Austin on the Hoof

Rounding up the Austin steak house scene

Backstage Steakhouse & Garden Bar

21814 Hwy. 71 W., 264-2223

Sunday, Tuesday-Thursday, 5-9pm; Friday-Saturday, 5-10pm (during summer, the restaurant is also open Monday, 5-10pm, and Friday-Saturday until 11pm)

The low-slung, unassuming building perched way out on the western edge of Travis County belies a restaurant of notable caliber. Longtime Austin chef Raymond Tatum (formerly of Jeffrey's and Jean-Pierre's Upstairs) has landed at this homey, reasonably priced Hill Country eatery, and is admirably spicing up the lake dining scene. Start the meal with one of Tatum's inventive and bold-flavored appetizers – a Jalapeño Corn Cake With Crawfish and Gorgonzola Remoulade, accented by mustard and chile sauces ($6.95), or Crab Cakes With Jicama and Spicy Butter Sauce ($7.95).

In terms of steak, the Backstage offers the standard cuts, from fillets to porterhouses. The steaks here are all prime beef, simply seasoned with salt and coarse-ground pepper, then grilled. Our rib eye and New York Strips (both $20.95) were impeccably cooked, if slightly tough. Each steak comes with a choice of two side dishes. Sides include crispy shoestring onion rings, gorgeous baby greens salads, sautéed mushrooms, and satiny whipped potatoes. But the Backstage is more than a steak house – it's a darn good restaurant – and so it seems a shame to limit oneself to steak when visiting. Try their Miso-Crusted Sea Bass, or their Herb-Roasted Chicken With Lime Cream. I regret not sampling the sturgeon special that the kitchen was preparing the night we visited. Save room for one of their delicious house-made desserts, such as coconut buttermilk pie or silky crème brûlée. Without a doubt, the Backstage Steakhouse is worth the drive.

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