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Crawl No. 4

Uncorked, Takoba. Gourmands, Frontier Bar

By Rachel Feit and Melanie Haupt, Fri., Aug. 10, 2012

Gourmands
Gourmands
Photo by John Anderson

Rachel: Our trajectory took us along Seventh Street and into deep East Austin along Webberville Road, where a few intrepid young businesses are staking a claim. Seventh has yet to develop a cohesive personality. Not only are the bars and restaurants spread out geographically, but in terms of identity, they cover a broad territory. Our first stop was Uncorked. I'd heard a lot from friends about this place as the destination for innovative wine tastings paired with an appealing food menu. This was definitely the case. I couldn't resist ogling the muscular beef tenderloin with blue cheese perched atop roasted baby potatoes.

Melanie: I was pretty hungry, so I was very happy with our choice of the Uncorked Crab Salad ($8). It was super light and refreshing, from the juicy orange slices to the heaps of cool crab meat. In fact, you could probably hear my raves above the muted conversations of the rather subdued crowd of middle-aged gentlemen and their blond trophy dates.

RF: Politely put, the burgeoning East Austin scene can accommodate all ages, and the clientele at Uncorked is definitely more financially established than some of the other places we visited.

MH: I liked that the bartender was both knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the wines. I was mostly satisfied with my Buen­as Argentina wine flight ($12), but I was jealous of Rachel's flight of pink wines!

RF: The Protean Pink wine flight ($13) was definitely the prescription for a hot summer night. It took off with a crisp, mineral Rosé from Provence, then elevated a notch with a fruitier Rosé from California's Russian River Valley. A deep-hued, full-bodied Rosé from Umbria finished to full effect.

MH: We walked to Takoba, my favorite place of the night. The two-year-old interior Mexican restaurant was pleasantly crowded and noisy; the service prompt and friendly without being phony. I really enjoyed my mango margarita ($6.75) – though it's not the sexiest choice, compared to a gigantic michelada ($6) or crisp white sangria ($7).

RF: What's not to like at Takoba? Equal parts bar and restaurant, the vibe is urban, chic: every bit the place you want to be spotted. I agree the service was unpretentious. Our waitress gave good advice about the chicken enchiladas topped with mole ($11). I washed it all down with the house specialty, a mango habanero margarita ($8) that set my lips into a happy pucker.

MH: The guacamole ($6.50) was fresh and spicy, and the tacos al pastor ($9), with thin shavings of pork and nicely charred pieces of pineapple, are probably among the best I've had in town. Hell, even the sides of beans and rice are delicious.

RF: Our first visit to the North Door was an epic fail. Like a couple of dweebs, we were dropped off right in front of the door and entered the club portion of the North Door, feeling about 50 pounds too heavy and decidedly over-attired. It showed how truly uncool we were when we discovered later that North Door actually is a swankier side lounge accessed through the alley. Follow the red X into the snug, spy-themed lounge that serves craft cocktails with names like Mata Hari and the Cyanide Pill, and offers Frito pie and tamales courtesy of Tamale Molly.

RF: Located just north of Seventh Street, Gourmands is already becoming a neighborhood hangout near the ACC Eastview Campus. East-siders come to play pool, or to flex their cerebral muscle with the Geeks Who Drink pub quiz on Wednesday nights. With a full menu of sandwiches and soup and an encyclopedic beer selection, it definitely feels more like a cozy pub than a destination bar. Not the kind of place you'd want to prowl, but maybe where you'd inadvertently meet your soul mate over a casual game of darts.

MH: I'd like this place more if it were my local bar and I drank beer. There's a significant local-brewery presence here.

RF: There's also a full bar, but as we discovered with limp, over-sugared Moscow Mules, beer is the way to go.

MH: Booze situation notwithstanding, the sandwiches and soup here are really good. I'm particularly fond of the Cleopatra sandwich on a super-soft hoagie. When the weather cools off again, I'll return for some broccoli-cheese soup in a bread bowl.

MH: Our last stop of the night was the Frontier Bar, which was once the beloved hangout El Cedro Bar. This was like walking into a time warp, what with me running into a friendly ex as we entered and the vaguely familiar psychobilly band onstage. I felt like I'd stepped into the pit at Fitzgerald's in Houston circa 2000. No dining here; this is a straight-up live music venue.

RF: Did punk ever really die? Apparently not, judging from the crowd here. The flame is kept alive, fully-clad in combat boots, safety pins, Mohawks, and black leather. It reminded me of the Hole in the Wall in the early 1990s. You'd never know there was a citywide smoking ordinance at Frontier Bar, where the outside yard is so smoky it pervades the bar inside as well. This anti-style establishment is populated by metal heads, middle-aged punks, and black-clad artists.

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