Austin Restaurants for Special Occasions
Want some ambience to go with your food? No problem.
6:00AM, Tue. Jun. 14, 2022
Dining out isn’t just about the food on the plate. It’s about attentive service, sexy lighting, elegant cutlery, a bathroom with a playful décor, and a million other variables that can transform dinner out into an exceptional experience. In short: serious vibes. Here are 20-plus restaurants serving up a memorable night out.
1011 S. Congress, Bldg 2 #180
It’s really something when you almost can’t decide which is more gorgeous – a restaurant’s aesthetic or its Mediterranean-inspired fare. Lush greenery accents the multi-tiered patio, and the dark sexy interior insists you imbibe, but dishes like charred eggplant spread, black garlic shrimp scampi, and coconut cream shortcake steal the show. Pair with any cocktail from their impressive bar program.
6555 Burnet Rd. #400
When we talk about restaurateurs that helped put Austin on the food city map, multiple James Beard Award finalist Bryce Gilmore – executive chef and co-owner of Barley Swine, Odd Duck, and Sour Duck Market – is up there with the best. His acclaimed fine dining restaurant Barley Swine, opened in 2010, spotlights his dedication to seasonal ingredients with an always exquisite tasting menu.
2944 E. 12th Ste. A
The first-come, first-served counter-service model is the reason behind the lines outside this popular neighborhood spot. Equal parts thoughtful wine bar and cafe, Birdie's offers a minimalist Continent-inspired American food menu that changes subtly on a regular basis alongside a deep and diverse wine list.
1914 E. Sixth, Ste. C
Named after the national bird of Guyana, this passion project of acclaimed chef Tavel Bristol-Joseph (Emmer & Rye) features Caribbean cuisine. The rotating menu is served sharing-style; if the okra is availabe, get it.
Devil May Care
500 W. Sixth
Sometimes we want to feast on the finest of high-end, impeccably crafted Mediterranean food. Sometimes we want to take guests to a modern nightclub that reminds us of our poshest nights of youth in Athens and Cairo. Surprise: We can fulfill both of those sensual desires right here in ATX.
7301 Burnet Rd. #101
If you’re looking to play with your food, this nontraditional, decadent shabu-shabu experience is sure to please. It’s interactive: Swoosh your slices – wagyu beef, farm box veggies, kurobuta sausage, Hi-Fi Mycology ’shrooms – in your very own hot pot and dip (dip dip). Expect a gorgeous ambience, four lovable Tatsu-ya broths, and twists like shiso kosho queso.
Emmer & Rye
51 Rainey #110
Heirloom grains meet dim sum-style small plates at one of Austin’s most innovative restaurants. A global perspective translated via hyperlocal seasonal ingredients manifests as pork loin with barbecued loquats, roasted carrots with wild pecan mole, and a variety of pastas made with thoughtfully chosen grains.
607 W. Third
The sultry dining room’s 20-foot custom hearth exalts the eponymous Greek goddess at this Emmer & Rye sibling restaurant. Smoky flavors abound, and bright bites like rockfish crudo with smoked blackberry pair with expert-level transformations of fresh and foraged produce – an umami crown jewel is the lion’s mane mushroom with blackened koji and charcoal.
2612 E. Cesar Chavez
What do you get when a chocolatier (Krystal Craig) and her chef husband (Ian Thurwachter) launch an Italian restaurant focused on using the whole animal and locally sourced produce? An ultramodern sustainable restaurant that’s just as kind to the palate as it is to the planet.
1204 W. Lynn
Jeffrey’s is a rare classic establishment where heart-stopping prices actually equate to fine dining. [Perfectly seasoned and seared steaks are the centerpiece of the menu, but even those who aren’t carnivores can make a meal of the sides and salads that are just as legendary as the delectable meat.
4710 E. Fifth
Voted by Austin Chronicle readers the best spot in Austin for a romantic dinner, this iconic Eastside brasserie serves a refined menu of French delicacies complemented by an immaculate atmosphere and meticulously curated playlists that elevate evenings of fun into romance, and romance into fun.
1807 S. First
Why Lenoir? Often cited as the best restaurant in town: Check. Incredible, artful food: Check. Super cute location in a house on South First: Check. Owners who are universally beloved: Check. Maybe the best service in all of Austin: Check. Why not Lenoir? We’ll get back to you.
4100 Red River St.
This culinary paradise at the Commodore Perry Estate is elegantly appointed and redolent of how locally sourced foods can represent the finest of contemporary dining à la chef Bradley Nicholson. Not-so-secret weapon: pastry chef Susana Querejazu. We’re in love with the “green dish.”
