For those who used to mourn the lack of quality restaurants in Austin, those days are long gone. Just in the last two years we’ve had dozens of quality openings. And as CK Chin keeps telling me, more are on the way!
So here’s our take on the newbies: both fine dining, casual. and food trucks. Man, it’s good to have a palate and be alive in Austin, TX.
I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this place from all the pre-opening PR. But it soon became apparent to me how delicious modern Southern cuisine could be.
Chefs Michael Fojtasek and Grae Nonas have created a restaurant based on traditional family recipes that’s unique in the city. If nothing else you must try two things: The Country Sausage Gravy which has at its core pencil cob grits, a soft egg, peanuts and green garlic. You want to talk superlative mouth feel? Then this is it.
Also, this place has quickly laid claim to Austin’s best Corn Bread. This is crisp yet tender and smothered with Virginia Oysters, garlic cream spinach. If the smothered part of this dish is not your cup of tea then just get the Cornbread itself. Amazing!
From the fertile mind of chef Amir Hajimaleki, this place brings a breath of culinary fresh air to the Circle C area at Slaughter and Escarpment. The food is amazingly fresh and runs the gamut from Middle Eastern to New American. The Hummus is a delight and the Hot Wings [actually pork shanks} are to die for. They feature a Beet Salad that comes at you in waves of flavor and the Flat Breads [the prosciutto is my fav] are excellent. The Bronzini is exceptional as well.
The menu changes seasonally and they never lose a beat at this place.
Highly recommended with both indoor and outdoor seating.
Jesse Griffiths probably had no idea of the national accolades he was going to pick up when he opened this splendid little joint on Manor Road.
Frankly, those don’t do much for me. I go by what my palate tells me, regardless of affirmations from Bon Appetit. And my trusty palate tells me this is one hell of a concept. It just screams out Austin: from it’s emphasis on Texas wines to its locavore passions. I’ve tried the Charcuterie from the Butcher Shop and it was exceptional with a variety of smoked meats and cheeses, The steaks have been exceptional and the care with which each dish is prepared is very noticeable to those who care about such things [I certainly do].
The Pork Chop is another blast of flavor from this smallish kitchen that needs to be tasted. Hell, everything on this menu should be tasted as it’s all good.
Stuck way out on Highway 290 W near Nutty Brown Cafe, Pieous is the result of a dedication and passion from Josh and Paige Kaner. They brought their sourdough starter from California and have used it to make the closest thing we have in Austin to a truly certified Neapolitan pizza. The Bacon pie just slays me with its beautiful flavors.
The sourdough is also used to make their exceptional bread with which they make the city’s best Pastrami Sandwich [get the most]. And the Pieous name means they make more than just pizza pies. Their Blueberry is a killer with a crust to die for. Ditto for the exceptionally fulsome Tiramisu. Be prepared for a wait in the evenings…but well worth it.
From the folks who brought you Contigo several years ago Gardner, at 1914 E. 6th and named after Andrew Wiseheart’s father, is a restaurant with an emphasis on seasonal vegetables and farm to market freshness.
I love the menu where the aforementioned seasonal vegetables are given their due. The Rye English Muffin with sprouted grain butter is a pleasant surprise. The Okra should not be overlooked here either. With the lovely confluence of shishito, hazelnut and serrano ham, this is an Okra for the ages!. The Cabbage with red fish, jalapeno and marjoram is another absolute show stopper.
The Tomato Pasta and the excellent Ribeye are my favorites among the entrees. Each dish has a special, almost personal attachment to the diner and that’s a rare thing to pull off. I can’;t wait to see what these guys do for their third restaurant!
This is about as family-style an operation as you can have. It all began as a family feed/ seed business over 30 years ago that has subsequently branched out into many arenas, including this new Austin restaurant.
