Competition in the Industrial Chic arena has gotten intense at Pearl since the opening of Hotel Emma, but Boiler House still holds its own. Sitting at the bar at happy hour — or any other time, you're bathed in a gentle (and generally flattering) red glow from the back bar. The snaking tubes that have been turned into an abstract sculpture outdoors back up the bottles here, attention has been paid to the lighting level in the exposed kitchen, and the activity at the pass, at least at this low-key time of day, provides a bantering backdrop. "Two Brussels ... meatballs ... can you wait a couple of minutes on that?"
The happy hour menu doesn't feature anything coming out of that kitchen, but there are nonetheless well-priced "Nibbles" available to accompany your drink. The Texas whiskey bacon caramel kettle corn, studded with chunky bacon bits, the caramel right on the good edge of char, was great with a featured drink, the $5 bourbon Old Fashioned with Buffalo Trace, orange bitters and honey. It's a sweeter version of the drink than I normally like, but it didn't stint on the booze.
But considering BH's link to Max's Wine Dive, it's the happy hour wine list that perhaps deserves the most scrutiny. A select list of wines, some on tap, is available at 50 percent off — which doesn't mean that they are all Cheapsville; some of these, the Caymus Cab, for example, are normally offered at prices as high as $35 — yes, per glass. Here's your chance to feel like a high-roller at low-rider prices. I settled on a modest Cakebread Sauvignon Blanc ($6.50) straight from a fresh bottle, and, with its citrus, gooseberry and green melon notes, it came across as the quintessential Cali sauvignon.
A little more citrus and it might have made a pair with the spicy house-pickled veggies ($5) — "they've got more kick than a government mule" opined a server not lacking for character of his own. The spice level might not have lived up to government specs, but the kitchen does not stint on volume and variety. The bowl contained baby pattypan squashes, a couple of kinds of cauliflower, halved Brussels sprouts, both yellow bell pepper and a whole red chile ... with vinegary tang making up for spicy punch. Herb- and feta-marinated olives might have made a better fit with the wine, but it's hard to pass up good pickles.
The happy hour drink menu is available from opening to 6 p.m. weekdays, giving you plenty of time to run through the list of $3 beers, the $5 house wines, or to work your way down the half-off wine list, stopping at, say the Alberese Morellino you won't find just anywhere, or the French-influenced Cheval des Andes Malbec blend
312 Pearl Pkwy., (210) 354-4644, boilerhousesa.com
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