The affable conviviality of this Rainey Street standby belies the seriousness of their sausage menu, which is as wide-ranging as it is delicious. And nothing goes better with a mimosa the size of your head than a plate of their biscuits smothered in outrageously creamy gravy.
Intimate and personal, Counter 3. Five. VII is the perfect spot for a date where you want to show off your restrained good taste, or a solo outing when you're in the mood to let someone else make the hard decisions. Just choose the three-, five-, or seven-course tasting menu, then sit back and enjoy.
Suffering from quinoa fatigue? Get thee to the Driskill, where you can hide out in a dark wood-paneled room and have the sort of well-made, honest meal your grandfather would approve of: iceberg wedge salad and osso buco or a dry aged steak. And, of course there's crème brûlée for dessert.
With its relaxed beer garden vibes and extensive menu of smoked meats, Easy Tiger is the perfect refuge for grown adults dragged down to Sixth Street to see their friends' jam bands. A vat of their beer cheese and a couple of their well-balanced cocktails would put anyone in a good enough mood to listen to some white guy from IT do his best Bob Marley impression.
The Linc, 6406 N. I-35 #1100
You know those annoying text threads that pop up every weekend? Where one friend wants to get crazy on Rainey, another wants to keep it classy, and a third just wants to eat as much as possible? Emmer & Rye is here to save the day, with small bites, big plates, and roaming dim sum carts filled with one-off creations.
51 Rainey #110
Louisiana native chef James Robert plates up elevated, playful Southern eats. The team executes a fine balance between classics-done-well (like their famed biscuits) and outside-the-box concepts (like lobster & crawfish pot pie). The bar stirs up reimagined cocktails – the barrel-aged Manhattan with house-cured bacon is a showstopper. Whimsy carries into the eclectic space made up of a bright open kitchen and a chicken-coop-inspired dining room.
500 W. Fifth
The name might sound like one of your grandmother's quilting bee partners, but there's nothing dusty about this fourth-floor showstopper. Featuring contemporary cuisine from chef Frank Mnuk and pastry chef Callie Speer, and whimsical cocktails from beverage director Jennifer Keyser (plus local live music), this Geraldine is your guide to one of Austin's best nights on the town.
Italic is the perfect neighborhood date night restaurant, with a menu of beautifully wrought Italian classics, and just enough original touches to keep things interesting. The slow-braised bolognese sets a new standard in carb-intensive comfort food.
123 W. Sixth
With its emphasis on intricate spicing and sauces complex enough to rival French haute cuisine, Oaxacan food is one of the driving forces behind Mexican cuisine's recent designation as a UNESCO world heritage intangible resource. And El Naranjo, under the astute direction of chef Iliana de la Vega, is the best place in Austin to try it for yourself.
2717 S. Lamar #1085
Swift's Attic has one of the best happy hours in town, where you can wash down your smoked edamame and pop rocks with a couple of New Fashioneds. The menu here is elegant and playful, rife with unexpected pairings and bold flavors. It's the kind of place you should take a date to see if they have a good sense of humor.
Like Edie Sedgwick or Karlie Kloss, Wu Chow's Shanghai soup dumplings have been the muse for all sorts of artistic endeavors. Just last week, we rewrote Hamilton as a tribute to the tiny miracles. Maybe that was a bad idea, but when a place serves up Chinese food as delicious as Wu Chow's, it deserves a big production.
500 W. Fifth #168
If you ask an Austinite where to eat vegan food, 99.9% of the time, the immediate response is, “Arlo’s!” Plant-based but designed with carnivores in mind, the menu caters to late-night cravings, and they’ve absolutely mastered the art of meatless cheeseburgers with their famous Bac’n Cheezeburger. That Frito pie ain’t nothing to sneeze at either, friends. To really let you in on how special their trio of curbside eateries is, consider this: Arlo’s is the very first food trailer and only the second plant-based kitchen inducted into our First Plates Hall of Fame. Austin’s plant-based comfort food baby is all grown up now. Inducted in 2019.
900 Red River
Comfort, warmth, and a dash of romance makes this little bistro live up to its name. Started by three Parisian friends in 1982, it’s a classic take on traditional French fare, and an excellent spot for relishing in conversation over escargots de Bourgogne and bubbles while hidden away from the Downtown melee. Inducted in 2017.
Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin. Support the Chronicle