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Uchi, Ranch 616, Bess Bistro, Belmont, and Vespaio (bar)

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Great visit - Uchi was all its hyped to be - just terrific food, service, and atmosphere (but pricey, as expected).

Local recommendation of Ranch 616 for steak was a very good one - I loved my ribeye perfectly medium rare as ordered and over enchiladas (wow) ,the fried oysters are among the best gulf variety I've had, the live music was outstanding and servers Rosemary, Preston, and co. were awesome.

Bess Bistro and The Belmont were convenient and nice downtown spots for lunch - fresh, tasty salads at both and good service as well. The frites at Bess were a standout as well.

Vespaio bar was a destination in our search for pure mixology and craft cocktails - it was not that, but it was really enjoyable anyway. The Sazerac I ordered was very non-traditional (shaken instead of stirred, with Angostura rather than Peychaud's bitters, and Pernod anise flavor was poured into the mix instead of an absinthe or herbsaint rinse - and served up in a martini glass vs. neat in a rocks glass) but tasty (so I didn't complain or inquire further - as that's really the point, right) and the bartender was so friendly and engaging that it was worthwhile stop. Soco is definitely a must destination in more depth for next visit to Austin!

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  1. Uchi is highly overrated and isn't even in the same league as Mushashino (Uchi chef Tyson Cole worked there).

    Ranch 616 has a great atmosphere but the food is fair at best, better off going to Lambert's for similiar cuisine.

    7 Replies
    1. re: lloyddaniels

      the good news is that rlg, a visitor to our fair city, enjoyed both of those places a lot.

      1. re: lloyddaniels

        Great - thanks for the tip - will look into Lambert's next time - any thoughts on where to get a properly crafted classic or new/innovative cocktail as well? Does anyone make their own bitters, for instance?

          1. re: ieathereforeiam

            Had a great experience at Peche that didn't involve cocktails...stopped in for lunch one day two weeks ago. Solid food. I was quite impressed.

            1. re: ieathereforeiam

              Completely agree with the list. Peche has a nice liquor list, and a staff for the most part that knows what it's doing. It can be a little loud/yuppie on occasion though. They make a lot of their own bitters, and have some home-infused liquors and ingredients. You can also tell them to make cocktails the way you like them (sometimes their choice of glassware and shaking vs stirring isn't always appropriate). Overall probably the best classic cocktail bar in austin.

              The Good knight is a much smaller place, with a darker, almost noirish theme. The cocktail menu is small, but well executed mostly. Some drinks are executed in a rather strange fashion - for example the sazerac was served on the rocks - without any simple syrup.

              I've never been to fino, but ran into the head bartender drinking at Peche and chatting up the owner. He knows his stuff - even the owner of peche acknowledges that he's probably the best bartender in town in terms of knowledge and execution. The menu online looks really good too, so I'm not hesitant to recommend it despite the fact that I haven't been there.

            2. re: rlh

              The bar staff at Vespaio is spot on with properly executed classic cocktails.

              1. re: Kaya_n_Austin

                To each their own, and I understand that rinsing vs. leaving the anise/absinthe/Herbsaint in the drink is a matter of preference, but a classic Sazerac cocktail does NOT EVER involve Angostura bitters instead of Peychaud's - and I have a strong preference for all-spirits cocktails of all types to be stirred not shaken and served in a stemless glass - this is much more prevalent in New Orleans as well. Next time I'll chat with the bartender there who was great and get what he recommends to have as his favorite drink to make - I really liked the place.