The blackberry curd dessert at Apis

Apis was buzzing. It wasn’t that the rustic eatery in Spicewood—about 45 minutes northwest of Austin—was particularly packed the Saturday night we visited; quite the contrary, as we’d snagged the latest possible reservation. Rather, it was literally buzzing. With bees. Thousands of them.

The six-acre property features 20 hives, located on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Pedernales River. Chef Taylor Hall and his wife, Casie, first took up the cause of backyard beekeeping at their Spicewood home in 2010 after learning of colony collapse disorder, in which worker bees abandon their queen and hive en masse.

Hall installed the restaurant’s apiary in 2015, fueling a honey-heavy menu of artfully prepared, fresh and local dishes and drinks. We first tasted the bees’ bounty in the form of house-made honey butter, perfection when spread on a warm biscuit. It was prominent, too, in craft cocktails like the outstanding Queen’s Nectar, in which honey tames the quaff’s bitter elements—grapefruit, amaro, Peychaud’s—before being topped with crisp, fizzy prosecco.

The weekend prix-fixe menu ($64 per person) is an experience to savor. Ours started with herbaceous, pillowy goats-milk ricotta gnudi bathed in fermented squash puree. Then came red wattle pig, a hardy Texas heritage breed raised on wild grass at a nearby farm, offered in both loin and belly form, glazed in Apis honey caramel and served over a wild, wondrous mix of grilled cauliflower and chicory, legume stew, and olive puree. We finished the meal with an astounding dessert: blackberry curd topped with fresh, compressed berries, dollops of honey-lemon mascarpone, and crunchy sage pâte sucrée.

This warm and cozy restaurant, open Wednesdays through Saturdays, seats only 60, so be sure to make reservations.

Three More Great Small-Town Restaurants

Image: Hattie Barham

The Laurel Tree | Utopia

Chef and owner Laurel Waters blends French culinary traditions with Hill Country classics at her one-of-a-kind eatery, where the menu rotates weekly but is always inspired by produce from the on-site garden. Eat in the main dining room or, for an intimate, unforgettable meal, reserve the six-guest dining room carved out of a giant 450-year-old oak tree. Both areas require reservations; the treehouse also requires a $300 deposit. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner, Saturdays only. And since little Utopia—just shy of two hours west of San Antonio—is dry, you can BYOB. 

Image: Eric Pohl

Brazos Belle Restaurant | Burton

For quaint country vibes, head to this pint-sized town halfway between Houston and Austin, where, since 1993, French chef (and former Houstonian) Andre Delacroix has showcased the flavors of his native country in the heart of Hill Country at his romantic restaurant, tucked into a former general store and set among the rolling hills of the scenic La Bahia Bluebonnet Trail. Get the rack of lamb and the scampi Provençal. 

Rancho Loma | Talpa

When your table is loaded with spicy grilled quail, fresh burrata, and Akaushi strip steak, you may forget you’re in Talpa, an unincorporated rural ranch town south of Abilene. But this family-owned restaurant is the very definition of small-town fine dining, with owners who describe running the place as “throwing a dinner party every weekend in our home.” It’s an exclusive party at that—reservations must be made up to three months in advance—ripe with Marfa-style cowboy glam and incredible, locally sourced food that’s been featured everywhere from Vogue to Saveur. It’s BYOB; go ahead and splurge on something fine. 

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