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Austin - Fine(r) Dining in November

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My friend and I are heading to Texas in November for a football trip which will include a few days in Austin. We have plenty of bbq stops and similar Texas staples planned out but were thinking at least one fine dining type restaurant is in order. Initial research indicates that some top choices would be Congress, Wink or Olivia. Does anyone have any opinions on these three, or any similar suggestions? I checked out Hudson's on the Bend but worry that it might be a little to 'dateish' for a couple of dudes (not that there's anything wrong with that). Money is not a driving factor, but more quality of food and atmosphere. Also, it would likely be on a Monday night, if that changes anything.


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  1. I haven't done Congress yet (have done 2nd + Kitchen a number of times and really like it). My last couple meals at Olivia have been really disappointing and it's now off my list. Wink should be on and add Parkside, Barley Swine, Uchi/Uchiko to the list. I personally would do Barley Swine or Uchi/Uchiko. Take a look and see which food looks the best to you.

    Barley Swine
    2024 S. Lamar, Austin, TX

    1. fwiw, bon appetit just named congress one of the best new restaurants in 2011:

      hudson's on the bend would be a more "texan" experience, given the emphasis on game.

      1. I've heard Congress is OK, but they don't serve brisket so I really don't have much reason to go.

        Wink's confit guinea hen leg isn't bad, but it would be a lot better if they slow smoked it over a fire pit for 6 hours and slathered it in mustardy BBQ sauce.

        At Olivia I order the lamb liver, close my eyes and imagine it's delicious BBQ sausage.

        1. Austin just isn't a very good fine dining town, at least compared to Dallas, or even Houston (never mind New York, L.A., Chicago, etc.) I confess that I haven't tried Congress yet, but the best (and inconsistent) of a bad lot is probably Wink.

          Congress looks like it has potential. Wine list is decent and the mark ups on the wine list are fair.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Mike C. Miller

            Can you define "fine dining"? Also, can you explain what these amazing restaurants in Dallas and Houston are?

            While I don't make it out to Manhattan or Los Angeles as often as I'd like, I'm constantly in Houston and Dallas, and I'd like to know what I'm missing. Normally when I go to an expensive, fancy place in these cities, I find it overhyped and overpopulated, and worse, I find the food insipid and heartless, like crude forgeries.

            Eagerly awaiting illumination! :)

            1. re: tom in austin

              Dallas has any number of very good restaurants that I'd consider fine dining. Bijoux, Lucia, Fearing's, Nonna, Charlie Palmer's, Craft, Local, Stephen Pyle's, Nanna, Nobu Dallas, Hattie's, Salum, Abacus, etc.

              I can't name as many in Houston, but Mark's is as good as any in Dallas, and as good as all but a half a dozen to a dozen or so in New York City. DaMarco is very good. I haven't eaten at Cafe Annie in some time, but it used to be very good. Café Rabelais is as good as any French influenced restaurant in Austin that I've eaten at other than Chez Nous. Brasserie 19 is decent with a fair wine list. But I never claimed Houston was a good restaurant town. Quite the contrary, I think it's so-so at best.

              And more to the point, where do you find fine dining in Austin? I can't think of a decent wine list in the entire town. Nevermind a place that has the cuisine to match a really good wine list.

              Congress looks promising, but I haven't tried it yet. That last time I ate at Jeffery's I thought it had gone downhill and found the wine list to be very average. Too wide and not deep enough. Producers weren't very well chosen. Vespio's wine list is short, but decent. But the food is only good to fair and certainly doesn't deserve the raves that it gets. Wink is wildly inconsistent. There food is sometimes very good, but sometimes just misses entirely. And their wine list is very average. What places am I missing?

              Chez Nous
              510 Neches St, Austin, TX 78701

          2. Please make sure if you go to Congress, you aren't fooled into going to 2nd Bar + Kitchen or whatever the hell it's called.... This place is set up as a large dining megaplex with Congress, 2nd Bar + Kitchen. The Bar part is great. The Kitchen part is an easy-to-get-into trendy place people love for some reason, but it's not the food. Congress is the nicer restaurant which I would say classifies for Austin fine dining.

            For some reason, there is little 'white tablecloth fine dining' here. Wink and Olivia are the new trendy places to go, but I wouldn't classify them as 'fine dining.' Good local food. I have had several issues with the service at Olivia, but the food is good.

            Barley Swine is great, but they don't take reservations and you should be there at 5pm when they open the doors. It's not really fine dining either. Very Austiny place. You sit at tables with other people, which kinda creeps me out sometimes.

            Hudson's on the Bend is very good, but a drive from downtown. If you're driving out of downtown, I'd go to Jack Allen's Kitchen over Hudson's for more 'local food.' Hudson's is more meat-&-potatoes, not that there's anything wrong with that :)

            I'd go with Eddie Vs (chain, but good), Trulucks (chain, but good), Peche (one of the best steaks if you can catch it on the menu, although their focus is a cocktail bar, they have interesting stuff sometimes), Lamberts BBQ, Uchi, Perla's, Vespaio, Jack Allen's Kitchen ... although the first two are the only ones I'd classify as 'fine dining.' These places can be weird with taking reservations, but if you can catch a good seat at one of them, you'll have a good time.

            1610 S Congress Ave, Austin, TX 78704

            208 W 4th Street, Austin, TX 07739

            Barley Swine
            2024 S. Lamar, Austin, TX