“Independent Eating (and drinking) Establishments in South Texas— Our Adventures in Good Eating, part 1

Barry and Meta on their travels
through south Texas.
Normally my blog entries feature recipes, but after a recent trip to south Texas I couldn't resist writing about the places we ate. This is the first of three articles about our trip. The other two do contain recipes! 

Our Adventures in Good Eating
 “Independent Eating (and drinking) Establishments in South Texas”
            Part 1 in a series of 3
            Adventures in Good Eating is the title of the 1935 book written by Duncan Hines. In it, he recommends restaurants he’s eaten in as he’s traversed the roads of America as a traveling salesman. As Barry and I set out for a month-long stay in south Texas, it was a chance to do the same.

            We started off with fall-off-the-bone baby back ribs at the Gristmill Restaurant and Bar, in the Gruene Historic District, with hearty sides of their rustic mashed potatoes, creamy coleslaw and signature Gruene beans (tomato & bacon based green beans). The restaurant overlooks the Guadalupe River and was built in 1977 from the remaining structure of a water-powered cotton gin that burned to the ground in 1922; the multi-level facility can seat 950 people. Full of stone fireplaces and its fair share of taxidermy, it is a popular choice of locals and tourists. The atmosphere is definitely casual but not nearly as casual as the no-frills smokehouse in Luling, TX. The City Market is another well-known and fun spot for down-home BBQ, ordered straight from the pitmaster, served on butcher paper and picnic-style tables. We can attest that the ribs are tender and that the smoked sausage is spicy and quite tasty, despite the smoky surroundings.
Fall-off-the-bone baby back ribs at the Gristmill, Guene, TX.
            Locals and winter Texans crow about the breakfast tacos at Los Gallos (translation: the rooster) Taco House, and we joined the Sunday tradition while in New Braunfels, TX. Just one of the eaterie’s specialties, they come wrapped in authentic white corn tortillas or flour tortillas and can be filled with your choice of scrambled eggs, bacon, chorizo, potatoes, beans, nopalitos (prickly pear cactus) and much more.
Breakfast Tacos at Los Gallos, New Braunfels, TX.
         You won’t leave hungry at Blake’s in McQueeney, TX, where they serve up half pound to one-pound portions of prime rib and offer an array of comfort food-style sides including irresistible, small loaves of dark bread and  really creamy mac and cheese. The one hundred-year-old building that houses this restaurant is filled with an eclectic mix of décor.
Barry's one-pound portion of prime rib at Blake’s in McQueeney, TX.

          Barry could hardly wrap his mouth around the his BIG blue-cheese burger in Johnson City’s Pecan Street Brewing, and I couldn’t stay out of his fries which were some of the best I’ve ever tasted despite the fact that I really enjoyed my wood-fired pesto pizza.

          There was some fine dining, too, at Huisache Grill in historic downtown New Braunfels. The restaurant bills their fare as “creative contemporary cuisine with fresh regional ingredients,” and it was certainly all that and more! Barry, Donna and Bob Masters (from South Dakota) dined on salmon en papillote (they referred to it as Seattle-style but either way it means that the salmon is encased and baked in parchment paper, resulting in a delicate and moist entrée) while I thoroughly enjoyed my farm-raised blackened catfish.

          A walk in historic downtown New Braunfels is not complete without a stop at Naegelin’s Bakery, the oldest continuous-operating bakery in Texas. The sweet aromas that meet you at the door certainly tempt the taste buds even before you behold the cases of baked delights—pies, cookies, cinnamon rolls, coffee cakes, cakes, bread, rolls, pretzels, all sorts of pastries and donuts, and strudels. While visiting a local heritage museum we had learned that the German immigrant who started the bakery in 1868 arrived in the U.S. with only a sack of flour and a few dollars. 

          There were plates stacked with the legendary onion rings at Clear Springs Restaurant (New Braunfels). Lots of fried dishes appear on the menu along with a nice selection of Cajun fare (the gumbo was thick, spicy and really good).

         Of course a trip to south Texas would not be complete without a stop at The Luckenbauh Bar. Housed in the old Post Office (built in 1850), it’s located right behind the General Store. It’s hard to find a place to sit but definitely a fun place to down a cold one. It’s reminder that a place doesn’t have to be fancy to draw a crowd. And, of course, “everybody’s somebody in Luckenbauch, Texas.”

Summary of  Independent eating (and drinking) establishments we recommend in southern Texas:

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