Petrol Station has long had a good food menu (and remember when it had coffee?). That's why the pub made it to the final round of our first-ever Burger Bracket and why the bacon-cheese-and-fried egg-topped Rancor consistently makes our lists of Houston's best burgers. The hand-cut fries don't hurt, either.
And with Petrol Station's recent renovations, an expanded kitchen means that partner (and chef) Darren Greenwood is really able to flex his creative muscles. Greenwood -- along with longtime Petrol Station employee Troy Witherspoon -- used to work at the Hobbit Cafe, but don't expect any Thorin Oakenshield-style sandwiches on the menu at Petrol Station. The kind of hearty food that Greenwood is cooking stands up perfectly to the interesting beer lineup that partner Ben Fullelove continues to curate.
Greenwood "never gets the credit he deserves," says Fullelove. "[The] new menu is incredible."
On that point -- and on our shared affection for hoppy beers -- Fullelove and I can agree. Although I'll admit to being wary of Greenwood's grilled Gouda and crab sandwich ($10) at first. That's a sandwich combination that can only take two paths: (1) devastatingly terrible, putting you off crab or Gouda or both for life or (2) so glorious that grilled cheese angels deafen you with their herald.
Greenwood's sandwich leans firmly in that deafening choirs of angels direction, helped along with an ample spread of chives that bridges the thick cheese and the juicy crab meat (which, I'm pleased to report, was not of the grocery store, plastic-tub persuasion). And although I had zero expectations for the orzo salad on the side -- sides are usually such afterthoughts at so many places -- the salad impressed, too, with a citrusy tang that complemented the crab sandwich surprisingly well.
Even better was the meaty beef tenderloin stew cooked down with Left Hand Milk Stout -- an incredible steal at $7. Even though only the barest hint of the sweet stout remained in the stew, it was enough to pair perfectly with a bottle of the brand-new Narwhal Imperial Stout that Petrol had just gotten in from Sierra Nevada.
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I particularly appreciated that the meat and vegetables in the stew were clearly fresh -- no frozen produce in here -- and rough-hewn, the carrots still tasting of sweet earth. And below the stew in the shallow bowl was the star of the show: Grueyere mashed potatoes, salty and sharp from the cheese and soaking up every last meaty bit of gravy from the stew itself.
Those same Grueyere mashed potatoes are also found in Greenwood's shepherd's pie -- a shepherd's pie that's made the right way, with a roasted leg of lamb -- which is up next on my hit list. I imagine it will pair well too with the Narwhal, if there's any left.