Restaurant Review: North by Northwest Restaurant & Brewery

A longtime team on top of their game

North by Northwest Restaurant & Brewery

10010 N. Capital of TX Hwy., 512/467-6969,
Mon.-Thu., 11am-10pm; Fri., 11am-11pm; Sat., 10am-11pm; Sun., 10am-10pm
North by Northwest Restaurant & Brewery
Photo By John Anderson

North by Northwest Restaurant & Brewery

10010 Capital of TX Hwy. N., 467-6969

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

I reviewed North by Northwest five years ago. Back then, I wrote, "When NXNW opened in 1999, owner Davis Tucker's intent was to combine great craft-brewed beer and equally good food. To achieve this, Tucker hired the talented chef George Powell away from Mezzaluna and brought on brewmaster Don Thompson to set up the brewery. Miraculously, in the ever-changing world of Austin eateries, the team is still together today."

That was 2002. Well, here's an even bigger miracle: The team is still together. At this point, you could excuse them for resting on their laurels, but instead, they are pressing ahead with classic beers and a creative menu that blends house favorites with newer creations.

The Roasted Garlic Bulbs appetizer ($6.95 lunch/$7.95 dinner) has been around since the beginning and remains one of their most popular dishes. Two heads of garlic come sitting in the middle of a plate of crostinis that are slathered with fresh goat cheese. Then the waitperson picks up the head of garlic with a napkin and squeezes a couple of soft, nutty brown cloves onto each piece of bread. The sweetness of the garlic is delicious against the tangy goat cheese. The Crab and Shrimp Cakes ($9.95) arrive leaning against a pile of matchstick-thin sweet potatoes that have been deep-fried, all surrounded by a spicy chipotle cream sauce. The cakes are a little breadier than I usually like, but the flavors are so good, it doesn't really matter.

I was intrigued by the NXNW Chicken Pot Pie ($7.50 at lunch only) from the entrée side of the menu. This version has a bowl of thick chicken soup, heavy on the mirepoix. They've also added peas for sweetness and mushrooms for earthiness. Resting on top is a 4-inch square of puff pastry that is crispy on the outside and nicely tender on the inside.

Their best dish, and one of the city's great lunchtime bargains, is only available on Tuesdays. The bone-in pork loin ($10.95/$16.95) is a huge serving of impossibly tender and flavorful roast pork. Counterbalancing the size is a light sauce made from the jus. Tiny flecks of bacon roll off the loin and into the rosemary roasted potatoes. And instead of the ubiquitous, boring "vegetable medley," NXNW offers a blend of sautéed greens, which gives a little bitter kick to the pork. Mark down Tuesday as the day to go to NXNW.

Thompson's beers are up to the food. The Six Beer Sampler ($4.95) probably adds up to a pint of beer, but you get the opportunity to taste through the line. All are good efforts, but three really stand out. I am pleasantly surprised by the quality of their Northern Light beer. It's light in color but not in calories; even then, most brewmasters treat these beers like their bastard stepchildren. Instead, you can tell this brew is made with top-notch ingredients, including a healthy hit of hops. The Bavarian Hefeweizen is appropriately cloudy and spicy, and they serve it correctly, with a slice of lemon instead of a wedge so that you can float the lemon for the aroma, not dilute the beer with juice. I also love the Okanogan Black Ale, which has the aroma of – no kidding – a coffee malt.

NXNW retains its warm decor, and Davis Tucker seems able to find servers who are both knowledgeable and cheerful. I love a new restaurant as much as anyone, but it's such a pleasure to revisit our old-timers like NXNW and find they're still doing their best work.

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