Whether you’re traveling to Texas on a road trip or living there yourself already, there’s one restaurant you don’t want to miss. Owned by the award-winning chef Carol Hill, the River House Tea Room in Gruene, Texas is a vacation destination in and of itself.
You might wonder how a restaurant with such humble outward appearances receives so much critically acclaimed attention. As with anything else of note, it’s what’s inside that counts. From a friendly staff and relaxing atmosphere to gourmet food and dedicated service, the River House Tea Room serves up a dining experience you’ll never forget.
Let’s start with the seating arrangements. Gruene, Texas is known for its historic buildings and antique havens. The River House Tea Room is situated next to a small outdoor market where guests can browse or shop while waiting for their food and enjoy Gruene’s scenery at the same time.
Since so many Texas evenings are sunny and warm, you can request to eat outside on the patio and enjoy breezes and some shade. But if you’re not feeling up to a breezy dinner, or if the weather happens to be inclement, you can always eat inside, where the seating and ambiance hint at the Victorian era.
You won’t want to skip appetizers at the River House Tea Room. When I was there, I ordered a meal that didn’t come with a side salad or cup of soup. So when the soup du jour, tomato, came around for others in my party, the tangy pizza smell wafted into my nostrils and made me wish mine came with a side, too.
So I ordered a cup of tomato soup to tie me over until dinner. I must say, it was the best soup I’d ever tasted. It was like a cross between pizza sauce and spaghetti sauce – heavier than regular tomato soup, but not chunky at all.
And did I mention that all guests get to enjoy a side of fresh, buttery bread? Dip this bread in the tomato soup, and it’s breadstick heaven. If you run out, just ask for some more. They won’t charge extra for additional plates of bread.
If you’re not feeling in the mood for pop (or soda, as they call it down there), order a pitcher of fresh squeezed lemonade. You get free refills and just about as many maraschino cherries as you’d like.
When our server eventually brought out our orders, I was half full from bread and soup, but I made plenty of room for chef Carol’s Chipotle Duck Wrap, which, according to their menu, is a dish that combines grilled and marinated duck breast (which is still dark meat), spinach, black beans, green onion, garlic, avocado, pico de gallo and their special chipotle mayonnaise. My order also came with over-sized tortilla chips and the best pineapple salsa I’ve ever had.
Don’t let all those quasi-veggie names turn you off. I’m not ordinarily a vegetable person myself, but I thoroughly enjoyed the avocado and black beans, despite the fact that they’re something I’d probably never touch with a six foot pole at home. The way they’re prepared probably takes out all the health benefits, but they sure do taste good!
If you want to save room for dessert, just eat half your meal. The rest will keep just fine in your refrigerator back at your hotel or condo and can serve as the next evening’s meal. But what surprised me was that my waiter offered to wrap up my extras for me. He took each of our plates inside, packaged them in a take-home box, and brought them back out to us in a sturdy bag. It certainly beat fighting with the food and box myself!
If you do take a trip to Gruene to eat at the River House Tea Room, keep a careful watch on your credit card. The prices, while reasonable for the value you receive, are nonetheless a smidge on the pricey side. You don’t feel the pinch as much if it’s just you and your spouse, but when you’ve got a party or kids to feed, the price goes up pretty quickly.
The average cost of a meal at the River House Tea Room starts around $12.99 and ranges up to $32.99 for more expensive commodities, like steak. The menu also offers shrimp, club sandwiches, jalapeno burgers, croissants and paninis.
If you’re traveling with younger children, consider having them split meals to cut down on the cost and reduce the amount of food you waste.
If you’re traveling to New Braunfels or Gruene, don’t miss a trip to the River House Tea Room! You’ll leave your table as one full, satisfied customer.
River House Tea Room
1617 New Braunfels St.