Sunday, March 3, 2019

Best Chinese Food in Austin, 2019



This is the fourth year I've written about Chinese food for the Austin Food Blogger Alliance City Guide. If you've been reading this blog for long, you'll know I grew up eating my mom's excellent Chinese food nearly every day, so I am a bit...opinionated when it comes to this category! Austin still doesn't have the quantity or quality of Chinese restaurants as you might find in New York, San Francisco, or even Houston, but we are slowly getting more and better options here for very good Chinese food.

CANTONESE

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Salt & Pepper Squid at Din Ho = "the usual"
If you live in or near Central Austin, Din Ho Chinese BBQ (8557 Research Blvd., Austin, TX 78758) is probably your go-to for Cantonese food. Over the twenty plus years I've been going there, the food and service has varied a bit in quality; even so, I've yet to be unhappy about a meal I've eaten here. Our standard order here always includes salt & pepper squid (called "fresh and dried squid in special salt" on their menu) and sauteed snow pea leaves; other favorites are their flavorful won ton soup, Peking duck (served with steamed buns rather than the traditional pancakes), orange beef, and Singapore style rice noodles.

If you need a spot to host a large banquet or wedding, there are only a couple of options: New Fortune Chinese Seafood Restaurant (10901 North Lamar Blvd., Ste A-1, Austin TX 78753) or China Spice Seafood Restaurant (9710 North Lamar Blvd, Austin TX 78753). Of course, both are open for regular business as well. I'd give a slight edge to China Spice based on my experiences at both, though it can be hard to tell how a banquet experience will translate to a regular dining experience.

Great Cantonese food can also be found at First Chinese BBQ (10901 N. Lamar, Austin, TX 78753) and Ho Ho Chinese BBQ (13000 N. IH-35, Austin, TX 78753). If you find yourself out in Lakeway, I've also had some truly outstanding meals at Pao's Mandarin House (2300 Lohman's Spur, Austin TX 78734). Hot tip: Pao's has a secret menu with some of the more traditional dishes on it that I've found you have to ask for unless your party is predominantly Asian.


SZECHUANESE

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Sichuan Spicy Sizzling Lamb at Sichuan River
When you start talking Szechuanese food, most people are familiar with the popular Asia Cafe (8650 Spicewood Springs, Austin TX 78759), known for their spicy fish. Ditto A+A Sichuan (13376 Research Blvd., Austin TX 78750), a little ways further west of Asia Cafe. But few people seem to have heard of my favorite two Szechuanese restaurants, China Family Restaurant (two locations: 1914 Guadalupe, Austin TX 78705; 6801 Airport Blvd, Austin TX 78752 - note that the website does not yet show the new Airport Blvd location, but it is there!) and Sichuan River (4534 Westgate Blvd, Austin TX 78745) down south. I've loved pretty much everything I've eaten at both these restaurants, but my favorites at each are the chongqing chicken at China Family and the cumin lamb at Sichuan River. I'd recommend sticking to the Chef Specialties menu at China Family if you want a less Americanized experience.

Finally, a friend who lives north of town swears by Sichuan Garden (110 N. IH-35, Suite 240, Round Rock, TX) in Round Rock.


UPSCALE

Teddy Bear Passionfruit Sorbet at Lin Asian Bar
In the last few years, hipper, younger restauranteurs have brought more modern versions of Chinese food to Austin. New to the scene in 2018 is Lin Asian Bar (1203 W. 6th Street, Austin TX 78703)  where you can find an attention to presentation that is rare in Chinese restaurants. The lamb chops here are my favorites. Lotus & Cleaver (Domain Northside, 11501 Rock Rose, Suite 152, Austin TX 78758) also joined the Austin Chinese food landscape in 2018, bringing a small menu of Cantonese dishes to the Domain. These folks stepped up to donate noodles for last year's Austin Food Blogger Alliance Noodle-Off, and I would love to see the community supporting them the way they supported the community.

Another newer hot spot, Wu Chow (500 W. 5th St., Austin TX 78701), from C.K. Chin of Swift's Attic, offers dishes from all eight styles of Chinese cuisine. You pay a premium for the beautiful surroundings and the downtown location, but there are certainly circumstances that justify the extra expense.

