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Appetizers for dinner...

So i have a friend coming to town for the first time and we have one night for dinner. Instead of doing a dinner, i was thinking that we should do a progressive appetizer and drink thing so she can see a little more of what Austin has to offer. We are starting at around 6:00 or 6:30 and need to be at Fonda's bar to meet some folks for a final drink between 9:30 and 10. I would assume we can hit 2 or 3 places at most without feel rushed (and dealing with traffic).

So it's to you chowhounds...where would you go to have a drink and appetizer that shows off Austin and it's character? What would you order? She lives in the SF bay area so Chinese and Japanese are probably less appealing than SW cuisine.

As a caveat, she is going to be up by the Arboretum for the pick up so NW is better than downtown (and south) in this case.


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  1. One thing that my friends and I like to do is Eddie V's and ZTejas for HH. Some good appetizers are half priced with drink specials, as well. We usually start at Eddie Vs with oysters and crab cakes. Then walk on over to ZTejas for the shrimp and avocado bites and the pot stickers. Then, you could head Downtown to the Roaring Fork for some amazing complimentary beef jerky and some green chili pork. Then head on over to FSM.

    In the Arboretum area, I also understand that Manuels on Jolleyville has a very good Happy Hour.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Rene

      Jeffery's has half price apps mon-fri. SWMBO (she who must be obeyed) and I went there last week and had some of their apps and a drink. Nice bar, not very busy (around 6P). This sort of wild and extravagant behavior is rare for us, but it was so much fun we will do it again.

      1. re: Rene

        I also want to mention the super affordable HH at the Daily Grill in the Domain. The apps are less than $2.00. I've only tried the crab cake and thought it was terrific, almost all crab. YUMMM.

      2. Manuels in the Arboretum area does 1/2 price appetizers ...my friend and I did 2 house margarita's and shared 3 appetizers for dinner last night and the bill was right around $20.00. We really enjoyed the appetizers too !!

        1. Hubby and I also like the small plates at FINO!

          1. Eddie V's is a great choice for 1/2 priced appetizers and is in her area.
            Haven't been to the Domain yet, but have heard that Kona Grill has cheap ones and there are several places close together so you could snack hop

            1. Would absolutely second Manuel's Great Hills on the patio. Get the hongos guisados and the chiviche, both half price. The chicken mole is good, but I think it has too much plain shredded chicken to the mole/cheese ratio. Great corn tortillas.

              Then to Eddie V's for (again) half-price appetizers. SO and I usually split the arugula/goat cheese/wild mushroom salad and he either gets the seared ahi tuna or the tempora shrimp and I either get the lobster bisque or the broiled oysters (with a side of hollindaise).

              Both of these are VERY afffordable and outstanding at full price.

              1. If it were my friend coming for a visit, mkrell, I'd be tempted to try some of the places serving these delicious-sounding dishes, particularly the salad at North by Northwest that Carter B. suggested:


                Or, since you're finishing up at Fonda San Miguel, perhaps you and your friend might like to focus on great versions of Mexican and Central American food rather than upscale-dining spots with cheap happy-hour specials. If so, you could sample various small plates at El Zunzal, Mi Colombia, Jantizio, etc. These restaurants aren't at all fancy, but then again, you're there for the chow, right? Disclaimer: I'm taking scrumptiouschef's word for it on Mi Colombia and El Zunzal, which I still haven't tried yet.

                Since Daily Grill and Kona Grill are national chains, I'm not sure that they'd provide your friend with a unique sense of Austin's best dining. If you don't mind a short drive, you can find similarly "comfortably upscale" options, with middle-class creature comforts *and* really good food—at some of Austin's locally-owned spots. I've enjoyed the appetizers at the bar at Jeffrey's, which singlemalt mentions above. I believe that Zax has been mentioned favorably in several recent threads. Perhaps it's worth a search of the board and a look at their menu?

                In the spirit of striving, collectively, for intense deliciousness, I must state that I don't like the food at Z'Tejas at all (http://www.chowhound.com/topics/41861... ). I also think Manuel's chow is overrated (http://www.chowhound.com/topics/361720 ). Personally, I'm not that impressed with the Roaring Fork (http://www.chowhound.com/topics/353192 ) or the food—as opposed to the ambience—at Fino. I haven't tried it myself, but I know that several 'hounds seem to really dislike Eddie V's.

                You can use the "search this board" link at the top of this page to find more opinions on all these places.

                6 Replies
                1. re: MPH

                  Let me clarify. I really do not like Manuel's at all, except for the happy hour dishes mentioned above. I feel they are a real rip-off for main courses.

                  1. re: MPH

                    MPH,This is a warning about a possible downhill slide at El Zunzal.

                    The big beefy Marine who owns the place with his mom hasn't been in his joint lately and the food has suffered noticeably.His brother,a very nice man with a calm demeanor is overseeing the operation now and the Carnitas are woeful.

                    Their method is is thus:Cubing a pork butt,roasting the cubes,then frying in the rendered fat.The result,formerly was a crisp outside with a fatty succulent center.The new version is dry,dry and dry.Not only not good but actually bad.The Guacamole is also not as good.It used to come freshly made and nicely salted and limed with fresh chopped sweet onion.No more.It could possibly be no longer made to order.

                    Oh the privation.

                    The Pupusa are still delicious but once again not on the same par as before.

                    I'm giving El Zunzal a couple months break before I return.

                    The above observations came after 3 consecutive trips in recent weeks.

                    1. re: scrumptiouschef

                      Thanks for the warning, scrumptiouschef. I didn't realize that there had been a change in the kitchen at El Zunzal. It's always sad when good chow goes bad, but it's worse when bad chow happens to good chowhounds. I'll steer clear of El Z until you give the go-ahead.

                      And I can appreciate your clarification, amysuehere. Manuel's is certainly a better deal during happy hour. I'm still so mad about those disgusting runny-mashed-potato "gorditas" that it will take more than half-price appetizers to get me to return—at least during this decade. ;-)

                      1. re: MPH

                        Isn't it sad when something like that happens to turn you off to an otherwise good find?

                        Same thing happened to me with T&S. Went on a regular basis until one really horrid experience, and I haven't been back since.

                        1. re: amysuehere

                          Actually, I really don't find it sad that Manuel's food is not delicious to me. I'm thrilled that I'm no longer eating it. =D Their "gorditas" were the tipping point, but all the food that I sampled there (on more than one visit) was, in my opinion, mediocre at best. For me to consider that Manuel's is otherwise a "good find" would mean that I've enjoyed their food, other than the gorditas. Or possibly that I'm unfairly letting one negative experience overwhelm all the good ones. There were no good experiences. There were only bad ones.

                          I can appreciate that other people like Manuel's. More power to them. And it's great that chowhound.com showcases these different opinions. But I certainly don't miss what, to me, is undelicious food, even at relatively more-affordable prices.

                          1. re: MPH

                            My goodness, you definately have a theme going today, mph.

                            I like Manuel's for a few very select items; hongos, chiviche, corn tortillas and mole sauce. The rest I completely agree with you.

                            With me, that's more the rule than the exception. I find one or two menu items at a place that I really enjoy and the rest, had I tried them first, would probably leave me never coming back.

                  2. Eddie V's is a wonderful place for HH especially in your vicinity...all of my out of town guests have had great meals here, either location (NW and Downtown).

                    1. for small bites, it's Wink's wine bar and Fino hands down. I regularly just order appetizers for dinner at both places