Downtown Conroe has a new destination for upscale roadhouse cuisine, craft beer, and live music.
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Pacific Yard House seems to have changed direction. With the departure of opening GM Rick Novak, the new management direction is not encouraging. Fresh ingredients are being replaced by frozen ones, and the well-designed menu is being dumbed down. Our beer expert reports that the promising craft beer menu offering is now much more generic.
We had high hopes for Pacific Yard House, but now we have trouble recommending it. A shame.
Downtown Conroe is shaping up as a great area to spend an evening out. In the area near the courthouse, a number of independent restaurants, coffee houses, and bars have popped up, making this walkable district a nice alternative to driving into Houston.
The new (opened September 2017) Pacific Yard House is the latest addition to this growing scene. Located about two blocks southeast of the courthouse, Pacific Yard House combines a tight, well edited menu, a full bar, craft beer, and live music to create a new destination for dinner and an evening out.
When you enter Pacific Yard House, on your right is a large, inviting bar. A phalanx of taps is front and center, with notable local and national craft brews represented. A full selection of top shelf liquor is also on display, and the attractive crowd (ranging from 20’s to 50’s) is perched on high barstools enjoying the scene.
Looking around the establishment, you see the exposed brick, woodwork, and industrial details that reveal the building’s history. Built in 1907, the historic building has housed a wash house, and ice house, and according to rumor, a brothel. The building was most recently known as the Sparkle Ice House, but it had fallen into disrepair by the 1970’s. Fortunately, local resident Pat Moritz and her business partner Ron Boyd recognized the historic significance of the building, and preserve it until local businessman Mike Postel purchased the building and began the painstaking renovation that resulted in what we see today.
Befitting the roadhouse atmosphere, large, state-of-the-art flat screen TVs are scattered throughout the establishment, making Pacific Yard House a great place to cheer the Texans (or the Cowboys, if you have questionable judgement) to victory.
After nine, live music kicks in, and the Yard House starts hopping. Local talent is presented on the featured stage, and sound in the house is remarkably good, especially considering all of the exposed vintage brick.
Outside, the finishing touches are being put in place on a spacious patio area, across the street from the train track. And this is an active track, with trains scooting by every half-hour or so.
But enough about the cool setting, the bar, and the live music. Let’s talk about the food.
Generally, when you walk into a bar with live music, you don’t have terribly high expectations about the food. But our expectations were a smidgen higher than usual, knowing Rick Novak was involved. Rick is both a talented chef and an experienced restaurant manager, his resume including Crisp and Hubbell & Hudson Bistro.
We were immediately drawn to the chicken-fried steak, a benchmark dish of ours.
Pacific Yard House serves an outstanding version that completes the CFS trifecta: Flavorful, tender steak, beautifully crisp, tasty crust, and a soulful cream gravy, gently peppered and with just a twist of craft beer flavor. This is one of the best chicken-fried steaks in the region.
Next up was the pub favorite, fish and chips.
Pacific Yard House puts their spin on the classic: Large slabs of cod, gently fried in a crisp, peppery crust, is moist and tender. The classic malt vinegar is nowhere to be seen (we’re in Texas, y’all) and tartar sauce, or our choice, the excellent housemade cocktail sauce, is served alongside. Thick-cut potato wedges with a zesty crust are offered, but we substituted the excellent mashed potatoes and fresh corn.
Update: Due to multiple requests, malt vinegar is now available.
Our final test was one of our favorite sandwiches: A New York-style reuben. Avoiding the deli cliche of the towering behemoth of a reuben, the Yard House chefs prepare a more petite version, with moist, juicy corned beef and an excellent housemade Russian dressing. The flavor was generally mild and nicely balanced, but we think they might have taken things a smidgen too far in terms of manageable portion size; we wouldn’t be surprised to see the reuben gain a bit of heft in upcoming weeks. All in all, we were impressed with the food at Pacific Yard House. The menu wisely avoids straying from classic roadhouse dishes that will please a large audience. The kitchen exceeds expectations with high-quality ingredients and skillful execution, and the beautifully restored historic building is a great setting for an evening out with friends and family.
We’re looking forward to returning.