High Spirits

This restaurant gives you a new reason to visit the 'Gateway to the Hill Country'

This restaurant gives you a reason to visit 'Gateway to Hill Country'

Treaty Oak Ghost Hill Back Yard
Enjoy lawn games after eating at Ghost Hill restaurant. Courtesy of Treaty Oak
Treaty Oak Ghost Hill Tacos
A mess of tacos from the Ghost Hill kitchen. Courtesy of Treaty Oak
Treaty Oak Ghost Hill Brisket
Brisket ready to be served from the Treaty Oak smoker. Courtesy of Treaty Oak
Treaty Oak Ghost Hill Restaurant Special
A special from chef Chris Andrews' Ghost Hill restaurant. Courtesy of Treaty Oak
Treaty Oak Ghost Hill Back Yard
Treaty Oak Ghost Hill Tacos
Treaty Oak Ghost Hill Brisket
Treaty Oak Ghost Hill Restaurant Special

Treaty Oak Distilling Ranch just recently celebrated its second anniversary, but the sprawling 28-acre facility in Dripping Springs is now running at full force with the recent opening of Ghost Hill restaurant, a casual communal space focusing on smoked mains, creative bar bites, and craft cocktails made from the brand’s stable of spirits.

The setting is all Hill Country with gnarled oak trees, fire pits, and unimpeded views of the big Texas sky, and the building itself is a renovated ranch house clad in limestone and topped with a tin roof, but the interior avoids countrified clichés like hunting trophies. Instead, there’s an '80s Atari video game in one corner, a Banksy gunslinger panda print by the door, and a portrait of Notorious B.I.G. behind the bar.

The tonal mix couldn’t be more at peace with the food. San Antonio-born chef Chris Andrews, known for his stints in Austin at the Driskill, Carillon, Boiler Nine, and Second Bar + Kitchen, has developed a menu that references traditional Texas cooking while bringing in global flavors and techniques that span everywhere from Vietnam and France to the American Southwest.

The snacks, available at both the restaurant and the Rickhouse bar, include classic cocktail nibbles like kettle chips, honey Sriracha mixed nuts, a Cajun-spiced snack mix, and pimento cheese (here given a green chile kick). But there are some surprises, too, like a thyme-scented brisket rillette served with whole grain mustard and an affordable cheese and charcuterie plate. The cocktail menu is heady, but the strong flavors stand up to even beverage director Anthony Gonzales’ most booze-forward concoctions.

In this age of conceptual barcraft, Gonzales prefers to avoid overworking his drinks. The standards — Moscow Mules, old fashioneds, mojitos, and Bloody Marys — more or less contain the ingredients you would expect them to (if it ain’t broke … ), and the originals — a refreshing ricky made with watermelon juice, a spicy hibiscus-flavored vodka drink, and honeyed “new fashioned” — contain no more than four ingredients per drink. As long as you have a designated driver, we recommend ordering the Treaty Oak punch, a blend of coconut-infused rum and orange and pineapple juices with a rum floater. Like any non-bourbon drink, it can even be ordered by the pitcher.

With so many cocktails to try, it’s probably a very good idea that the main focus is on heartiness. A pit is located just a few steps from the restaurant, delivering burnt end brisket, turkey, pork shoulder, and chicken thighs. And sides are barbecue favorites like borracho beans, potato salad (made with smoked onions), and coleslaw. There’s plenty off the beaten path, however. Pork spare ribs are glazed with sesame and bourbon and dressed with pickled carrots, herbs, and lime. Tacos are given a little oomph with duck confit. And bánh mì features scads of fatty brisket.

In a way that one dish sums up the entire restaurant: a contemporary outlet that honors both the history of Texas and what Texas has become, understanding that we’ve always known how to party.

Ghost Hill launches Thursday dinner service on October 5. It is also open on weekends, including Sunday brunch.