Miller Tavern & Beer Garden: plenty of sports-watching, some interesting menu twists

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The Star-Telegram's Robert Philpot broadcasts live from the grand opening of Texas Live! in Arlington.
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The Star-Telegram's Robert Philpot broadcasts live from the grand opening of Texas Live! in Arlington.

The Star-Telegram checked out every restaurant at Texas Live! Read other reviews here.

For what kind of feels lke a big sports bar, Miller Tavern & Beer Garden turned out to be a pretty good bet. We were seated in one of the quieter areas on a Sunday afternoon, with several TVs tuned to NFL games before the kickoff of the Cowboys-Panthers game; took us a few minutes to figure out that the primary audio was coming from a messy and exciting Pittsburgh Steelers-Cleveland Browns game where I found myself rooting for the Browns, a team I’ve seldom given much thought, just because it’d be nice to see if they could pull of an upset after going 0-16 last year (they didn’t lose, but they didn’t win — the game ended in a relatively rare tie that we didn’t see, because by that time most of the TVs were switched to the Cowboys game).

There’s some overlap with other Texas Live! restaurants — the bacon/caramelized-onion cheeseburger that is the first thing on the Troy’s menu isn’t unique to Troy’s, nor are the fries — but there are also some unique-to-Miller Tavern items such as a pressed kimchi Cubano (think a Cuban sandwich with the usual pork/ham/mustard/Swiss mix, but with Korean toppings instead of pickles) and a chicken banh mi, as well as fried chicken and a macaroni-and-cheese skillet that, judging from other tables, is a pretty popular order.

I was with my wife, a vegetarian, who had several options among the starters. We split a Texas hummus (made with chickpeas and black-eyed peas) plate, which came with grilled flatbread (flavorful but a little too stiff), crisp carrots and cucumber, and endive leaves that looked like they would be too flimsy for dipping purposes but turned out to work quite well ($7.95 for the whole shebang) She ordered the Thai peanut Brussels sprouts starter ($6.95) as her main course, and it turned out to be enough: a small skillet (skillets are big here) of sliced and charred Brussels sprouts, candied peanuts, chipotle, cilantro, lime and a Thai vinaigrette. All those spicy, sweet and crunch toppings saved a dish that suffered from the sprouts being too chewy and even tough. Flavors worked; texture didn’t.

Torn between the unusual Cubano and the banh mi, I went with the banh mi ($12.95), which was good enough, but when I re-read the topping list (Sriracho mayo, garlic, Vietnamese fish sauce, jalapeño, pickled slaw, lime), I wondered where all that spice went.

Since we didn’t have to come back to the office, and this place does have “Tavern” in its name (we were quickly asked if we wanted a Miller by our server, who was excellent throughout), we did partake of the alcohol side of the menu, which does have the Miller you’d expect but also has offerings such as the Full Tang IPA ($7.25) from Granbury’s Revolver Brewing (which you may recall was bought by MillerCoors a couple of years ago).

But it’s not just beer: There’s a cocktail portion, and, always a sucker for some sweet twist screwing up a classic, I ordered a Peanut Butter Old Fashioned ($12). First sip was pretty heavy on the peanut-butter flavor, then it sort of settled down and tasted more like a classic old-fashioned as it went along. I’d say the gimmick is unnecessary but hey, it pulled me in.

The menu here is interesting enough to call me back, especially that offbeat Cuban sandwich. Along with colleagues Bud Kennedy and Steve Wilson, I got to sample another item that intrigued me, the Miller fried chicken, for this week’s Eats Beat podcast: Crispy bone-in chicken with a maple-syrup glaze that works well for a sweet-salty contrast, along with some spicy bacon-jalapeño fritters.

And I must return to order something in a skillet. Seems like the thing to do here.