Old Texas Brewing Co. Grill aims to be the first craft brewery in Johnson County. Unfortunately, Rick and Dena Hazen, the married couple that co-own the place, do not have their license to brew just yet. The Hazens have been waiting patiently for their application to be approved by the federal government for well over a year. The lack of an actual brewery is frustrating to them, but it’s not as big a problem for their diners: Already, Old Texas’ beer menu is larger than some bar beer menus. There’s a ton of local (Rahr & Sons Brewing Co., Martin House), semi-local (Lakewood Brewing Co.), and statewide (Shiner) beer to choose from.
For an appetizer, the hushpuppy fish poppers were amazing. The clean, sweet taste of the Atlantic whitefish (blessedly not muddy-tasting tilapia) and the salty, crunchy cornmeal batter combined perfectly, and the homemade Cajun-spiced tartar sauce was lovely –– it took a great amount of will power not to lick the ramekin.
The brisket-stuffed jalapeños also sounded too good not to try as a starter. Four large, plump peppers had been de-seeded (the membrane holding the seeds to the pepper provides most of the caustic burn) and then stuffed with smoked brisket folded into a mild, creamy cheese. Wrapped in bacon and fried, the delectables were just hot enough, and the contrast between the cheese and spice was heavenly. The flavor of the tender brisket faded a little into the background, but the thick-cut bacon more than made up for that.
Actually, the appetizer menu is so loaded with interesting choices that my table of three picked another starter, the brisket nachos, as an entrée. What arrived was a massive pile of thick queso, more of that brisket, and some tomatoes atop enough chips to feed a soccer team. Seriously, there was way too much food. The brisket, like all of the other barbecue goodies, is smoked out back –– it’s nice to be able to eat barbecue without smelling like you’ve eaten barbecue. The queso/brisket combination was delicious, but the plethora of chips was overkill.
The best way to get a good sampling of a place’s ’cue is usually via a combo plate. Old Texas’ plate included pork shoulder, sausage links, and sliced brisket. Each meat had a nice but not overly strong smoke flavor. The pork was amazingly tender, and the sausage links were plump. I thought the brisket was only average, maybe a little chewy, but a dining companion loved it. The accompanying sauce was more honey-molasses sweet than spicy, and a little of it went a long way.
Finally, the Old Town cheeseburger (named after Old Town Burleson, where the restaurant is located) was pretty much everything you could want in a burger. Topped with the traditional fixin’s and your choice of cheese, the 8-ounce patty had been scrupulously grilled, with the resultant char markings and mouthwatering flavor as evidence. (The beef came out medium rare; if you want it any other way you should probably speak up when you order.)
The Hazens decided to open in Burleson instead of Tarrant County because, as Dena said, Burleson is short on non-chain, semi-fancy eats. Equal parts bar, barbecue joint, and old-fashioned family restaurant, Old Texas Brewing Co. Grill is a welcome oasis of independence in the wasteland of chain establishments that is North Johnson County.
Old Texas Brewing Co. Grill
112 W Ellison St, Burleson. 817-447-2337. 8am-10pm Sun, 11am-12am Mon-Wed, 11am-2am Thu-Fri, 8am-2am Sat. All major credit cards accepted.
Hushpuppy fish poppers ….. $5.99
Brisket-stuffed jalapeños …. $8.49
Brisket nachos ………………. $11.99
Barbecue combo plate ……. $13.99
Old Town cheeseburger ….. $9.99