The Cortez includes braised short ribs, queso fresco, grilled jalapeno, caramelized onion, pepperoncini, and a spicy aioli on sourdough bread. The result was lush, rich flavor housed on bread with just enough crunch to satisfy the texture my palate insists upon. The beer-battered onion rings were a revelation, sprinkled with crunchy salt. While the plate didn't include a mound of the onion rings, the quality more than made up for the lack of quantity.
The Macaroni Pony includes pulled pork in a chipotle barbecue sauce with three-cheese macaroni on a cornbread bun. This is very likely to be The Mule's No. 1 seller. It hits all the comfort-food checkpoints with the subtlety of a Roman candle in a closet.
Co-owner Joey Morris gleaned plenty of the cool that makes The Wedge in his time running the second of the white-hot pizzeria concepts. Morris and friends fill the quiet spot with the latest Indie-Alternative music and the staff is inclined to sway music-festival style as they fulfill your cold beer and hot sandwich needs. This isn't a squat-and-gobble eatery, The Mule is a hangout.
“We want people to come in and feel welcome to order something to eat or drink and hang out for a while,” Rowan said. “If you want to come in and have a beer while you read a book, that's great.”
The Mule's beer list is headlined by local brewers COOP Ale Works and Mustang, with plenty of price points covered. Signature cocktails begin with, what else, the Moscow Mule plus variations on that theme like the Gin Mule, Kentucky Mule and Burro. I tried a couple Gin Mule's on a recent Friday night, and while they lacked the balance of those Kyle Fleischfresser used to concoct at Ludivine, ginger beer enthusiasts will line up for these.
Rowan said brunch is planned in the near future.
“Give us a month or two,” Rowan said. “We'll roll out brunch once we get some of the kinks worked out.”
The Mule enriches the up-and-coming Plaza District as well as the local restaurant scene, filling a niche aimed at casual diners with discerning palates in an inviting atmosphere.
If you go
Where: 1630 N Blackwelder.
When: 11 a.m. to “late” Tuesday through Sunday; 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.