Uncover the secrets of charming Lockhart

One Sunday recently, a friend of mine asked me if I wanted to go with him while he looked for a house. Although she has had a decades-long career in the music industry, as a single woman she has been largely excluded from Austin and is therefore expanding her research in the surrounding area.

That day’s hunt would take us to Lockhart, central Texas, where we would be accompanied by his real estate agent, who also happens to be our dear friend.

Located roughly halfway between Austin and San Antonio, Lockhart receives (or suffers) from the same growth as its large neighboring cities. According to the Austin Board of Realtors, Caldwell County’s median home price in July 2021 – the most recent data available – now stands at $ 249,250, a 22% jump from a year ago. In comparison, nearby Travis now has a median home price of $ 551,000 (34.4% year-over-year) while Bexar has now hit $ 298,400 (a 15% increase).

So, as you can see, Caldwell County is a bit more affordable, which is why we ended up doing this little Sunday road trip to the barbecue capital of Texas (more on that later). Our agenda included three properties: an old, a new, and somewhere in between.

Arriving in town, greeted by wide boulevards covered in ancient gnarled holm oaks, it’s easy to see Lockhart’s allure. Quaint and charming, homes range from modest ranches to stucco casitas with Spanish tile roofs to stately properties with columns and verandas that resemble something from the Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Brotherhood.

One of the many houses that stopped us in our tracks.

Katie Friel / MySA

Someone once told me that the Balcones Fault, which runs north to south through Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio, is the unofficial marker between the southern and western United States. With that in mind, Lockhart’s architecture clearly resembles the south, unlike other towns in central Texas that I’ve been reporting on recently (ahem, Fredericksburg).

Signs for meats available at Smitty's Market, where you can only pay by cash or check, take on the yellow tinge of smoke from nearby pits.

Signs for meats available at Smitty’s Market, where you can only pay by cash or check, take on the yellow tinge of smoke from nearby pits.

Chuck Blount / Staff

The three of us spent the first few hours jumping from property to property, driving slowly through the streets between screenings and shouting “look at this one!” whenever we passed an interesting house. Although our friend was not particularly inspired by any of the properties we visited, this Sunday stay allowed her to imagine a life still to live, a life that would fulfill her dream of home ownership. It also became painfully real to me that we would no longer be a short bike ride away, that our impromptu Friday happy hours would be pre-planned nights, and that those little friend chores like picking up mail or watch pets, would be over. .

Smokers at Smitty's Market.

Smokers at Smitty’s Market.

Katie Friel / MySA

After the third and final screening, we returned to the main plaza and debated the merits of the city’s famous barbecue restaurants before settling down on Smitty’s Market. (Black’s and Kreuz Market also come highly recommended.) Luckily our realtor friend had cash (no cards accepted) so we were able to order heaps of brisket, turkey, pork ribs and of cold jalapeño sausages.

We had coleslaw and green bean salad sides, and, because I have a soft spot for mustard, one of the best potato salads I’ve ever tasted, all washed down with Shiner Bock. . I also ordered a slice of peanut butter pie to take home, although unfortunately I couldn’t eat it as I later left it in the hot car and melted it.

“It looks like a church hall,” my friend said, nodding at the families gathered along folding tables and dressed in their Sunday clothes. Kids ran to the ice cream station ($ 2.50 for a small, $ 3.50 for a large) and diners went back and forth to the counter to buy beers and bottles of Big Red .

The Town Square is about two blocks away and features a mix of pretty storefronts, a candy store, bank, cinema, and theater. It’s also home to a handful of hip eateries like Little Trouble, Commerce Cafe, and Lockhart Bistro, all opened by Austin hotel professionals (or Austin expats), in recent years.

The Caldwell County Courthouse was built in 1848 and the present courthouse was completed in 1894.

The Caldwell County Courthouse was built in 1848 and the present courthouse was completed in 1894.

eearing / Getty Images / iStockphoto

After walking around the Caldwell County Courthouse and grimacing at the Confederate monument on its grounds, we stumbled upon Old Pal, which looks exactly what every hipster bar in every hip city would wish it to look like. . There’s a jukebox filled with Johnny Cash and a stage with red velvet curtains. The dogs congregate inside and the bartender has the kind of shag people pin on their hair-inspired Pinterest boards.

We ordered cocktails and perused the bar food menu before the conversation came to life at Lockhart. With the big city becoming more and more unaffordable, these conversations are becoming more and more common among my groups of friends. How to reconcile our way of living and being able to afford to live? As we approach our 50s, do we want the “American Dream” of children and family, or can we live without it? And in a society where the only real way to accumulate wealth is real estate, how far are we willing to travel to get into the game?

Spoiler alert: None of these questions were answered, but that wasn’t the point. We were there to help usher in a new chapter for our friend, one that will likely take her out of Austin and into a new place where we, the rest of us, can visit, but never live.

In the middle of our drinks, I recognized the guy sitting across from us, a musician who’s been out to Lockhart for the last few years. Well, I thought to myself as I put my margarita aside, maybe things won’t be that different.

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About Louis Miller

Louis Miller

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