Here's what I wrote a year ago and I'll stick by it -
My family and I went to Hill Country Pasta House the other day. I wanted to try this place because I am a Fettuccine Alfredo fanatic, and I figured a "Pasta House" should have good...pasta. Wrong.
The Alfredo sauce was just pure cream. It was tasteless. I could taste no cheese at all. The noodles were thick and firm. They should've been less firm to go nicely with alfredo sauce. Although I suppose it didn't matter since the alfredo sauce was horrendous.
My family all ordered the rack of lamb. Bad choice again. The sauce for the lamb was tasteless. The lamb itself was not very high quality. For a $25 rack of lamb dish, I expected more.
Conclusion - never go here.
On a positive note, the manager came out to greet us and he was very personable. Unfortunately, no amount of "buttering" would make me return to this place.
If you are only visiting Austin temporarily and have just a few dinners (or one?) to tour Austin cuisine, I honestly wouldn't recommend any one of those restaurants you mentioned - not because any of those restaurants are "bad" by any means, but rather because I think there are other restaurants in Austin that more fully embody the "essence of Austin" I suppose.
How many dinners/lunches will you have in Austin? I think most people's food recommendations will strongly be influenced by your answer to this question.
I've always had bad experiences with thanksgiving brunches, particularly the buffet style brunches.
We tried to book a reservation for the thanksgiving dinner (not brunch) at Driskill but to no avail. I'm wondering if anybody here could comment on how the thanksgiving dinner at Driskill went.
It's important to make a distinction between "most authentic" and "best" overall. Being the "best" involves level of authenticity and quality of ingredients.
Unfortunately, I've always found that some of the most authentic indian restaurants in Austin are terrible in terms of raw material quality, while some of the least authentic indian restaurants (clay pit) have far better quality ingredients, relatively speaking, although I will caution - I'm not sure if it's purely due to the terrible preparation/execution, but clay pit's "rack of lamb" is absolutely horrendous. The consistency is that of tough, chewy chicken breast.
Also, I was displeased with a lunch portion of chicken korma at Clay pit. The dinner portion was better, for some reason.
Honestly, when I was mentioning "highly authentic but low raw material quality," I was thinking of Airport Haven.
I do not have any real experience with indian restaurants outside of airport haven, clay pit, sarovar, and maybe a few other "obvious" "mainstream" ones that I am missing right now.
I suppose the only useful thing I have to contribute right now is that I highly recommend avoiding the "rack of lamb" at clay pit. It is terrible.
I am a fan of jasper's baby back ribs when done right. They do it right when the ribs are predominantly "fall off the bone" style YET they have a slight outer barbecue-filled char on the edges of the meat.
Thus far, jasper's has achieved this exactly once in my many visits.
Also, I've found that their sauce has gotten increasingly tangier which is not something I particularly enjoy.
If only they were consistent in making their ribs the way they made it that one special time many months ago...
That said, I still enjoy them even when they are not prepared "correctly" (to my liking) - I just don't enjoy them nearly as much.
$8 for a single plain croissant at a terrible establishment in Australia. The service was horrendous as the person preparing in the back was incredibly rude.
Fortunately for me I took the liberty of filing a complaint.
ridgeback are Houston's ribs really $27 now? I suppose I haven't been there in a while but I always remember them being closer to $21. A little surprised to hear that they were dry. I usually like to get myself some houston's ribs when I am craving "fall off the bone" moist-style ribs. I particularly enjoy the fries. They can be quite savory.
Great analysis stephanieh. One of these days I am going to try your recipe (hopefully with the help of my girlfriend because as all men are I am hopelessly terrible at cooking).
I agree the bread is also quite nice. Thanks again and take care.
Hey, sorry stephanieh I didn't see your post. I'm not too consistent with keeping up with the boards.
The Carrabba's I go to is the one on research, and I can't comment on the relative quality of the other IH-35 location (because I've never been there, I live in Westlake off 360 hence the Research location is closest), but I will say this.
If you decide to try out Carrabba's one of these days, do NOT order it for take home.
