Tucked away in a small nook along Routh Street in Dallas sits a brick wall tacked up with Katy Trail Icehouse’s wooden sign and a path leading behind it.

Walking down the path reveals a garden of shade trees, dozens of gently misting fans, and people enjoying food and drinks at the picnic tables beneath them. The restaurant is at its center, complete with indoor seating, a full kitchen and bar menu, and servers shuffling orders out to customers. For owner Buddy Cramer, this is the closest Texas representation of traditional German beer gardens.

Cramer said he was a commercial real estate attorney for many years, but he eventually experienced career burnout and decided to jump into the restaurant business with a friend. In 2007, the two opened a joint called Bandito's Tex Mex Cantina at Snider Plaza in Dallas, which remains operational. He continued practicing law until 2011, when he opened Katy Trail Ice House on Routh Street.

The business saw early success, Cramer said. In the first few years, he nearly doubled the size of the Icehouse, adding more patio space and trees. By 2013, he was able to open another location in Plano called the Katy Trail Icehouse Outpost, or just the Outpost as it has come to be known.

A decade later, the Outpost is undergoing a similar expansion with the addition of 6,000 square feet of patio space and almost $1 million worth of planted trees. The Plano location will look and feel more like the original with a lot of stonework and additional gathering places that “hopefully elevate the atmosphere,” Cramer said. The expansion signifies a commitment to excellence and a commitment to the Plano community, Cramer said.

“In this business, if you're not doing anything to it, then you're probably moving backwards,” he said.

Cramer said he strives for both the Icehouse and the Outpost to be another backyard or a community center where people of all varieties can gather together in a giant melting pot.

The idea emerged from his desire to meld the little hole-in-the-wall patio bars in Central Texas that he frequented while studying at The University of Texas with the beer gardens he visited in Munich, Germany, where people gathered beneath trees with friends and family, Cramer said.

“It really derives from a Munich beer garden that we put the Texas flair to,” he said.

The restaurants serve the full gamut of bar-style food from hot dogs to cheeseburgers to poblano chicken sandwiches and more. But the bar gets a little more exclusive when it comes to deciding which beers to keep on tap.

“We wanted to give big exposure to Texas beers without cutting anybody out,” he said.

The only beers on draft that aren’t Texas beers are the major brands, such as Coors, Budweiser and a few Mexican beers. The bar team meets with local brewmasters and tests new products to keep things fresh, he said. One of the more popular options exclusive to the Dallas location is an award-winning hefeweizen, a German-style wheat beer, from Live Oak Brewing Co. in Del Valle.

Employees truck out to Del Valle, located near Austin, to pick it up and bring it back to Dallas, making the Katy Trail Icehouse and the Outpost two of the only places in the metroplex to carry it, Cramer said.

After the Plano renovations are complete, the plan is to expand into Allen, Cramer said. But despite its popularity, the third Icehouse location will be the last.

“I think we need to be an area-favorite place and not try to do more than that,” he said.

Katy Trail Icehouse Outpost