When I was a kid, my mom would drag me and my sisters to countless flea markets and antique shows. At the time, I could care less about types of Majolica and old clocks (sorry, Mom), and was more interested in the answers to two questions: “When is lunch?” and “When are we going home?” While the first hasn’t necessarily changed, the second definitely has. I not only appreciate antiques (thanks, Mom), but I love hunting for them. When my mom exhausted many of the California antique shows a few years ago, our friends recommended going out-of-state. That’s when we found the Round Top antiques week, an outdoor antique show in Texas that draws buyers and dealers from across the United States. The otherwise pastoral string of towns that run along the Texas Highway 237 transform into one of the largest and longest antique shows. From Carmine to La Grange, marathon antiquing and world-class junking has become popular amongst celebrity interior designers like HGTV’s Joanna Gaines and antique collectors alike.
Check out my guide below for the inside scoop on the famous antiques week, as well as other highlights in nearby cities like Austin and Waco!
Round Top is easily my favorite town along the 20 or so-mile stretch of antiques. While I can imagine it’s probably a sleepy, little town most of the year (it has a population of only 90), it’s bustling with people during antiques week. If you get a chance to visit, the historic Bybee Square should be your first stop in Round Top. It’s got that Texas charm with the surrounding buildings dating back to the mid-1800’s and a grove of centuries-old oak trees that are picnic perfection. The church is just as cute on the inside as it is on the outside and there are plenty of gift shops and boutiques in either direction to keep you occupied until lunch.
When visiting Round Top, come hungry because the food cannot be missed (see my short list at the end of this post). You may be tempted by the wafts of kettle corn aroma that sweeten the warm, spring air, but definitely make your way over to Bistro 108 inside Henkel Hall first. You can’t go wrong with anything on the menu here; I ordered a delicious beef tenderloin salad one day and the most ideal Cubano sandwich the next.
Another definite must in regards to food is the famous Royer’s Cafe. You can enjoy a piece of pie at their Pie Haven in the town square (above) or, if you’re lucky enough, snag a reservation to dine at their main restaurant. It’s a funky restaurant to say the least, serving up homestyle food in a semi-crowded, eclectic space that only seats a mere ten tables. If you arrive early, you can enjoy live music out on the porch and grab a beer or cup of wine from the cooler, honor system-style.
For dinner, I ordered one of Royer’s favorites: shrimp and grits! The grits were cheesy perfection with a kick of jalapeno, and the shrimp had great Cajun flavoring. Ask for a taste of the grits before ordering if you’re not sure about the heat level or are just curious what grits taste like; the servers are very accommodating here. Because Royer’s is known for their pie, we couldn’t resist ordering a few different slices for the table; I enjoyed the Junk Berry and Texas Trashpie best.
Another major draw to Round Top is the Junk Gypsy Headquarters. Junk Gypsy is a fun lifestyle brand created by sisters Amie and Jolie Sikes, who describe it as “a little bit hippie, a little bit rock n’ roll, a little bit southern-fried, and a whole lot of gypsy-fide!” Check out their website here and you’ll find lots of cute graphic tees, adorable coozies, fun bedding, showstopper boots, and a whole lot of other great “junk.” During antiques week, Junk Gypsy hosts their annual “Junk O Rama Prom” at the Junk Gypsy tent at Zapp Hall; they’ve been hosting it since 2004! They’ve had attendees such as country artists Miranda Lambert and Kacey Musgraves alongside antique week-goers. We have yet to attend, but I know it’ll happen!
For antiques week, Red 55 Winery (a.k.a. Miranda Lambert’s wine label) set up outside Junk Gypsy headquarters offering $5 pours – a price I’m sure we can all get on board with. While I would have preferred a wine glass to really assess the Cabernet Sauvignon, I soon realized most of the places in Round Top serve you wine in a plastic cup. When in Rome, right? Fittingly named after Miranda’s prized first pickup truck, a candy apple red 1955 step-side, the Red 55 Cabernet Sauvignon is a very drinkable red has that classic deep cherry color. It’s smooth with good berry flavor on the palate – blackberry, raspberry, and currant perhaps? Overall, it’s perfect for summertime sipping. I might even embrace the whole plastic cup thing and throw a few ice cubs in while I’m at it.
