#TravelTuesday: Rock on Over to Round Rock

by Marika Flatt, Travel Editor on May 1, 2018 in Travels,
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Round Rock ranked ninth in the nation and earned the top spot in Texas on a list of top American boomtowns of 2017.

Some tourists come to town to see the real Round Rock on Chisholm Trail, that goes from the west side to the east side of I-35. But businesses are taking notice of Round Rock in a big way. The iconic Nutty Brown Amphitheater that currently lives in Dripping Springs is planning relocation to the rock—look for the opening in spring 2019. Of course, Round Rock’s long been the home to hygge supremo Ikea. Looking for comfort that involves checking into a hotel? Then keep an eye out for the new Ruby Hotel coming soon to downtown, plus there’s the Kalahari resort that plans to open in a few years across from Dell Diamond. Oh, and there’s also the $200M mixed-use development in the works, called The District.

At Dell Diamond, baseball fans enjoy watching the RR Express, the town’s Triple-A team.
Photo courtesy Round Rock, Texas

At Dell Diamond, baseball fans enjoy watching the RR Express, the town’s Triple-A team that plays from spring until early fall. Or, for an evening of fun, adults love a pub-crawl on the town’s Main Street, which features a few craft beer hot spots, several clubs and even a piano bar that rivals those in Vegas. If your family has kids, they’ll enjoy a tour through Inner Space Cavern (a system of cool underground caves), a day outside at the Play for All Abilities Park (an outdoor park featuring loads of fun) or even inside fun with a game of neon glow-in-the-dark putt putt at Monster Mini Golf.

But, when it comes to eating, Round Rock is putting a fork in it—pun intended.

Brownsville’s Jack Gilmore grew up loving coastal food and went on to found both Jack Allen’s Kitchen and Salt Traders Coastal Cooking. Courtesy photo

Jack Gilmore, from Brownsville, grew up loving coastal food and got into the restaurant business to develop unique culinary brands that keep foodies coming back. He launched the über-successful Jack Allen’s in RR several years ago. At the time, farm-to-table was a really new concept—80% of everything they serve comes from within a 300-mile radius, including beer and wine. The restaurant has built quite the following with lines out the door at busy times.

Start your dinner with a Laguna buttery chardonnay, which will pair well with their signature pimento cheese served with house-made herb crackers. If you’re going healthy, look for the ‘Git Your Greens’ section on the menu. But I recommend something hearty, like the chorizo-stuffed pork tenderloin medallions or pastor tacos. And save room for the Blondie Pie or Chocolate Bomb.

Gilmore also opened Salt Traders Coastal Cooking in mid 2016, homage to his seafood-eating days of old. Gilmore treats diners to a surprise from the very beginning, with a taste of their unique smoked fish dip served with house-made kettle chips. Starting with drinks, whether you’re enjoying fresh squeezed lemonade, a cocktail like their Rum Around, a glass of Alexander Valley Estate chardonnay or a pinot noir (choices include Talbott ‘Kali Hart’ Vineyards, King Estate and Patz & Hall), you will be in the mood for a culinary adventure. If you’re lucky, they’ll be offering mini crab tostadas as an app (little bites of heaven), pot stickers and a bowl of crab chowder. I was lucky enough to enjoy the special blackened striped bass with a Brussels sprouts, bacon and sweet potato hash.

Fresh pasta at Palermo’s Pasta House on Main Street. Courtesy photo

I found my new favorite Italian restaurant, Palermo’s Pasta House on Main Street, which opened in 2015 by Argentinian chef and owner Antonio Giner. He created a menu of “everyday food” from his homeland—fresh pastas cooked in a pan with a unique sauce and other Italian works of art. The bread is flown in from New Jersey and crisps up in the oven to perfection. (I could seriously fill up on bread and wine if needed.)

You get to choose from seven homemade pastas (like ravioli, rigatoni, fusilli and fettucini) and then pick from three pages of sauces. You can’t go wrong with the chicken Alfredo sauce, the caprese cream, a pesto cream with pine nuts or even a simple meat sauce that does not taste simple. They use the best possible plump tomatoes full of natural sweetness. Note that their full portions are big enough for sharing. Oh yeah, you have to try the flatbread with sausage—it’s what dreams are made of!