The Laurel Tree Restaurant: Where Fine Dining Reaches New Heights, Literally

The exterior of The Laurel Tree dining oak.

Chelsea Davis

Should you find yourself in a tiny town called Utopia, Texas, do yourself a favor and book (well in advance!) a dining experience at The Laurel Tree.

Located deep within Texas Hill Country River Region is The Laurel Tree restaurant, where chef and owner Laurel Waters serves upscale French-inspired cuisine within an impressive 450-year-old oak tree.

The concept for a tree house restaurant was somewhat realized on accident when the team of Animal Planet’s Treehouse Masters came in to dine at the already established restaurant. After meeting and getting to know Pete Nelson and his tree house making crew over dinner service, they decided that creating a dining room in one of her ancient oak trees would be a fantastic new addition to her restaurant.

The oak tree is quite incredible. Once you ascend a ramp, you arrive to an intimate dining space that seats up to six people. Decorated with Laurel’s own collection of antiques, artwork, and decor, the space is elegant and charming.

The exterior of The Laurel Tree dining oak.

Chelsea Davis

When you reserve a table, it’s yours for the entire dining service, whether lunch or dinner, giving guests plenty of time to explore the lush, relaxing property. Meander through the pecan groves, visit the herb and vegetable gardens, or simply enjoy your time walking around the lawns and checking out the quirky antiques and decor.

The Laurel Tree only offers lunch and dinner on Saturdays, so you can bet the menu is seasonal and ever-changing depending on what she has ripe in her culinary garden. What’s not grown on property is hand-picked and inspected by herself to ensure quality.

Classically trained in France, Laurel earned a Le Grand Diplome in Cuisine, Pastry and Wine from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris.

From there she went on to work at three top-notch restaurants in Provence including Le Moulin de Lourmarin for Chef Edouard Loubet (two Michelin stars); L'Oustau de Baumaniere for Jean-Andre Charial (two Michelin stars); and La Bastide de Moustiers (Alain Ducasse's Provencal Farmhouse).

Dinner at The Laurel Tree.

Chelsea Davis

Laurel’s menus bring together her Texas roots with French background and include dishes such as New Zealand lamb chops with citrus ginger glaze and pecan roasted tenderloin. All guests are served chef's choice appetizers, soup, salad, and desserts but choose between two main courses offered for the day. Diners who want to drink alcohol are invited to bring their own wine to accompany their meal, as Utopia is dry.

Before you go, please note that Utopia and its entire surrounding area is difficult to navigate. It’s advised to bring your own WiFi device for cell phone reception as it’s extremely easy to get lost and there is little-to-no cell reception. Be aware there are no street lights or much signage on the backroads, which may make finding your destination difficult.