As Seen in Beertown Austin
Nolan Ryan was one of the all-time great pitchers, and he’s become a “hometown boy” in practically every city and town in Texas. In central Texas, he’s still involved with baseball, through (part-) ownership of the Round Rock Express. People who don’t follow baseball, and can’t tell the difference between a maplewood bat and a Congress Bridge bat, can still recognize Nolan through his many advertising appearances.
I guess you could say that Nolan’s held onto his home field advantage, at least here in the Lone Star State.
Ryan’s also a rancher; has been for a while now. Ranching means beef cattle, at least here in Texas. Nolan now sells his beef as a signature product. High-quality, lean, range-fed beef. No matter where you live in Texas, there’s likely to be a place near you where you can buy Nolan Ryan’s Beef.
And now there’s one just north of my house.
Okay, we don’t buy a lot of beef on the open market anymore. Not with active ranching in the Clan. However, beef’s still featured on menus where we dine. One such place is the newly-opened HomeField Grill in Round Rock. This restaurant has a modern look and feel, and it’s big. Over 350 diners can eat comfortably at once, and that doesn’t include their private party rooms. The service staff wear cheerleader outfits, but don’t get HomeField confused with, say, Hooter’s. No, this is a family-friendly place, with a game arcade and more.
PJ and I decided to give them a whirl, so we headed over there about 7:30 after work. There was a lot going on inside, but they were far from full. I think it’s because they’re so new yet. We were led to a table near the picture-window that overlooks the grill, and that suited us fine. We weren’t interested in the sports on the big screens, and where we were, there wasn’t a lot of that to see. It wasn’t quiet, but we could talk and not feel like we were in the middle of a mob. And I could watch the chef and cooks work; good fun!
HomeField’s menu is varied, all American fare. Appetizers (First and Ten), ranging in price from $5.95 for items like Queso Casero up to a Grand Slam Combo (spinach artichoke dip, Queso Casero, black bean hummus and Holy Guacamole, with chips and salsa) for $14.95. Soups include chicken tortilla, tomato basil bisque, baked potato, and a house specialty: “World’s Wurst Chili,” with sausage chunks and habañero chiles; no beans.
There is a variety of salads, and some interesting items called Flamethrower Flatbreads. Not really pizza, and they looked scrumptious. They really use a blowtorch to finish them! There’s half a dozen sandwiches offered, as well as several burger styles. Or you can make your own burger. Sandwiches run from $6.95 for a BLT up to $9.95 for a meaty French Dip. The specialty burgers are $8.95 each. If you build a monster burger with extra toppings, the extras will set you back a buck for two, after the first two toppings.
If you want more than a sandwich, HomeField has nearly a dozen dinner entrées, ranging from Veggie Lasagna to Hall of Fame steaks (remember the beef?), and includes Shrimp Diablo and a chicken-fried steak platter (of course).
PJ and I didn’t want to go for a big meal, so we decided on appetizers and dessert, with a shared bowl of soup tossed in for good measure. We sprang for the Cheddar Bats and the Beer Battered Fried Pickles. The soup we chose was the Tomato Basil Bisque. I had the St. Arnolds Root Beer as my drink, and PJ went “adult” with an Amaretto Sour. (Yes, they have a nice bar.)
The Cheddar Bats were very nice; the pickles, not so much. Cheddar, wrapped in prosciutto (which is snooty bacon, as you know), then breaded and deep-fried. What’s not to like? I could eat several platters of them, if they weren’t on my doctor’s proscribed list. (I’m sure they’re there, somewhere.) The pickles were dill spears, which are easier to bread and fry than chips (a lot less work), but the batter can get soggy and/or fall off very quickly since pickle spears retain a lot of liquid not matter how hard you dry them. I liked the flavor, PJ rather didn’t. So I got almost all the batch. Having been weaned on a dill pickle some decades ago, that was okay by me.
The soup came out in a deceptively deep bowl. At first I thought, “what a small serving.” Then as we dug in, we found out it was a lot more soup than we thought. Very tasty too! One of the hits of the evening, in our estimation. Creamy, with a rich tomato flavor; nice!
About this time PJ got a call from her bestest buddy, who was just leaving work. She bee-lined over to join us and we ordered a burger for her while she traveled. She wanted onion rings, but we found out that HomeField doesn’t do onion rings. Odd, but they’ve never done them. They have enough deep-fried food, I guess, and they don’t want the hassle of making the rings themselves, nor the backlash of serving frozen rings to their clientele. Makes sense, but still rather odd. We ordered curly fries instead for the D-Lady, and she was okay with that.
We tried out the dessert sampler from the Sweet Victory section of the menu. A mini-pie (cherry, my favorite!), a nice slice of vanilla cheesecake with strawberry sauce, and a chocolate brownie with ice cream. Blue Bell Vanilla Bean. Their choice of ice cream shows class, in line with their beef supply. None of the dessert survived very long, sad to say. The only bit of it that was less than expected was the pie. The small pastry cup wasn’t quite cooked through, so it was a bit doughy. Still, it’s pie; I didn’t make PJ suffer with any of it, I sacrificed myself to save her.
Next month, Flix Brewhouse will open next door to HomeField. They’re owned by the same management group, and I can hardly wait. It sounds like an Alamo Draft House, only maybe better. (Certainly closer to us, which is something.) Microbrewery beer, chef-prepared food and current-release movies; a winning combo! I can hardly wait.
We’ll be back to HomeField, I’m sure. Lots of good ol’ American favorites still to try. The niggles we noted from our snacks and desserts weren’t show-stoppers by any means! So thumbs-up for HomeField. Next time we’ll try a cut of one of Nolan’s cows.
Here’s something to consider, besides the possibilities with Flix Brewhouse. HomeField has Happy Hour Monday-Friday, from 3:30 PM to 7:30 PM. And Sunday through Thursday, they offer a neat deal called “Late Night Apps and Taps.” Two bucks for draft beer, $3 well drinks, $5 for appetizers (valued up to $7.95), and half off their signature Flamethrower Flatbreads. Sounds great to me!
HomeField Grill, 2000 S. IH-35, Suite D-1, Round Rock, TX 78681. Phone 512.388.HOME Open seven days a week, lunch, dinner and late. Reservations suggested for larger parties. Scott Reed, executive chef; Walt Powell, VP of Operations; Dennis Allen, Asst. General Manager. Tell’em the Chile Doctor sent you. (You won’t get anything for that, but it sounds impressive, yes?)
Enjoy the (Ryan Express Beef) Heat!
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