I have found that their pasta does not "hold up" well on the ride home. There is something about being served reasonably hot pasta in a large warm bowl that really makes the difference.
On and off I have ordered their alfredo for take home, and I am never as pleased with it as I am if I eat it dining in.
I wouldn't necessarily call this a flaw with Carrabba's alfredo itself; rather, it's simply the nature of most cream based sauces regardless of the restaurant.
The worst thing you can do is take some alfredo home (if you can't finish), put it in the fridge, and warm it up the next day. It comes out just awful..
If you order the Pasta Carrabba (Fettucine alfredo + chicken + mushrooms + peas), make sure to tell them to go "easy on the peas," because they always seem to put in way too many peas.
Regarding Austin board members - a very reliable member, "tom in austin," has also given a thumbs up to Carrabba's steak in this thread:
Putting it a notch or two under some "elite" known steakhouses - Finn and Porter, Sullivan's, Fleming's, among others.
So overall I'd say you might consider giving their steak a try as well as the alfredo. Good luck and take care.
If you decide to go to Roy's, I think their butterfish is done really well. I forgot to include Roy's on my list of restaurants; I've been there 4-5 times and I've ordered the butterfish twice.
The melting chocolate souffle is also nice.
I do not like their beurre blanc. If you see a beurre blanc sauce with any of their dishes, I don't recommend it. I don't like it because I feel the wine reduction is somewhat overpowering, but perhaps I just don't like beurre blanc in general.
Overall I think Roy's is a fine place for seafood. so I would definitely check their menu out online before you decide.
The nice thing about Roy's is that it's an ideal place for conversation because the ambience is very serene and toned down.
Eddie V's can get to be a little loud, particularly if you go to the Arboretum location.
I am not a fan of Truluck's. I've been there maybe 10 times and they are really hit and miss with the quality of their seafood, especially their king crab legs.
They also consistently over-salt the melted butter no matter what you tell them (seemingly).
Last time I went, I was extremely disappointed with my crab legs and mashed potatoes. Mashed potatoes were cold and clumpy. Crab legs were also cool, and I did not like the consistency of the meat.
The first few times I went to Truluck's, the crab has always been just fine, but the last few times I went I've been disappointed each time. It's not a price issue, it's a "is my food well-prepared/warm/derived from quality 'raw' materials?" issue.
I'm not really an expert on seafood, but the few times I've been to Eddie V's, I've been pleased. The problem is, I don't have much "seafood experience" as it is.
I've really only tried truluck's, eddie v's, red lobster, pappadeaux, mccormick, Mrs. B's, shoreline grill.
I guess +1 vote for eddie v's from here, but again I don't know truly good/quality seafood that well.
Ever since I was 8 years old, I've been to Carrabba's on average once every two weeks, and I've ordered one dish and one dish only every single time for the last 13 years - Fettucine alfredo (plain)
I'm crazy over their fettucine alfredo. I've been to virtually every single restaurant in Austin that serves fettucine alfredo, and this..chain of all places happens has one of the best preparations.
I'm normally one of those "chain elitists" - I usually have a negative view on chains before even giving them a try, but Carrabba's is a huge exception.
I can safely say that I've tried Carrabba's fettucine alfredo on the order of 200 times or so - so much that I've been given the name "Fettucine King" when I enter the establishment.
It's always fun to hear whispers among the staff "The fettucine king is here!" Back in the day I befriended a waiter named Mike who was studying geology at UT Austin. I'd always ask for him during every visit, and he was great. On many occasion, he'd actually pre-order my usual double helping of alfredo before we even sat down at the table! Amazing service. I wonder how he's doing these days. I wonder if he'd remember me, the "Fettucine King."
Anyways, I'll say this - I've tried many times to replicate the alfredo sauce from Carrabba's, all to no avail.
There is some special savory taste in their fettucine alfredo that makes me go crazy over it, and I'm not sure what it is. After my many tastings, though, I've discovered that it almost feels as though this secret "savory" component is in fact a part of the noodles themselves, and not just the sauce.
