We headed to the Central Texas town of La Grande to “Czech” out what might just be the “Best Little Day Trip in Texas.”
The events of La Grange’s famous Chicken Ranch inspired the stage play, movie, and the lyrics of a popular song, Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. Then there’s the ZZ Top song that still fuels Texas folklore.
The brothel is no longer around—it was officially closed in 1973 after operating for more than 130 years. The building was sold and hauled to Dallas where, for awhile, it served as a restaurant that served—what else? Chicken. Later, the building burned to the ground.
All that’s left these days is the legend and some fading memories. However, there’s still plenty to do in this town.
For starters, we Czeched out the Texas Czech Heritage and Cultural Center. This museum gave us a feel for the culture and early days of Fayette County when thousands of Czech immigrants populated the area.
The Czech immigration to the Lone Star State began in 1853 and was largely over by 1912. The estimate is that there are roughly a million Texans who trace their roots back to Bohemia, Moravia, Silesia, and Slovkia.
Nestled along the winding Colorado River in historic Fayette County, the picturesque Central Texas town of La Grange was first laid out in 1837. From buffalo and Indians in the 1500s to La Salle crossing the Colorado River, La Grange has been a major player in Texas history.
Rich in scenic beauty, La Grange was settled in the 1820s and named after the Marquis de La Fayette, a revolutionary war hero and his home in France near the Swiss border. The Marquis materially aided the American colonists in their struggle for independence.
La Grange is located between US Highway 77 and Texas 71, midway between Austin and Houston.
La Grange has a storied past from its early days of settlement by members of The Old Three Hundred, colonists under Stephen F. Austin, the “Father of Texas.” However, the town was primarily settled by succeeding waves of Czech, German, and Moravian immigrants.
The city lies below the bluff on the Colorado River and was originally selected as the location for the capitol of Texas until vetoed by Sam Houston.
It’s a great base for getting acquainted with the entire Fayette County region and beyond, offering the historic Fayette County courthouse and old town square, renown quilt museum, quaint shops, and good food—including delicious Czech kolaches and Texas BBQ.
One of the historic buildings on the town square, La Petite Gourmet Shoppe is a specialty kitchen shop across the street from the Fayette County courthouse. Le Petite Gourmet Shoppe features something everyone will love—from gadgets that make gourmet cooking a snap, to all the essential cookware, ingredients, and cutlery kitchen necessities.
The Texas Quilt Museum is housed in two historic 1890s buildings, which provide a fine showcase for both antique and contemporary quilt art with their high ceilings, brick walls, and original hardwood floors.
To taste Czech culture and a delectable kolache—gooey, fruit-filled Czech pastries—and other bakery goods we headed to Weikel’s Bakery. They make their Cinnamon Rolls and Honey Bee Rolls from sweet Czech dough. Cinnamon Rolls come plain or with raisins and pecans. The Honey Bee Rolls are like a Cinnamon Roll, but instead of icing they have a thick honey and pecan topping.
For a real taste of Texas tradition, look no further than Prause Meat Market right off the square in La Grange. I got the feeling that the butcher shop is the main business and the BBQ was an afterthought which used to be true of most meat markets/BBQ pits in the distant past. They have been serving customers since the 1890s. Today the fourth generation of Prauses are manning the chopping block helping customers stuff their bellies with tradition.
Another must-see stop is the Monument Hill and Kreische Brewery State Historic Site. This park holds two incredible historic sites, one is Monument Hill honoring the Texan heroes who lost their lives in the Dawson Massacre and Mier Expedition, where Texans had to draw beans for their lives.
The other stop is the ruins of the Kreische Brewery and the house of the Kreische family.
As ZZ Top would say….”how how how how”.
While some may only know La Grange for its infamous Chicken Ranch or through the music bearded rockers ZZ Top, in truth this Central Texas town has much more to offer.
Please Note: This is Part 1 of a 7-Part series on La Grande, Texas
Texas Spoken Friendly
Rumor sprendin’ a-’round in that Texas town
’bout that shack outside La Grange
and you know what I’m talkin’ about.
Just let me know if you wanna go
to that home out on the range.
—recorded by ZZ Top (1973); lyrics by Joe Michael Hill, Billy Gibbons, Frank Lee Beard