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Party for 75-100 people in October... need help narrowing my choices, please!

I am an employee trying to plan a company party for clients- most of whom are business directors and other higher-ups. Our group will be about 85% men, 15% women. I am born and raised in Pennsylvania and just travel to Austin for the first time last week. We're planning in serving appetizers and an open bar with a $10 cap on each drink. We like to have a private area so we can control who gets in, but if necessary we will use bracelets for anyone who should have access to the open bar.

I'm really kicking myself and wishing I thought of checking here last week before I went to Austin to scout locations; but now I've been there and I can't go back in time. The places that I've visited (most of them I didn't get a chance to eat at) and can hold the group are:

Most of these people have never been to Austin before, so we'd like to stick with "Austin Exclusives." We're also doing a gift bag for each attendee with a bottle of Tito's, a Keep Austin Weird shirt, a bbq rub from Stubbs, bbq sauce from the Salt Lick, a Keep Austin Weird Book, the City Limits 8 cd, some wild flower seeds, Tears of Joy hot sauce, etc. (If you could think of anything else for the gift bag, that would be great; too!)

Peche: We could get the whole restaurant and the veranda over looking the band playing in the courtyard- providing the band is decent that Sunday night!
The menu they recommended is:
Local Cheeses w/ Candied Nuts & Dried Fruits
Shrimp Cocktail w/ House Made Cocktail Sauce
Polpetinnis (Mini Meatballs)
Pork Confit Sandwiches
Roasted Root Vegetable Skewers
Organic Chocolate Truffles

Lambert's: We're looking at the upstairs and possibly getting a band (though they said that would be about $1k) The menu they suggested is:
Jalapeno Cornbread Muffins
Roasted Green Chili Queso with Fresh Fried Tortilla Chips
Spicy Deviled Eggs with Smoked Paprika & Caviar
Fried Green Tomatoes with Jumbo Lump Crab Salad, Mizuna & Green Goddess Dressing
Chopped Natural Brisket Sliders with Jalapeno, Pickles & Onion Relish on a Sweet Roll
Assorted Cookie Plate
Fruit Trifle

Belmont: Looking at the Dakota lounge. I do like that it has a separate entrance and it's own restroom (otherwise we will need to make sure we don't get party crashers- something that tends to be an occurrence with our parties) They said they could pipe in the band that plays on the patio.
Wild Mushroom & Goat Cheese Tart
Roasted Pear & Goat Cheese Tart
Crab Stuffed Mushrooms
Coconut Crusted Shrimp with Sweet Chili Glaze
Mini Pressed Cuban Sliders
Steak & Mushroom Quesadillas
Chicken Satay Kabobs with Spicy Peanut Sauce
Grilled Vegetable Kabobs with Blue Cheese
Guacamole & Fresh Salsa with Chips
Churros & “hot chocolate” shots

Moonshine: Here we're looking at the enclosed tented patio area... I'm very torn about this since their rep said it could seat 85 but if we get a band, then we could just barely fit 75. I did eat there and I liked it and I think it has the feel we're going for... but I'm unsure about having the party outside in mid-October.
Beer Battered Asparagus
Chicken Quesadillas with Black Bean Corn Salsa & Cilantro Cream
Mini Crawfish Crab Cakes with Hot Pepper Jelly
Smoked BBQ Chicken Skewers
Grilled Veggie Kabobs
Moonshine Corn Dog Shrimp
Chicken Fried Steak w/ Chipotle Cream Gravy
Fruit Bowl
Pecan Praline Cheesecake Bites
Fudge Stout Brownie Bites

Copa: We'd be in the Buzio's room upstairs here. I really love the look of the place, but I didn't have a chance to eat here.
Chips & Queso
Beef Empanadas
Chicken Flautas
Shrimp Diablo
Spinach & Mushroom Quesadillas
Mini Desserts

Old Pecan St Cafe: We could have the upstairs or the downstairs; I'm not entirely sure about this place as I've heard very mixed things. They recommended:
Assorted Kabobs
Assorted Stuffed Hot Croissant Sandwiches
Stuffed Mushrooms
Jumbo Shrimp
Swedish Meatballs
“Famous” Italian Cream Cake
Brownie with White Icing
Lemon Bars

Rio Grande: We'd either be in the raised area in the main dining room or in the "Cedar Room" and the patio. They recommended the Monterey App. Buffet, which includes steak, chicken and veggie quesadillas and a mini taco bar and chili con queso. I don't like how limited their menu seems.