1610 San Antonio St.
When talking about foods that define the Southern culinary experience, you’ll likely receive a variety of opinions. But there’s nothing more Southern than a good biscuit – and Olamaie nails it. In fact, they’re so good there’s a whole tab on their website dedicated to biscuits. Once you get past the fluffy buttery perfection, the local-forward menu offers an upscale take on classics, including hush puppies, tomato pie, and sorghum-brined pork chops.
Olive & June
An Austin date-night classic, Olive & June’s beautiful tree-covered patio is a perfect spot to savor well-made, balanced Italian fare. Start with decadent arancini in romesco sauce, then sample the spring herb ricotta ravioli or any other handmade-in-house pasta. It’s simple, rich food with perfect portion sizes and a diverse enough menu to share small plates or horde your own bucatini. A satisfying, elegant experience from acclaimed Austin mainstay Shawn Cirkiel.
1603 S. Congress
The Tokyo-style sushi and Kyoto-style kaiseki tasting menu make this 12-seat omakase restaurant one of the hottest tickets in town, thanks to the unparalleled precision of chef Yoshi Okai – a Food & Wine Magazine Best New Chef awardee – and impossibly fresh seasonal ingredients.
835 W. Sixth #114
Elegant, contemporary, and distinctly Chinese, chef Ling Qi Wu’s menu highlights her extensive culinary knowledge with super fresh organic produce from the partner farm, Wu Lanfang, in Manor. Her dim sum menu – apps for lunch and dinner, in full on weekends – is not to be missed. Where else will you find lobster dumplings, Sichuan peppercorn alligator, and Chinese opera?
Red Ash Italia
303 Colorado #200
Starring the custom wood-burning grill, Red Ash offers a mashup of Northern and Southern Italian fare, featuring delights such as handmade tagliolini with blue crab, torn burrata panzanella, and osso buco milanese, plus an extensive wine and cellar lists.
1800 E. Sixth
How do we love thee? Let us count the ways. We love the goat picadillo pupusa with smoked tomato at brunch. We love the oyster mushroom carnitas and always perfect heirloom corn tortillas. We love the traditional Mexican cooking techniques and close partnerships with local farmers. And we love how much executive chef Fermín Nuñez and his teams translate their talent and inspiration into culinary wizardry.
4600 Mueller Blvd #1035
Breathing new life into Kyo¯ten’s former Mueller space is the come-to-life dream of chef Michael Che, who trained under Otto Phan himself in Chicago. Che takes pride in the preservation methods of Edomae-style sushi (a more “orthodox” nigiri), offering an 11-course omakase to a small group of lucky patrons.
801 S. Lamar
South Lamar’s Uchi has been setting the gold standard for Austin cuisine for years, and shows no signs of slowing down. James Beard Award winner chef Tyson Cole continues to serve intricate and exquisite renderings of Japanese cuisine that will be the most worthwhile, treat-yourself splurge you make all month … maybe even all year.
4200 N. Lamar
Chef Tyson Cole’s Japanese-inspired cuisine excels in thoughtful flavor combinations, impeccable service, and the freshest ingredients around. They can make salmon taste like brown sugar and a humble trumpet mushroom masquerade as the elixir of life. Uchiko is at the top of the Austin food game, a true gem to treasure and tithe like the cathedral of epicurean delight that it is.
1023 Springdale, Bldg. 1, Ste. C
Co-owned by Komé chef Takehiro Asazu and Masazumi Saio of longtime Uchi fame, this spot at Springdale General’s food complex balances upscale food and casual atmosphere. Sushi classes and take-home temaki (hand roll) kits are part of the charm, and a quick temaki makes the perfect lunch. (Try the beef tataki with fried shallot, pickled jalapeno, and umami jelly.) Reliably fresh and delicious, Uroko easily makes the growing list of Austin’s gold-standard Japanese food.
1014 N. Lamar
In an Austin that often mistakes fine surfaces for fine dining, chefs Stewart Scruggs and Mark Paul’s unassuming restaurant is the real deal. Maybe there’s no miles of carrara marble and the fixtures may not require weekly wipe downs with Brasso, but wink has it where it counts – beautiful food made with the best ingredients, immaculate service, and a wine program that’s worth raising a glass to.
A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.
Aba, Barley Swine, Devil May Care, DipDipDip, Emmer & Rye, Hestia, Intero, Jeffrey's, Justine's, Lutie's, Lenoir, Olamaie, Olive & June, Otoko, Qi Austin, Red Ash Italia, Suerte, Uchi, Tsuke Edomae, Uchiko