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10 Hill Country Spots the Locals Love

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We asked Round Top, Texas-based artist John Lowery, owner of The Humble Donkey Studio, to share his favorite Hill Country haunts, eats and hidden gems with us
John Lowery, owner of The Humble Donkey Studio in Texas' Hill Country.
John Lowery, owner of The Humble Donkey Studio in the Hill Country hamlet of Round Top, Texas.
Best Place for Artistic Inspiration:

The inspiration is really everywhere because maybe I see things others do not see. For example, a painting I just finished of a field of wild flowers was actually behind a gas station. I only painted the good parts and left out the power lines and the road. I suppose I carry my artistic license along with my driver’s license when I cruise around Washington and Fayette County.

Favorite Family Outing:

The Fourth of July parade in Round Top is amazing because of the simplicity and size. It harkens back to early America with the floats and an endless caravan of horses and vintage tractors. It makes a great day trip and the parade is free. That same night, the fireworks at Washington on the Brazos River is spectacular.

Best Way to Beat the Summer Heat:

You can’t beat it so I join it with a cold Lone Star Light on a shaded patio or a dip in the pool at Brenham Country Club as needed.

Fill in the Blank: “When I’m not painting, you can find me …”:

I love being in the seat of my John Deere tractor making my land in Burton more beautiful. Two things I have in common with President George W. Bush are a love of painting and clearing brush.

Best Way to Spend a Day (Other than Antiquing):

There is great food, music and festivals of all kinds. But if you like art there are a dozen art galleries including the one next to mine, R Texas Gallery, featuring a husband and wife duo Ray and Meridith. He does amazing whimsical paintings and her textile taxidermy pieces are brilliant.

Best Pie in Hill Country:

That is a no-brainer: On the other side of my gallery is Royer’s Pie Haven — their classic Texas Trash pie is a perfect mix of sweet and salty. I jokingly call it Pie Havin’ because there is always a crowd out front havin’ pie.

Favorite Restaurant:

The Brazos Belle in Burton is a favorite because the owner is a French chef and his steak au poivre melts in your mouth. The building has been there for over a hundred years and was originally a boarding house. But be sure to bring cash because they don’t take credit cards.

Best Place to Take Out of Town Visitors:

There are so many possible answers, but I’ll narrow it down to La Bahia Turn Verein dance hall between Burton and Round Top, which was built by German settlers 140 years ago. We love to bring people out to dance to the live music and eat barbecue.

Favorite Way to Unwind After a Long Day:

Prost Wine Bar in Round Top is a shady place with great views and a huge wine selection by the glass or bottle. You never know who you might meet there, including famous residents like former Texas Governor Rick Perry.

Best Hidden Gem in the Area:

There’s a shop in Burton called Flown the Coop, run by Jeff and Tiffany Eckhardt. Tiffany picks junk from all over the country and Jeff turns it into amazing pieces for the home. They are a talented duo!

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