Friday, June 29, 2012

Happy 35th Anniversary, Gristmill!

Thirty-five years ago, Texas (nay, The World!), did not yet know the wondrous Gristmill River Restaurant & Bar. Who then had ever heard of eating in the charred remains of a cotton gin’s three story brick boiler room after a fire burned the original 1878 structure, nor had any idea as to what a Texas Torpedo or GristBurger was or had any way of seeing anything more than a pile of ashes and rubble? Sounds pretty crazy right?!  BUT, that mindset would all change in 1977… Jimmy Carter was president, Star Wars opened in theaters and visionary entrepreneurs Pat Molak and Mary Jane Nalley, through sweat and tears opened a restaurant in this remaining structure. With a small kitchen in the corner of the building, the first menu offerings were meager – steak and hamburgers. But what the menu lacked in variety, it made up for in quality, and well, word spread.

Since being placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975 as part of Gruene Historic District and thirty-five years later, The Gristmill has reached a milestone that few New Braunfels restaurants have achieved. With the recent tumultuous economy, which has taken a toll on tourism, The Gristmill accomplished growth through decades of hard work, a consistently delicious menu and a knowledgeable, friendly staff.  The Gristmill currently offers over thirty different entrees featuring beef, chicken, fish, sandwiches and burgers, as well as eleven appetizers, six salads, soups and a large selection of sides, deserts and drinks.

Gruene Historic District’s dining scene has changed over the past decade to adapt to changing culinary trends and provide new experiences for locals and visitors; But The Gristmill credits its success to staying true to its country Western roots throughout its 35 year history.

Over the years, The Gristmill has played host to many celebrities, politicians, sports figures and music artists including John Travolta, Robert Duvall, Vanilla Ice, Tiffani Amber Thiessen of 90210 and Saved By the Bell, Lou Diamond Philips, Dan Rather, former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, the San Antonio SPURS, George Strait and The Smashing Pumpkins, just to name a few.

Situated on a bluff overlooking the Guadalupe River, nestled under the shade of towering oaks trees, this spectacular restaurant has been the perfect getaway for a unique casual dining experience. No wonder it’s been around thirty-five years! What do say to thirty-five more?!!!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Frank Schlather Day!!!

When you think of famous icons with a history at Gruene Hall you might think of Willie Nelson, George Strait and even Jerry Jeff Walker or Hal Ketchum - but we can think of one famous local who has an even longer history at the Hall - Frank Schlather. After all, when Pat Molak bought the place back in the early 70’s, Frank practically came with. 

Willie Nelson, George Strait, Jerry Jeff Walker & Hal Ketchum

So, who is Frank Schlather you might ask? He is a former saddle tree maker, lifelong hunter & marksman, husband, father and perhaps most notably, the unofficial “Mayor” of Gruene. He was a Gruene Hall staple, one heck of a dancer, and all that knew him knew that he had a big heart and beautiful spirit that more than made up for any lack he might have had in the looks department. 
Frank Schlater, in his corner, with a Falstaff.
Frank's Memorial Plaque

Frank had been frequenting the Hall for years and even had his own key when Pat bought the joint. Pat allowed him to keep the key in order to open up the Hall for the janitors early in the morning. Sometimes, Pat would find Frank asleep on a table in the beer garden (or maybe the pool table when the weather was cold) when he came in to open up - presumably this was the result of a long night of two steppin’ with the ladies. It was rare, but it happened and always made Pat chuckle.
Pat giving Frank a birthday card one year at Gruene Hall.

 One thing Frank loved to do was dance, and not one girl refused his offer for a twirl around the dance floor. He sure had a hand – or should we say boot – in polishing those beautiful boards. Frank was genuinely famous at Gruene Hall – people came in to the Hall just to see Frank, and take a photo with him, for which he always provided a cheerful precious grin. He had a caring word for those that needed cheering up and lent an ear to those that just needed to talk. 

Frank with friends at the Hall.
Frank's House
Hadlock and Fox Saddle Tree Manufacturing Company was across the street from Gruene Hall way back when, and that was where Frank worked for a number of years. He also lived down the street from the Hall in a perfectly pink house.
Being within walking distance of Gruene Hall had its advantages for Frank. After a long hard day at work he would come in to the Hall and ask for a “tranquilizer”, his favorite – a cold Falstaff beer. He was loved by employees at the Hall, owners Pat Molak and Mary Jane Nalley, and generally everyone he met. Frank could be found in his crinkled up cowboy hat at almost any event that took place in Gruene, and even participated in a few.
Frank starting off the 2nd Annual Gruene 10K

 So in honor of Frank, every year on his birthday – June 23rd we have a special event at Gruene Hall and celebrate Frank by offering beers for $.50 from 12-2pm – just how he liked em – COLD.

If you happen to have one of the rare “Frank T-Shirts” from the old days – WEAR IT and drink $.50 beers ‘til 4pm!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Grapes ³ - Grapes, cubed. Like ice, get it?

Well even if you didn’t think that was funny – you will think this is a great way to chill out your glass of red or white wine in this Texas heat! 

