Sometimes the best surprises are not far from home.
In two small towns in the picturesque Texas Hill Country, I stumbled on two great locations off the beaten trail from the masses of tourists that visit Fredericksburg, roughly thirty minutes away. For visitors to the Hill Country looking for an amazing meal, as well as a memorable hotel stay, be sure to visit the Welfare Café in Welfare and Hotel Faust in Comfort.
First, be sure to have a good map before heading to this café as I frankly thought I was lost. This café is really remote but down a lonely road weaving through ranches and even a flash flood gauge common to west Texas, is the Welfare Café, offering excellent food and trading on the German heritage of this area.
Welfare was originally a homestead founded in 1848 and by the late 1800s, the town of Welfare had grown to 275 residents. Unfortunately, this prosperity didn’t last as the early 20th century saw Welfare impacted by drought, fire and the Great Depression. The town nearly died until two buyers from San Antonio bought the original post office, turning this into a café in 1998. A goat barn (which is used for weddings and special events) was built from the remains of Welfare and added to the property in 2005.
From the moment I stepped into this restaurant, I was floored by what was inside. The old post office is still visible and even the cubbyholes have some mail inside. Roughly ten tables in a relaxing, simple setting are inside the restaurant with walls decorated with antique cooking canisters, musical and cooking instruments, and many historical photos of Welfare. I was shocked by the music as French jazz was playing along with Cole Porter. I felt like I had stepped into another time and place—almost like a speakeasy that only locals know about. The restaurant also offers another eating area and garden outside in back, with beautiful views of the barn and Hill Country.
Talking to local diners, the menu has expanded over the years but the menu still sticks to German food and local crops. Menu options include artichoke schnitzel, jager schnitzel, chicken with wine and jalapenos, and spätzle with sausage (which I loved). Appetizers include kaseplatte (an assortment of cheeses) and aufschnitt (an assortment of cured meats). The food here is outstanding, authentic and definitely worth the drive off Interstate 10. The wine list is also generous with several local Hill Country wines included.
Meal portions are huge and come served in a large bowl. I tried to save room for dessert and the café focuses on the local German culture and regional produce like Fredericksburg peaches and blackberries. On the day of my visit, dessert options were peach cobbler, blackberry or strawberry cheesecake or apple strudel. I ordered the peach cobbler (I am hungry thinking of it now) but sizes also come in a big bowl and are large enough for two or three people. Some of the locals were watching me tackling my cobbler and asked me: “Did I do it”? I think I disappointed them as I couldn’t eat the entire gigantic dessert.
I was lastly surprised to hear German spoken both by some of the locals and the chef in the cafe. I felt I had stepped into something secretive and special that had been passed around Hill Country towns. Welfare Café is first-rate food sprinkled with history in the fields of the Texas Hill Country.
223 Waring Welfare Road
Welfare, Texas 78006
Hotel Faust, Comfort, Texas
A few miles north of Welfare off Interstate 10 lies the town of Comfort which has been a settlement since 1854. Also settled by German immigrants, this town of roughly 2,300 people is now mainly known for antiques. For visitors looking to explore the area, a 130-year old hotel sits on the town’s High Street offering eight rooms with a chance to experience Texas history.
The original part of this hotel was built in 1880 by Alfred Giles of San Antonio, with the hotel expanding in 1894 a few years after the railroad came to Comfort. All of the hotel is original except for a log cabin which was added to the property in the back. The log cabin, called the Ingenhuett Cabin in honor of the original hotel operators, is a true log cabin from the 1820s which was moved to Texas from Kentucky.
I have wanted to stay in the log cabin for a long time and finally was able to book a night (weekends are especially busy). This cabin, like the hotel itself, is beautifully maintained and I loved the private porch as well as the thick wooden walls and brick flooring. The cabin is very comfortable for one or two people and I wondered about the cabin’s history and how many people in Kentucky originally lived in one room.
The room itself is relaxing, cozy, well air-conditioned (critical to a Texas summer) with a quiet backyard. The hotel added special touches to the room including a welcome mat, porch chairs, wine corker, cookies and even a coloring book for adults to just unwind and enjoy being in the Hill Country. Breakfast is available for guests and there are also options for visitors for lunch or dinner within Comfort (try High’s Café and Store across the street for lunch).
The hotel grounds include rocking chairs on the front porch (I enjoyed sitting on the front porch and watching the shops across the street) as well as a gazebo on site, with thoughtful touches like a fan, bug spray and candles for surviving a Texas summer and comfortable chairs. The resident cat can often be found sleeping in the gazebo reflecting the relaxed atmosphere of this hotel.
I was also amazed that the hotel includes even an electric charging station in front for electric vehicles.
This hotel is something meaningful and historic and a step back in time to another era when visitors were coming to Comfort by railroad. The grounds are peaceful, the staff is friendly and this hotel is a chance for visitors to experience something different than the usual box hotel chains. I loved my log cabin stay, along with having a little taste of Texas Hill Country history.
717 High Street
Comfort, Texas 78013