As Adam Platt and nearly everyone else noted, Hill Countrys stark menu featured items that were perfect models of simplicity as self-contained as sashimi: brisket, ribs, sausage, chicken, and a few semi-random specials like short ribs and pork loin. No more. Newly installed pitmaster Pete Daversa, 33, has begun expanding the Hill Country menu, and the results have been explosive. I made ten racks of boar ribs the other day, and they sold out before we could write them on the menu, he tells us.
New dishes are still in the pipeline, but the current crop of rotating specials is already causing a stir in barbecue circles. Thursdays will bring a cowboy steak for two, a bone-in rib-eye steak that is infinitely more enjoyable than the old prime rib, if only by virtue of supplying more surface area for browning and smoking. Daversa applies his own seasoning (three different chiles and three types of sugar) to lamb chops on Fridays for the restaurant's sole departure from the house salt-and-pepper rub. Friday night will also bring a Brandt strip steak to the menu. Saturdays are the wild-boar ribs gamey, rich, exotic things from the Broken Arrow Ranch in the Texas Hill Country.
Most exciting of all, Daversa is adding smoked burgers to the late-night bar menu on Friday and Saturday, starting at 10 p.m. These potently juicy little monsters are created from a mix of Brandt strip steak and smoked brisket fat, and rival Restos famous sliders in every way. We were great believers in the former pitmaster at Hill Country, Robbie Richter. But Daversa is an ideal successor, taking Hill Country forward as the barbecue arts continue to grow.