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Hit the Road

East Texas Gem

Winnsboro couples small-town charm with the sights and sounds of the big city

It’s not on the road to anywhere big. It’s considered part of East Texas’ Piney Woods belt but also is a showcase for dogwoods in spring and spectacular leaves in the fall. And because it’s a bit off the beaten path, Winnsboro has developed as a destination in its own right.

Winnsboro, southeast of Sulphur Springs in the northeastern corner of the state, was one of the first East Texas towns to bring music downtown in a big way. The Crossroads Music Company was started in 2005 by singer/songwriters Lynn Adler and Lindy Hearne, honoring Winnsboro’s 1854 name—Crossroads. The venue’s owner, Gus Gustafson, is crafting a new home for the music hall with concerts being held in the city’s downtown arts district. “We want to be the venue that supplies Winnsboro with some fantastic entertainment opportunities,” Gustafson says. “We’ll keep the big names coming and, partnered with the Center for the Arts, we’ll expand what we’re offering.”

Crossroads isn’t a restaurant, and it’s not a bar—it’s a music venue. You can usually get a cup of coffee, a bottle of water or a soft drink, but any other beverages you’ll have to bring yourself. Most of all, patrons are asked to bring a healthy love for and respect of music.

Once Crossroads found success in Winnsboro, other music venues sprang up.

Art & Espresso features music most Friday nights, serving assorted coffee drinks, pastries and ice cream. And, there’s the occasional poetry reading. “We’ve got great coffee, great pastries, great lunches,” says owner Marilyn Arnaud. “And we have a diverse talent selection here on Fridays.”

Although the Double C Steakhouse and Saloon makes its home in what may have been a stand-alone saloon or gambling hall long ago, it has found other ways nowadays to entertain its clientele. Huge flat-iron steaks, chicken-fried steaks and catfish start diners on their way while homemade desserts—such as apple, peach, apricot and cherry fried pies and coconut-cream pie—polish off the experience. The steakhouse also hosts concert nights featuring live music.

Brewbaker’s Restaurant & Pub is one of the newer music venues, offering a wide assortment of musical styles, both indoors and outdoors in its brew garden. The restaurant serves food all day, and my favorite lunch here is the sizzling goat cheese salad—mixed greens with roasted red peppers, kalamata olives and sautéed rounds of breaded goat cheese dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette.

For a really special dinner before one of the concerts in town, ciboVino is a great choice. You’ll feel like you’ve just arrived in Tuscany when you open the restaurant’s doors. Dark woods and Italian-style murals just make ciboVino feel special, and the food doesn’t change one’s opinion. Extremely well-prepared Italian entrées and wood-fired pizzas are served along with steaks and lamb.

When it’s time to settle down for the night, there are plenty of choices. Aunt Ann’s Cottage is a three-bedroom cottage on a working cattle ranch. You’ll have your own kitchen and lots of privacy for relaxing. The FARMHOUSE at Hunter’s Moon Farm is a 1930s farmhouse that has been updated for the comfort of today’s traveler. The cottage has two bedrooms, two porches and a kitchen for the use of overnight guests. And Thee Hubbell House is a southern plantation estate nestled among gardens and 400-year-old oak trees. In addition to a separate cottage, there are five rooms in the mansion and six in the carriage house. Both houses are wrapped with porches just right for enjoying the setting.

After all that music, big plates of great food and a good night’s sleep, a little shopping is definitely in order.

Beauweevil’s is an antiques mall with vendors all showing the best of their wares. Soy candles and goat’s milk soap and lotions are specialties of the house.

To deck out your home and kitchen, Ladles to Linens can equip the most demanding gourmet. There’s also a wine-tasting bar, and you can get a bottle of wine with a personalized label to make any occasion special.

Winnsboro has worked hard at distinguishing itself as a go-to place for food and music, but it’s also a haven for the arts. The 3rd Friday Arts Fest Crazy Daze is a monthly arts festival featuring downtown vendors, art classes and exhibits, and the

Winnsboro Center for the Arts sponsors an art gallery with original works for sale.

Winnsboro may be off the beaten path, but you’ve definitely arrived at someplace special when you get here.

Jan Adamson is a freelance writer based in Grand Saline.