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.
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.
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