Sunday Brunch in Blanco, Texas

We drive from Austin to San Antonio several times per year. The obvious route from Austin to San Antonio is to drive South on interstate 35. Unfortunately, I35 is the major path of commerce between the United States and Mexico. It is full of aggressive big rig trucks as well as all manner of other vehicles. It is never a fun drive. Fortunately, there is a much more pleasant alternative route. We generally drive West from Austin on highway 290 until it intersects highway 281 near Johnson City. We then drive south on highway 281 through the small town of Blanco and then continue driving South into San Antonio. From where we live in Austin, this route generally adds about ten minutes to the door-to-door travel time. However, the route is infinitely more pleasant and relaxing than the drive on I35.

That having been said, we have never really done much more than stop for a sandwich or fill the car’s gasoline tank in Blanco. However, this weekend we had a social event Saturday evening in Dripping Springs and a meeting of the South Texas Naval Academy Parents Club on Sunday in San Antonio. Dripping Springs is about one-third of the way to San Antonio along our preferred route through Blanco. we decided to spend the night in Blanco and continue on the San Antonio in the morning. We were very pleasantly surprised by both our hotel accommodations and the Sunday brunch the next morning.

The Blanco County Inn & Guesthouses

After some research, Tomoko booked us a room at The Blanco County Inn & Guesthouses, a small and very reasonably priced hotel just north of downtown Blanco on highway 281.

Blanco County Inn is Configured for Drive Up
Blanco County Inn is Configured for Drive Up

Actually, this property is what used to be called a motel. That is, you can drive right up to the door of your room. Motels were once very popular in the United States. Unfortunately, motels became fatally associated with sleazy, poorly maintained facilities, economically marginal inhabitants, crime, drugs, prostitution and so on. As such, motels went out of fashion in  a big way. Newer properties built by the large hotel chains are careful to call themselves “Inns” or “Hotels” or “Suites” or anything but “Motel”. They also are careful to build their facilities as uncomfortably brightly lit, large monolithic boxes. Actually, however, this lemming-like stampede has been unfortunate, because it is in fact really convenient to be able to drive directly up to your room, rather than having to haul all of your stuff into the depths of some sort of cavernous monolithic box.

Clever door lock arrangement at the Blanco County Inn
Clever door lock arrangement at the Blanco County Inn

The next clever thing at the Blanco County Inn was the check-in process. There wasn’t any.

At the time Tomoko made the reservation (by telephone I believe) the owner gave us a unique four digit code. When we got to the property, we simply drove up to the door and entered the code on the lock. The door opened immediately. The code is unique and re-programmed for each customer. No standing around shuffling papers. No electronic key cards to lose. You give them a four-digit number that means something to you and that number is your door key. Very elegant.

How about the interior of the room? As I mentioned above, motels had acquired such a dismal reputation over the years, that almost no property dares to identify itself as a motel anymore. This property clearly was built in the era of motels and still has the classic exterior look of a motel. Nevertheless, we were surprised and delighted with the interior of the room.

Brand new flat panel TV with rustic desk
Brand new flat panel TV with rustic desk

The room certainly was compact. However, it was in perfect condition. Fresh paint. New fixtures. Nothing chipped or broken.  There were numerous charming touches like a tile mosaic laid into the tile wall of the shower. The furniture was a charming rustic style. There was a brand new flat panel television with a large selection of cable channels. In the bathroom, there was a little basket of boutique toiletries of the type one would expect to find in a major fancy hotel. The coffee maker was nice and new. Our receipt was waiting for us on the desk.  We relaxed and watched television for a while. In the morning, we made coffee and sat outside in the cool morning quiet for a bit. We then moved our stuff 15 feet back to the trunk of our car and meandered off.

Very easy. Very relaxing. Very pleasant.

Uptown Blanco Restaurant

Interior of Uptown Blanco Restaurant
Interior of Uptown Blanco Restaurant

Our Sunday Brunch was at the Uptown Blanco Restaurant on the Blanco courthouse square. Blanco is the county seat of Blanco county. Like most such Texas county seats, it has a classic county square with a courthouse in the middle. The restaurant is actually part of the Uptown Blanco Arts Center, which covers a city block and includes several historic buildings as well as some newer facilities.

Although I did not ask, I would guess that the floors of this building are made from the now almost extinct Longleaf Yellow Pine. The ceilings appear also to be classic copper relief work.

Sunday is the only day that breakfast is served and the restaurant opens at 9:00 AM. The menu contained several interesting items, but we opted to have the buffet and were not disappointed.

Made to order omelettes included fresh poblano peppers
Made to order omelettes included fresh poblano peppers

I started off with an omelette. I have had made- to-order omelettes in fancy hotels all over the world. This restaurant’s choice of ingredients was much more extensive than normal and had a specific ingredient I have never seen anywhere else: fresh poblano peppers. I asked for bacon, mushrooms, poblano peppers and cheese. The young man behind the bar, carefully made my omelette, taking a little more time than normal. The result was perfect. The omelette was just the right consistency: soft, but not runny, and not dry. The cheese was rich and combined with the bite of the poblano peppers to make a delicious combination.

They also had many other items on the buffet including  a very tasty roasted pork loin with a raisin sauce. We had a very gracious server who brought orange juice and kept our coffee cups full.

Fresh peach and berry cobblers
Fresh peach and berry cobblers

We sat and read the local Blanco newspaper: after a hard-fought game, the local high school football team was defeated by its arch rival Lago Vista High School. I finished up my brunch with a cinnamon roll and one helping each of the two fresh cobblers on the buffet: peach cobbler and berry cobbler. This local Texas specialty was delicious and an unusual but pleasant addition to a brunch buffet.

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