Now we aren’t trying to sound like wine snobs here, but “the ice cube in the wine glass look” is no longer excusable. Not only do you end up looking like a wine rookie, but you also water down the wine and dilute the taste. This is no good my friends. 

 Most anybody who says they know a thing or two about wine says that red wine should be served at room temperature and white should be served “chilled”– we agree. So we were thinking - what exactly is considered room temperature? 
In Texas we like to keep it COOL inside since it is so HOT outside – maybe 72°F is room temp? Nope. Try between 55°F and 65°F- BURR. “Room temperature” was actually meant to be thought of as “wine cellar temperature”, cellars should be kept cool and dark to create the best environment for storing wine. 

Wine should be stored at 55-65 degrees!
Now that got us thinking – how do we get our wine to stay cool in our glasses during our outdoor cocktail party without ice? GRAPES… FROZEN GRAPES! Genius! Grapes will not change the flavor or color of the wine, they look like décor in your glass, are edible (yum) and are cheap – more mulah to have more wine! 

Here’s how you do it:
First procure some grapes from your local grocery store or farmers market. Grab red, green, purple, champagne (very sweet teeny tiny ones), concord, seedless, or whichever variety your little heart desires. Any grape will do and you don’t need much more than a sink, some Tupperware and a freezer. 
Be sure to wash the grapes well, pluck em’ from the stems, dry em’ off with a paper towel, and pop em’ in the Tupperware and into the freezer they go! If you have the room in your freezer or deep freezer you can also spread them out on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet – this prevents some sticking together. This can be done just a couple of hours before your shin-dig, as they don’t take long to freeze up!

 Grapes look great floating freely!
Let your frozen grapes dangle in the wine!
You can also freeze them in small bunches on the stem and hang them on the rim of your libation of choice! Or let them float freely! 

Mason Jars are PERFECT for displaying skewers!
 Get creative with how you serve them too! Set them out in a fancy or fun ice bucket or in Mason jars on ice!

Skewers of frozen grapes make fun wine accessories!
Vintage Champagne Glasses are great bowls!
 Use low champagne glasses as little bowls, pop them onto a skewer and let guests stir them around in their glass! Let your imagination wander! You can have so much fun with this idea! And one of the best parts - they are a super healthy snack too!

So raise your grape filled glass – CHEERS! To a summer full of cool wine and good times! Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Float on Friends!

Tube, CHECK. New bathing suit/trunks, CHECK. Sunscreen, CHECK. All your buddies, DOUBLE CHECK! Cooler packed with beer and other drinks, CHECK! WAIT… WHAT?!

That’s right folks – you CAN do as you have always done on the Guadalupe River above the bridge in Gruene! Bring the beer, bring your buddies, bring on the fun and good times!

We know there are some new rules for floating the rivers this year within New Braunfels city limits, and we will get into that in a bit – BUT for now – let’s focus on what you CAN do on the Guadalupe above the bridge in Gruene – not what you CAN'T. 

See, this girl is having a blast! With a Plastic CUP!
There are NO NEW RULES on the stretch of river just above the bridge in Gruene. So float on friends – be safe, keep the river clean and drink responsibly! 

Click here to read all about it!

Map of where to go for NO NEW RULES!
Are you planning on floating on the Comal and Guad within the city limits this summer with your friends and family? We sure are! But before we jump in our tube and hit the river there are a few NEW rules this summer for this particular stretch of the Guadalupe and Comal Rivers.
We went right to the source for all things river related in NB to get the scoop – . Here you will find an informative video featuring Baseball Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan! Check it out.

Now that Nolan Ryan has invited you, your family, friends and even pets to come enjoy New Braunfels’ CLEAN rivers – let’s look at what you will need for your river trip!

Bring some drinks!
Since disposable containers are a NO GO, we picked up these little gems here in Gruene at Cotton Eyed Joes –

 You can also order it online –

Tip- bring some water too folks – its sure gets hot and hydration is imperative to a fun river trip! Trust us.
Here are some examples of approved and prohibited containers:

You can find more info like this at
Bring a tube! - you can actually bring two per person!
Bring your SMILE! - this is the most important tubing accessory!
Just follow these easy guidelines and you are sure to have a great float!

Don't miss this awesome contest too!! E-mail your 2012 floating pics with fun captions, of course, to! Best picture wins a Rockin'r Rafting trip for 4, and a Night on the Town in Gruene Historic District!

We hope to see y'all out on the rivers this summer!
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Friday, June 1, 2012

Gruene Gardening

Sad Cactus.
Caring for plants and flowers can be an intimidating task, especially if you’re not a natural green thumb.  Some of us, (cough cough – me) have a hard time keeping a Cactus alive – which really says a lot. Luckily, Gruene’s Head Landscaper Ken Raba volunteered his time to give us tips to keep our plants at home looking like the picture perfect ones in Gruene Historic District.  

