Karen’s Pick: Boiler Nine Bar + Grill
Boiler Nine Bar + Grill
Choose from brunch, lunch or dinner, or three different places to dine, options are aplenty at this hopping downtown spot
by Karen Spezia
Photographs by Leah Muse
When Austinites bellyache about chic new restaurants threatening our town’s special weirdness, I direct their attention to places like Boiler Nine, a new eatery housed in an old power plant. How’s that for weird? And somehow, like most of Austin’s unique creations, it seems perfectly normal in our funky town.
Since 1949, the Seaholm Power Plant has been an iconic art deco landmark along the shores of Lady Bird Lake. But for the past two decades, the hulking concrete structure lay dormant. That is until some visionary developers transformed it into a thriving mixed-use space hosting office and residential tenants, plus popular retailers like Trader Joe’s and True Food Kitchen. In July 2016, Boiler Nine moved into a sprawling 11,000-squarefoot, four-story space, designed by Austin’s STG Design, who honored the building’s original art deco roots. The result is a dazzling industrial-steampunk mashup.
The multilevel restaurant offers three dining and drinking experiences — a rooftop bar, a multi level dining room, and a subterranean lounge that formerly housed its namesake boiler — each with its own unique menu. On the top floor is the Deck Nine Observatory Bar, an open-air patio with panoramic views of downtown, Lady Bird Lake, and the distant Hill Country. Its menu has a light and breezy vibe, featuring nibbles and drinks that lean toward festive frozen drinks, porch cocktails, and beachy highballs. We dove into a refreshing frozen Rio Verde cocktail, blended with tequila, Chartreuse, grapefruit, lime, and basil. The Negroni Special was classic perfection, with gin, vermouth, Campari, and Gran Classico. Green curry shrimp skewers and spicy fried cauliflower were tasty bites as we watched the sun set over Lady Bird Lake.
The main dining area, Boiler Nine Bar + Grill, is located on the middle two floors that overlook the open kitchen, wood-burning grill, and soaring cocktail bar. There’s also a small patio that opens onto a lush green courtyard. The modern American menu showcases wood-fired and -roasted dishes with bold, smoky flavors. For starters, the Beer Bread has become a cult favorite. The gooey sweet-and-savory roll is seasoned with caramelized onion, smoked beer fat butter, and barbecue salt and served with homemade beer jam. For sharing, the sausage platter is a sampling of three robust sausages: andouille, fennel-ginger, and smoked beef.
Save room for the star entrée: oak-roasted chicken, a succulent breast with perfectly crisped skin atop charred tomatoes and zucchini, hearty croutons, fresh basil, and a drizzle of red wine vinaigrette. It’s spectacular. All of executive chef Jason Stude’s dishes pair nicely with the impressive selections of wine director Paula Rester, such as a crisp Apremont, a smooth Spanish Garnacha Blanca, or a racy white Italian Friuli.
Desserts are also terrific. The fried honey hand pies are light and tender, served à la mode with purple lavender ice cream. The Milk Chocolate Crunch is a grown-up candy bar: dense and rich and laced with peanut butter and smoked salt. It paired beautifully with a glass of ripe, juicy South African Cinsault.
For nightcaps, head down to the lower-level Boiler Room, a basement cocktail laboratory that feels like a vintage speakeasy. Flickering candles, pulsing music, posh nibbles, and boozy cocktails are the rule at this sultry subterranean drinking den.
You can make a night of it at Boiler Nine, roaming from level to level, or make a beeline for the area that suits your current mood. With Boiler Nine, La Corsha Hospitality Group (Second Bar + Kitchen, Mattie’s at Green Pastures) has created a winning concept that reflects Austin’s desire to embrace its funky past while still moving toward the future.