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The Hill Country’s Best-kept Secret

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There is so much to see and do in Comfort, Texas.  

Story and photos by Niki Jones

Comfort Texas
The 8th Street Market and Highs Cafe & Store

Nestled in the Hill Country somewhere between Austin and Kerrville, there exists a town so lovely the residents should be keeping it a secret. 

I discovered Comfort, Texas, accidentally. In the middle of quarantine, I decided I needed to jump in my car and just drive. Rolling through High Street, the town’s main road, I was struck by the old buildings and charming shops, most of which were closed at the time due to the pandemic. I vowed to return as soon as it opened back up. When I did a couple months later, I realized there was more to Comfort than I could have ever imagined. 

I was lucky enough to have a brilliant guide in Shirley Solis, a Comfort native who returned to enjoy her retirement and now volunteers with the Comfort Chamber of Commerce. I couldn’t have had a better host; Shirley knew everything about the town’s history and even showed me a road named after her family. When she handed me a meticulously planned two-and-a-half-day itinerary with appointments scheduled on the hour every hour, I wondered how there could possibly be that many things to see in Comfort’s 3.2 square miles. Turns out there were…and more.

Originally a German settlement town established in 1854, Comfort has been referred to as the most well-preserved town in Texas. Historical markers are everywhere; “close to one hundred” historical buildings dating back to the 19th century, Shirley estimated. Notable architect Alfred Giles designed many of the buildings in the later part of the 19th century, including courthouses, hotels and even residences. The Treue der Union (“Loyalty to the Union”) Monument is just one of the many pieces of Comfort’s story; history buffs can easily do a deep dive into Comfort’s past. 

“This used to be…” became Shirley’s mantra as she showed me around this town of 2,500 residents. She recalled details from her childhood like it was yesterday and told stories that illustrated everyday life in this idyllic town.

“Used to be” might sound bittersweet to anyone else who yearns for days past. In Comfort, however, everything that “used to be” is now optimized for maximum aesthetic appeal. Virtually every old building that has become a business in Comfort has been meticulously and thoughtfully preserved and restored with much care and the highest-quality materials. There’s nothing quite like a renovation of a historic structure when done correctly, especially when the original elements, wear and tear and history are left intact, juxtaposed with clean modern touches. In Comfort, those who have love for the history and the means for an all-out renovation take on these projects, the large majority of which are for their own businesses. An old warehouse becomes a stunningly laid out home-decor store. An old Ford dealership becomes an eclectic shopping bazaar. An old filling station becomes the town’s cool pizza joint. An old bowling alley becomes a hip boutique bed and breakfast. The transformations are countless. 

Comfort Coffee Co. Comfort Texas
Comfort Coffee Co.

The most stunning restoration is the Ingenhuett on High, one of the oldest buildings in Texas. Another Alfred Giles creation, this former general store was built in 1867. Thanks to Craig and Jeanine Leeder’s meticulous labor, it’s now an events venue. Painstakingly restoring the structure, some of which had fallen down due to a fire in 2006, the Leeders kept original elements and repurposed them, like the industrial floor-to-ceiling parts bins from when the building served as a John Deere dealership. The wall of bins now stands behind the massive original shop counter. Together they look like they were designed specifically for the striking events-center bar. The history of the building is evident in the walls that feature the char marks of the fire, the beauty of which one couldn’t duplicate if they tried. Anyone can see the soaring level of renovation and restoration everywhere in Comfort.

The mixing of old and new isn’t the only thing that sets Comfort apart from the myriad charming Texas small towns. The sense of community in Comfort is robust. The people collaborate and support each other in a way I’ve never witnessed before. 

“This community is beautiful. Everyone in this town helps each other out,” remarked Kathy Asher, proprietor of Food for the Soul (where I was served the most delicious Thai coconut shrimp soup Kathy whipped up from ingredients that inspired her at the supermarket that morning) and Just Chillin’, an indoor-outdoor wine-and-beer lounge on High Street that features live music. As I met business owner after business owner, I kept hearing the same sentiment on what makes Comfort so special to them: 100% of them raved about Comfort’s sense of community. 

When I asked High’s Cafe Owner Denise Rabalais what makes Comfort so special, she said, “Its history and its people, truly. There’s an essence…the people, the community.” And based on the number of locals visiting her restaurant, it’s clear they are happy to support her and her business (though High’s also gets a plethora of out-of-towners who come just to sample their fresh offerings in the bright, spacious former fire station). Most of the restaurant owners I chatted with mentioned they even get their ingredients from locals whenever possible.

