Eat, Drink, and Be Merry in Two Tiny Texas Towns

Enjoy Texas spirits and food, like Akevitt or Aquavit from Bone Spirits Distillery in Smithville TX (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Akevitt (or Aquavit as it’s also spelled) from Bone Spirits Distillery in Smithville, TX (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

The text came from a friend; they were meeting in a couple of hours at “that distillery in Smithville” southwest of Austin, then maybe dinner somewhere, and did I want to join them?

Sure, there was a pile of work waiting, but isn’t there ALWAYS a pile of work waiting?

We met in the Bone Spirits Distillery upstairs tasting room, in their main building that’s tucked next to a residential section of town and open Monday through Saturday.

Bone Spirits Distillery tasting room Smithville TX (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Bone Spirits Distillery tasting room in Smithville, TX (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

It’s small – just one bar plus some stools – but if a group is already there, you can hang out on some comfy chairs and sofas to wait your turn.

Founder, owner, and recovering lawyer Jeff Peace or one of his crew will patiently step you through the origins, stories, and special tips for each one of Bone’s “farm-to-bottle” spirits.

He has plenty of cocktail and mixer recommendations, too, for those, “OK, what do I drink this with?” questions.

Bone Spirits Distillery founder and owner Jeff Peace in the tasting room in Smithville TX (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Bone Spirits Distillery founder and owner (since 2010) Jeff Peace will tell you all the good stories in the tasting room in Smithville, TX (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

My personal preferred booze choices are bourbon and gin – and I’m a big fan of the strong juniper hit from their Moody June Gin – but I tried all the offerings including their alarmingly smooth Fitch’s Goat 87 proof moonshine. The tastings are in tiny little cups, so no one is going to get stupid doing this.

Jeff and his team will tell you all about their pot still distillation, oak barrel aging, and arcana like fractionating reflux distillation columns for vodka, but if all you want to do is take sips and say, “Wow, that’s really good,” that’s OK too.

Texas spirits and food - try all the craft spirits at Bone Spirit Distillery in Smithville Texas (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Craft spirits at Bone Spirit Distillery in Smithville, Texas (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Once we finished the tasting experience (and hell yeah, bought a few bottles to go) we spent a little time exploring Smithville. A lot of it will look familiar if you saw the movies Hope Floats, The Tree of Life, or indie films like The Teller and the Truth.

A snack at the laid-back Front Room Wine Bar – plus a fun impromptu chat with Snow White’s Wicked Queen coming out of Playhouse Smithville after rehearsals – carried us through the next hour or so, but it was time for a proper dinner.

One of the women in our group, Adena, said, “There’s a local steakhouse that’s kind of a ways away, maybe 15 minutes drive, but it’s pretty unique. Wanna go?”

You know the answer. Everyone promptly jammed into her SUV and off we went.

Texas spirits and food at Murphy's Steakhouse in an historic 1913 building in Winchester TX (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Murphy’s Steakhouse in an historic 1913 building in Winchester, TX (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Although plenty of people drive in from all over to visit Murphy’s Steakhouse, it is also full of locals who glance at people coming in, to see if they know them. You can’t get much more atmospheric than a place with tin ceilings, a massive mirrored wooden bar at one end like something out of Lonesome Dove, brick walls, oilcloth covering the tables, and a “Bean Bar” next to the salad bar.

I loved Adena’s anecdote about how you can go into Murphy’s on a Friday night, and because of its location in northwest Fayette County near many small towns and other counties, there will be families in there wearing all sorts of different colors and uniforms after the high school football games that are so important in Texas.

Since the restaurant building used to be a combination general store and town post office , it still has working post office boxes.

You can still pick up your mail at the post boxes inside Murphy's Steakhouse (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

You can still pick up your mail at the post boxes inside Murphy’s Steakhouse in Winchester, TX (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

There are other options besides beef on Murphy’s menu, but yes, get the steak.

I recommend a ribeye, medium rare.

It’s the perfect end to your Texas afternoon and evening.

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