NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas – Since 1871, this building on San Antonio Street has seen a substantial amount of Lone Star State saloons.
But the bar that came to be in 1894 is the one people still talk about today – the Phoenix Saloon. Ross Fortune is an Englishman and proprietor of this very popular place.
Ross is a former music journalist that met a Texas girl a few years back and made the commitment to move to Texas.
“Sounds cliché to say that it always felt like home, but it always felt like home,” Fortune said.
In 2007, they purchased the empty old Ludwig building with plans to open a music venue.
“We weren’t looking to open a restaurant, but when we decided to place the history of the building, obviously, it meant actually a restaurant,” said Fortune.
That history harkens back to the day in 1894, when a German immigrant named William Gebhardt, proprietor of the back-room café, which happened to be in the back room of the Pheonix Saloon, invited a powder we couldn’t live without today – chili. But the chili powder isn’t just in the chili, it’s also in burgers.
Head cook Paul Powell gets things started by placing the half pound 80/20 pre seasoned patty on the grill.
“Everything that goes in our chili, all the peppers, all the seasonings that’s in our bowl of chili, is incorporated into the meat of the burger,” Powell said. “New Mexico chilies, ancho chilies, all the onions, all the garlic, everything that’s pretty much in our signature chili is built into the meat.”
Then a jalapeno bun is toasted. Once it’s ready, a layer of chili mayo is placed on each side of bread with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and bread and butter pickles.
After getting the grill marks just right, Cheddar cheese gets placed on the patty while fries get cooked on the stovetop.
The burger gets placed on the bun and the only thing that gets added is some chili peppers, serrano and habanero. You can pick your poison at this point. Now we’re done – in more ways than one.
“And that baby’s perfect,” said Powell. “It’s beautiful right there, buddy.”
It’s as if my taste buds have arisen from the ashes, just full of amazing flavor – and a lot of chili.
The chili powder mixed in with the meat gives it an incredible Texas chili flavor, quite an incredible taste, but then the habaneras and Serranos really do add something to the burger, giving it a little freshness you won’t find anywhere else. Of course, you’ve got the regular accoutrements – lettuce, tomato, pickles and onions.
You know what we forgot? Chili! Now our experience is complete. Nothing like some Texas chili!
The Phoenix Saloon is not new to New Braunfels, but it’s new to my mouth and well worth a stop on The Texas Bucket List.
“We just need good food and good music and good beer, and that gets you a long way in Texas,” Fortune said.