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Mar 17, 2013 08:42 PM

DFW CH in Austin next weekend

i'll be in austin next weekend for a conference at bass concert hall, staying at the casulo hotel off 35. hoping to be there for dinner friday night near my hotel since i will have driven plenty by that point & y'all have some crazy traffic :) lunches near the conference, but for other dinners (two) i'm willing to drive--sunday hopefully in a homeward direction.

trying to keep all meals moderately priced, but i'm open to persuasion if there's a more expensive restaurant i just have to try. i like just about all cuisines ... but not a fish person, eat primarily shellfish when it comes to seafood. otherwise an omnivore. my impression is that the austin food scene isn't that different from ours ... so i think i'm just looking for best of. please let me know if there's something unique i need to try.

thoughts so far based on what i've read ...

annie's (??)

welcome your comments & suggestions ... tia.

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  1. That hotel is in a bit of a no man's land for dining options.

    I love Hopfields, and it's probably no more than a 15 minute walk from Bass Concert Hall. Their moules frites and nicoise salad are outstanding. I would do that as a dinner, since 1) their bar area is ideal for a party of one, 2) you've gotta try at least one of their 50 or so beers while you're there and 3) I'm not sure what their lunch hours are.

    2 Replies
    1. re: jwynne2000

      thanks, jwynne, good to know about the hotel. if i can sleep it will be worth being in no man's land, so we'll see :)

      my understanding from hopfields' website is that they serve their primary menu all the time, and brunch 11-3 on weekends only. sadly i am not a beer drinker, but i do love frites!

      1. re: foiegras

        Not to worry. They actually have a small, but well thought out wine list and wine-based cocktails. Their staff is really friendly, so they'll take care of your libation needs.

    2. I'm in Dallas about once a month & I think the dining scene in Austin is very different than Dallas. Don't get me wrong, food is good in Dallas, but chefs take more risks in Austin. I would definitely go to Barley Swine for some of the most incredible food being served anywhere. You can sit at a communal table or ask for a seat at the bar to watch the action. Plan to get there early if you don't want to wait, but if you can't get there early, Henri's wine bar is right there. You can have a glass of wine & they will text you when your table is ready.

      2 Replies
      1. re: topeater

        thanks, topeater ... I've seen a lot here about barley swine and will definitely consider it :) would be a good option for saturday night perhaps. is friday less busy? when you say early, do you mean 5ish? I think my last session ends at 6:15 or so. I suppose Henri's has something to nibble on? (i am a wine drinker.)

        we don't have a lot of communal tables here, so that might be nice.

        have you been to ft33 in dallas? that's what i was reminded of, and also how i learned that perhaps silk purses really are the best use for sows' ears ;)

        1. re: foiegras

          Yes, I was at ft33 last week & it was very good. Barley Swine is in the same genre, but so much better in my opinion. I have never had 1 bad course there & since I live very close, I'm there a lot. Friday & Sat will both be busy. Just get there as soon as you can. Henri's has good cheese & charcuterie...just don't eat too much! You will have a nice evening...a glass of wine while you wind down, then stroll around the corner & have a great meal! Welcome to Austin.

      2. Also, check out Sway for kind of different Thai. More communal tables too.

        1. If you like wine and want traffic to die down a bit before heading somewhere, drive to Vino Vino on Guadalupe. Great, long bar. Great apps and large wine selection.

          Justine's if you want to venture to something different but good.

          8 Replies
          1. re: chispa_c

            Thanks, chispa, will check out Justine's.

            1. re: chispa_c

              Appreciate everyone's input :)

              Here are my more finalized thoughts ...

              Friday dinner--Barley Swine
              Saturday lunch--Max's Wine Dive
              Saturday dinner--Sway
              Sunday lunch--Hopfield's
              Sunday dinner--Swift's Attic

              Any last thoughts for me? :)

              1. re: foiegras

                For me, I wouldn't go to Barley Swine & Swift's Attic. I think Barley Swine is the best to go to, so I would keep that. I would add Uchi or Unchiko to the list, probably on Sunday. I think that would be a nice way to end your trip.

