Under the Water Tower in Gruene

After a recent visit to Gruene (pronounced like the color green), I decided I wanted to learn more about this quaint little community. A Google search revealed several references of a ‘former town in Comal County.’ Considering this description, I decided the residents of the area must not know about their demise. While Gruene is actually a part of New Braunfels, this happening place has got it going on.

Located near the Guadalupe River, Gruene serves as a great example of what a little ingenuity can get you, particularly when the resource you counted on for success in the beginning, cotton, is no longer a viable industry for the area. Repurposed buildings now offer antiques, spas, river outfitters, coffee and tea shops, accommodations, specialty shops, wineries and any number of dining options.

One of the gems of the area, Gruene Hall is dubbed the oldest continually running dance hall in Texas. Many a singer/songwriter has graced this stage at some point in their careers, including Texas Natives, Willie Nelson and Lyle Lovett. www.gruenehall.com.

All in all, a visit to Gruene by way of New Braunfels is worth your time. While cotton is no longer king, the enjoyment you’ll find while exploring such a special Texas treasure will definitely be worth it. www.gruenetexas.com

Considering their Wikipedia definition, it’s not too bad for a former town.

Eat in the Heart of Texas
Having heard so much from friends about the Gristmill River Restaurant and Bar, I decided my husband and I should experience the place for ourselves. Housed in the remains of an 1870’s cotton gin near the Guadalupe River and under the Gruene Water Tower, the Gristmill didn’t disappoint. While parking was unavailable near the restaurant at 6:30 on a Friday evening, a distant parking lot sufficed. We trekked through the gravel-covered lot under vast oaks with limbs offering shaded canopies a majority of the way. A line had already formed upon our arrival. The system was explained to us by friendly wait staff. No electronic buzzers for this group, just a good old over-sized chalkboard where our name would be written once a table was ready.

Upon seeing our name in chalk, our escort showed us to our table, located in a nook surrounded by old bricks. I couldn’t help thinking if only these walls could talk. After scanning the menu, we conversed about our options. By the time our lemonade and iced tea arrived, we were pretty sure of our decisions, but we wanted to choose the specialities of the place. Our waiter assured us that our choice of chicken fried steak and homemade mashed potatoes was definitely a good way to go. It had been quite some time since we had one of the staples of Texas dinners so we went for it.

I smiled when the waiter brought us our plates featuring an overhang of breaded goodness covered in cream gravy adjacent to a beautiful mound of skin-on, garlic mashed potatoes. I loved the touch of greenery and the slice of lemon added to my plate to brighten up my neutral-colored meal. I can honestly say of all the chicken-fried steaks I have ever had the pleasure of eating, and I assure you there have been many, the Gristmill’s ranks at the very top. Of course, I only ate half of it, since my eye caught a couple of other things on the menu and it was my diet cheat day after all.

Before our meal arrived, we were convinced by our upselling-menu guide to try the onion rings. The selling point for this deep-fried wonder was the waiter’s description of the rings being the size of bracelets. I’ve always been told not to play with my food but upon their arrival, I actually slipped one of the rings on for size and it more than hung from my wrist. Don’t worry. The only other person who saw this act was my husband and he was too busy dipping the rings in ranch dressing to pay attention to my antics.

Onion rings down, leftover chicken fry and potatoes boxed up in take home containers, we were ready for one last culinary adventure. Recently, Texas legislators named the Pecan Pie as the official pie of Texas. I wasn’t about to leave without paying some kind of tribute. Our Jack Daniel’s Pecan Pie arrived with a heaping scoop of Blue Bell homemade vanilla, a Brenham Texas product. My husband commented that Davy Crockett traveled from Tennessee for the Alamo and Jack Daniels came from Tennessee for the pecan pie. While I love pecan pie, I have found many to be extremely sweet and heavy. The Gristmill’s bakers know what they’re doing. Tender crust surrounded by a warm, light filling of pecans, a hint of Jack Daniels and a few melted chocolate chips made this dessert a must have. Of course, the addition of my favorite ice cream didn’t hurt.

A wonderful setting, attentive staff, rich history and outstanding food makes the Gristmill one of my new favorite places to eat in the Lone Star State. www.gristmillrestaurant.com

Categories: Travel Texas

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