Pork rib appetizer at Old Thousand
Old Thousand (1000 E. 11th Street, #150, Austin TX 78702) is another upscale option, with the slogan "Dope Chinese Food." Their menu offers a little something for everyone, and their flavors will please both traditionalists and those who seek something a little more contemporary. Full review here.

The old guard favorite in this category is Chinatown Restaurant (three locations: North, 3407 Greystone Dr., Austin TX 78731; Downtown, 107 W. 5th St., Austin TX 78701; and Westlake, 2712 Bee Caves Road, Ste 124, Austin TX 78746). The first Chinatown restaurant opened in 1983, which I suspect makes it one of the longest-running restaurants in a dynamic and very competitive Austin restaurant scene. Like the others in this category, Chinatown's food tilts away from the traditional in many respects, but perhaps owner Ronald Cheng's penchant for keeping things fresh is what has kept his regulars coming back all these years. 

NOODLES

Chinese handmade noodles are a beautiful thing. Here are my favorite spots in town to find them.

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Beef Noodle Soup at Rice Bowl
Rice Bowl Café (11220 N. Lamar, Austin TX 78753) serves up a GIGANTIC bowl of handmade noodles with beef and veggies for just $9.50; they also have my favorite scallion pancakes in town.

Combination Noodle Soup at Chen's Noodle House
Chen's Noodle House (8650 Spicewood Springs Rd., Austin TX 78759) and Chen Z (6705 Hwy 290, Austin TX 78735) both offer a variety of wonderful handmade noodle dishes in delightfully divey surroundings. Full blog post about Chen's Noodle House can be found here.

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Xian Noodles at Xian Sushi & Noodle

Xian Sushi & Noodle (Two locations: Mueller - 1801 E. 51st St., Bldg C 370, Austin TX 78723 and Northwest - 13201 RR 620 N. Ste U208, Austin TX 78717) is the only place in town where you can watch a chef hand pull your noodles before serving them. You can choose the thickness of your noodles; I think the texture of the thicker ones like the pappardelle adds a bit of oomph that makes the noodles taste more homemade.


Julie's Handmade Noodles
Julie's Handmade Noodles, 8557 Research Blvd., Ste. 110, Austin TX 78758 - this longtime fixture near UT campus, formerly housed in a food truck, transformed into a brick & mortar north of 183 this year. Expect generous portions made with love.


DIM SUM

Dim Sum at Wu Chow
The field for dim sum in Austin is pretty small, though again, slowly broadening. For traditional dim sum with the push carts (note: push carts only available on weekends; other times the selection is more limited and must be ordered off the menu), my favorite is New Fortune Chinese Seafood Restaurant (10901 North Lamar Blvd., Ste A-1, Austin TX 78753). I also really enjoyed my first dim sum experience at China Spice Seafood Restaurant (9710 North Lamar Blvd, Austin TX 78753). 

New in 2018 is Fat Dragon (8650 Spicewood Springs Road #109, Austin, TX 78759), whose menu is, frankly, a bit all over the place and includes Japanese offerings as well as Chinese food. There aren't push carts here, either. But we had some fantastic soup dumplings and dry fried green beans here, so don't let the confusing menu keep you away.

For more upscale dim sum experiences, check out Lin Asian Bar (1203 W. 6th Street, Austin TX 78703) or Wu Chow (500 W. 5th St., Austin TX 78701). Again, no push carts, but that just means that everything arrives at your table freshly cooked.

I have yet to visit newcomer dim sum restaurant Sweet Chive (I can't seem to find a website for them, so this links to their FB page)(2515 East Cesar Chavez, Austin TX 78702), but food blogger friends have raved about it.

Other dim sum spots in town include Shanghai (6718 Middle Fiskville Rd., Austin TX 78752) and Chinatown Restaurant (dim sum only offered at two of their three locations: North, 3407 Greystone Dr., Austin TX 78731 and Westlake, 2712 Bee Caves Road, Ste 124, Austin TX 78746). Full blog post about Chinatown's dim sum can be found hereBao'd Up (1911 Aldrich Street, Austin TX 78723) offers a variety of both sweet and savory Chinese bao at their counter service spot in Mueller.

Did I leave out your favorite spot for Chinese food? Leave a message in the comments!