                1. re: topeater

                  Just now seeing this, as I decided to have a low-tech weekend. As it turned out, Swift's is closed on Sunday nights ;) A couple people there suggested 2nd Bar & Kitchen, which was fine (I can make better versions of short ribs & brussels sprouts at home, so ...) I thought about Uchi/Uchiko, but the menu seemed very seafood oriented (I have a texture issue with most fish), and didn't call my name.

                  You were, of course, so right about Barley Swine and Sway, which were the highlight of the trip. The conference had a number of lowlights & the food provided on campus was unspeakably bad, so I was quite pleased to get excellent results on the food front.

                  At Barley Swine the food was pretty transcendent. I had beef tongue, duck/foie gras/duck sausage with farro and carrots, and for dessert, a bowl of cereal with fruit and chocolate milk. I don't know all that much about the wild techniques that produce all this stuff, but the food was definitely fascinating. The course with foie gras was my favorite, but they were all good. I considered going back and taking a shot at the other half of the menu, but decided to stick with my original plan.

                  You were also right about how it compares to FT33--it towers stories above.

                  At Sway I had the beef fried rice, which was amazing. I thought the restaurant might possibly be comparable to Tei-An, but no, not at all. I had a scoop of coconut-lychee sorbet for dessert--it was good, but not in the same class as the savory food.

                  One thing that really stood out at both these restaurants, and which seemed to be part of the culture of the city, was the quality of the service. At both restaurants I had primarily female waitstaff, all of whom were enthusiastic & knowledgeable about the food. Something I experience here that's a real turnoff is a smug 'we're all that' attitude, which typically turns up in its strongest form when the 'all that' has already left the building. I got absolutely none of that in Austin, which was really lovely.

                  So thanks for talking me into Barley Swine--it was indeed unmissable.

                  1. re: foiegras

                    Hi foiegras.Thanks so much for the report of your trip. So glad you enjoyed Barley Swine & Sway. The food scene is Austin is really outstanding right now. I hadn't thought about the difference between the quality of service in Dallas & Austin, but now that you have pointed it out, that makes sense. In Dallas, I always feel like I am about to eat with the wrong fork or something! In Austin, I've been offered a spatula at Barley Swine to get to every last morsel & I gladly take it.

                    1. re: topeater

                      One of the guys next to me at Barley Swine was using one of those spatulas! I wondered about it :) That's cute ... I have definitely been places I could use one. A lot of places have a bread basket or tortillas to help with that (the mole at Mesa comes to mind as something that had to be eaten to the last drop), and they don't, so I can see the point!

                      I'll definitely be back for more when I'm in Austin again.

                  2. re: topeater

                    Yes, I think you were right ... but it was on my list to try because I've heard great things about the fried chicken & I had no idea when I'd get to the one in Dallas. I found it good, but not the best ... and they immediately eliminated themselves from the race by deboning the white meat. That is no longer fried chicken ... at least the dark meat was still on the bone, even if the thigh had been halved or something.

                    At Hopfield's I had a very nice pear, ham, and shallot tart and good coffee. Far better than the food on offer at the event ... Saran-wrapped ham sandwiches and potato chips for $10 (the tart and salad--$8). I was told they were much better the second day than the first, because the first day the bread had still been frozen. Oh, and they came with a foil packet of mayonnaise. I asked someone eating one to rate it on a scale of 1 to 10 and she gave it a 6. I was thinking, God bless you, you are a truly charitable soul.

                    Thanks again to everyone for all the help & advice!

                  3. re: foiegras

                    I'd deep six Max's Wine Dive. Not really a good place to eat. Slightly better than average, but nothing to write home about. Broad, but eclectic selection of wine that's pretty good for Austin, in it's favor, however.

                2. Went to epicerie, and really like the food. Got ox-tails on polenta, my friend had the tri-tip steak, we also had the charcuterie plate as an appetizer. I will say this though, it has the atmosphere of a strip mall(ok, a little better), but if you buy a bottle of wine you pay grocery store prices, not restaurant prices.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: TroyTempest

                    Thanks, Troy, appreciate the heads up on atmosphere :) I thought the prices on the food looked good too, so I guess it's understandable. It's on my list ...