by Catherine Parker
Once in the shadow of the big university next door, Bryan is reinventing itself. Showcasing a historic downtown built over 100 years ago, Bryan is poised to become the weekend getaway for millions living in the Texas Triangle.
Downtown, find a walkable cultural district lined with shopping, sipping and dining with locally owned establishments. The tree-shaded streets offer a showcase for the arts, from glass artists to painters, and the artisans, from custom hat makers to chocolatiers.
The football stadium down Highway 6 might be vibrating like a bee hive on a game day though Bryan offers a gracious escape. Leaving the college bars in the rearview mirror, Bryan draws the adults in visiting their students or in for a game with friends.
Historic Center of the Brazos Valley
Passenger service ended in the last century, though Bryan is another town that grew like a corn stalk when the train chugged in 1867. Following agriculture, the Houston and Texas Central Railroad (H&TC) connected the Brazos Valley with the selling markets. The city was incorporated soon after in 1871.
Bryan’s Main Street always housed its commercial district as it does today. With a revitalized streetscape, the downtown district offers a diverse experience steeped in history. The best part of the downtown community is the friendly smiles everyone receives, from long-time locals to visitors alike.
Architectural Gems of Downtown Bryan
Back in the beginning, Bryan was like a lot of Texas towns, a bit dusty and in need of refinement. Ladies in long skirts banded together to form the Mutual Improvement Club to make their town more livable. Though mutual acquaintances, the group set out to build a library.
Walking down Main Street, see one of the few remaining Carnegie Libraries still in use as it was originally built. Andrew Carnegie, the industrial magnate, credited his success with the books and libraries in his native Scotland and adopted Pennsylvania.
After a letter writing campaign, Andrew Carnegie awarded the city of Bryan one of his Library grants to construct a library in 1902. The city received the grant after it pledged land and appropriated funds for maintenance.
Designed by a local architect, the building is a Greek Revival in the Greek Cross Plan, popular at the time, Today, it is used as a genealogical research center for Brazos Valley.
Located at 111 Main St. Open Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Free to enter.
La Salle Hotel
When it open in 1929, the La Salle Hotel turned heads as the tallest building in downtown. After a renovation in 2000, its lobby bar, Downtown Elixir and Spirits, attracts a crowd with bespoke cocktails and vintage design influences. The outdoor courtyard also hosts live music.
Located at 120 S. Main St.
The Queen Theatre
The Queen Theatre draws eyes up and down Main Street with its stylized neon and signature crown on top of its marquee. Anchoring its block of Main Street, find restaurants flanking both sides of the theatre.
In the past, it drew crowds with film events and hopes to resume as the year draws to a close. The distinctive property is central to downtown Bryan festivals, like First Fridays.
Located at 110 S. Main St.
Shopping like a Queen
Unique retailers line the downtown cultural district, all within a comfortable walking distance. Find free parking up and down the streets that blends modern convenience with small town nostalgia.
Hats, like boots, say a lot about a person in Texas. At Catalena Hatters get the special rolls, ribbons and crown shapes to customize a hat as distinct as the wearer’s personality. This kind of service will take time, so don’t except to walk about with a new custom hat. Catalena Hatters also offers a hat restoration service.
Located at 203 N. Main St. Open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and 3 p.m. on Saturday.
Old Bryan Marketplace
In a property that wanders from intimate space to space, find a treasure trove of interior design essentials, discerning home goods along with iconic fashion pieces. It offers must haves and inspiration in equal parts.
Located at 202 S. Bryan Ave. Open Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Birds Nest Antiques
The pickers and vintage lovers head to one space on Main Street—Birds Nest. With an inventory of revolving vintage items, it’s a space that needs time to explore.
Located at 117 N. Main St. Open Monday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Shop for a one-of-a-kind piece that will sure to become a family heirloom at Sparrow Lane. Find curated European antiques along with home statement pieces for your design project.
Located at 205 S. Main St. Open Tuesday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sampling Bryan’s Foodie Style
It’s not all chicken fried steak in the Brazos Valley, find farm-to-table and wine paired meals in Bryan. Though you can’t go wrong with Sodolaks Beefmasters Restaurant on State Highway 21 for chicken fried steak if you’re in the mood.
At the intersection of Main Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Street the restored 1912 Ice House building sparkles with its Mission Revival design elements. Reinvented, Ronin features a farm-to-table menu produced with procurements from its nearby farm.
The chef-created menu focuses on local and seasonal flavors. Sunday brings brunch with favorites like avocado toast and morning cocktails.
Located at 800 N. Main St. Open Wednesday to Saturday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Hip-to-hip with the Queen Theater, this eatery dishes up burgers, fries and tacos with a dizzying amount of customization. Though save a space for the ice cream martinis and you’ll be wanting to recreate one at the casa.
Located at 108 S. Main St. Open Tuesday to Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
All the Kings Men BBQ
Get your beer and BBQ fix and throw in a bourbon to round out your time in Bryan. Find your favorites, like brisket and sausage in an upbeat space.
Located at 112 S. Main St. Open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. (1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday)
Sipping in the Brazos Valley
From morning brews to mid-afternoon bottles, find new favorite in Bryan.
Harvest Coffee Bar
Sit a spell and recharge with a selection of brewing methods, like drip, Chemex, Kone and a fascinating Japanese Cold Brew that taking 10 hours with a custom-built glass brewing system. Also find a host of barista-made espresso drinks, non-coffee drinks along with teas, fogs and desserts.
Located at 101 Main St. Open daily from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Blackwater Draw Brewery
Find more than a generic IPA with seasonal offerings from sours to stouts. Don’t be afraid to ask for a sample to stretch your palette. Grab an outdoor picnic table and make it a doggie date.
Located at 701 N. Main St. Open Tuesday to Sunday with various hours.
Messina Hof Winery
As one of the first families of Texas wine, Messina Hof opened in 1977 and has been winning awards ever since. Its Papa Paulo Port has a dedicated fan club and its Angel late harvest Riesling is another standout. The Paulo reds, like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Tempranillo pair perfectly with a hearty steak to elevate a special occasion into a momentous one.
Messina Hof Winery features a tasting room, wine bar, food and wine pairings, harvest festivals and cooking classes. Lodging is available on property and Messina Hof Vintage House restaurant creates menus to showcase its extensive wine list.
Located at 4545 Old Reliance Road. Open daily Monday and Tuesday from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m., Wednesday to Saturday from noon to 8 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m.
Where to Stay
For an intimate getaway for adults looking to reconnect, the Milton Parker Home Bed and Breakfast is a Stick-Eastlake Victorian from 1885. Rare for this part of the Texas, the jewel of a homestead is loving tended to by Denise and Bob Barbier after an extensive renovation.
Boasting an expansive four-acre garden, the Milton Parker Home sits in the historic west side, blocks from downtown. Take your morning coffee from the front porch, or ask Denise to help you through its upstairs window as big as a door to sit on its balcony.
The interiors are graciously appointed with Parker heirlooms, from settees to china. Each of its rooms offer an en-suite and one features a jetted clawfoot tub.
Denise whips up a breakfast that keeps her guests satisfied well into the afternoon. Delicacies like baked omelettes come on fine bone china in the dining room. The Milton Parker Home is a frequent host to small weddings and elegant parties.
Located at 200 S. Congress. Rooms with private baths from $199.