Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Hungry in Hutto

Let’s say that you are in beautiful downtown Hutto, TX and are looking for lunch. Well, you don’t have to look far. Within the space of half a block, you will find three choices—Mario’s Mexican Restaurant (Who knew that Mario was a Hispanic name?), the Texan Café (The building with the large plaster steer’s head seen in yesterday’s blog.), and our destination—The Downtown Hall of Fame. (As Lucas C. said at foursquare.com: “Everybody is someone famous at the Downtown Hall of Fame!)
“Neon signs and televisions cover the walls of The Downtown Hall of Fame restaurant and bar…. Eclectic tunes fill the venue, which offers a collection of live music, sports entertainment, and creatively composed drinks and food in a family-friendly setting.


“Judi Smith and her husband, Sean, opened The Downtown Hall of Fame…after moving to Hutto. Owning a restaurant and bar with her husband was a longtime dream, she said, and securing financing and the location in Hutto’s downtown district was serendipitous. ‘We moved out here, and this happened by accident,’ she said. ‘It was one of those things where we had the background and the knowledge but not necessarily the money to start something. Somehow we got a loan, and it worked out. We got really lucky’” (Emilie Boenig Lutostanski and Nick Mace at impactnews.com).
It was a slow day in Hutto and few people were on the streets. And it also appeared to be a slow day at the HOF. Other than ourselves, I don’t think that there was ever more than four customers in the place.

But the Smiths have made a concerted effort to let people know that the HOF is not an “over 21 only” music club and bar. “’We did a lot of chalkboard signs outside that said ‘family friendly,’ and…we have started to notice we get a lot more lunch and dinners with families…’” (Emilie Boenig Lutostanski and Nick Mace at impactnews.com).

Kids eat free on Monday but they just might break the budget indulging in the $4 Kamikaze shots.
And best you keep your eyes on the kids, too many shots and they may decide to climb the ladder to this small lounging balcony that overlooks the bar area.

Sean Smith describes his menu as “…homestyle pub grub with an uptown twist,” and it is eclectic with nods to Texas barbecue, Mexican favorites, and American bar food. Wings can be ordered with any of the following sauces—buffalo, h.o.f. sauce, ranch, honey garlic parmesan, lemon pepper, dove rub, mango habanero, and cough sauce (waiver required). (I think that I read somewhere that the latter sauce is made with ghost peppers, which are considered to be the hottest peppers in the world.)
There is no end to the nacho varieties—vegetarian, pulled pork, Asian pulled pork, chicken, and beef—all of which come with house-made tortilla chips.

Sandwich offerings include: the Texas Reuben (a local favorite and lunch special on the day of our visit) with fresh sliced pastrami, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and house-made Russian dressing on marble rye Texas toast; a pulled pork sandwich with h.o.f. sauce, pickle, and onion; and The Henrietta with sliced brisket, h.o.f. sauce, pickle, and onion on Texas toast.

I had a hard time deciding and finally ordered—knowing in advance that this would be more food than I could eat—two appetizers. The first to arrive were the Brisket Stuffed Jalapenos made with pulled brisket, cheddar jack cheese, h.o.f. sauce, and scallions. Chuck took one look at this plate and announced his intention to have one.
The fresh jalapeno had cooked just enough to be warm but not soft and the meat was juicy and not overly smoky.

My second appetizer was the Asian Pulled Pork Nachos with homemade tortilla chips, pulled pork, spicy honey garlic sauce, jalapeno, cilantro, onion, parmesan jack cheese, and scallions.
These were outrageously good. The chips were thicker than I would want with a dish of salsa but were perfect in this creation since they never got limp and soggy. The sweet and spicy sauce was the ideal foil for the slightly smoky pulled pork. This was one of the better renditions of nachos ever.

Chuck also had a difficult time deciding but finally settled on another of the day’s lunch specials—the Jalapeno Cream Chicken.
The dish started with two very juicy seasoned boneless chicken breast cutlets that were topped with a jalapeno and cilantro cream sauce and chopped tomato and onion. There was a lot going on here and where there is a lot going on a lot can go wrong. Nothing went wrong. The different flavors all blended harmoniously. Take any one element out and the dish wouldn’t have been as good.

He had his choice of two sides—kettle cooked potato chips, house-made potato salad, house-made borracho beans, mashed potatoes, house-made black beans, loaded mashed potatoes, mac n' cheese, and veggies. And, of course, he chose two potatoes—the mashed and salad. The potato salad contained red skin-on potatoes, celery seed, pickle, and—perhaps—some mustard. The mashed contained a good amount of garlic and pepper and a bit too much salt.

Just before we left, Sean Smith came to work and we had the chance to compliment him on our meals—4.5 Addie meals—before we patted the mascot hippo on the head and headed off for one more stop.
When in the Information Center, the kindly woman who provided Chuck with information on Hutto mentioned the Westphalia Meat Market whose specialty is something they call Hippo Eggs.
What is a Hippo Egg, you may be asking. I’ll tell you. You start with a cream cheese stuffed jalapeno pepper. Then wrap it all around with about a third of an inch of good pork sausage. Then wrap it in good quality bacon. Heat at 350° for forty-five minutes. These are a real treat, as we learned later that night at supper!

To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.