No Country for Cold Men

Traveler Contributing Editor Andrew Nelson is home in Texas for the holidays, and offers up a round of new restaurants for those of you planning to visit the area (or him) this season.

In the Big Bend of Texas winter clarifies the night sky, turning the stars to blazing diamonds. To keep warm, residents gather around fire pits filled with mesquite logs, exchanging shots of fiery sotol and gossip. This December the sotol’s as potent as always, but the talk is about two just-released movies filmed here. “No Country For Old Men” and “There Will Be Blood” use the romantic, empty land as both character and canvas. Travelers wandering the region will find spiritual nourishment in the region’s beauty. But physical nourishment is also needed. Luckily the region is welcoming three new additions.

South of the Union Pacific railroad tracks on Murphy Street in Alpine’s historic adobe neighborhood is Texas Fusion BBQ (200 W. Murphy St.; +1 432 837 1214). A classic barbecue joint run by Mark Scott, the Fusion’s surrounded by parking spaces wide enough for your Ford F350 (a popular pick up). Diners can sit down or take out mounds of smoky pulled pork heaped on bbq sandwiches. And don’t forget the sweet tea. Many locals agree with longtime rancher Ted Gray.

“That boy’s got the best food in town,”  says the respected 84-year-old.

Over the Paisano Pass and 26 miles west in Marfa, is the Get Go

(208 S. Dean St.; +1 432 729 3335), an upscale grocer that caters to the tastes of Austin and Dallas sophisticates who have been drawn to the town by its hipster vibe. The surprisingly good and affordable Texas wines and grass-fed beef are welcome additions to the area. Down on the border, in the town of Presidio near the crossing into Ojinaga, Mexico, is a small restaurant worth a stop before attempting the fabled River Road drive.

Casa Burritos (1304 W. O’Reilly St.; +1 432 229 4242) opened last August with just three tables, and they threaten to spill into the kitchen of the friendly bilingual staff, but the chile verde con carne or asado burritos are fresh and hot enough to warm winter nights along the Rio Grande.

TIP: For an authentic regional soundtrack dial up 93.5 FM. KRTS

is the new public radio station simulcast on the web. It dishes out great helpings of the local sound: tejano, blues, and kick-ass Texas rock and roll.

Photo: Texas Fusion by Andrew Nelson