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Friday, March 1, 2019

Best Fine Dining in Austin, 2019





I've been covering the fine dining beat on this blog now for a decade, which honestly sort of blows my mind. It's been a great ten years, and I've eaten more than my share of wonderful meals - for research, you know. As with other years, this post is part of the Austin Food Blogger Alliance City Guide, a comprehensive guide to all the best food of whatever genre or flavor you desire.
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In order to be included in this upscale dining guide, restaurants must offer at least one entrée that cost more than $25. I did my best to focus on locally-owned spots, but was unsure in some instances of ownership, so there may be some restaurants listed that are not locally-owned (for example, several hotel restaurants are listed, which I included because there are some truly outstanding ones). Because I am typically searching for a restaurant in a particular part of town, this list is divided according to restaurant location. Hope you enjoy this year's guide!


DOWNTOWN (broadly defined here as spanning from I-35 to MoPac,
and from Ladybird Lake to MLK):

Arlo Grey, 111 East Cesar Chavez (in the LINE hotel), Austin TX 78701 - The price point has kept me away from this restaurant so far, but I need to remedy that; I have a soft spot for this location, as we stayed in this hotel after our wedding (back when it was the Radisson!)

ATX Cocina110 San Antonio Street, Austin TX 78701. This hotspot from successful restauranteur Larry Foles (father of Philadelphia Eagles Nick Foles, who is a co-owner of this restaurant) bills itself as Modern Mexican. Its kitchen, which is entirely gluten-free, turns out delicious and interesting fare.

Austin Land & Cattle1205 North Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78703. According to their website, ALC is the only independent, family-owned steakhouse in Austin. They've been around for over 20 years, which is quite an accomplishment in Austin's ever-changing restaurant landscape.

Café Josie1200 W. 6th Street, Austin TX 78703 - One of the few establishments left near downtown where you can have a conversation without shouting over a din. I've found the food to be delicious and consistent. If you're dining with extra-hungry people, they offer a $45 all-you-can-eat option (billed as "the experience") at dinner time in addition to their a la carte menu (there is a brunch "experience," as well).
Wood Grilled Shrimp Toast at Clark's Oyster Bar

Cannon & Belle, 500 E. 4th Street, Austin TX 78701 (in the Hilton hotel) - Named after Angelina Belle Eberly and her famous cannon, this hotel restaurant gets bonus points for sourcing locally.

Clark's Oyster Bar1200 W. 6th Street, Austin TX 78703 - The prices here are on the steep side for what you get, but everything I've tried has been excellent, and I am glad for a spot to add to the short list of locally-owned seafood restaurants.

Cippolina1213 West Lynn, Austin, TX 78703 - Charming Italian bistro with a more casual feel.

Driskill Grill604 Brazos, Austin TX 78701 (in the Driskill hotel) - Fine dining in a beautiful historic hotel. They have their own dry aging room.

El Naranjo85 Rainey Street, Austin TX 78701 - Quite possibly the best interior Mexican food in town.

Emmer & Rye51 Rainey Street, Ste 110, Austin TX 78701 - My first experience at Emmer & Rye could have been better, but our second visit won me over. I find the combination of menu and mystery cart dishes a bit off-puttting, but it's most definitely worth a visit.

Fixe500 W. 5th Street, Austin TX 78701 - My favorite spot for upscale Southern food, serving amazingly fluffy biscuits and some of the best fried chicken I've ever tasted.

Geraldine's605 Davis Street, Austin TX 78701 (in the Kimpton hotel) - Housed in Austin's first Kimpton hotel property, Geraldine's offers live music every night.

Goodall's Kitchen, 1900 Rio Grande, Austin TX 78705 (in Hotel Ella) - This space is a big part of the charm of this restaurant; it has an elegant old Austin feel, but is light-filled and airy.

The Grove800 W. 6th Street, Austin TX 78701 (one of three locations) - A solid offering by experienced Austin restauranteur Reed Clemons. Fantastic salads and some of the best calamari in town.

Italic, 123 W. 6th Street, Austin TX 78701 - upscale Italian fare by the ELM Group (which also owns  24 Diner, Irene's, and Fareground).

Jeffrey's1204 West Lynn, Austin TX 78703 - On the spendy side as far as Austin fine dining goes, but you can enjoy their excellent food for much less during happy hour - 4:30-6:30 Tues-Sun and all night on Monday.

Josephine House1601 Waterston, Austin TX 78703 - A very sweet restaurant in an old house. I'm partial to their Monday night steak frites night.

