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A foodie’s guide to Dripping Springs

Addie Broyles

Why is Dripping Springs such a magnet for food and beverage businesses?

That’s the question I brought up earlier this summer during a brainstorming meeting for a newsroom-wide series of stories on the implications of growth in Central Texas that we’re running this month.

I didn’t know the answer, but last month, I headed to the once-small town west of Austin to try to find out why more than a dozen breweries, distilleries and wineries have set up shop in this northern part of Hays County, which was dry until nine years ago, not to mention an olive orchard, a cidery and a handful of unique restaurants, pizzerias and brewpubs.

I found out that even though residents are drawn to Dripping Springs — and dozens of other bedroom communities around Austin for that matter — for good schools, less traffic and better real estate deals, they don’t want to totally abandon (or, for those moving from outside the area, move too far from) the lifestyle that comes with living in Austin.

My story about the cultural boom in the suburbs ran in Sunday’s newspaper, but there were so many interesting food businesses in the area, especially Dripping Springs, that we couldn’t highlight them all in print.

So, here is a foodie’s guide to Dripping Springs, as well as some notable food businesses in other area bedroom communities and suburbs:

In addition to Mazama Coffee and Sacred Moon Herbs on Mercer Street, you can’t visit Dripping Springs without checking out Dudley’s Wine Bar and Tap Room and The Barber Shop. You can learn about the latter in this video by Kelly West, but with live music almost every night they are open and a good selection of craft beer and wine, Dudley’s offers an equally nice (and air conditioned) experience.

Although local favorite, Cafe 131, closed this summer, Dripping Springs is home to a number of not-your-average places to eat, including the bakery/plant nursery/coffee shop Rolling in Thyme & Dough and the upscale Creek Road Cafe, which opened in 2008. Smoke’n Hops is a nanobrewery and barbecue restaurant that recently opened east of town, and a little farther down U.S. 290, you’ll find Pieous, a wood-fired pizzeria with New York-quality pastrami. Turn north on Fitzhugh Road and you’ll find another artisan pizzeria: Stanley’s Farmhouse Pizza. Locals are excited to see what Miss Kitty’s Saloon, a restaurant opening on the west end of Mercer Street this fall, will bring. UPDATE: @getoutgokayak says that The Pizza Cave is the best pizza in Austin.

Wineries Solaro Estate, Bell Springs and Westcave Cellars recently joined forces to create the Dripping Wine Trail.

Also in the outskirts of Dripping Springs are San Luis Spirits, which makes Dripping Springs Vodka, and breweries Jester King, Thirsty Planet and Twisted X, which relocated from Cedar Park. Treaty Oak is about to open a new distillery in the area. Argus Cidery, one of the state’s first cider-makers, won a $10,000 Austin Food & Wine Alliance grant to plant a test apple orchard on its property in the area.

Open since 1979, New Canaan Farms was one of the first artisan food businesses in the area. Celtic Seafare, a smoked salmon company that sells at several Austin farmers’ markets, just opened a by-appointment tasting room in Dripping Springs, and Texas Hill Country Olive Co. has been drawing visitors from all over the state to taste their cold-pressed oils made from organic olives grown on site.

Richard’s Rainwater might be known to outsiders for its bottled water, but to locals, owner Richard Heinichen is the guy to go to if you want to set up a rainwater collection system at your house.

The local Empty Bowl Project fundraiser is now in its 16th year, and sixth annual Dripping with Taste will take place Sept. 14 at the new Dripping Springs Ranch Park.

Bastrop Brewhouse has been a welcome addition to Bastrop, which also has Bastrop Producer’s Market. Galaxy Movie House and Eatery and Noble Sandwiches are culinary gems on RM 620 North, and on RM 620 South, near Bee Cave and Lakeway, you’ll find a Whole Foods Market, Silver Whisk Cooking School and Faraday’s Kitchen Store, and restaurants like The League Kitchen and Tavern, Tony C’s, Artisan Bistro and Baguette et Chocolat.

In Round Rock, Flix Brewhouse,The Brass Tap and Dog House Drinkery Dog Park have opened in recent years, and Rogness Brewing Co. and Hanovers Draught Haus keep Pflugerville craft beer lovers happy. Georgetown’s Monument Market and Beer Garden are recent evolutions to the popular Monument Cafe.

Cedar Park’s newest sushi bar, Soto, is drawing patrons from all over the Austin area, and its popular Moonie’s Burger House now has restaurants in Pflugerville and North Austin.

In Kyle, Bordeaux’s has done well enough for the owners to open another location near Dripping Springs. San Marcos has a thriving food truck scene, as well as a funky brewpub called the Root Cellar.

What are your favorite culinary (and beer/wine/spirits) gems in the outskirts of Austin?