[Photo: Spencer Selvidge/EATX]
Nestled on a quieter stretch of East 6th Street, the affable and relaxed Hi Hat Public House has become a neighborhood mainstay. Hi Hat focuses on beer, with a curated list of two dozen taps complemented by small plates like flatbreads, tacos, and pretzels. A selection of sandwiches and mains are also available, as is a small wine list. Owner Steve Schrader talked to Eater about learning neighborhood tastes, adjusting to customer needs, and new pairing dinner plans for this installment of "One Year In."
The Hi Hat location is a bit tough to spot - did it take a while for the neighborhood to find you?
No! Actually, people were waiting for our opening and have been regulars since. The place before us was fine dining, so Hi Hat bringing craft beer and comfort food in made us a neighborhood gathering spot.
How has your food menu evolved over the course of the year? Any significant changes due to guest demand?
Yes – mainly the burger and our wine. Simple and delicious food is our goal. We've made minor adjustments to compliment the seasons. Thomas Reeh (Snack Bar, Mars) recently joined our team, and his Bar Burger has been a welcome addition. Almost immediately after opening, we improved our wine selection. It became apparent that craft beer drinkers hang out with quality wine drinkers.
Is there a "typical" Hi Hat beer drinker? What are the most popular sellers?
The typical Hi Hat drinker is adventurous and informed, but we see the entire spectrum. The wonderful thing about the folks that come in looking for good beer is while they prefer certain styles, they seem open to trying something new or hearing about what differentiates certain styles from one another. Our lineup changes frequently, and with that we see IPA drinkers enjoying stouts and vice versa.
You're right down the street from both hops & grain and Live Oak - how heavily do your taps skew local?
We love being nestled in on the East Side. Our beer lineup does feature numerous local taps, and we have beer from both of those wonderful places but we branch out and have (512), Real Ale and new ventures such as Meridian Hive Meadery & Austin Eastciders. We love the fact that the beer scene is thriving and evolving in Austin, but do carry beer from around the county (and world) with the knowledge that there are amazing people doing incredible things all around.
Any beer styles in high demand that surprised you?
No. There really haven't been a ton of surprises. Within one hour we can have someone come in seeking a sour ale, then another person comes in that doesn't like sours but wants something hoppy, and right behind that there's a purely stout drinker. We do our best to carry a great representation of every style, from lager to porter. That said, IPA's still are a nose ahead of the other styles in terms of what a drinker will most often ask
Two questions that often come up at Austin bars are "are you dog friendly" and "do you have a happy hour?" What's your current answer?
Yes and yes. We have a small patio out front and welcome dogs to join their masters. Happy Hour is Tuesday-Thursday from 4-7. We do a selection of ½ price apps, and discount beers by $1 and wine by $2. We also have a great Taco Tuesday event – it's $10 for two tacos and a pint of your choice.
You're a musician, and host some music at Hi Hat. How has the frequency and style of music on offer worked out for the bar?
Originally we tried to do music on a regular basis during the week and weekends. Jazz Brunch on Sundays has become a customer favorite. Now we do live music for special events, and are planning several shows during SXSW.
Anything you're hoping to offer your patrons in the future that you've not already accomplished?
Yes - more beer and food pairing events. Since Thomas has joined us, we have programmed several events on the calendar – we'll start that with Valentine's Day.
· All One Year In Interviews [EATX]