I have to tell you – I just love the atmosphere at Gristmill in Gruene, Texas. On a beautiful Texas day, there are very few better places to eat. Gristmill has outdoor seating on its many decks looking out over the woods and river. But you don’t have to eat outside to enjoy the scenery or the pleasant weather. The indoor seating is much like eating on a covered patio. On nice days, Gristmill opens the windows, letting a nice breeze run through the dining area. On the Sunday we went, we ate inside right next to one of those open windows – you could hear the leaves rustling and the river rushing (thanks to the many rainy days prior – very nice to hear and see after the months long drought). http://gristmillrestaurant.com
As it advertises, Gristmill is located beneath the Gruene water tower in an old cotton gin overlooking the Guadalupe River and is considered on the most unique dining spots in Texas. I cannot argue with that claim. It is one of the most unique restaurants I have ever eaten at. Gristmill has character in spades. The place is steeped in history and is endlessly interesting. You can almost feel the presence of the Texans who made their living there in the aged brick walls, the only remaining portion of original structure, scarred by the fire that brought the mill down in 1922. Despite its expanse, Gristmill feels warm and familiar with its hand hewn wide plank wood floors and huge beams and countless pieces of memorabilia. Our server was sweet and friendly, attentive and quick, which only added to the welcoming atmosphere.
But frankly, while the atmosphere is original and distinct, the entrees are rather average and ordinary. On the day we went, I had the Chicken Acapulco, a marinated chicken breast grilled then topped with a homemade pico de gallo and sour cream. The chicken breast was well seasoned, but small, and the pico de gallo was less than fresh. The entrée also included one side, a choice of Pinto Beans, Homemade Mashed Potatoes, Gruene Beans, Steamed Fresh Veggies, Potato Salad, Hill Country Cole Slaw or “Gristmill Fries” Original Round Cut Fries. Anything else would have been better than my choice of the “Gristmill Fries” which were more than a little disappointing. My side of “Gristmill Fries” amounted to nothing more than a single potato sliced moderately thin, lengthwise, fried and dusted with cheap seasoning salt. They were limp and unappealing. As disappointed as I was, double that if I had actually purchased them a la carte for $3.49. In my opinion, $3.49 is too high a price for any side of fries. But if I ordered fries for that price and been presented with what I received, I may have actually sent them back, something I think I have done maybe twice in my entire life and once it was for a bug in my food.
My Mr. ordered the Chicken Fried Chicken with a side of the homemade and homestyle, skin-in, mashed potatoes, and white gravy. The mashed potatoes were good and, thankfully, plentiful so that I could share. I only wish they were a bit hotter in temperature, salted a bit more and the gravy a little more peppery. The chicken fried chicken was perhaps the smallest I’d ever seen in Texas. In fact, it was so small that my husband ate it before I even got a bite, which is unheard of – I always get a bite. Although he did eat it all, he ranked it low in taste and texture, and explained his empty plate with his incredible hunger.
On a high note, my parents both ordered the Gruene Bros. “Best” Wurst, links of Falls City, Texas, Polish wedding sausage, served with BBQ sauce and spicy mustard, which they really enjoyed. I thought it was a bit dry, but had great flavor. The side of Hill Country Cole Slaw was a particular standout, with its fantastic vinegar base and crisp cabbage.
Bottomline on Gristmill. Go for the atmosphere on a blue sky day (have lunch/dinner early – the crowds and the wait grow pretty quickly, especially on a nice weather weekend), order the sausage, a burger or one of their tasty sandwiches (I have had the Grilled Chicken Sandwich and Gruene Country Club Sandwich on previous visits and was absolutely pleased with both. I have also heard really good things about the Beef Tenderloin Sandwich, although I have never tried it). Skip the fries. Have a cold brew, sit back and relax. And you will have a great dining experience. Then head over to Gruene Hall, the oldest continually operating dance hall in the State of Texas, for some great music, more amazing atmosphere and another cold brew. You just can’t beat that for a fun-filled afternoon (or evening).