Hi Austin Chowhounds,
I am hoping to interest my husband in Austin (we're coming to visit in the next few weeks). We'll be there for lunch and dinner. For lunch I'd like a restaurant located in a central-Austin neighborhood (like Hyde Park or Tarrytown) that has a good authentic Austin feel. For dinner, we'd like to go somewhere nice but not too formal as we won't be dressed for dinner. I'd like to show him a different area for dinner--maybe near the capitol or UT?
I don't know Austin well at all, so if you make a recommendation, can you give me an idea what area it's in?
Any help appreciated.
Thanks so much,
I like Wink. 1014 N. Lamar, 482-8868, www.winkrestaurant.com. Great, inventive, food. Fabulous appetizers. Small dining room. Better than Jefferies, IMHO.
Fonda San Miguel is, to me, the quintessentail interior Mexico restaurant. Great atmosphere, great food.
Las Manitas (Avenue Cafe). 2nd & Congress. Great for lunch and breakfast. Very Austin.
Any resturaunt Don Walser is playing in that night.
I lived there for several years until recently you might take a look at:
Kirby Lane Cafe-Go to the original on Kirby Lane-Everything is good, but they have GREAT Pancakes-Walnut Raspberry and the like Gingerbread Pancakes are goo too. Very Very much an Austin Dining Icon and in the Austin mythical spirit shall we say-Cheap and basically Central
Muellers BBQ-Son the the great Louie Mueller. Got into a fight etc. and son opened up his own in Austin. Very good and down home Texas BBQ. Cheap Central
Central Market Cafe-Tour the Great Central Market and then have lunch from their cafe out on the patio by the park. Upscale food is good and should cost 3 times what they charge. Cheap Central-It's also near Kirby Lane Cafe
Stay away from the chains. No reason to go.
Oasis Grill-So So food. But AWESOME dinning experience. It is up in the hill country west of Austin over looking Lake Travis-Called the Sun Set Capitol of Texas-Go way before sun set and enjoy the show. Multi-tiered wooden decks hugging the hill side. Albeit touristy still very cool. You can get directions from about anywhere in Town.
Shoreline Grill-Very good
Castle Hill-Good bet.
Also check these out
Kirby lane and a link to Rob Baylon "restaurant review" site in one post. It's almost too much to bear. A very recent visit to Kirby Lane on Kirby Lane yielded an insipid, thin, starch flavored spinach and mushroom soup, with no taste of spinach, mushroom or good broth; it offered only the essence of the Gulag. A veggie burger on the same visit was utterly dry; as dessicated as a bone in the South Texas Desert. The flavor left me speechless. The greasy, underdone, cold fries were the highlight of the meal. Please stick to Magnolia Cafe if you must have something in this genre. Better still, go to the Frisco Shop for a real old taste of an Austin Diner.
We've discussed Mr. Baylon on this board before and it's hard to find someone who believes he's an unbiased critic. His MO is basically to let a restaurant know he's coming or is there, write a good review and then pressure them to buy advertising space on his web site. This information comes from friends of mine who are restauranteurs and have had firsthand experience. You'd be better off looking at the Austin Chronicle's site for accurate restaurant reviews and news, or sticking to Chowhound!
re: Greg Spence
Balon was basically run off of the Austin360 board - so they dessicated it. All you find now are shills and the occasional "Can anyone recommend a good restaurant in Austin?"
Kerby Lane used to be a standard for me in college, but it does seem quite nasty/dirty lately. The strange thing is that they don't seem to care.
Speaking of breakfast, I like the old school counter in Nau's Pharmacy on Enfield road.
re: Greg Spence
Well, that is true. That's a good point. One has to be careful because it can become "popular" to hate a particular restaurant once a popular opinion gets around. You could claim that T&S seafood is much nastier than Kerby lane in terms of cleanliness, but that's a popular restuarant because someone (6 months ago) wrote that "all the major chefs dine there after hours." Ever been to the bathroom at T&S? My god.....
Anyhow, I don't care that much. I grew up not in the pro-jects but with roaches and rats. Cleanliness is not a huge factor with me if the food is good. I really worry more about chemicals and pesticides that keep places sparkly clean. And if you hear that a restaurant got dinged by the health dept, you can bet that for the next several months it will be OK.
So, go to the central Kerby Lane if you want to see Austinites in all their glory. It's not really *that* dirty, and they have a good salsa guacamole queso. The pancakes are good. Another option is Star Seeds Cafe on 32nd and northboud I35. I like going to the S. Congress Magnolia, stoned, at 2 AM.
