Local Treasures are Abundant in San Saba, Texas
I recently went in search of local treasures in a place called San Saba which gets its name from its proximity to the San Saba River. Located in the northern reaches of the Texas Hill Country, this Texas small town has much to offer. Rich in history, plentiful in wildlife & outdoor activity and having its share of beauty and charm, San Saba is a town that appeals to people of all walks of life.
I started my tour of the area by driving out to visit the famous Wedding Oak Tree which I heard about last year while attending a wine dinner featuring Wedding Oak Winery owned by Mike McHenry. Outside the town a short drive north on China Creek Road is where we found this humongous oak tree. Legend has it that this matrimonial oak was used by Indians who wanted to get married under her sprawling branches. Later settlers to the area followed the tradition and even today it is used as a wedding venue and a lovely spot for pictures under the wide-reaching branches. This mighty oak is impressive at almost 20 feet in diameter. Wedding Oak is listed among the historic Trees of Texas. Sadly, just before my trip to San Saba, this massive tree lost one of her biggest branches.
Close to the Wedding Oak on China Creek Road is another historic site. Beveridge Bridge, built in 1896, is one of a few pre-1940 suspension bridges in Texas. Although much of the original bridge has suffered damage over the years, it has been restored and some of the original bridge remains today. Because of this, it stands as a wonderful example of bridges constructed before the turn of the century. Beveridge Bridge is no longer open to traffic, but you can walk across the bridge and peer into the San Saba River below.
San Saba also lays claim to a second suspension bridge, Regency Bridge, which is a one-lane wood-surface suspension bridge built in 1939. The bridge spans 325 feet over the Colorado River located at the intersection of Mills County Road 433 and San Saba County Road 137 connecting Mills and San Saba counties. Technically the bridge is in the small town of Regency. The bridge was closed several years back for repairs but is once again open to traffic.
Outdoor enthusiasts will find several beautiful parks in the area. The San Saba River Nature Park offers visitors a beautiful place to fish, hike and bike. There is also a birding blind where you can sit and watch a large variety of birds up close. You can view the first waterworks in the area and listen to the soothing sound of the river as it meanders through the park. There is also Mill Pond Park, a park with a spring-fed lake, a small waterfall, a water wheel and beautiful landscaping. The 71-acre park now houses baseball fields, tennis courts, playground, beach volleyball and nature trails. Then there is Risien Park located along the banks of the San Saba River. This park offers guests camping and picnicking areas, a historic amphitheater and swimming pool and a pavilion which can be rented.
While out and about, be sure to stop and get snapshot of the picturesque San Saba Courthouse. San Saba is the county seat of San Saba County and the courthouse was built in 1857 when it also served as a school and meeting house. This beautiful example of a Texas Renaissance courthouse is currently being restored and updated, but it still makes a great place to get a picture.
San Saba is a hunter and fisherman’s paradise most of the year and they welcome deer hunters every fall with events geared toward them. They are known for their trophy deer in this area, so book a place early if you are going there to hunt.
If you are interested in food and wine, you will be well taken care of in that area too. San Saba has two wineries, both on Wallace Street (Highway 190) in the historic downtown and both have a nice selection of wines for sipping and for sale. I mentioned Wedding Oak Winery earlier and they were the first winery to open here in 2010. Mike had a passion to bring wine to small town Texas and this he has done very well. While I was in town, Mike poured me a glass of wine and took me on a tour of his facility. After walking past many bottles wearing their championship ribbons & medals, we went to see his very impressive barrel room with barrels stacked almost to the ceiling. His wines have been winning awards everywhere. The latest win was at the 15th annual Rodeo Uncorked! International Wine Competition, held Nov. 11 – 12, 2017, at NRG Center in Houston, Texas where they were recognized with three Class Champion, and two Double Gold medals, among nine wines that won medals. All Wedding Oak wines submitted to the competition are made using 100 percent Texas grown grapes. If you would like to buy Wedding Oak Wines, I suggest you join their Wine Club. You’re welcome! Wedding Oak Winery now has a second location at 100 Legacy Drive in Fredericksburg, TX, inside the Wildseed Farms. I would say the best time to visit this location is in the Spring when the wildflowers are in bloom. Sit on the patio and sip wine while gazing upon the flowers. This is Texas at its best!
The second winery in town is the Old Man Scary Cellars just down Wallace Street from Wedding Oak Winery. Both Old Man Scary Cellars and Rattlesnake Road Vineyards are owned by Dr. Gabe and Carrie Hisel. They found the way to drink great wine was to own their own vineyard so they now grow and make the best wine possible and share it with friends and family. As a way to check them out they are hosting their annual Second Sunday Valentines Brunch on Sunday, February 11th, 2018. Might want to go ahead and make those reservations now!
If it’s food you are looking for, look no further than Oliver and Co. also located on Wallace Street. This little bistro can cook up some amazing breakfast items like coffee drinks, smoothies, pastry & egg based dishes in addition to brilliant sandwiches & soups for lunch. Besides the Bistro, this family owned business also operates a retail shop with pecans, candies, gourmet coffees, an assortment of jam & jellies, olive oil, scented bath soap, and other local products. When first arriving in town, I stopped into this eatery for a nice afternoon latte. Who doesn’t need a pick-me-up midday? The coffee drink was so good, I knew I would be back for breakfast.
