The Gruene mainstay Gristmill River Restaurant and Bar celebrates 45 years of operation in May

The Texas-size onion rings ($22.99) are served double-battered and deep-fried. They also come in smaller portions. (Photos by Eric Weilbacher/Community Impact Newspaper)
The Texas-size onion rings ($22.99) are served double-battered and deep-fried. They also come in smaller portions. (Photos by Eric Weilbacher/Community Impact Newspaper)

The Texas-size onion rings ($22.99) are served double-battered and deep-fried. They also come in smaller portions. (Photos by Eric Weilbacher/Community Impact Newspaper)

Image description
General Manager Larry Abel stands in front of the entrance to the Gristmill.
Image description
The jalapeño margarita ($8.95) is served with lime juice, jalapeños, agave nectar and a tajin rim.
Image description
Throughout the many levels of the restaurant along the banks of the Guadalupe River, diners can sit within the ruins of the old cotton gin.
Image description
The Gristburger ($10.99) is a 1/2-pound all-beef patty smothered in spicy homemade queso. It offers a unique take on the cheeseburger.
Image description
The full rack of baby back ribs ($30.99) come with a choice of sides, such as the Gruene beans and homemade mashed potatoes.
The Gristmill River Restaurant and Bar celebrates 45 years of business in May as one of the primary cornerstones in the revival of the Gruene Historic District.

The original building for the restaurant began serving as a cotton gin in 1878 until the wooden parts of the structure burned down in 1922, leaving it abandoned and in ruins. The three-story boiler room—mostly made of brick and stone—survived, and in 1977 was transformed into the first space greeting customers for the restaurant today.

Adding to the original structure along with sprawling open-air decks overlooking the Guadalupe River, the restaurant has more than 130 tables for guests that stay filled. Guests should expect to wait for a table, sometimes for more than an hour on busy weekends, General Manager Larry Abel said.

While waiting, patrons can wait in the beer garden and enjoy a drink and live music, or wander about the village. On weekends, a rotating list of musicians keep customers waiting for tables entertained in the garden, with Tony Taylor, Jackson Parten and Clifton Jansky frequently performing for guests, among others.

“One thing that we’ve incorporated now is an iPad so you can put your name down on the wait, walk around town, and then we can give you a call or a text. ... We always just had everybody hanging back here, and now they can experience the whole town,” Abel said.


Known for its American food, the Gristmill offers chicken-fried steak and other items that are favorites among guests.

“Outside of the chicken-fried steak, I would say onion rings [are most popular],” Abel said. “The ribs have really come on strong over the last five to 10 years. And then our burgers. I think we did an excellent job with those.”

The Gristmill also offers a full bar, and margaritas are bestsellers.

“One that’s really hot right now is the jalapeno margarita. That one sells really well. We make it fresh every day and make it to order,” Abel said. “The secret recipe is lime juice. No syrups or anything like that.”

The Gristmill River Restaurant and Bar

1287 Gruene Road, New Braunfels 830-606-1287. www.gristmillrestaurant.com

Hours: Sun.-Thu. 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
By Eric Weilbacher

Editor, New Braunfels and San Marcos/Buda/Kyle

Eric joinedCommunity Impact Newspaper as an editor in July 2021, returning to journalism after several years in the New Braunfels business community. Prior to CI, Eric freelanced for multiple publications and was a reporter for the New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung. He brings a passion for accurate, compelling story telling and human interest to his work.