La Condesa400 W. 2nd Street, Austin TX 78701 - It took me a couple visits to hit my sweet spot here, but now I'm a fan. Flavorful, interesting Mexican fare in a gorgeous and interesting space. The small plates are the star of the show.

Lambert's401 W. 2nd Street, Austin TX 78701 - Not your father's barbecue. Think pork ribs with a fennel-coriander rub, brisket with a brown sugar and coffee rub, and brussels sprouts with bacon and brown butter.

La Traviata314 N. Congress Ave., Austin TX 78701 - Their carbonara will make you cry tears of joy. Blog post dedicated to this thing of beauty here.

La Volpe, 201 Brazos, Bldg B, Austin, TX 78701 - I've yet to make it to this Italian place, but a friend extols it as her new favorite spot.

Le Politique110 San Antonio, Austin TX 78704 - A bright and airy French spot that feels a bit pricey for what you get, but nevertheless seems very popular.

Lin Asian Bar, 1203 West 6th Street, Austin TX 78703 - This newer spot offers upscale Chinese food, including dim sum. I love their soup dumplings and their lamb chops. Be aware, though - it's a small space and the noise level is very nearly deafening.

Nightcap, 1401 W. 6th Street, Austin TX 78703 - A cozy spot perfect for (you guessed it) a nightcap; they also serve dinner so you don't have to move after your meal.

Parkside301 E. 6th Street, Austin TX 78701 - New American fare. If you're dining with someone who wants a more casual meal, send them back to the Parkside's sister restaurant, a pizza joint adjacent to the Parkside and aptly called Backspace (while you eat at Parkside, of course).

Monkfish Sandwich at Olamaie
Olamaie1610 San Antonio St., Austin TX 78701 - another upscale Southern restaurant with phenomenal biscuits (off the menu) and simply gorgeous surroundings (I so coveted their dining chairs that I asked our server to find out where they were from). Word to the wise, though; they will firmly refuse any changes to their recipes (this includes removing ingredients), so study the menu beforehand to make sure it will work for diners with dietary restrictions.




Péché208 W. 4th St., Austin TX 78701 - Absinthe bar that also happens to have excellent food and service.

Ranch 616616 Nueces St., Austin TX 78701 - Quirky...like Austin. I'm partial to the jalapeno-maize trout, but I don't really think you can go wrong here. Strong cocktails and a nice patio round out the deal.

Red Ash Italia303 Colorado #200, Austin TX 78701 - An Italian spot that doesn't shy away from bold flavor. Their "hot & crispy Italian bread" appetizer is one of the most garlicky things I've ever eaten (in a good way!).

Swift's Attic315 N. Congress, Austin TX 78701 - Inventive small plates (for example, edamame served with pop rock salt) in a wonderfully steampunkish space.

TRACE200 Lavaca St., Austin TX 78701 - In the super-cool W Hotel Austin, which makes it a great choice for a meal before hitting a show at ACL Live,

Wink1014 N. Lamar, Austin TX 78701 - Another great spot offering New American fare with a focus on fresh, locally-sourced ingredients and an emphasis on personal attention. If you're celebrating a special occasion, let them know; they'll print up special celebratory menus just for you.

Wu Chow500 W. 5th Street #168, Austin TX 78701 - The restaurant that proved to Austin that Chinese food doesn't have to be eaten in a dive - also, the home of some of the best soup dumplings in town.


WEST:

68 Degrees2401 Lake Austin Blvd., Austin TX 78703 - Co-owned by the owner of one of my favorite Italian restaurants in town, La Traviata. I personally prefer the menu at La Traviata, but 68 Degrees is still very good and a lot more convenient (no fighting for parking downtown).

Chinatown2712 Bee Caves Road, Ste 124, Austin TX 78746 (one of three locations) - The OG favorite for upscale Chinese fare.

Fabi & Rosi509 Hearn, Austin TX 78703 - Cozy spot in an old house with a European menu.

The Grove6317 Bee Caves Rd, Austin TX 78746 (one of three locations) - A solid offering by experienced Austin restauranteur Reed Clemons. Fantastic salads and some of the best calamari in town.

Soft Shell Crab at Sway
Jack Allen's Kitchen3600 N Capital of Texas Hwy, Austin, TX 78746 (one of four locations) - Jack Allen, the founding chef of Z'Tejas, brings a breath of fresh air to otherwise-barren upscale restaurant landscapes. The flavors here are bright, fresh and innovative. Try the Navajo Taco or the trout salad - both are fantastic.