Cowhides rugs have always been popular in Texas, but interior designers worldwide have made them quite a trend in the past couple of years; the white and gray cowhides are especially on-trend, often selling for much more than the others. If you’re interested in picking one up, I suggest going straight to the TW Wholesale brothers at their locations in Round Top and Warrenton (Zapp Hall); the quality of their rugs and their pricing cannot be beat.
The main event is, of course, antiques week! Round Top is home to the Marburger Farm antique show, which is perhaps the most-anticipated; Big Red Barn is a close second. Unlike others, which I’ve showcased in the photos and list that follows, you have to purchase an entry ticket to Marburger and Big Red Barn. Trust me, it’s worth it. Besides the quality inventory, it’s where the who’s-who of Texas choose to shop over other venues. In the past, I’ve seen Matthew McConaughey and his wife at Marburger, and this year, Joanna Gaines made a trip out to pick up antiques for another season of Fixer Upper.
My pre-antiques week list consisted of small items including antique books, trophy cups, art prints (preferably alcohol, ocean, or floral related), and silver mint julep cups. I wasn’t 100% successful, but I always get great ideas from simply perusing the tents.
Below are photos of antiques that caught my eye throughout the week, plus a few more tips:
A big draw for Waco visitors is, of course, Magnolia Market at the Silos. If you aren’t already familiar, Magnolia Market was founded by Joanna Gaines, the interior designer of HGTV’s hit series Fixer Upper along with her goofy yet much-loved husband Chip. Located in downtown Waco just a few minutes from the highway, the Silos property includes two massive grain silos, a 20,000 sq. ft. barn containing Magnolia Market merchandise, a slew of food trucks, the Silos Baking Company, a garden, and a large artificial lawn with swings and games for kids.
Thankfully, we dressed for the Texas heat and slathered up with sunscreen beforehand because the Silos property virtually has no shade unless you’re inside the market. The crowds were swarming, but I have a hunch that every day at Magnolia Market is like this. If you’re a Fixer Upper fan who dislikes crowds, you may want to plan your trip early in the day when they open (bakery at 7:30, market at 9). But chances are, you’ll be faced with crowds regardless, as it is currently the main attraction in Waco.
We arrived just in time for Magnolia Market’s spring inventory. Some of the merchandise is locally-made; however, you’ll find that much of it is mass-market. I was under the impression that antiques like the ones Joanna features on her show would be for sale, making for a uniquely-curated shop. However, you’ll find more antique-inspired pieces inside Magnolia Market that aim to create Joanna’s signature farmhouse style than the authentic kind. Rustic wooden candlesticks, faux blooms and herbs, galvanized water cans, metal cake stands, kitchen chalkboards, and wire baskets are just a few examples of Magnolia Market merchandise. Another section is dedicated entirely to apparel Fixer Upper fans will love; there is even “Chip’s Corner” (above), which features hats, shirts, and other apparel for the Chip in your life.
If you’re visiting around lunchtime, I highly recommend eating at the Silos; the food was actually a bigger highlight than I’d expected. I had read in the spring issue of The Magnolia Journal that the Club Sandwich food truck was a current favorite, so I was happy to see that the line wasn’t terribly long. I chose the “Trashcan Rice Bowl” (below) with lemongrass pork and chicken topped with the cilantro lime sauce; it was delicious to say the least and fueled me to take on the market crowds.
The Silos Baking Co. is the newest addition to the Silos property, so of course the line was wrapped around the block! Instead of standing hours in the heat to get a cupcake and a peek inside (check out this video), we opted for cupcakes from their outside Airstream. We didn’t have much choice, as they were nearly sold out, so we chose the Nuts & Bolts and the seasonal Toasted Coconut cupcake. These were without-a-doubt some of the best cupcakes I have ever had! Their cake is moist and the frosting is fluffy and not too sweet.
