The Austin Chronicle

Brentwood Tavern

Reviewed by Claudia Alarcón, February 17, 2006, Food

Brentwood Tavern

6701 Burnet Rd., 420-8118

Sunday-Thursday, 11am-10pm; Friday-Saturday, 11am-12mid

The stone building that sits at the west end of the Travis County Farmers' Market has housed several restaurants. Given the great location, ample parking, and pleasant surroundings, I have never understood why it has not been a more popular destination. After our recent visits to the Brentwood Tavern, its latest incarnation, I have a feeling this one might just be here to stay.

On first impression, one of my dinning companions likened the place to a "miniature, less crowded Shady Grove." Seeing the old Western decor, rustic furniture, and ample tree-shaded patio with a large stage, I concurred. Although it is quieter at lunch time, at dinner the place was packed with animated happy-hour revelers, small groups of diners, and families with children in a convivial atmosphere. Come springtime, this will be the place to hang out after work.

The menu is straightforward American Southern comfort food. The appetizers are predictable yet tasty, and of course, include lots of fried goodness. The Tavern Combo ($11.99) is a sample of fried stuffed jalapeños, outstanding beer-battered onion rings, crunchy fried pickle spears, and "chili con cheesy fries" topped with lots of pickled jalapeño slices and a side of ranch and bleu cheese for dipping. Paired with any of their beer selections or margaritas, this will satisfy six hungry diners. I was especially impressed with the cheesy fries, topped with a homemade chili that was just right.

Among the sandwiches and burgers, we liked the Shoal Creek Snapper Sandwich ($6.95), stuffed with a crunchy fried fish fillet dressed with a crisp slaw, fresh cilantro leaves, and avocado slices inside slices of artisanal bread (locally made at San Francisco Bakery) smeared with just the right amount of chipotle mayo. Brentwood's signature burger, the Mullet ($8.25), was everything I had hoped for: a thick, juicy, flame-broiled patty slathered with melted Swiss, sautéed mushrooms, avocado slices, crispy bacon, red onion, lettuce, and tomato. The square-shaped buns have a slight sweetness that pairs well with the savory filling, and the fries are fresh and hot.

Although the entrée options are few, there is something for everyone here, and all are served with a choice of two sides. The Chicken-Fried Steak ($8.99) is a big, thick, hand-breaded cutlet smothered with flavorful gravy. Although we're not big fans of boneless, skinless chicken, the Brentwood Breast ($8.99) is actually very good, well-grilled and topped with sautéed mushrooms, grilled onions, roasted pepper, and garlic pesto and melted jack cheese. The Fish Tacos ($7.99) have the same tasty fried fish and toppings as the sandwich, except rolled in flour tortillas. The sides are all very fresh, from the dinner salad to the steamed broccoli and the yummy garlic mashed potatoes. For those seeking a lighter entrée, the large salads should hit the spot. The Tex-Mex Salad ($7.25) is a huge bowl of fresh mixed greens topped with grilled chicken strips, corn kernels, black beans, chopped tomato, red onion, avocado slices, and shredded cheese, served with your choice of dressing.

I was disappointed with the Tavern Tres Leches ($4.25), but that's what I get for ordering an unimaginative and overused dessert. Next time, I'll try the White Chocolate Raspberry Cake ($5.25) with vanilla ice cream, although it really is hard to save room for dessert after all the tasty fried things and cold libations. Perhaps my only major complaint about the Brentwood Tavern is that service is a little too laid-back. It takes the friendly but somewhat inexperienced waiters a long time to take the orders, and they tend to disappear and not return to check on the table. But once they've addressed that, North Austin's best-kept secret will be out.

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