Food
2005 Readers Poll
2005 Critics Picks

John Anderson

Best Brunch Crowd

Whether you're rolling out of bed late on Saturday morning and don’t feel like cooking or you're looking for a quick and breezy grab and gab before heading back to the ol’ cubicle, Austin Java is the place to be. Brunch or lunch, despite its enormous popularity and high volume, Austin Java offers rapid and friendly service, and the sammiches – divine. While the crowds milling at the entrance undecided on their selections can be a tad daunting for a first-timer, never fear! Grab a menu and take your place in the queue. By the time you’ve decided between the daily mashers or the daily veggies, you’re already at the counter bantering with the friendly staff.

Austin Java
301 W. Second, 512/481-9400
7701 Metropolis Dr., Building 12, Suite 400, 512/276-2234
www.austinjava.com

Best Catering

It's hard to believe it's been 20 years since this local company started pulling together special events, weddings, and personal dinners with elegance and charm and a focus on food above all else. Just like the name, their reputation precedes, so ask anyone who's used 'em: It's about delicacy, consistency, class, and good eats. And according to our readers, who consistently vote them tops, it doesn't get any better.

Word of Mouth
2501 N. Lamar
512/472-9500
www.wordofmouthcatering.com

Best Cheap Meal
Zen

One step into local chain Zen brings a sense of calm. Credit the elegant midcentury/Japanese modern decor. Then there's the delightful waft of delicious meats searing on the grill mixed with piquant aromas of various sauces and seasonings. But what really brings the heart home (aside from their full line of heart-healthy menu options) is the price of so many of the selections: Sushi rolls under $3, salads under $2, and teriyaki under $5. Who knew that inner peace was such a bargain?

Zen Japanese Food Fast
1303 S. Congress, 512/444-8081
2900 W. Anderson #250, 512/451-4811
5207 Brodie Lane, #115, Sunset Valley, 512/899-2222
www.eatzen.com

Best Coffee/Tea Selection

Why are coffee and tea names so much fun to say? Try not to order a Guatemalan blend in a saucy accent. Or English breakfast without using an upturned nose or haughty tone. Café au lait and yerba matte invite their own interpretations. Regardless of where beverage nomenclature will take you, Little City’s offerings will tickle your tongue with more than just a fun name.

John Anderson

Best Desserts

They may have remodeled, but the dessert menu here is still a heavenly monster of more than a dozen confections. This is impressive considering that all of their goodies, from the Lemon Rosemary Cake to the Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Cheesecake, are made in-house by the pastry chef and are available every day. Give them 48 hours notice for whole desserts to go, and send your dinner guests home with a smile.

Chez Zee
5406 Balcones
512/454-2666
www.chez-zee.com

Best Gourmet/Specialty Grocery

Never, under any circumstances, shop for groceries at Whole Foods hungry. The strangest combination of random items - like avocado and orange juice salsa, fresh halibut, and a loaf of ciabatta - will seemingly jump into your cart. Instead, take a few minutes to fill your belly at the massive salad bar, then shop.

Whole Foods Market
525 N. Lamar, 512/476-1206
9607 Research #300, 512/345-5003
4301 W. William Cannon Dr.
12601 Hill Country Blvd, Bee Cave, 512/206-2730
11920 Domain Dr., 512/831-3981
www.wholefoodsmarket.com

Best Local Food Company

Talk about knowing good food. Our readers know that White Mountain's locally produced food line is perfect for the active, progressive lifestyle. Faves include tofu salads and dips, wheat roast "fajitas" and barbecue, veggie tamales, fresh yogurt cheeses, and the ever-famous Bulgarian-style yogurt. (You have to try it! It's amazing!) This natural food empire is doing its part in showing Austin (and the whole world) how good a vegetarian lifestyle can really taste.

White Mountain
3301 E. Fifth
512/385-4711
www.whitemountainfoods.com

Best Locally Produced Food Product

Ever see the cow spokesmodel for Amy's? Googly eyes and stuck-out tongue, this bovine has to be a serious party animal. How else could you explain the quality of Amy's offerings? From rotating and constantly updating flavors like rum raisin, malted Belgian, PB&J, s'mores, and mint ice cream sandwich (Best. Flavor. Ever!), there is a new dairy dilemma every day. Yes, it'll spoil you, but only by making you realize the inferiority of other creams. That's not the dilemma, though. What is? Which to choose, which to choose ...

Amy's Ice Creams
1012 W. Sixth, 512/480-0673
3500 Guadalupe, 512/458-6895
2805 Bee Caves Rd. #416, 512/328-2697
10000 Research #140, 512/345-1006
ABIA: Amy's Ice Creams, 3600 Presidential #20, 512/530-2918
1301 S. Congress, 512/440-7488
4477 S. Lamar #790, 512/891-0573
13265 Hwy. 183 N., 512/918-2697
5624 Burnet Rd., 512/538-2697
9600 S. I-35 Ste. 400-C, 512/282-2697
13420 Galleria Cir. Ste. 140-A, 512/263-2903
2901 S. Lamar, 512/447-2697
www.amysicecreams.com

Best Outdoor Seating

"Shady Grove, my little miss/shady grove, my darling!" The song may hail from the bluegrass of Kentucky, but the restaurant is all Texas. Could there be a more relaxed cowboy restaurant setting to celebrate being an Austinite, being alive, and being healthy, all while chompin' into a Hippie Sandwich and sippin' on a tasty frozen 'rita with no salt, thank you? If you know of one, please do tell.

Shady Grove
1624 Barton Springs Rd.
512/474-9991
www.theshadygrove.com

Best Place to Dine Alone

Carnivores and herbivores alight here for mastication of pure, whole earthly goodness with an array of self-serve bars that offer every possible variation of food for any mood. Perched along the extraordinarily spacious outdoor/indoor seating areas and watching as Austin's healthy buzz on by, it is easy to feel as if one is dining as a single collective hive of organic bliss. Whether you're dining alone or with others, every seat here is the best seat in the house.

Whole Foods Market
525 N. Lamar, 512/476-1206
9607 Research #300, 512/345-5003
4301 W. William Cannon Dr.
12601 Hill Country Blvd, Bee Cave, 512/206-2730
11920 Domain Dr., 512/831-3981
www.wholefoodsmarket.com

John Anderson

Best Place to Meet for Lunch

Whether you're rolling out of bed late on Saturday morning and don’t feel like cooking or looking for a quick and breezy grab and gab before heading back to the ol’ cubicle, Austin Java is the place to be. Brunch or lunch, despite its enormous popularity and high volume, Austin Java offers rapid and friendly service, and the sammiches - divine. While the crowds milling at the entrance undecided on their selections can be a tad daunting for a first-timer, never fear! Grab a menu and take your place in the queue. By the time you’ve decided between the daily mashers or the daily veggies, you’re already at the counter bantering with the friendly staff.

Austin Java
301 W. Second, 512/481-9400
www.austinjava.com

Best Place to Take a First Date

When the moon hits your eye like the proverbial pizza pie, that's take-away. When meteor showers rain down upon two star-crossed lovers, that's Romeo's. Wine, soft music, and candlelit conversations are par for the (highly delectable) dinner course, and their luscious desserts beg to be shared and savored. Love lasts forever, but not on an empty stomach. Viva amore! Viva Romeo's!

 
Readers: Entertainment
Readers: Kids

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle