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Filling your belly in New Braunfels

Food that'll make a splash after day at water park

Addie Broyles
abroyles@statesman.com

It's easy to get in a rut when we take day trips to places like New Braunfels. We float on the same section of the river using the same tube outfitter and stop by the same sausage smokehouse or barbecue joint for a greasy bite to eat on our way back to Austin.

But in recent years, New Braunfels' food scene has grown up, and if you can nudge yourself away from the well-tread path from Schlitterbahn to Rudy's Country Store and BBQ up the road, you'll find a number of restaurants, pubs, bakeries and even a brewhouse that will beat a burger and fries served from under a cabana.

Casual treats

• At the heart of New Braunfels, beyond the Master Blaster water rides and sunburned tubers with koozies in hand, is the spirit of the German immigrants who settled the city in 1845. Their culinary influence is alive and well, particularly during the 10-day sausage-and-beer celebration of Wurstfest in November, but restaurants including Oma's Haus and Friesenhaus serve up schnitzel and potato pancakes just about every other day of the year.

Friesenhaus (148 S. Castell Ave. 830-625-1040) is a relative newcomer on the New Braunfels food scene, but at least one New Braunfels resident calls it the most "hard-core German" of the German-influenced eateries in the area. After all, the family that runs the place didn't move to the United States until 2005, more than 150 years after the first Germans settled the area and named it after the Braunfels they once called home.

• It's been three years since the legendary Cooper's Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que (1125 Loop 337. 830-627-0627, coopersbbqnewbraunfels.com ) in Llano branched out of its original Hill Country location and fired up the pits in New Braunfels, just up the road from Rudy's Country Store and BBQ (936 Loop 337. 830-609-3337, rudys.com ).

• Naegelin's Bakery (129 S. Seguin Ave. 830-625-5722, naegelins.com ), which first opened in 1868, still gets a lot of attention for being the state's oldest bakery, but if you want something other than a strudel or sweet German pretzel, head around the corner to 2Tarts Bakery (139 N. Castell Ave. 830-387-4606, www.2tarts.com ), a much younger bakery with a much younger feel. Cupcakes are just the tip of the frosting bag here; owners (and sisters) April Weilbacher and Ashley Williams sell sweet and savory tarts and scones, cookie balls, shortbreads and empanadas in a cheery shop. It's a hip place to grab a coffee or tea and a quick bite to eat between spelunking at the Natural Bridge Caverns and catching a show at Gruene Hall or White Rock Amphitheater, where Ghostland Observatory, Dwight Yoakam and Bob Dylan are all playing within a week of each other next month. (See 'Things To Do' box for more activities.)

• If you want to eat a lunch that's a little fancier than pub fare but not exactly fine dining with a server and possible long wait for a table, stop by Gourmage, a specialty foods shop downtown (830-214-6471, gourmagetx.com ) that serves a light breakfast and lunch from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and lets customers rent picnic baskets packed with baguettes, chicken salad, wine, cheese and chocolate for the afternoon. Owner Stephanie Richardson, a former food writer, took over the business last year and is in the middle of adding menu items and special tasting dinners on the weekends.

• It's likely you'll see some of the same people you saw on the river if you go to Rudy's or Cooper's, but to get out of the water and away from the crowds, check out Granzin Bar-B-Q (660 W. San Antonio St. 830-629-6615, granzinsbbq.com ) or Schwab Sausage House and Barbecue, (309 Elliot Knox Blvd. 830-625-6519) perfectly suitable alternatives to the meat barns up the road. Not that there's anything wrong with a few hundred of your closest friends sitting elbow-to-elbow eating barbecue before heading back home, but people come to New Braunfels for a change of place, so your food options should be varied, too.

More than a quick bite

• You don't have a bring a change of clothes for barbecue, but dry pants are appreciated at nicer restaurants like Huisache Grill and McAdoo's, which are both in renovated and resorted buildings near the square downtown.

McAdoo's owners spent considerable time and effort to restore New Braunfels' original post office into a restaurant (196 N. Castell Ave. 830-629-3474, mcadoos.com ) with a New Orleans-inspired courtyard and menu.

You have to know where you're looking to find Huisache Grill (303 W. San Antonio St. 830-620-9001, www.huisache.com ), one of New Braunfels' nicest and hardest-to-find restaurants. Huisache (pronounced "wee-SACH" by the locals) opened in the mid-1990s and is tucked behind a old building across San Antonio Street from the New Braunfels Railroad Museum in a renovated building that has housed everything from a feed store to a Chinese restaurant. The tables at Huisache Grill fill up quickly at lunch and dinner, but they've added an outdoor wine bar in a grassy area between the restaurant and the shops so you can sip on a glass of Llano Estacado Viviano — the only Texas wine available, despite the menu touting regional culinary influences of the Hill Country — while you wait for a table.

Over the years, the owners have restored a number of small buildings on the property and turned them into quaint retail shops, including Kitchy Chicks (307 W. San Antonio St. 830-214-1760, thekitchychicks.com), a kitchen boutique selling everything from practical tools such as cookbooks and measuring spoons to decorative and gift items.

Without the koozie

Here are a few spots to grab a pint or a glass of wine:

• Kork Wine Bar (283 W San Antonio St. 830-626-9463, korkwinebar.com) around the corner from Huisache has a larger selection of Texas wines, and Faust Brewing Company (240 S. Seguin Ave. 830-625-7791, faustbrewing.co), located within the historic Faust Hotel, has a nice selection of Texas and housemade beers and a full menu.

• Watering holes of another kind beckon those looking for a dark, cool and relatively quiet place to drink a pint out of a proper glass. The Ale House, Black Whale Pub, Callahan's and now the recently renovated and reopened Phoenix Saloon (193 W. San Antonio St. 830-643-1400, thephoenixsaloon.com), which is where chili powder was said to have been invented in 1894, are good places to get out of the sun, recharge your batteries and some decent pub grub.

As this dreadfully hot summer continues, the crowds in New Braunfels will follow, hitting their peaks almost every afternoon, even during the week. During a midweek trip last week, the parking lots at Landa Park on the Comal River were full by noon, which made it nearly impossible to find a parking spot for just for a few minutes while I jumped in the river for a quick swim.

But if you can find something else to do until later in the day, like exploring the always-cool Natural Bridge Cavern or strolling the (shade- and food-filled) area around the main square, where free parking abounds, you'll be able to enjoy the water park and rivers without having to fight the crowds while you're there.

abroyles@statesman.com; 912-2504

Things to do

Lone Star Float House: lonestarfloathouse.com

Schlitterbahn: schlitterbahn.com

Texas Ski Ranch: texasskiranch.com

Texas Sphere Rides: txsphereride.com

New Braunfels Railroad Museum: newbraunfelsrailroad museum.org

Natural Bridge Caverns: naturalbridgecaverns.com

Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch: wildliferanchtexas.com

Whitewater Amphitheatre: whitewaterrocks.com

Gruene Hall: gruenehall.com