By Julie Catalano
Just north of Boerne off I-10 is a tree-lined stretch known as Waring-Welfare Road (SR1621), named for two nearby small towns. In between stops on the scenic route are sprawling private ranches and a horse farm or two on shaded pasturelands. Stop for a hearty meal or outdoor adventure on this simple trip back in time.
Po Po Restaurant
Plates on the walls. Plates on the tables. Plates everywhere. Named after the Mexican volcano Popocatepetl, this full-service family restaurant opened in 1929 in what was once a dance hall. Best known for its comfort food, homey interior and 2,500+ collectors plates on every wall, the restaurant features Southern favorites like fried chicken, catfish, meatloaf, Texas Gulf Coast shrimp, biscuits and honey, homemade cobblers, cheesecake, bread pudding and more. There’s a wine list, margaritas, martinis and other signature cocktails, plus mesquite-smoked baby back ribs on Friday nights and turkey on Sundays. Open seven days for lunch and dinner; lunch specials Monday-Friday, 11:00-3:00. Reservations recommended.
Nelson City Dance Hall and Party Ranch
There hasn’t been a public dance here in quite some time, but that doesn’t mean you still can’t kick up your heels in an old time dance hall. Just get yourself invited to a special event there (or book one yourself) and you’ll be two-stepping in no time. Right next door to Po Po.
Don Strange Ranch
An authentic working Longhorn cattle ranch, the Don Strange Ranch, with its award-winning full-service family catering business, is legendary for private events ranging from intimate dinners to a blowout for thousands. They also arrange themed activities for party guests — fireworks, musicians, western gunslinger and trick roper acts, mariachis, mechanical bulls, hay rides and more. On the Friday after Thanksgiving, the ranch starts its Christmas Light Fest, a drive-thru treat featuring two million lights in dazzling displays open nightly through New Year’s Eve. Visit www.sanantoniochristmaslightsfest.com for more information.
Welfare Cafe and Goat Barn
A restaurant steeped in history, the Welfare Cafe is housed in what was once the general store, post office and lending library. Those days are gone, but from them a Hill Country gem emerged in the form of a rustically elegant cafe, wine bar and beer garden in a pure country setting. The dinner menu features fresh farm-to-table ingredients combined with German fare like Jäger Schnitzel, braised beef cheeks and spätzle, summer vegetables, creamed corn polenta, potato cakes, assorted cured meats and cheeses and desserts. Open Thursday-Sunday for dinner, plus lunch on the weekends. Call for reservations.
Joshua Creek Ranch
Sportsmen’s paradise — that’s how this 26-year-old ranch is frequently described. In addition to bird and deer hunting, Joshua Creek offers the most southerly U.S. location for trout fly fishing (November through May). Popular activities include clay target shooting in three fully-automated scenarios among some of the most scenic Hill Country settings, and water sports such as kayaking and tubing on the creek and the Guadalupe River. Lodging ranges from private rooms and elegant suites, to four ranch houses with full kitchens.
Waring General Store
This old time general store from c. 1900 has it all — the beaten wood floors, antiques, cold cold drinks and a restaurant open for lunch Thursday-Sunday. They keep the menu simple with their self-described “Best Burger in the World” in five variations: Classic, Bacon and Swiss, the Stifler, Nacho Burger and HeartStopper. Fries, monster fries with toppings, onion rings, sodas, beer and wine round it out. Their famous Steaknites — going strong on Wednesday nights since 1998 — resume in August with steaks cooked to order, appetizers, desserts and live music. Reservations are recommended for large groups. For more adventure, book a ropes course or zip lining experience here to enjoy at the nearby Don Strange Ranch Adventure Challenge Course. They are perfect for company retreats or just a fun family outing.
Waring Country Store
Not to be confused with Waring General Store right across the street, this mom and pop stop also serves up juicy burgers, fries, rings and pies. Take your order to-go or stay and eat at one of the few outside tables. While you’re there, you can pick up snacks, ice cream and a few grocery items.