A couple of weeks ago, I went to Houston for their Restaurant Week. Not being from Houston, I was only familiar with a few of the restaurants there and I had a hard time choosing just based on menus. For those of you unfamiliar to the Austin Restaurant scene, here are my impressions of some of the restaurants participating. Since I only publish reviews of restaurants I have been to several times, I will leave out restaurants I am unfamiliar with.
1886 Cafe & Bakery The casual bistro at the Driskill Hotel. Both the lunch and dinner offerings are $25. I would rather dine at the main restaurant at the Driskill if I had to choose but the menu choices do sound delicious.
Aquarelle A beautiful and romantic French restaurant. This is the place to whip out the ring when the champagne is poured. I am still chasing the dragon of the perfect scallop that I had here, which is offered on the Restaurant Week menu.
Austin Land and Cattle Company Forget Ruth’s Chris, this is the best steak in Austin. And my favorite cut, the fatty ribeye, is on the menu.
Chez Zee American Bistro A popular place most famous for their desserts and creme brulee french toast. While the food is good, I am saving my restaurant week picks for something a little fancier.
Ciola’s Italian American Delicious Italian food. I would go more often but they are all the way out in Lakeway. Maybe I will venture out for their popular “Big Night Out” Feast, a tribute to the movie of the same name, coming October 21.
Cipollina West Austin Bistro This is the sister restaurant to the very popular and very expensive Jeffrey’s. After a recent glowing review of the new chef, I will have to revisit soon. At $25 for the dinner menu and $35 with wine pairings, I may have to add this to my list this week.
Driskill Grill Classic Austin and one of the best in town. The Driskill’s reputation has slipped a bit since the David Bull/ Josh Watkins era but still a solid offering. The leather clad room will take you back to a time when cattle barons brokered deals with Texas politicians, a cigar in one hand and a whiskey in the other.
Eddie V’s Edgewater Grille Arboretum With a beautiful view of the hills, this is the Eddie V’s I frequent most. Their happy hour is a great value and the food is wonderful. In addition to the seafood they specialize in, they also have a reputation for cooking a mean steak which is also on the restaurant week menu for $40.
Eddie V’s Edgewater Grille Downtown The downtown location in the heart of Austin. Solid with a slightly different menu offering for restaurant week, also includes the steak option for $40.
Estancia Churrascaria A locally owned Brazillian steakhouse similar to Fogo de Chao. If you are unfamiliar, there is a huge lavish salad bar to start and waiters in gauchos parading cuts of meats on swords for all you can eat steak. I am addicted to the Pao de Quiejo or cheese bread.
Fabi & Rosi I actually have not been to this one yet but I will be finally trying this one next week. Austin is surrounded by small communities with strong German ties but sadly lacking in any German restaurants. This one is run by a German chef and his Austin native wife. At $25 for the dinner menu, this is a value as well.
Fleming’s Domain A new location for the popular chain. They actually have a $35 prix fixe menu that changes seasonally, so kind of a waste during the limited time of restaurant week.
Fogo de Chao Same description as Estancia, lavish salad bar and meat on swords but this is the fancy chain version located right next to the convention center downtown.
Frank Fancy hot dogs. This really does not do justice to Frank’s, so I will reprint the description of my favorite, the Jackelope- Antelope and Rabbit sausage, huckleberry compote, sriracha aioli, smoked cheddar. They are also one of the few places in town to serve poutine which is the heart attack on a plate popularized in Canada of fries and cheese curds covered in gravy. Call my cardiologists now. And it is $25 per couple for the special menu.
Garrido’s Restaurant The former executive chef from Jeffrey’s does authentic Mexican in delicious new ways. A tostada with pork and watermelon was one of my favorite bites last year.
Green Pastures The beautiful grounds are a favorite among Austin brides and the Sunday brunch with the boozy southern milk punch is classic Austin. The menu for restaurant week includes steak and lobster and is among the best values for sure.
III Forks The Austin location of this chain is helmed by Jaime Gutierrez who elevates it above the typical chain food. Too bad his delicious duck is not on the menu this week.
Imperia Fancy Asian food. This is a tough one. I went here when they first opened and was impressed. Especially the lobster mashed potatoes. Not very Asian, I know but delicious none the less. They have lost the mashed potatoes as well as a revolving staff of chefs here. I hope they find their groove again soon. If you do go, sticky banana cake for dessert. Trust me.
Jasper’s Restaurant A link in Kent Rathburn’s chain. This is the first restaurant I went to during the first restaurant week and I have been back several times since. Go early and grab a couple of cocktails in the bar at continuous happy hour prices before dinner.
Jeffrey’s George Bush loved this place so much they opened one in the Watergate hotel during his presidency. But I try not to hold that against them. Deegan McClung has tried to breathe new life into this stalwart of Austin dining, sometimes with great success, sometimes not. The Chocolate Intemperance alone is worth the trip, though.
Judges’ Hill Restaurant The beautiful old home has been converted into a boutique hotel full of southern charm. This is another place I have not been to in a while that has changed chefs a couple of times since. They are offering both a $25 and $35 menu for the week that sound interesting.