On the Road

Back to School: Bryan-College Station

By: The Local Palate

School pride runs deep in College Station. The home of Texas A&M, it’s affectionately referred to as Aggieland, a fitting nickname for a town where alums (Aggies, if you want to sound local) have made a habit of sticking around and opening businesses. The neighboring town of Bryan is oldest public school in Texas, plans for A&M pre-date its statehood. History runs deep—it has bragging rights as the place where country music legends Lyle Lovett and Robert Earl Keen first crossed paths as students.

The school has a larger-than-life presence in town, and that means there’s plenty to take in on any visit, including pastoral corners of campus, the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library, and this time of year, that unmistakable, palpable energy that accompanies college football season in the South.

The Eats

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Start your morning with a Texas specialty at Kolache Rolf’s. We’re talking about pastries of yeasty dough filled with fruit and/or cheese that were introduced to the Lone Star State by Czech immigrants in the late 1800s. Or, stop into MESS Waffles, Etc. It’s one of many College Station restaurants started by enterprising Aggies who didn’t want to leave town after graduating. Formerly a food truck, the brick-and-mortar opened last year with offerings that look beyond its namesake.

Another alum-run College Station restaurant is Grub Burger Bar. Here, the burgers come well dressed and the menu is imbued with Texas touches, like Dr. Pepper barbecue sauce.

A local favorite for a quick bite, Layne’s Chicken Fingers has a handful of locations in Texas, but the original opened in College Station back in 1994. The menu is minimalist; go the drive-thru route for fried chicken, texas toast, and your choice of sauces for dipping.

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The Funky Side of College Station

Have you ever eaten lunch in a laundromat? Just steps from the Texas A&M campus, Harvey Washbangers is the laundrobar brainchild of Culinary Institute of America-trained chef Michael Lair. Yes, it really is a destination for coeds toting laundry baskets, but it’s also a hangout for residents craving Texas craft beer and scratch-made food. The menu is just zany enough to keep things interesting (see: “porkaholic” cheese fries).

Over in Bryan, Jesse’s Taqueria & Bakery is a temple to tacos, filling tortillas with all the meats (barbacoa, picadillo, pork asado, and then some). Plus, four words: all-day breakfast tacos.

Dinner deserves a reservation at Bryan’s Ronin, a College Station restaurant from Brian and Amanda Light. Having first fed the community through nine-course tasting dinners on their nearby farm, the couple channels those vibes at the downtown concept. They serve their harvest around two hand-built communal tables in the main dining room and the more private, individual tables in the secondary dining room.

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Looking to wet your whistle in a casual venue? No trip is complete without a few cold ones at Northgate’s Dixie Chicken, a bona fide College Station institution. It draws a lively crowd on game days.

Game Day and Cowboy Couture in College Station

Experiencing a game at Kyle Field is a college football bucket list experience. Following a $484 million renovation in 2014, the stadium now seats a staggering 102,733 in its vertiginous stands. Also in order: a stroll around the Texas A&M campus to take in its sweeping oak-lined lawns and neoclassical architecture—specifically ten ornate buildings that were built at the height of the Great Depression (with the help of $3 million in West Texas oil money).

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Channel your inner cowboy with a trip to Catalena Hatters in Bryan, a family-run operation that’s been crafting custom headgear for three generations. Then, get a taste of Texas wine at Messina Hof. Established in 1977, this third-oldest vineyard in the state played an instrumental role in the growing industry.

A Patriotic Repose

In College Station’s Century Square, accommodations come doused in regional influence. The George is a boutique hotel named for the famous Georges in Texas history, but especially for George H.W. Bush. (Note: His presidential library sits on the A&M campus.) It’s filled with thought-provoking art, starting with a floor-to-ceiling Texas flag built of 10,000 books about the state, which flanks the entryway. Life-sized plastic sheep, some graffitied by Houston artist GONZO247, represent the agriculture component of A&M. Watch how they pop up in new spots around the hotel.

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1791 Whisky Bar at The George

Next door sits the George’s younger, more casual sibling, Cavalry Court. The motor lodge-style hotel borrows inspiration from A&M’s military history (it was founded as a military college). The barracks theme is carried in details large and small. There’s a lobby coffee table filled with plastic green army men and the eats are appropriately at the Canteen Bar & Grill. At night, unwind around one of the fire pits with a DIY s’mores kit, offered complimentary to guests.

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