First Look: Boiler Nine Bar & Grill in Seaholm Power Plant
This week, Austin welcomed Boiler Nine Bar + Grill, possibly the city's most anticipated opening in the past two years, to the refurbished Seaholm Power Plant. When La Corsha Hospitality announced exciting plans to transform 11,000 square feet over four levels into a grilling mecca, a late 2014 opening was anticipated. Since then, the group closed lauded fine dining concept Congress to expand Second Bar & Kitchen and acquired two historic properties which they are currently renovating (Green Pastures in Austin and The Baker Hotel in Mineral Wells), all while leading up to Boiler Nine's post-Independence Day launch. And we think you'll agree this ambitious project was worth the wait.
The gist: As chef de cuisine at Congress and Second Bar + Kitchen for the past four years under acclaimed chef David Bull (during which time he was crowned a champion on The Food Network's Chopped competition), Jason Stude is well-prepared to step into his first executive chef position at Boiler Nine Bar + Grill. Below the two main levels, The Boiler Room (which, true to its name, served as the power plant's original boiler room) is a dark, sultry lounge a-glow with flickering candles and privacy curtains. Beverage director Jason Stevens will launch the space, along with its dedicated menu of cocktails and shareable bites, on July 9 at 5 PM. Deck Nine Observatory Bar, the fourth and highest level of the structure, is accessible by stairs on the side of the building or the elevator inside. While currently open for guests to enjoy the view, on July 12 the deck will launch with its own cocktail menu and a baseball-inspired "concession" stand (think well-executed Frito pie, brat dogs and burgers).
Crispy giardinera with hot sauce
Green goddess salad
The food: An 8-ft. wood-fired grill is the cornerstone of the menu and Stude uses it to coal roast, smoke and grill using various techniques. For now, the dinner menu focuses on fresh, classic American dishes elevated with refined touches. A tomahawk pork chop is brightened with borlotti beans, green chile whey, peach relish and sorghum and the peeler sirloin is served with carrot mousse, onion, agrodulce, oyster mushroom and arugula. Small plates include Texas eggplant with feta, mint, sesame and almond and fire-roasted roots made with green goddess dressing, sunflower, fennnel, feta and amaranth. (For lunch, a similar commingling of produce appears as a green goddess salad, pictured above.)
"One of the main inspirations for our evolving menu is what our farmers send us," says Stude. "We have multiple CSA boxes coming in weekly and we use this to drive the menu. We then apply the appropriate methods of fire cooking to those vegetables and meats."
Other lunch offerings include some of the same starters available at dinner, like crispy giardinera with hot sauce and muhammara seasoned with cumin, coriander, and candied walnuts. Sandwiches (like blackened shrimp po' boy, BBQ tempeh, a Cuban made with house sauerkraut) take center stage on the daytime menu and additions from the grill (like seared Gulf tuna, roasted chicken breast, Angus brisket) can be added to any salad.
"During brunch we head a little closer to East Texas and southern Louisiana while still maintaining our core identity of fire first," describes Stude. Expect New Orleans BBQ shrimp and buttered grits with pickled and grilled okra, red eye Benedict with coffee-braised ham and tomato jam, and the unique B9 Benedict: poached eggs and salsa verde hollandaise over a crispy fried pimiento cheese base. A regal croque Madame, sandwiched between buttery Texas toast and ladled with raclette fondue, joins a short list of sandwiches as well.
Griddled banana cake with grape ice cream
While there is currently no defined pastry chef at Boiler Nine, you'd never know it after tasting the exquisite desserts created by chef de cuisine Emily Maddy. The griddled banana cake (pictured above) with malted milk, white chocolate, and grape ice cream captures childhood summer on a plate and churritos (think churros made into donut holes) served with a sweet tea caramel make for the perfect shareable sweet ending for the table.
Boozy Thai iced coffee
The drinks: As expected, Stevens does not disappoint with the inventive opening cocktail menu. The Devil's Cup is a fruity spin off a Pimm's cup, made with a house white "Pimm's," black currant, ginger beer, lemon, herbs and pickled berries. The Boozy Thai Iced Coffee, made with local Chameleon cold brew, house Thai tea rum and condensed milk, is surprisingly earthy and not at all overly sweet. This menu is the perfect prelude for more to come downstairs in The Boiler Room and upstairs on the deck (where we hear there will be frozen drinks!)
The space: Boiler Nine is sleek and industrial, both inside and out, and unlike any other structures in Austin. Vintage coin viewfinders on the observatory deck provide views of hill country on one side and the ghostly white network of power plant pipes and gridwork on the other. Grey, white and natural wood appear on both the rooftop and in the restaurant, which incorporates the power plant aesthetic while maintaining its delicacy with thin linear metalwork and round mod furniture. Both a chef's counter with bar stools and a long bar-level table provide the best view of the open kitchen, though the action is visible from all the tables on the main level, and seating on the smaller second level is best for a bird's eye view of the bar.
800 W. Cesar Chavez St.; 512-220-9990; Open daily 11 AM–midnight
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(Photos by Veronica Meewes)