Siena, 6203 North Capital of Texas Hwy, Austin TX 78731 - This Italian spot in a gorgeous stone building is one of the few spots in town where you can count on it being quiet enough to have a conversation.

Sway3437 Bee Caves Road, Austin TX 78746 (one of three locations) - Modern Thai dishes that pack a serious flavor punch. Full blog post about it here.

EAST:

Brewer's Table, 4715 E. 5th Street, Austin TX 78702 - It's a brewery, but they don't let the beer garner all the attention; the food is excellent, too.

Buenos Aires CaféEast - 1201 E. 6th Street, Austin TX 78702 (one of two locations; the other is in Lakeway) - Lovely spot serving up - you guessed it! - Argentinian fare. It's all about the chimichurri here, which you should basically slather over everything you order. If you have room for dessert, they've upped the ante with their quatro leches cake. Extra leches is always a win in my book.

Dai Due2406 Manor Road, Austin TX 78722 - I struggled with whether to include Dai Due here; after two visits, it has yet to impress, and on one of these visits we suffered through a painfully chewy $90+ steak. This place gets a ton of love from other food writers, though, so I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt.

Hillside Farmacy1209 E. 11th Street, Austin TX 78702 - This sweet little place is housed in a building that once was home to a pharmacy, and they've kept many of the accoutrements of the previous occupant intact. Their menu covers everything from raw oysters to shepherd's pie, and they've got you covered for every meal - opening at 9a daily and closing at 10 or 11 at night.

Il Brutto, 1601 E. 6th Street, Austin TX - I'm obviously slipping, because I have yet to make it to this Italian spot on the east side.

Intero2612 E. Cesar Chavez, Austin TX - A lovely Italian restaurant that also makes outstanding chocolate.

Jacoby's3235 E. Cesar Chavez, Austin TX 78702 - This family-operated restaurant sources all of its beef from the family's ranch, and there's a really cool little mercantile on the premises so you can get a little shopping fix after your meal.
Seafood Pasta at Juniper

Juniper2400 E. Cesar Chavez, Austin TX 78702 - A Northern Italian spot with lovely pastas.

Launderette2115 Holly St., Austin TX 78702 - I'm a huge fan of Rene Ortiz and Laura Sawicki (both formerly of Sway and La Condesa), and their latest venture is one of my favorite spots in town. It's one of the few places where I actually get excited about ordering chicken; their brick chicken is outstanding.

Licha's Cantina1306 E. 6th Street, Austin TX 78702 - I have yet to visit Licha's, but one of the best home cooks I know (who also happens to hail from Mexico) raves about this place.

L'Oca d'Oro1900 Simond Ave., Austin TX 78723 - The kitchen seems to take a while to turn around orders here, but we welcomed 2018 here, and the festive New Year's Eve celebration earned L'Oca d'Oro a recommendation from me.

Monger's Market + Kitchen2401 E. Cesar Chavez, Austin TX 78702 - Before opening Monger's, owner Roberto San Miguel was a longtime fixture at the farmer's markets, offering fresh Gulf coast seafood. The market is now a brick & mortar with a restaurant for those who prefer to have a chef cook their treasures from the sea.

Old Thousand1000 E. 11th Street $150, Austin TX 78702 - a hip Chinese spot with sufficiently traditional flavors to keep most Chinese food purists happy. Don't miss the chongqing chicken or the brisket fried rice (blog post about my first visit here).

Pitchfork Pretty2708 E. Cesar Chavez, Austin TX 78702 - This relative newcomer to the restaurant scene stands out for their gorgeous plating and inventive dishes.

Rosewood, 1209 Rosewood Ave., Austin, TX 78702 - A big part of this restaurant's charm is the lovely old home it is housed in.

Salt & Time1912 E. 7th St., Austin TX 78702 - It's a butcher shop! It's a restaurant! It's both, in one tasty package.

The happiest of happy hours at Salty Sow
Salty Sow1917 Manor Rd., Austin TX 78722 - On the casual end of upscale dining, which is one of the things I like about it. I'm a sucker for their triple fried duck fat fries, the brussel sprout caesar salad, the truffled deviled eggs, the crispy chicken thighs, and the butterscotch boudino. Also, I love the fact that an entire section of their menu is dedicated to "Things in a Jar."

