FIND YOUR WAY TO FREDERICKSBURGMay 01, 2023 04:04PM ● By Beth Luberecki
More than 150 shops, boutiques, and art galleries plus dozens of restaurants and wine tasting rooms can be found along Fredericksburg’s Main Street. Photo by RHIANNON TAYLOR
Roots run deep in Fredericksburg, Texas. Which isn’t a surprising statement to make for an area known for its grapevines, wildflowers, and peach trees.
But it goes much further than that. There’s the proudly preserved German heritage that’s on full display in the city, the native sons who continue to influence the area, and the families with both long and more recent histories in the Texas Hill Country community, all contributing to this unique area. About an hour from both San Antonio and Austin, Fredericksburg wraps a little bit of Texas’s past, present, and future all in one enticing destination. It’s a place where visitors can travel from pioneer times to World War II to the future of Texas viticulture all in one day, or simply shop, sip, and stroll their way along downtown’s Main Street. Timing a trip to take in springtime wildflower blooms or summer peach season adds to the appeal, but almost
any time of year is a good time to pay Fredericksburg a visit.
A CITY GETS ITS START
German immigrants first planted roots in Fredericksburg in 1846.
They’d come to America in search of opportunity, and after a rough start following their arrival on the Texas coast (the entity that brought them to America didn’t exactly fulfill its promises),
they made their way to what became Fredericksburg.
Town founder John O. Meusebach named the new settlement in honor of Prince Frederick of Prussia. Settlers received acreage outside of town for farming and lots in town on which many built what were known as Sunday houses. They’d come to these second residences in town on the weekends to buy and sell goods and attend church services. Many remain today, either incorporated into bigger structures or available as vacation rentals.
Fredericksburg works to preserve its German heritage, and as a result the city has “Texas heart and German soul,” says local historian and trolley tour driver David D. Schafer. Downtown’s Pioneer Museum allows visitors to step back into the past and explore a one-room schoolhouse, log cabin, Sunday house, and other historic structures for a first-hand look at how those early German settlers lived. The Marktplatz park serves as a community gathering space, and at its center sits a reconstruction of the Vereins Kirche, which originally served as a meeting hall, church, and school. The octagonal building was reconstructed in the 1930s and now serves as a beloved city symbol.
The city’s German heritage also endures in places like Altstadt Brewery, which uses traditional German brewing practices to make its popular beers, and the Old German Bakery and Restaurant, which serves up traditional German fare like wiener schnitzel and sauerbraten. Otto’s German Bistro puts a modern spin on classic German and Austrian cuisine, sourcing ingredients from local farms, ranches, and other producers and offering a thoughtfully assembled
list of German and Austrian wines to accompany the restaurant’s dishes.
LOCAL LEGACIES LIVE ON
Texas Hill Country might seem like an odd place for a museum focused on the Pacific theater of World War II—until you learn that Fredericksburg was the birthplace of Admiral Chester Nimitz, who served as commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and Pacific Ocean Areas during World War II.
The expansive National Museum of the Pacific War honors both Admiral Nimitz and all who served in or supported the Pacific war effort. In the George H.W. Bush Gallery, exhibits tell stories from the Pacific front and back home through photos, quotes, timelines, and artifacts that include one of the five Japanese midget submarines that attacked Pearl Harbor and a hatch from the USS Arizona. The Admiral Nimitz Gallery shines a spotlight on the hometown hero, while the Pacific Combat Zone (a short walk from the main museum complex) holds living history demonstrations and reenactments.
“Our job is to make everything you see come alive through interpretation,” says David Shields, director of the National Museum of the Pacific War. That includes an excellent new interactive
children’s exhibit, “Children on the Homefront: Growing Up with War,” that looks at the war years through the eyes of three different children, including a young girl of Japanese descent forced to relocate to an internment camp with her family. (Plans are under way for a major renovation of the George H.W. Bush Gallery, so check the museum’s website for information on any changes or closures.)
Lyndon Baines Johnson, the 36th U.S. president, was born just outside of the city in Stonewall, Texas. His election as John F. Kennedy’s vice president and subsequent swearing in as president
helped put Fredericksburg on the map from a tourism perspective.
At the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park visitors can observe and learn about sites like LBJ’s boyhood home and the Texas White House and LBJ Ranch. The nearby Lyndon B. Johnson
State Park & Historic Site features a living history farm and walking trails. Touring these sites helps visitors see LBJ’s impact on Texas and the impact the Texas Hill Country had on him.
ALL IN THE FAMILY
The winemaking industry has developed some serious legs in Fredericksburg and its surroundings, with visitors planning trips around sampling the various vintages produced in the area.
There are more than 50 wineries, vineyards, and tasting rooms in Fredericksburg’s Gillespie County, and more than 100 wineries and vineyards in Texas Hill Country.
