to be clean and green. Now, the retailer is using its new brand to benefit longtime partner, Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation (TPWF), by supporting their efforts to help conserve and protect Texas.

“Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation is excited about our new partnership with H-E-B. This Texas company will donate a portion of all sales proceeds from its Field & Future line of sustainable products to support our efforts to conserve the state’s wildlife, habitat and natural resources,” TPWF Chairman Mike Greene tells CultureMap.

The retailer and the wildlife foundation are longtime partners, and this new initiative will aid coastal conservation efforts, as well as Black Bear restoration in West Texas and the establishment of the state’s newest park, Palo Pinto Mountains, which opens in North Texas next year.

“H-E-B is an iconic Texas company, and this new partnership with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, our official non-profit partner, is incredibly exciting,” said TPWF Executive Director Carter Smith in an April 5 release. “It’s fitting that the Field & Future line of products will benefit conservation projects across Texas, and we’re deeply grateful for this new partnership.”

There are nearly 100 Field & Future by H-E-B items on shelves across Texas already. Products range from dish soap to bath tissue; baby diapers; and trash bags, which are made from 65 percent post-consumer recycled plastic from H-E-B facilities.

The line features the How2Recycle label, which is found on more than 1,700 other H-E-B branded items. The grocery chain joined the How2Recycle program last year, placing clear and easy-to-read labels on products so customers can know if and how to recycle product packaging.

“We know H-E-B and our customers have a shared commitment in protecting the land, water, and air of Texas for generations to come,” said Winell Herron, H-E-B Group Vice President of Public Affairs, Diversity and Environmental Affairs in the release.

Since 2012, H-E-B has contributed more than $20 million to over 500 environmental organizations in land and water conservation, habitat and coastal preservation, and community cleanups. This includes giving more than $2 million in grants to organizations such as Keep Texas Beautiful, Texas Conservation Fund, and the Nature Conservancy in Texas.

Texas icon named among 10 most beautiful landmarks in the U.S.

historic beauty

In news that can definitely be categorized under the “mission accomplished” heading, The Alamo, perhaps the Lone Star State’s most recognizable icon, has been named one of the most beautiful landmarks in the country.

A new study from travel site ParkSleepFly ranks The Alamo, San Antonio’s cherished historical site and the inspiration for the city’s nickname, No. 10 on its list of the Most Beautiful Landmarks in the U.S.

In order to determine its landmark list, ParkSleepFly analyzed Tripadvisor reviews of famous landmarks, nailing down reviews using the words “beautiful,” “pretty,” “picturesque,” and “stunning” to reveal which landmarks travelers consider the most attractive.

The Alamo scored 1,703 “beauty reviews.”

Known as the “Shrine of Texas Liberty,” San Antonio’s most recognizable landmark was the site of the crucial 1836 Battle of The Alamo during the Texas Revolution, a fight that cost hundreds of lives, including that of U.S. frontiersman and politician Davy Crockett, and ushered in the defining Battle of San Jacinto and eventually the establishment of the Republic of Texas.

For Texans, The Alamo remains a cultural icon, historic hallmark, and the gold standard of the Lone Star State’s connection to its tumultuous past.

Here are ParkSleepFly’s 10 Most Beautiful Landmarks in the U.S.:

  1. Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco. Beauty score: 3,163.
  2. Biltmore Estate, Asheville, North Carolina. Beauty score: 3,042.
  3. Empire State Building, New York City. Beauty score: 3,023.
  4. National September 11 Memorial and Museum, New York City. Beauty score: 2,672.
  5. Alcatraz Island, San Francisco. Beauty score: 2,497.
  6. Statue of Liberty, New York City. Beauty score: 2,437.
  7. Gateway Arch, St. Louis. Beauty score: 1,962.
  8. St. Louis Cathedral, New Orleans. Beauty score: 1,769.
  9. Mount Rushmore, Keystone, South Dakota. Beauty score: 1,756.
  10. The Alamo, San Antonio. Beauty score: 1,703.

San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge also lands at No. 1 on ParkSleepFly’s list of the Most Beautiful Landmarks in the World, followed by Biltmore Estate at No. 7, the Empire State Building at No. 10, and the Statue of Liberty at No. 21. No other U.S. landmarks made the cut on the global list.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Affluent Austin suburb boasts one of the biggest holiday budgets, plus more top stories

Hot Headlines

Editor’s note: It’s that time again — time to check in with our top stories. Here are five articles that captured our collective attention over the past seven days.

1. Affluent Austin suburb cashes in with one of the biggest holiday budgets in the U.S. Cedar Park boasts a jolly big holiday budget of $2,855 per person this year — the 14th highest in the U.S.


2. Acclaimed Hill Country winery pours onto list of the world's 100 best for 2022. The celebrated vineyard near Fredericksburg just uncorked a coveted spot on an exclusive list.

