If you haven’t been to the downtown Hilton lately, you might be surprised next time you go. The food scene has changed dramatically. Liberty Tavern is gone, as is Finn & Porter. The bar upstairs from these two has expanded exponentially to house the restaurant that has replaced Finn & Porter as well as the breakfast portion of Liberty Tavern, Cannon and Belle.
The restaurant is named in honor of the 1842 heroine Belle Eberly who fired a cannon shot into the Texas General Land Office to warn people about Gov. Sam Houston’s intended plan to seize important documents.
We settled into a cozy booth and were greeted by an engaging server who arrived with a large cedar plank, upon which were three huge slices of grilled rosemary focaccia bread accompanied by Round Rock honey butter. The character of the bread was distinctive and the flavors were spot-on. The butter was served with a large comb of honey atop it that went perfectly with the bread. We took some home and it didn’t toast up as well the next morning, but it was damn near perfect to get us going the night before.
I started with the Grilled Chicken Wings with chile pepper butter coated with a charred onion BBQ sauce. This dish could have easily served as an entree due to its size, but that was not a deterrent to me. Stopping was simply not an option and so the wings disappeared. Great mouth feel on these wings.
My wife tried the Roasted Brie which was presented to us in an unusual style, almost liquid at its base. The flavor was good but understandably seemed to be a bit diluted. Certainly not a bad dish, but we were left wondering what a more traditional approach would have yielded.
The Roasted Butternut Squash Bisque was our next choice. It was enhanced with creme fraiche, a drizzle of vinegar, cumin oil and toasted pepitas. We loved the flavor but the soup must be eaten very warm. As often lengthy chats with the chef occasionally intervene at one of our dinners, by the time we got back to the soup the additions had broken down a bit and vinegar seemed to be pervasive. So we warmed the soup up for lunch the next day and it reverted to its original state – really engaging flavors and a perfect texture.
We then ordered the Salt Cured Pork Shank with bacon braised greens and cheddar cheese grits. This was an instant winner from the first bite. The pork was achingly tender and a knife was barely needed to cut the meat. This dish had an almost natural amalgam of flavors that offered up all the must-haves from a stunningly singular entree.
Cannon and Belle is going to be a very good restaurant as it evolves. Is it a dish for dish replacement for Finn & Porter? Probably not. But this is a different concept and a restaurant that is serving day long menus that F&P never had to contend with. I, for one, will most definitely be back.