Don’t miss these 5 Texas road-trip stops

It’s about the journey, not the destination, right? With spring just around the corner, there’s no better time for a Texas road trip, and no matter where you’re going, there’s a roadside attraction to consider. Here are five favorite road-trip stops around the state.

Weikel’s Bakery, La Grange

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Susan Hurry holds a tray of pastries at Weikel’s Bakery in La Grange. credit: Alberto Martínez/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Texans are passionate about their kolache shops – and even the use of the word itself – but if you’re heading to Houston, Weikel’s is a sure bet. They’ve been cranking out made-from-scratch Czech pastries in La Grange for decades, with flavors that include blueberry cream, lemon and poppy seed. The bakery also serves pigs-in-a-blanket, cinnamon rolls, cakes, pies, cupcakes and muffins. weikels.com

The Big Texan Steak Ranch, Amarillo

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The 72-ounce steak from Amarillo’s Big Texan Steak Ranch. credit: Bill Tucker

You’ve seen videos of people attempting to finish this famous restaurant’s 72-ounce steak, and if you’re a true Texan, you’ve even put it on your bucket list — after all, if you finish the entire thing in under an hour, you get it for free. Anyone driving to New Mexico would be remiss not to stop here, especially once the current renovations — which include a 1,000-capacity music hall and an indoor water park and hotel — are complete. bigtexan.com

Animal World and Snake Farm Zoo, New Braunfels

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Animal World and Snake Farm in New Braunfels features a variety of animals. credit: Deborah Cannon/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

You may think you want to see the Alamo, but before you get to San Antonio, make a pit stop in New Braunfels to take in the nothing-like-it Animal World and Snake Farm Zoo. This fascinating property just off I-35 offers a surprising variety of animals, including lions, porcupines, alligators, zebras, sloths, peacocks and, of course, snakes. awsfzoo.com

King’s Inn, Riviera

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The fried shrimp at King’s Inn is worth a detour on the way to the beach. credit: Helen Anders/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

No trip to South Padre Island is complete without a meal at King’s Inn, a seafood restaurant where there’s no printed menu and the tartar sauce recipe is a closely guarded family secret. You may have to wait for the succulent shrimp, oysters and sliced avocado salad, but trust me, it’s worth it. There’s no website, but call ahead to make a reservation if you can. 361-297-5265

Waco Mammoth National Monument, Waco

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Waco Mammoth National Monument is worth a stop on your way to Dallas.

Like dinosaurs? You’ll love Waco Mammoth National Monument. Next time you head to Dallas, plan to take a quick detour at this site, which features sub-fossil remains of six Columbian mammoths and several other Ice Age animals. Also recommended in Waco: Cameron Park Zoo, a Health Camp shake and Magnolia Market. nps.gov/waco/index.htm

What’s it like to make beer with Foreigner? Ask this Louisiana brewery

A few weeks ago, Lake Charles’ Crying Eagle Brewing Company got a call from the band Foreigner saying, essentially: I want to know what beer is. I want you to show me.

The band was heading to Lake Charles for a sold-out show on Jan. 27, and two of its members, Michael Bluestein and Bruce Watson, both craft beer aficionados, were interested in coming by to learn more about the brewing process.

“It was very surprising to have people of celebrity be as excited to be part of this process as we were to have them here,” said Stephen Tyson, general manager of Crying Eagle, adding that the brewery will soon release a new Hop Blooded IPA in honor of the friendship. “You expect them to sprinkle some stuff around and be here for a photo op, but everything we asked them to do they were like, ‘Oh, yeah, absolutely!’ They were loving it.”

Crying Eagle is a rough translation of the Atakapa Indian word “Calcasieu” (pronounced KAL-ka-shoo), which is also the name of the parish where Lake Charles is located. The brewery, the brainchild of president Eric Avery, opened in July with a mission of bringing something to the Lake Charles community that they’d never seen before. But despite their recent celebrity following, opening a craft brewery in a market where only 2 percent of beer sales are craft has provided some challenges.

