Lubbock, Texas, also known as Hub City, has a surprising arts, food and wine scene.
Story and photos by Niki Jones
It’s 104 degrees. I’m standing at a window overlooking a cliff high above a beautiful blue lake dotted with trees and tiny islands. A hot, dry, steady wind is blowing through the room as I gaze westward from a living room constructed of glass and rust-colored steel.
I am here to behold the famous Robert Bruno Steel House in Ransom Canyon, Texas. Located 13 miles from downtown Lubbock, Texas, this multifaceted steel building, the construction of which got underway in 1973, remains only 70 percent complete. Being nestled in this fascinating object of art made of 110 tons of scrap metal feels like a perfect way to begin my tour of Lubbock: It’s setting the stage with the unexpected.
When it comes to arts-and-culture destinations, most would likely not think of Lubbock. I certainly assumed Lubbock had nothing but Texas Tech University and flat land as far as the eye can see. But as it turns out, I was wrong. Lubbock actually has quite the arts scene, and while the Robert Bruno Steel House is the most prominent piece of artwork in the Lubbock area (and the late Robert Richard Bruno is the most well-known artist), it’s merely a drop in the bucket.
The Texas Tech Public Art Program includes an extensive collection located on the university’s 1,839-acre campus. Named one of the top 10 university public-art collections in the U.S. by Public Art Review, the assemblage currently has more than 100 pieces that span a broad array of mediums and styles, and many are thought-provoking and meant to inspire conversation. This free and open-to-the-public collection is ever-growing; Texas Tech’s Facilities Planning & Construction department allocates 1 percent of its budget for new-building projects to accompanying commissioned permanent art pieces.
The university offers guided walking tours of the collection, and those who prefer to go it alone can utilize a free app called ArtTrek, which provides information about the collection and allows users to create maps to visit the pieces they’d like to see. I enjoyed the informative, albeit hot, walking tour. Our friendly guide offered plenty of interesting facts and history about each of the art pieces we visited.
In the heart of downtown Lubbock, visitors will find CASP, the Charles Adams Studio Project. Founded by gallerist Charles Adams, this nonprofit organization provides the community with workshops, studio space and exhibition opportunities, as well as an artist-in-residence program and various fellowships. I attended an action- packed metal-forging workshop, complete with top-notch fabrication equipment. Other workshops in the modern, airy facility include printmaking, oil painting, screen printing and letterpress.
The first Friday of every month, the community gathers in the Lubbock Cultural District for First Friday Art Trail, a self-guided, multilocation art show. The turnout impressed me; participants of all ages exuberantly made their way from gallery space to gallery space as food trucks lined the main street, a current of festivity in the air.
An undeniable complement to a robust art scene is a food scene, and Lubbock is hitting the mark with some outstanding restaurants featuring innovative food.
“You want to create that environment where people want to come to chef-driven restaurants,” says Jason Diehl, chef and co-owner, along with his wife, Kate, of The Crafthouse Gastropub, one of the few places in town with seasonal menus. “Creating that clientele is something we needed to do in Lubbock.”
Also progressive in their approach to food are the owners of Evie Mae’s Pit Barbecue, another husband-and-wife team who decided to make the bulk of their tempting offerings gluten-free. Evie Mae’s meat is oak-smoked to perfection, the green-chili cheese grits are fantastic, the chocolate sheet cake is a standout and the restaurant offers customers free beer.
Cocina de La Sirena, a beautiful Latin-American restaurant that integrates local art into its décor and boasts an impressive seasonal menu, is one not to miss.
Another must-visit spot is La Diosa Cellars, an eclectic, colorful restaurant with a seasonal menu focused on fresh Spanish-inspired tapas and sangria. Owner Sylvia McPherson says she curates each menu “with heart.” The irony didn’t escape me that I ate the best escargots of my life in Lubbock, Texas.
What foodie town would be complete without a wine scene? CapRock Winery, Trilogy Cellars, McPherson Cellars, Pheasant Ridge Winery and Llano Estacado Winery are open to the public for tours and tastings.
“We are trying to create a vineyard impact, a vineyard emphasis, that is separate from California,” explains Bobby Cox, Pheasant Ridge Winery co-founder.
The common thread among Lubbock winemakers is they all take great pride in the Texas wines they produce.
“We win the same awards as the rest of the states,” notes Greg Bruni, vice president and executive winemaker at Llano Estacado Winery.
Pride for Lubbock isn’t just limited to the winemakers; every person I spoke with, whether a local business owner or member of the community, absolutely raved about living in Lubbock, which was the nicest surprise of all.
Make Lubbock’s Signature Drink: The Chilton
1 ounce vodka, juice of 2 lemons, club soda to top, salt for the rim, lemon for garnish
1. Combine the vodka and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker and shake until combined.
2. Pour the concoction into a salted-rim highball glass filled with ice and top it with club soda.
3. Garnish with a lemon wheel or wedge.
More Lubbock Spots to Check Out
Pioneer Pocket Hotel: Choose from one of eight unique West Texas-themed suites.
The West Table Kitchen and Bar: Quench your thirst with a Ruby Chilton, a twist on Lubbock’s signature drink.
Cast Iron Grill: Trust me, order the pie.
Yellow House Coffee: Get a personal French press of fresh locally roasted coffee.
Pro tip: Skip the drive and fly direct from Austin to Lubbock on Southwest Airlines. It’s only a one-hour flight.