No homemade alfredo sauce has ever cut it for me either when put up to the table against Carrabba's alfredo. It almost doesn't seem possible, which may seem very odd for such a simple dish.
I've tried to use my patronage as a way to divulge the alfredo sauce recipe, and all I got was "I can't tell you the recipe unfortunately (duh! I've spent upwards of $4000 on this dish here alone in ~10 years, of course they want my money!), but I will say that you should put in more parmesan than usual"
Putting in more parmesan...does nothing. It's not the same.
P.S. For anybody who tried to do the math to see if it all adds up - every time I've visited carrabba's, I order two adult portions of fettucine alfredo and ask them to put it in a big bowl. That's how much I enjoy their preparation.
I think if I was a real chef or real food critic with a really developed and diverse "palate," I could probably then have told you exactly what's in this alfredo sauce (or noodle composition) that makes it so special. But...alas, I can't.
I will also give a nod to III forks, but note that III forks prices are noticeably higher than those at Ruth Chris.
A menu with prices for III forks can be viewed here:
If that link doesn't work, simply go to
Choose "Austin", then go to the scroll down menu and choose "III Forks"
Prices are more in the $35-$45 range at III forks.
This is not necessarily a pure "steakhouse," but the ribeye at The Belmont is just terrific in my opinion.
"Brown sugar and ancho crusted ribeye" with crab stuffed tomato and a spinach/bacon salad
I think it's really solid.
The crab cakes are quite good also, in my opinion.
Austin chronicle readers rank this restaurant at 12 for 2008 as well
The dish is $28, but the serving is extremely generous in my opinion. I think you get a lot of food for your dollar.
Never mind. They serve dim sum from 11 AM - 2:30 PM on Saturday and Sunday
Do they offer selections from their dim sum menu during dinner time? Thanks.
The Chinatown I am referring to is the one located at 3407 Greystone.
Some people on this board have called it the "best dim sum in texas."
I think this place is OK and if I was forced to come back here, I certainly wouldn't whine about it.
But it's not terribly great. One thing I actually really loved were the mashed potatoes, but good mashed potatoes aren't necessarily that difficult to prepare. These mashed potatoes had that golden ratio of butter, parmesan to it = ultimate savoriness
Crab cakes for appetizer - the crab cakes were strikingly sub-mediocre. Yes, SUB-mediocre. Too much filling. In fact, the filling was most consistent with that of mashed up tuna, as was the slightly "fishy" aftertaste that is very uncharacteristic of what good, fresh crab cakes should be.
Bread - wow, the bread was truly horrendous, particularly the cornbread. They gave a small dab of butter...for the entire table of 4, but not even that entire dab was enough to down a single BITE of ONE cornbread. The cornbread was so so DRY and crumbly, it was nearly impossible to get it down. You'd just chew and chew to no avail. The big mouthful of bread would somehow magically stay DRY in your mouth. Amazing magic.
Blackened chicken fettucine - the fettucine noodles themselves were cooked just fine, cooked in a buttermilk sauce that played second fiddle to the dark, rich roux that smothered the generous portion of chicken breast. Honestly I felt the roux and chicken were "just fine." Still not the best chicken I've had. The fettucine with buttermilk sauce itself was quite bland; too bland. But, if you added in the dark roux, the roux overpowered the buttermilk, and having a mouthful of fettucine noodles and dark, cajun roux sauce...well let's just say fettucine noodles don't necessarily go too well with such a powerful sauce.
Honestly the only thing that was truly horrendous was the cornbread. But, the crab cakes were sub-mediocre, and the rest was just "alright."
I did really enjoy the mashed potatoes, though. I'd eat those mashed potatoes again. Unfortunately, when a restaurant can make a good preparation of mashed potatoes, it doesn't impress me all too much. It should be an easy preparation.
All in all, I am not going back.
By the way if it matters, I went to the Mesa drive location.
Those tiny shoestring fries at Houston's are indeed wonderful.