You won't find much in Tarrytown, as it's almost entirely residential. Also--while Hyde Park Grill is decent and Asti's not bad for an Italian lunch, you can do much better in a neighborhood other than Hyde Park.
I would recommend "Soco" (South Congress) as the neighborhood to try for lunch. Guero's is an Austin landmark. Others may knock this suggestion and reccommend some tiny tacqueria in the middle of nowhere. Sure, if you're from here--try the tacqueria off some farm road or whatever, but if you're visiting and want a taste of "Austin," try Guero's--start with the silver dollar sized tacos al pastor and get one of their lunch specials. Head down the street and get some Amy's ice cream when you're done.
Or, if you're in the mood for Southern-style cooking--try Hoover's--it's east of I-35, but not far from UT campus--John Mueller's BBQ is also near Hoover's (see multiple reviews below--although it's hit-or-miss)
I think Jeffrey's is good (althought not outstanding) and very expensive. While you don't need to "dress up," you may feel uncomfortable in shorts or jeans--it's a tad bit stuffy.
A couple people have mentioned Fonda San Miguel and Vespaio--Both are great choices. Vespaio is a (very) loud Italian restaurant in Soco where you can expect to wait a while to eat (though there are tasty appetizers to choose from while you wait).
Fonda San Miguel is tucked away in a North-Central neighborhood and packed full of trees and plants and tasteful art work. It's an altogether pleasant dining experience, and the food's generally very tasty.
Two more suggestions--Castle Hill Cafe and East Side Cafe.
re: CHOW CHOW MAN
I agree with the Castle Hill recommendation. As for Jeffrey's, it is definitely an outstanding restaurant and not overpriced although perhaps expensive for Austin. You will definitely NOT feel underdressed there if you go casual--there will be many families there with students who don't even own a shirt with a collar, much less a tie, and the staff and other diners don't even notice!
re: CHOW CHOW MAN
Jeffrey's does indeed look awesome, but since you are already familiar with them, I would recommend you have dinner at Fonda San Miguel...a restaurant unlike any other in the country. Gorgeous room, with world class latin american art and interior Mex to die for. If you like it a bit hot ask for the chipotle salsa to go along with the roja and tomatillo...it's one of the best salsas anywhere.
Since Jeffrey's was mentioned, let me take this opportunity to do a mini-review of it since I went there just last Thursday for the first time. (BTW, Jeffrey's, until recently, had a location in DC at The Watergate(I think).
Four of us started with the very popular Crispy Oysters on Yucca Root Chips with Habanero Honey Aioli(great-not too hot, though). Following those, we had Seared Foie Gras with Brioche, Poached Peaches & Almond Black Pepper Glaze. Possibly the best fois gras I've ever had. Then the brie with ginger bisquits-very nice.
For entrees, two of us split the Beef Tenderloin with Pecorino Rosemary Potatoes & Wild Mushroom Brandy Sauce (a 2.50 chg, but they split it in the kitchen, with full sides), which was plenty for both of us (around 9-10 oz), and I sampled the King Salmon with Eggplant Ravioli, Vidalia Onions & Pinenut Pesto, and it was yummy. Service was excellent, and it has a casual atmosphere, but a suit wouldn't be out of place.
Oh yeah, we also split the Ginger Creme Burlee and the
Chocolate Intemperance with Gold Dusted Berries-GAWD!!
We started with a nice Red Zin(name escapes me), moved on to a Pinot Noir, than the Liberty School Cab with entrees.
Hey! There are so many great places in Austin! For dinner, I would definitely recommend Jeffrey's. It's on West Lynn (I THINK...) in a great neighborhood called Clarksville just west of downtown. It's pricey, but well worth it. Atmosphere is fairly casual and laid back- I've eaten there in jeans before. Staff is fantastic. Jeffrey's is definitely in the phone book.
Lunch is a good question. I like the Hyde Park Bar and Grille in the heart of, you guessed it, Hyde Park. It's on Duval somewhere between 45th and 35th. They have great fries. I also really like the 34th Street Cafe, which would be great for lunch or dinner. It is at 34th and Lamar. Lunch has delightful salads and blue plate specials, dinner has more of a menu.
I hope this helps! Have a great visit!
Yes, Jeffrey's did have an outpost here in DC, at the famed Watergate hotel. I went there twice with some temporarily-relocated Texans. We liked it, and we did have the imtemperance! The Watergate is WAY stuffy, and that probably turned me off a little (if I'm eating sans expense account, I like the meal to be FUN). Your Jeffrey's sounds like it might be the ticket.
Any other suggestions? Keep em coming. And THANK YOU Austin Chowhounds!