Eats & Greets: Broken Barrel Brings Casual Elegance to The Woodlands

At newcomer Broken Barrel (1950 Hughes Landing #1900, The Woodlands), fine wines mingle with thoughtful presentations of globally-inspired cuisine from chef-owner Hilda Ysusi and business partner Joaquin Valle. A native of Mexico City, Ysusi’s culinary background includes education in Switzerland and at the Culinary Institute of America in New York before taking on a variety of roles at a steakhouse, Nestle Professional, and a sushi restaurant. At Broken Barrel—her first venture in Texas—the initial menu draws on Asian, Latin, and Mediterranean influences, plus fusions of all three.

Crispy olives set the tone for flavor and flair at Broken Barrel. Photo by Ellie Sharp

We were invited to try some dishes at this six-week-old concept, which included appetizers, a few brunch items, dinner dishes and cocktails. These included crispy battered and fried green olives served alongside a garlic and lemon aioli ($9), Paella Arancini (seasoned similarly to Spanish Paella) stuffed with creamy risotto topped with slightly spicy romesco sauce ($13), and the happy hour top-seller Japanese fried chicken “karaage,” or bite-sized cuts of chicken served hot and crunchy with kewpie mayo and ponzu for dipping ($8, available from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday). Oenophiles will love the 100-label wine list, with 25 available by the glass.

At brunch-time, don’t miss the Duck Quesadilla with vegetables and Spanish-style “tortilla” (similar to an omelet) with Monterrey Jack; ($15) or the Stuffed French Toast filled with cinnamon cream cheese, rolled in corn flakes and served with spiced syrup ($12).

The main dining room features chic-rustic decor and a glass garage door that opens to the lake-side patio. Photo by Ellie Sharp

Dinner selections include savory patatas bravas — potato wedges tossed with Spanish chorizo ($12); the “not your ham & cheese sandwich” featuring a toasty baguette lathered with goat cheese, folds of tender prosciutto, sweet housemade red wine jelly, and peppery arugula ($12); peanut-y shrimp fried rice with water chestnuts and red cabbage slaw ($16); and an oregano-spiked zucchini salad served chilled under a tangy-crunchy dressing of peanuts, cilantro, red onion, and feta ($13). The market fish (we were offered Texas red fish) comes with Greek style quinoa and Uruguayan chimichurri ($24). Another entrée selection is the spinach-stuffed chicken breast accompanied by smoked portobello mushrooms and sun dried tomato couscous ($22).

At Broken Barrel, it’s essential to order one of the great dessert selections like the donut ice cream sandwich featuring Captain Crunch dust ($9) and s’mores casserole, a twist on the campfire favorite beneath a dome of toasted marshmallows lies rich chocolate ganache and crushed graham crackers ($9).

The decadent s’mores casserole is almost as good as the real thing. Okay, it’s a tie. Photo by Ellie Sharp

Broken Barrel features a bar, dining room, and L-shaped patio that overlooks Lake Woodlands. It’s terrific to sit on that patio nosh on bar snacks, sip cocktails and people-watch. During our visit, we had a charming view of a row team practicing in the glow of sunset. Inside, artwork created by a friend of Ysusi’s decorates the walls while contemporary design blends with homey touches. Gray upholstered chairs complement rustic wood tables and exposed brick walls add warmth. Pops of color from bright yellow and turquoise accents keep the tone cheery.

All of this combined makes Broken Barrel a potential haven for everyone from brunch fiends to lunching ladies, happy hour hounds, and date night sweethearts.

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