I'm tempted to try it, but I'm not really ready to drop $400+ on a meal (for four) on a restaurant that has seemingly no name within the chowhound community.
To be fair, they actually seem to have three fixed priced menus - $50, $70, and $95 per person, although in my opinion some of the "better" entrees (for me) seem to appear only on the $95 menu.
Anyways, if anybody has any experience dining here before, I'd love to hear about it.
Or maybe someone wants to take the plunge and try it out for the rest of us?
Everybody brings up the french laundry when talking about trio's price. Are we talking like $200 for a steak here or what? How much does the rack of lamb cost?
awesome. we arrived around 7:15 PM or so, greeted by some very loud music outside in preparation for some 10 K race.
Shutting down Congress avenue actually caused us to be a little late on our reservation. It's difficult to find parking around that area sometimes.
I tried Jezebel today. I'm not much of a "food writer" so I'll just get straight to the point.
First, a quick note on my "qualifications." There are few "traditional" dishes/meats that I tend to order over and over and over again, and I feel as though I've tasted enough variations/preparations of these dishes to be a reasonable critic.
Fettucine alfredo/fettucine al burro probably tops the list, and a close second would be rack of lamb/lamb shank preparations.
In fact I just came back from a month-long vacation in New Zealand and Australia, and as you might imagine I've had my fill of lamb chops/lamb shanks there.
The lamb shank at jezebel does not match up in finesse of preparation (overall), particularly when it comes to the sauce. The sauce is far far too overpowering, and really I'll just leave it at that.
The meat was indeed tender, but still not the most tender lamb shank I have experienced, especially compared to New Zealand lamb.
On a scale of poor, fair, good, excellent, superb, I'd rate this lamb shank preparation at good-excellent (closer to good). It's not a bad preparation and by Austin standards, it's certainly better than some preparations out there (Andiamo's shoddy preparation comes to mind), but if someone decides to try Jezebel out, I would not recommend the lamb if your standards are high.
Another of our party ordered the crab cakes for an entree, and I must say the crab cakes were truly delicious. The sauce was wonderful and not overpowering, and overall I'd say Jezebel provides a top 2 Austin preparation of crab cakes.
Yet another of our party ordered the Chilean sea bass and lobster. The sea bass was good but not the best he has tried in Austin. I did not get his comments on the lobster.
We did not get dessert, but for a good reason - the portion sizes for our entrees were enormous.
I finished my entire lamb shank but was stuffed to the brim at the end. For the price, even though the quality of the lamb shank was not up to my standards, the quantity made up for it.
I will dine at Jezebel again, and I'm going to order the crab cakes next time (in addition to trying other dishes on the menu).
I recommend this place to anyone who hasn't tried it yet, but I do not recommend the lamb shank if you do not enjoy "helpless" meats (albeit Jezebel's lamb was reasonably tender) with overpowering sauces. What do I mean by "helpless?" The lamb by itself at Jezebel was not sufficiently infused with an appropriate sauce, in my opinion. It could not stand alone, yet the pool of sauce at the bottom of the dish was far too overpowering for the meat, as I said before.
If there was some magical way to "dilute" the richness of that sauce flavour and infuse it within the lamb, I'd have rated the total preparation as excellent-superior, bordering more on excellent (because as I said, although the meat was tender particularly by Austin standards, I've had many preparations in New Zealand/Australia that are more tender).
Service - the service was really amazing. The service staff are among the most courteous I have ever seen.
Even though I wasn't totally "wowed" by the lamb shank preparation, I'll tell you this: Jezebel is still a jewel in the rough - a restaurant that doesn't really garner much attention or hype from the casual eating populace, especially from places like the Austin chronicle readers restaurant poll.
I'm looking at the list of so called "top" restaurants for 2008, and seeing no mention of Jezebel while Austin Java (of all restaurants) pops up at 11th "best"/favorite restaurant...that to me is a big joke.
I may have been pretty critical of Jezebel's lamb preparation, but don't get me wrong, it's an underrated restaurant with great promise, and it does a number of dishes extremely well.
