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Jan 22, 2014 03:17 PM

Small restaurant with great connection to waitstaff and kitchen?

Forgive the long introduction...

Telling stories over this holiday season family, my parents and inlaws both shared great stories of dining at small restaurants 'back in the day' with great connections to waiters and staff. Small italian places in western Mass or upstate New York where you would call the restaurant and request a reservation, and they would negotiate what might be served - almost like a professional style supper club. The best answer to the chef when he asked 'What would you be interested in having?' was 'what would you like to prepare?' and you would be in the chef's very capable hands for a great evening and meal.

All that as a way of introduction, having had those discussions with and in front of my [need another term but foodie] daughter, we asked her what she wanted to do for her 16th birthday dinner, she asked if there was a place like those her grandparents discussed.

So - I don't think there's one like that here... I don't know that there's any like that around really anywhere anymore. But are there restaurants with a nice small feel and a great connection to waitstaff and kitchen? I've experienced some of that at Asti and Fino back when I'd taken some classes from Chef Fox, and had a great time at Packwood's short-lived restaurants again due to connections through CM cooking classes. I'm likely to look to Asti or Fino again, but does anyone else have a suggestion?

Does anyone know of a restaurant which does a chef's table which isn't just kitchen theater? I ask about chef's tables as I had a great experience talking and sharing great food with a small restaurant at a chef's table in British Columbia a few years ago.

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  1. I'm only an occasional tourist in Austin, but a place I have been that might fit the bill is Wink.

    1. The new incarnation of Jezebel is set up so that you go and tell him what you like and they fashion the dishes around that based on what they have. It's pretty pricey and there is a dress code, but it's really small and the service is supposed to be exceptional.

      I'm not sure there is anything as casual as what you are looking for. the closest thing might be sitting at a sushi bar somewhere like uchi(ko) or the party room at kome.

      For a small place that feels like what you are describing you might try Hopfields. They could probably work with you on a menu if you called them ahead of time.

      1 Reply
      1. re: ieathereforeiam

        Thanks for the ideas. I think the key is not so much the planning of a menu, but rather the ability to have a nice connection with the kitchen / chef and great service. I'll look into these. Much appreciated again.

      2. Perhaps not exactly what you have in mind but you can sit at the bar and watch the cooks prepare food at Foreign and Domestic, Barley Swine and Sway. You might try the big restaurants like Trio and Driskoll and inquire about eating in the kitchen, Don't really know.

        1 Reply
        1. ohhh this is hard... i dont know about designing your plate so much but I have always had great experinces at QUi and Uchiko with having the dishes explained and interacting with staff... if you sit at the sushi bar at uhicko you can see the kitchen...I also would sugest The Russian Room... very old school and open and friendly to "special request",,,,

          quite frankly Jezebel would take soomeof the "adventure of a birthday" out of it and put a palour of stuffy that may intimitdate rather than awaken. Where if you call Uchiko The Russian Room or even Fogos and tell them exactly what you are trying to achieve..they will be thrilled to help.

          1. I have two complete opposites to recommend. Lenoir is a wonderful tiny restaurant run by a husband and wife team. You're likely to run into the chef or manager often and get really personal, knowledgeable (if upscale and formal) service.

            On the other end, Wasota food cart is a great experience. The owner has a long history of running restaurants in Austin (and a nice background story), and he loves sharing his food with people. It's West African food, which might be unfamiliar to your daughter. I recommend telling the owner you're unfamiliar with the food and letting him suggest items for you. Service is slow and things will come out as they're ready. I've never met another chef who was so concerned with whether I enjoyed my food.

            You can read Lawrence's story here:

            1 Reply
            1. re: mollyjade

              Beautiful suggestions both as I think you've got the gist of what I'm looking for. Will look at these. Thanks!