I own a timeshare in the Texas Hill Country and at least once a year they invite me down for a “meeting.” This is an opportunity (for me) to enjoy an extra weekend in one of my favorite parts of Texas and (for them) to try to sell me more stuff, which I’m not buying. This last weekend was one of those, and I mention it only to say that when I got to the meeting they were at a loss to explain why I was there. There was no reason to meet with them at this time, they muttered. Wonder why I was invited down?
I know exactly why; it was a God thing. My friend, Vikki, wanted to come down with me so we could drive into San Antonio to visit her husband, Lance, who now resides in the military cemetery there. This trip had nothing to do with my latest “opportunity” and everything to do with Vikki. So we came down, had an unusually entertaining meeting with the puzzled timeshare guys, and proceeded to enjoy our weekend.
As we are both foodies (you’ll see Vikki’s hands in the duck) we naturally organized much of our trip around culinary opportunities. On the way down, we stopped at the Koffee Kup in Hico for their famous pie. After paying respects to Lance, we chowed down on a fabulous burger at Centerpoint Station in San Marcos. And Saturday night, thanks to a recommendation from Rob at the timeshare, we had dinner at Gruene River Grill.
Gruene (pronounced “green”), is a small town on the banks of the Guadaloupe (that’s “gwah-duh-loop” for you non-natives) River and one of the places I always go when I’m in this part of the world. It boasts Texas’ oldest continuously operating dance hall, a multitude of antique stores and quirky shops, and some darn fine food. I’ve eaten several good meals at the Gristmill (behind the dance hall under the water tower), but Rob insisted Gruene River Grill (a few doors down) was the place to go.
Look for this sign
He was so right. Everything about it was wonderful, starting with the décor. It’s what I call Hill Country chic, a mix of recycled barn wood and modern pottery, exposed brick and sophisticated sofas, old tin ceiling panels and silk curtains. The sort of place where you can comfortably park your cowboy boots under the table and idly discuss the technological impact of the Roman Empire on the development of modern civilization while enjoying a fine Cabernet and an elegant meal before wandering outside to go boot-scootin’. It was dark when we arrived, but I’m sure the large glass doors along the back wall open onto a charming patio where, in warmer weather, one can relax and gaze down on the river below.
In the interest of moderation, Vikki and I shared our meal, which turned out to be perfectly proportioned for the purpose. We started with Shrimp Won Tons, jumbo shrimp with mixed cheeses, bacon, and serrano peppers bundled in a wonton wrapper and fried, served with cherry mustard sauce. Crunchy, chewy, and delicious with just the right amount of heat—I want these at my next Superbowl party. Heck, I want these at my next meal.
For our entrée we followed Rob’s advice and chose Chicken Marsala. A perfectly cooked butterflied chicken breast, moist and delicious, nestled in just the right amount of lovely sauce with creamy garlic mashed potatoes and green beans (also perfectly cooked with red pepper flakes for a little extra interest).
Then, because our pie from the day before had long since worn off, we had dessert. Tara, our server, pitched the Dove chocolate crème brulee, but we opted for the brownie a la mode. This turned out to be a Texas-sized square of fudgy chocolate goodness topped with vanilla ice cream. Yum.
In summary: wonderful décor, excellent service, delicious food, reasonable prices. Should you happen to find yourself between Austin and San Antonio and need a place to park your boots for a spell, take a brief detour off the beaten path to visit the “city” of Gruene and the Gruene River Grille. It’s not far off 1-35 and well worth the trip.
You might have to go old school and use a map to find it, though. Our GPS just looked confused when we entered “Gruene”. We followed our noses and found it anyway. And now that I’ve found it, I will definitely be back.
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