Another option I'm considering is a dinner cruise with Capital Cruises. The catered food from the Hyatt wasn't recommended, so I'd have to get either cold food or purchase chafing pans and the like. I have no idea what I'd serve in this instance; but I do like the idea of being out on the lake.

All that being said, I am completely lost! The only places I ate at were Moonshine and Lamberts, both of which were decent. If you could let me know what you think of the places that are being considered (as well as the menus) I would greatly appreciate it!!

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  1. Just FYI lilbear - we MIGHT have our first cold front by mid October ;-)

    Wasn't sure if you were worried that it would be to cold outside, or too hot!

    2 Replies
    1. re: rudeboy

      I wasn't sure which way it would go by then!! It sure was hot last week!!
      What is a cold front in Texas?

      1. re: littlebear514

        Right now it is a faint dream! I'm actually going to PA here in about a week. Flying to Philly, then driving to OC NJ.

        If I were you, I'd think twice about the menu at Old Pecan (swedish meatballs?) and Copa (I haven't been to Copa, it sounds "plain." though, but maybe not for out of towners).

        The menus at Moonshine and Lambert's sound best, but I wonder if the brisket sliders would be tough - very hard to serve sliced brisket en masse. I also like the Capitol Cruises idea, perhaps with a caterer? I'm sure others will chime in soon.

    2. Don't know if people are flying into Austin, but just a reminder, there are pretty strict liquid laws on planes now. All liquids not clear and more than 3 ounces have to be packed in checked luggage. At least, I think you still have too!

      1. Check out this website... its a local gourmet grocery that has a pretty good local selection.. i bet they'd be willing to work with you http://www.cissismarket.com/pantry.html
        I can vouch for the chocolate chipolte fritos..i normally loathe fritos and those puppies are good.

        As far as the food menus, when I look at planning events (i've only had to do a couple), I judge menus by their vegetarian options. I'm not veggie, but there are often several people in whatever group you organize who are. If a menu just has a few throwaway dishes that seem to say "well, if we must have vegetarian stuff" then I'm a bit suspicious. I don't have an opinion about any of these places per se (haven't been to them) but that's how I start when I'm trying to choose... and Mid October here is nice weather... i'd say its comparable to May in the Northeast.

        1. We had a company function at Old Pecan Street for 50-ish people about a year and a half ago. It was a lunch with wait service, not a buffet, so it's a little different than what you're looking at.

          I wish I could recommend it, because it is a long-time Austin business, but my general recollection is that no one was impressed or eager to return (we're talking people who would be fine with well-prepared comfort food, no high-end preparations or sauce squiggles required to please this crowd). I'd put it well below Moonshine for both food and atmosphere; the downstairs was simply dark and dreary for our event.

          I'd hate for you to have that experience as a representation of what Austin has to offer.

          1. Peche is the newest on this list, so I'd rule them out. You're top 2 choices are Lambert's and The Belmont-you should definitely get the upstairs reserved if you go that route.

            1. Count me as a vote for Lambert's.
              I love the food at Belmont, but the food and the atmosphere are Any City, USA.

              2 Replies
              1. re: rusty_s

                Is Lambert's within reasonable walking distance from the Convention Center? (The hotels they will be coming from are the Radisson, Hilton and Residence Inn). Also, are there any other bars near by in case someone wants to go out afterward?

                1. re: littlebear514

                  there is no shortage of bars in downtown austin.

                  Lambert's is a 1/2 mile, maybe 5 blocks from CC. Moonshine is a little closer.