Restaurant Reviews

At Glass Boot Biergarten, Big Boots to Swill

Outdoor drinking spaces are hardly a differentiator in this town. Most restaurants have at least some summertime seating, and many have stunning, carefully designed spaces that envelop drinkers in a temporary hideaway, outfitted with ample booze, that can last as long as they can drink. Look at the shipping container-framed gravel lot outside Chicken Scratch and Foundry in Oak Cliff, the cedar-pergola-covered patio at Goodfriend or the fantasy junkyard that is Truck Yard. They're often packed with people, even when the weather is the weather.

A biergarten faces even more specific competition: the Blind Butcher, which opened up on Greenville Avenue five months ago and has been busy every day since. The Butcher's owners refer to the space as a fine-dining pub of sorts, but the handcrafted sausages, one-liter mugs of beer and extensive outdoor patio scream biergarten louder than a drunken American at Oktoberfest.

Even without such competition, running any restaurant is hard, as Blake and Di Ann Bogus learned with their first business, Knox Street Pub, on McKinney Avenue. They sold buckets of bottled beer and kept their dance floor filled with booty shakers for seven years, but a new landlord raised the rent and their profit margin ground to dust. They sold the pub and started looking for the next opportunity.

The couple wanted to land on Henderson Avenue. Looking at the old Café San Miguel building, they shared with the landlord their plans for a German-style pub, with plenty of outdoor space. He showed them the rundown corner store tucked between the Slip Inn and the Mid-Century furniture store Form, at the corner of Henderson and McMillan. The Save Mart space didn't look like much, but the landlord promised to gut the place, and the Boguses were told they could use the parking lot out front to build out a patio. The Glass Boot Biergarten was born.

Now instead of refrigerators filled with tall boys, a short run of beer taps juts out from a wall promising a small selection of German imports. A long copper-topped bar runs the back of the space, and flat-screen TVs project the Rangers game, at least until the World Cup arrives. There are tables, but the indoor seating area has nothing on what's outside the two roll-up doors that frame the patio. The parking spaces that used to accommodate a handful of cars now hold seven long, communal tables that can hold 20 customers each. Two large pergolas provide some shade, and a cobblestone arch ties it all together.

Those tables might be one of the Glass Boot's greatest assets. When the weather's good, say some time in late September when heat finally gives way and everyone collectively reaches for a stein of Oktoberfest, those tables are going to be a great place to sit, drink, meet new people and drink to all the sitting and new-people-meeting you've been doing.

If they'd also built a great place to eat, the Boguses would have a stand-out drinking establishment, but as it stands they blend in with Henderson Tap Room, Capitol Pub and Jay Black's, all of which turn out passable but forgettable bar food.

At least here it's German-themed. The Boguses developed the menu themselves, sourcing sausages from Siegi's in Oklahoma. You can order a plump beerwurst with a finely ground and springy texture, and other German links like smaller Nürnbergers, which come in pairs, and weisswurst and knockwurst. Or maybe you'd prefer to nibble on a smoky Polish kolbasse or even smokier Cajun andouille. And to prove that no sausage is left behind, a mild Italian sausage joins a number of Franken-sausages made with ingredients including chicken and cheese.

All of these are offered up in a basket with a roll if you wish (why bother?) and a choice of sides and toppings. There's a passable potato salad a la Americana, but you'd do better to get the tangy German salad that has just enough bacon. Whatever you do, don't sleep on the french fries, which are cut on-site and fried until they're a deep, rich brown. Pair them with the curry ketchup and a brat to end up with a solid rendition of currywurst that will definitely take you to Germany.

Another classic biergarten play, the Bavarian pretzel, was a source of contention for the Boguses as they prepared to open. Di Ann says she and her husband tried to make the twisted bread in house before eventually turning to a local baker to produce a pretzel so large it could be used as a flotation device. The bright-yellow "butter" served on the side belongs in the garbage, but with some spicy mustard, the pretzel, if a little bready and out of proportion, is a good dish for sharing.

The potato latkes, on the other hand, are a flop. Not enough of the water is removed from the potatoes before they're fried, and while the outsides crisp up the insides are mushy, like an undercooked pancake. The runny applesauce that pools on the plate only further ruins your springtime Chanukah. These won't cut it if you've ever had a really good latke, where bits of errant potato stick out like crunchy sea urchin spines and the insides maintain their texture and the whole thing resembles the best hash brown you've ever had in your life. Some sour cream on the side would up the authenticity ante, too.

From the rest of the menu, a mix of flatbreads and sandwiches, there are no standouts, unless you reach for the Bavarian nachos. The kitchen has already proved to be deft with non-shredded spuds, and here they're sliced nickel-thin, fried and topped with cheese, sausage, tomatoes and onions. They're better than most Tex-Mex versions you'll find around town, but they're not captivating enough to elicit a visit on their own, unless, of course, you've come for the beer drinking in the first place.

This is the Glass Boot Biergarten, after all, and they do serve beer in massive boot-shaped glasses, along with sizable glass mugs. Happy hour and other specials make drinking here easy on the wallet, too, which may explain why the crowds are biggest here after work and during brunching hours on the weekend, though the place is still new. By fall, you might see customers drinking later into the evening. And with a little work on the menu, this place could be worthy of breaking out the lederhosen.

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Scott Reitz
Contact: Scott Reitz

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