FIRST PLATES

West Austin and Lakeway

Given the wealth and buying power of the neighborhood residents, you'd think this part of Austin would be chock-full of highly awarded, chef-driven restaurants. Instead, we have a small group of eating places that emphasize traditional fare, top-notch ingredients, and creature comforts. In this part of town, you really have to hunt for great food, and don't be surprised to find some of the best eateries in strip malls. Adult beverage lovers should note that this suburban set of restaurants focuses more on interesting wines and beers than craft cocktails. If you're in the mood for a fancy cocktail, the best choices are Jack Allen's Kitchen and the Grove. – Wes Marshall

Artisan Bistro, Patisserie & Boulangerie

For anyone who has traveled in France, nothing matches the gastronomic delight of stopping in little bistros and finding magnificent traditional foods from locally sourced ingredients, top-notch French wines, and servers that treat you like a member of the family. If you don't have time to go to France for dinner, rest assured you'll get just as good and authentic an experience at the Artisan Bistro. – Wes Marshall

900 RR 620 S. Ste. C-107, Lakeway, 512/263-8728

Blue Dahlia Bistro

During the day, they serve delightfully fresh foods with an emphasis on soups, salads, and sandwiches. At night, the Blue Dahlia transforms itself into a French restaurant with perfectly made traditional dishes such as cassoulet, beef bourguignon, and coq au vin. The petit drink menu is always fascinating. – Wes Marshall

3663 Bee Cave Rd., 512/306-1668

Jack Allen's Kitchen

Perennially crowded with happy customers, Jack Allen's specializes in fresh locally sourced food served with stiff, reasonably priced drinks. Most dishes carry enough calories to scare your doctor. We love the tangy Jack's Signature House Rocks margarita, served in a large shaker for $6.50. – Wes Marshall

7720 Hwy. 71 W., 512/852-8558

The League Kitchen & Tavern

Here you'll find traditional pub grub executed to a surprisingly high standard. Only three items on the menu are over $20, so you'll have some money left over to buy a scrumptious bottle of Chapoutier Belleruche Rosé for just $26. Don't miss the hand-cut truffle fries with aioli. – Wes Marshall

1310 RR 620 S, 512/263-3279

Mandola's Italian Market

Damian and Trina Mandola understand how to keep their customers satisfied with fresh pastas, thin crust pizzas, and homemade sausage. Be sure to go on a Thursday, when they serve their otherworldly Cannelloni Fiorentina. Mandola's is also an Italian grocery with wines, oils, pastas, olives, and baked goods. – Wes Marshall

12815 Shops Pkwy. #400, Bee Cave, 512/600-8500

John Anderson

Schmidt Family Barbecue

Opening day expectations were high for this collaboration by two branches of a Lockhart barbecue royal family, but suburban barbecue lovers didn't quite grasp the country meat market model of "when the meat is gone, we're sold out until tomorrow." After some initial glitches and the addition of another pit, the kinks have largely been worked out, and Schmidt Family Barbecue is on its way to being the equal to its Lockhart brethren. – Wes Marshall

12532 FM 2244, Bee Cave, 512/263-4060

John Anderson

Señor Buddy's

This outpost near the city limits is part of the Curra's empire and even on the coldest, rainiest day can serve you amazing breakfast tacos and some of the finest Angus burgers in town. The menu is ambitious, and, in sunnier weather, there is live music, drinking, and dancing under the trees. – Kate Thornberry

8600 Hwy. 290 W., 512/288-0437

John Anderson

The Grove Wine Bar & Kitchen

Residents of the western part of Austin now have two Groves, both offering menus with simple, perfectly executed dishes. While we always look forward to their soups, salads, and small plates, what really gets us excited is their brilliant list of wines. The newer Lakeway location also offers stunning Hill Country views. – Wes Marshall

3001 RR 620 S., 512/263-2366

Trento CLOSED

Ever since Alex Kahn decided to become a chef, he dreamed of opening his own neighborhood restaurant where family and friends could gather for good food and warm hospitality. That's just what the Culinary Institute of America-trained chef has done in this completely reimagined Chili's building offering well-executed Italian fare in a friendly setting with an inviting happy hour and private rooms for special events and area business meetings. – Virginia B. Wood

3600 N. Capital of TX Hwy., Bldg. D, 512/328-7555
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