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Austin 12/1-12/5 San Antonio 12/5-12/7

Going for vacation...would like to have one "nice dress-up" meal at both places...any ideas??
Also would like any ideas for must eat places and good cheap places for either city..
The only thing I personally don't like is sushi, so all other food recs would be very appreciated.


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  1. You will get lots and lots of differing views, but my favorites for "nice dress-up" places are Driskill Grill in Austin and Le Reve in San Antonio. Both are excellent, but Le Reve is in a league of its own in Central Texas. Do a search on this board for both of them and you will find lots of posts and lots of different opinions. You know what opinions are like.

    1. Also in the downtown Austin area is Aquarelle for really nice dress-up dining. Less formal than the Driskill, given its house setting, but very good food.

      Chez Nous is not as formal, but you can definitely make the place a dress-up event. French bistro with simple decor (French posters, soccer trophies) and a really romantic feel. Tough to believe you're actually by the wild revelers on 6th st.

      Don't forget to save room for Amy's ice cream anywhere in town after dinner one night!

      1. In San Antonio: Boudro's (on the Riverwalk) (cajun)
        La Fogata (Tex-Mex)

        In Austin: Castle Hill Cafe

        1. Le Reve in SA. It's hard to get a reservation but it's worth it. Be prepared to spend $150.00 a person, that's just the tasting menu. Biga on the Banks is nice also but near the same. I like it as a special place when I'm not prepared to spend so much. The service is great there too.

          1. If you want the best meal available, do not pass on Le Reve in San Antonio. It is fabulous and was just named 6th best restaurant in the country by Gourmet magazine. Many of us on this board have touted it loudly and often.

            1 Reply
            1. re: bhoward

              If you are even thinking of Le Reve, call now! I know they were booked out for weekends through the end of the year weeks ago.

            2. If you want to have "elegant dining" in Austin, you've got plenty of options. I'll break it down by cuisine.

              Fonda San Miguel is the place if you want Mexican food but want to have a ritzy night out. Their menu is reliable; their mole is good.

              If you're in the mood for vaguely Southwestern modern cuisine, try Castle Hill Cafe.
              An alternate choice in this genre is Eastside Cafe. I adore their brunch; their dinners are reliable but don't exactly blow me away. Unusual wine list that you can explore with abandon.

              "Asian-Mediterranean Fusion", whatever the hell that is, can be had at Mars. If you go, and anyone in your party likes steak, you're in luck. The beef tenderloin at Mars is Austin's best. Order it medium rare and request extra leeks and mushrooms, and ask for them to go "a little heavy on the sauce". Mars has a good wine list. If they have the Marr Cellars Syrah (it comes and goes), you should split a bottle with your friends.

              Louie's 106 is a nice place if you're craving Mediterranean without the, uhhh, "fusion". Very elegant, and located on 6th street so you can follow up dinner with some dancing. (I should mention that in my opinion, Louie's is only vaguely Mediterranean.

              Then again, maybe Indian food entices you? Clay Pit is here for you, and delicious. I recommend the Seafood in Garlic & Red Wine.
              If you go here, be sure to cross the street to the Dog & Duck afterwards and enjoy a real Austin landmark. Take in the excellent juke box and the university crowd. Warning: get your fill of Clay Pit's full bar, as Dog & Duck serves only beer (and minimal wine list).

              You don't want sushi, so don't go to Uchi. OR! *Do* go to Uchi, and enjoy any of their sushi-inspired entrees that will convert you. After your visit here, you'll be saying "I don't like sushi except for Uchi" instead of "I don't like sushi."

              French and expensive: Aquarelle. You'll be next to Opal Devine's; after your meal, stroll next door to enjoy what I think is probably the best scotch list in Austin. If that doesn't float your boat, cross 6th to Mother Egan's for a decent Irish pub experience.

              Let us know where you end up!

              1. In Austin, I think you should consider Zoot or Wink. Both have upscale food and service. Zoot is in a converted old house, Wink a larger, more modern setting.

                1. Le Reve in San Antonio--Austin-Aquarelle,Driskill Grill
                  Carmelo's is nice , dressy
                  but still my all-time favorite in Austin is Vespaio Restaurant

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: SLadd

                    Carmelo's has terrible food. Possibly the most Americanized of all the Italian restaurants in town.

                    1. re: Kent Wang

                      Would you describe what you've eaten there that was terrible? Tastes are so subjective: one person's "terrible" can be another's "delicious". Clearly there are some who enjoy Carmelos. I'd also be interested to hear what SLadd enjoyed.

                      In any case, I've heard it said that there is no authentic Italian food in Austin. Perhaps there are matters of degree, but eating what one finds delicious is more important than eating what other people think is authentic.

                      1. re: Knoblauch

                        ~~ "Perhaps there are matters of degree, but eating what one finds delicious is more important than eating what other people think is authentic." ~~

                        Boy, do I ever agree with this statement. Perfectly said.

                        1. re: Knoblauch

                          It was two years ago and I don't remember the details. I think it was a grilled salmon that was severely overcooked (by over 10 minutes) and also overcooked pasta. The desserts are the most atrocious, as they just sit on the cart all day, and they're not even Italian desserts.

                          Obviously my taste is subjective -- that really goes without saying.

                    2. I wanted to second tom in austin’s suggestion of Fonda San Miguel (in Austin)—but for brunch rather than dinner. I have mixed feelings about their dinner menu. It’s not that the food is necessarily better at brunch. It’s just that a buffet brunch allows one to work around the average quality of some of FSM’s individual dishes. Feedback from visitors is generally favorable about FSM’s “gracious hacienda” vibe, if you will, and the variety of foods at brunch.

                      I realize that most of us are limiting our discussion to “fine dining” in Austin and San Antonio, but you’ll find plenty of information on everyday eats in both cities just by scrolling through older posts.

                      And thanks to Knoblauch and ChrissieH for reiterating the value of detailed posts that focus on each chowhound’s dining experience(s). As I see it, the point is to share information so that all ‘hounds can seek out great chow on their own. General condemnations—horrible!—or raves—great!—mean nothing to me; I need to see specific information on what was good or bad about dishes sampled (and why). Then, I can follow the advice of chowhounds whose tastes complement, but not necessarily match, my own. I imagine that at least some other ‘hounds feel the same way.


                      1. If your looking for something really great, La Reve is definitely in a class of its own in Austin/San Antonio.

                        San Antonio: Rosario's on Alamo is cheap and has a really great lunch special with cheese enchiladas and a beef fajita.
                        The Liberty Bar has a fun atmosphere (in an old house with a slanted floor and good art on the walls) and great American comfort food (the smothered pork chop is excellent).

                        Austin: Maria's Taco Express or Las Manitas for breakfast tacos or good enchiladas. Guerro's on S. Congress is great people watching, Enoteca is good for its patio and serves good panini, salads, pastas, and if your going to be in Austin try some bbq...Ruby's has yummy ribs and sides, Iron Works has good atmosphere, the Salt Lick provides a fun experience in a semi-hill country setting where you take your own cooler of beer/wine.