MSP Chowhound looking for downtown Austin recs
I searched this board and found several threads inquiring about downtown eating options, but not many replies to most of them. One from January has 10 replies, and I'll use that as a reference.
My wife and I will be staying in downtown Austin for 3 nights this coming weekend. Specifically, we are halfway between Duncan Park and Wooldridge Square. Looking for solid recs for the following...
Romantic dinner (but I realize that if a reservation is required, I might be SOL)
Intimate, chef-driven gem (probably lots, but always looking for a rec)
Mexican or Tex Mex dive
We will have a car. We are staying in a vacation rental, so we will be doing some cooking on our own. We have Whole Foods in Minnesota, but I'll probably make the mecca to the original.
Will take any other recs fo tourist stuff, especially music venues. Thanks.
Coming back to the thread to post a report.
Fabi + Rosi. Went here on Thursday evening. Web site mentioned private event on Satruday, and we didn't know what we'd be doing Friday. Arrived in Austin Thursday and figured what the heck. First of all, for those who aren't aware, sparkling wines are half price on Thursdays. That made the NV Louis Roederer less than store retail, and probably close to cost.
German eclectic/haute cuisine? It works. We went light (well, as light as one can go with a German-themed menu). Statrted with an arugula salad and a beet/chevre appetizer. The beet/chevre thing is sort of overdone, but was pulled off nicely, with a touch of honey. My wife loved her salad. For entrees, we had the poached rurbot and seared scallops. The turbot was cooked perfectly. Ditto the scallops, which came with devils on horseback (the only way you'll get me to eat dates) and atop a parsnip puree. White on white, but a nice flavor. Dessert was a lovely brioche/honey cake filled with an airy cream and accompanied with a cherry sauce. At the price point (most entrees in the teens), this is a great place to come back to frequently.
Sazon. Went here for lunch on Friday. Was attracted to much of the "authenticiy" of the menu and the pledge that all dishes are cooked to order, so expect a bit of a wait. The complimentary chips and salsa were quite good. They do not make their own chips. The server told me they came from somewhere on 5th (I think). The salsa was delicious, and I can see why it won an award (2007).
My wife's tacos al pastor were solidly prepared. My dish, on the other hand, was a disappointment. I ordered the puerco in cazcabel chile sauce. I cook with these chiles, and love their nutty flavor. But the overwhelming flavor on my particular plate was pork fat/lard. Love cooking with the stuff, don't mind the flavor, but want to taste more than just that. The chiles provided color only.
Whole Foods Market. Since we were staying in a vacation rental, and were only a few blocks away, we decided to cook in one night. We have Whole Foods in Minnesota, but nothing like the "mother ship" store. And I can see why some Austinresidents call it "Whole Paycheck." We sampled some of the prepared foods, snooped around the dining counters, but then bought our own dinner groceries.
Habenero. Ate lunch here on Saturday after strolling South Congress. The complimentary chips ans salsa lose out to Sazon, but the rest of the food was better given my two experiences. I had carnitas tacos, and the pork was well seasoned, tender, and had just the right amount of fat flavor. Charro beans also better here. Rice better at Sazon. My wife enjoyed the gordita she ordered.
La Condesa. Only had dessert here. We were planning on dinner at Mulberry, but then read in The Chronicle that Joe Ely was playing at Saxon Pub. So we took in that show and firgured we'd grab some dessert later. Nice venue. Nice show. Arrived at La Condesa at 10:45, and were encouraged to sit in the bar since the dining room was closing. No big deal. The descriptions of all desserts were mouth-watering. Ended up with the semifreddo topped with chocolate sauce, brandied cherries, and candied almonds and also the chevre cheesecake with pineapple, graham strudel, and saffron creme anglaise. Very attractive presentations and very tasty, without either being too heavy. Did not go dancing next door.
Counter Cafe. Had breakfast here Sunday morning before leaving town, and it ended up being our only meal of the day. Glad it was filling. My wife ordered the breakfast tacos and I ordered the eggs benedict, at the recommendation of our server. Eggs were poached a little too long (yolks could have been runnier). The biscuit in place of English muffin made the dish a little drier than normal. Pastrami nice touch. Potatoes were average. Cool atmosphere, and I could see eating there on occasion. Nothing that truly wowed me, but it did the job.
Amy's Ice Cream. Made two stops here. Better vibe, treatment, and size of scoop at the W. 6th location over the S. Congress location. Nice dense creaminess to the ice cream.
Thanks for all the input.
Whole Foods Market
525 N Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX
1816 S Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78704
400-A W 2nd St, Austin, TX 78701
You have a car, and you are in a great central location. Austin is really pretty easy to get around.
For Breakfast, I like the Paris Texas at Kerbey Lane Cafe, which is a Austin institution. for better or worse. I like the Fabi and Rosi pick for Romantic.
Here are a couple of suggestions. If it's a pretty pleasant day, drive down to South Congress and hang out there one day. There is shopping, food, and a couple fo trailers there.
And for music, go check out Dale Watson at the Broken Spoke. Great Texas country, dancing, it's a fun place. kind fo dive-y too.
This being Austin, it looks like you can do everything from Wu-Tang Clan to Shawn Colvin this weekend too.
Fabi and Rosi
509 Hearn St, Austin, TX
3201 S Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78704
Wow, I had to look up Duncan Park (apparently I live nearby) and Wooldridge Square. For anyone wishing to save time, let's call the location 9th and Rio Grande.
Breakfast: Probably Counter Cafe. Little neighborhoodish spot on Lamar and 7th (ish), noted by Texas Monthly for burgers, but breakfast is probably what the place excels at. Counter, potentially shared seating, emphasis on local.
Romantic dinner: Fabi and Rosi would be my pick for something quiet. Husband and wife own and run it, space is super-cute, food continental, unpretentious, and reasonably priced.
Chef-driven: parkside, Olivia, Mulberry (tiny), Wink (almost always non-reservation seating in the wine bar available).
Mexican or Tex-Mex dive: Habanero (which gets lots of love on this board), Sazon (less love, but still plenty), or Curra's (which I still crave).
Also, please bring fries from Barbette.
Fabi and Rosi
509 Hearn St, Austin, TX
1816 S Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78704
re: Brad Ballinger
Austin is smoke-free.
West 6th is chock-full of bars, and about three blocks away. A short drive or cab-ride would get you to East 6th (and I mean East of 35) where there are some cool spots-- East Side Show Room, Good Knight, Rio Rita, Liberty, etc.
To the West, you have neighborhood spots: Donn's Depot and Mean-Eyed Cat.
South there's Continetnal Club on Congress and Saxon Pub on Lamar for music.
1600 W 5th St, Austin, TX 78703
Thanks, again. Just finished scoping out the places in your first reply. Impressive, and we have lots of options. Fabi and Rosi is closed this Saturday for a private party, so we'll either push that up to Friday or look to Mulberry.
And thank you for listing places that don't requre reservations. Most, if not all, don't even accept them for parties of less than 6.