On the topic of food, Chip and Joanna’s next project is none other than a restaurant! They purchased the Elite Cafe in Waco and have big renovation plans. If it’s anything like the Silos, I’m sure it’ll be well-receieved.
If you’re in Waco for a day or so, you may consider also visiting the Baylor University campus; Chip and Joanna went here! The Waco Suspension Bridge along the Brazos River also makes for a leisurely afternoon stroll. The “Branding the Brazos” sculptures, which made their debut in 2008, can be seen flanking the bridge’s entrance; the gorgeous collection showcases a bronze trail boss driving longhorns across the river.
Situated in the heart of bluebonnet country, Brenham is a small town halfway between Austin and Houston. We stay in Brenham during antiques week because it’s got that Texas charm, but with significantly more amenities than the smaller surrounding towns. One of my favorite places to visit in Brenham is Leftovers (below). It’s a beautifully curated store that is not only filled with gorgeous European countryside antiques, but jewelry, bath products, clothing, coffee table books and the loveliest linens. It’s kind of a one-stop-shop!
Also in Brenham is Ninety Six West, a bistro that replaced an old favorite of mine in the downtown area. The live jazz music, brick interior, and tapas-style menu makes for such a fun dining experience. My sister and I split the beet and goat cheese salad and I ordered the lamb tostadas for my entree; I loved the freshness of both dishes. My sister had the quail and grits, which I would also highly recommend!
For antiques week, we always fly in and out of Austin since it’s only a few hours from the hotel in Brenham. The last time I visited, we weren’t able to carve out enough time to explore Austin so I was especially excited that we could this year. It’s not only the capital of Texas, but has been given the official slogan “Live Music Capital of the World.” While there, we visited the gorgeous University of Austin, which made want to enroll immediately. We also shopped along South Congress Street (“SoCo”), which is a vibrant neighborhood filled with cute boutiques and eateries.
A few shops in particular stood out to me (see my short list), but one antique store really caught my attention with its at-first-glance-cute-then-borderline-creepy taxidermy. Uncommon Objects has just that – objects you wouldn’t commonly find, like a raccoon dressed up as a baby in a stroller or a Little Red Riding Hood-like deer (see below). The store has literally been called “your eccentric uncle’s attic on steroids.” While there were a lot of neat antiques inside, the abundance of decorated taxidermy kind of made me feel like I was in an oddities museum. After seeing a few crown-wearing birds at the Round Top shows, I figured it must be a Texan trend to go all out in adorning your taxidermy. If you’re not completely opposed to taxidermy, you may consider stopping by Uncommon Objects; its inventory is definitely in line with the “Keep Austin Weird” slogan.
In regards to food and nightlife, Austin is a great city to enjoy both! One of my favorite restaurants all trip was Uchi Austin, a cool Japanese restaurant by executive chef and James Beard Award winner Tyson Cole. Austin-born Uchi has expanded to other locations in Texas including Houston and Dallas. Uchi’s menu can be a little overwhelming and sort of confusing, so you’ll want to ask for recommendations from your server. We ordered several different types of sushi and sashimi, from hamachi to Japanese sea bream, everyone agreeing that the technique and flavor combinations were superb. But perhaps everyone’s favorite dish was one that didn’t consist of raw fish at all: the Nabe Mushroom Bowl with short rib. The dish consisted of several mushroom varieties, 72-hour braised short rib, a dashi broth, and egg yolk that was poured over and scrambled throughout the dish as it arrived at the table. I can’t even begin to put into words how explosive the flavors were, but I chalk it up to pure magic.
Hearing great things about Austin’s nightlife, we also made sure to grab drinks at the bar inside the famous Driskill Hotel. It was ranked as one of Garden & Gun magazine’s Top 50 Southern Bars, and features classic Texan decor and great libations; I got the Blackberry Bourbon Smash, while others got the “official cocktail of Austin” called the The Brazos Brasiliensis Batini.
Here is a quick summary of places to eat, drink, shop, visit, and stay in these central Texas towns/cities: