Why It's Easy to Like Eddie V's
Eddie V's Edgewater Grill301 E. Fifth, 472-1860
Daily happy hour, 4:30pm
Mon-Sat, 5:30-11pm; Sun, 5:30-10pm
Developing standards for reviewing restaurants is a challenging proposition. There's no point in judging eateries against each other any more than there's any point comparing hamburgers to fillet of sole or barbecue to pasta. The best I can do as a reviewer is to ascertain what an individual restaurant puts itself out to be and then evaluate how well they've accomplished what they set out to do. When restaurateurs have a strong sense of what they want to accomplish and the execution of the project is efficient and professional, my job becomes much easier. Eddie V's Edgewater Grill is an easy restaurant to like and to review.
Longtime Austin restaurateurs Larry Foles and Guy Villavasco are partners in this busy seafood house that's developed quite a loyal following among the downtown business crowd. Eddie V's adds another success to their win column as Foles and Villavasco are also part of the team that created both Z'Tejas Grill and Brio Vista for Austin, Scottsdale, and Las Vegas. Both men grew up along the Gulf Coast and Eddie V's appears to be an homage to the seafood houses they remember, such as New Orleans' gracious old Edgewater Hotel, depicted in the large Pablo Camus mural over the bar. They chose designer Aubrey Carter to create a comfortable, clubby atmosphere and the dining rooms are very inviting, with warm wood paneling, deep curved leather banquettes, and softly suffused light from the curved bowl fixtures. It's possible to enjoy drinks, appetizers, and live music nightly (Bobby Doyle, the Tony Campese trio, Mack Bynam) in the large, busy lounge or book one of the graciously appointed private rooms for a more exclusive dining experience. The service staff is friendly and professional, knowledgeable about the food, seemingly relaxed and easy with the expectations of the mostly business clientele.
The seafood at Eddie V's is described as "Gulf Coast" rather than New Orleans- or Louisiana-style so as not to confuse diners with expectation of Cajun or Creole flavorings. The menu features Gulf Coast shrimp and oysters, huge Florida stone crab claws, Maine Lobsters, some East Coast and West Coast fish and a sprinkling of Asian flavors partnered with a few USDA prime steaks and a la carte side dishes. The food is straightforward and well-prepared with no fussy sauce paintings or architecture. And while the prices certainly aren't cheap, the large seafood entrées are all $20 and under, the steaks are priced below the listings in comparable steak houses, and the a la carte side dishes and desserts make several servings each. Eddie V's simply offers good value for the money and the nightly crowds reflect that.
Some girlfriends joined me on my first visit to Eddie V's and we were all pleased by the array of seafood choices before us. They opted to start by sharing an appetizer of Long Island Calamari ($8.50) a delicate, crisp tangle of lightly battered rings and tendrils fried to perfection with a spicy cocktail sauce. At our waiter's suggestion, I chose the All Lump Crab Cake ($10.95) and was amply rewarded by one enormous crab cake, chock-full of sweet, rich crab meat held together with the barest amount of filler and spices, dressed with slightly tangy lemon chive butter. My, what a treat. Both appetizers offered plenty to enjoy with some to share around the table, always a welcome development when friends have graciously agreed to extend the number of dishes I can try.
The more than 10 seafood entrée options offer everything from fried shrimp to lobster tails to seafood roasted, grilled, broiled, and sautéed. Two excellent choices that evening were the Swordfish "Steak" au Poivre ($19.50) with grilled mushrooms and lobster jus, a delicious, meaty chunk of pepper-crusted swordfish complemented by a selection of earthy mushrooms; and the Georges Bank Scallops ($19.50), bacon-wrapped and broiled with fresh tomato and basil butter, yielding sweet, translucent scallops with a hint of smoky bacon flavor. We filled out the table with Creamed Spinach ($4.95), Steamed Asparagus With Hollandaise ($5.95), and Cheese Grits with Red-Eye Gravy ($4.95). The spinach and asparagus are standard steak and seafood house fare and reliably prepared but the grits were unremarkable with disappointing gravy.
Though it's easy to fill up on dinner at Eddie V's, pastry cook Aida Pena's desserts are well worth saving room for. Just remember that the portions are very generous and you can exercise your dietary virtue by sharing desserts around the table. Plan ahead because the Hot Apple Cobbler ($5.95) is made to order and served hot from the oven under a melting crown of Vanilla Bean ice cream. The tart apple filling is encased in a sweet cookie crust and topped with crumbly brown sugar streusel. It's simple and homey, very comforting -- just delicious.
On a subsequent visit, I opted for cold seafood appetizers and steak to round out the menu examination. We chose a cold bar combo made up of Oysters on the Half Shell, Jumbo Shrimp cocktail, and Stone Crab Claws ($28) and received ample portions of each. While my friends slurped down the glistening, salty oysters, I contented myself with firm, sweet shrimp dipped in spicy cocktail sauce and gigantic crab claws with a mild, creamy remoulade. The seafood had clean, fresh flavors, even on a Monday night, which speaks well for how quickly Eddie V's rotates and replenishes their stock.
While my companions enjoyed a tasty Sushi Tuna and Atlantic Salmon Tartare ($8.95) on thin croustades and a simple Sautéed Gulf Snapper ($19.50) with Lump Crab and Lemon Chive Butter, I went for the meat of the matter. The 12oz Filet Mignon ($25.95) arrived with a crisply seared crust and a melting pink interior, exactly the way I prefer. It was moist and juicy, almost fork-tender, everything good filet mignon should be in my estimation. Paired with crunchy asparagus drenched in a serviceable hollandaise and excellent Lyonnaise Potatoes ($4.75), it made a very satisfying meal. That evening, we chose to share the Bananas Foster Flambee ($6.50) and were treated to a large bowl of sautéed bananas in brown sugar and rum sauce topped with two scoops of vanilla ice cream, expertly flamed at the table by our waiter. After such a substantial meal, it was more than enough for the three of us to share.
The oft-changing Eddie V's wine list offers a selection of American and European vintages, with an emphasis on wines from California and France. Out of roughly 100 wines, about one-third are offered by the glass at prices ranging from $7.50 to $17. If nothing on the wine list strikes your fancy, there's San Pelligrino, still or fizzy, and we're told the bar makes pricey but substantial cocktails. Eddie V's has quickly developed into a favored locale in which to take refuge from the demonic after-work traffic downtown; the lounge and dining rooms fill early and again later in the evening. It's a safe bet for business or family entertaining: comfortable, inviting, consistent, well-executed.
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