Thrills from the Hunt

A Field Guide to Antiquing in Round Top

Some people see trash; we see treasure.

By Jeanne Lyons Davis April 24, 2018

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Two middle-aged women wearing sensible shoes circle a table of mid-century Pyrex bowls like vultures staking out fresh roadkill. They smell its authenticity (turquoise Butterprint etching; numbered bottom). Debbie dives first. Karen paces from a distance.

“How much is the casserole set?” Debbie asks while not making eye contact with the vendor, casually touching every displayed trinket on the folding table except the mentioned item. “I have it listed for $100, but I can do $80,” says the older gentleman as he pets his Cavalier King Charles named Tootsie. “It’s from the ‘70s,” he quickly quips after noticing Debbie’s scoff. She walks away from her Pyrex prey. Karen goes in for the kill with a wad of twenties.

Welcome to Round Top, Texas.

For two weeks every spring and fall (save the next show dates: October 1–6), thousands of birds of a feather—like Debbie and Karen—flock together to the small Hill Country hamlet and surrounding towns for the biannual shopping extravaganza. Along Highway 237, an idyllic 16-mile country road that includes the towns of Carmine, Round Top, and Warrington, more than 200,000 out-of-towners hunt through charming shops and hundreds of pitched tents in open fields.

If the idea of “picking” and “digging” has you clutching your pearls, fear not: The biannual event boasts much more than macrame plant baskets and cheeky sayings painted on reclaimed driftwood, like “We Don’t Skinny Dip. We Chunky Dunk!” There is something for every taste and budget. Nostalgic collectors hunt for their mama’s discontinued China pattern, antique purists negotiate Chippendale buffets and HGTV binge watchers channel Joanna Gaines as they gather galvanized letters. From upscale decorators to Hobby Hollies, you’ll see a colorful cast of characters hunting for treasures amongst the troves. Who would have thought that the great equalizer the country was looking for is an antique show tucked away in Texas?

Before you plan your road trip to Round Top—just 95 miles from downtown Houston—learn the ropes for happy hunting at the internationally-lauded event. Just watch out for vultures like Karen.

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You Need More than a Trunk for Your Junk

“I’m just looking” is one of the many lies you’ll tell yourself before hitting the shopping grounds (another is “I’ll just have one bite of Royers Pie,” but more on that later). You definitely want to drive a vehicle that’s nimble enough to maneuver along the gravel country roads but spacious and gracious enough for your loot. My Chevrolet Equinox comfortably held all my antiquing baggage, including a blue velvet chair, rattan bookshelf, Turkish rug, vintage dough bowl and too many trinkets and tchotchkes to count. And with seats that fold in a pinch, it made stuffing the car with antiques dangerously easy.

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Fuel for the Hunt

Don’t forget to pack an ice chest with waters, snacks and maybe even a bottle of bubbles to pop after scoring a retro peacock chair on the cheap. Rather dine over a table than a tailgate? Royers Round Top Cafe is the reigning crown jewel thanks to it quirky Americana decor and downhome menu, like Shoog’s Hot Cluckin Sandwich or Todd’s Pork Tenderloin. Go for the comfort food, stay for their famous pie. It’s so damn delicious they opened spinoff Royers Pie Haven down the block. Reader, be warned: The Texas Trash is one hot melty mess of chocolate, caramel, coconut and pretzels. You’ll want more than one slice of this salty-sweet treat.  

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While credits cards are being accepted from more and more vendors (thank you, Square), spotty service makes transactions hit or miss. Play it safe and bring lots of cash. Tip: Bring an assortment of bill sizes. It makes it easier to bargain on the fly when you have exact change.

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It's Not Just for Grannies

If you think antiquing in Round Top is just for savvy seniors, think again. A new crop of hip retreats to relax at after a day of shopping have popped up along the hills. Rancho Pillow leads the pack with its bougie bohemian quarters that feel like Frida Kahlo and Dolly Parton host a sleepover. The Flophouze Hotel boasts chic housing in former shipping containers. Yes, that's a thing now. Yes, you should check it out.

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