Texas Travel

City Spotlight: Centerville

By Patrick Reardon 3.8.24

The average Texan’s experience with Centerville is most likely just cruising Interstate 45 between Houston and Dallas and watching the town go by as a single exit on the highway. But, like many small towns, if you pull off and start exploring the area, you’ll be glad you did.

Copyright Casey Chapman Ross

First Stop: Woody’s Smokehouse

As you turn off the highway for Centerville, the first thing you have to do is take a pit stop at Woody’s Smokehouse. Around since the late ’70s, Woody’s was a super gas station before super gas stations were cool — a predecessor even to big ol’ Buc-ee’s. There are two locations, one on the northbound side of I-45 and one on the southbound side, but regardless of which one you stop into, you’ll find all the fixins of a true Texan gas station: home decor, clean bathrooms, a bakery, and delicious oddities like pickled quail eggs.

But Woody’s real claim to fame is their jerky. As the self-proclaimed jerky capital of the world, they’ve always got at least a dozen different kinds of jerky, from beef, chicken, and turkey jerky to elk, venison, bison, and all sorts of exotic stuff. Sweet, spicy, teriyaki — you name it.

They also do really solid barbecue. I think Woody’s has something for everyone on their smoke line: jalapeño shrimp poppers, barbecued quail, boudin sausage, and, of course, all sorts of brisket. All in all, Woody’s is a great place to fill up — the gas tank and your belly.

Copyright Casey Chapman Ross

In the Center of Centerville

Centerville is the halfway mark between Dallas and Houston. In fact, it’s about 120 miles from each city. People assume that’s where the town got its name, but it was actually founded in 1850, long before Dallas was a bustling city. The real story is that Centerville is at the exact center of Leon County.

Approximately 1,000 people live in Centerville, but there’s still some cool stuff to see here, like the Leon County Courthouse. It’s one of the oldest courthouses in Texas. It’s an old red brick building with an interesting feature: If you enter the restored courtroom, there are two jury boxes and two witness stands, one on the north side of the room and one on the south side. They designed it this way before air conditioning so that if the sun was coming through the window, you could move to the other side to escape the heat. I’ve never seen anything like it — pretty smart if you ask me!

Copyright Casey Chapman Ross

Outside Centerville

Just south of Centerville proper, you’ll find Fort Boggy State Park. It’s less than half a mile from I-45, one of the busiest highways in the country, but when you’re in this little park, you feel like you’ve entered another world. It’s about 1,800 acres, with some great hiking trails to explore, plus an awesome lake for fishing and kayaking.

About 10 minutes west of Fort Boggy is the Huebner Berry Patch and Fruit Farm. The soil is some of our most fertile, so Huebner is a terrific spot for picking your own blackberries, peaches, plums, and other fruit, depending on what season you’re there. I was there over the summer: blackberry season. One thing I learned there is that there are around 500 varieties of blackberries, and they all taste different! Huebner grows at least half a dozen different kinds, so it’s fun to hop back and forth between the rows of vines to taste the variety. Oh, and if you’re lucky, Carole Huebner will have some sort of blackberry treat, like a blackberry coffee cake or cobbler, for you to sample. It’s a berry awesome East Texas experience.

Copyright Casey Chapman Ross

Save Room for One Last Thing … A Steak

OK, this stop isn’t technically in Centerville, but I can’t leave out one last stop in the area that blew my mind. There’s a little town south of Centerville called Leona. With a population smaller than 200, there’s not much going on — except at the Leona General Store where, every Friday and Saturday night, it’s steak night. The general store has been around since the 1920s, but sometime in the ’90s, a retired minister named Jerry House transformed it into “the best little steakhouse in Texas.” It was an instant hit: When I went, there were, no kidding, at least 200 people in line (more than the town’s whole population!) waiting for the door to open.

Each steak is hand-cut to order and cooked over charcoal grills, so there’s fire and smoke everywhere, but the best part is they only serve rib-eye. So, if you’re there, it’s not a question of what you’re ordering, it’s just how big you want it. There’s a running leaderboard for who’s eaten the most steak, and when I was there, the record was something like 90 ounces. It sounds ridiculous, but the steak is seriously that good. So, if you’re in the Centerville area, don’t leave without dinner in Leona!

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