Up in smoke

Buzzy Hill Country barbecue joint burns out after just 7 months

Buzzy Hill Country barbecue joint burns out after just 7 months

Texas 46 BBQ burgers Spring Branch
Texas 46 BBQ unexpectedly closed this week. Photo courtesy of Texas 46 BBQ

A popular Comal County barbecue joint has gone up in smoke. After only seven months of business, Texas 46 BBQ announced in an October 2 Facebook post that it had unexpectedly shuttered.

Cuatro Kowalski, the owner of Freedmen’s and an Austin hospitality industry fixture, bought Spring Branch’s long-running Texas 46 Bar & Grill in June 2017. In early March, he debuted his reimagined roadhouse with a menu of comfort food staples like fried pickles, a full bar specializing in whiskey, and a large selection of craft beer.

The restaurant originally had some heavy hitters behind it, including Austin Fry, formerly of local mainstays Roaring Fork and La Condesa, who served as pitmaster, and “Whiskey Princess” Myria Free, who originally served as general manager. Fry left shortly after opening and Leanne De la Rosa later took on management duties.

In the Facebook post, De la Rosa offered no explanation for why Texas 46 hit the end of the line, but did characterize it as a “huge surprise.” A representative for the restaurant confirmed it had closed, but said Kowalski declined further comment.

One of the issues may have been a lack of consistency. Both San Antonio Express-News critic Mike Sutter gave the place a mixed review and many Yelp reviewers noted a drop in quality soon after opening. The confusing ordering system — which required guests to order food at the counter and drinks at the table — was also a frequent complaint.

Texas 46’s closure continues a turbulent year for Kowalski. In August, he shut down Freedmen’s in part due to planned construction around the historic building. The concept was supposed to live on through a catering operation and an upcoming new restaurant tentatively called Four Stones, but the status of both projects is unclear.

As of October 2, Freedmen’s is still on the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission’s delinquent list, indicating past due accounts with liquor wholesalers.