Eatery Review: The Gristmill in Gruene, Texas

Last September when my roommate bought her car, we started to explore the area where we live, which I think I mentioned before.  One of the places we discovered quite by accident was Gruene, Texas. Its the home of the oldest dance hall in Texas, which was actually where one of the scenes in the movie Michael was filmed. It’s a cute little town that seems to be nestled right inside New Braunfels, and it has all sorts of gift shops, antique stores, bed and breakfast inns, restaurants, wine shops, and it’s on the Guadalupe River.  Gruene is a town of charm from the old houses-turned-shops/restaurants to the Market Days and Pottery Festival right up to the Cowboy Santa who rides into town on a horse during their Christmas festival.

The first time Kass and I went, it was late enough in the day that we pretty much looked at a couple of shops, went to the pottery festival then headed home.   The second time, we ate at The Gristmill River Restaurant, which is located on the cliff that overlooks the river.   Seated with a gorgeous view, we fell in love with the atmosphere as well as the food (that first time, I ordered the grilled chicken salad and garlic bread, and Kass ordered the cheeseburger).  We’ve got back several times and ate at a place once called Adobe Verde.  Next time we go there, I’ll take pics and do a review.

But this review is for The Gristmill.  The second trip was yesterday, Sunday the 3rd.  Kass and I headed out there with my family and three of my brother’s friends.  Now, it being a July day in Texas, it was hotter’n Hell, and it being a holiday weekend, there were a lot of people there.  Of course, I don’t think Kass and I have been to Gruene yet where there weren’t a lot of people, the town is that popular.

Now I have to tell you that if you go the Gristmill, be prepared for at least a 20 minute wait, but it’s worth it.  Here’s what to expect: you walk up to the hostess outside and she takes your name.  Then you go sit in the biergarten under a ton of tall shade trees.  You aren’t handed one of those new fangled light-up things that lets you know when you’re table’s ready.  No, you have to watch the two gigantic chalkboards for your name and listen for it to be called.  When you see/hear it, that’s when you’ll be seated.  If you don’t answer right away, your name’s moved to a “Last Call” list and eventually, you just lose your seating.

We were shown to our table way to the back, but it was by a large open ‘window’ (no glass there) overlooking the river.  There was a fantastic breeze to cool us down.  Now, I’ve posted the link to the menu, so you can get an idea of what they serve.  Unfortunately, they don’t list the prices, but I would rate the Gristmill as moderate to expensive, depending on what you order.  The burgers range from $6.99-$8.99, and they don’t come with fries (which are $3.99 to add).  They were running a special that day on baby back ribs — half a rack for $12.99, a full rack for $24.99.  The first time I ordered the grilled chicken salad, as I said, and it was $9.99 (and HUGE).  So you get an idea of the costs.  There are several things on the menu (certain steaks, fish, etc) that are higher than that.  Still, the food is worth it.

Want proof?

Kathy's cheeseburger

As the caption states, this was the cheeseburger that my sister Kathy ordered.  Having tasted Kass’ the first time, I can tell you that the hamburger they use is very high quality, next to no fat and seasoned perfectly probably before and while it cooks.  As full as my sister was, she didn’t leave a single bite on her plate.

Kass' chicken fried steak

Now there are those who think that chicken fried steak is just a bad cut of meat that’s been breaded, fried and smothered in gravy in order to disguise that it’s a bad cut of meat.  As a person who’s eaten chicken fried steak for ages, I’d say that only occasionally does the breading and gravy cover up a bad cut of meat, and I blame that on the restaurant, not the food.  Either way, Kass’ chicken fried steak was fantastic.  It wasn’t hard to chew, the breading wasn’t heavy at all, and the gravy tasted fresh, not like a packet (yes, I tried it; you’ll see further down on my plate).

Aunt Norma's chicken salad sandwich

My aunt can be fairly picky about what she eats, which is understandable.  She’s 80.  Her favorite thing to order most places is something with chicken because it’s light.  When there’s the opportunity of a chicken salad sandwich, she takes it.  So it was no different at the Gristmill.  This is what it looked like.  Huge.  The menu’s description is, “Our version of this tea room standard is a little more hearty than
normal and especially long on flavor, featuring spicy chicken, celery and peppered bacon. Served on a hoagie style bun.”  Mmm.  Doesn’t that sound good?  I could tell it was, but by the point that I had the presence of mind to order it, I was so full from my own lunch that I couldn’t have put a single bite of her sandwich in my mouth without becoming Mr. Creosote. (don’t watch this whole clip unless you’ve got a strong stomach!)

Joe's half rack of baby back ribs

This.  This is the half rack of baby back ribs.  Cooked in some sort of amazing barbecue sauce that’s neither too sweet or not sweet enough, and it’s so damned tender that you hold up one end of the bone and the meat just melts right off of it.  Yum!  It came with a side coleslaw.

The Gristmill's original round cut fries (mine!)

These were my fries.  Now, I’ve gotten out of the habit of eating a lot of fries, but I wanted some this time to go with my sandwich, and let me tell you that I don’t regret it in the slightest!  They tasted great with the season salt and ranch dressing on the side.  (I will say that they’ve got an appetizer of onion rings, and those are $6.99.  Seem like a lot for onion rings?  Not when you see them.  They are GINORMOUS onion rings with the best batter ever, and again, so worth it!)

MY WurstBurger

This is the description from the menu: South Texas Polish Wedding Sausage with mustard and our special BBQ sauce.  See, when we went there yesterday, I was so torn between a burger, the chicken salad, the ribs…or this.  Obviously, this won out, and I am glad that it did.  I’d initially asked for both the bbq sauce and mustard on the side, but I’m just as happy that the mustard was on the sandwich.  I might not have eaten any that way, and this ground mustard was the perfect compliment to the sausage.  I even ate my onions, which I love.  The sausage itself had a bit of a spicy bite to it but not much.  And yes, if you look at the upper right hand side of my plate, there’s my rib and my bite of chicken fried steak.  What?  I had to try as much as I could!  

My brother’s friends ordered food, too, but two of them shared a whole rack of the ribs, and stupid me forgot to try and get pictures of Linda’s catfish, which apparently was yummy.

So if you’re ever in the Texas Hill Country for an extended amount of time and you can get to Gruene, go to the Gristmill.  It’s fantastic food with a great view, and the waitstaff are friendly and attentive, even when it’s insanely busy.  TIP THESE FOLKS WELL!  ❤

As a side note, if you’re looking for something fun to do, either by yourself or with a friend/significant other or a group of people (they can fit up to 16, apparently, in the shop!), go have an old time photo taken here at Smiling Eyes Gallery: Old Time Photos. We did, and they did a fantastic job. More proof of fun?

Front row: Mary, Norma, Linda, Joe. Back row: Lou, Kass, Tracy (Me!), Kathy

Yes, we are very badass, and we had very badass fun!

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