The Gristmill (1287 Gruene Rd., 830/625-0684, www.gristmillrestaurant.com, $7–20) is a must if you’re in Gruene. Located in a historic cotton gin building beneath the iconic Gruene water tower, the Gristmill embodies the district’s appeal: tastefully-done rustic comfort. The fabulous scenery at this multi-level establishment overlooking the scenic Guadalupe River is almost as good as the food.
Start with an order of perfectly breaded sweet onion rings and proceed to enjoy anything on the Southern-tinged menu. The beef tenderloin sandwich with avocado and horseradish sauce is especially tasty, as are the burgers, fried catfish, and tomatillo chicken. Good luck saving room for the delectable fudge pie.
For a true German experience in this authentically German town, try Friesenhaus (148 S. Castell Ave., 830/625-1040, www.friesenhausnb.com, $9–19). The name references the family’s native stomping grounds in northern Germany, and the food proves they know their stuff. Breaded pork schnitzel is the specialty here, but the other menu options, from steaks to sausage to seafood, are equally tempting. Be sure to sample some of the flavorful breads and rolls made daily in the restaurant’s bakery, and stick with the German tradition by accompanying everything with a local beer or two.
Although it’s better known as a national phone/online meat-delivery company, the New Braunfels Smokehouse (140 S. State Highway 46, 830/625-2416, www.nbsmokehouse.com, $10–25) has a restaurant just off the freeway that serves savory hickory-smoked meats on a plate rather than in a box. Sausages are the most popular items here, but locals make regular returns for the beef brisket, ham, ribs, and chicken and dumplings. If you’re in the area at breakfast, don’t miss their eggs and smoked sausage or pork chop combos. Lunches feature smoked ham, turkey, pastrami, and Canadian bacon sandwiches on homemade bread.
For those who’ve had enough of the German and Hill Country scene, head directly to New Braunfels’s popular downtown Huisache Grill & Wine Bar (303 W. San Antonio St., 830/620-9001, www.huisache.com, $10–24). Housed in a modest late–19th century building, Huisache features freshly prepared, eclectic cuisine in a comfy setting. You can’t go wrong with their mixed grill (beef tenderloin kabobs, wild boar sausage, seared duck) or baked salmon.
© Andy Rhodes from Moon Texas, 6th Edition