Suerte, 1800 E. 6th Street, Austin TX 78702 - This new restaurant garnered a top spot in Eater's 18 Best New Restaurants in America for 2018. My favorite dishes here are the brisket tacos and the mushroom frito.

Yuyo1900 Manor Road, Austin TX 78722 - Yuyo is one of the El Chile group of restaurants. This is my favorite of the bunch, offering Peruvian food, which is hard to come by in Austin.



SOUTH OF THE RIVER:

Central Standard1603 S. Congress Ave., Austin TX 78704 (in the South Congress hotel) - Central Standard offers a varied menu, including one of the 50 greatest burgers in Texas according to Texas Monthly magazine.

Eberly615 S. Lamar, Austin TX 78704 - The emphasis at Eberly is on the atmosphere. It's a beautiful and lively space and the service is attentive. The food feels a little like a pricey afterthought; it's good, but probably won't surprise you.

El Chipiron2717 South Lamar, Austin TX 78704 - Outstanding gin & tonics pair beautifully with the Spanish tapas and pinchos here.

Juliet Ristorante1500 Barton Springs Rd, Austin TX 78704 - Italian fare in a lovely space reminiscent of my parents' home in the 70s (but modernized to be beautiful in this decade). My food experiences here have been a little inconsistent, but it's worth a visit.

June's All Day1722 South Congress Ave., Austin TX 78704 - June's is named after the force of nature that is June Rodil, a fabulous Master Sommelier who has been a light in the Austin wine scene for quite some time. The food is excellent and, of course, the wine list is perfect.

Mini Rice Pancakes at Mandala
Lenoir1807 S. 1st St., Austin TX 78704 - Like eating at the home of owners Todd and Jessica Duplechan. The concept is simple: any three courses for $45; extra courses are $10. The food is wonderful and the service is exemplary. Don't miss it (and be sure to make a reservation).

Mandala, 1100 South Lamar Blvd, Suite 1125, Austin TX 78704 - Upscale Vietnamese food; don't miss the addictive mini rice pancakes.

Mattie's811 W. Live Oak Street, Austin TX 78704 - This incarnation of the beloved Green Pastures restaurant is simply gorgeous. The milk punch that fueled many Green Pastures brunches is still on their menu.

Odd Duck1201 S. Lamar, Austin TX 78704 - A food trailer that grew up to be a brick & mortar, by the same chef-owner as Barley Swine (below). Full blog post here.

Otoko1603 South Congress, Ave., Austin TX 78704 - Paul Qui is behind this 12-seat, all-omakase experience, though I've yet to hear anyone say they actually saw him behind the counter. Honestly, I was a little disappointed by my only visit here - the food was wonderful and it was one of the most beautiful meals I can ever remember enjoying, but I was hungry shortly after I left, which is kind of a downer at this price point.

Perla's1400 S. Congress Ave., Austin TX 78704 - One of very few locally-owned seafood restaurants in town. One of Perla's best assets is the expansive patio right on South Congress, perfect for people-watching.

Soto1100 S. Lamar, Suite 2115, Austin TX 78704 - Soto's Cedar Park location has long been one of my very favorite Austin restaurants. The price point at their new South Lamar location feels a little more aggressive (likely necessitated by the rent here), but you'll find much to be impressed with on the menu.

South Congress Cafe1600 S. Congress Ave., Austin TX 78704 - New American in a casual-yet-upscale setting. They don't take reservations, and there can be a long wait at peak hours.

Sway, 1417 S. 1st, Austin TX 78704 (one of three locations) - Modern Thai dishes that pack a serious flavor punch. Full blog post about it here.

Walu Walu (grilled escolar) at Uchi
Uchi801 S. Lamar, Austin TX 78704 - Sushi/Japanese fusion. It's a scene, and usually requires a wait, but it's worth it. Don't miss the hamachi nabe.

Vespaio1610 S. Congress Ave., Austin TX 78704 - Italian. Its sister restaurant next door, Enoteca Vespaio, also offers delicious food in a more casual atmosphere.

Zax312 Barton Springs Rd, Austin TX 78704 - A bright, laid back spot with a dog-friendly patio that I always enjoy. I have trouble veering away from the shrimp remoulade salad, but whenever I have, it's always been tasty.


