Northwest Restaurant Boom

If you haven't driven FM2222 in a few years, you're in for a surprise because it's no longer just the scenic winding road to the lake. These days, it's a busy neighborhood thoroughfare serving an ever-growing number of upscale residential developments, shopping centers, and new restaurants. While sitting through five changes of the traffic light at Hwy360 and FM2222 earlier this summer, the wisdom of locating a restaurant near this busy intersection became clear: After fighting the traffic to and from town, the thousands of people who now live here are likely to be enthusiastic supporters of neighborhood eateries. Veteran and novice restaurateurs alike have tapped into this built-in market, providing several interesting dining options, with more on the way.

The new Davenport Village Shopping Center (Hwy360 & Westlake Dr.) boasts the swanky new Pacifica (327-3332), featuring the Pacific Rim cuisine of chef Mike Neff and a relaxing deck with a great view of the 360 bridge. In the same center, Davenport ranchers also welcomed the Thistle Cafe (249-6272), a comfy place with good breakfasts, lunches, and comfort food entrees to go. Not far from the bridge, hungry office workers have embraced the Flame Bistro (6300 Bridgepoint Pkwy, Ste. 120, 343-2555), a tasty breakfast, lunch, and take-out venture from Living Arts Kitchen owners Pamela Boyar and chef Susan Fein that serves an eclectic and very appetizing natural foods menu. Davenport Village developers are currently expanding to the northeast corner of the intersection of Hwy360 and RR2222, where plans call for a Mexican restaurant called Rumba from entrepreneur Doug Foreman and the Italian trattoria Sienna from Stan Adams and chef Harvey Harris to open after the beginning of the year.

West of 360 on RR2222, the new shopping center at the base of the hill in Jester Estates is home to two busy new restaurants. At the center's entrance, Tequila Texas Cafe & Cantina (Jester Village, 231-1071) offers plenty of space to eat Tex-Mex and relax with margaritas, both inside and on their covered deck. Just up the hill, transplanted New Yorker Joe Loiacono named his attractive Italian eatery Bellagio (Jester Village, 346-8228) in honor of his family's original home near Lake Como. It offers a lovely room in which to dine at sunset.

Wine & Dine

If you can't find a place to taste and learn about wine in Austin this summer, then you're just not paying attention! The ever-popular series of Thursday night wine tastings continues at Whole Foods Gateway (345-5003), where guest speaker Pier Manna will discuss wines from Tuscany on August 5 at 7pm...

The Introduction to Wine classes held Fridays at Central Market Westgate (899-4300) will feature German Rieslings on August 6 and Red Zinfandels on August 20...

Ella's (#1 Jefferson Sq., 458-2148) is currently hosting a series of tastings on Monday evenings with entertaining commentary provided by the wine guys from GrapeVine Market...

Wine expert Ellen Cartsonis continues her monthly Introduction to Wine courses at the Central Market Cooking School (458-3068); on August 20 she'll highlight wines made with grenache grapes.

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