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Restaurant Suggestions Away from Downtown

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I have out of town friends who will be in Austin March 17 & 18. it hit me that this is during SXSW when they tried to get a hotel room downtown. anyone have any suggestions about where to eat away from downtown crowds? looking for something more upscale, good wine list, etc. but open to all. thanks for your help.

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  1. Drive out to Lakeway and hit Hudson's on the Bend. Call ahead and tell Jeff you're coming with out-of-town guests, in tow. Tell him you really want to impress. Bring him something nice for his efforts.

    If you really want a unique experience--off the beaten path--try European Bistro in Pflugerville. It is a horrible location for what it is, but it is some of the most authentic old-world European cuisine in Texas. (www.european-bistro.com) It is located in a 104 year old building, right in the middle of Pflugerhell. Beautiful restoration.The Owner's name is Anne. She is exceptionally friendly, and no doubt you'll find this older German guy on the piano. For whatever reason, this place reminds me of a mix between a great european bistro mixed with the set of "Waiting for Guffman." They have some exciting and funky wine selections, too.

    For Italian, though it is not in its own free-standing building, and some of the decor is a bit hokey, check out Andiamo Ristorante.

    No doubt, Fonda San Miguel will not experience the downtown traffic volume in Allendale. FSM is always a winner.

    1. I'll second both the Hudson's & Andiamo recommendations. I haven't been to European Bistro, so can't comment there. Some others options away from downtown is Bellagio on Jester just off 360 & 2222. ( http://www.bellagioitalianbistro.com/... ) or Siena at 360 & 2222 ( http://www.sienarestaurant.com/index.htm ). Of the two, I like the food at Bellagio a little better (it's more quiet & intimate as well), but Sienna is also good and is very impressive from an appearance standpoint. It has a nice bar and lounge area in case you have to wait.

      1. austx03,

        Fonda San Miguel will be a crowded nightmare during SxSW. Plus, as you probably know, not all local 'hounds love this place (http://www.chowhound.com/topics/358552 ). Of course, if your visitors want to go, and they can get a reservation that weekend, I recommend their weekend brunch over their regular dinner menu. I also like Hudson's on the Bend overall (http://www.chowhound.com/topics/360625 ), though they disappoint in some ways. Given their place on so many "best of" lists, HOTB might be very crowded that weekend, too.

        To escape the hordes at restaurants in town, I'll probably head to my old fave, the BackStage Steakhouse in Spicewood (http://www.chowhound.com/topics/93193 ). They open nightly for dinner at 5 P.M.; they weren't crowded last year during SxSW; and they never disappoint. Their daily specials have always been excellent when I've dined there.

        In my opinion, Siena is more "romantic" than delicious. To me, their chow tastes like safe, suburban, Italianate food (http://www.chowhound.com/topics/334867 ). I've never personally tried Andiamo or Bellagio, though.

        Best,
        MPH

        1. Tomo Sushi on Parmer is new and much better than most sushi options on the far north side of town. It has kind of a downtown vibe once you enter the restaurant and put the shopping strip exterior behind you.

          1. Moderate priced, Fino, just north of UT but still may be crowded , also Mirabelle, in sort of NW Austin but easily accessible. Cheaper, Hyde Park Bar and Grill, especially the one out south, 34th St Cafe for good soup, salad, sandwiches and some full plates. Din Ho for Chinese, more north by the Target, Texas Culinary Institute north of 183 on Burnet Rd, T and S Chinese, way north on Lamar, lot of people like it but I don't, neither do I care for Andiamo nor Fonda San Miguel(used to like it a lot). Bistrio 88, have always liked to eat lunch there, out on Bee Caves.

            1. Hey MPH - I agree that much of Siena's appeal is based on the appearance of the place - it's probably the "best-looking" restaurant in Austin. And while I've always been satisfied with the food, I wouldn't put it in the "great, can't wait to go again" category. I suppose that could classify the cuisine as safe.

              I think where all of us (or maybe just me) sometimes struggle is how to match expectations/other requirements to the search for great food. If someone were to ask me my favorite restaurant in Austin, I would say Starlite, and part of Starlite’s appeal to me, aside from one of the best meals I’ve had in Austin, was the look and feel of the place, plus the excellent service. But, Starlite wouldn't have worked for this situation. I loved Gene's (thanks for that recommendation), but would not take a dinner party there for a nice evening out.

              So, should it be strictly about the food, or do we factor in other considerations (provided, of course, the food is still good)? Where do we draw the line? Excellent? Very Good? Pretty Good? Good? What’s the consensus among the Austin regulars?

              4 Replies
              1. re: Ken W

                Ken--

                I've been to Starlite and had good food, but nothing great. Can you make any suggestions that will steer me the right way?

                Thanks in advance!

                1. re: tom in austin

                  I was there in November ('06) and really thought everything was great. Specifically I ordered the rack of lamb and my wife had the halibut. We also split a soup (I remember it was the soup du jour) and the spinach salad. I was very pleased with the meal - I hope you have the same experience next time you visit.

                  bon appetit

                  1. re: Ken W

                    OK, good to know. I had a beef tenderloin special that was heavily recommended by the waitress, but was inclined toward the rack of lamb. The beef tenderloin was pretty good, but wasn't delicious. My wife also got the halibut, of which we traded bites, and I felt that it had been slightly overcooked; it was a little dryer than it should have been, and some of the flavor had been lost.

                2. re: Ken W

                  That's a good question, Ken W. I’m an unusual case. Since I moved here, I don't think I've eaten anywhere more than five times. I have favorites within categories, but there’s no one place where I go all the time. There's still so much out there to try!

                  When I have visitors, though, I have to think about their preferences. Do they want the best-tasting options? Do they want a comfortable option? What’s their idea of comfortable?

                  When making recommendations, I draw the line somewhere between "you won't be sorry to have made a special trip out there" to "please, please, for the love of all that's holy, go there right now!" But I'll also suggest serviceable, not great, options within certain geographical areas or with certain features (big-screen TVs), if they ask specifically about that. I often add a disclaimer to say that I’m suggesting Restaurant X because it meets all your criteria, but their chow is just so-so.

                  I think we’re touching upon the chowhound Golden Rule here. Recommend unto others as you would want recommended to you. When I visit a place, I hate wasting a meal on bad food.

                3. There's a new-ish fancy looking wine bar on Guadalupe & 44th-ish. It looks really nice from the outside.

                  The Chinatown Center on North Lamar is a blast.

                  1. That would be Vino Vino (http://www.vinovinotx.com/). Right now, they're still in the process of getting their license to sell drinks; in the meantime, you can go to their wine tastings (they're doing a tasting every night 6pm-8pm for the month of March) and buy bottles of wine. But the full wine-and-snacks-bar concept is still waiting on the licensing.

                    (And that was supposed to be a reply to hooliganyouth above...)