Food & Drink » Food & Drink Etc.

Come hungry

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It’s not often I set out to review a restaurant with a 5-year-old in tow, and the dynamic is decidedly different from my usual routine. Let it first be said that he was not susceptible in the least to the elusive charms of Cowcatchers’ rusty, corrugated tin siding or the once-pegged pieces of antique barns that have been reassembled into columns in the dining room. Nor did the chuckwagon lofted above the dining-room floor on hefty beams garner the gasps I expected. Oh well, maybe he was just more sophisticated than I imagined. Or maybe he was simply tired after a long day, as he did end up stretched out across two of the CCS-branded, and locally made dining chairs. The kids’ menu cheese pizza barely got a glance, and the steak fries fared little better.

I didn’t try the pizza, unanimously determined to be of the pre-fab variety by those who inspected it, but I concur that the steak fries were of only moderate interest —their size (large) and greasiness (none) being the major virtues. Though they were really superfluous on a menu devoted to rib-eye, sirloin and petite filet steak (there’s not even a grilled tuna or salmon for the flesh-phobic), the previously sampled steak bites that are no longer on the appetizer menu did offer a different taste profile — lighter on the mesquite. The fried onion rings and mushrooms, coated with the same seasoned flour — heavy on the black pepper — were still in fine form, however, and the current verdict is this: The crackling-crisp seasoned coating works better on the juicy mushrooms (be careful, they’re hot); they have the power to fight back — an observation that nevertheless didn’t deter us from making a decent dent in the huge mound of rings.

Large portions aren’t limited to appetizers, of course. The entrée plates are also of the Paul Bunyan persuasion — not surprising when it’s possible to get a 2-inch rib-eye weighing in at 22 ounces. The 3/4-inch rib-eye tips the scales at a modest 12 ounces, but as the management isn’t averse to splitting, two of us shared a
1-1/4-inch model and still took a little home. Coarsely cracked black pepper, the kitchen’s spice of choice, was the only obvious seasoning this baby seems to have received, and the thickness means the mesquite flavor — which can get almost acrid if used to excess — is confined primarily to the crust. The perfectly rosy interior was allowed to taste like the beefy, Certified Angus it is, making the steak a star-blessed companion to a bottle of equally straightforward Rosemount Shiraz from the limited wine list.

The mesquite logically has more effect on the thinner, grilled, and black-peppered chicken breast, but it isn’t overwhelming, and a degree of moistness does remain. The 16-ounce pork chop, measuring a respectable 1-3/4 inch (no, I don’t carry a tape measure with me; the measuring was done in the comfort and safety of my own home), is cooked to the rosy-pink color that today’s pork permits, and despite being adequately flavorful, was way more generous than its intended recipient could cope with — especially after having consumed most of a fully loaded baked potato.

If they’re still as surprisingly impressive as they were on a previous visit a few months ago, the green beans sautéed with bacon and onions are the side of choice, with the sautéed mushrooms and onions a close second. It’s otherwise pilaf, potatoes, or perish. House salads are fresh and colorful, but dressing on the side is a good idea; the honey-mustard is sweeter than I would have liked, though the house vinaigrette with feta comes closer to its target. Should you be going to Cowcatchers with the idea of dining lightly, a foolish idea on the face of it, there are two entrée salads, one with grilled chicken breast, the other with sliced steak. Take your dressing on the side here, too.

Another foolish idea would be to ignore the house-made cobblers, especially on weekends when they’re made outdoors in footed dutch ovens over a bed of coals with more coals heaped on the lids.

“This makes `the vessels` really act like ovens,” said the Central-Casting character manning the exterior chuckwagon. (For added atmosphere in a place already ladeling it on, he also passes through the dining room about every 30 minutes handing out biscuits freshly made from a Pioneer Flour Mills mix.) We picked blackberry over the peach, apple, and cherry due to the likelihood of the berries being fresh — and indeed it seems they were; the taste, light on the cinnamon, was terrific. But in the face of the authentic-camp-cook buildup, I’m reluctantly forced to admit that the texture didn’t hold up its end of the bargain, the batter making more of a glue than a biscuit-like topping. (CCC did admit he’d been hired for show as much as anything.) But the enormous scoop of vanilla ice cream that came with the cobbler tamed any serious criticism. The 5-year-old still playing possum, the remaining four of us couldn’t even finish this platter, and as ice cream doesn’t travel well, it was reluctantly left on the table. Come hungry, leave happy might well be the Cowcatchers motto. The place delivers what it promises, and the twain (thee and them) just need be in tune.

Cowcatchers Steaks
1100 Bulverde Rd., Bulverde
(830) 980-6080
Cowcatchers.net
5-9:50pm Mon-Thu;
5-10:30pm Fri & Sat;
noon-8pm Sun
Entrées: $15.99-$38.99
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