The giant beaver statue perched over 6025 Westheimer in the Galleria neighborhood is a happy sentinel promising good things to come. Fans of Beaver's will have to wait about a week though before the dam bursts and the much-anticipated second outpost of the popular restaurant off the Washington corridor opens.
Beaver's Westheimer has set Jan. 2 as the opening date of its new store in the old Texadelphia space. The sprawling Beaver's compound has been cleverly outfitted to look like a hunting lodge with great expanses of rough-hewn wood and tree trunk designs running through the main dining room, the Beaver Den (an adult's-only whiskey bar; think of it as a huntsman's version of El Patio's Club No Minors), a special events space called the Barn, and a generous courtyard patio with a fire pit and a vintage Spartan trailer retrofitted as a service bar. With a capacity for about 260 guests, the new Beaver's is more than three time the size of the first Beaver's at 2310 Decatur.
Principal owners Jon Deal and Todd Johnson have assembled a knowing staff that aims to please on many levels. Executive chef is Arash Kharat, known for a string of well-received pop-ups; Kevin Bryant, the former executive chef of Eleven XI, will act as director of operations; and Mike Sammons (of 13 Celsius, Mongoose versus Cobra, and Weights + Measures) has put together a knockout wine list and cocktail program in collaboration with bar manager Angel Belman.
The new menu includes items from the original Beaver's menu (fear not, the Beaver's queso, macaroni and cheese, and meatless Nut Burger aren't going anywhere) but with a greater emphasis on Gulf seafood and barbecue. Kharat has two Pitmaker smokers he'll be using to turn out brisket, sausage, pork ribs, pulled pork, and chicken.
Kharat says the Beaver's menu reflects Houston with its generous inflections of Southern fare and Tex-Mex merged with flavors from the Gulf, Cajun country, and hearty Texan grub.
"My style of cooking has always been heavily influenced by Houston – the Vietnamese, Filipino, African, and Hispanic," Kharat said. "You throw all that into a mix and this is what you get."
An early look at the still-in-progress menu showed appetizers of Texas deviled eggs, chicken lollipops, crawfish and shrimp cheese dip, Beaver Tails (shrimp stuffed with jalapenos and chees), nachos, "drunken" chili made with brisket, and barbecue oysters lashed with garlic butter, bacon, chimichurri sauce, and citrus-flavored pico.
Yes, there are big salads as well as blackened chicken tortilla soup, and macaroni and cheese that can be had with chopped barbecue beef or Frito Pie-ized with chili and corn chips.
Entrée options include burgers, chicken-fried steak, grilled ribeye steak, po'boys, tacos, and the Hot Hen (whole fried Cornish hen tossed in hot sauce and served with house-made pickles). And barbecue, of course.
One of the special aspects of the new restaurant can be found behind the bar. The Beaver's taps hold surprises: cold coffee on tap (now how often do you see that?) and a delicious, cold, fizzy Lambrusco (genius move). There also will be a few cocktails on tap to augment dozens of draught craft beers. The cocktail lineup includes a house tribute to the neighboring El Patio (which Deal owns) – a blue-tinged rum, pineapple and coconut froth that will Beaver's answer to the Tex-Mex restaurant's lethal blue margs.
Sammons put great thought into creating a wine list that will marry well with Southern comfort foods, especially barbecue and grilled meats and seafood.
"It's always insane to me that grilled meats and charred meats don't have an association with good wine," said beverage director Sammons. "Whenever you go to a barbecue place in Texas it's Lone Star or Big Red – never a good bottle of wine."
Sammons aims to correct that with a thoughtful bottle program and wines by the glass that include sparklers, select whites, a few roses and reds like pinot noir, Malbec and zin that play to the strengths of the menu. In particular, there's a South African cab/merlot/pinotage blend whose smokiness, big fruits and tannins pairs wonderfully with barbecue.
A separate cocktail menu for the Beaver Den promises boozy pleasers: a slate of cocktails and a list of pours heavy on the scotch, bourbon, and rye. Creative cocktails include the North to South Old Fashioned (Buffalo Trace bourbon, maple, mole bitters, orange and cherry); Spiced Fig Old Fashioned made with Bulleit Bourbon and fig jam; Westt Side Highball (Rittenhouse Rye, peach blossom tea, and Top Chico); Bourbon Berry Cobbler (Four Roses Bourbon, blackberries, raspberries, orange bitters, and mint); and an old-school Sazerac.
There are nifty design touches all throughout the new Beaver's. Take a look around, and don't pass up a visit to the bathrooms.
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COURTESY OF CHRON.COM
Photo: Elizabeth Conley, Houston Chronicle