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Where should we eat tonight? [AUS]

Meeting up with my wife and another couple for dinner.

Parameters:
1) Must be an accessible place; the other couple isn't very adventurous. No hole-in-the-wall places.
2) Not too pricey. No Driskill, Aquarelle, etc. Less than $25 each, not including booze.
3) Fairly central. South of 45th street, west of I-35, north of Oltorf, east of Mopac.
4) Not Enoteca, as three of the people going have been there recently.

Now, taking those four core parameters, what fun place should I recommend?

How about Blue Star? I've heard mixed reviews...
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  1. I enjoyed Blue Star the time I went for lunch when it first opened. I've heard less favorable reports since.

    A few others to try:

    Zax for semi-upscale pub grub (bills itself as an American Bistro)

    Cafe Josie (may be on the high end price-wise)

    and the old standby, Castle Hill.

    1. Malaga, La Traviata, Castle Hill, Cafe Josie.

      1. I like the Zax idea - the restaurant isn't like a pub at all (which is what I thought it was ging in the first time). I have had three really good meals there, and since it is relatively inexpensive, it is consistently one of my top choices when going downtownish. It is more Bistro-ish. They have parking, and you can park right across the street if their lot is full.

        4 Replies
        1. re: rudeboy

          OK, only been to Zax once, thought it was OK. Any suggestions about what to order?

          1. re: tom in austin

            Zax has a grilled shrimp appetizer that has stolen the show over the entrees on a couple recent visits.They also have a couple dozen taps of draught beer so save room for a couple pints.

            1. re: scrumptiouschef

              I really like Zax! The mussels are very tasty. They also do and olive, cheese and bread appetizer that always makes me want to return. I've been four or five times and the service has been great. For the price, I think this place is quite the find!

              1. re: scrumptiouschef

                I made my 2nd visit to Zax tonight, and had a very decent meal. They had a steak special, a NY strip, which I was repeatedly told was "hand-cut" - I guess they had the whole cow back there. Anyways, it had a blue cheese-walnut compound butter, which was good although IMO quite mild on both the blue cheese and walnut flavors. Came with poblano-bacon mashed potatoes which were heavy on the bacon (never a bad thing) and again, a little too subtle on the poblano, but good nonetheless. I'm chalking up the subtleness of flavors to the fact that I've got a little cold, but despite that, it was still a good meal.

                The shrimp appetizer, on the other hand, I thought was lousy. I can't see how it could, on its best day, steal the show, but that's just one man's opinion. The cilantro-lime cocktail sauce didn't taste like anything different from regular cocktail sauce. I actually thought it was going to be a green sauce, or at least greener, but it was plain ol' cocktail sauce, without even any of that tang & bite. Tiny shrimp that were grilled fine though.

                Anyways, I actually like this place so far, mostly because it has been pretty quiet on both of my visits, and a nice place to eat a peaceful meal & have a few pints in solitude downtown. Bartender told me that is an anomaly though, so not sure how much more I'll be stopping by.

          2. blue star is north of 45th by 2 blocks ;) i've eaten there once for lunch. it was good, i enjoyed it.

            have you been to sampaio's for brazilian? it's next to blue star. they have delicious bolinhos de arroz (fried rice balls with cheese, herbs) and pão de quiejo (brazilian cheese rolls) and the entrees i've had are all pretty good. they also make tasty capirinhas.

            1 Reply
            1. re: yimay

              Sampaio: Jules and I met Robert and Ted there for drinks (which were good!), but didn't eat there. They had just finished dinner and claimed it was very good. We'll go back some time to try it ourselves.

            2. I second Sampaio. Went on a family outing. There were 4 of us, and the waiter was very pleasant and knew just what to do and say to introduce his country's eats to a table of the heathen. The food was wonderfully presented and excellent in every way,

              I'd go back and tried to last night when I was outvoted by fellow musicians (these from Alabama) who had a craving for the excellent Manuel's, which too has made great strides.

              1. I appreciate all y'all's suggestions. We ended up going to the "I'm For 4" benefit at Matt's El Rancho; it featured a buffet and a tequila tasting. The buffet was mediocre, the Don Julio was excellent.

                I'll revive this thread next time I'm desperate for ideas. Thanks again!