|1620 E. Riverside Dr. #1618
Austin, TX 78741
One of the great benefits of dining out a sports bar these days is that sports does not have to be the primary reason for attending. Perhaps you want to watch a movie on the big screen or just bring the family or some buds along for some really good food. That’s why I am so partial to the Draft Pick on a newly rejuvenated section of East Riverside not far from IH-35.
Owner Maurad Belcacem has some serious lineage with his popular Texican restaurants around the city. So he took what he’s learned there about preparing great comfort food and opened up a restaurant that has equally good food in an area of town that until now, has never been known for dining. Well that’s changed.
I am absolutely addicted to the Wings at the Draft Pick. They are known as the Burnt Orange Wings and they are flat out delicious. There’s no batter: just a wonderful dry rub that produces killer flavors. You have to try these. The Stuffed Jalapenos are equally delightful. Served with vintage jalapeno jelly, these cream cheese-stuffed babies are all about crunch and taste. And my weakness for good Onion Rings gets exposed at the Draft Pick. There aren’t many really exceptional onion rings around town but you could make a meal out of these. They’re that good. The Chili con Queso is certainly a dish that Maurad is familiar with and it shows at his restaurant. The queso is dense and tasty without being overly thick and puts the proper coating on the chip. You can actually wear a dark shirt and fearlessly eat this queso!
The salads at the Draft Pick are by no means afterthoughts (as can so often be the case in the comfort food world). They stand by themselves. The Mediterranean Salad is crisp and tasty. Add some feta cheese, chicken breast, Kalamata olives, and pepperocini peppers along with a house made vinaigrette and you have the basics of a serious treat. And the Draft Pick takes a nice pass at the traditional Chef Salad. Turkey, ham and provolone cheese top the field greens and I tend to like a nice Ranch dressing with this one.
For more substantive fare, the Draft Pick has produced some thoughtful and well-executed dishes. Let’s start with the Grilled Tilapia Filet. The tilapia is served with sautéed fresh spinach, mushroom and onions. The fish is tender and the tastes of the dish are quite mellow: everything blends together well. The Spaghetti Bolognese is another good choice. The sauce is nicely balanced and not at all bitter and the house blended ground beef has a nice flavor. The pasta is al dente and for under $10 this is a keeper. And try the Jimmy the Greek Pizza if you want some real flavor. The garlic butter sauce lifts this one up and the Italian sausage, Greek olives and red onions complement the feta cheese nicely! Finally, try the Swiss ‘Shroom and Onion Burger. Nothing floats my boat more than a burger smothered in sautéed mushrooms and grilled onions and topped with melted Swiss Cheese. Order it medium and enjoy!
Having a big game on the tube is not a condition for my wife and I to dine here. We flat out like the place and I think you will as well.