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With a Grain of Salt

BRC Gastropub could be great.

Our appetizers that day at lunch had been rather sad: boudin balls with no boudin in them, fried far too long, until the exterior shell was so tough it required a knife to penetrate it. The folks running BRC need to visit Samburger in Denver Harbor and get churched on what real boudin balls should look and taste like. (Hint: Not petrified hushpuppies.) And the daily mac and cheese had lovely, caramelized ribbons of onion and poblano pepper running through it, but no hint of salt.

So it was with trepidation that we ordered and split a dessert: "Rice Crispy" ice cream sandwiches. My pastry chef girlfriend was particularly wary of what would arrive. We each picked one up when the trio of little sandwiches landed in front of us and bit in. They were fantastic. Just a simple combination of thin "Rice Crispy" treats filled with chocolate ice cream that was just sweet enough. She smiled for the first time throughout the meal as she licked the chocolate and caramel sauces off her fingers. "I would eat this all day," she grinned. "I truly would."

By this time, I was shocked to discover that we had stayed well past 2 p.m. — BRC closes between lunch and dinner — but our waitress never hurried us or otherwise chased us off. I was slightly embarrassed as I finished off my sweetly spiced Dogfish Head Punkin Ale and left an extra amount on the tip line before dashing out.
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Done right: Dr Pepper-fried quail.
Troy Fields
Done right: Dr Pepper-fried quail.

Location Info

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BRC Gastropub

519 Shepherd
Houston, TX 77007

Category: Restaurant > Gastro Pub

Region: Heights

Details

Lunch hours: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. Dinner hours: 5 p.m. to midnight Sundays through Thursdays; 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays. Brunch hours: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

Soup of the day: $4.75

Boudain balls: $7.75

Mac and cheese of the day: $8.50

Mussels of the day: $11

The Leghorn salad: $11.50

State Fair Griddled Cheese: $12.50

Hand-cut french fries: $3

Roasted chicken: $13

My Dee Dee's pie of the day: $5.50

Rice Crispy ice cream sandwiches: $7

BRC Gastropub

519 Shepherd, 713-861-2233.

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On my third visit, my dining companion and I shied away from any of the heavy, fried appetizers — my last visit had left me with a stomach so full and heavy I couldn't eat again until breakfast, a full ten hours later, despite mostly consuming mussels, bread and only a few forkfuls of mac and cheese — and ordered the pickle jar, described as "Jeff [Axline]'s jar of house cured half-sour garlic, dill pickles and asparagus." A friend had told me it was the best appetizer on the menu.

The pickle jar came out cold and half-filled with a few pickles and stems of asparagus. I immediately got the very disconcerting feeling that this jar had been eaten on by a previous table and then stuck back into the fridge. I'm sure that's not the case, but I couldn't entirely shake the sense of eating after someone as I stuck my fork into the clamp-lid jar to spear a pickle. BRC might want to look into a different way of serving the vegetables, as they were quite good, if a little on the undersalted side (surprise!).

Our waiter seemed nervous and flustered as he waited on us. Was it his first night? I couldn't tell, but was slightly annoyed by the fact that water was never brought to our table despite repeated requests and by how flustered he was when my dining companion asked for a crisp, not terribly heavy seasonal beer from BRC's list. He scrambled for some suggestions before I finally ordered a Real Ale Oktoberfest for her and a dark Breckenridge Autumn Ale for myself. What's the point of having such a great beer list if your waitstaff aren't familiar with it?

The meal went slowly downhill from there. My friend's roasted chicken answered part of the question as to why the chicken in The Leghorn salad was so bland on my second visit. Yes, the chicken is roasted with butter between the skin and the flesh — as it well should be — but, once again, there was no salt evident on the chicken nor any of the roasted vegetables that accompanied it. Is the kitchen afraid of salt? Did they run out of it? Do we, as a city, need to pool our pocket change and buy Jeff Axline a pallet of Morton's kosher salt? If so, I will certainly be the first to throw in a donation, because the food could be so much better if only it were properly seasoned.

The second key to improving the food here would be to use less fat. Less butter, less peanut oil, less lard, less of all of that. If I thought my last meal left me with a full stomach, it was nothing compared to the incredibly greasy and terribly overpriced State Fair Griddled Cheese (fries cost extra, too) with pulled short-rib that was so rich I couldn't come close to finishing even half of it. Discarding the fatty meat, I dipped the sourdough bread and cheese into my fire-roasted tomato soup (which I had to salt liberally first) and salvaged most of the meal. Somewhere along the line during the construction of this sandwich — the heavily buttered bread, the thick slices of cheese, the fatty meat — someone needed to be stopped and told to use a lighter hand. It was a heart attack on a plate, and not in the fun sense.

Thankfully, dessert saved the day once again. A slice of pumpkin pie from My Dee Dee's Pies came with a pert scoop of vanilla ice cream (although I didn't appreciate being served the pie à la mode with no warning that the ice cream cost an extra $1.50 on top of the $5.50 for the pie itself). It had a melt-in-your-mouth crust and was neither too heavy nor too sweet, just pure and blissful Americana.

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