The Great Outdoors

Excerpt from New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung by Robin Blackburn, May 2016

Gristmill River Restaurant & Bar

One of the blessings of life in Central Texas is the spring and early summer weather. Sunny days and balmy nights beckon us outdoors for camping, picnics, parties, fishing, swimming, tubing, hiking or simply taking a walk through the park or downtown.

This time of year is also perfect for enjoying outdoor dining. New Braunfels residents have plenty of options when it comes to restaurants with patio seating — from casual to upscale. And with the variety of restaurants New Braunfels has to offer, you can eat Southern comfort food, seafood and more in the great outdoors.

“People have an innate desire to be in nature, and the closest they can get is dining outside,” said Mary Jane Nalley, co-owner of The Gristmill in Gruene. “It’s always kind of been a thing, I think. You can’t usually go for a walk in the woods once a week. And there’s a part of us that wants to connect with nature, even if you don’t feel it consciously.”

Nalley said that particularly with today’s hightech, fast-paced lifestyle, people sometimes want to get away from it all and relax in the fresh air and feel more in touch with nature.

Cantina del Rio


Particularly in Central Texas, Nalley said, outdoor dining is popular because of the climate.

“Our weather, for the most part, is really nice,” she said, noting that up north when winters are longer and colder than they typically are in this area, outdoor dining is harder to find and harder to enjoy.

Moreover, she said, “I think dining is a big part of people’s entertainment these days, and the more experiential you can make it, the more enjoyable it is.”

For example, people eating at tables on the sidewalk outside a downtown restaurant can enjoy people-watching and soaking in the atmosphere, and diners on a patio out in the country can find shade in a canopy of trees and enjoy being outdoors, Nalley said.

The Gristmill itself has vast outdoor seating capacity — about 300 people can dine among the trees at the historic site. Nalley said there are several different areas outside, which keeps diners from feeling like they’re in a huge crowd. There is an outdoor biergarten where bands play on the weekends, dining areas covered by trees provide shade and smaller covered outdoor areas.

“It sort of has a treehouse effect,” Nalley said. “It overhangs the bluffs, with the river below, and it’s almost like being in the woods.

“It’s really comfortable to be out there,” she said. “You can hear the birds and the river.”

The River House

Tucked away off of the main road in Gruene is The River House, whose outdoor dining area can seat about 50 people. The recently expanded patio also includes a bar where patrons can order beer and wine, and there’s live music on the patio on Sundays. The patio backs up to a wooded area, putting nature within reach.

“There are times when you’ll see 30 to 40 deer hanging out back there grazing,” said Chef Collin Campion.

The outdoor area is particularly popular this time of year, Campion said. “For dinner, we fill this area up before we fill the inside.”

Campion said people enjoy the patio for its nice, simple feel and relaxing atmosphere.

“This is a nice place to meet up and take a break from shopping,” he said.

No matter what part of town you’re in or what kind of food you’re craving, take the opportunity to enjoy some of New Braunfels’ outdoor dining spots. With the variety of cuisine and settings available, you have plenty of chances to get in touch with nature with food and friends.

This blog provided by Gruene Texas and tuckerhaynes.com