I know a place where you can get a half-pound, open-faced hamburger on sourdough bread covered to overflowing with fries and smothered with brown gravy. I knows a place you can get a salad topped with teriyaki chicken, noodles, mandarin oranges, and almonds. I knows a place where you can watch the latest game on a wide-screen TV or ducks and geese waddling around the grounds by a scenic creek. I knows a place where you can hear the best Hill Country music performed live.
Ino’z Brew and Chew, of course. That little restaurant on the Wimberley Square that you can’t see from the Square because you have to walk down a flight of stairs to get to the front door.
And that little restaurant with the best location in the village just celebrated its 10th year. It’s obvious people like Ino’z and Ino’z likes people.
When owner Tom Keyser first came to Wimberley, it was just a business opportunity. He didn’t know anything about the village. He fell in love with Wimberley and has stayed here because of the magic environment he found in the valley.
“I can’t say enough about the beauty of this area,” Tom says. “And now I have great friends here. Hey, I get to live in a place where other people come on their vacations. I never intend to leave.”
Tom grew up in the restaurant business, working in one his parents owned when he was 13 years old. He worked in eateries in college. Since 1975, he figures he’s worked at about 50 restaurants.
Ino’z is the fourth restaurant he’s owned. It features a sports bar, a garden room, and an outdoor patio where you can hear live music Thursdays through Sundays every Market Day weekend (the first Saturday of the month March through December).
The restaurant overlooks beautiful Cypress Creek, one of the main draws of Ino’z.
“People don’t come in here for fine dining,” Tom says. “They come here to relax and slow down.”
A relatively simple menu offers a wide range of meals, from quesadillas to catfish, veggie wraps to cheese steaks. One wall is a full bar offering everything from mixed drinks to margaritas to beer. And if the calming influence of Cypress Creek - it’s big trees and fat ducks and geese - don’t slow you down, well, head on back to the interstates of Dallas or Houston.
Tom has certainly slowed down. That’s obvious from the sign near the band stage: “Today’s Special: Buy one Ino’z burger for the price of two and get the second Ino’z burger free.”
And he wants to slow down even more, hoping to turn over most of the restaurant’s operations to General Manager Jeremie Maxwell and Kitchen Manager Will Kammerer, who will become part owners.
Tom used to spend a huge amount of time at Ino’z, doing everything from washing dishes to busing tables. Now 57, one day six years ago, he was in the kitchen hand washing dishes and had an epiphany.
“I was 51 and washing dishes and realized I was doing exactly the same thing when I was 15. Only the age numbers were transposed,” Tom says. “I decided it was time to slow down.”
Tom says he feels like he’s run the first leg of a relay, but he can’t run the whole race. Younger hands need to shape the future.
Jeremie came to Wimberley from East Texas where he worked as an EMT. He had worked as a waiter at Ino’z before and loved Wimberley. When he returned, Tom suggested a management job instead of returning to waiting on tables.
“It’s been stressful, but it’s been great. Tom is a great mentor,” Jeremie says. “This is funky, fresh, and we all get along.”
Will graduated from Wimberley High School. “I waited tables then I started cooking and I loved it”, he says.
So what will Tom do once he pulls back a little from Ino’z? He’ll focus more on special projects like My Neighbors Keeper, a charity that grew out of recent devastating fires in the Hill Country.
Last year he organized the Burning Love benefit in Wimberley to help disaster victims in Bastrop and Smithville. It went well and he thought they could continue by helping disaster victims in Wimberley. Funds raised by My Neighbors Keeper now go to provide immediate short-term assistance to those who suffer losses in the village.
A Wimberley Mardi Gras at historic Pioneer Town on February 9 is the next MyNK benefit. A Scorpion Stomp is scheduled for late summer in Pioneer Town.
In the meantime, Tom will continue to mentor his staff at Ino’z. Diners will continue to eat and relax. Kids will continue to chase geese or vice-versa. It’s the Wimberley Way.
Ino’z restaurant is located at 14004 Ranch Road 12 on the Wimberley Square. For more information, call 512-847-6060.