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any other Chez Nous-like places in Austin?

I like Chez Nous because it is "honest" food reflecting a long-standing tradition of French cooking...simple, not pretentious. Austin used to have others like it before the influx of the school-trained "chefs" who now dominate... i.e, the Belgian Restaurant on Bee Caves, La Costa Vasca (great Spanish food without attitude), and so on.

Are there any other places like Chez Nous that I'm missing? Good food, no attitude, where the chef learned the trade in situ as opposed to the CIA or elsewhere? Please, Vespaio sure doesn't count.
I need to take some folks to dinner and Chez Nous has been our annual spot, but I'd like to go somewhere else this year for the annual post -Carnaval repast... Was thinking of Tam's Deli, but the atmosphere is a tad lacking! The food is perfect though! Likewise my fave Asia Cafe, but this is a special dinner....

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  1. Hi sambamaster,

    Good question. And thanks for calling attention to the fact that great chow doesn't necessarily come from an "expert" chef trained at some cooking school. Below I’ve pasted a link to an article from 2001 on the subject of local chefs' on-the-job training:

    http://209.85.165.104/search?q=cache:...

    To answer your question, have you tried Raymond Tatum's delicious cooking at the Backstage Steakhouse in Spicewood? The restaurant may be a little out of your way, but the drive is nice this time of year.

    Here are some links in which their chow is discussed:

    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/327792

    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/93193

    Backstage just might fit the bill.

    Best,
    MPH

    3 Replies
    1. re: MPH

      Backstage is great, Raymond is a terrific chef, but it is a bit far for what i want---I think. Jeffrey's hasn't been the same since he left...Actually, Backstage was on my shortlist...but the drive on a school night...drinking some beer, wine, etc...well...you get the picture.
      But I was hoping, I guess, for something a bit more, for lack of a better term, foreign...the charm of chez nous, the artistry and uniqueness of the old Costa Vasca...that sort of thing.

      Thanks for the suggestion. I wish we were in Portland OR and we'd hit the amazing Alba Osteria. Too bad Austin doesn't have a restaurant like that one! But I just can't think of any place.
      Any other ideas?

      1. re: sambamaster

        Hmmm, that’s a tough one.

        I would suggest Aquarelle, which technically fits the bill, as the chefs trained on the job. However, I’ve only had one boring meal there. I’m waiting to revisit before I post the details, just in case it was a fluke.

        Cafe Caprice is often mentioned in discussions of Chez-Nous-like places (maybe because of its similarly “romantic” ambience), but I can’t tell you anything firsthand about the chow. Maybe some other ‘hound can?

        Best,
        MPH

        1. re: MPH

          Cafe Caprice close a few months ago and the place is still for rent and everytime I pass I have high hopes for a new restaurant opening there...

    2. Are you telling me there used to be real Spanish food here? Sigh. This thread is my exact lament about Austin - I miss a $10.00 plate of pappardelle that makes you re-think the meaning of pasta, or trucha en escabeche that makes you wish you were that lucky fish... no construction, no chipotle. What about Habana on 6th? I get my PR/Cuban fix here periodically - some things (mofongo, empanadas) are really good. Or the Buenos Aires Cafe? Also great empanadas and tom in austin is a fan of their roast chicken....I've only been for lunch. I also had one decent meal at Andiamo, but didn't think the decor was that much better than Tam Deli. Can you host the thing, buy a bunch of candles, hire a couple of servers and have Tam Deli cater?

      2 Replies
      1. re: saticoy

        Now that you mention it, Buenos Aires Cafe might be what sambamaster is looking for. Fairly unpretentious, and BYO wine or beer. The food isn't cheap, though, and the place is very small.

        Of all the places I can brainstorm, the choice that sounds like the authentic and affordable food sambamaster seems to be seeking is Little Thailand in Garfield. Sambamaster asks for "good food, no attitude"; I'm pretty dang sure that the chef learned from years of doing, not from an expensive institute. Just delicious Thai home cooking with a fun and unique atmosphere.

        Also, I attended a birthday party there with at least 15 guests, so they can handle a crowd w/ enough warning.

        Edited to add: If you're thinking about catering, there are a couple folks loosely affiliated with Chez Nous who cater. I helped host a party that went this route, and the cassoulet was so delicious that I could have easily consumed five pounds. I can't remember the actual name of their business right now, but when it comes to me, I'll post it.

        1. re: tom in austin

          The Chez Nous people are the ones behind Le Marseillais which does soup peddler like delivery and apparently catering. I haven't been to thrilled with their entrees reheated after delivery but their pates & tapenades are awesome.

          http://www.bistrolemarseillais.com/

          Also, I should mention that my friend is getting Tam Deli's cream puffs for her weddig reception so they do some amount of catering.

      2. I hesitate to mention it as I haven't been in quite some time, but the European Cafe in Pflugerville impressed me when I visited a few years ago. It's in "downtown" Pflugerville across from Hanover's (which usually has some live music afterwards if you are there on a weekend). The food style is Austrian-Hungarian and while I have no idea how authenticate it is, I'm pretty sure the owners hail from that region and I remember especially liking the dessert case and the restaurant was nice.

        Also, Mi Columbia was reviewed recently and I've only been once or twice but I used to love its predecessor Dona Emilias when it was on the east side (and 1/3rd the current downtown prices).

        1. Eastside Cafe has very good, honest food that's prepared by a chef who, I believe, trained on the job. The atmosphere is very nice but still casual and the wine list is well thought out and very reasonably priced.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Greg Spence

            Eastside Cafe is pretty darn good, especially for brunch.

          2. What a great question. It really puts a finger on a missing, or lost, element in the Austin dining scene. Looking over your criteria, I would add two others to the suggestions above. Fonda, though upscale seems to be unpretentious and the food is about being authentic over a chef's interpretation. Also Sao Paulo's on San Jacinto, for most of its menu, seems like it could fit the bill. But neither fits your description as well as Chez Nous.