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gift certificate for a foodie-but-usually-broke friend! Where to send him with $100?

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Hi guys,

So our really good friend is moving to Austin in January, and we want to get him a gift certificate to a really really awesome place. He is a true chowhound, LOVES food, will eat/try anything and is all about finding the out of the way tiny local eateries. He is a musician and travels EVERYWHERE, but due to profession usually totally broke, which means he's all about dives and the amazing hole in the wall kinda places. And there's nothing wrong with that, those are some of our favorite spots too. BUT. We'd like to get him a really nice dinner out. Somewhere that has amazing food but maybe he wouldn't go to on his own due to budget.

So, geography is not a constraint, cuisine is wide open too. Basically, where can he get the most amazing meal for around $100/person? We're thinking some sort of tasting menu/multi course kinda deal.... something fancy, but most importantly REALLY REALLY good.

Thanks in advance!!

PS: we are not from Austin and have never been, unfortunately, so totally clueless as to the dining scene other than the fact that Austin seems like a pretty hip fun little town.

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  1. way too many choices. do you have a type of food or atmosphere? On the sushi side i would recommend Uchi[ http://www.uchiaustin.com/ ] or Tomodachi [http://local.yahoo.com/info-33890809-...]. Uchi is young, hip and hopping, Tomo is slow, quiet neighborhood. For great all around meals the two hottest restaurants [and both have national acclaim] are Olivia [http://olivia-austin.com/] and Perlas [http://www.perlasaustin.com/]. At any of those $100 with alcohol will fit the bill and he will have a great meal.

    Mike

    1. I like Mike's choices, but would also throw Wink ( http://www.winkrestaurant.com/ ), another restaurant with national acclaim, into the mix. Daily menus, ingredients from local and artisan purveyors, and a wine list that is both fabulous and reasonable.

      1. All good suggestions listed here so far. I've had great experiences at Max's Wine Dive. They have a lot of small plate choices, so for $100 he could try a lot of different things and have a few glasses of wine (they have $6 offerings during HH).

        1. I'll throw in Parkside (http://www.parkside-austin.com/) since no one else has yet. You can do a lot of damage with that much p/p, and I've not had a bad meal there yet.

          1. i know you said "most amazing meal for around $100/person" so i am assuming you would like a place where he can dine alone and feel comfortable.

            a lot of restaurants have tasting and/or prix fixe menus, but my single diner self has learned that a lot of places require 2 or more at a table for them.

            1. What about a grocery store like Central Market or Whole Foods. Their take-out is above average and he could eat for a week with the groceries.

              1. Maybe I'm a snob, but there are several restaurants here that have been mentioned that I don't think are up to the caliber that you're looking for. The worst offenders . . . Perlas? No way. They are trendy but the food doesn't live up to the atmosphere. It's mediocre at best. I've been three times so they've had plenty of chances. Too bad because the location and space are phenomenal. Another: Max's Wine Dive is a chain and not all that upscale either, which it sounds like is what you're looking for. I wouldn't buy a fat gift certificate to a chain restaurant to show off how cool Austin is. Why bother?

                As for places I'd recommend . . . Uchi – if this person likes sushi – is probably the hottest most respectable places in town. This isn't even a new restaurant, but the food is so fantastic that the hype has maintained. This is one of the only restaurants in town that can claim this prestige. When Gourmet magazine came into town (when they were still around) this is where they always wanted to go.

                Other suggestions:

                Olivia
                Wink
                Jeffrey's (not as trendy as the others, but good for a classy, quiet meal.)
                Sienna (Italian)
                Lambert's (BBQ)
                Paggi House

                There are more, but this is a start.

                By the way, one place no one ever recommends but is so cool is Ventana. It is run by students nearing the end of their schooling at the Texas Culinary Academy. And it's all students, from the hostesses to the wait staff to the chefs. It's probably not where you want to buy your gift certificate (the atmosphere is not so hip – it's all the way up in officetown in North Austin) but it might be worth recommending for your friend to check out on their own. You get a four star meal for about half the price of the trendy restaurants downtown. You get excellent service and everyone is so attentive. I guess they have to be. From what I hear, working at Ventana is a requirement to graduate.

                1. Uchi really shouldn't be characterized as a Sushi restaurant. You can have a very very good meal at Uchi without touching a single piece of Sushi or sashimi.

                  What they do with meats at Uchi is just as good as what they do with seafood. Lots of good dishes utilizing shortrib and pork belly and all those other 'good' cuts.