Cool River Cafe

Rounding up the Austin steak house scene

Cool River Cafe

4001 Parmer Ln., 835-0010

Monday-Saturday, 11am-11pm

The ski lodge atmosphere at this enormous Northwest Austin steak house is elegant, almost over the top. However, everything on the menu is familiar and "safe." We liked the Crab Cakes ($10.50), four decent-sized patties with a good crabmeat-to-breadcrumb ratio, served with a tasty cocktail sauce made with Absolute Peppar vodka. Entrées come with a side salad and a choice of vegetable sides. Both the Caesar caliente with ancho Caesar dressing and the Republic salad of field greens with chopped egg and smoked bacon were fresh and tasted good. I asked the waiter if the Jim Beam Ribeye ($25.95) and the Devil Creek Shrimp ($23.95) were very sweet, and after he said no, we ordered them. The rib eye, which was rather chewy, came topped with caramelized onions and a marinade that was overly sweet and destroyed the natural flavor of the beef. The big, plump shrimp came wrapped in smoked bacon and stuffed with pepper jack, grilled with a chipotle hickory sauce. Given its name and ingredients, the dish promised to be spicy, but the sauce had too much sweetness and not enough fire. The side dishes we chose were good. The spinach Mercedes was made with fresh rather than frozen spinach, just barely wilted in a creamy and savory sauce. The six-cheese scalloped potatoes were cheesy and creamy, as they should be. Our favorite dish was the Diablo Helado ($6.50), a habanero-laced Belgian chocolate waffle sandwich filled with Bailey's ice cream, topped with fresh strawberries and toasted almonds, served over Kahlua crème anglaise.

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