At a Glance:
Exploring the Small-Town Culture of the often overlooked Texas town
by Avery Tanner
College Station is home to Texas A&M University — and that’s about it. But just five miles down the road is Bryan, a locale made for a culture-filled weekend getaway. Commonly referred to as Aggieland, the Bryan-College Station area houses students and lifelong residents, as well as transplants from Louisiana who moved to town after Hurricane Katrina.
Finding community in Bryan
Approximately 85,000 people live in Bryan, but the town feels even smaller thanks to its tight-knit community. The town is full of restaurants and shops representing many different cultures, including Korey Thomas’s The Remnant from Nawlins.
The Remnant is a product of community. The restaurant is a taste of New Orleans on the outskirts of Bryan, but it offers more than just food. The Remnant also functions as a church on Sundays.
Both the church and the restaurant are owned and operated by Thomas and his family. Thomas moved to Bryan after Hurricane Katrina wrecked his hometown of New Orleans in 2005, but the move was essentially an accident.
“We were headed towards Houston but there was no more space for us to stay and we ran out of gas, and Motel 6 on Texas Avenue was the only place that had a room,” Thomas says.
He and his nearly 20 family members were suddenly residents of Bryan-College Station, a place he had never heard of before. “I thought to myself, ‘We gonna try it here or we gonna move around?” Thomas says.
The warm people and the town’s strong sense of community are what kept him and his family there. The Thomases were not the only family to land in the Brazos Valley region after the hurricane. Thomas has connected with several other people from New Orleans who have settled in Bryan. Some came directly after the hurricane and some did not, but Thomas says he appreciates bringing them together in his restaurant over their shared culture.
After Thomas and his family began to feed the homeless community of Bryan-College Station, the restaurant was born “A lot of the homeless people were coming to our church and we wanted to help get them back on track with food and jobs,” he says.
The Remnant’s no-frills fare is savory and spicy. Highlights include the house gumbo, fried catfish served with a secret dipping sauce, and the daily special — authentic Cajun crawfish.The sense of community felt in the Remnant seeps through the town of Bryan and as you wander through downtown meeting locals, you can enjoy the culture of small-town Texas.
Several A&M students recommended the Grand Stafford Theater, a spot that plays a large part in a popular downtown Bryan tradition. On the first Friday of every month, the city of Bryan gathers for First Friday, when musicians play along the streets and shops stay open late. The Grand Stafford Theater hosts a free concert every first Friday.
Bryan is also full of thrift shops and antique stores. Old Bryan Marketplace seems to go on forever with shelves of clothing, home goods, gifts and Madden’s, an in-store restaurant serving lunch and dinner.
Downtown’s La Salle Hotel features comfortable rooms and complimentary made-to-order breakfast, as well as ear plugs when you check in to block out the noise of a nearby train.
As far as food goes, this small town offers plenty of options. Dixie Chicken has been serving up sandwiches, salads and, of course, fried chicken strips for more than 40 years. There’s also the Proudest Monkey, which offers a bevy of cocktails and beers in addition to a full menu of burgers and tacos. Another hometown favorite is The Farm Patch, a family-owned market committed to bringing the freshest produce to the community.
THE BUSH EFFECT IN COLLEGE STATION
It takes less than 10 minutes to drive from Bryan to College Station. As a first timer to the Bryan-College Station area, walking the A&M campus is an important stop, where the prime spot is Kylie Field, home to Aggie football.
The legacy of President George H. W. Bush looms over the town. There’s the Bush School of Government and Public Service, The George Hotel, and of course, the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum.
One of the Bush’s regular spots was Christopher’s World Grille, a restaurant that holds the distinction of having once served all living presidents. Chef Christopher Lampo serves upscale but approachable European-inspired fare that President Bush often had catered for special events at the presidential center.
The George Hotel is a recently opened boutique hotel in Century Square, across the street from A&M’s campus. The George pays homage to President Bush with its name, but is actually quite modern, with hip décor and comfortable rooms.
Also near campus is Sweet Eugene’s House of Java, a charming coffee shop whose offerings rate higher than your average student hangout, including crepes and kolaches. A classic homework spot for A&M students, the building is full of kitschy decorations and walls covered by bookshelves.
With homegrown restaurants, inviting shops and a Main Street full of friendly locals ready to share their expertise, the Bryan-College Station area offers a lot more than simply a home to Aggie Nation. If you’re looking for small-town culture with a side of presidential history, take the time to check it out – you might be surprised at what you’ll find.