Overview: Owner John Gilbert opened his new saloon concept in January 2011 inside Gilley’s 91,000 square-foot entertainment venue, and, like the venue itself, the restaurant definitely draws a diverse crowd. Exposed brick walls and autographed guitars (Sheryl Crow, Pat Greene, and more) add to the venue-vibe while a massive circular bar sits dead center at the core of the restaurant. Even during the lunch hour, the place felt alive with disco balls gleaming overhead and giant bottles of Jack Daniels sitting in glass cases (they’re empty … I asked). Not only did the décor fit the saloon theme, but the staff plays along as well, yelling from the bar “hey sweetie, where do you want to sit and what are you drinking?” as soon as I walked through the door.
Jump for more.
Menu: In my opinion, the best parts of this menu can be found in the appetizer section. Hannah’s Fried Pickle Chips ($4.95; named after Gilbert’s 11-year-old daughter who gets a batch of these weekly from her dad), Vaquero Quesadillas ($7.50) and giant Texas 1015 Onion Rings ($5.95). Their quesadillas are one of the best things on the menu, loaded with chicken or steak—never skimping on the cheese! They also offer over-sized salads, Southern-style fried baskets, Shiner Bock Chili ($5.50), and tons of great sandwiches and wraps.
What we ate: Already in the saloon mindset, I went with Gilley’s Original BBQ ($6.00) sandwich with slow smoked beef brisket and black pepper BBQ sauce and a side of sweet potato fries. Although the sandwich was excellent once I drenched it in the homemade sauce, the incredibly tender brisket fell out at even the slightest touch, making it hard to eat unless you use a fork and knife. The not-too-thin-not-too-thick sweet potato fries won the meal over for me though, with the perfect combination of sweet and salty in each bite. My good ol’ Texas-boy-at-heart friend went with the bartender’s recommendation: The 1/2 Pound Saloon Burger ($6.95), with American cheese, red onions, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and an onion and pickle ranch dipping sauce with a side of sweet potato fries and Hannah’s Fried Pickle Chips—his first fried pickle ever, y’all! Again, although this was an above average burger, it was forced to sit in the shadow of those ridiculously awesome fried pickles. Lightly battered, seasoned with salt and peppers (black and cayenne), we both could have made a meal of just pickle chips.
Extras: I would venture to say, based on my experience that their sides rule the roost here. Their desserts are legendary, but they also offer free soft-serve vanilla cones after the meal. If you’re hankering for the Jack Daniel’s Whiskey Chocolate Pecan Pie ($5.95), save room because these portions are huge! The food here is definitely worth the money, and the service was over the top great.