When we travel, the bride can spot a power plant from 10 miles away. As a metallurgical engineer, she works on fossil (coal and gas) plants. Generally, the food at these plants is not all that great. Boiler 9 is an exceptional exception.
Located on the north shore of Lady Bird Lake and comfortably snuggled into present-day downtown, the Seaholm Power Plant was built in 1951, a bit late for its Art Moderne architecture, but its lack of hipness then saved it from the wrecking ball. About five years ago, the redeveloped space opened to offices and restaurants, including Boiler 9.
A restaurant in the boiler bay of an old art moderne power plant? The bride and I could barely contain ourselves.
The space is glorious: towering stacks washed in colored light, pipes galore, an authentic steam-punk aesthetic, and the calm lines of Art Moderne. Thankfully, Boiler 9 doesn’t use its gobsmacking location as an excuse to serve sub-par chow.
We didn’t make reservations for our first visit several years ago. “Would it be OK if we sat you at the chef’s bar?” The bride responded: “Don’t throw me in the briar patch!” We thoroughly enjoyed the food and discussions with the chef and have been big fans since.
Boiler 9 serves a range of food from brunch on the weekend to chef’d up bar food to elegant dinner plates all complemented with mixology from behind the bar. On a recent visit, we started with our old favorites beer bread (BBQ salt, smoked beef fat butter, and IPA beer jam; $7) and blue cheese stuffed dates (with bacon jam and hot sauce; $9). The beer bread is savory and delightful and could be served as breakfast, appetizer, or dessert. The dates are transcendental self-contained orgasmic flavor bombs.
After a quick post-co-date-al smoke(1), we brunched with the green chile pork enchilada stack (sunny side egg, salsa verde, avocado, queso fresca, pickled red onion, and cilantro; $14) and the smoked mushroom carbonara (bucatini pasta, arugula, Parmesan, shaved mushroom, fresh egg yolk, and pink peppercorn; $24), both rather fantastic. The enchilada stack was really a tostada stack (I believe they use ‘stack’ because of New Mexico’s penchant for flat enchiladas); regardless, the dish was magic conjured from basic ingredients.
The 9 serves up a decent burger and offers a variety of salads, sandwiches, seafood, and pasta and has a “from the grill” menu where you can order chicken, pork chops, and various steaks. Boiler 9 also hosts the Deck Nine Observatory Bar up above and The Boiler Room down below (in, you guessed it, an actual boiler room!).
The menu swings wide from bar food to high-end dining, which can be a risk for a restaurant, but it makes sense for this formerly blue collar (a Miller High Life Pony for $2 is on the menu) now aspirational (bottle of French Burgundy for $225) location.
The power plant is close to the lake, and the playspace nearby is often bustling with activity, especially since several high-rises, the Trader Joe’s, and the new Central Library opened up. Boiler 9 would be great for power lunches (get it? Power lunches? nevermind…), steamy dates, and electrifying experiences with out-of-town guests. Despite all the photos below, we haven’t tried everything on the menu, but everything we’ve tried has been memorably good.
web&where: interwebs; 800 west cesar chavez street; menus; reservations
what’s the deal? chef’d up chow and drink in an old power plant; table-side and bar service
overall: **** (food***; drink;***; atmosphere****; service***; instagrammability****)
does it scramble? If there’s anything left over!
– meh [think twice]
* OK [it’ll get the job done]
** good [solid neighborhood joint]
*** damn good [we’ll definitely be back]
**** yippity-yikes that was amazeballs [fantastic; one of the best]
***** holy sh!t [transcendental; best of the best]
(1) Actually, we don’t smoke, but those dates make you want to.