I don’t remember when or where I first heard about the Old River City Cafe in New Braunfels. Located on FM 725 in New Braunfels, south of IH 35 and on the way to McQueeney, the cafe looked like it might prove a pleasant destination for a Sunday afternoon drive and lunch. Then about a month ago, I looked at its webpage and checked out the menu. Burgers? Check. BBQ? Check. Chicken fried steak? Check. But just as I was about to classify it as a run-of-the-mill country eatery, I see “chicken Cordon Bleu.” Hmm. Beer battered, honey mustard sauce, pepper jack cheese — it sounded intriguing.
So this past Sunday we headed north on IH 35 and exited on FM 725 and found the Old River City Cafe a couple of miles down the road on the left. I have to admit that the small, nondescript sign almost allowed us to miss the place.
And speaking of nondescript — I must admit that the building itself gave me pause.
Fancy, it ain’t. The restaurant website invites us to “enjoy the historic atmosphere of the old NBC (National Building Centers) building originally built in Downtown New Braunfels on Castell Ave. and moved many years later to its present location.” Okay — this took a bit of imagination. But we were there, and when we entered, the place looked like the usual Texas rustic antique and junk-lined restaurant.
The place was clean and the tables and chairs were solid, comfortable wood. It was nice. We were quickly greeted by the young lady who would wait on us that day and we were seated and asked for our drink orders.
When the drinks came, I was all read to order the chicken Cordon Bleu when the waitress started to recite the daily special. “Today our special is osso bucco. The osso bucco features our chicken shanks in a red wine reduction. It’s served with poblano mashed potatoes and a Spanish vegetable medley.”
Oh, my. Now I had to think. So we ordered the roasted salsa roja with chips to begin.
The chips were served warm. The menu claims that they are homemade, and while I was not sure about that, the warm chips were good. The salsa was excellent, spiked with just enough jalapeno to give it bite and a nice touch of garlic.
My dining companion went for the two meat BBQ plate, with ribs and sausage.
The pork ribs had a nice, smoky flavor and were juicy; the sausage was also juicy and delicious, and the sides were good.
I went for the osso bucco. I just had to. And it was wonderful.
The presentation was very nice. And yes, I know that traditional osso bucco is veal. But the chicken shanks (thighs) worked very, very well. The thigh meat is the most flavorful meat of the chicken, and these thighs were juicy and tender. The red wine reduction was perfect — a sauce, not a gravy. And the poblano mashed potatoes — There.Are.No.Words. They were delicious and went perfectly with the chicken and the wine sauce. The Spanish vegetable medley featured fresh green beans,tomato and two small corn cobbettes; it was delicious. All of the elements of this plate went together beautifully. I would order it again in a flash. I would order it as a last meal. It was THAT good.
Now, I don’t mean to give the BBQ short shift here. It was good barbecue. I would have been happy with a plate of it. But the osso bucco was THAT good — maybe even more so because it was unexpected. Have I mentioned how good the osso bucco was?
For dessert, I ordered the Blumen apple pastry.
“Blumen” is German for “bloom,” and this dessert consisted of a flat piece of pastry with the edges cut and folded up into flower form. The pastry was good and the apple filling was tasty. The vanilla ice cream was good. Overall, this was a nice attempt at a pretty and different presentation of apple pie or tart.
The peach cobbler was also good.
The cobbler was more of a cake with peaches layered in. It was good, but more cake than peaches, maybe because we got a corner piece.
Throughout the meal, our server was very attentive, and she was happy to talk about the food and the various restaurant specials. There is a daily lunch special. On Fridays the place offers prime rib, and on Saturdays all-you-can-eat fried catfish. This coming Saturday, there will be a baby back rib special.
The Old River City Cafe was a very happy surprise. I know I will be back, and soon, because I haven’t tried that chicken Cordon Bleu…..