Restaurant Review: Patsy's Cowgirl Cafe

When I heard that the founders of Esther's Follies were opening a restaurant/music venue, two questions immediately came to mind

Patsy's Cafe

5001 E. Ben White, 512/444-2020,
Mon.-Thu., 11am-9pm; Fri.-Sat., 11am-10pm
Patsy's Cowgirl Cafe
Photo by John Anderson

When I heard that Esther's Follies founders Shannon Sedwick and Michael Shelton were opening a restaurant/music venue, two questions immediately came to mind: What possessed the operators of one of Austin's most successful and definitive entertainment venues to take on the trials inherent in the restaurant business, and what were the chances that the food would jibe with the style and decor?

After visiting Patsy's and chatting with Sedwick, the answer to the first question appears to be that the arts entrepreneurs and their small band of extremely gifted artisan pals have more than enough creative energy to develop multiple interesting venues. Shelton in particular has always had the knack for reimagining ordinary spaces into extraordinary places. That's exactly what he's done with the former drab roadside warehouse that is now a very stylish bar/restaurant/music hall done up in the best Texas roadhouse tradition. In the yearlong process, he called on some fine local Austin talent to help him get the job done: Micael Priest (mural design), Neil Cronk (mural execution), Kerry Awn (cowgirl pinup paintings), Rene Anguiano (painted tabletops), and Hank Waddell (wooden art pieces). Patsy's has great style and personality, the drinks are good, and the eclectic selection of local music is free. The answer to my second question is this: After some kitchen-staff changes and recent menu adjustments, the food finally seems to have found the groove as well.

I'll have to admit that my first visit to Patsy's was an unmitigated culinary disaster, but I was so impressed with the restaurant's decor and ambience that I decided to give them another couple of months to work out the kitchen kinks before dining for the actual review. Some friends joined me for dinner at Patsy's last week, and we sampled a variety of dishes from the newly revised Texas roadside cafe comfort-food menu. At both lunch and dinner, the menu features a short list of appetizers and salads, sandwiches, and burgers cleverly named for local celebrities, and blue-plate entrées such as meatloaf and chicken-fried steak. Dinner prices are a little higher, but the portions are more than generous. We were perfectly satisfied with all but one of our choices.

Our dinner began with the Three-Fer ($5.50), a basket of warm tostada chips paired with small bowls of a zippy house salsa, a traditional Tex-Mex queso, and a regrettably tasteless guacamole. Our suggestion: Order the Two-Fer and avoid that guacamole altogether. Our entrées were preceded by fresh, crisp house salads. My friend who sampled the Kinky Friedman ($8.95), Patsy's take on a Reuben sandwich, pronounced it to her liking: moist, tender slices of corned beef with just the right amount of cheese, dressing, and kraut to keep the flavorful filling from sliding down her chin. The house signature potato chips that came with the sandwich were a little on the thick side, though they still had good crunch.

My friend who chose the meatloaf ($10.95) was somewhat concerned about the price, but when he saw the enormous portions of meat and potatoes on the platter, he realized it was more than enough food for two very tasty meals. Since I firmly believe that any Texas roadhouse should have a good chicken-fried steak, I felt obligated to try one, and I can report that Patsy's kitchen does it right: Pounded tender and hand-breaded, the fried steak is napped with a good cracked-pepper cream gravy and paired with fluffy mashed potatoes and a medley of sautéed summer vegetables. It was easy to make two meals out of my portion, as well. Though the Shiner Chicken ($11.95) over tequila rice bore no discernible flavor of either spirit, the Boursin cheese stuffing in the grilled breast and the excellent grilled asparagus that accompanied the chicken made for an enjoyable selection.

Patsy's orders custom-made desserts from Tootie Pies in Boerne and offers slices of pie, cake, and cheesecake to top off your meal. I'm a big fan of buttermilk pie ($4.95) and found this one very much to my liking, but the big slab of chocolate cake ($4.95) was a little on the generic side for our taste. The bar here boasts several signature drinks. We recommend a frosty glass of Lasso Lemonade ($5) made with Tito's Vodka, peach schnapps, lemonade, and ginger ale as the perfect summer refresher to wet your whistle after a day on the dusty trail.

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