Texas Travel

City Spotlight: Gruene

By Chet Garner 5.26.22

Just on the other side of the Guadalupe River from New Braunfels is a little historic district. When you drive in, you’ll feel like you just entered a bubble where time hasn’t passed for a century. The buildings’ sensibilities are all antiquely (and authentically) Southern. There’s a general store and a gristmill. Even the water tower is picturesque small-town. This is Gruene.


Gruene’s Grassroots

The name Gruene is actually an old German surname, pronounced like “green” (you’ll get run out of town if you pronounce it “groo-en”). Ernst Gruene was a German immigrant who settled here in the 1840s with his family. When his son, Henry D. Gruene, began growing cotton, the Gruenes’ land attracted new families who quickly developed it into an agriculturally successful German-Texan town. Gruene’s prosperity led to the foundation of a general store, a cotton gin, and a dance hall, which are all still around today.


Gruene Hall

You’ve probably heard of Gruene Hall. It’s basically a wooden shed, but there’s no better one in the whole state. It’s the oldest dance hall in Texas and it’s hosted almost every big country star: Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard, Garth Brooks, Pat Green, Kacey Musgraves — the list goes on and on. George Strait was actually a regular act at Gruene Hall early in his career. If you want to be considered a “real” country star by Texans, you’ve got to play Gruene.

The charm of Gruene Hall hasn’t disappeared. It’s open all day, and there’s almost always live music. If you’re swinging through Gruene, stop in and catch a show, because that’s what it’s all about.


Gruene Eating

Next door to Gruene Hall is Gristmill River Restaurant & Bar, one of the most famous chicken-fried steak spots in the state. More than 100 years ago, it was the town’s actual gristmill (a water-powered mill that grinds grain into flour). Gruene’s population declined in the 1920s, and wooden parts of the gristmill burned in 1922, leaving only the three-story brick boiler room. The gristmill was refurbished and reopened in 1977 as a restaurant. The structure is all wood, brick, and tin — there’s no other way to put it than it feels like eating in a 130-year-old gristmill. Don’t skip getting a side of their phenomenal house onion rings.

Another great eatery in town is Mozie’s. They serve up incredible sliders, sirloins, and a signature hot dog smothered in jalapeño mustard, sauerkraut, and relish. Sound crazy? It’s one of the best things you’ll eat in your life.

It feels like every other business in town is called “Gruene Something.” You’ve got the Gruene General Store (complete with an old-school soda fountain), Gruene Coffee Haus (a quaint espresso bar), Gruene Outfitters (a sports shop where you can pick up fly-fishing equipment), and Gruene Hat Company — where I got a custom hat branded to look like I’d been driving cattle my whole life. It’s an awesome spot for anyone looking to add a little Texas flair to their get-up.


The Gruene Outdoors

One of the main outdoor attractions in Gruene is the Guadalupe River. Every Texan knows that floating the Guadalupe in the summer is the best activity on the planet. When the sun is hot and the river is cold, floating the river is awesome. Rockin’ R is the place to rent tubes, and they’ll shuttle you down to the waterfront. Summer is the best time to go, but if you’re Texan enough to brave the cold water, you can go in late spring or early fall.

If you’re visiting Gruene during the winter, the Guadalupe River is all about fly-fishing. Right where the river passes through Gruene, in fact, is the southernmost trout fishery in the country. It’s just cold, clear, and running well enough that the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department keeps it stocked with thousands of rainbow trout. People from all over the country come here for trout and fly-fishing. Most people think of Colorado and Wyoming as having the best spots for fly-fishing, but my favorite is right here in Texas.

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