Granbury is classic Texas. A big-bellied sky. Winding farm roads. Messes of Mesquite. In that order. But I guess you could say the city is also a little Victorian – just a bit. It’s hard to tell which part. Maybe downtown. Maybe a little beyond.You see, long ago, a dose of charm was sown throughout the city. The homes – most asymmetrical, neatly trimmed, and pastel-hued – were worn by rain. The buildings – bright and bustling in the late 1800s – were faded by the sun. As time passed by, the perennial old-world appeal sprouted and the town grew ripe with age.
Now Granbury, weighing a population just short of 10,000, is a rich and plump weekend escape where we can get a taste of life post-19th century. So I invite you to come explore the town with me today. Are you all set? Great. Let’s head out.
Where to Eat?
Pearl Street Station
A Sinclair gas station is hard to miss – deep green accents, tacky red typography, and a cereal-box style dinosaur logo as the ever-cheery mascot. In Granbury, the Sinclair gas station is a little different. A little off.Where the cars should be parked, there are tables – lots of them – picnic style. Baskets of flowers hang like tiny pearl beads from the ceiling, separating the rigid columns of fans. And the sign from the convenience store’s window is a caution sign, not an advertisement for dollar soda or dollar hot dogs. “Warning: Our food is addictive,” it reads.
Slowly, the pieces of the puzzle fall into place, and we realize Pearl Street Station is not a gas station at all. Though at first glance (or even third), it could easily pass for one. No, Pearl Street Station is an eatery, serving up authentic cajun cooking and BBQ blends.
Inside, the restaurant appears to be a man cave. Model airplanes. Model trucks. The television is tuned to the sports channel. But with delicate barn doors backing the walls and meals served in floral-glossed plates, the Pearl Street Station experience eventually hits the balance of neutral. We order two fillets of blackened catfish. One for you. One for me. The catfish comes with a spiced red-sauce and jalapeno-cheddar buns. As a side, we get pinto beans and potato salad.The beans are self-serve, so we head over to a metal tin and fill up the cup. Sopping in a lukewarm liquid, the pinto, lightly-spiced and sweet, has a presence of its own – a mixed marriage of lunchtime appetizer and dessert.
The catfish comes out shortly. Quickly, Pearl Street Station proves it knows a thing or two about what comes first in Cajun cooking: spice. We smear the fire-paste sauce onto the fish. Soon, the seasoning and the heat ignite into a rage of flavour. The potato salad is the cool-down. More mashed than mixed, it is well paired with the soft and ever-so-slightly-doughy buns.
Ketzler’s Schnitzel Haus & Biergarten
The food served at Pearl Street Station is light and well-proportioned. It’s not too filling so we have time for one more stop – Ketzler’s Schnitzel Haus & Biergarten. In a state where Tex-Mex dominates, German food is a struggling niche market. But in Granbury, Ketzler’s is all the buzz.Perhaps, it is the warm atmosphere of Ketzler’s that induces the hype – wooden beams and wooden chairs, stone walls sporting two variations of the same German countryscape, and flower boxes spilling over with colour. The decor is reminiscent of a fairy-tale godmother’s home.Perhaps, it is the staff – upbeat and amiable. The service at Ketzler’s is top-notch. The word “subpar” isn’t in Ketzler’s dictionary and that extends to the food. The dishes, here, are simple, and when we order the Chicken Schnitzel, it becomes obvious. Schnitzel. Salad. Mashed potatoes. Jäger Sauce. Simplicity at its prime.
The edges of the meat are so tender, they are flaky. As you work inwards, the meat runs tougher, but still soft and juicy. You pour the Jäger Sauce right on the center, and notice one thing: Jäger, despite its French tilt, is magic with Schnitzel.
What to See?
After brunch, we go for a neighborhood drive. Victorian architecture is prominent in Granbury and every home is pleasantly hued, an anomaly in Texas. We see a champagne-pink house. Another with white-washed panels. A tea-green home.
The tea-green building should blend in with all the others on this street. It has the same two-story structure. The same ornate trimming. The same shouldering driveway. But something about this home makes us halt: it’s cute. The white-fence. The lamp post. The Texas flag. All of it. The home reminds you of a life-sized doll house. Curious, we park in the driveway. We amble up the porch and push the door open.
This is the Doll Museum in Granbury, an expanded private collection of over 3,000 dolls from across the decades. Dolls are tenderly lined and grouped on glass shelves and wooden cabinets and wall corners. No space is left behind.
There are six rooms on the first floor, all inundated by an army of dolls. The legion seems to look back at us with kind eyes as the tour-guide compassionately weaves the tale behind their journeys.
Many are original pieces from Madame Alexander, the business tycoon who threw the doll-market into its prime. Some are authentic rag-dolls. Others French paper-mache. And of course, collector’s Barbie Dolls are peppered throughout.Most of the dolls are in good-shape, fitted in their original clothing, without a dent or scratch. Some have suffered from battle and are kept tucked away behind glass. The dolls at the museum are well-cared for (there is even a Doll Hospital on the premises for the little ones).
The fashion of the dolls start the museum. The stories behind each model aggrandize the museum. But it is the staff – who know every doll like their own child and are willing to regale every tale like eager mothers – who make the museum. Watching the cradling care the elderly owners and volunteers have for the dolls and their history is eye-opening. After all, the Doll Museum is free, so it is solely their love that drives the museum’s opening each and every day of the week. When we’ve finished “oohing” and “ahhing” over the detail in the paint and drawing out every narrative from one of the guides, it is time to leave. As we step out the door, we realize, it is impossible to leave this museum or this building without a smile on our faces.
