Our annual list of Top 25 restaurants is always a popular feature for visitors to our site. We get many emails detailing exactly how a restaurant makes the list. Let’s take one of our newest restaurants on the list, Creek Road Cafe in Dripping Springs, and break it down based on our criteria for inclusion.
Deliciously consistent. One of my favorite dishes at Creek Road is the Trautwein Shrimp. When I first tried it several years ago I was struck by the delicacy of the shrimp along with Chae’s Newburg sauce and a smoked cheddar and sausage grits with a beautiful avocado half. The key is I’ve had this dish at least a half a dozen times and the quality has never varied. That’s what makes for the Top 25.
Innovation. The menu at Creek Road demonstrates the creativity that emerges from a Top 25 kitchen. Just the other night we tried an appetizer that literally blew us away. It began with Korean Pork Bulgogi served sizzling hot and mixed with cold cabbage, Brussels Sprouts and mushrooms along with a warm sticky rice. The contrasts of temperature were remarkable along with the flavors contributed to a remarkable dish. And there always seems to be a new special dish every time we stop by.
Freshness. If you’re doing oysters they need to be pristine. Top 25 restaurants never have seafood that’s even slightly tainted or the least bit fishy. The flavors are always pure. Creek Road does amazing raw and fried oysters and they have always been spectacular. Ditto for the Soft Shelled Crabs.
Sweetness. The dessert menu at Creek Road is nothing short of spectacular, a must for all our Top 25 restaurants. Aside from having the most delicious Carrot Cake in the area, their Lemon Bars served with creme crèche or ice cream are irresistible. The French Silk Pie is equally decadent.
Wine. Not all Top 25 restaurants have to have 1,000 bottle wine lists. A thoughtful list reflecting the possibility of a number of pairings is more important than a list that boasts a ’97 Brunello di Montalcino at a price point at which most patrons would be reluctant to order. And Creek Road’s list, while relatively modest price wise is extremely well selected.
Service. Ah, the perpetual thorn in the side of all fine restaurants. Still Top 25 restaurants have good service. That means servers with total knowledge of the menu, the ability to know when to approach the table and the experience to “read” their tables. Creek Road’s servers are younger, to be sure, but they meet the Top 25 criteria.
So there you have the basic components of what I look for? How about you? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org and bon appetit!