Retail Roundup: Covered Bridge Area Shopping, Dining and Entertainment

Arbor Trails a 70-acre, 365,000 square-foot shopping center, about 10 minutes southeast of Covered Bridge, has twice been awarded the “Best Real Estate” Award from the Austin Business Journal. The center features more than 30 stores and businesses including Pure Bikram Yoga, Costco, Healthy Pet, Staples, The Dental Centre, and Lane Chiropractic, as well as 10 restaurants.

Arbor Trails also hosts a 40,000-square-foot Whole Foods, which in addition to its wide variety of fresh, organic groceries, hosts movie nights, local brewery tastings, live music, and kids’ cooking classes. Culinary lovers also enjoy Mandola’s Italian Market for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and to shop the vast array of imported gourmet Italian foods and products.

Bring Your Shopping List and a Big Appetite to the Hill Country Galleria

About 10 minutes northwest lies the upscale Hill Country Galleria with another Whole Foods Market location. The Hill Country Galleria is a 1,300,000-square-foot lifestyle center on 150 acres that was built in 2007. In addition to Whole Foods, the Hill Country Galleria has Barnes & Noble Booksellers, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Jos. A. Banks Clothier and a Cinemark 14 Theater, among many other stores.

The Galleria also offers a number of popular restaurants. The Iron Cactus and its delicious fajitas and Tex-Mex fare is suitable for the whole family, but is especially famous for its delicious Margaritas. Café Blue offers delicious fresh seafood prepared in a variety of styles and served in a contemporary Caribbean atmosphere. In addition to retail space, the Galleria has offices, apartments, and condominiums as well as 50 acres of green space.

There are four other major shopping centers less than 15 minutes away from the neighborhood. Altogether, they represent nearly 300 more fine department stores and restaurants, as well as local and national merchants. In addition, the closest, most convenient supermarket is the HEB located right at the “Y” in Oak Hill, about 4 minutes away.

South Texas Taco Platters and Gourmet Burgers

Jack Allen’s Kitchen is a popular destination for area diners looking for a locally owned, top-quality fine-dining experience with a distinct Texas twist. Jack Allen’s is centered on Southern-inspired dishes with an infusion of southwestern flavors to create plates that are both intriguing and comforting. The restaurant is devoted to sourcing its ingredients from vendors close to home. (The vast majority of ingredients in every dish are from within the state of Texas.) Texas-centric specials vary to take advantage of the freshest local produce while creating dishes that suit the changing Texas seasons.

Frequent diners at Jack Allen’s Kitchen recommend first considering one of the unique daily specials, but also insist you can’t go wrong with something from the “Chicken Fried Anything” options, especially the chicken-fried New York Strip steak, or one of the South Texas Taco Platters (such as the popular and inventive chile, mango, and shrimp taco), or any of Jack Allen’s excellent gourmet burgers. Desserts — which are created daily in-house — also come highly recommended.

Viva Italia!

Milano Café is one of the locally owned restaurants close to Covered Bridge. Located in a strip mall, the restaurant is not overwhelmingly attractive from the outside. But inside, diners discover a cozy, well-decorated place that gently evokes an actual café in Milan. One feature that pleases regular diners is the “bring-your-own-bottle” policy — and if someone forgets, there’s a liquor store conveniently located next door. Plus, there are no cork fees. The service is casual. Customers order at the counter and the food is delivered to your table.

The cuisine is straight-up Italian and authentic. Appetizers include simple and delicious items such as bruschetta and delicious caprese salad — a salad of fresh basil, fresh-sliced tomatoes, and fresh-sliced mozzarella all drizzled with reduced balsamic vinegar. The menu lists entrees and entrée specials, and dishes on each are delicious. Many regular diners highly recommend the drunken linguini, as well as the lobster ravioli in a creamy gorgonzola sauce.