Fonda San Miguel - doesn't usually get labeled as fine dining because it's Mexican but it should. It is easily one of the top 5 restaurants in Austin and the best Mexican in town by a mile.
Jeffrey's - Great new chef. Great new menu. Pretty reasonable 3 and 5 course tasting menus.
The Mighty Cone - High-end trailer food on South Congress. The chicken cone, venison hot dog and slider are all great.
Sunflower Vietnamese Restaurant - unimpressively positioned in a strip mall, but it's some of the best Vietnamese food in town. They also let you bring your own beer or wine.
Kerby Lane Cafe - An Austin institution; great for breakfast or late nights. Try the Kerby Queso.
Salt Lick BBQ - A bit of a drive, but worth it. Also BYOB.
Round Rock Doughnuts - Forget about crispy cream and all the rest, these yellow doughnuts are the best on earth.
Guero's Taco Bar - Good TexMex on South Congress.
Those are just a few of our favorites, but you will not get bored eating in Austin. We are well traveled people and have lived in several of the world's culinary hotspots, but per capita Austin might just have some of the best food on earth. Don't forget it is still a very, very small town. In most places the population has to be much bigger to warrant the selection and quality of restaurants we have here. Welcome to town and enjoy!
It's not sexy, but Central Market's Cafe always puts out good quality food plus you can buy any of their wines or beers retail in the store and drink them with dinner. I think they also have live music on a regular basis. From a value for your money standpoint, I think CM is one of your best bets in town.
I'm new to this board, but my wife and I had such a pleasant experience at Jeffrey's last night, I felt compelled to write about it. The new chef, Deegan McClung, has done some impressive things with the menu incorporating elements of the types of food he cooked in New Orleans and also at Uchi.
We started with the Black Eyed Pea Soup Puree with an egg that was perfectly poached, breaded and then deep fried... and he pulled that off without overcooking the egg. That was paired with a Muscadet. We also had his personal reinterpretation of the signature Jeffrey's crispy oysters. He's done it with oven roasted tomatoes and a vinaigrette on fresh potato chips. Paired with Prosecco.
For the mains, we had quail two-ways with chanterelle mushrooms. The quail was very well executed. That came with a glass of Pinot Noir. Oh, speaking of perfectly cooked, we also had the slow braised short ribs which were cubed and then pan fried for six-sides of golden crusted yumminess. That was maybe the best element of the night. For seafood we had the Seared Scallops which had a leek puree, Granny Smith apples and a mustard sauce which balanced things out nicely. That course was cleverly paired with a sake.
Dessert was Chocolate Intemperance with a glass of tawny port and Banana Beignets with a Coconut and Caramel Ice Cream and a glass of late harvest Riesling.
The wait staff was excellent and knowledgeable and the chef's wife is the hostess as well. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't a flawless meal, but it was the best meal we've had in Austin since David Bull left the Driskill. Although the restaurant week price for the 3-course is only a small savings over the normal 3-course, I would recommend going today, tomorrow or Wednesday because of the interested offerings he's got that don't seem to appear on the regular menu (black eyed pea soup, beignets).
On a disappointing note, we also took in Hudson's on the Bend last week and were underwhelmed to say the least. It's been a long time since we've been there, but everything from the service to the food just fell flat. For starters the wait staff didn't seem to know much at all about the various food preparations and the "wine pairings" were more like wine gueses. Clearly little to no effort was put into selecting a wine to go with each course because our waitress just threw out a few choices for us and told us to pick what we'd like to go with our dishes. I know a lot about wine, but I assume that the sommelier/chef/wait staff will know more about their wine list and what works with their dishes than I, so I threw it back to her to decide. That was a mistake. By the end of the night we were being served a dry Grenache with a super sweet brownie sundae which was a train wreck. Tip: When a wine label says "chocolate notes"... that doesn't mean it actually pairs with chocolate.
The food itself was also just not up to the level we expected, not because it was poorly cooked, but because it was so out of balance that only one or two flavors came through on an entire dish; namely chipotle and liquid smoke. The venison, for example, was exquisitely cooked and then drowned in a chipotle cream sauce which tasted fine itself, but completely masked the flavor of the meat. Same with the rib eye. Cooked to perfection and ruined with an overpowering peppercorn sauce. Then there were the smoked duck Diablo’s. That dish doesn't belong on the menu at Chili's. The plate appears with a halved raw apple with skewers sticking out of it and the duck on the end. It was an embarrassing looking plate. Those edible arrangment companies wouldn't serve it. The dishwasher who concocted that presentation should be perfectly cooked and then drowned in creamy chipotle as punishment. WHat's worse is that it tasted bad. Somewhere beneath the enormous piece of bacon there was supposedly a piece of duck, but after dipping it in the glorified KC Masterpiece BBQ sauce that came along with it, you might as well have just used chicken thighs and saved a few bucks.
We love game. We love big, bold spicy flavors too. But you’ve got to have more balance in your food in addtion to a staff that understands how it is prepared and what type of beverages will enhance the flavors. As far as Hudson’s goes, the Mighty Cone trailer on South Congress (which we love) is just as satisfying at a fraction of the price. The quality and refinement level of the food and the service at the restaurant simply does not justify the price tag or the hype.
Hope this helps people with Restaurant Week decisions. Enjoy the rest of the week.