I grew up on homemade chicken pot pie and made it regularly for my three kids, so when I heard how folks rave about the dish at Trailblazer Grille restaurant in Burnet, I had to go taste one for myself.
Trailblazer Grille is at 216 S. Main St. in Burnet. Call 512/756-7636.
My pot pie came in a big white bowl with perfectly browned, flaky crust spilling over its sides. I picked up a spoon and broke through the crust, releasing a satisfying puff of steam and the aroma of chicken and subtle spices. After a few bites, I can say with confidence that the dish lives up to its reputation with plenty of succulent pieces of chicken; the requisite peas, carrots, and green beans; and gravy with just the right thickness and flavor. If I hadn’t been in public, I might have licked the bowl clean.
Owners Trace and Liz Catlin never expected to become famous for chicken pot pie, but they never expected to own a restaurant in Burnet, either. The couple started a gourmet food consulting business in 2000 after years of various jobs in the food industry. Every now and then, they took a weekend getaway from their home base in Houston.
“In 2012, we had traveled by airplane so much that we wanted to do something different,” Trace says. “We were staying at a friend’s peach farm in Fredericksburg, and we looked up train rides in Texas. We were excited to find a train that went from Cedar Park to a little town named Burnet, which we’d never heard of.” Disembarking from the train in that little town, they walked over to the square, where the only place to eat was a sandwich shop called Tea-Licious. Wary at first of the idea of ordering lunch at a teahouse, Trace was willing to give it a try. “I thought I’d just grab a sandwich and get out as fast as I could,” Trace admits.
Then-owner Sam McLeod stopped by their table and struck up a conversation. Trace had noticed that Tea-Licious sold its own pickles, and he started talking to McLeod about his and Liz’s food business.
“Sam said he thought that sounded fun,” Liz recalls, “and Trace told him, ‘Well, not as much fun as living in the Hill Country. We want to retire here someday.’ Then Sam said, ‘Have I got a deal for you.’” As it turned out, McLeod wanted to sell his restaurant.
The Catlins did their research, and in a span of a few months, sold their business and home in Houston and moved to Burnet. They bought the restaurant in May 2013.
Tea-Licious had been around for 16 years, so rather than change the name right away, they just added “Texas” at first. “We changed the decorations and revamped the menu, and we always knew we would rename it, but we had to wait for the right time,” Liz explains. That time came in November of 2015, when she announced a community-wide renaming contest and received some 150 entries.
A convergence of events pointed clearly to the correct choice. First, a local patron suggested the name Trailblazer, pointing out that the Catlins were trailblazers in expanding the menu and offering live entertainment. Then a customer from out of town said that his friends were saying the place was blazing a trail for great food and music in Burnet. Finally, a history buff remarked that there was an actual livestock trail nearby. The contest was over: Trailblazer Grille was born.
Trailblazer’s menu skews heavily to home-style cooking, with chicken-and-dumplings, meatloaf, and chicken-fried steak available in addition to pot pie. Trailblazer also features classic dishes such as rib-eye steaks and burgers, along with such lighter fare as grilled chicken and a selection of salads. The restaurant also offers sandwiches and wraps, plus an extensive breakfast menu of omelets, pancakes, waffles, and breakfast tacos.
“We’re constantly trying to make the menu better, adding things and still keeping things that are popular, even if they’re not our best sellers,” Liz says. She likes to try new dishes, so the restaurant runs a lot of specials, some of which end up on the regular menu.
The owners use local suppliers as much as possible. Friday nights feature a popular beer-battered cod using Save the World beer, which is brewed just down the road in Marble Falls (they serve the beer here as well).
People come here for more than food, though. Tuesday and Saturday nights feature live music. Country singer John Arthur Martinez, a local favorite, usually plays on Tuesdays, while a revolving cast of local talent covers Saturdays. Texas Hold ’Em poker games on Wednesday nights draw a pretty good crowd, even though people play for fun rather than money. “I’m always amazed at how many people we have back there playing but not winning any money,” Liz says.
The couple added karaoke on Monday nights because people requested it. On Thursday nights, one child eats free with each paying adult, and the restaurant plays family shows on the big-screen TV.
“It’s all a lot of work, but we love live entertainment and having parties,” Liz says.
The Trailblazer staff seems to have as much fun as the customers. Three of the four cooks currently on staff are trained chefs, a level of expertise that the Catlins recognize is unusual for a small-town establishment. “We also kind of adopted our young servers, since our kids and grandkids are not close by,” Liz says.
Since moving from Houston to Burnet, the Catlins say they’ve felt wel-comed into their new community, and that people in Central Texas go out of their way to be kind. People also go out of their way to enjoy the chicken pot
pie, and Trailblazer bakes about 40 of them daily. Liz says it is one of several dishes on the menu based on recipes from her grandmother. “She was an incredible cook,” says Liz.
If you want a pot pie, though, don’t dawdle, as the kitchen runs out of them most nights. If that happens, I recommend the meatloaf.