Just got back from a wonderful trip to Texas. Thx to all for your recommendations. The highlights:
BIG DADDY'S: in Shamrock gas station in Brenham (intersection of Hwy 290 and FM 389)between Houston and Austin. Without a doubt THE BEST BBQ I have ever had (sorry Calvin Trillin--Big Daddy's has replaced Arthur Bryant's in my heart and stomach.) Recommended by our Round Top friends. The beef ($6.95 #)and sausage ($6.25#)were good; the ribs ($7.95#)were outstanding. Not wild about the sides. We ate at a formica table between the antifreeze and feminine hygiene products. (Most people seem to buy take out but the atmosphere added much). We fought over the last rib so I went up to order 2 more. They asked "is this your first time here?" I thought I had broken some cardinal rule of Texas BBQ. Turns out they give all newcomers a free taste so they handed me 2 more ribs and wouldn't let me pay for them. I told them how much I enjoyed their BBQ and they said "Tell him". I was then introduced to Big Daddy himself. He graciously took me into the back and showed me the huge ovens where they smoked the BBQ over pecan wood. Big Daddy's was the #1 highlight of my trip (and #2--we stopped by on the way from Houston to Round Top and again on the trip from Austin to Houston).
Central Market: Thx to David "Zeb" Cook, Lazy MF, Celery, Hans Petersen and others for the recommendation. I have to admit I was convinced the San Francisco Bay area markets would be superior to anything Texas had to offer but your Central Market is as good if not better than our stores. It was a delightful combination of the best of our Andronico's and Berkeley Bowl and your Whole Food. The varieties were astounding: 26 different chilies, 7 types of clams, 14 onions, 5 lemons (including Meyer lemons). It was a pleasure to shop there. (As I filled my basket my husband and son kept reminding me "Remember--you don't live here. You can't cook any of this.")
Dona Emilias: Carter B recommended and our Austin friends seconded but we didn't have enough meals to try it. Will definitely go there next time.
Las Manitas (211 Congress): thx to Hans Petersen, Celery, Phil Wronski and others. Watermelon aguas fresca tasted like pure watermelon (thx Phil). My son said his horchata was the best he had ever had. Our favorites: enchiladas de mole, pescado en adobo, refried beans (they don't come with everything so order as a side), pico de Gallo. Next time will try breakfast. Not open for dinner. Don't miss Tesoros Trading Company next door at 209 Congress for Chicano/Latino art and crafts.
O'Shucks/Tears of Joy Hot Sauce Shop: www.oshucks.com/618 E. 6th; I've never seen so many hot sauces in my life! All for sale plus tamales, frito chili pie, nachos, chile.
(my favorite city)
Royer's: 877-866-pies; www.royersroundtopcafe.com; "a Texas Country Bistro serving Contemporary Comfort Food"; known for their pies (will ship). Our favorites: Chateaubriand: can cut w/ your fork; shrimp stuffed quail. Family run.
Stingaree (409-684-2731): actually in Crystal Beach; we boated there from Galveston--I knew I was in the right place when I read the sign "U-Hook-'Em; We-Cook-'Em". Menu says they have a free ferry across Galveston Bay (I couldn't figure out how you'd get there if not by boat). The best: BBQ shrimp, catfish and crawdads (crayfish?)
Luigi's Ristorante Italiano: just fair
Thanks again to Chowhounders for your advice and all Texans for your hospitality.