One of the summer’s most anticipated summer restaurant openings is finally here with Boiler Nine Bar + Grill in downtown Austin, full of wood-fired entrees, compatible cocktails, and plenty of seating room. The restaurant’s final stage, the rooftop deck, unveils tonight at 7 p.m.
It was fate when the developers behind the Seaholm project, Southwest Strategies, approached Boiler’s parent company La Corsha Hospitality Group. The team was already toying with a concept based on wood-fired fare, which makes perfect sense to execute that vision in the defunct power plant. The name even stems from the location of the ninth of ten original working boilers.
Taking inspiration from its surroundings, the restaurant landed on its main theme: fire, specifically from the Argentinian parilla found in the open kitchen. "The grill tells you what you can and can’t do," executive chef Jason Stude explains. "If it doesn’t fit that, it’s not going to happen." Flames kiss grilled brisket, roasted chicken, and even charred squid, ready for diners.
True, there were challenges in "converting a power plant into a restaurant," says La Corsha vice president Scott Walker, which lead to a "dramatic overhaul" of the building. All that work resulted in three distinct levels: the baseline restaurant, the below-ground cocktail lounge, and the fresh air roof patio. Eater photographer Robert J. Lerma took a tour of the giant space. Explore the facets of Boiler Nine below.
1. The drinks
For beverage director Jason Stevens, it’s all about creating a "balance" with Stude’s food, which he accomplishes by getting really geeky. The prep area is filled with magical machinery aimed at producing the very best drinks, including one that keeps liquids "constantly stirring and agitating," a device he had been working on for about six months.
Pre-blended and aged well spirits—bourbon, tequila, gin—make for quicker service with the right flavor profiles. By mixing Buffalo Trace, Elijah Craig, and a smaller portion of a particular barrel of WhistlePig’s high-rye, it results in the "house expression of what we think a regular serving of bourbon should be," he describes.
Wine is director and sommelier Paula Rester’s territory. While the options, much like the beer selection, remain the same through all floors, she is creating a special list for those "seeking out new experiences." Everything offered "speaks of the place from which it comes, and is a great expression of its varietal characteristics. This means summer-ready crisp whites, roses, and lighter red, plus larger magnum bottles to share.
To complement Stude’s wood-fired menus, there are plenty of wines with "juicy acidity," but they’re "a little more fruit driven," she describes. This is because "you want a little sweetness and ripeness of fruit to balance out that smoke." Rester’s favorite is Broc Cellars' carbonic carignan, which is "zesty and alive in the glass, but it has some gamey characteristics."
2. The Restaurant
The main dining and bar area, the ground-floor of the restaurant and mezzanine, focuses on the tried and true dining centered on the grill. Stude will experiment with different woods as the seasons go on, but the essential ingredient of the dishes is that smokiness.
Steven seeks to compliment Stude’s dishes with a showcase of drinks offering the "best possible example of something, mingled with new and interesting items." This means beers that the unknowing public might be unaware of, like Lone Pint's Yellow Rose IPA. With cocktails, he highlights lighter spirits, like Lambic peach beer, and adds a tad of flavorful spirits, like bourbon, to present an "overall round full-flavored cocktail."
3. Boiler Room
The basement bar is Stevens’ domain, or what he calls the "boozy subterranean den." It’s where he dives deep into the components of the cocktails, taking inspiration from cocktail books from the ‘60s and ‘70s like Stan Jones’ Complete Barguide. That’s how he discovered usable techniques, like the wonders of coconut snow (coconut oil and freeze-dried coconut for a "deeper, richer coconut flavor") which applied to other dehydrated fruits for taste without the added water.
Food-wise, Stude presents sharable and fun dishes, like the melted cheese raclette. For something fancier, opt for the caviar and potato chips.
4. Deck Nine Observatory Bar
Finally, there’s the rooftop deck with westward views. Of the three sections, this menu is the most "fun" for Stude. Inspired by drive-in movie theaters and the accompanying easy fare, there will be Frito pies, smoked brats, burgers, and boiled peanuts.
Stevens describes it as a place of "conviviality," which he extends over to the libations. The quick-service bar will serve frozen shandies, like Community Witbier mixed with pureed watermelon and a boozy take on raspberry lemonade. Large format drinks will be customizable, with four-person bottles with a base range of fruity flavors, and then choice of spirit.
For guests looking to avoid air conditioning completely, there’s a separate outdoor staircase leading up. To spy on passersby below or the office and apartment buildings nearby, there is the namesake observation viewfinder.
Boiler opened in phases starting on July 5 with lunch, followed by dinner, then Boiler Room, and finally Deck Nine tonight. The restaurant hours are from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and until midnight on Friday and Saturday; the rooftop from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. Tuesday through Sunday; and the basement bar from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Saturday.