Interesting/good restaurants outside San Antonio
I'm dating a girl who has lived in San Antonio her whole life. I'd like to take her on a bit of a trip outside of San Antonio to some nice places to eat in smaller town. It can be any type of food, it just has to be good. She's interested in history so a town with some interesting history that I can look up and learn about before hand would be great. Also, any interesting attractions nearby would be awesome.
I know it's a lot to ask but hopefully someone familiar with the surrounding area can give some suggestions. The more suggestions the merrier! I'd like to make the trip about 6 or 7 hours and I'd like to stay within 70 minutes of SA. She lives right next to Sea World.
Thanks in advance!
I've been meaning to post on the chow at the Grist Mill in Gruene, so I may as well write up my report in answer to your question. I hadn't stopped at the GM in years until meeting family there a couple of months ago. Since that visit, I've been kicking myself for not detouring from I-35 on my previous trips between San Antonio and Austin.
We all enjoyed an excellent meal. The only dud sampled was the smoked-local-sausage appetizer, which was on the boring side. The other appetizer of jalapeño poppers were fine, though this is a fairly safe choice in much of Texas. The salad courses, on the other hand, were a treat. Their spinach salad contained very fresh spinach and was served with a rich, creamy-parmesan dressing that they make in-house. As for main courses, the old stand-by of chicken-fried steak was tasty enough, though the fried coating didn't cohere to the meat very well. The fried catfish (which was what I had on my last visit, many years ago) was still very good. The fried shrimp, which I ordered this time, were delicious: juicy and of a generous size, with a nice, light batter, if I recall correctly. They came 9 per order, which made for plenty of food. The shrimp at the GM were even fresher than the ones that I had on my last trip to Corpus—where, being so close to the Gulf, restaurants are usually able to procure excellent shrimp. Even the chicken fingers, usually a throw-away dish intended to appease picky children, were incredibly moist and flavorful. The thin, round-cut french fries were shaped like flat, thicker-than-usual potato chips. They were an excellent side. The green beans were made with fresh, not canned, green beans which were prepared Southern-style [with bacon]. They were down-home good. The mashed potatoes with gravy were enjoyable, too. Other vegetable sides included plain, steamed broccoli and a roasted squash that looked promising. Dressings and many sauces are made fresh on the premises.
Despite being stuffed, I ordered their strawberry shortcake for dessert and was quite pleased with it. They do a standard take on the classic, but the ingredients all seemed very fresh and the whipped cream was real. Others in our party tried the chocolate-pecan pie, which they pronounced quite good.
The Grist Mill is that rarest of all chow institutions: a tourist trap that actually delivers on both the ambience and the chow. They mainly serve standard Southern-comfort food, but it's fresh, satisfying, at times quite creative, in addition to being well executed. Their menu is much larger that my report would indicate, but I'm only reporting on what our group actually sampled. After seeing several huge, delicious-looking burgers being transported to other tables, I made a mental note to try them next time. I've also read good things on this board about their steak sandwich. From what I could see, the steaks and grilled fish looked pretty darn good, too.
Although I'm suggesting Gruene just on the quality of the food, not the tourist appeal, I will say that the restaurant's setting right above the Guadalupe River is lovely. The GM itself is somewhat like a tree-house, with outside terraces on many levels that overlook the water. It seems to always be busy, but there's usually not a wait for a table.