3. Texas billionaire Tilman Fertitta acquires award-winning California resort. The Billion Dollar Buyer scooped up one of only six hotels in the U.S. with the Forbes Triple Five-Star rating.

4. 100-plus comedians set to make Austin laugh in Moontower's 2023 festival lineup. Trevor Noah is one of Moontower's exciting 2023 headliners.

5. Renovated UT Austin museum set to reopen in 2023 with exciting new exhibits. The Texas Memorial Museum will reopen in fall 2023 with new exhibits.

New self-guided tour showcases iconic Fort Worth Stockyards' many Hollywood ties

Tinseltown in Cowtown

A new self-guided tour showcasing the Fort Worth Stockyards’ many star-studded appearances in cinema throughout the years recently debuted in time for the 16th annual Lone Star Film Festival, which took place earlier this month in the Stockyards for the first time.

Called Stars of the Stockyards, the eight-stop, go-at-your-own pace walking tour guides folks to famous film sites where celebrities have stepped foot in front of Hollywood cameras. Visitors to the Stockyards can access the PDF tour map on their smart phones via QR codes (no app required) posted throughout the district, namely at hotels and tour kiosks.

"The Stockyards is a historic and celebrated destination for many reasons, but one that may be lesser known is its popularity as a filming location for some of our favorite movies and TV series," said Ethan Cartwright, VP of marketing for Stockyards Heritage Development Co.

The tour and corresponding QR codes are a permanent addition to the district, he said.

Stops on the map include the iconic White Elephant Saloon, a hotbed for Hollywood performances including several by legendary actor and martial artist Chuck Norris in the longtime TV series, Walker, Texas Ranger when the watering hole was portrayed as the fictional CD Bar. The White Elephant was also graced by country music superstar Tim McGraw and Academy Award-winning actor Billy Bob Thornton for their appearances in Paramount Plus’ hit series 1883.

Also in 1883 and featured on the tour is Hookers Grill, hidden in the less flashy West side of Exchange Ave. The burger shack transformed into a gambling den in the show called The Texas House of Liquor & Sport. It’s the only building in the Stockyards that preserved the façade constructed by 1883’s production team. During operating hours, customers can order at the outdoor burger window and dine at patio tables within the two-story structure.

Cowtown Coliseum is marked on the map for its appearances in the 1983 film Tough Enough, where actor Dennis Quaid played an amateur boxer. It’s also the home of the final rodeo scene in the 1992 movie Pure Country starring country music legend George Strait.

Billy Bob’s Texas, the Stockyards Hotel, and even unassuming historic cattle pens also make the list on the tour, along with notations for the Texas Trail of Fame, which features more than 240 bronze markers honoring contributors for preserving and perpetuating the Western way of life.

Veteran actors Sam Elliot and Robert Duvall, both stars in the megahit TV series Yellowstone, are among the most recent Texas Trail of Fame inductees.

For more information and to get started on the tour, go here.

Favorite Austin burger chain joins local music nonprofit for $50,000 grant campaign

Musical Tastes

In Austin, the bell of the ball is the rockstar. Black Fret, a nonprofit that creates gigs and organizes funding for local musicians, makes sure these rock stars get their spotlight at the annual Black Fret Ball, now in its ninth year, and this time with some unexpected help from a burger bar.

Staff at Hopdoddy Burger Bar (a local favorite for lovers of toppings) got to nominate their favorite artists from across the country for a total of $50,000 in grants, an initiative called “Tuned In.” The restaurant asked guests to vote on favorites and landed on a group of nine final artists, including one from Austin.

Bonnie Whitmore, an Austinite, a singer, and a bassist, makes nostalgic country and Americana with bold, feminist themes. Although her candid tone matches that of the pop stars taking over the industry from their bedrooms, she’s been an active member of the music industry for more than 20 years.

Other Texas musicians made the final nine: Gold Fighter, from Dallas, leans back into the good old days of pop punk; Piñata Protest, from San Antonio, also plays pop punk while moving the needle more into Tejano traditions; and Will Van Horn, from Houston, makes the pedal steel languidly cool and a little psychedelic. (Listeners may recognize Van Horn’s work in records by the unique and popular Houston trio Khruangbin.)

The Black Fret Ball is returning for its first in-person year since 2019, on Saturday, December 3 at ACL Live at the Moody Theater. The fundraiser will distribute grants totaling $250,000 to 20 local artists, with performances from all but two. The 2022 class of musicians includes Whitmore, rap duo Blackillac, blues guitarist Buffalo Nichols, R&B singer Mélat, and one of Austin’s most frequently booked and buzzed about bands, Quentin and the Past Lives.

Black Fret members ($750 annually) are invited to join the ball at 6 pm. See the local lineup at hopdoddy.com.