The Chronicle focuses this week on recently opened neighborhood "hot spots" offering beer, cocktails, and bar food. Melanie Haupt appreciates the bar scene at Haymaker but is not a fan of the food. On the sandwiches: "Sandwiches from the Big and Burly portion of the menu come open-faced and smothered in the gastropub's signature "Gruyère" sauce, which is a rather ghastly yellow and tastes strongly of Velveeta. As a result, the delicate flavors of the Croque Monsieur ($9.49) – which traditionally derives its sturdiness from the combination of rich béchamel, salty ham, and nutty Gruyère – are crushed under the boot of a greasy, processed cheese gloop." Haupt also notes that their poutine lacks the promised cheese curds. Haymaker "shines is in its extensive collection of beers both global and local in provenance, as well as signature cocktails."
Anna Toon has a similarly mixed experience at School House Pub, where the drinks excel but the food flunks. On their poutine: "Described as fries tossed with braised short ribs, gravy, and cheese curds, what arrived at our table was a monstrous heap of fries so laden with garlic that we heard a woman at the next table exclaim, "Oh my God, that's a lot of garlic!" There were a couple of sporadic cheese curds, an utter lack of gravy, and then there was meat. I have a difficult time believing those were short ribs." Toon grades School House an "A for ambience, beer, and cocktails, a B- for service, and a failing grade for the food."
Jessi Cape visits South Austin phenom The Austin Beer Garden Brewing Company, where the house-brewed beer gets high marks but the food's execution wobbles. On the sausage, feta, and pepper pizza: "Sadly, the pie took this dedicated pizza lover straight to Disappointment Town. Conceptually, it is a great combo, but the issue was strictly execution. The slices oozed grease, yet somehow the crust was dry (was it cooked in a bowl?). The caramelized onions were translucent – it was obvious they had never been given a chance to reach their beautiful, sweet brown potential in the short pizza oven cooking time; and we actually used a flashlight to look for the feta (it was there, but it was sparse). The crumbled sausage, fresh mixed bells, robust sauce, and bubbling cheese offered some redemption." Cape argues that with some tightening in the kitchen, the ABGB could become a great food destination, in addition to a great spot to enjoy the "Austin tradition" of drinking craft beer al fresco.
In lieu of a review this week, Matthew Odam at The Statesman profiles Ruby's Barbecue, which is celebrating 25 years in business, and offers a list of "cozy" wintertime restaurants.
THE BLOGS: Fed Man Walking calls Winflo Osteria "a game of hits and misses," Rob Balon recommends gluten-free Wild Wood Bake House, Austinite Tips thinks Hopdoddy is worth the wait, and South Austin Foodie samples Flour and Vine's New Year's menu.
· Drop In, Have Drinks, Hang Out [Chronicle]
· All Week in Reviews Coverage [EATX]