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Where to Eat and Shop in Marathon, Texas

13 March 2011 3,875 views 7 Comments

So now you know where to stay if you ever drive through Marathon, in West Texas. And while the Gage is a huge draw for this small town, they also have some great places to eat and a few gems for shopping.

Where to Eat Dinner:

If you visit Marathon, I’d guess that you’ll probably plan to be there just one night, unless you have some serious chilling out time. Our first night in Marathon, Adam and I ate at 12 Gage, the upscale restaurant that is part of the Gage hotel. It is a VERY high end restaurant — potentially the most expensive restaurant in West Texas.

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What I really enjoyed about the restaurant was the decor — the host station is wrapped with a cow hide, an antler chandelier, a mounted longhorn on the wall, elephant tusks on the banquette, etc. We also loved the drinks at 12 Gage — it turns out that Austin’s Ranch 616 consulted on many features on the menu and decor. I loved the Ranch Water made with cointreau, tequila, lime juice, and topped off with topo chico (sparkling water). Perfect for someone like me with a low tolerance.

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Ranch Water: An Effervescent Margarita

I didn’t love the service — the waiters seemed very nervous and forgot to tell us the specials, didn’t time the meal well, and just seemed inexperienced. Of course, I’m sure it’s difficult to find career waiters where the nearest large city has only around 6,000 people.

The food, however, was solidly good, and Adam and I were able to keep the bill low by sharing an entree — we ordered the West Texas Mixed Grill. It was pricey at $38 but included three different meats — quail, duck, and lamb. We also shared buttermilk batter crispy oysters and their delicious bread basket. For dessert, we called the front desk and ordered banana bread pudding delivered to our room while we built a fire in the kiva. That felt so fun and special.

Quail Shows Off on the West Texas Mixed Grill Plate

Quail Shows Off on the West Texas Mixed Grill Plate

I’d love to recommend another restaurant for dinner in Marathon and I’ve heard good things about but was sadly unable to visit while I was in town. It’s called The Famous Burro Bar and it looked very laid back and artsy. Also, while I always take Yelp reviews with a grain of salt, I did notice that while it only has five reviews on the site, it has 4.5 out of 5 stars from people who review many businesses. Next time I go to Marathon, I’m definitely going to make it a point to eat there. Have you been? If so, what do you recommend?

Famous Burro Bar

Famous Burro Bar

Where to Eat Breakfast:

So while I’ve only been in Marathon for two mornings, I have experienced three spots for breakfast and would recommend two of them. I believe that you can order breakfast from the Gage before you check out for $10 but didn’t try that. What I do highly recommend are:

Marathon Coffee

Marathon Coffee

Marathon Coffee

This place is ADORABLE. It looks really hip on the outside and I thought it would be sleek and overpriced. However, that impression was totally wrong. When my mom and I walked in the door to check out their breakfast menu, I knew right away that I would love it. Why? It was filled with groups of locals, the kitchen was small and open and was run by two women who could have been my great aunts, and it smelled of freshly cooked eggs and bacon. What could be better than that?

Breakfast sandwich on a biscuit at Marathon Coffee

Breakfast sandwich on a biscuit at Marathon Coffee

I ordered a scrambled egg with bacon and cheese on a fresh biscuit. When I asked the woman at the register if she made them in-house she confessed that they were frozen but that she likes them better than the ones she makes at home. And it was a delicious breakfast that totally hit the spot. After we ate, the owner sat down and told us how she had worked at the place before taking it over and that she used to make all of the pastries and breads at home and bring them in. In the past they had a very limited kitchen but they have built it out so that they can now offer egg dishes along with their specialty of enchiladas.

Shirley’s Burnt Biscuit

While Shirley’s doesn’t serve hot breakfast, they do have a wide selection of fried pies, and I recommend stopping in for one or two if you are in the area. I tried both pecan and apple on two separate visits and really enjoyed this treat.

Fried Pecan Pie at Shirley's in Marathon

Fried Pecan Pie at Shirley's in Marathon

The pies are stored in a pastry case so they recommend popping them in the microwave for 10-20 seconds to heat them up before enjoying. Locals tell me that Shirley’s also makes great donuts but you have to get there early before they sell out. By the way, Shirley no longer owns the place, but the new owners told us they learned the secret recipe for the pie dough from Shirley herself.

Shops in Marathon

While I’m generally not much of a shopper, I found the few stores in Marathon to be worth a look. These include:

  • Front Street Books – a smaller branch of the independently-owned bookstore based in Alpine, TX. I loved how all the towns we visited in West Texas had very few shops but they all had an independent bookstore! I bought quite a few cards, postcards, and gifts from these spots along the way.
  • Evans Gallery – Owned by photographer James H. Evans, this gallery features his photography as well as pieces from other local artists. I purchased a kitchy sculpture of a rooster for our house and one to give to a friend who is raising chickens in her backyard and also bought a copy of Evans coffee table book, Big Bend Pictures (UT Press, 2003). His partner went across the street to his darkroom to have him sign it while my mom and I shopped next door. She told us that his next book, Crazy From the Heat, will be published this spring by UT Press and that they will be in Austin for the launch so I hope to meet him then.
  • Pitaya Verde - This store is filled with beautiful clothes and accessories and at first, I thought it was too expensive for my budget. Just when my mom and I were about to head out because we didn’t want to be tempted, we found a necklace and ring that were affordable and beautiful. We love buying jewelry when we travel because it always reminds us of where we were when we found it.
My gorgeous and adorable mother models a Pitaya Verde hat

My gorgeous and adorable mother models a Pitaya Verde hat

It’s funny to me that I posted two long-winded posts about Marathon, a town we walked from one end to another in less than ten minutes. It just charmed us!

Below is a slide show of photos from my visits to Marathon.

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