Eating well is an essential part of the Texas experience.
The Lone Star state is famous for its barbecue and its Tex-Mex cuisine (a Texas twist on traditional Mexican food), but other regions of the state have their own specialties that reflect their heritage. Meeting planners wanting to incorporate local culture and culinary experiences into their events should consider these five Texas destinations that offer everything from German and Cajun cuisine to Tex-Mex, grilled steak, and of course, barbecue.
The largest city in the Rio Grande Valley, Brownsville is a Mexican/American community on the southern tip of Texas, bordering Mexico. Not only is the city known for its Mexican cuisine, but it also has several must-see attractions, including the Gladys Porter Zoo and Starbase, Elon Musk’s SpaceX Launch Facility.
Brownsville is home to the famous Taco Trail, comprising 11 taquerias that feature their own unique flavors and styles of tacos. Visitors, including groups, can hop on the trail, which offers discounts at every eatery featured along the way.
Vera’s Backyard Bar-B-Que is an award-winning taco joint known for its barbacoa de cabeza, or barbecued cow’s head, which is smoked over coals underground in a brick-lined pit for up to 12 hours. Burying the meat makes it juicier. Other styles of tacos available along the trail include barbacoa, tripas (which are cow intestines), fish tacos, tacos al pastor and pork tacos, called trompo.
Any of the taco eateries along the trail can host group events or cater events at the city’s top meeting hotels or venues.
The Brownsville Events Center is a full-service facility for trade shows and conferences with a main ballroom that can seat 800 for a banquet or be divided into five smaller rooms that can host groups of 120 to 200 for a banquet. The facility also has three small conference rooms. The city has more than 30 hotels with 2,200 hotel rooms available. Many of the hotels offer meeting space for smaller groups.
Fredericksburg is rich in German heritage, including an authentic German culinary scene that ranges from bakeries to bistros. Meeting planners can book a meeting or event at the oldest operating brewpub in Texas, Fredericksburg Brewing Company, and indulge in delicious German fare, such as knackwurst, bratwurst and schnitzel. They also can organize dinners at many of the city’s German restaurants.
The Pioneer Museum tells the story of Fredericksburg’s German past through living history demonstrations, such as candle making, cornbread making and blacksmithing. Groups can enjoy a guided tour of the grounds to get a glimpse into the daily lives of the German pioneers of the Texas Hill Country or host an event there.
The Texas Hill Country is known for its wineries, and groups can taste their way through 50 wineries in the area via private tour companies that offer full day, half day and private wine excursions. The wineries also offer unique meeting and off-site function spaces, including Barons Creek Vineyards, Fat Ass Ranch and Winery, and Harvest Room at Signor Vineyards.
The Hangar Hotel and Conference Center offers 8,000 square feet of venue space, plus an additional 1,800 square feet of space split between two smaller rooms. The venue can host groups of 350. Fredericksburg also has five other full-service hotels with function space.
Often called Funkytown, Fort Worth is a foodie paradise, from historic Texan saloons and vegan-friendly cafes to award-winning barbecue joints. Six of the city’s barbecue restaurants are listed among the top 50 in the state by Texas Monthly, including the No. 1 spot, Goldee’s Barbecue, which also was named as a James Beard Award semifinalist in 2023. Another James Beard semifinalist, Don Artemio, is known for its northern Mexican cuisine.
The 35-block Sundance Square district, adjacent to the Fort Worth Convention Center, is home to restaurants, theaters, shops and live music clubs. Meeting groups can set up customized food tours, highlighting the best local cuisine, drinks and culture or plan a cooking class where they can learn new culinary skills and bond over food.
Many of the city’s top restaurants offer private dining experiences for groups, from classic Tex-Mex at Joe T. Garcia’s to fine dining at Ellerbe Fine Foods, or they can hire restaurants like Fat Cow BBQ to cater their event so they can enjoy authentic Texas barbecue without having to leave the building.
The convention center is the top meeting site in the city, with 253,226 square feet of exhibit space and 58,849 square feet of flexible meeting space, including a 28,160-square-foot ballroom and 38 breakout spaces. While in town, meeting groups should visit the legendary Stockyards National Historic District to witness twice-daily cattle drives or host an event at Billy Bob’s Texas, the world’s largest honky-tonk. The venue can host groups up to 6,000 and features live music, a rodeo arena, a large dance floor, dozens of bars and a restaurant featuring barbecue, chicken fried steak and hamburgers.
Nestled on the Texas Gulf Coast, on the border with Louisiana, Beaumont is famous for its mix of Tex-Mex, barbecue and Cajun cuisine. Cajun or bayou culture runs deep through southeast Texas, especially during crawfish season, from February through June. Groups can either gather at a local Cajun restaurant to enjoy crawfish by the pound or have it catered at their event. The Beaumont Convention and Visitors Bureau can set up special nights while the group is in town and even set up deals at local establishments.
The Cajun Food Trail is a free passport program offered by Beaumont CVB that encourages visitors to eat locally and explore the regional culinary scene. A fusion of Asian-Cajun crawfish is featured at several restaurants, while Tia Juanita’s Fish Camp adds some Tex-Mex flair to its Cajun cuisine, creating Mexi-Cajun food such as boudin quesadillas, gumbo, fried alligator and oysters on the half shell. Floyd’s is a local eatery that serves blackened, grilled or fried fish topped with a Cajun sauce such as Pontchartrain or etouffee for extra flavor.
Ford Park Entertainment Complex, which includes Ford Exhibit Hall and Ford Arena, offers a combined 83,000 square feet of meeting space with nine meeting rooms, 11,000 square feet of pre-function space and full-service catering. Beaumont Civic Center, in the heart of downtown, has 41,300 square feet of meeting space. The city also has two full-service meeting hotels and more than 3,700 hotel rooms.
Located on the plains of the Texas Panhandle, Amarillo is known for its blue skies, red-walled canyons at Palo Duro Canyon State Park, cattle ranching and a deep cowboy culture.
Meeting groups wishing to host events in the area not only have a chance to see breathtaking and stark scenery but also to enjoy some of Texas’ top culinary experiences. The Big Texan Steak Ranch and Brewery is known for its 72-ounce steak challenge, where individuals must eat a 72-ounce steak, shrimp cocktail, baked potato, salad and a roll with butter in an hour. If they complete the challenge, their dinner is free. If not, their meal is $72. Meeting groups can host events at the restaurant and sample a 72-ounce steak that is prepared just for them but cut into individual bites so everyone has a chance to try it.
Groups also can get out of their traditional meeting spaces and enjoy an authentic posse-style horseback ride and experience a chuckwagon dinner at Los Cedros Ranch. The experience can also feature cowboy storytellers on the rim of Palo Duro Canyon.
Amarillo Civic Center Complex has 410,000 square feet of convention space with a coliseum, two exhibit halls, Heritage Ballroom, auditorium and several multi-purpose rooms. The Amarillo Globe-News Center for the Performing Arts, a 1,300-seat venue, is the newest addition to the complex.