Meierstone Vineyards is one of the ne west on the scene, operating on a 555-acre family farm not far from the LBJ historical sites. Owner and winemaker Krystal Stone Patel is a seventh-generation Texan and the fifth generation of her family to work this land; the name of her operation is a combination of her and her mom’s maiden names. Patel previously worked in
the tech industry but her dream of making wine lured her back to the Hill Country.
“For me it’s always been my place of peace,” she says. “I was enjoying my job but it was just a very stressful job. I always found myself returning to the country on the weekends to clear my
mind and regain perspective. For me it was kind of a no-brainer to find a way to make this my lifestyle going forward.”
Meierstone Vineyards produces a range of small-batch wines, from dry whites to rosés and reds, produced using grapes from growers around the state. Patel aims to plant her own grapes on her acreage but is currently navigating the local and state regulatory landscape, which is also holding up plans for a permanent tasting room. For now, visitors can stop by the temporary
tasting room to sample Meierstone wines and chat with Patel about her process and family history.
“I think Texas has really grown in terms of our winemaking ability and the quality of the fruit,” she says. “My recommendation for newcomers who have never tried Texas wines before is to come in with an open mind and be prepared to try varieties that you probably have never heard of, and that’s because they do well in our climate. I think it is just going to continue to really blossom and have its own identity worldwide.”
Family ties are also strong at places like Ferris & Fletch Wine Co., named for owner and winemaker Rarig Ross’s two children, and Fischer & Wieser Specialty Foods. What began as founder Mark Wieser’s roadside peach stand has evolved into a multifaceted business that includes the Das Peach Haus country store, where visitors can purchase Fischer & Wieser products, including the company’s much loved Roasted Raspberry Chipotle Sauce. The Fischer kids now all play roles in the business, with one involved in the company’s winemaking operations and two others running the new Dietz Distillery on the property, producing spirits such as a raspberry-infused vodka and London-style gin.
Evelyn Washburne grew up in Fredericksburg, and she and her husband, John, are a force on the local restaurant scene through their company, Side Street Hospitality. They started with Otto’s German Bistro in 2013. “Our approach to Otto’s is approachable fine dining,” she says. “It’s more about the product and the wine and being storytellers in that sense, and the idea is you are walking into a small, cute space off the beaten path.”
Since then the couple have added family-friendly fast-casual spot Tubby’s Ice House, French wine bar and shop La Bergerie, and Caliche Coffee Bar & Roastery, all under the Side Street Hospitality umbrella. They also recently took over operations of longtime fine dining spot
August E’s and will be opening Italian restaurant Alla Campagna soon.
“When we opened Otto’s, that heralded a huge change” on the Fredericksburg dining scene, says Washburne. “We started working primarily with local farmers and ranchers and going to farmers
markets and seeing what was there… I think Otto’s really kind of changed the landscape in what was possible.”
The growth of the local wine industry has also had a major impact, and others have joined the Washburnes in seeing the potential of Fredericksburg’s hospitality sector. She points to spots such as Vaudeville, a bistro, gourmet market, wine club, and supper club that opened around the
same time as Otto’s, and newer places such as Sage Restaurant & Lounge and the Albert Hotel, scheduled to open this year with more than 100 guest rooms, three restaurants, and a saloon.
“I think we’ve all supported and encouraged growth,” says Washburne. “High tides raise all ships. What we always love is when someone else comes in and does something that is authentic to them, and I think guests see that.”
IF YOU GO
242 E. Main Street, Fredericksburg, TX
6120 East, US 290, Fredericksburg, TX
Ferris & Fletch Wine Co.
409 E. Main Street, Fredericksburg, TX
Fischer & Wieser Specialty Foods
1406 S. US Highway 87,
Lyndon B. Johnson National
100 Ladybird Lane, Johnson City, TX
Lyndon B. Johnson State Park & Historic Site
199 Park Road 52, Stonewall, TX
573 Meier-Stone Road, Stonewall, TX
National Museum of the Pacific War
311 E. Austin Street, Fredericksburg, TX
830-997-8600, ext. 250; pacificwarmuseum.org
Old German Bakery and Restaurant
Old German Bakery and Restaurant
225 W. Main Street, Fredericksburg, TX
Pioneer Museum and Vereins Kirche
325 W. Main Street, Fredericksburg, TX
Sage Restaurant & Lounge
241 E. Austin Street, Fredericksburg, TX
Side Street Hospitality
601 E. San Antonio Street,
Fredericksburg, TX; sidestreethospitality.com
230 E. Main Street, Fredericksburg, TX
Beth Luberecki is a Nokomis, Florida–based freelance writer who’s a frequent contributor to TOTI Media. Learn more about her at bethluberecki.com.