Nestled below the moss-covered oaks in Grey Forest, the Grey Moss Inn, a time-honored dining tradition that ended during the pandemic, has reopened with new owners Martha Valadez and Marisol Mendoza.
Originally from Monterrey, Mexico, the sisters launched the new family-run restaurant, Grey Moss Inn–Cocina Mexicana, in June. The new menu features dishes unique to Northern Mexico, including authentic guisados prepared with the unique spices of the region.
Valadez and Mendoza discovered the property when searching for commercial kitchens for their catering business, Got It Covered Events of San Antonio. Purchased in October of last year, the sisters quickly began to restore the property to its original condition while making a few minor changes, including a bar in the Garden Room.
With the rapid growth and change in Northwest Bexar County, many locals are delighted to see a familiar landmark reopen and hope it will flourish under new management.
Jan Ann Nichols Schwarz moved to Grey Forest with her family in 1953 and remembers the original restaurant as a magical, hidden gem. “The candles on the tables were covered in colored wax and the steaks fixed on the wishing well were superb,” reminisced Schwartz. “They were always packed on the weekends and you would always see limousines there.”
Like many other long-time residents, Schwarz, who now lives in Helotes, was pleased to see the restaurant reopen and is eager to see it succeed.
Valadez says the outpouring of the support from the community has been encouraging. “Much love and effort was put into the project and we appreciate the response from the community,” said Valadez. “Our customers are happy to see Grey Moss Inn reopen and are willing to try food that is different from the original restaurant.”
Helotes resident Nancy Roberts and her husband visited for the first time during their soft opening and enjoyed it so much that they have already been back three more times with family and friends. “We have tried different entrees and appetizers and loved them all,” said Roberts. “All together it was a great experience!”
The live jazz music that is played on the patio most evenings is a special touch, she added.
The original Grey Moss Inn holds memories for many former patrons as it was the place to dine for special occasions, including first dates, engagements and anniversaries.
Helotes resident Teresa Ives Lilly was thrilled for it to reopen as she remembers a special night at the restaurant 35 years ago when her husband asked her to marry him.
Helotes resident Patricia Ballenger holds special memories from a romantic dinner in 1998 with her boyfriend which ended in a marriage proposal. “Grey Moss Inn will always hold a special place in my heart,” added Ballenger who recently celebrated her 24th wedding anniversary.
San Antonio residents Amanda Milian and her husband, both originally from Helotes, had their first date there 11 years ago, and recently dined there to check out all of the changes. “The inside was brighter than before and updated without changing too much,” said Milian. “The table placements were still in their original spots so seeing our table from our first date was really special to us.”
Cathy Schweisfurth recently celebrated her wedding anniversary there, and says they will visit again due to the delicious food and generous portions even though she thinks the restaurant has lost some of its romantic atmosphere.
“The ambience is bright and clean, and the patio was nice,” said Schweisfurth. “We noticed it seemed pretty loud inside and we had to almost yell to talk to each other so to us it has lost some of its romanticism which was one of the reasons we loved the old Grey Moss Inn.”
While the new owners focus on the daily demands of running a high-end restaurant, they haven’t forgotten to embrace the rich history of the property.
According to local historian Cynthia Massey, author of Helotes: Where the Texas Hill Country Begins–A Comprehensive History, the Treaty Tree, one of the huge oaks on the property, has historical significance.
“According to the legend, Indians met underneath the tree to discuss treaties,” said Massey. “Whether the two parties were Indian tribes trying to negotiate a peace pact or tribes parlaying with Spanish troops, Texas Rangers or early settlers is unknown.”
In 1929, Mary Howell purchased the original inn on the property, and later opened a restaurant. Some locals say Mary’s spirit continues to haunt the property. Although the new management hasn’t experienced anything unusual, Valadez says she stays neutral, keeps an open mind and appreciates the history of the property.
According to the current Grey Moss Inn website, over the years “stories have been passed down of guests seeing Mary’s apparition wandering the dining room, while others have caught a whiff of her sweet rose-scented perfume.” In the past some employees have reported tables being mysteriously rearranged and candles suddenly relighting.
Massey reports in her book that eye-witness accounts of strange occurrences at the Grey Moss property involved crashing wine buckets and flying utensils. Nell Baeten, a past Grey Moss owner, “felt the presence of another person in the restaurant even when she was the only one there.”
Like Valadez, Massey reported nothing unusual about her 2011 visit to the inn for a “paranormal investigation.”
The Grey Moss Inn–Cocina Mexicana is open Tuesday through Friday for dinner starting at 4 pm. Saturday and Sunday the restaurant opens at 8 am for breakfast, lunch and dinner.