NORTH OF DOWNTOWN:

Andiamo Ristorante2521 Rutland Drive, Austin TX 78758 - This out-of-the-way Italian restaurant has a devoted following for a reason. Addictive bread, wonderful pasta, photo art that will make you want to get on the next plane to Italy. Their monthly wine dinners are not to be missed (reservations fill up quickly, so be sure to get on their mailing list!)

Asti408C E. 43rd St., Austin TX 78751 - Solid Italian fare from experienced restauranteurs Lisa & Emmett Fox.

Barley Swine6555 Burnet Road, Ste 400, Austin TX 78757 - Interesting, innovative fare from a chef with a nose-to-tail philosophy.

The Carillon1900 University Ave., Austin TX 78705 - Located in the AT&T Conference Center & Hotel on campus, The Carillon could easily be a buffet restaurant in a large, well-funded university. And, in fact, during the day, it is. But at night, it transforms into a fine dining establishment with very good food.

Chinatown3407 Greystone Drive, Austin TX 78731 (one of three locations - The OG favorite for upscale Chinese fare.

Cielo, 7032 Woodhollow, Austin TX 78731 - A brand new Mexican bistro by long-time restauranteur Charles Mayes (original chef/owner at Cafe Josie).

Fonda San Miguel2330 W. North Loop, Austin TX 78756 - Interior Mexican in a warm, inviting atmosphere.

Foreign & Domestic306 E. 53rd St., Austin TX 78751 - A tiny place with a completely open (and similarly tiny) kitchen surrounded by bar seating so you can watch the action while you swoon over your food. The food here can be a little adventurous (in a good way) - I once tried venison heart tartare here.
Chirashi Bowl at Hanabi

Haru (formerly Hanabi), 9503 Research Blvd, Ste 500, Austin TX 78759 - A lovely neighborhood sushi restaurant with consistently very fresh fish and some of the most earnest service I've ever encountered. I eat here more often than any other restaurant. Full blog post about it here. (they also have another location that serves ramen and kushiyaki).

Jack Allen's Kitchen3010 W. Anderson Lane, Ste D, Austin TX 78757 (one of four locations) - Jack Allen, the founding chef of Z'Tejas, brings a breath of fresh air to otherwise-barren upscale restaurant landscapes. The flavors here are bright, fresh and innovative. Try the Navajo Taco or the trout salad - both are fantastic.

Komê, 5301 Airport Blvd, Austin TX 78751 - One of the few sushi places in town where my non-raw-fish-eating husband gets excited about ordering sushi. Both the raw and the cooked offerings here are excellent - and surprisingly affordable (for sushi).

Musashino2905 San Gabriel, Austin TX 78705 - Consistently fresh sushi with some interesting offerings in the maki (sushi roll) department.

North by Northwest10010 N. Capital of Texas Hwy, Austin TX 78759 (one of two locations) - Consistently decent, and they brew their own beer. 'nuff said.

Olive & June - This Italian restaurant from established Austin chef Shawn Cirkiel is a favorite of mine. I love their Sunday dinners, when they offer a very generous multi-course meal for $36 (children 12 and under are free!), A blog post about my first meal at Olive & June can be found here.
Jasmine Cream at Uchiko

Texas French Bread2900 Rio Grande, Austin TX 78705 - This little bakery and café offers a wonderful dinner service. It's one of my favorites for a casual but delicious meal. Much of the food is locally sourced, and everything I have tried has been beautifully prepared.

Uchiko4200 N. Lamar Blvd., Austin TX 78756 - The sister restaurant to Uchi. I've heard their food described as more "masculine" while Uchi's is more "feminine" - I guess my taste buds are hermaphrodites, because I love both spots.

Urban, An American Grill, 11301 Domain Drive, Austin TX 78758 (inside the Westin hotel) - We enjoyed a fabulous meal here a while back - it isn't locally owned, but it's worth a visit. 

Vino Vino4119 Guadalupe Street, Austin TX 78751 - Wine bar that also serves excellent food.




BIT OF A HIKE:

Cured Egg Yolks at Apis
Apis23526 Highway 71 West, Spicewood, Texas 78669 - One of my favorite restaurants in Austin. Worth the drive.

Café Malta3421 W. William Cannon Dr., Austin TX 78745 - Tucked away in a strip mall that also contains a tobacco shop and a Taco Bell, Café Malta definitely qualifies as a hidden gem. To my surprise and delight, they make most everything from scratch, from their pastas to their preserves.

