Cuero bar offers sense of hometown pride, flair

Doug Blank, owner of the Hardwood Cafe, talks about why he decided to open a bar in his hometown.

In the heart of Cuero’s downtown district, a craft cocktail bar called the hardwood has reignited the sleepy town’s passion for panache

Owner Doug Blank was born and raised in Cuero but worked in the service industry Austin before deciding to open the bar in his hometown.

Guests tell us that not only does the hand-crafted menu make for a w

onderful experience — the hardwood feels like something special. And irreplaceable.

Blank has crafted more than just cocktails – he’s crafted a Crossroads gem.

“Well, Cuero has, geographically speaking, one of the most special spots in Texas and so are the Crossroads area,” Blank said. “Some people refer to as the battlefields and there’s just so much love and just so much like special, so many special things that have happened just for Texas here. There’s just always been a positive energy. It is gorgeous here. I, my whole experience growing up was just something very special, especially with my friends and things. So yeah, and then my, my family, my family’s been here forever, so I just felt like it was really important for me to open up my first venture in my hometown.”

The Hardwood’s aesthetic was designed to appeal to crossroads residents. The area’s rich history and his family’s connection to DeWitt county inspired Blank’s vision for the space. Customers tell us that the bar feels both upscale and casual — a mix of metropolitan and southern charm.

“I just wanted something homey and just something really comforting, something like felt like you’re in a warm embrace,” Blank said. “And so that’s pretty much it. Just this is the way I wanted it to look like. This is when I, when I saw the hardwood, like in my mind it’s like I grew up in this, in this room, it’s next to my mother’s flower shop. It’s like, this room is like this, this, this used to be my grandmother’s office. It’s like, this is where I grew up and I’ve always loved it here. These are the original hardwood floors, the original hardwood ceiling. So the name comes from this building was wrecked in 1987 so it’s like, it’s an homage to everybody at swatch across these floors to pass 132 years. And then, so it’s just, I want it to capture that. I wanted to capture that energy, that vibe.”

The Hardwood’s menu changes seasonally — and Doug tells us that his love for crafting beautiful cocktails helps him choose ingredients that set the hardwood apart. It can be easy to fall into a routine when ordering cocktails — out of fear of ordering something you won’t like. However — when the flavors of a well-crafted cocktail are balanced this well — it’s difficult to find a drink you won’t love.

“And so in Cuero, Oh, you’re going to have a drink with a liquor made by monks that take an oath of silence next to a very old Saint Lucian rum or a rum Agricole all in one drink,” Blank said. “And you know, that’s from all over the world. And then you’re having that experience here with us in Cuero. It’s not to intimidate, it’s not to make you, um, not to make you feel like you, you don’t want to drink here. The idea is to have something special and realize that you can have a good drink too.”

The revival of Cuero’s main street and downtown district — and a return to intimate and warm spaces where customers can escape the busy day-to-day — harken back to the true meaning of the word hometown.

“I mean, Cuero used to have 32 operating bars at one time in the early 19 hundreds,” Blank said. “Thinking about that. I used to be a viable town with like the railroad. We used to have a Coke Cola bottling company and it’s all gone. We saw movie theaters. I think it’s all got, and so when I decided, people are like, why would you go back to Cuero and do this? Or why don’t you go somewhere else? So I try and Austin, it’s like, this is where I, this is my safety blanket. This is where I belong. We deserve this. Cuero is a beautiful town. Cuero is so important to this area in like a, in not even just review at County, but for surrounding counties.”

Next time you’re in Cuero — stop by the hardwood and see Blank. You’ll learn some of the history of the crossroads while you sip on a perfectly crafted cocktail.

The Hardwood experience is unique and the love for Cuero and the crossroads community is palpable in every facet of its design.