The “craic” (pronounced “crack” in Ireland) is high in Round Rock these days!
Cork & Barrel Craft Kitchen + Microbrewery opened on St. Patrick’s Day to a long line of fans, bringing an authentic Irish experience to Round Rock. After breaking ground in February 2020, then dealing with all the setbacks of the pandemic, the people of Round Rock have been patiently waiting.
Now this much awaited newcomer is open, the local community has been overwhelming them with love in the form of a packed house. (Tip: You’ll need to make a reservation!)
Bringing the Old Country to Texas
Cork & Barrel is locally owned by three very passionate and hard-working men (who have been bussing tables on busy nights) and their wives (who have been rolling silverware). They went to Ireland for “research” and came back with a variety of different pieces that you’ll see in the restaurant, aiming to bring the heart of Ireland into the heart of Texas.
The host stand came from an Irish abbey, as did a 200-year old stained glass that you’ll see in the dining area. Another beautiful stained glass in the dining room comes from a pub on the border of Northern Ireland and the Republic, and is 150 years old. In addition, there’s a gorgeous wooden doorway from Ireland that dates back to the 1800s.
In the gastropub’s open kitchen, you’ll see the wood-burning stove used as their pizza oven that is a replica of the boiler from the Titanic, which hails from Belfast, Northern Ireland, as does one of the owners. In the women’s bathroom, you’ll see wallpaper that is a replica from the first class suite on the Titanic.
Indoor, Outdoor Perfection
From initial conception, the idea behind the pub was to create a spot the owners themselves would like to hang out. Inside, there are four snug barrels which are essentially a booth with a door that you can close for private seating. Other types of seating include the main indoor dining area, high top bar tables inside, and the outdoor beer garden.
The beer garden is really the hero of the house, where guests will enjoy live music on the stage while sitting on the grassy area with tables, the deck or the covered pavilion. All dog-friendly, and is the perfect place to enjoy a Texas afternoon or evening.
Full Scratch Menu
Executive Chef Josh Watkins’ garlic pretzels are absolutely out of this world! I will return just to enjoy their pretzels with a cold beer. Six long pretzels sit on a board with three choices for dipping: a brown butter Guinness beer cheese, a red wine tarragon butter, and my favorite, the Detroit garlic cream cheese.
You might also be interested in the very Irish Guinness battered fish and chips (pictured at the top of this article), or the Goodstock Wagyu Burger, already a fan favorite.
Other shareables include a charcuterie nosh board, Rosemary Campfire Hoey Irish Stew Texas Style (made from their neighbor Goodstock by Nolan Ryan Angus), Torched Scottish Salmon, Goodstock Black Label Tenderloin Tartare, Cliffs of Moher Chorizo Mussels, ribs, wings and deviled eggs.
Wood-fired options include pizzas as well as scallops, ribeye, and a gluten-free roasted red snapper.
After dinner, reward yourself with a scrumptious dessert such as their Luxardo Cherry & Vanilla Panna Cotta, some Irish Cream Horns or a sorbet flight. (Definitely try the pineapple mint!)
Craft Brews from a Master
While the food is delicious, the craft brews really top-off the experience. They make four onsite. Also on the draft list, you’ll find three are Irish, along with a very respectable selection from around the US, including many from Texas. We highly recommend the Island Time, their own IPA. Or, of course, a Guinness stout. But, if you’re looking for something a little lighter, try the Founders All Day Session IPA from Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Austin Markman, the general manager, is also the microbrewery brewmaster and the sommelier. Markman is very proud of the wine cellar that is kept at 53° and where he loves to “sell the experience.” In the wine cellar you’ll find bottles that range from $40 all the way up to $1,000.
As they say, you can visit seven days a week and sit in seven different areas at Cork & Barrel and have seven different experiences. One down, six to go!
Cover: Guinness Battered Fish & Chips. Photo courtesy Cork & Barrel Craft Kitchen + Microbrewery
Marika Flatt is the Travel Editor of Texas Lifestyle Magazine and was named “Outstanding Austin Communicator” 2021 by Women Communicators of Austin. Flatt has been the voice of the Weekend Trip Tips on NPR’s Texas Standard for over three years and is a regular travel contributor to TV shows across the state.