You glance at your watch. We’ve been indoors for well over an hour. Right now, the afternoon sun is at its peak – heavy rays piercing through clouded skies – the perfect weather to head to the beach.“A beach?” you ask, stifling a laugh. “Seriously, a beach? We’re in the middle of Texas.”
Lakeside beaches aren’t common in Texas, but with over 120 miles of shoreline from Granbury Lake, mounds of sand and lapping waves mimicking a coastline is a must in Granbury. Throw in a tiki hut and cabana along with a store for kayak rentals and paddle boating, and we are in a staycation-style paradise.Granbury City Beach is never crowded. There is always a countable number of people lying in the waterfront. Neon blankets and umbrellas are sporadic here. If we came early in the morning (I’m sorry, I slept in), right before seven, we’d be the Kings of this court, enjoying a magisterial solitude.
Where to Stay?
After soaking up the sun (and listening to Sheryl Crow in the process), it’s time for us to check into a hotel. Granbury isn’t short of accommodations – budget, midrange, upscale – the city offers every kind of stay imaginable.The Nutt House Hotel, a historic building sporting charm and character, is a popular option. Musty smells. Antique furniture. The Nutt House could transport us to the past. But with a few ghost stories lurking around its corridors, I’m picking another option for us tonight. If you are an active ghost-buster, I apologize. The idea of sharing time with spirits drives me nuts (pun intended).
Instead, we choose to spend the night just a few paces from the beach at the Hilton Garden Inn Granbury. This hotel offers lakeside views and also has a little boardwalk bowing out from the back-facade. We stroll along the wooden planks, past tall, wiry lantern-lit lamps, and lean against the rail, our eyes transfixed on the deep, blue water.It’s a pretty scene. One that we can even take in the morning as our room shows a similar stretch of water and a finger of trees and shrubbery.
Where to Shop?
The Granbury Historic Square is anchored by the Hood County Courthouse, a large imposing building fenced by shops and cafes. This region is the main indie shopping area in town: boutiques, private galleries, antique stores. The Square is a one-stop deck and a Texan favourite at that.
No trip to Granbury would be complete without a light-hearted jaunt around the ring. And although the Square is our final stop on this journey, we still have one new mission to accept for the day: find the perfect token of Granbury to bring back home. Ready?
We know when we’ve walked past 1890. The name in an elegant black plaque, the distinctly Mediterranean smell, and the crowds hoarding inside are enough to capture our attention. 1890 is a seasoning haven – vats of olive oil, balsamic vinegars, and spices live on the shelves of this store, an offshoot of the rustic high-end restaurant bearing the same name. Zahtar. Black Truffle Olive Oil. Bourbon Madagascar Vanilla Paste. 1890 is a friend to the term “exotic”. This store is the perfect place to prepare for any international recipe or simply a glass of mulled wine.
Your Private Collection
From the name alone, Your Private Collection sounds like a hobby shop. When I first visited, I expected marbles, magnets, and other baubles to be stocked up in the store. But just this once (ahem), I would be wrong.
Your Private Collection is an art gallery featuring a diverse range of artwork from local artists. Exquisite oil and acrylic paintings take up most of the wall-space. On the ground are a several sculptures lined together in a single column. But the real treat is Stacey Watkins’ art.
Watkins mostly focuses on molding trees in bare detail – the branches she creates extend in almost a perfect fractal design with one slight twist here and there, setting the piece into rugged beauty. The imperfections are what make Watkins’ art perfect. And as an added bonus, if we arrive at night (or simply ask for the lights to be turned off), Watkins’ art glows in the tar-paste darkness, illuminating the entire room and every piece in it.
Brazos Moon is the oddball store – funky clothes, kitschy jewelry, antique knick-knacks.This is the best place to find a gift for your family and friends.
You eye the keepsake boxes, the glass art, and clashing coloured pottery. Walking through Brazos Moon (I’m in love with the name, by the way) is an experience unto itself. We really have to look at everything, and with a little buildup and anticipation, we will, without a doubt, find something special within the heap.
Against the Grain
Against the Grain is not your typical art studio. In the world created by owner Andrea Taylor, you are the artist. Canvases are available. Paints and brushes are available. Just walk in and create a masterpiece (or in my case, attempt to) with the guidance of a local artist.
Granbury Opera House
We haven’t found anything yet (I’m sorry, I’m picky) and our feet are getting tired. So we head over to the Granbury Opera House and book tickets for the late-night show.The Opera House hosts a range of performances. In fact, Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat (one of my favourites) and Beauty and the Beast (I’m screaming of joy internally) are running later this year. But today, we’ll be seeing Walk Like A Man, a live tribute to Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.The exterior of the Granbury Opera House is very Grand Budapest Hotel – windows perfectly lined cookie-cutter style against a pale exterior, topped with an ornate trim. The interior is Gothic, complete with iron banisters that lead to the top seats. But we’ve gone for the front row, so let’s take the ramp down.The performance is energetic and youthful. The Granbury Theater manages to bring back the stamp of the 50s with a fresh modern twist. The old meets the new. Suddenly, we are taken aback.
This is what we’ve been looking for all along. Finding the perfect slice to bring back wasn’t a trinket or an item, it was the spirit of the city. Granbury is a vibrant town where traditional and progressive meet at the crossroads. And it is with that thought, the show closes and we head home.
Did you enjoy this guide to Granbury? Let me know in the comments below! As always, I would love to hear from you.
Disclaimer: Some of the activities and accommodations were provided by Visit Granbury, but as always, all thoughts and opinions are very much my own.