Brand it: MARFA

In the West Texas region, MARFA is the reigning brand ambassador. We’ve been fortunate enough to pass through the area three times, five years ago in Betty, two in Roxie, and now in Trango. Like Air Jordans to basketball, Coca Cola to soft drinks, or Disney World to amusement parks, we have watched the progression of Marfa from a sleepy, remote, art colony in west Texas to a destination brand for the rugged, independent and creative spirit of the Big Bend.

Marfa Courthouse signals the town is ready to party on a Saturday night.

Sidetripping for a flight of wines from Chateau Wright outside Fort Davis, the sommelier captured the criticism (cynicism?) of the brandification of Marfa. Touting the attributes of her pour, she explained that her wine comes from grapes harvested in the adjacent vineyards unlike the competing and current “IT” brand Alta Marfa, who buys the bulk of their grapes from California and a sampling from her vineyard then labels the bottle Made in Marfa. We sipped and nodded in agreement and picked up two Chateau White for a future BBQ back home before heading 20 miles down the road to spend the day in … Marfa.

Doubtful this sommelier has ever had a harder job than explaining west Texas wine to him.

Marfa has changed like an inner-city neighborhood that is on the brink of gentrification. The grit is on the surface, but property values reflect the changing economics. A rehabbed adobe with wood stained slatted fence coexists with a chain link dilapidated shack overrun by cats and rusty metal bars ready waiting to be welded into Marfa Ballroom’s next exhibit. The adobe buyer wants to commune with the artist-in-shack. It makes him part of the scene. The artist-in-shack worries about the inevitable rent increase, and laments the loss of a perfectly good neighborhood full of stray cats.

Boutique liquors and small potted cactus for sale.

Brandification in no way suggests a loss in quality. Cactus Liquors still has the most curated imbibables for the discerning buyer. If you’re looking for the latest in a Sotol blend, small batch tequila from Coahuila or a THC infused tonic, you’ll find it here, making designer offerings such as Clooney’s Tres Amigos look so yesterday. We picked up a bottle of Desert Chihuahuan Sotol to make authentic west Texas Ranch Water back home along with two pair of handmade overlanding sandals from a local artisan cobbler.

The next big must have coming your way?

When Coachella’s Desert X art exhibit ended, the premier installation found its way to Marfa (of course) where aspiring artist Sheri had a chance to consider Sleeping Figure in acrylic plein air. While 29 year old Marfa Prada still draws the insta crowd, this massive installation references reclining figures throughout art history, most specifically giant parinirvana Buddhas in Southeast Asia at their last earthly moments before death, as well as the global supply chain crisis that resulted from the pandemic. You see that, right?

Deep in the Art of Texas

After a hot and windy afternoon painting in her lap, we dropped in on Marfa Spirits to chill out with sotol craft mixed drinks. It is so easy to be blend in Marfa since everyone could be anyone, just don’t try too hard.

If looks could kill.

We saw one McDonald’s in west Texas and a BBQ joint on just about every corner. Marfa’s version of BBQ is Convenience West, out on the edge of town, serving Fridays and Saturdays only, 5 pm until they run out. The line was long and even though we’ve savored it before, we half-heartedly debated if the juice was worth the squeeze. When the plates of brisket sandwich, smoked turkey torta, and half pound of ribs paired with blue cornbread, homemade pickles, relish, and sweet potato salad hit the picnic table, as much as we hate to bend to brand pressure, the meal reaffirmed it as the best BBQ we have ever had.

Line up at 5 at Convenience West.

Knowing one person in Alpine, the front desk volunteer who was so kind to Sheri after The Desk incident, we shared a picnic table at Convenience with Kay and her husband Allen who retired to Alpine from Dallas and eschew the Marfa hype but nevertheless partake. The odds are pretty good that you might see a familiar face when nearly everyone in the tri-county triangle converges on Convenience West on Saturday night. Trust the brand.

Sheri may drive back to west Texas next Friday for the smoked turkey torta.

A wedding lit up the downtown Hotel Paisano, site of the Big Screen picture, “Giant” while Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” played on a loop for anyone attempting to use the vintage pay phone across from the courthouse. We chased the rising full moon to an open air desert venue where a Stone Hedge-like rock circle played eerie synth music coordinated with embedded, solar powered LED lights just to prove that Marfa is still really weird.

Moonrise ritual at Stone Circle. Totally normal.

You can hate many aspects of gentrification, and still love Brooklyn just like you can push back against a lack of authenticity in branding and still love Marfa. If you were hoping to find a place undiscovered, you are ten years too late. But, if you are looking to find the best food, art, culture and nightlife in west Texas all in one place, you cannot beat it. We will pass on that Redfin listing for an in-town adobe for over half a mil, but we will be happy to meet up at Convenience on a Saturday night from our $12 campsite in Fort Davis.

As close as we are likely to get to the Era’s Tour.