Yes, you read the title correctly. I am indeed talking about bootlegging during the Prohibition. The Original Hoffbrau opened its doors in 1932, a year before Prohibition came to an end. Brothers Robert “Coleman” and Tom Hamby put in $125 each to buy the property now located in one of the most coveted parts of town: West Sixth Street. Now in its 83rd year with the fourth generation of family ownership, The Original Hoffbrau has become an iconic Austin steakhouse.
Thank you to The Original Hoffbrau for covering the cost of my meal for the purposes of this review. All opinions are my own.
The Original Hoffbrau’s Colorful History
Hoffbrau opened its doors on Aug. 4, 1932. Coleman and Tom Hamby, renegades that they were, secretly sold homemade beer for a whole year. While telling the story, Mary Gail Hamby, the current owner and Coleman’s granddaughter, fondly exclaimed, “Grandpa was a criminal for a whole year! Can you believe that?”
The “illegal activity” lasted a year and turned into one of the many reasons to visit Hoffbrau. During the Great Depression, the brothers offered a pint for a nickel, along with cold cuts and crackers. Anyone who could afford it would be at Hoffbrau.
As the Great Depression loosened its grip on the economy, people could afford eating out. With this, the Hambys introduced steak and potatoes, and suddenly found their popularity skyrocketing. The brothers began serving steaks two at a time because that’s all their modest cast iron skillet could prepare. On the side came chunky potato wedges, bread slices, and the “love it or leave it” salad. The recipe hasn’t changed much since then.
Coleman and Tom were succeeded by their sons until the 1990’s, when Mary Gail took over. Her son, Zachary Ray, joined her recently. They’ve retained as much of the original furnishings and decor as possible. The dining room tables are the same ones Coleman constructed, and so is the bar. A 1935 piano sits in the corner of the dining room, brought out for cocktail nights and special occasions.
Every member of the family, down through the generations, has spent time working at Hoffbrau. You’ll see plenty of pictures, article clippings, and other memorabilia on display in the dining room.
No-frills Steaks Packed With Flavor
Speaking of dining room, I bet you’re wondering about Hoffbrau’s food. Keeping the original offerings going, Hoffbrau continues to serve several cuts of steaks, cooked to perfection. While the cast iron skillet has been retired, Arcie Walker, employee of 47 years, keeps the flavors alive on the new grill.
I left it up to Mary Gail to pick my dinner. She selected a beautiful tenderloin and had it cooked medium-rare, just how I like it. The perfectly seasoned seared steaks come with a generous amount of garlic butter. This is where the bread comes in handy. Once you’re finished demolishing the steak, use the bread to soak up the butter and clean off your plate!
The “love it or leave it” salad got its name from the two camps of customers who have loved it or left it over the years. It’s a simple lettuce, olive, and tomato salad, dressed in a strong garlic vinaigrette. Personally, I love garlic, so it was an obvious “love it” for me.
Though I didn’t try them, I was told the pies from Wimberley Pie Company are the best finish to the meal. Instead, I ate an absolutely phenomenal strawberry vanilla cake made by Kathy, one of the staff members. I don’t think I’ve ever finished a slice of cake faster. She even let me have the recipe!
Plenty of drinks are available at the steakhouse. The Rustic Tap, Hoffbrau’s sister beer garden, is right next door. It serves a variety of cocktails and beers to the steakhouse customers. Mary Gail’s son, Zachary, crafts the recipes for classic cocktails, as well as new ones. Both Hoffbrau and The Rustic Tap boast full bars.
The Rustic Tap, Ode to an Ever-changing Austin
The fact Hoffbrau has had generations of loyal customers shouldn’t come as a surprise. It was meant to be, and continues to be, a watering hole for the working class. While Hoffbrau retains its original charm, Zach also purchased a modern day beer garden right next door. The Rustic Tap opened in 2016, complete with an outdoor amphitheater, fire pits, and televisions. It has its own menu, featuring casual eats like tacos, sliders, and queso. The amphitheater hosts local musicians four days a week.
The outdoor area has plenty of games, too. You and your crew can indulge in Jenga or a good ole’ game of cornhole. And if you’re up for it, take a shot at the giant beer pong. It’s true: everything IS bigger in Texas.
The Rustic Tap boasts over 20 local beers on tap, making it an easy favorite for beer lovers. Like Hoffbrau, The Rustic Tap is easy to relax at for a good time.
➡ Keep reading: “Guide to Austin’s West Sixth Street”
Final Thoughts on Hoffbrau
I had an amazing time chatting with Mary Gail Hamby and learning about Hoffbrau’s colorful history. Like her grandfather and father, she extends warmth and friendliness to anyone who walks through the doors. I may not be a steak connoisseur, but I can tell you Hoffbrau’s decades-old recipe is worth giving a shot. Under Mary Gail, Hoffbrau has served plenty of customers and continues to stay true to the loyal ones. Maybe you’ll be the next addition to a long list of Hoffbrau fans.
613 W. 6th St. — Website
@theAustinot wants to know:
Have you been to The Original Hoffbrau Steakhouse?