Mandola's is a tease. I'm from NYC and have searched high and low for great moderately priced Italian in Austin and have been let down over and over. Mandola's has come decently close at times, but every time I go something misses the mark. The pizza at times has come close to the neighborhood pizza places in NY, and I completely agree that the sausage and mushroom comes closest. Once, the sauce and cheese were great, but the crust was underdone. Another time, crust was nearly perfect but the toppings were way too salty. Salads have been equally hit or miss - sometimes drenched in dressing, other times lacking enough good vinegar and olive oil. I've also found the hot dishes consistently oversalted and the pasta not al dente enough. However, their bread is quite good and ingredients generally seem high quality. Every time I drive past Mandola's I get excited about the possibility of a great neighborhood Italian restaurant, and there are hints of it here, but I just can't count on it yet.
The one consistent feature of Mandola's is inefficient service. I can handle slow service when it seems efficient but they always seem to have a million people working there and it still takes forever. I recommend going at off times and never on a Sunday if you're not into getting splashed by 4 year olds as they frolic in the fountain.
Thanks for all the great suggestions. I'm leaning toward Aquarelle or Chez Nous, so I will let you know what we decide. From talking to people recently, I've heard some really mixed reviews of Zoot.
Since you've all been discussing Wink, I thought I'd add my two cents. When I was there in November, I was very impressed. They had wonderful fall seasonally-inspired selections on their menu -- I had duck and my fiance had venison(I think) and both were delicious. The waiter did a great job pairing it all with a nice sort of smoky red wine (a Syrah maybe?) Anyway, it was delicious and I thought it was a very decent value as well.... Then again, I just moved here from Manhattan a few months ago.... so my sense of such things is WAY off. :)
the fiance and i are total foodies and we're trying to decide where to go for a romantic and delicious valentine's day dinner. we'd ideally like to try somewhere new, and while we're willing to splurge on something really excellent, price is a consideration. we went to wink back in november and loved it, but again we're looking for something new.
here are some of the places we're thinking about. please comment on value, atmosphere, and most importantly the food:
- uchi - we went here about 3 years ago and were both totally underwhelmed and are considering giving it another chance. i don't know if we ordered wrong or what, so if you like uchi, please advise on what to order.
- fonda san miguel - heard great things about their brunch... what about dinner? is it worth the price?
- chez nous - i lived in france for a while so my expectations for french food are pretty high. not uniquely austin, but we live here so that's ok.
- hudson's on the bend (i know there's a decent amount about this place in a recent thread)
- castle hill cafe
anywhere else we should consider
thanks in advance! is this austin-specific forum new to chowhound?? exciting!
My boyfriend and I are moving from NYC to Austin in early August. We’d like to plan our drive around good local food. We will most likely be driving through central PA, Western MD, I79 in West Virginia, Lexington and Louisville KY, Nashville and Memphis, Little Rock, and Dallas. (This route could be adjusted to incorporate truly great eating). I know some of these places are BBQ country, so I’d love Q suggestions, but I’m open to other suggestions as well – as long as they’re local and not too expensive.