It all started with a hunt for morels, the wild mushrooms that beg to be panfried in brown butter and served alongside grilled ribeyes. When a friend came through the back door of Vespaio in 2010 with a basket of them, Alan Lazarus, the chef and co-owner of the beloved South Congress restaurant, caught a whiff of possibility. He was surprised that the mushrooms grew in the Texas Hill Country and asked his friend if he could come out to her property to do some foraging.
The elusive mushrooms were located just outside of Wimberley, nestled among live oaks and wild mountain juniper on Lone Man Creek. Alan and his wife Susan Clark Lazarus, had been contemplating purchasing a second home, and they were immediately drawn to the rugged landscape. As luck would have it, there was a creek-front property for sale up the road.
They immediately looked at the house and made an offer. Although there were five pending contracts ahead of them, Lazarus shared a simpatico sensibility about preserving the land and found himself with that increasingly rare Texas treasure—waterfront property adjacent to a 32-acre nature preserve. In other words, it is guaranteed that the land surrounding his new home would remain wild and undeveloped.
“We’re so lucky that we landed here,” Alan said on a recent afternoon as we dipped our toes in the cool, impossibly clear spring-fed creek. Over the last few years, he and Susan have added a deck that looks out over the creek (the perfect perch for morning coffee and evening aperitivos) and have converted their garage into a guesthouse with an expansive glass door that—even when closed—provides a near seamless connection to the outdoors, including the occasional glimpse of axis deer and wild turkey. Or at least it was supposed to be a guesthouse. After they furnished the space in their style—a mix of mod and folk touches, well-worn favorite books, surround-sound for listening to the Rolling Stones and Crosby Stills and Nash on vinyl, and nostalgic photos from New York, where Alan grew up—they pretty much adopted the space as their master bedroom. “We almost never sleep in the main house,” Alan admits.
A chef at heart, (for years Alan worked as the national corporate chef for Whole Foods, before cashing in his stock options to open his restaurants), one of Alan’s focus at the creek house is preparing simple, satisfying meals to be eaten outdoors. On most weekends, they arrive with produce from their garden in Allendale and something to grill. They also buy local eggs down the road and Wagyu beef from Chisholm Ranch across the creek. In between bowls of gazpacho (inspired by a neighbor’s ripe tomatoes) and big salads prepared from whatever is in season, there are plenty of other ways to while away the weekends. They read in the hammock, play guitar, hike, and paddleboard. Susan works on her tile mosaics, and Alan spends shameless amounts of time fishing for bass, sometimes from a chair submerged in the creek. When friends visit, there is late-night wine drinking and guitar playing, and marathon matches of the board game Cards Against Humanity.
For Lazarus, the creek house means unfettered time with his family, and a home that his kids will eventually inherit. “It represents sanity; coming here feels like a staycation every weekend,” he says. The house has the unexpected bonus of enriching their friendships. “We thought we might see people less, but we actually connect with our friends more because when they come out and spend the night, we get to know them much better,” Alan says. “The worse part about every weekend is coming home.”