You might think you’re prepared for the Quarry Hofbräu, thanks to its name, or a visit to the restaurant’s website, but to open the entry doors is to experience serious culture shock. According to owner Beau Roby (on said website): “Thinkin’ back, I guess there never was a big thought given to naming the place … `the` outfittin’, as I call it, has strong ranching influences and there is a direct linkage to German heritage with this.” Customers may expect German gemütlichkeit, complete with Hansel und Gretel hospitality, but no: It’s all horns, hides, and utterly amazing portraits of steroidal steers. Texas writ large and in crayon. (Those who remember one of the space’s many previous lives as minimalist Flip may be especially, er, impressed by the kitsch and clamor.)
Sure, you’re allowed to like it. We, on the other hand, hightailed it to the Bier Garten. Wait — better make that Beer Garden, as the Hofbräu does. There’s nothing German about the menu, either, but at least outside we could concentrate on the food without feeling watched by the host of trophy heads. And the food arrived quickly. Almost too quickly.
The menu reads like a historic document of the food we thought was swell in the ’60s and ’70s, presented with the intent of showing us how far we’ve come. Except they’re not kidding: This is it. Chicken wings with barbecue sauce, chicken-breast strips with jalapeño and bacon, guacamole with jalapeño queso, etc. Sliced mushrooms and onions sautéed in a roasted garlic balsamic glaze was the least retro-sounding appetizer, so we went with it. And we weren’t too disappointed. The onions were almost caramelized, the balsamic glaze came through faintly, though without a whiff of garlic. The serving skillet didn’t sizzle worth a damn, and the fried flatbread squares were tough until they soaked a little in the glaze, but at least a pleasant pairing was made with a pint of chocolately Spaten Optimator Doppelbock. At last, something Germanic.
Also straight from the Vaterland is the Franziskaner Weissbier, one of 18 specialty drafts listed on the beer menu. Its citrusy flavor stood up nicely to a poblano corn chowder that was ordered out of duty, and turned out to be far better than expected. Spicy, smoky and bacony, the chowder was just thick enough and was thoughtfully split for us by an exceptionally eager waiter — who delivered it before we had finished the mushrooms, but never mind. We probably would have finished the soup, but the entrées came too early as well. This time we did mind.
Chicken-frying happens to everything but chicken here — or at least to tuna and ribeye. We avoided those. We also eschewed the steaks (possibly a mistake), looking for something that required a hint of skill in the kitchen. Which is how we happened on the Hofbräu Hot Wings and the pan-seared flounder. The Hot Wings are not really wings, but pork shanks. That they come “smothered” in the restaurant’s own “Texas-style BBQ sauce” should have been a clue. Maybe honey-chipotle grilled corn on the cob should have raised flags as well — it was truly terrible, good only for getting caught between your teeth, even after we asked for some extra honey-chipotle. (It was merely sweet and not at all smoky-spicy.) The wedge fries were wimpy, but there may be hope for the trio of tiny shanks — without the barbecue sauce and perhaps with a little brining to give the pork more flavor. They were at least tender and only moderately dry.
Ordering fish was a calculated risk. The flounder is said to be dusted with seasoned flour (so far, so good) and pan-grilled, after which it’s “covered with a sautéed chili-garlic butter sauce.” The result? Way too much thick and spicy sauce over an overcooked filet of fish. The poblano rice was good, though, and the sautéed vegetables were no better or worse than many places around town.
At least the restaurant’s retro tendencies didn’t take us back to ’60s gray green beans — though they did inspire us to order sides of the four-cheese mac’n’cheese and the homemade coleslaw. Quick take: The mac is very good, a heart attack waiting to happen; the slaw is inventive but overdressed by half. Drain, baby, drain.
Well, shucks, might as well have dessert. That menu, too, is mired in a cheesecake and margarita-pie past, but what harm could come of ordering a Texas pecan pie with Jack Daniels whiskey-butter sauce? What harm, indeed. The crust is cookie-like and unremarkable, the filling very sweet and low on pecans in the pecan-to-glop ratio, the sauce not needed at all — unless you want to get buzzed to blunt the memory of the meal. We recommend another doppelbock instead. That, and mosquito spray. •
Quarry Hofbräu & Beer Garden
Retro Americana served in a setting that’s equal parts ranch greathouse and beer garden. Good beer selection, though, and a full bar.
The decadent mac ’n’ cheese, German beers
11am-11pm Mon-Thu, 11am-midnight Fri-Sat