Shirley recalls how excited she was when she turned 12 years old and had to pay 12 cents instead of the kids’ price of 8 cents at the movie theater. Today that same theater houses a busy coffee shop (called, fittingly, The Lobby Coffee Shop) and a grand event space and brewery currently under renovation and restoration in the back. The owners, Russell and Rhonda Cravey, are painstakingly preserving elements of the original space while mixing clever design elements like a scrim at the back of the theater stage to feature the silhouettes of the beer vats. While the former theater will undoubtedly draw visitors from out of town, the Craveys hope the brewery will be as popular with the locals as their coffee shop is. (A happy bonus is that a portion of the proceeds of their Rescue Dog Coffee Company sales go to local dog rescues.)

Comfort Texas
The Elephant Story and Studio Comfort

While getting visitors to Comfort is the goal for all the business owners I spoke with, they all seemed to agree there is a line they don’t want to cross where Comfort becomes like another certain Hill-Country town. From what I could tell, Comfort is about to enter the sweet spot where the town is bringing people in, but not so many people that it would mar the experience. In fact, once I returned from my trip and mentioned to various friends where I’d been, the overall response was some variation of “Oh, yeah, I’ve been wanting to check Comfort out.”

“As the saying goes,” Russell Cravey remarked, “‘A rising tide lifts all boats.’” He couldn’t have summed up Comfort, Texas, more succinctly.

Comfort’s not-to-miss businesses and attractions

Fiddlin Frog Comfort Texas
Fiddlin Frog

SHOP

Fiddlin Frog
This former candle factory offers an eclectic mix of unique high-end home goods, creations by local artists and apparel. Owned by interior designer Allison Wood, the shop also has its own line of furniture.
22 Hwy. 87, fiddlinfrogs.net

Turkey Ridge Trading Company
One of Comfort’s original buildings that housed a cafe, a variety store and a car dealership (owned by my tour guide’s father, mother and uncle, respectively), this sprawling shop features home furnishing, home décor, faux floral and jewelry. “We have customers who have been shopping with us for 20 years,” says manager Debi Reed.
527 Front St., turkeyridge.com

Salvaged Souls Vintage Market
Located in one of the Schwethelm buildings and built in 1928, this historic home features rooms of salvaged and repurposed art and décor.
702 Front St., salvagedsoulsvintagemarket.com

The Victorian Rose
This little shop, tucked in an alley, is easy to miss, but you won’t want to. In addition to gifts, custard and artisan chocolates are the main attractions.
703-B High St., victorian-rose-gift-shop.business.site

Elizabeth Daniell Boutique
Unique clothing and gifts, many from local artists, are featured in this quaint boutique
705 High St., facebook.com/EDboutique

The Tinsmith’s Wife
A mecca for enthusiasts of needlepoint, cross-stitch, knitting, crochet and embroidery, this large, multiroom shop sees customers flock to it from all around the country and beyond.
405 7th Street, tinsmithswife.com

ReDefined 7
Unique items for the home or office abound in this quaint shop, along with art, jewelry and even wine.
509 7th St., facebook.com/uniquefindscomforttexas

Comfort Antique Mall
More than 30 antiques dealers have set up shop in this impressive 8,000-square-foot space. Owner Carol Cadle and her associates have a love of treasures from the past and have been in business for 23 years.
734 High St., visitcomfortantiquemall.com

The 8th St. Market
Set on three acres, this former 1940s Ford Dealership is home to 30 vendors and calls itself “a curated multi-dealer shopping community with an eclectic mix of architectural, industrial, repurposed and vintage lifestyle antiques and art.”
523 8th St., the8thstreetmarket.com

The Heart Cottage
A unique mix of paper goods, gifts and a year-round Halloween room makes this shop a fun place to visit.
510 7th St., theheartcottage.com

J Gowen Jewelry Artistes
Originally Comfort’s blacksmith shop, this renovated space is stunning, as is the handcrafted “jewelry with a Texas attitude.”
626 High St., jgowenjewelry.com

Shopping With Siobhain’s Downright Comfort
This big multiroom space features Texas décor, art, gifts, apparel…and pies.
205 TX-27

Simply Comfort
A go-to for all things Texas, this adorable shop is chock-full of gifts, home décor and apparel.
817 High St., facebook.com/simplycomforttx


Comfort Storyville Cottage

EAT AND DRINK

Comfort Coffee Co.
A cool new addition to Comfort, this modern shop set inside The 8th St. Market takes coffee seriously and also serves delicious fresh-baked goods. Pro tip: Try the icebox cookie.