Jack Allen's KitchenTwo locations listed above; in addition, there is a south location at 7720 Highway 71 West, Austin TX 78735; and a Round Rock location - 2500 Hoppe Trail, Round Rock, TX 78681 - Jack Allen, the founding chef of Z'Tejas, brings a breath of fresh air to otherwise-barren upscale restaurant landscapes. The flavors here are bright, fresh and innovative. Try the Navajo Taco or the trout salad - both are fantastic.

Plate by Dzintra, 12823 Shops Parkway, Austin TX 78738 - This restaurant has been around a long time, but I just ventured out there for the first time in 2018. I was blown away by the perfect execution of every dish we tried.

Soto11066 Pecan Park Blvd, Cedar Park, TX 78613 - Well worth the drive to Cedar Park. If you want to be really wowed by a meal, go find Chef Andy and tell him to surprise you. He will. Full blog post here.

Did I miss your favorite spot for fancy fare? Let me know in the comments!

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Monday, January 28, 2019

Off Topic: 2018 in One (or Two) Seconds Every Day

In 2018, for the second year, I filmed a second (or two) of video every day and mashed it all together using the excellent 1 Second Everyday app. I enjoy the output so much; it serves as a little video diary, reminding me of the highlights of the year, including the small pleasures that might otherwise be forgotten. Here is my year-end video for 2018. For those of you who made appearances here, thanks for being a part of my year. I'm truly grateful to each and every one of you.



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Monday, January 21, 2019

Deal Alert! Endless Brunch at Revue

Some friends of ours recently told us about a Travelzoo deal for brunch for two people for $45 (or four people for $89) at Revue in the Fairmont. This brunch is normally $35 per person, and I honestly think it's not a bad deal even at that price - but it's a much better deal with the voucher! We went today with another couple to check it out, and we were so impressed that I rushed home to tell you about it. This is NOT a sponsored post - just an enthusiastic endorsement for what I thought was a really outstanding brunch experience at a great price.




First of all, Revue's brunch includes both a really sizable buffet plus as many small plates as you want to order off the menu. The buffet itself was no slouch, featuring a ton of regular breakfasty items (eggs made several ways, thick cut bacon, sausage, chilaquiles, etc.); a baked table with housemade bread, Rockstar bagels, muffins, & croissants; a charcuterie & cheese table; a yogurt parfait bar; and a seafood bar that included oysters on the half shell (!!!), cocktail shrimp, a couple kinds of lox, and smoked trout dip. I may have had a few plates that looked something like the one to the right.




Then we started ordering off the menu. The menu items are served as small plates, which allows you to try more things. Also, they offer $2 mimosas and $4 bloody Marys!


We started with this showstopper, the chicken and waffles. Truly  some of the best chicken and waffles I have ever eaten. The batter on the chicken had just a hint of sweetness and was so light and crisp, and the waffles were just wonderfully fluffy. I think the butter on top had some honey in it, as well. We ended up ordering a couple more of these.

Ah-mazing chicken and waffles!
This house-made sausage kolache was very tasty, but sort of lost the beauty contest with the chicken and waffles.

Excellent biscuits and gravy!

Brisket tacos that I thought were a smidge dry, but the brisket was nicely smoky, and our friends enjoyed it.

ATX Benny - inexplicably, I didn't try this - I think I was starting to realize at that point that I really needed to be a little more judicious about what was going in.


Lovely crepe filled with lemon curd and garnished with berries

Quite possibly the best churros I've ever had. I know I seem like I'm in superlative mode today, but I was SUPER impressed with these light, perfect specimens. We ordered another round of these, as well.

Oh, and THEN we walked over to the loaded dessert table.

Luscious and adorable chocolate hedgehogs

"Dig" for truffles


This was actually from the baked section on the buffet - an excellent chocolate croissant

Back to the dessert bar - pecan tarts
Light, perfect lemon meringue tarts

At the end of the meal, they actually give you little bags that you can fill with the candy from the tall jars on the dessert table and take to go. Over. The. Top.

As you can probably guess, we staggered out of there - after nearly three hours of utter decadence. Which reminds me to tell you, they validate self-parking in their garage for three hours if you eat at Revue (or you can valet park for $5)! It looks like the Travelzoo voucher expires on February 4th, so don't delay - and don't forget to tip your server on the non-discounted meal price. Enjoy!

101 Red River Street
Austin, TX 78701

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