It’s easy to see why the town slogan for Gruene, Texas (pronounced “green”) is “Gently resisting change since 1872”. Gruene is an extremely tiny old German town on the Guadalupe River near New Braunfels between Austin and San Antonio, Texas. Today, Gruene’s essentially got a couple of restaurants, a dance hall, general store, post office, a few bed and breakfasts, and that’s basically it! In the summertime, locals and Texans from all over the state descend on Gruene and New Braunfels to float the river, and on the third Saturday of every month, Gruene hosts a small town art market.
If you’re not in Gruene to go tubing yourself, hanging out at Bubba’s Big Deck, basically just a biker bar serving up cans of beer, is the perfect way to kick off your summer afternoon. Last weekend, the live band at Bubba’s was the perfect soundtrack to watching the semi-drunk tubers finish their float trip on a small patch of white water. For extra fun, take bets on who will wipe out, lose their tubes, hats, beer cans or coolers.
As a people-watching mecca, Bubba’s keeps it classy. You’ll probably see some excellent specimens of Texas society, like folks with mullets, skullets, jorts, and the occasional tubing enthusiast waving a giant Confederate flag (what!!?).
You can’t really go to Gruene and not eat at the Grist Mill. Don’t let the huge crowd on the weekends scare you – the place is huge, and you can grab a drink and wait for your name to be written on a giant blackboard that alerts you that your table is ready. This is one of the best Hill Country steak and burger places there is, set in a rambling old open air cotton gin perched on the side of the Guadalupe river. Everything’s greasy and good – their Texas-sized onion rings are particularly famous – an order of 12 is more than enough for 4 people.
After dinner, you might as well head over to Gruene Hall, Texas’ oldest dance hall. In a normal situation, packing 200 people in this souped-up 1800’s barn would be a fire hazard. But, I have the feeling that fire codes are one of those things that Gruene has been “gently resisting since 1872.” Many of the weekend acts are well-known and the tickets sell out sometime during the week. Last weekend we saw Bob Schneider, who has developed quite a following here in Texas. I’m not a super fan, but he seems to be everywhere – I’ve seen him play a handful of times without really even trying. The one thing I’ll say about Bob is that he’s an expert entertainer, and the crowd will definitely be rowdy. From country folks to city dwellers, college kids to 40-something married couples (with a few cougars and silver foxes thrown into the mix for good measure) everyone seems to be looking for an excuse to let their hair down and have a riotous good time. You can’t help but feel the energy. Just don’t go in July or August if you don’t like to sweat a little bit (and by a little bit, I mean a lot). 🙂