Residents of Briargrove, Tanglewood, and Memorial, rejoice. Your new Beaver’s has arrived.
After a quiet soft opening last week, the second location of the Washington Avenue Texas comfort food restaurant made its official debut Monday night.
The former Texadelphia space has been given a thorough transformation that’s a more kitschy, lighthearted riff on State of Grace’s Texas hunting lodge motif. That means, yes, animal heads adorn the walls, along light-hearted signs that have sayings like “the less you give a dam, the happier you will be.”
In addition to the main dining room, the space also features the Beaver Den, an adults-only bar and lounge that’s a dressier, more stylish version of the famous Club No Minors at Beaver's owners Todd Johnson and Jon Deal’s nearby Tex-Mex restaurant El Patio. An outdoor space has a bit of a Cottonwood-vibe with an X-shaped fire pit and games like foosball. Located next to the patio, “the barn” provides more covered seating, along with TVs to follow the games.
Led by executive chef Arash Kharat and director of operations Kevin Bryant, the restaurant’s menu builds on Beaver’s comfort food legacy established by chefs Monica Pope and Jonathan Jones. As expected, the fryer plays an important role with dishes that include fried cauliflower in Buffalo sauce, fried deviled eggs, Beaver tails (shrimp stuffed with jalapenos, jack cheese and cream cheese), and a half-pound chicken fried steak topped with mushroom gravy. That Buffalo sauce also gets put to good use for the hot hen, a whole fried Cornish game hen.
At a tasting dinner during the soft opening, a friend and I left impressed with many of these new dishes. The hot hen arrived crispy and juicy, and the Buffalo sauce makes usually bland cauliflower a dish worth fighting over. Spicy jalapenos couldn’t redeem a mushy cheese steak po'boy, but my friend assured me that lack of texture is what people like about cheese steaks.
Although Beaver’s has always served barbecue, its smoked meats have never stood out, but that changes with the new location. Kharat, who has spent time working with Blood Bros. BBQ and Harlem Road Texas BBQ, employs two wood-fired, Pitmaker vertical smokers to deliver a full menu of brisket, pork ribs, pulled pork, and sausage.
Providing barbecue as part of table service can be tricky, because brisket starts drying out as soon as it’s cut. Kharat has a plan for this — barbecue gets cut to order after the rest of a table’s entrees are ready — but it came up short during our dinner. The first bites of brisket we tried had good seasoning but so-so texture; a few slices Kharat cut fresh fared far better.
Sides used to be an afterthought at most barbecue joints, but Beaver’s maintains the same attention lavished on them at places like Killen’s Barbecue and The Pit Room. Don’t ignore dishes like Mexican street corn and dirty rice made with brisket and sausage (among others). They’re as carefully prepared as anything else on the menu.
Since Beaver’s served as Bobby Heugel’s last job before opening Anvil, the restaurant has a well-earned reputation for serving good cocktails. That tradition continues at the new location thanks to contributions by beverage director Mike Sammons (Weights + Measures, 13 Celsius, Mongoose versus Cobra), but the new location also benefits from Sammons’s wine expertise. Sparkling lambrusco (available on tap for $10) offers a welcome counterpoint to the heavily spiced smoked meat on the menu, and a captain’s list offers choices for those looking to splurge on a companion to a steak or seafood entree. Two dozen taps ensure craft beer fans receive proper attention, too.
Family-friendly, barbecue-oriented, serving “dam good” wine, beer, and cocktails: the new Beaver’s should be a welcome addition to its neighborhood since there’s nothing quite like it in the immediate area. If the formula proves successful, Deal and his partners are already contemplating expanding the restaurant to the suburbs.