Marfa. It’s the darling of the art world and has been written up by every publication from Vogue to Vanity Fair to NPR. Online Marfa appears to be a carefully curated collection of small galleries, hip businesses, and artfully arranged agave and sotol plants. On the surface that’s almost true. Yet, Marfa is a real town. This is my attempt to humanize a mythical giant.
Before we moved to Marfa, Zach and I had visited a several times as tourists. We delighted in the escape. The fact that there wasn’t much to do was the point – we wanted to get away from everything. Once we hiked Guadalupe Peak in Guadalupe Mountains NP and drove to Marfa afterward to get some beer and pico. After each visit we lamented leaving the beauty of the Chihuahuan Desert, but both asserted that we never wanted to live there. Of course, by some strange twist of fate, that’s exactly what happened. Since we had already visited Marfa there are certain touristy attractions I won’t highlight. Those things are easy enough to find in the multitude of articles written about Marfa. Here are some snaps of us as tourists:
It seems to be often overlooked that Marfa is a regular town. Yes, there are unique events which happen from time to time – film festivals, author readings, an opera festival, visits by celebrities – but most of the year it’s a small Texas town with typical problems. Sometimes tourists come looking for a shiny lacquered finish – a version of the ‘next best thing’ and that’s just not the reality. So here are the places we loved which also helped us exist there.
We moved to Marfa to begin teaching at the local junior high/high school. It’s a small school – elementary, junior high, and high school are all on one campus. It was quite a change from the large schools with which we were accustomed in our youth. The football team played 6-man, something I didn’t even know existed, and the class sizes, as in the entire sophomore class, averaged 22 students. The school is limited in what it can offer due purely to size and funds, but does a great job bringing amazing opportunities to the students, like robotics and welding, a burgeoning culinary arts program, and collaborations with local arts foundations.
Our favorite place to go between spring break and Thanksgiving was Planet Marfa. Planet Marfa is a laid-back, outdoor bar where locals and tourists can hang out and relax Friday through Sunday. It has been a favorite of ours for several years and became a regular haunt for us as locals. There’s nothing better than an ice-cold beer and a plate of nachos with pico. Trust us.
There were a couple go-to places we frequented for meals: Food Shark, Marfa Burrito, Jett’s Grill, and The Get Go. Food Shark has an odd schedule – 12-3, Wednesday through Saturday – but it was always worth the wait. Zach loved the marfalafel, while I tended to try different things. Another staple of ours was Marfa Burrito. Zach often ran out to grab burritos for lunch which made for a nice treat. Plus, their layered enchiladas were incredible (and potentially a well-kept secret?). Sometimes you just need a good plate of food and a pint of beer and for that we often turned to Jett’s. Jett’s is the restaurant at the Paisano Hotel and offered us comfort food when we needed it. Their prices aren’t the best, but sometimes a chicken fried steak is important enough. Finally, The Get Go. While Marfa does have a grocery store, there were always a couple extra things that we wanted and The Get Go usually had it. If we wanted some extra indulgences The Get Go was our go-to.
Our go-to coffee shop/laundry stop was Frama (& Tumbleweed Laundry). The two enterprises are connected and run by the same people. We spent a good bit of time at Frama drinking coffee, doing laundry, or grabbing coffee on our way outta town. It was a great place to sit for a while on a Sunday morning; inevitably we always ran into someone we knew.
Most of all, we enjoyed using Marfa as a home base to explore a lot of the region’s treasures. Even a drive to Fort Davis or Alpine was a pleasure. The landscape is what we’ll miss the most: the birds, plant life, hummingbirds, wide dramatic sky, and desert wildlife we encountered regularly. I think this is Marfa’s best, and oft overlooked, asset.
Anyhow, here are some final images from the town. Until next time, Marfa.