After joining the corporate world in Houston upon obtaining a degree in marketing and communications, Wilkinson began looking for a business to purchase when a small restaurant in Gruene caught his eye.
Wilkinson and his wife, Cristina, used to spend time in Gruene while dating, he said. Back then, the restaurant was called The River House Tea Room and was owned by chef Carol Irwin of Buttermilk Cafe.
Wilkinson purchased the restaurant from her in August 2015 and started making it his own.
“I wanted to serve something that was simple, but I still wanted to hang onto some of the heritage from the tea room days,” Wilkinson said.
The first dinner service was in February 2016, and Wilkinson has been adding to the menu ever since.
“I like to describe our menu as ‘Southern but we don’t fry everything,’” he said.
Wilkinson and Executive Chef Antonio Ruiz are committed to making fresh meals daily using locally sourced ingredients. If ingredients cannot be found locally, the restaurant will find the best available or make them in-house, Wilkinson said.
The popular River House Burger is a great example of how staffers source their ingredients, according to Wilkinson.
The akaushi beef is ground fresh, in-house; the sourdough bun is made in a Texas bakery; and the cheddar, which Wilkinson says is the best, is aged five years and sourced from a small farm in Wisconsin.
The food is the main bragging point at The River House, Wilkinson said, but the restaurant also has a great wine list, an amazing atmosphere and an incredible team, he said.
“I pride myself on doing a great job, but it doesn’t matter how good I do if I can’t bring everybody else up with me,” Ruiz said.
In addition to regular lunch and dinner hours, The River House hosts several events throughout the year, such as Supper & A Song—what Wilkinson calls “the ultimate supper club.”
It is a Sunday evening, chef-prepared, four-course meal with live music on the patio.
The River House
1617 New Braunfels St., New Braunfels
Hours: Wed.-Sat. 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-4 p.m., closed Mon.-Tue.