Thursday, July 28, 2011

Why You Should (or Should Not) Have Your Next Party at Hill Country

7/26/11 - Dale Watson stops by Hill Country for an impromptu show
There are a lot of places in New York City that claim to provide "authentic Texas BBQ," but many of them do not deliver. Hill Country Barbeque Market (located on W. 26th Street between 5th & 6th Ave), however, is one that never disappoints. From ribs to brisket to mac and cheese, the possibilities are endlessly scrumptious and succulent.

And while the prices may be a turn off for some, there are always deals to be found at Hill Country, such as their weekly specials and daily dine-in specials. My personal favorite deal is the $12 Longhorn Brisket Chomp, which comes with 1/3 lb of lean brisket, warm cornbread with the most amazing spiced-butter this side of the Mississippi, and choice of a side item ($1 extra for "specialty" sides such as the mac and cheese, but it is a $1 well, well spent!). Top the brisket with some of Hill Country's sweet and tangy barbeque sauce, and your mouth will be watering for more.

With two large floors, it seems like the perfect place to host a party, right? Well, there are both positives and negatives.

The positives: Not only does Hill Country serve up finger-licking good food, have two full bars, plus lots of televisions for watching big sports games (it's a favorite for UT alums -- Hook Em' Horns!), but there is live music nightly in the downstairs bar area, and it's hard not to have a rockin' good time. On Tuesday night, alt-country singer, Dale Watson, happened to be in town and decided to play an impromptu show at Hill Country. Clearly influenced by various genres, including country, blues and rock, Watson's style and talent had me dancing in the aisles and visualizing a man after the hearts of Cash, Twitty and Haggard themselves. After Watson played for nearly two hours, Hill Country continued with its regularly scheduled Tuesday night programming, Rock N' Twang Live Band Karaoke.

The negatives (for large groups who want to enjoy a sit-down meal): Making reservations for a dinner party larger than 12 becomes extremely difficult. If you have 12 people or less, you can make a regular reservation and everyone gets a meal ticket when they arrive, and can order whatever they want. The meal ticket is also a great option for large groups because you never have to deal with the awkward "let's just split it... no wait, I only ordered a soda..." debate, as everyone automatically pays for exactly what he or she ordered. However, once you have more than 12 people, if you want advance reservations, you will be required to book a party package, and a full meal package does not come cheap (you could always choose to wing it and hope they'll have room for a larger party without making reservations, but it's a popular place, especially with live shows nightly). Expect to pay at least $30+ per person for party packages, not including beverages, tax or tip. This may be a great idea when someone else is paying, such as for a corporate event, but it's not the best for a large dinner among friends. The set-up is also not the best for mingling, as large groups tend to be placed at a long table where socialization with anyone except the person sitting next to you is just way too much of a strain.

Overall, I would highly recommend Hill Country as a barbeque restaurant and live music scene. It also works well for smaller parties, but you may want to look elsewhere for your larger group.

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