Ken, who is also a local musician and actor, has a simple philosophy – let the plants tell you what they need. Be observant, pay attention. There are no magic tricks, no secret fertilizer recipes or special processes going on in the small potting shed that Ken and his two team members operate out of. Yes that’s right, all of Gruene is taken care of by just 3 dedicated grounds keepers. Derek Schnitz has a vast knowledge of all things green in Gruene and has been Ken’s protégé for years. Last but not least is Gruene’s newest addition Tony Taylor, who gardens by day and is a talented local troubadour by night. 

Since Ken makes it all seem so easy and effortless, I thought I might learn a thing or two by hanging out with him for a while. So we hopped in his trusty green golf cart, and had a chat about caring for our lush and lovely grounds

The Badlands of South Dakota - Photo Credit Jeff Clow
Gruene Texas Blogger: So Ken, inquiring minds would like to know – Have you always loved to garden and take care of plants?
Ken Raba: No. Not exactly – growing up on the farm, in South Dakota, I loved to eat out of the garden. I suppose we were in there helping to pull weeds – so we ate the potatoes and other vegetables right from it. That’s where I learned most of what I know.
GTB: So how did you end up here?
KR: I found a job that allowed me to pursue music and acting, and I am good at it. (Insert slight smile here.)

Ken is a star on our website
GTB: I see, well that always helps. I have a hard time keeping anything alive for more than a week – HELP!
KR: There is no excuse for that – really we don’t do anything special. Anyone can do what we do here; it just takes time and attention.
GTB: Ok, you keep telling me that, but maybe I don’t plant when I should – so explain to me and the readers – when is the best time to plant for the Spring/ Summer and for the Fall/ Winter in Central Texas.
KR: Once you see what is available you can begin to plan for the season. Each season it can be different – sometimes you can’t find the plants you are looking for. Once you can see what’s out there you can begin to plan your season. For Spring/Summer – early March may be too soon, you could get hit by a frost – frost is your enemy in Central Texas. Normally the 1st week in April works out best for us here in Gruene, but sometimes we wait until early May depending on plant availability and weather conditions. For Fall/Winter, November is best. We shoot for either well before the first frost or quickly after.
GTB: Good to know – but what exactly are you planting? For example what flowers have you found last the longest during our HOT Texas Summers?
KR: Ok – for perennials I suggest Salvia Greggii – we plant a lot of it here in Gruene and it looks great for a long time in the Summer.  Pintas are great annuals – they can take the heat.
Beautiful flower bed right next to Gruene Hall.

GTB: How about the best flowers in the sun and the shade?
KR: Sun – Basil, Vinka, Blue Daze, Slavia, Pintas, and Cactus. Shade –Holly Ferns, Foxtail Ferns, Asparagus Ferns – Any Ferns really.

This Grande Hibiscus lives under the water tower
GTB: What is your favorite plant here in town?
KR: I love the Rose bush that grows by the water tower, that’s my favorite hands down.
GTB: Why is that one so special?
KR: (SMILING) It’s really spectacular and dynamic; the way it grows up the leg of the tower – and it is maintenance free!
GTB: It is pretty, so are all of the barrels you have filled with flowers and plants! I noticed you use a lot of herbs in them such as Basil. Why?
KR: Herbs look great year round, we use a lot of Thyme and Regular Sweet Basil in with the flowers– they are really durable in the heat.
GTB: I love the Basil – it looks so yummy!  What about the soil – you must do something special to it, can you share your tips on soil maintenance?
KR: Compost. Compost. Compost. Soil maintenance is important here in Central Texas where the soil is mostly clay and has a high PH.
GTB: Do you have any tips for beginners about gardening in general?
      KR: Sure! 
          1. Pay attention to your plants. 
     2. Know what they need in the location they are in.      
     3.  Keep them trimmed, don’t let them get too big and get rid of the dead heads.
     4. Maintain your soil – fertilize and compost.
     5. Deal with problems appropriately, whether you have a bug problem or a drought.
This bloggers personal favorite in Gruene.
GTB: Great tips! I think that paying close attention to your plants is the best one, you really have to care about them don’t you?
KR: Absolutely. If you don’t care, you won’t take good care of them, and if you don’t take good care of them, you have no garden to enjoy. Just be perceptive and you will notice problems early on, before they become a big hassle.
GTB: One last question – what is your biggest challenge out here in Gruene when it comes to keeping everything, well, green?
KR: Deer. Plain and simple; we can’t stop them, and we’ve tried it all…
Maybe we should post these around town. Thoughts?

And that’s where Ken and I left it. Those deer can be hard to deal with and it was evident on Ken’s face that they are enemy #1, but who can blame him. These guys spend hours and hours out here, in the early mornings and on hot days, watering and caring for all the plants in Gruene. Then the deer treat it like a buffet! Ah well – I suppose they have just as much right to be here as we do.
Hopefully all you fellow gardeners out there have learned a thing or two from Ken’s tips – I know I did. Gardening is actually like most things in life – if you pay attention and put in the hard work you will reap the benefits. We are certainly thankful for all that Ken and the guys do around here; everyone just loves the landscape in beautiful Gruene, TX!