At 3235 E. Cesar Chavez, Jacoby Mercantile serves up some incredibly tasty comfort food. There’s a lot of variety on the menu and it begins with the Eggplant and Chevre Dumplings. I would have never envisioned these flavor pairing and I guess that’s why I’m not a chef. What imagination! The Spicy Lamb Sausage with herbed Roasted Potatoes and Creole Mustard is vintage flavor overdrive! Wow. Does this ever work for me?
The Chicken Fried Steak is another keeper. That tender dry aged Jacoby beef is evident here in every succulent bite.
I’m also very, very partial to the crispy Grilled Pork Ribs with black-eyed peas and pickled green tomatoes.
Best of all you can buy Jacoby steaks there to grill on your own at home.
While Itallic seems to have garnered more traffic because of its Sixth Street locale, this little gem called il Forte is tucked away between Congress and Brazos on 8th. You could easily walk by it but that would be a huge mistake. The food is amazing and while not even open for a year, Il Forte has quickly rounded in to form.
Owners Cesar Navari and his wife Renada are as charming a couple as you’d care to meet. He is from Italy and she from Mexico. The chef, Giovanni, is from Naples. And that guy can flat out cook.
I first tried his Panadina Pizza and the crust and flavors literally blew me away. His Caprese di Bufala has an imported mozzarella that is so smooth it tastes like a barlatta. And does an entirely new twist on Arancini mixing them with a bad of arugula!
If you try nothing else, get the Linguine with Meatballs. Sounds simple but the tastes are quite profound, so much so that these flavors linger with you. I can taste them as I write this! The Ravioli al Funghi [porcini mushrooms in this case] is equally tasty with Portobella ravioli as well. And wash it down with a bottle of Vecciano, a very drinkable blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Sangiovese!
Go to this place NOW. Because in a few months you won’t be able to get a table.
I love creativity in all its many culinary shapes and forms. And Prelogs delivers. At the site of the former Garrido’s Taqueria at 3rd and Neches
I’ve already tried the smooth Foie Gras, the stunningly al dente Risotto, and a Pork Belly that was one for the ages with squid and a potato ragout.
Of course, there’s a European influence here and it’s evident in many of the dishes.
My favorite may be the Duck Breast with leek, blueberry, sweet corn and pearl onion. This is a melange of flavors that are bound together by the luscious and exceptionally moist duck. I’m rooting for this place because I’m already a huge fan.
Ft. Worth Celebrity Chef Tim Love has set up shop at the former Kenichi at 5th and Colorado with a loving paean to the American west and its cuisines called Lonesome Dove Western Bistro.
My first taste was the Wild Boar Ribs with Tim’s own BBQ sauce and pickled chilies. Very mellow flavor and exceptionally tender. Then we tried the Elk Foie Gras Sliders with a blueberry jam. Couldn’t see old Wishbone whipping up this dish for Clint Eastwood’s Rowdy Yates on Rawhide but it was delicious anyway.
Then we tried the Jersey Suckling Pig Crepinette. A delicious and beautifully textured dish, it was offset by the perfect Braised Lentils.
And the coup de gras, The Roasted Garlic-Stuffed Beef Tenderloin with western plaid hash. I miss Kenichi but Lonesome Dove has filled the bill.
Paul Qui is a very nice and from what I’ve seen, a rather unpretentious guy. So why does he build his new restaurant on E 6th without a name on it? I drove around for half an hour trying to find it that first time.
OK. Minor point. The guy won Top Chef because he is a mega talent and it reflects at his namesake restaurant. Just taste the Smoked Salmon Crudo with Watermelon and ponzu. OMG!!! Or how about the Fried Chicken with Smoked Oyster Aioli? We are talking mind-boggling flavors here.
Or perhaps the marinated Tomato, Parmesan, and Eggplant Ciabatta? This my friends is a master at work.
Or to paraphrase James Taylor, Paul’s culinary mind is like a “cement mixer: a churning urn of burning funk.”: I couldn’t agree more. And like all great chefs, his fingerprint touches many more establishments like East Side Kings or the new Otoko with more to come.
For my baby boomer pals trying to find Qui: hint, it’s a big, white building. Enjoy.