Restaurants on the Road

Where to dine on I-35

The Gruene Mansion Bar & Grill

1275 Gruene Road, in Gruene

830/620-0760

Tuesday-Thursday, 5-9pm; Friday, 5-10pm, Saturday, 11am-10pm; Sunday, 10am-9pm (brunch, 10am-2pm)

The historic old German mill town of Gruene sits comfortably in a scenic bend in the Guadalupe River a few short miles west of I-35. Take the Canyon Lake exit off the highway and follow the signs to the attractive little burg, famous for its definitive Texas dance hall, raucous summer tubing down the Guadalupe, and plenty of antique shopping opportunities along its two main streets. Just to the east of the rambunctious wood-floored Gruene Hall sits the stately Gruene Mansion Hotel and a short stroll behind the hotel will lead you to the Gruene Mansion Bar & Grill. Former San Antonio restaurateur Mark Faseler settled in Gruene last summer to run his in-laws' attractive restaurant overlooking the river. It's a lovely facility, perfect for regular dining and special events, featuring an affordable and well-executed American bistro menu.

On a recent visit to Gruene, some friends and I developed the perfect prescription for a Central Texas Sunday. Here's exactly what to do: Check out the Web site at www.gruenehall.com to find out who's playing on the Sunday you plan to visit and order tickets online. Call Gruene Mansion Bar & Grill and make a reservation for brunch. Relax at a table overlooking the river or one in the library before a cozy fire. Eat, drink, stroll, shop, dance, enjoy. Repeat as needed.

Brunch at the Gruene Mansion Bar & Grill may not be as well-known as the Cowboy Brunch at the neighboring Grist Mill, but it certainly should be. The fact is, the price is right ($12.95 for adults) and the food is decidedly better at the Mansion. The ample buffet offers breakfast choices, including a waffle station where toppings range from blueberry or maple syrups to chocolate chips, pecans, and whipped cream. There are plain scrambled eggs, migas, mountains of bacon and sausage, fluffy hot biscuits and cream gravy, and plenty of fresh fruit. Hungry for lunch? That's no problem. Selections vary from week to week, but we found sweet, flaky catfish fillets, tender, toothsome medallions of pork tenderloin, and flavorful tequila lime chicken with sides of rice pilaf, grilled vegetables, and roasted potatoes. There's an ample array of salads -- field greens, spinach, hearts of palm, and fruit -- but steer clear of the raspberry vinaigrette, it's on the syrupy side. Another table sported slices of pie and cheesecakes but we chose to split a waffle for our dessert and couldn't have been happier.

The brunch buffet comes with friendly service and very affordable traditional brunch libations from the bar. Mimosas and delightfully spicy Bloody Marys will only set you back $2 each and the attentive staff will keep them coming. Long-range plans at the Gruene Mansion Bar & Grill call for them to open for weekday lunches. We thoroughly enjoyed our extended brunch there and plan to make it our regular dining stop when visiting Gruene. The only thing we'd change here would be the background music. We suggest they ditch the creaky old Sixties pop relics and add a soundtrack of real Texas music from Robert Earl Keen, Joe Ely, Bruce and Charlie Robison, Kimmie Rhodes -- folks from the neighborhood with music to match the setting and enhance the whole experience.

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