The first thing you'll likely notice upon entering the tidy town of Gonzales is that nearly all of the town's businesses, even the town's dueling newspapers, feature a simple line drawing of a cannon on their front doors. It's a reference to the physical cannon that sparked the first military engagement of the Texas Revolution at the Battle of Gonzales in 1835, a cannon which became emblematic of the young Texas Republic's desire for independence from Mexico. These days, that cannon is most often found on the Come and Take It battle flags that still flap defiantly across the state, as well as in advertisements for local laundromats like the Come and Wash It.
At the 110-year-old Templin Saloon on Saint Paul St., just off downtown Gonzales's main square, you won't find a cannon etched on the front windows, however. Instead, elegant gold lettering reads, simply, 'St. Paul Pizzeria.' Behind the glass, you may—as my fiancé and I recently did—watch with awe as two men deftly toss fresh pizza dough into the air, catching and spinning it with practiced East Coast ease. You expect to see cannons everywhere in this small Hill Country town; you do not expect hand-tossed pies.
The pizza served from the small kitchen at St. Paul Pizzeria would be notable enough for this reason alone, but what makes it worth the drive from Houston is the fact that it's shockingly delicious—particularly the Texas Revolution, topped with spicy jalapeño sausage from nearby Kreuz Market in Luling and fresh mozzarella cheese that's shredded to order. The crust crunches and tugs with yeasty aplomb, while a spicy marinara sauce reminds you that this is still Texas, despite the pizza's Eastern Seaboard street cred.
As with many elements of life in small-town Texas, actually getting your pizza from St. Paul takes time, so relax and settle in for a while over a few ice-cold Shiners (the brewery itself is only a short drive down Highway 90) or $2 Bud Lights. This is where the Templin Saloon—the larger bar which houses the small pizzeria—comes in handy. The large, century-old mahogany bar that looms over the space is host to decades' worth of accumulated memorabilia, Come and Take It trinkets among the jumble of faded high school sports pennants and stacks of worn-out 8-tracks, and can easily capture your attention as much as the musicians the saloon hosts on Friday and Saturday nights.
The pizzas at St. Paul come in one size only—16 inches, more than enough to feed two with leftovers for the following day—though the variety of pies makes up for it, especially those like The Cowboy and the Carnivore topped with local barbecue. If you go whole hog and finish the large pizza, you have two terrific nearby options for a digestif: the historic Lynn Theatre, a block away, features throwback-style plush red velvet seats in which to relax while you enjoy the latest Star Wars and is the more low-key way to finish your night. But if you want to hang onto that Hill Country feeling as long as possible, head next door to The Running M, where you can dance the night away in between playing near-endless rounds of pool and spot-the-Come-and-Take-It-flag.
Gonzales, population 7,237, is two-and-a-half hours west of Houston, just south of Luling off I-1o. We recommend staying at the historic Hotel Alcalde or modern boutique hotel The Dilworth Inn & Suites.