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Food & Drink

Two Step provides a tale of architectural reuse

Photo: Photos by Richard Teitz, License: N/A

Photos by Richard Teitz

Restored limestone walls inside Two Step

Photo: , License: N/A

Blackened catfish tacos with beans.

Six years ago developer Steve Braha bought a piece of property along Highway 1604 on the far northwest side of town. He intended to create a retail and service mall. What's unusual is that the site included the remnants of a stone house and barn from the 1860s. And what's more unusual is he committed to retain these buildings and make them into the centerpiece of the mall — a South Texas style bar and restaurant.

Driving west to 1604 and Braun, it's hard to see much evidence of the German immigrants who settled this region in the post-Civil War era, when Comanche Indians made it a dangerous as well as difficult place to earn a living as farmers. Where others might have seen limestone rubble, Braha saw an opportunity to repurpose an historical property. His patience paid off, and he carefully retained and repaired exterior walls, while using interior walls to create a new bar area.

The large, main dining room that was the barn is linked to the house by a new metal structure that provides the reception area and a big, open grilling space. A series of glass garage doors allows the dining room to open out on a patio, where you can sit and enjoy Texas music on Thursday and Sunday evenings.

The dining room draws a fair crowd at lunch, but with seating for about 100, it looks uncrowded. It's a popular spot for work groups of 10 of 15 as well as couples just wanting a leisurely lunch. No pretension here. The flooring is poured and stained concrete, the high-ceiling ductwork is exposed, the tables are polished wood without cloths. The walls present a wonderful series of Texas subjects by San Antonio photographer Rick Hunter — cattle, people, landscapes. Rick does a great job of capturing the flavor of a bygone era.

Speaking of flavor, you're likely wondering when the reviewer is going to say something about the food! Not to worry. The menu is solid Southwestern, with an emphasis on smoked, grilled meats. Braha's partner, Steve Warner, and his wife Adrienne, are native Texans with a strong restaurant background (Steve worked with Macaroni Grill and Eddie V at Wildfish).

We began with a couple of margaritas, from an ample selection of upper-shelf brands. My dining companion said hers was a tad too strong, and of course we all know there is no such thing! Not too much choice of beer and wine yet. Cold Ziegenbock drafts sounded just right for a hot Texas afternoon.

We selected the stuffed avocado with smoked chicken salad, the priciest appetizer on the menu at $6.50. The chicken really does have a smoky taste. It's served with a small shredded lettuce salad, chive oil, and pecans. If you want a starter with more "bite," try the bacon-wrapped brisket stuffed in a jalapeño or the shrimp served with red pepper jelly.

There are only a couple of fish items on the menu, but my dining companion made fast work of the blackened catfish tacos with jalapeño coleslaw (milder than it sounds) with a smidgen of cilantro, and a hearty dish of borracho pinto beans. As a Yankee, I've never quite developed an enthusiasm for chicken-fried steak, but I noticed several orders at nearby tables.

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