To me it clearly deserves a spot on that list. Let's replace Austin Java with Jezebel for rank 11 and call it a night.
Claypit has been just horrendous during my last visit. I went during lunch. The buffet did not interest me at all, so I asked for a menu.
I ordered chicken korma. Chicken quality was just horrendous. It came in a little pan and the sauce was totally congealed, forming a small thick layer of curd on top. It looked like they get the chicken + sauce frozen in shipments and simply heat it up during lunch time to serve - disgusting.
I have been here for dinner one time before and I had the lambchops. The lambchops had the consistency of super tough super overdone chicken breast. However, the chicken korma prepared during this time (dinner) was far superior to the chicken korma dish I received during lunch.
It seems perhaps that they take shortcuts during lunch to get food out quickly - perhaps preparing the dishes far in advance and simply heating them up when someone wants to order.
The food here is horrendous on an absolute level, but not unreasonably so. You certainly get what you pay for. In terms of (quality/price) it's pretty mediocre. In terms of absolute quality, it's terrible. Still, you would probably get far far better (quality/price) at various super small joints/taco stands around austin.
I'd put the food at a good notch or two below the level of TGIF, which is not terribly respectable to begin with.
I think the ambience just fine--not for a restaurant--but rather for a place to "hang out."
i am a fan of the tres leches with godiva chocolate liquor at Chez Zee
I think it's worth a try. I'm not a dessert expert by any means and to be perfectly honest, this is the only tres leches cake I have ever tried, but I still think it's reasonably tasty.
hmm that's odd. i wonder if they are only showing the lunch menu because I don't see that chicken pasta dish that I had last time. Hopefully they just aren't showing the full menu online.
Hmm to be honest I did not think the prices were that outrageous, but maybe they have upped the prices since I have been there last. It's been a while, for me.
Anybody have a current online menu with prices for Roux?
Here's what I can say about North. No bias, this is purely about the food.
I had the lambchops and they were terrible. There was no variable texture on the outside (no crisp/tender contrast). The meat itself overall had the consistency of slightly tough chicken breast.
I asked them to prepare my lambchops medium, and they gave me over over done.
Will I go here again? Sure, but I sure won't order the lambchops again because now I know that they aren't capable of doing lambchops well.
I always give restaurants at least 2-4 tries, trying different dishes each time because I know not all restaurants are capable of doing every single dish well.
I've tried this place once before. Crab cakes for appetizer - too much filling, just mediocre overall.
Chicken pasta dish for an entree. I did enjoy the flavor. It was extremely rich, but I enjoy very rich food.
I am a cream based pasta nut, so I would definitely go here again when I have a craving for that pasta dish.
Be warned though - there is absolutely nothing "special" or unique about this pasta. It's just your hum ho usual cream based pasta dish with chicken.
Somehow, I never get tired from the lack of variety and simplicity, but that's just me.
I believe you can still buy a whole cake at Chez Zee. They also offer a nice godiva chocolate liquor sauce to go with the tres leches if you desire.
that's what I've been saying. Don't knock off Houston's right away just because it's a chain.
I enjoy their ribs and fries.
edit: quick note about their ribs. be warned that their ribs are NOT typical of the usual texas style baby back ribs.
Houston's ribs are super tender and literally fall off the bone. But personally, I enjoy this style. Many of my friends enjoy the tough, charred, "meaty" style ribs that other places offer like the salt lick or mesa grill.
To me, the ribs at mesa girll were just horrendous. Super tough, charred to the bone, I don't get why people like this style but then again they don't get why I like Houston's style so to each his or her own.
Anyways, juts wanted to warn you before you dropped $20 on a plate of ribs and fries that you might not be pleased with (if you already know beforehnad that you dont like that "super tender meat" baby back rib style).
one more edit: I am a big fan of ketchup with fries, and I'm not sure if Houston's offers any other dipping sauce. Theif default is always ketchup. If you decide to try the fries here, I would probably call in beforehand and ask about dipping sauces.