HONDO, TEXAS: GOD'S COUNTRY

There's a sign by the side of the road as you enter Hondo, Texas that proclaims, “This is God's Country—Please Don't Drive through it like Hell.” At once, you can see Hondo is a proud community that also has a sense of humor.

This town of 9,300 or so is the county seat of Medina County, and it's perched on the southern edge of the renowned Texas Hill Country. Hondo (Spanish for “deep,” after the nearby creek of the same name) was first settled in 1881, and many of the sprawling ranches in the area are still managed by the ancestors of the town's original founders. During the height of World War II, Hondo was home to the largest air navigation and pilot training facility in the world—the Hondo Army Airfield, established in 1942. One of the strangest claims to fame Hondo has is that two of its banks were robbed on the same night, by the same gang! In the early 1920s, the Newton Gang discovered a bank vault sitting wide open in one bank. Undoubtedly thinking this was way too easy, they robbed that bank, then went across the street and robbed another one.

There's another, less weird claim to fame here, too. Celebrated western writer Louis L'Amour, it's said, spent some time here working as a ranch hand. As much as he admired the cowboy lifestyle, he apparently decided he was more suited to being a writer—and one of his works was a short story that became the 1953 John Wayne film, Hondo. Though the film is set in Arizona and New Mexico, it's generally acknowledged that Wayne's character, Hondo Lane, is named after the Texas town.

Let's take a deeper dive into what modern-day Hondo has to experience. Backroads Reservations is happy to provide this visitor's guide to the highlights of the Hondo area.

Take your Texas-sized appetite to Hermann Sons Steak House! For three generations, this restaurant has offered the best meaty fare to their hungry customers. They're best known for their Texas T-Bone and fried shrimp, but every appetizer, sandwich, and entree on their menu is a tested winner. Hermann Sons is open every day of the week but Monday, and weekends often feature live entertainment.

For simpler fare—and authentic mouth-watering Texas BBQ—check out Heavy's Bar-B-Que. Whether you order a sandwich, meat plate, or Frito pie, it's a rare customer who leaves here hungry! Hungry for pizza? Hondough Pizza Co. offers made-to-order pizzas, appetizers, salads and sandwiches to satisfy any palate. Still hungry? The Hondo Cafe, a local favorite, serves up a simple but delicious menu of burgers, traditional Tex-Mex, and daily desserts for which they're famous.

If you're more of a cook-your-own type, make a visit to Grassfield Farm. Their emphasis is on organic, clean, antibiotic-free food products, with practices that also focus on animal welfare. The Bendele family has been farming here for five generations, and they offer everything from grass-fed beef to free-range eggs.

One of the oldest buildings in Hondo (famed Apache chief Geronimo was incarcerated there briefly) now houses the Deep Creek Depot. Their venue is more like two, with an elegant indoor bar and a large and airy outside patio. Live entertainment from their stage keeps the place hopping on most Friday and Saturday nights. Deep Creek Depot is open Thursday through Saturday, year round.

It might look a little out of place in rustic Texas, but the Raye Theater is definitely worth a look during your visit to Hondo. Opened in 1938, the Raye reflects the geometric and stylish lines of the Moderne architectural style of the time. They stage live entertainment from time to time, as well as screening cinematic masterpieces. This is a perfect place to watch the past meeting the present—and don't forget the popcorn!

It's a motorcycle rally with heart! The St. Valentines Day Massacre Motorcycle Rally is held every February (naturally) right here at the Medina County Fairgrounds in Hondo. Live music, a motorcycle fun run, and food and merchandise vendors all add to this weekend-long gathering. Despite the slightly eerie name, this rally has been held here since 1977—and it's a guaranteed good time for all bikers!

The Graff 7A Ranch is open weekends throughout the fall, and has a lot to offer their visitors of all ages. The ranch is home to numerous campfire sites, where you can bask in the Hill Country beauty with the only light sources being your fire and the moon above. Their South Texas Maize is seven acres big, grown and shaped in a different pattern every fall. Food-wise, their food offerings cover everything from meaty entrees at their SmokeHaus to sweet tooth satisfaction at the Sugar Shack. Take a hayride, and have a bounce on their two Corn Pop-Poppers, gigantic trampoline-like bouncing pillows. Finally, their Dance Barn serves up the best of live local performances on Saturday nights.

Less than ten miles up the road from Hondo lies the tiny settlement of Quihi. It's home to the Quihi Gun Club, which—established in 1890—makes it the oldest continuously-run establishment of its kind in the United States. More to the point here, they have a dance hall that hosts dances on the 2nd and 4th Saturdays of every month. The dance hall's toe-tapping live entertainment has made it a favorite gathering spot in the Hondo area.

The sights, sounds, and flavors of Hondo deserve better than a stay in a run-of-the-mill hotel room. Why take the cookie-cutter route when you can appreciate your surroundings in a unique, picturesque setting with a long list of amenities? Backroads Reservations has your back! Check out our listings in the Hondo area, all of which will maximize your visit to God's Country.