Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Beaver's: A Love Story

When Beaver’s opened two years ago, I must admit that I was less than impressed. I found the quasi-Carolina barbecue style to be frustratingly inconsistent, expensive, and downright un-Texan with their paltry portion sizes. I know several Carolina apologists who praise the power of the pig and dismiss brisket and everything cow-related as not “real” barbecue. Fine. I can accept regional differences with barbecue, but if you’re going to come into Texas touting a different style, you better bring your A game. Unfortunately, the barbecue didn’t live up to Texas standards. I prefer my ribs to have some chew to them, as opposed to the obviously boiled and crumbly fall-apart versions served at most family friendly chains (you know who I’m talking about). The ribs at Beaver’s had the same mealy texture, although admittedly the smoke flavor was always pretty good. My favorite item on the menu was the burger, but it was hard for me to get really excited. Your best item is a burger? Really?

Things started to change once J.J. took control of the kitchen. The sweet potato fries and cheese dip were immediately dumped, and for good reason. Lunchtime specials (called a Beaver Box) started to include some stellar dishes, including Wednesday’s remarkable fried chicken. All Beaver Boxes are served with a salad to start and a truly extraordinary slice of pecan pie (not too sweet); all together, it’s one of Houston’s best bargains at $12. Sandwiches got a makeover as well. A ho-hum sounding pit boss chickwich gets transformed into awe-inspiring man food: shredded and sauced chicken is topped with a fried egg, onion strings and slaw, all held together with a steak knife (no toothpick would be able to do the job).

The most recent menu additions have elevated Beaver’s to another level. JJ’s epic CFNYS is my new favorite menu item: served stacked on a bed of bitter greens and sweet potato puree, this CFS does Texas proud. The concept is pure genius: take a previously highfalutin cut of cow (avec New York marketing credentials) and chicken fry its ass. Some of my friends have nitpicked over the greens or the vertical presentation, but I think it’s perfect the way it is. Beaver’s is no holds barred Texas food, and the CFS is probably the best example of this philosophy. And that barbecue I was bashing before? It’s better, too. The sampler includes some pretty stellar sausage, pork ribs and brisket that even a Texas barbecue fan could appreciate. Best of all are the beef ribs, which have a fantastic smoke flavor and great texture.

Bacon and Egg Biscuit, available for brunch. Photo courtesy of Houston Foodie (used with permission; view blog)

A week and half ago, my wife and I found ourselves at Beaver’s for the end of the UT/Tech game. To my left sat three UT fans, sipping Bud Lights. To my right sat two couples drinking British brews, eating dinner and getting ready for a night out on Washington. My wife and I shared an order of wings and two cocktails.

“What’s THAT?” said the UT fan to my left, pointing out my Sazerac, with a lemon twist garnish.

“A Sazerac! It’s a classic cocktail from New Orleans.” I replied.

“Oh…. Cool!” he said, and turned to watch the end of the game.

Sidecar and Sazerac

The fact that three completely different groups of people can get their food and drink on and be totally at ease is why I love Beaver’s. There may be better restaurants in Houston, but Beaver’s is my favorite.

2310 Decatur Street


  1. i'm one of those "friends" who "have nick(sic) picked over the greens or the VERTICAL presentation" and i have to defend my point - and i realize my criteria may be considered dubious:

    let me begin by saying that i thoroughly enjoy the CFNYS. its just the stacking that bothers me. for several reasons:

    1. at $22 for a CFS, i think i should be in charge of how my sides intermingle.

    2. all the moist elements in contact with both sides of the bread, sully the structural integrity of said bread

    3. im most often at beavers after dark. and as often on the patio. its so dark there that (as presented) its hard to discern how much of which element i have on any forkfull.

    maybe im being petty?

  2. How embarrassing.

    Spelling error and incorrect link corrected.

  3. Theo...GREAT post! Makes me proud! I never had the opportunity to eat there before JJ was at the helm...I've had some ups and downs over the last year of eating there, but I must say, over the past 3 months, he's TRULY stepped it up.
    I LOVE LOVE LOVE the Chickwich Pit Boss (why's it gotta be Man food?) and the Veggie Nut Burger (you'd be hard pressed to find a better veggie burger in the country in my opinion).
    @wgzn - As for the CFSNY Strip Sammie...it is ALL about the presentation...this is part of JJ's style and his art. He actually deep fries the bread as to not have the slaw mush down so much it makes the whole thing a mess...along with gravy etc. I think it is a bit steep for $22 but considering it would feed 3 comfortably, what's a messy sandwich amongst friends???

  4. I've eaten at Beavers 2x, once before JJ and once after. The improvement was remarkable. The pork ribs superb and the burger (beef/pork ground with bacon!!!!!) was outstanding. I'm so glad those limp sweet potatoe fries vanished. In their place, order the queso with a beef brisket appetizer dumped on top. YEA!

  5. Just getting around to respond...

    Being critical, I actually have to say the bad ass po' boy isn't my favorite item just because of the fried bread as I think it's too "drippy" if you know what I mean.

    I totally disagree on the wanting to be in charge of intermingling sides. This isn't black eyed pea. The sloppy bread doesn't bother me as it's just texas toast anyways. I think that may be the point: to soak up the slop.