Everybody knows everything is bigger in Texas, but do they know Texas is home to some of the greatest food innovations? Dallas seems to be the ringleader when it comes to originality, but the rest of the state has earned spots on this list, too. Every region from West Texas to the Hill Country has lent its genius to some of the most iconic American brands today.
From frozen margaritas to 7-Eleven, here are some of the Texas’ best food innovations that we are forever grateful for. Especially in the summertime. You’ll see what we mean.
1. Dr Pepper
First sold in 1885 in Waco, Texas, Dr Pepper was ordered as a ‘Waco’ in its first years. Since, it has become a world-renowned brand sold in Europe, Asia, Canada, Mexico, Australia and South America.
It was originally released at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition and was actually introduced a year before the fan favorite, Coca-Cola. Just remember, there is no period in Dr Pepper.
A collaborative effort between John Jefferson Green and Joe C. Thompson Jr., this simple game-changing idea was simply that convenience stores should offer more than gas so consumers wouldn’t have to drive unrealistic distances for simple grocery items.
That idea changed the landscape of highways across America, and now convenience stores even have full kitchens. 7-Eleven is easily the most recognizable convenience store and their Slurpees have people buying them daily, but the lines truly wrap around the corner for their annual free Slurpee event on July 11 (7/11).
Opened in 1950 by the waterfront in Corpus Christi, Whataburger is now headquartered out of San Antonio. The company has expanded its reach to the Southeast and the Southwest, with restaurants as far west as Arizona and as far east as Florida.
My personal favorite item at Whataburger is the Green Chile Double, it’s a regional item so you’ll have to keep your eyes open to find it.
4. Spoetzl Brewery/Shiner
Shiner Bock is a Texas favorite, and is now sold in 49 states. Apparently, one state hasn’t caught onto the movement at hand, but we’ll let that slide for now.
Since Shiner’s official offering of their dark lager, they have offered over 15 variations of flavors and seasonal items, though some are transitional with the seasons. But don’t worry, Shiner is keeping it fresh and funky, and there’s no telling what they will pull out next. Prosit forward, y’all!
5. Frozen Margaritas
Mariano Martinez. Mariano Martinez. Remember that name because this is the industrious man that gave us the almighty frozen margarita. In 1971, this fortunate soul decided to modify his ice cream maker to mimic a Slurpee machine (thanks, 7-Eleven!) to achieve a colder margarita.
That modification produced the perfect blend of frozen and creamy, and the frozen margarita was born. I personally prefer to do a half and half mix, but the most popular version is the frozen margarita with a fruit swirl, specifically a strawberry one.
6. Blue Bell
Sold in over 20 states, Blue Bell has cemented itself as the undisputed champion of the ice cream game, though the brand faced one of the biggest crisis over the last two years. Due to a slight mishap in the factory, Blue Bell was out of commission for a few months, but has since recovered and are re-releasing their ice cream one beloved flavor at a time.
To prove just how much of a powerhouse they are, Blue Bell’s sales fell by more than 50 percent to $236 million, and they were still the 8th largest retailer in the ice cream department. If that’s not impressive, I don’t know what is.
Now all my Texans know that nobody does barbecue like Texas. Digging even deeper, nobody does brisket outside of Texas like a real Texan. Other barbecue regions have their ribs and pulled pork, but in the great state brisket reigns supreme.
Low, slow, and worth the wait, people travel from all over the world to Lockhart, the barbecue trifecta.
Icehouses go back to 1840 when ships from Maine, filled with ice, would come down to Galveston and sell whatever had not melted during the journey. An icehouse is considered an open-air beer joint and convenience store, but that quickly changed once owners realized beer was the top seller.
Now icehouses have evolved into open air venues with lots of tables offering beer and other spirits for consumption. Most use garage type doors to open and close to accommodate for the winter months.
9. Julio’s Chips and Salsa
Julio T. Garcia had humble beginnings as short order cook, cranking out some of the best steaks in Del Rio. When the restaurant closed, Julio helped his wife with her home catering business.
This is when he learned the corn tortilla chip recipe from his wife, and perfected it into what it is today. Julio’s is sold all over Texas at H-E-Bs and Walmarts. Their chips combine the flavors of garlic, paprika, cumin, and lime in a way that isn’t overpowering, but is just right.
Now, kolaches happen to be my favorite food, guilty pleasure, and anything else along those lines. Kolaches are originally an Eastern European invention, first in Bohemia and in what is now the present-day Czech Republic. However, when immigrants came to Texas with big dreams, they brought with flavorful fruits rolled in dough them and the rest is history.
The Village Bakery opened for business in 1952 and is the first store on record ever to sell kolaches to the public, and history was made.
11. Chicken Fried Steak
Created during the 1840s from the Austrian and German immigrants making their way to Texas, chicken fried steak was born. Born from wienerschnitzel and veal cutlets, the Texas staple is typically served with mashed potatoes and green beans, topped with a creamy white gravy or the robust country gravy.
Every year, there is an annual celebration held in Lamesa in Dawson County celebrating the birth of the chicken fried steak, so if you have time, be sure to check it out. I know I will.
Regardless of how you feel about the quality of the food here, Chili’s has over 1500 operations and almost half are franchise-owned. Chili’s was founded in Dallas on Greenville Avenue in 1975.
Larry Lavine sold the business in 1983 and it has since grown from his original 28 locations to a worldwide phenomenon for eating burgers, wings, healthy food options, and even watching the game and grabbing a brew.