Thursday, July 12, 2012

River House Tea Room: Texas Tea

Earlier this week I made a solo trip to a tea room not too far from where I live. When I say solo I mean sans Jules, although I did twist my mother's arm into joining with promises of near-by antique stores. I've actually been to the Rive House Tea Room before, but was not able to try their afternoon tea. This time I went armed with the attitude of an experienced tea house critic (ya, right!) and an appetite for great food.

That's the interesting thing about the River House- it's a restaurant before a tea room and yet its name implies just the opposite. Chef Carol Hill has won many awards over the years (like Texas Chef of the Year) and rightly so! The food is much so that it seems a little unfair that this restaurant is located in tiny Gruene, Texas and not some place larger like Austin. If you take a gander at the online menu you'll see that there's so much to choose from. From my own experience, the salads are great and I love the top round beef sandwich with horseradish. For this seating I chose the newly added fresh fruit and chicken spinach salad with blueberry vinaigrette dressing. I mention this really only because I wanted to post this picture.

Looks good enough to eat, right?
Let's talk about the other thing that makes this little gem of an eatery even more sparkly and that's the atmosphere. You see, Gruene encompasses two of the things that people love most about South Texas and that is river floating and the Texas country music scene. River House is right down the road from historic Gruene Hall and an entrance to our beloved Guadalupe River. Therefore, the people and visitors of Gruene are pretty casual (which is why I say this town is lucky to have such a great dining option). Consequently all the stores and restaurants remain informal in order to accommodate the river rats who wander out of the water looking for some lunch! This is very much true of the River House. Although the food is fanciful the setting is quaint. 

River House Tea Room houses itself in a small one-story, three room "home" with a covered porch and attached deck. The largest room that is filled with about twelve tables accommodates most of the guests while a smaller back room is held for overflow and private parties. The taupe walls tie in well with the green floral table cloth and plaid skirts while the dark oak chairs darken the room. It's the wall nik-naks and deer antler mounts that give the place a real Americana feel.

So now onto the good stuff~

River House offers a special afternoon tea menu consisting of the traditional pot of tea, assorted tea sandwiches, a variety of sweet goodies (chocolate covered strawberries!), and fresh scones with jam, clotted cream, and lemon curd. However don't expect to bite into an authentic English scone here. Although I wouldn't place them in the biscuit category these scones are not of a tried and true English recipe. This "tea room" offers both loose leaf and silk tea bag selections from Paris's Harney & Sons and England's Harrisons & Crosfield. I chose the loose leaf blueberry tea because I knew it would tie in well with my salad much like a Cabernet Sauvignon pairs with a filet. Of course, as with any decent tea room there are plenty of flavor options and River House is no different. I'm always tempted to order my favorite tea, but am most rewarded by branching out to the unknowns. Earl Grey? A welcomed friend any day. White Vanilla Grapefruit? Sure. Mango Green Tea? Ehhh...why not? Although tasting and educating myself in as many different tea flavors and types as possible is my job!

All in all the River House Tea Room offers a unique combination of dining and tea. The atmosphere is friendly and laid-back while the food speaks strongly for itself. However those are the only two things to visit this restaurant for. The afternoon tea offerings are pleasant but really not worth the price. Instead opt for a single pot of tea to accompany a warm dessert such as the Apple Cranberry Bread Pudding, a delightful end to wrap up a tasty lunch.


Please excuse Lizzie's absence from this tea tasting. She found the 100 degree temperatures unsuitable for stepping out in.


  1. I'm really enjoying your posts about tearooms. Thank you for sharing your adventures!

    1. We are so glad that you are enjoying the post and hope you will continue to follow us!

  2. I wish more tea shops and tea rooms would use tins rather than glass jars to store tea. If they have a very high turnover of the amount in the jar, it's usually not an issue, but my experience has been that the places that store tea in glass jars often do so for a long time, and it loses more flavor than it would in a metal tin.

    This place looks beautiful though, and that is a delightful-looking plate of food! That's how I like to eat! It's an hour before I normally eat lunch but I am getting hungry looking at that...

    1. Thats a good point Alex! I had never really thought about about tin vs glass!