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From Plows to Plates: The Story of Hondo's on Main

When you think about Fredericksburg, Texas, what pops into your mind?

Depending on when you first stumbled onto this small, Hill Country community, it’s a place where you may have discovered the German culture or taken a big bite from a sweet peach, letting the juice run down your chin. You may have photographed bluebonnets on a scenic spring drive or sipped one of countless wines and beers. You almost certainly went shopping, or sat outside the shops on a bench, patiently waiting while your other half browsed the aisles.


“As Fredericksburg has become more of a shopping Mecca,” says Cris Crouch Graham, “I think people have started to overlook the German heritage. The history of it.” The craftsmanship in the town’s stone buildings is extraordinary, including the 1901 building that now houses her famous restaurant, Hondo’s on Main.

The first thing you need to know is that Hondo’s is named for Cris’s father, Hondo Crouch. He was a Central Texas rancher who, in the 1970s, bought the town of Luckenbach just 10 miles southeast of Fredericksburg. “He brought the musicians to Luckenbach,” says Cris, “and it exploded. And then came the 1976, recording of Viva Terlingua at the dancehall by Jerry Jeff, followed by musicians like Willie Nelson and Guy Clark... the list goes on. People came by the thousands and the musicians could thumb their nose at Nashville and head back to Texas. They said, ‘we can be outlaws in Texas.’”

The historic Hondo’s building was once a place where plows, wagons, and guns were made by hand. Later, it became a restaurant, and when the building became available Cris saw an opportunity. “My family said, you need to do a restaurant,” says Cris. “I said, I don’t want to cook! So, God brought me David [Strackbein]. And I haven’t had to cook. I'd rather do dishes, bus tables... anything. I'll chop something. When it comes to food, David is magical.”



When people ask Cris or David to describe the food, they sometimes call it high-end bar food, because you’ll find things like stuffed roasted jalapeños, double-cheese potato fries, chili cheese burgers, and pulled pork and green chile quesadillas on the menu.

But David is always experimenting and finding new ways to make the food even better. He’s something of a food scientist, who started his career in the very same building, bussing tables and then worked the front of the house at the previous restaurant. “When Hondo’s came in, it was a fresh start,” he says. “I did the research, and I felt like what Fredericksburg needed was a non-German restaurant. It needed Texas food. There was already so much schnitzel and bratwurst and oatmeal. But there’s much more to eat and enjoy here than that. So that's why there's the enchiladas, the burgers, the barbecue.”

The restaurant’s best seller is the bacon cheddar burger. It’s an easy go-to because people know burgers and they know bacon. Their stacked enchiladas also get rave reviews with chicken enchiladas and two different Texas beef enchilada dishes. “We have one that's really unique,” says David. It's cheese enchiladas with the red ancho chili sauce, but it's topped with a grilled steak and served with our house made salsa.

I had to ask. “When people cook burgers at home, where do they go wrong?”

“Under seasoning and over cooking,” says David. “We do a lot to our hamburger meat before it becomes a hamburger. There are lots of different seasonings. There’s even a sauce that we create that goes into the meat before we make the burger, and there's seasonings in that. And then we have another patty that has fresh vegetables, jalapenos, green onions, and chipotle peppers and adobo sauce in the patty. I like to do something different, but it has to be good. For me, it has to be about quality.”

No matter what you order, there’s quality in every bite. My personal favorite is their Reuben sandwich, with pastrami they make from scratch. It’s got a spicy brown mustard instead of the traditional, sweet Thousand Island dressing. It’s toasted open-faced, so the sauerkraut is lightly browned. Oh, and there’s a pile of onion strings in the center. Because everything is handmade, it can take 11 days to make everything that goes into the Reuben.


They also serve a club sandwich that has zero processed meats on it. “We smoke our own turkey breast,” says David. “We smoke pork tenderloin instead of making a ham, which takes six months to make. My father's out there doing the smoking right now. He was looking for something to do and I was looking for less to do. It worked out beautifully. I figured, who better than the original teacher?” It’s one thing to say the words, “elevated bar food,” but another to experience the homemade goodness in every meal.

“David invented a mac and cheese with four different cheeses,” says Cris. “And then he sprinkles brisket on it with fresh chopped cilantro. Whoa.”

The only thing that can make their food any better is ordering a margarita to go with it. “David has come up with three different recipes,” says Cris.

“I always say, if it wouldn't offend people, I'd call it a 12 step margarita,” says David. “It takes 12 steps to make just one margarita, but we do it in 45 seconds. We make the sours mix. We use fresh-squeezed lime juice. We make the jalapeño simple syrup from scratch. We infuse the tequila with pineapple for two weeks. And those are all made here. Individually, there's no batching, all hand-shaken, nothing frozen. I always say, no frozen food, no frozen drinks.”

There’s no question Fredericksburg is earning its place on the list of great food travel destinations, and Hondo’s on Main should be on your list of must-visit places. It’s amazing food, but the real magic happens with the amazing collaboration between Cris and David. I've told him,” says Cris, “that if he wants to quit, tell me and give me five minutes to beat him out the door.”

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