We had resisted trying Beaver’s as we had read mixed reviews and barbeque isn’t our favorite. But we’d heard about the new chef — Jonathan Jones (formerly of Max’s Wine Dive) — so we thought we should head to the Heights to check it out. With two friends in tow, we ventured to Beaver’s on a recent Sunday evening. We wanted to go in the evening as the smoker items are only available at dinner. There were a few tables filled but the place was by no means busy.
As befitting a BBQ restaurant owned by Monica Pope, the atmosphere is contemporary rustic. The tables are picnic style, with an upholstered banquette along one seating side and backless wooden benches on the other side of the tables. The latter, although contributing to the country spirit, were not comfortable. There’s an extensive cocktail list with interesting, reasonably priced Texas style twists on traditional cocktails. We enjoyed the salt and pepper margarita, a southern gimlet, and a pecan old fashioned. There’s a limited list of wines by the glass, and the house red was just fine for BBQ.
For appetizers, we tried the “Bar Bar” (chopped brisket with BBQ sauce served with tortilla chips) and the Beaver Wings. The former was tasty enough, but the wings were better. We moved on to the Smoker Sampler and the Ribs ‘n’ Grits. The Smoker Sampler was a winner — wonderfully smoked, moist pork ribs, fatty flavorful brisket, juicy pulled pork, and delicious link sausage. The ribs were a particular standout. The Ribs ‘n’ Grits featured the boneless meat from the aforementioned pork ribs, served on what was more of a cheese grit cake than traditional style grits. The side of greens had a great bacony flavor. The mac & cheese was a disappointment, floury tasting and mushy. And is it really necessary to top pasta with croutons? We had hoped for better as the chef’s version of this dish at Max’s Wine Dive was fabulous.
One of the criticisms of Beaver’s has been that the servings are small and the prices high for BBQ. We didn’t find that to be the case. The Smoker Sampler was $15 and the Ribs ‘n’ Grits were $18. If you want mass produced BBQ, there are any number of chain places. But for high quality ingredients, made on the premises, and uniquely served, we thought the pricing was fair. And we had plenty to eat.
Our waitress was friendly and attentive until about 8:45 when it was clear the staff wanted to clean up and get out of there, although the restaurant doesn’t close until 10. Once our meals were delivered, we got no water refills. Seconds on margaritas were not available as the restaurant had run out of the the lime pepper mix. The bill was presented to us right after our plates were cleared, with no offer of dessert or coffee. When we inquired about dessert, the waitress brought the menu but told us “it’s not a good night for desserts.” She was right as, by 9:15, the deep fat fryer needed for the namesake “beaver balls” had been shut down. We declined the bread pudding special, figuring we could get that anywhere whereas deep fried brownie balls are not widely available. They were sweeping up as they swept us out the door.
Will we return to Beaver’s? Perhaps if we were in the neighborhood and really wanted barbeque. Maybe with Yankee visitors. But our experience with the service put a mar on what was otherwise great food.
2310 Decatur Street
We’ve been waiting and watching with anticipation for the opening of this new Scott Tycer restaurant. Located in an old textile mill where he operates Kraftsmen Baking, Textile is Chef Tycer’s latest foray into the restaurant world after first shuttering the much acclaimed Aries and then the less popular, more casual Pic. For now, Textile is only open for dinner on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. Reservations are required.
With just ten tables, there’s a notable sense of intimacy in this contemporary, sophisticated setting. The high ceiling is draped in pieces of white cloth, like sails on a sailboat. One side of the room is lined with an upholstered banquette against a wall covered in a suede like material. The lighting is subdued. Fresh flowers and white linens adorn the tables. There’s a small bar with a few seats. No television or pulsing music. Conversation flows easily. The service is friendly and gracious. But the emphasis here is clearly on the food. And Textile does not disappoint.
We’ll dispense with the negative first — the 5-course Tasting Menu is overpriced at $85 per person. If we’d looked at the menu, we wouldn’t have ordered the Tasting Menu as all the items are available on the a la carte menu, in larger portions, for a total of about $10 more. (Contrary to the statement on the website, the a la carte menu is not limited.) One of the problems we perceived with Aries was that it was pricey but too cutting edge to be a regular destination restaurant for the Tony’s and Mark’s crowd. With only ten tables and assumably less overhead than at Aries, Chef Tycer can take more risks. But Houston isn’t particularly familiar with the Tasting Menu concept, so he needs to be careful with the pricing. And, at that price, for only five courses, at least one of the appetizers should have included a high end menu item, such as the foie gras or scallops.
All that being said, every dish was beautifully executed and delicious. The amuse bouche was a smoked sturgeon chowder. The salad was made of the freshest bibb lettuce, with a sherry vinaigrette, sided by a lush Texas blue cheese. The bacon tart, like a gooey quiche, with wilted greens and a basted quail egg, was first rate. The delicate kona kampachi was served over julienned vegetables. Probably the tastiest item of the evening was the braised veal breast with truffled hollandaise — as decadent and delectable as it sounds. We could have each eaten at least two servings of that dish. We finished with a pumpkin version of a molten chocolate cake with ice cream. The one of us who enjoys pumpkin desserts declared it fabulous. The ordinary tasting bon bons were our only disappointment of the evening. All desserts and confections are made on site.
We opted for the wine pairings. The pairings were well chosen, and, at $55 per person, although not inexpensive given the quality of the wine, the price was fair. The wine list is limited and reasonably priced. We understand the restaurant also specializes in cocktails with interesting mixers.
There’s no question we’ll be back. Probably sooner than later. But we’ll select our own tasting menu.
611 West 22nd Street