Dinner that night was at Diggs, a place we were told about located a few miles east of town. Diggs is what I would call pure local and down-home country food. Don’t expect fancy here, just good food! It’s the place where locals come for their weekend night out to get some wholesome, good country fare. We were told the Mesquite grilled steaks were a thing to try but I was looking for something a little lighter. So, I opted for the Monterey Chicken, a grilled chicken breast topped with jack cheese, diced tomatoes and red onion. There was also a rather large Chicken Fried Steak with mashed potatoes and white gravy. Not sure this gigantic chicken breast or steak and the huge sides of fried okra and mashed potatoes was lighter, but it sure was good.
It was time to head over to our hotel. I booked a night at the Dofflemyer Hotel located on High Street (Highway 16). Fact is, the hotel sits right above Oliver and Co. and you can walk through one to get to the other. This whole building was built in 1913 by W.C. Dofflemyer for San Saba National Bank. The first floor was the bank and the upstairs where the hotel is, was The San Saba Club, a gentlemen’s social club. This boutique Hill Country Inn is decorated in a “modern historic” style. While preserving some of the past by keeping part of the original building, they also relented to cozy creature comforts like the over-sized showers, double sink vanities, big screen TV and plush bedding and bath towels. There was even scented soap from the San Saba Soap Company. Even though our room sat at the busiest intersection of the town (Hwy 16 & Hwy 190), the sound proofing of the room was good and so traffic was barely noticeable. I had a great night’s rest. Besides the Dofflemyer, there are a couple of Bed & Breakfast options that looked very quaint as well as some chain motels.
Side note: When you book your reservation at Dofflemyer, they email you a phone number to call when you arrive. Call that number and they will give you your room number and a pass code to get inside. There is no registration desk or lobby.
Breakfast the next morning offered up several mouthwatering items on the Oliver and Co. menu. We ordered the Crustless Quiche with ham, turkey, bacon and cheddar cheese and the special of the day, Migas, with a side of home-made pico and chips. Both items were a tasty treat and hearty enough to keep us going until supper. Of course, we had excellent coffee again. They used the pour-over method which gave the drink an extra rich taste. We also got a slice of warm, fresh out-of-the-oven Pound Cake along with a cup of espresso. What a rare treat this buttery rich cake was. After being properly fueled up and caffeinated, we are ready to see the rest of the town.
So here is the part for you shoppers out there. The City of San Saba is the self-proclaimed “Pecan Capital of the World,” so there are pecans of all sizes; whole, large chopped and small chopped. There are various products all over the city made with pecans and pecan orchards all around the area. Some you can tour and find products in their shops. You will also notice while you are out at the parks all the pecan trees. If you like pecans, are a baker or know someone who is, you hit the jackpot here. If you don’t really care to shop for pecans or pecan products, well don’t worry, I’m getting to that.
Within easy walking distance from Oliver and Co. you will find some quaint shops for finding just about anything you need. JC Campbell & Co. Mercantile is an antique & gift shop. They have vendors who rent space with an everchanging inventory, so you never know what you will find here. But it looked to me like they covered everything.
One of my personal favorites was Madeleine & Me. This shop carried upscale gifts and house wares in a charming shabby chic kind of way. Offering seasonal and holiday decor as well as home products in a Texas country welcoming way, this shop is sure to please any shopaholic! You can even find toys and unique baby gifts for a bundle of joy in your life.
If you like buying special duds for the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo, then Harry’s Boots is your ideal spot to shop. Every cowboy, cowgirl and little wrangler will be outfitted in the latest western style. They even have gear to spruce up your horse and your stock for the show. Their boot selection is top notch and they carry the largest inventory of Stetson hats this girl has ever seen. So, if you want to look like the King of Cowboys at the rodeo or you are just a little western at heart, you should go to San Saba just to visit Harry’s.
Another specialty shop I recommend you stop into is the San Saba Olive Oil Company. This fun shop has a gazillion canisters of EVOO infused in every flavor imaginable for you to sample. Ever wondered what Hojiblanca infused olive oil tastes like? Try a swig and see. They also have infused Balsamic Vinegar too, so you can try some of those as well. Other items include flavored salts, BBQ sauce and olives. And you can get your beauty on with olive oil beauty products like soap, shampoo, lotions and gels.
Here are some of the treasures this travel writer and influencer took advantage while here. Now it’s your turn! Take a trip to this small Texas town and see what treasures you find!
Things to know before you go:
- Wear jeans and boots (or tennis shoes) – that way you will fit right in and can walk the parks, gravel roads and downtown in comfort.
- Check the town’s calendar before you make plans to go. There are a limited number of lodging options and if they have an event going on you want to make sure you get a place to stay.
- Prepare shopping lists for the holidays now and shop for unique gifts while in town.
- Slow down your internal clock just a bit. There is no hurrying here, no traffic jams or waiting in traffic.
- Stop and visit with folks while here. You just might learn something and make a new friend for life. In other words, put the electronic devices away and communicate the old-fashioned way, by talking face to face.