Come with me on a short trip back into history – specifically, the history of Bryan, Texas. Stephen F. Austin brought the first settlers to Texas in 1825. Austin’s nephew, William Joel Bryan, sold a single square-mile tract of land for $3,200. The small piece of land grew due to the railroad and soon became a bustling town. The town was named Bryan in honor of William Joel Bryan.
Today, Bryan retains its small-town feel, but it is a substantial city. Bryan has something for you: foodies, history buffs, or retail-therapy lovers will adore this Texas town!
Bryan is easy to get to; you are less than a three-hour drive from Bryan, whether you are coming from Houston, Austin, Dallas, or San Antonio.
Before you set off to explore downtown Bryan, Texas, download Destination Bryan’s Digital Tour Passport. The self-guided tour leads you on a journey to more than 20 historical sites and landmarks. This was hands-down one of the best digital tour guides we’ve used!
1. Catalena Hatters
Sammy and Carolyn Catalena have a passion for custom hats. And that passion is apparent as soon as you walk in the door to Catalena Hatters!
They have all sorts of western-style hats for men and women – felt hats to straw hats; you can bet that Catalena has it or seen it, or if it is a felt hat, crafted it. Catalena also does hat restoration.
Ladies – don’t miss out on a chance to peruse their ladies’ boutique! Located in Catalena Hatters, the boutique features clothing, hats, leather goods, boots, scarves, and more. You’re sure to find just what you need. Catalena Hatters can be found at 203 N. Main Street in Bryan.
2. Old Bryan Marketplace
The moment I walked through the leaded glass doors to the Old Bryan Marketplace, I was in love. The pine flooring, brick archways, and spaces filled with antique and new treasures beckoned me to continue to peruse and spend some time in this charming store.
I know you’ll fall in love just as I did. The Old Bryan Marketplace has dried and silk flowers, unique and quirky antiques, and spa and bath accessories that you never knew you needed but could not bear to live without. Decor, design, bedding, and more await your exploration.
3. Brazos Glass Works
Brazos Glass Works is not just another art shop. Part shop and part working art studio, Brazos Glass Works has a collection of unique, one-of-a-kind glass art. Brazos Glass Works offers classes in stained glass! They also offer classes in mosaics, glass fusing, and jewelry.
I love earrings, so wherever I travel, I find unusual earrings. Brazos Glassworks yielded an excellent selection, so I may have walked out with two or three pairs!
Brazos Glass Works is located on West 26th Street, tucked between RX Pizza and Vino Boheme. Don’t miss this gem of a store.
4. Caffe Capri
The story of Rami Cerone and Caffé Capri has eerie similarities to our entrepreneurial journey, so we can relate. Caffé Capri opened their doors on September 18, 1995, by Rami Cerone, Texas A&M 1995 graduate.
The downtown Bryan area had not begun its resurgence, so this was a bold move for a new graduate. Cerone related the story of alternating cash advances on his credit cards to pay the bills for Caffé Capri, which resonated with both Jim and I.
But fast forward 27 years, downtown has been revitalized, and Rami Cerone no longer relies on credit card cash advances. He has won prestigious awards, including “Best Italian” and the “Aggie 100” fastest-growing businesses globally.
The kitchen is like an open European-style kitchen, so you can see your food being prepared. The vibe is relaxed and casual, the service is on-point, and the food is incredible!
The dishes I highly recommend are the Bowtie Affair, bowtie pasta, pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, chicken, and feta cheese….mmmm! And the Cajun Tortellini, where spice meets spice, and together with the cajun cream sauce and the subtle Italian sausage, explode in a symphony of delicious flavors.
You can find Caffé Capri at 222 North Main Street – just look for the quotes in giant letters on the side of the building.
5. George H.W. Bush Presidential Library
The sculpture to the side of the library, “The Day The Wall Came Down,” was created by Veryl Goodnight. Goodnight captured the very essence of the joy and freedom felt around the globe when the Berlin Wall separating East and West Germany collapsed.
The wall was adorned with graffiti, and Goodnight recreated that graffiti on the chunks of rubble beneath the horses’ hooves. This sculpture evokes such memories and emotions that you could almost just stop there. But don’t. There is so much more to the oilman that became a senator that then became President.
You might shed a tear or two as you remember where you were when: the invasion of Iraq happened; the cold war ended; the iron curtain came down. There are so many moments in our history interwoven with George H.W. Bush’s legacy and highlighted in the Presidential Library. It is a do not miss when visiting Bryan, Texas.
6. RX Pizza
Located at 200 North 26th Street in downtown Bryan, RX Pizza not only makes some delicious pizza, but their salads are amazing!
Since his sophomore year in college, Jake Mitchell, Texas A&M Class of 2009, has worked in the food and beverage industry. He cut his teeth learning from some fantastic pizza chefs in Dallas and managing restaurants.
Jake partnered with some of his friends to bring his passion to Bryan. I love the unique pizza offerings, and if you want to create your own pizza? No problem! And don’t forget to wash your meal down with one of their craft cocktails!
7. Carnegie History Center
This library is one of Bryan’s coolest and best gems for researchers and history buffs! The building is a historical gem, with its pressed tin ceiling painted bright white to reflect the light. A massive Victorian-style dollhouse display dominates the room just off the entrance hallway. When in Bryan, this is one of those “You must stop and visit” destinations.
8. Messina Hof Winery
The Messina Hoff estate in Bryan itself is lovely, and there is lodging available onsite. The tasting room and wine cellar are fabulous! We attended the Wine & Roses Festival, which I highly recommend.
During the Festival, the tasting room was open, and we took advantage of the opportunity to taste some of our favorite styles and varieties of wine unique to Messina Hof. We came a bit unsure of what to expect and left stunned at the quality of Messina Hof’s wine! We are now hooked on their Primativo, which is a superb wine!
Bryan is a Texas gem and one that held so many surprises. We can’t wait to head back for another visit!
Article written by Betsi Hill of Betsi’s World.