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Lubbock is smack in middle of nowhere and everywhere

Lubbock's favorite son is Buddy Holly, and his

Lubbock's favorite son is Buddy Holly, and his fans can visit the Buddy Holly Center -- part museum, part art gallery, part historic house -- to honor his memory. Photo Credit: TNS/Mary Ann Anderson

Lubbock is a long way from anywhere, and even in this West Texas town with a population of just over a quarter-million, because of its remoteness it still somehow feels uncrowded, maybe a little lonesome. Its closest neighbors of any size are a two- to three-hour drive away, give or take. Amarillo is to the north, Midland and Odessa to the south, Abilene’s to the southeast, and Roswell, over the state line in New Mexico, lies to the west. So, then, at the same time, it’s smack in the middle of nowhere and everywhere.

While Lubbock may well be off the beaten path, it doesn’t scrimp on things to do.

WONDERFUL WEST TEXAS WINES AND WINERIES

Often the region is compared to both Sonoma and Napa Valley, primarily because of the climate, and grapes are grown here en masse. In fact, most of Texas wine grapes — estimates are up to 90 percent of them — are grown within a 100-mile radius of Lubbock. That’s a bunch of grapes, so to speak, and the Lone Star State, as it turns out, is the fourth-largest wine-producing state in the United States.

Several wineries dot the swath of fertile terrain of the Lubbock region, and the ones we visited had tasting rooms and vineyards just as classy as any found in California. Among those where we sampled the vino were Burklee Hill Vineyards-Trilogy Cellars in nearby Levelland; the highly awarded McPherson Cellars, which is housed in Lubbock’s historic Coca-Cola Bottling Plant; Llano Estacado Winery, which is one of the pioneers of the West Texas wine industry — it’s the second-oldest winery in Texas — and has won hundreds of awards since it opened in 1976; the picturesque Caprock Winery, which resembles an American Southwest-style mission; and, finally, the French-style Pheasant Ridge Winery, which features the oldest pinot noir vines in Texas.

WHERE TO CHOW DOWN 

Get your day started at the Cast Iron Grill, a favorite homestyle restaurant. Just inside the door are subtly lighted display cases filled with pie slices, lots of them, ranging from the signature Texas Delight, a layered concoction with cream cheese, chocolate pudding and pecans, to flavors of cheesecake, strawberry, pumpkin and beyond. Go ahead. Have a slice to complement a big ol’ country breakfast of chicken-fried steak or biscuits and gravy.

If you’re craving coffee but not the ginormous breakfast, it’s always brewing in one of Lubbock’s cozy, trendy coffee shops. Take your pick of places such as iconic J & B Coffee, which has been around since 1979; Yellow House Coffee, with its freshly baked pastries; and Sugar Brown’s, where you get to make your own breakfast s’mores.

When the clock strikes noon, amble on over to the Crafthouse Gastropub, offering craft beer from the likes of Odell Friek, Dogfish Head and Deschutes Brewery. My husband and I split a made-from-scratch margarita pizza topped with the freshest of mozzarella and chased down with a raspberry-infused Odell Friek, a lunch that set the stage for an afternoon tour and beer tasting at the Brewery LBK, downtown Lubbock’s only brewery.

Probably the don’t-miss lunch experience is Evie Mae’s Pit Barbecue. Owner Arnis Robbins has managed to somehow marvelously pull off a brisket magic trick by slow-cooking it over oak for about 16 hours, sprinkling it only with salt and pepper for seasoning. I kid you not, it cuts as easily as hot butter. Robbins also serves up flavor-packed prime rib, pulled pork and sausage with green chilis. The restaurant is open only Wednesday through Saturday, and some days sell out, so get there while the getting is good.

Funky features fondue. OK, translation: that’s the Funky Door Bistro and Wine Room, just a few minutes’ drive from Texas Tech. It offers fondue — Gruyere, pepper jack and Gouda are among the offerings — that are the perfect accompaniment for American and international entrees from the land and sea. Wine sampling via technological tasting machines gives this restaurant a unique edge, plus it has more than 4,000 bottles of wine from 650 labels, some of which are stored in a two-story wine tower.

With a focus toward fresh and local, the menu at downtown’s West Table Kitchen and Bar changes daily, but expect some sort of moo, cluck, swish or oink, including rib-eye, duck, trout or pork chop. We also tried La Diosa, where owners Sylvia and Kim McPherson have mixed vibrant décor with subtle lighting and bold tapas. If none of these suits your tastes, Cocina de La Sirena, a Latin American restaurant, serves traditional fare of empanadas, enchiladas and flan, but it’s also known for its tequilas and margaritas.

WHAT TO DO

A short roster of famous folk comes from Lubbock. Singer Mac Davis. Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks. Model Jill Goodacre. And Waylon Jennings was from Littlefield, just up the road apiece from Lubbock.

But the favorite son always remains Buddy Holly, and his fans make the pilgrimage to the Buddy Holly Center — part museum, part art gallery, part historic house — to honor the storied singer. Not far away in the Lubbock City Cemetery is his gravesite. Just look for the headstone crowded with guitar picks, guitar-shaped tokens, notes and flowers.

At Texas Tech, we dropped by to say hello to humorist Will Rogers. OK, so it was a sculpture of him and not his ghost. Texas Tech’s impressive Public Art Collection, peppered across the campus, contains more than a hundred art pieces of sculptures and murals. Probably its most recognized installation is “Riding Into the Sunset,” a 1947 bronze statue of Rogers astride his horse, Soapsuds.

Now, Lubbock isn’t all Texas Tech, Red Raider football and Buddy Holly. Saddle up and visit the National Ranching Heritage Center, 27 acres of ranching exhibits and cowboy history. If you love the old-time romance of windmills, the American Windmill Museum has 170 of them that have been fully restored, while Prairie Dog Town pays homage to the little rodent that’s a mainstay of the plains.

Lubbock can be as much cultural as it is cowpoke with the Louise Hopkins Underwood Center for the Arts; Charles Adams Gallery and Studio Project, which is home to both permanent and rotating art collections including work from Andy Warhol; and the First Friday Art Trail, a free, self-guided public trail that guides you through the city’s art stops.

IF YOU GO

Contact Visit Lubbock at visitlubbock.com or call toll-free 800-692-4035. Lubbock Preston Smith Airport is served by American Eagle, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines.


 

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