Maybe this should be in Hardhat Report, but I decided to make it its own thread as I think it's a pretty significant opening and I don't want it to be buried by posts about Torchy's latest location or a new 5 Guys burgers.
I'm really excited about trying it - Keeping my fingers crossed!
From the website, Contigo Austin will open May 7, 2011. It's east, very east - on 38 1/2 Street out past Airport Blvd. Folks that have been to the soft openings say that it's mainly an outdoor restaurant and that it's relaxed (think dog friendly, with horseshoes and washers play areas).
Here are a few quotes from the website to paint an early picture.
We like to sit outside. We like to drink beer... and margaritas. We like to eat good food. We like relaxed atmospheres with friendly service and warm hospitality. So... that is what we strive to offer at Contigo Austin.
We describe our fare as "Fresh, Quality, Bar Food." We make things that we like to eat. We make things that go well with beer. We make bar food utilizing the freshest ingredients we can find.
We have been entertaining people at Contigo Ranch for over 30 years. It is the countless hunting trips, weekend retreats, cattle roundups, barbecues, parties, horseshoe and washers tournaments, and pachangas that serve as inspiration for this restaurant. Our goal is to offer the community a place to relax, commune, and enjoy great food.
Our goal is to offer the best bar food in Austin, with a focus on fresh ingredients and the culinary expertise of Andrew Wiseheart. Our menu will consist of "beer snacks" that can be shared by the table (white bean dip w/ duck fat, fried fresh jalapenos, seasonal crostini) as well as more substantial entrees (goat tacos, hamburger, veggie sliders, house made sausage, rabbit & dumplings). In addition, we will cure a variety of meats in house
Contigo Austin has a full bar, with a focus on Whiskey and Tequila.
I've been twice and am a fan. Drink-wise, I've failed miserably from straying outside the El Pepino (of which I've consumed four). Food-wise, I've tried the house-made pickles, the fries, the house-made sausage of the day, the okra, the crispy green beans, the crepinette, and the cauliflower gratin. Of these, I definitely would not order the pickles again (overpoweringly vinegary). My second least favorite was the cauliflower gratin, which seemed a hair undercooked given the preparation - I think for cauliflower to work properly with cheese, texture-wise, it needs to be tender, and this was still crunchy. The okra was good, but not really special, IMO, although my friend really loved it. The rest were all stellar, although - as you observed with the burger - the housemade sausage (the only thing I've tried that was designated as an entreé) seemed a tad on the small side given the price. Flavor was terrific, though.
I think the green beans might be my favorite. Perfect in every way, except for their effect on my waistline.
My partner and I made it to Contigo last night joined by good friends celebrating a birthday and a graduation. The evening was an unexpected delight. My dining companions included one who prefers formal dining with candles and tablecloths and another who can't stand "snooty" restaurants and seems happiest in truck stops, taquerias and holes-in-the-wall. Both were surprisingly happy with Contigo and can't wait to go back.
This place is mainly outdoors, and last night's beautiful spring weather cooled by rain earlier in the day was a perfect evening to dine outside on the communal picnic tables or smaller four tops scattered under an awning and on a gravel yard.
Contigo is either a restaurant with excellent drinks or a bar with great food. They serve craft brewed beers by the pint or pitcher as well as a full bar with an emphasis on fine tequilas and mezcals. Both the food and the cocktails are well thought out and presented. Service is attentive but informal - for instance, napkins and silverware are brought out in a bunch and left in a stack on the table where diners can reach over and grab their own place settings. We did notice that every waiter was young and female while every cook and busser was male. I don't like that kind of sexism in hiring, but this is a new place and we enjoyed it so much that we will give them a chance to see if they get beyond the gender roles.
The food and cocktails are generally simple but well balanced preparations. Nothing is over-cooked, overly salted or overly seasoned. But nothing is bland, either. Bold flavors are noticeable without being overpowering. But be aware of portion size before dining at Contigo. Don't expect large portions. Don't even expect average (for Texas) portions. Expect everything to be just a little smaller than you thought.
The house drinks were excellent. Strong but refreshing. The best of the bunch were:
El Pepino - Tequila, Cucumber Water, Mint, Lime
Contigo Ranch Swizzle - Tequila, Mescal, Tangerine, Lime, Soda
Del Maguey offers a slate of rare unblended Mezcals, each from an individual village in Oaxaca. At the recommendation of the bartender, I tried the Del Maguey Chichicapa straight, with water on the side. What a revelation. Smooth, complex, delicious with a slightly creamy feel. My experiences sneaking some of my dad's mezcal decades ago left me expecting an oily, gasoline note, but this mezcal had wonderful subtle flavors of smoke with herbs and a floral note. I'm not sure how I'll be able to go back to plain ol tequila anytime soon.
Crispy green Beans with Sambol Aioli
An excellent appetizer. Fresh green beans fried tempura style, cooked perfectly so the beans are still juicy and firm and their flavor dominates each bite. You will taste the bean, the salt and the frying oil. That sounds bad on paper - no one likes overly salty or oily food. The reality here is that the flavors blend into a taste like a nice vinaigrette. The rich aioli has a noticeable kick of heat from the peppers
White Bean dip with duck fat and parsley
I almost skipped this small plate - it's only bean dip. Glad I didn't. The simple preparation is elevated by the richness of the duck fat into a dish that was a favorite of the table. Highly recommended.
Pigs in a Blanket
Small house made sausages with a great spicy flavor, a course grind to the meat, and a nice snap to the skin. Well prepared in this simple classic style, presented 3 to an order with a side of mustard. But not any ordinary mustard. This house made mustard has a kick that more closely resembles wasabi than Dijon.
Ox Tongue Slider with arugula, pickled green tomato and mustard
The least successful dish for me. Ox tongue is a strongly flavored meat, and instead of cooking it in a way that would mellow that flavor, it is presented with other strong flavors to cover it up. The flavors compete instead of blending together.
Country Style pork Pate
I had a small bite, and it was a well prepared, rich pate accented by smoky house made bacon. It's not the smooth, creamy style of pate, but instead a small slice off a larger bacon wrapped loaf with ingredients diced large enough that you can see the individual components. Nice, but didn't stand out in a dinner of so much deliciousness.
Burger with house made bacon
Juicy meat with lots of beefy flavor, topped with smoky house made bacon on a buttery, greasy bun. It's not big, actually kinda small, especially for the price. I wouldn't come back just for the burger, but might order it again if I was already here. Some of my dining companions were less put off by the small size and enjoyed it much more than I did.
Could be my new favorite fries. Small cut similar to shoestring potatoes, and yet they are able to achieve a very crisp outside and a creamy interior. Cooking magic!
Grilled Cheese with cheddar on house made brioche Texas Toast
Rich white cheddar melted on buttery brioche sliced in the style of Texas Toast. Outstanding.
Rabbit and dumplings
Carrots, Onions and dense sage dumplings swimming in rabbit gravy. I'm already craving another serving.
I was working on my mezcal when the birthday girl got this dessert, so I didn't try it. Everyone said it was delicious - a country style shortcake split open and filled with fresh sugared strawberries and crème fraiche.