I wasn't sure where to put this but here goes

Since I am an aspiring musician in central Texas, I feel like fiddle is a good instrument to know how to play. Any good brands I should look at?
Might as well get on craigslist and take anything you can find, then. You're not going to get anything even halfway decent for that.
You sort of have to consider budget - a "good" student violin usually costs a few thousand dollars. Fiddlers tend towards the cheaper stuff but even a decent fiddle will cost quite a lot.

Franz Hoffmann makes the cheapest playable instruments. The Etude is probably your best bet but the Prelude is fine if it fits your budget better. You'll want the outfit, since you won't find a bow and case for cheaper than the outfit price anywhere.