I’d read about Marfa for years before my recent weekend trip, so I had high expectations: of great art, delicious food, and a beautiful landscape. And the west Texas town delivered.
I arrived on a Saturday night at 8 p.m., hungry for dinner. After Googling a few different places, I realized if I wanted sit-down restaurant food, I had to get somewhere before 9 p.m., when most things would close. I hustled to Stellina and grabbed the only open seat in the house, at the bar.
If you know Marfa at all, you probably know Stellina. I was curious to find out whether the place lives up to its Instagram-y hipster hype, and the answer was yes. The bartender recommended a top-notch glass of white from Georgia (the country, not the state), which paired beautifully with my crisp Mediterranean salad and quail entree. The menu changes frequently, though, so bring an open mind and order what's on offer. It will be good, as will the atmosphere and service.
Afterward, I wanted to find a cool bar where I could have a nightcap. But the internet wasn’t very helpful. Marfa is a reminder of what life was like before smartphones—the best thing to do is drive or walk around, see what’s happening, and join in.
After striking out at one bar that was closed for the night, I drove past a house aglow with muted yet colorful lights. There were several picnic tables in the driveway, and I saw a solitary man having a cigarette. I had a feeling that even though there was no signage, this could… maybe… be something. I parked, walked up, and asked the guy if this was a bar. He jumped up with a big smile, walked over to me, and yelled, “I’m sorry, ma’am, I’m hard of hearing. What did you say?!”
After some loud, friendly back and forth, he led me inside the house’s sliding glass doors, straight into the strangest, coolest, craziest living room I’d ever been in. This was Space Bar, a '70s-era house filled with art installations. In the kitchen there was a makeshift bar, where three men were chatting over beers. I ordered a cold one and discovered one man was the owner; the other, the bartender; and the third, a local hanging out. They welcomed me into their fold, and we proceeded to have an hour-long conversation about hang-gliding, real estate, and the town’s most scandalous murder. They explained that the bar is open to the public, gets hopping later in the evenings, and opens whenever the owner feels like it. The place also gives out free cookies.
Across the street from Space Bar, another hopping spot caught my eye. It turned out the kitchen was still open at Hombres, the low-lit, homey restaurant where native Houston native David Beebe (pictured above) serves up booze and burgers. I got a veggie burger with a beer and watched the end of the Astros game with a bunch of locals gathered around a screen. Apparently the place had stayed open late because of the game (the Astros won).
The next day, I made my way to one of the Judd Foundation’s ranch houses for a day out on the ranch, where I'd heard there would be barbecue and chill vibes. Unfortunately, there were no chill vibes on the way there. What I thought was a simple drive down a dirt road turned out to be a harrowing, bumpy trek along a narrow, cliff-side road that snaked through the Guadalupe Mountains. Good thing my rental was an SUV.
The event itself was chill, set around an old ranch house. I drank sparkling water and watched people’s kids fight with toy light sabers. Everyone had a Stetson on except me. The barbecue was fantastic, catered by the friendly folks of Convenience West, a joint located back in Marfa. Belly full, a little sunburnt, I headed back to town and caught a Sunday-afternoon yoga class at The Well before walking across the street to the St. George Hotel bar and having a cocktail. Perfect Sunday.
As I ended my short trip, I realized that what I love the most about Marfa is the people. They act like you’ve been friends for ages. There is no awkwardness, no feeling of separation, just humans trying jovially to make it happen out in the desert.