Perhaps I’m overly harsh at times.
Or a snob.
Or harsh because I’m a snob.
But when we have so many choices in the world for so many things, and when the free market dictates what businesses succeed and fail (no, we’re not going to talk about “too big to fail”), why wouldn’t we want to go for the best, whether that’s in a big city like New York or here in Kerrville, Texas. When you’re looking for lunch, you might consider Monroe’s on Water and G Streets, but my suggestion is to go for coffee here, especially on Tuesdays (will explain later), and lunch downtown or north on Junction Highway.
Great Burger, but…
Kerrville is one of the best small towns to visit, and one of the best places to live in Texas, many people agree. We get transplants in their prime, and retirees past prime but still active golfers and fishing enthusiasts. And we all go to Crider’s on summer Saturday nights.
When it comes to restaurants, though, Kerrville is still somewhat lacking.
While it boasts many different cuisines for a small town, it lacks quality cuisine:
- One good Thai restaurant (the other is ok)
- Three mediocre Chinese restaurants
- Pizza… one, but, no
- Donuts, three good ones, but they’re donuts. Can’t have that 24/7, though some try
- Steakhouses (2)
- Korean BBQ, quite good in fact
- Tex-Mex; all good with very few exceptions
- Fast food
- Casual dining like Friday’s
- Italian, meh
- Japanese, good
- Family restaurants like The Lakehouse and Billy Gene’s…proven and excellent
- Neighborhood bar and restaurant places like The Boat and Pier 27
There are some fine dining options, including 1011 Bistro and The Pinnacle.
But, and a big but, the tide is turning, and we now have several newcomers that are offering healthier, often farm-to-table, and always interesting cuisines, including:
- Grape Juice
- Pint & Plow
- Heritage Kitchen
- PAX (for its bagels with salmon, etc.)
- The Humble Fork
So it’s both with awareness of the other offerings and also a sincere desire to see Kerrville expand in the right way to attract visitors and make life here even better that I offer a friendly critique of Monroe’s East End Grill (menu here).
…Woeful white bread
EXTERIOR | 6/10
INTERIOR | 7/10
AMBIENCE | 6/10
FOOD | 7/10
COFFEE | 8/10
SERVICE | 9/10
VALUE | 7/10
OVERALL SCORE | 7/10
I’ve been to Monroe’s for morning coffee a few times. The coffee is good enough, and the service — whether morning or lunch — has always been great. But the place doesn’t seem to quite come together. There is a brick, BBQ, Memphis feel to the cashier and drink dining area, and a second area through a doorway with both standard tables and also coffee tables with leather armchairs. There’s a stuff bear in the corner by the front door. There’s rustic/mountain and neighborhood restaurant slammed together. Like a Tarantino “Hateful Eight” and “Happy Days” mashup.
It eludes me.
The building itself used to be the retail store for Kerrcrafters, a furniture workshop, which had even previously been a gas station. Understanding this, and also it’s diagonal frontage to Water and G Streets, while it’s cliche nowadays, I think Kerrville could have used a gas-station-renovated-into-a-restaurant-and-bar. It would have honored the history. Even have some old furniture that was found from Kerrcrafters and the Edson family. “Kerrville is the new Kerrville,” as the saying goes.
(The Kerrcrafter’s warehouse, adjacent to the south, is now the impressive East End Market, everything a restored space should be, and also a destination for visitors to Kerrville. This will be covered separately.)
Outdoor dining honors historic space
Monroe’s East End Grill also has an outdoor dining area. This is surprisingly rare — not so much, since it’s Texas and hot, but because we have relatively so much space. I commend Monroe’s for making use of it, and also for providing plenty of parking. I’ve never seen the inside packed, though.
The prices seemed a little high to me. My California Kate was $8.49, and with a large refillable drink plus tip — which I felt bad not leaving, even though it’s counter ordered albeit table served — came to $15+. That’s high for lunch. So I took off points for value.
While the inside of the sandwich was decent enough — though assembled efficiently but not artfully — it was served between unadorned, untoasted white bread. How nice it would have been to market it as served on “Texas toast” and feel the goat cheese slightly melted, needing to eat it before it slipped off.
Just a thought.
As for ambience, the combination of strange combinations of aesthetics, plus occasionally some dissonant morning music (not in keeping with the mood of a morning coffee place), and feeling cold in the lounge area (the air, that is; it’s a bit too cold), it leaves me disinclined to come back. There are other options in the area — PAX and Pint and Plow (closed on Tuesdays, which is why Monroe’s is good then) — that provide a better all-around experience.
I’m glad Monroe’s is here. It’s another offering, and it’s also the only restaurant currently in the burgeoning East End neighborhood, so guests at River Trail Cottages can walk across the street and get any one of their three meals there.
But there’s a silver lining…
On some cold winter days I got to know John, who’s seen here painting a train scene on the exterior. You can see it on the southwest corner of the building. He must have spent several weeks on it, progressing only a little each day. He was around 80, he said, and in former times he would have been called “a hobo.” He was a Vietnam vet and a man of strong, even prophetic faith. He didn’t want hand-outs or money, but he also didn’t refuse a breakfast taco from Rita’s.
Because the owners of Monroe’s allowed this gentle soul to practice his craft on the old Kerrcrafter’s building, I think I can tolerate a little woeful white bread and say, “Well done, Monroe’s.” You have a reward in heaven.