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Great meal for visiting friend

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Greetings from DC - my dear friend's husband is returning from Iraq and they will be meeting in Austin for their reunion (after 13 months apart!) She has asked me to find a "great" restaurant for them to share a meal on a Saturday night. She is allergic to fish but he eats everything. Best to steer clear of funky ethnic. I'm sure they'll want ambiance as well. They are staying at a hotel somewhere withing walking distance to the 6th street entertainment district. Thanks in advance for your suggestions.

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  1. It depends on what they mean by "great": if they are willing to pay greatly, the Driskill is one of the nicest restaurants in Austin. The atmosphere is formal, almost more business-y than romantic but the food is an experience. Very pricey. I can't recommend any specific dishes, though, because they've changed chefs and in any case I don't have the means to eat there more than once every couple years. http://www.driskillgrill.com

    For less money, there's the Iron Catcus. http://www.ironcactus.com/dt_austin.asp Atmosphere is upscale (frosted glass/dark woodsy). They serve fish, but have lots of other offerings.

    Because I've never eaten there, I can't recommend it for dinner--but I do recommend getting drinks at the Steven F. Austin. One the second floor there is a bar with a balcony, you can see down Congress Ave. to the capitol and it is a very pleasant place to be. Every time I've been, it's been laid-back enough to be there on a date.

    2 Replies
    1. re: rusty_s

      Here's a link to a semi-recent thread on the Driskill Grill:

      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/433738

      You can search the board for more opinions on their chow, but just note that, as rusty_s points out, Chef David Bull is no longer working there as of March 2007.

      1. re: rusty_s

        I'm going to have to disagree with rusty on the Iron Cactus. I've been there more times than I care to admit and the food has been uniformly poor in quality and preparation. I do, however, enjoy the occasional tequila flight.

        I will agree that the second floor balcony of the SFA is a very nice place for a drink, and the downstairs restaurant, The Roaring Fork, is very good and I enjoy the semi formal southwestern atmosphere. TRF also does one of my favorite duck dishes in town, sided by a terriffic rendition of green chile mac and cheese.

      2. If they're willing to walk over to 4th/5th street, there's Starlite, or La Traviata or Bellissimo if they want Italian. Downtown restaurants in general are not going to be the ultimate Austin chowhound destinations, but should fit the bill okay for the location. You can use the "search this board" function to pull up reviews of both.

        1. I think a great idea for a fun place that encourages large parties to have a great time is Buca De Beppo--problem is that it is about 8 miles north of downtown at the intersection of MoPac and 183. For the money you save on the meal it makes sense to rent a car or two and motor out there. They can handle large parties and will be glad to reserve a table or a room I think.

          2 Replies
          1. re: gntlmn6464

            Well yes, Buca de Beppo can handle large parties easily, but the food is third rate at best and the decor is about as garish as is humanly possible - it's like eating inside a juke box. I've eaten there twice and sworn I'll never go back because both times the food was underdone and tasteless. I ordered tortellini there once. The pasta tasted like undercooked library paste and the filling had literally no taste at all. None. How they managed that I'll never know and I don't want to know.

            As to the original purpose of the thread: If you friends will be staying downtown, I second the recommendation for Starlite. I've eaten there and it was unblievably good. Or, they could go down to the Shorline Grill, which is my second favorite downtown spot. The food is not quite as good as Starlite, but the decor and the location are almost impossible to beat.

            1. re: klanch

              Second that...on all three counts.

          2. OOPS, my bad, I totally misread the letter, I thought that you were talking about a reuinion of a group of soldiers back from Iraq--how I read that into the letter I will never know! My suggestion of Buca De Beppo was totally based on thinking that there was going to be a large reunion of soldiers!!!! I would never have suggested it otherwise, and I apologize. I agree that the food is less than memorable but for a rowdy group that I envisioned it is an option. For the real answer to the question I would take a cab to Zoot's.