About two hundred miles southwest of Fort Worth, San Angelo rises from a patchwork of farmland where the Hill Country meets the Chihuahuan Desert. While the city of nearly 100,000 residents is known for its Old West heritage, its vibrant cultural scene still seems like a well-kept secret, even though Governor Greg Abbott designated San Angelo the Visual Arts Capital of Texas last year.
Public initiatives such as the nonprofit Art in Uncommon Places have bolstered the city’s attractions, as have the efforts of the San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts, which hosts one of the country’s foremost outdoor painting competitions, EnPleinAirTexas, each fall. The museum is also overseeing the further development of a two-hundred-acre cultural district, which museum president and CEO Howard Taylor envisions as a pedestrian-friendly artisan community that’s representative of the Concho Valley at large. “We are tied to the land in a way that few other places are,” he says of the region, which stretches across eighteen counties. “That colors the character of this city.”
At Cork & Pig Tavern, diners file in for fresh salads, wood-fired pizzas, and indulgent beignets. Miss Hattie’s Restaurant & Cathouse Lounge, co-owned by Mayor Brenda Gunter, is a downtown staple for comfort food in a Victorian-style building erected in the 1880s. Locals crowd into the colorful Armenta’s Cafe for Mexican favorites, while Peasant Village, located in a 1920s bungalow, offers buttermilk fried quail and rack of lamb with apple-mint butter. For drinks, head to Raw 1899, a lively wine bar and art lounge.
Offering everything from souvenirs and trinkets to homemade fudge and honey-glazed hams, Eggemeyer’s General Store lives up to its name. The handcrafted boots and saddles are built to last at M. L. Leddy’s, which is celebrating its centennial this year. At Cactus Book Shop, collectors including Robert Duvall and Nolan Ryan call on owner Felton Cochran, who offers a huge selection of Texana tomes.
Built in 1929 as one of San Angelo’s first fire stations, the Old Central Firehouse Bed & Brew is a five-bedroom, adults-only bed-and-breakfast in the middle of downtown that smartly balances nostalgia with contemporary decor. Its eponymous pizzeria and taproom is popular with visitors and locals alike.
See + Do
Join the joggers, bikers, and dog walkers on the city’s four-plus-mile River Walk, which hugs the spring-fed Concho River. Civic League Park is home to one of the city’s most unexpected delights: the world-renowned International Waterlily Collection, which is in bloom every year from spring to fall. At the Chicken Farm Art Center, which turned fifty last year, take a studio class or peruse the works of resident artists. A little more than two miles away, the Fort Concho National Historic Landmark, founded in 1867, remains one of the best-preserved forts in the West. Troops from all four regiments of the buffalo soldiers were stationed here at some point. “It’s a remarkable survivor,” says site manager Robert Bluthardt. “We should all look so good when we’re a hundred and fifty.”
This article originally appeared in the June 2022 issue of Texas Monthly with the headline “Painting the Town.” Subscribe today.