Brewed opened last month on the Near Southside on a stretch of West Magnolia Avenue between Hot Damn, Tamales! and Yucatan Taco Stand, and from the start, the place seemed to struggle with being all things to all people: coffeehouse to professionals and students, brewpub to sophisticated tipplers, and café to foodies. The internet buzzed with the complaints of customers whose servers were simply overwhelmed by Brewed’s multiple menus. But on the day after Thanksgiving, Brewed was crowded with an interesting mix of folks –– twentysomething hipsters, middle-aged worker bees, elderly couples –– who all seemed to get along just fine in the eclectic atmosphere of vintage, non-matching furniture, mirrors, and maps on the walls. Although large selections of beer and coffee are Brewed’s main selling points, the upscale pub food was not half bad, and the service was just fine.
The meal started with a ho-hum appetizer: Texas pork-belly sliders — thick, tender cuts of pig flesh served on small, grilled, chewy buns. Although the meat was top-notch, the sweet Korean barbecue sauce had almost no flavor and the advertised “pickled cabbage slaw,” which was presumably a version of the fermented cabbage dish kim chi, had none of the garlic-ginger-hot pepper taste that makes that Korean side dish, at its best, so flavorful.
The bacon mac ’n’ three cheese was much better, a hot, gooey mound of slippery seashell pasta, salty bacon chunks that were the right combo of fatty and crunchy, and a sharp and smoky blend of gouda, Texas cheddar, and parmesan. The idea of serving meaty, heavy mac ’n’ cheese as an appetizer rather than an entrée still seems odd to me, but with more than one diner sharing it, the savory cheeses in this version should indeed whet your hunger for your entrée.