Unlike so many bars, restaurants, and clubs that come and go on Washington Avenue, Beaver's has managed to pull off an impressive run since opening in late 2007. Not only has it survived the departure of its high-profile chef, Jonathan Jones—who joined Beaver's in 2008 before departing two years later to open the short-lived Xuco Xicana—but it's also survived Houston's notoriously short attention span when it comes to food.
I attribute Beaver's success to what my father calls "stick-to-it-tiveness," namely the restaurant's ability to understand why its patrons come night after night and consistently deliver the product they're seeking. And in Beaver's case, that product is inventive comfort food and clever cocktails in a quirky, slightly polished icehouse setting.
One of the perenially popular dishes off Beaver's menu is its macaroni and cheese, the twirls of creamy pasta topped with a crispy crust of breadcrumbs. So it should come as no surprise that its new fall menu has expanded on the dish and, true to "inventive comfort food" form, has diversified your mac 'n' cheese options. You can now choose from Classic Mac (with three cheeses), Mexi-mac (with housemade chorizo and pico de gallo), Garden Mac (with broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, basil, and feta), Chili Cheese Mac (with housemade chili, Fritos, Cheddar cheese, and white onions), Chicken Pesto Mac (with grilled chicken, pesto, and roasted red peppers), and BBQ Mac (with house-smoked chopped beef, barbecue sauce, and crispy onions).
My boyfriend and I tried out the Mexi-mac and the Chili Cheese Mac this past Sunday evening, pointedly ignoring the silly Garden Mac but split over whether to throw the BBQ Mac into our order too. In the end, I wish we had. While the Chili Cheese Mac was everything promised and more, the Mexi-mac suffered under the weight of its ingredients.
Chorizo in mac 'n' cheese sounds great in theory, but the housemade stuff at Beaver's is too heavy on cinnamon and nutmeg—spices that don't really belong in chorizo to begin with and certainly don't meld well with cheese. The pico de gallo made the cheese sauce too runny, and the entire dish was pushed away rather quickly.
I was thrilled to find, however, that the Chili Cheese Mac actually outperformed its brother from another mother—also called Chili Cheese Mac—at Jus' Mac. The ingredients were more well-integrated here, and the dish sported the perfect ratio of crunchy Fritos and sinus-clearing raw onions to silky, cheesy pasta. Equally well-matched was the crisply hoppy Roshambo IPA on draft—an unusual find, as you don't often see the Karbach brew on tap around town.
And because—between the beer and the pasta—we clearly hadn't gotten our carb fix that evening, I opted for the daily special for dessert: pumpkin pie bread pudding. It was soft and sweet and earthy and warmly spiced and made me wonder why no one had paired the two before.
A quick Google search revealed that at least a couple of people had, though. If you're still on the lookout for an inventive dessert to bring to Thanksgiving, I can't think of anything better than Food & Wine's recipe for pumpkin pie bread pudding with bourbon-pecan sauce.