The Lobby Coffee Shop
Formerly the town’s movie theater, this coffee shop boasts its own roast called Rescue Dog Coffee Company; they donate a portion of their proceeds to local dog rescue groups.
523 7th St, thelobbycoffeeshop.com

High’s Cafe & Store
Tourists and locals alike flock to what is now a Comfort institution. Fresh, tasty food is the star of the show here, and a friendly atmosphere is just a bonus. Pro tip: Try the crab cakes.
726 High St., highscafeandstore.com

Food for the Soul Bistro
Delicious sandwiches, soup and even steak are offered at this local favorite. Pro tip: Try whatever daily special owner Kathy Asher has cooked up.
702 High St., facebook.com/foodforthesoulbistro

Just Chillin in Comfort
The sister business to Food for the Soul, this wine bar has indoor and outdoor seating and often features live music.
702 High St., facebook.com/justchillincomfort

Comfort Pizza
Formerly a gas station and right in the middle of the main square, this cool spot is run by a local father-son duo who take pizza-making very seriously, and their salads are famous among Comfort residents.
802 High St., facebook.com/comfortpizza

Newsom Vineyards
This wine-tasting outpost of the popular wine offers in-store purchases as well as a wine club.
717 Front St., newsomvineyards.com

Singing Water Vineyards
A few miles south of downtown Comfort, this beautiful rolling property offers river views, wine tastings, live music and food courtesy of Bruins Creek Bistro.
316 Mill Dam Rd., singingwatervineyards.com

Hill Country Distillers
Prickly-pear and jalapeño spirits make this distillery unlike any other. Sit at the bar and choose from either a fun tasting menu or unique craft cocktails. Pro tip: Once you find your favorite libation, you can look up the recipe on their website and make it at home.
723 Front St., hillcountrytxdistillers.com


Holekamp Guest Haus

STAY

Comfort Storyville Cottage
This historic Victorian cottage built before 1900 feels like a dollhouse inside and offers modern amenities. It’s right in the heart of town.
622 High St., comfortstoryville.com

Camp Comfort
This converted bowling alley offers both rooms and cabins and is a super-cool place to stay. It’s located on picturesque Cypress Creek.
601 Water St., camp-comfort.com

Meyer Inn on Cypress Creek
Set on 40 acres, the former Meyer Hotel (dating back to 1857) has a rich history and Texas-classic touches everywhere.
www.meyerinn.com/

Hotel Giles
Comfort’s original hotel, this historic building was built by Alfred Giles in 1880. This beautiful landmark now offers 14 modern and beautiful rooms and suites, and it’s right in the middle of town.
717 High St., hotelgiles.com

Holekamp Guest Haus
Ordered from the Sears catalog and assembled in 1906, this stunning home, now serving as a bed and breakfast, was the largest Sears kit house offered and cost $5,000.
610 2nd St., bedandbreakfastcomfort.com


SEE AND DO

Studio Comfort Texas
Enjoy the gallery featuring local artists and take a class (group or one-on-one) with the fun and friendly artist-owners Cara Hines and Jeannette MacDougall.
716 High St., studiocomforttexas.com

James Kiehl River Bend Park
This natural 25-acre park along the Guadalupe River has 1.5 miles of trails, is free to use and offers great birdwatching.
118 River Bend Rd., co.kendall.tx.us/page/JamesKiehlRiverbendPark

Hygieostatic Bat Roost
Constructed in 1918 to help control the spread of malaria, this massive tower is on the National Register of Historic Places.
109 Farm to Market Rd. 473

Treue Der Union Monument
No visit to Comfort would be complete without a visit to this memorial to the German-Texans who perished in the 1862 Nueces massacre.
High St. (between 3rd and 4th St.)

Hill Country Pottery
Take a turn on the wheel with lessons or just shop the handmade treasures at this pottery paradise.
738 FM 473, hillcountrypottery.com

The Butterfly Creek Bakery
While the address says Fredericksburg, Comfort is proud to claim this business as its own, and it’s no surprise since their sweet treats are beyond delicious. Pro tip: Order in advance from their online menu and swing by on your drive back to Austin.
124 Ulmus Rd. Fredericksburg, TX, butterflycreek.net


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