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General manager Stephen Tyson, left, and brewmaster Bill Mungai, at Crying Eagle Brewing in Lake Charles, La. credit: Kristin Finan/American-Statesman

“So much of our mission is education,” Tyson said. “We are in a Michelob Ultra-dominated market. It definitely influences what we do and the styles we choose.”

The brewery currently has three beers — the Chuck, Ready to Mingle and Calcasieu Common — available in stores in parts of Louisiana as well as about a dozen on tap in-house. They hope to be available in some capacity in Texas by the end of the year.

Brewmaster Bill Mungai moved to Lake Charles from Pittsburgh more than a decade ago and was solely a homebrewer for several years. Even after he married his wife and moved in with her, he kept his two-bedroom apartment for brewing. Eventually they added a room onto their house for that purpose.

“I moved down here and didn’t have any friends or know anybody, so I started making beer,” said Mungai, adding that it was always his dream to open a brewery. “Then I made a lot of friends. When you have good, free alcohol, people start turning up.”

The brewery itself is sleek and modern yet inviting, with a sprawling outdoor light-strung patio and textured walls that incorporate wooden pallets.

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The walls at Crying Eagle Brewing Company incorporate wooden pallets. credit: Kristin Finan/American-Statesman

”The pallets really came about because we were looking for a way to add texture to walls that were huge and blank,” Tyson said. “I did a lot of looking on Pinterest, to be honest with you. I had a great Pinterest experience, to the point where I keep it on my phone and look at stuff sometimes. There’s a lot of smart people on there.”

Mungai added that the brewery hopes to become a destination for beer lovers from around the country in the coming years.

“Every time we travel we plan around what breweries and what beer bars we want to go to,” Mungai said. “We wanted to have a destination kind of place to come and check out. We have a great outdoor beer garden space, we’re dog-friendly and kid-friendly. We’re trying to encourage the community and anyone visiting to come by and spend an afternoon.”

Info: The taproom is open from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, with live music on Fridays and Saturdays. 1165 E. McNeese St. in Lake Charles. 337-990-4871, cryingeagle.com.

Love raw cookie dough? This New York sweet shop is selling it by the scoop

If you’ve ever dreamed of walking into a store and ordering a scoop of your favorite raw cookie dough for dessert, now you can, thanks to a new shop in New York City’s Greenwich Village.

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Do serves up a variety of cookie dough flavors in its New York shop. credit: Do

Do (pronounced “dough”) Cookie Dough Confections is kind of like an ice cream shop, if, that is, you swapped out the ice cream for scoops of delicious, raw, safe-to-eat cookie dough. Classic flavors include chocolate chip, brownie batter and oatmeal M&M — you decide how many scoops, what toppings you’d like and if you want it to come in a cup or a cone. There are also signature flavors such as Nuts for Nuts (peanut butter, Reese’s cups and Reese’s Pieces) and the Heavenly (sugar cookie dough with Nutella, chocolate chips, caramel bits and sea salt).

“I have relentlessly researched, tested and tried ingredients to perfect the recipes of my favorite cookie flavors,” owner Kristen Tomlan writes on the Do website. “I want everyone — regardless of dietary restrictions — to enjoy delicious cookies and cookie dough, brought to you by Do.”

See, dreams really do, er, dough, come true. It even says so inside the store.

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On the wall inside Do, a cookie dough shop in New York City. credit: Do

There are also gluten-free, vegan and grain-free options, as well as a special cookie dough treat for dogs. The shop also serves ice cream sandwiches, milkshakes and sundaes. It’s open every day except Mondays at 10 a.m.; the earlier you go, the better.

May we suggest that if Do is eyeing expansion it look at Austin for its second location? Or maybe we can talk Tiff’s Treats into launching its own dough-only store?

In the meantime, if you can’t get to New York, you can also order from Do online, although the website has been so popular in recent days that online orders are currently unavailable.

Still not convinced? We’ll leave you with this video from Thrillist that’s been making the rounds.