Trading Post Wine Bar & Grill
Head to the Trading Post for high-end comfort food in an unfussy atmosphere
Reviewed by Wes Marshall, Fri., May 1, 2009
Trading Post Wine Bar & Grill12701 Hwy. 71 W. in Bee Cave, 512/428-5727
Tuesday-Friday, 5-10pm; Saturday, 8am-noon & 5-10pm; Sunday, 8am-noon
The community of Bee Cave is growing faster than Twitter, and the one small remaining outpost of antiquity was Jim Bob's Barbecue. Widely appreciated for making some of the best breakfast tacos in the town, Jim Bob's barbecue business tended to drop off as the day wore on. The owners decided to move on in life, but thankfully, the new owners, Jaime and Jennifer Sudderth and Buddy Bell, chose to keep the charming facade. They also brought a welcome upgrade to the interior and a new menu featuring high-end comfort food allied with a thoughtful wine list (all available by the glass or the bottle) and a full bar.
The owners are obsessed with making sure the customers are happy, something that becomes apparent as soon as you walk in. No matter what the size of the crowd, both the Sudderths keeps their eyes on every table, casually directing the staff to pay attention to the details. The waitstaff seems to have been chosen based on friendliness and eagerness, with no whiff of stiff formality. Chairs and tables are comfortably sized and far enough apart, and the sound level is managed well enough for an intimate conversation.
We've been twice, once on a late Friday evening, the other visit right in the middle of the weekend rush. In both cases, all the tables were full. At the later arrival time, about 8:30pm, we waited only seconds before being shown to a table. At our earlier arrival of 6:30pm, there was a short line waiting to get in. Reservations are a good idea.
The food philosophy comes from the owners' backgrounds. Jaime had worked for his father's catering company, and then he and Bell each owned an Outback Steak House. They decided that the Bee Cave area was ripe for a place with simply prepared meats and fish, emphasizing the best ingredients they could get, offered at affordable prices. As a result, the menu here changes almost weekly, with additions and subtractions based on product availability and customer response.
The philosophy seems to be working. Jaiden's Crab Cakes ($9.90) feature lots of perfectly fresh crab mixed with just enough filler to hold the cakes together, then lightly sautéed and served with a touch of simple red-pepper coulis. The two good-sized cakes paired with a salad make a delicious light dinner. For a meal big enough for a Lake Travis offensive lineman, there's the chicken portabella pasta ($16.90), a huge portion of penne pasta in a rich white-wine-and-cream sauce, loaded with tomatoes, olives, mushrooms, and grilled chicken breast. My wife made three very happy meals from one serving.
The tastiest entrée was a daily special of pork chops ($16.90) with roasted garlic, sautéed mushrooms, and an unfussy Marsala sauce. The pork chops were cooked just past medium rare, velvety tender and very moist. Beef lovers should try the rib eye ($20.90), 14 ounces of well-marbled beef, simply seasoned and grilled exactly right. There is no place for bad beef to hide when the preparation is this simple, and the steak here was as good as you'll find at most Downtown steak houses. The Trading Post TTP Salad ($4.90) is a nice amalgam of spring mix, olives, tomatoes, and pine nuts, dressed in a vinaigrette. A smaller version comes free with the entrées.
The Trading Post wine list is made up of 25 nicely chosen wines with a few nice surprises, such as a Mapema Malbec ($9.50 a glass/$36 a bottle), a Becker Vineyards Texas Iconoclast Cabernet ($5.50/$20), and a Yalumba Viognier ($8.50/$32). People who love big-boned California Chardonnay should note the Trading Post offers the Rombauer ($15/$60), a wine that's usually snapped up by restaurants before it ever hits a store shelf. My choice for a tasty wine to complement all the courses is the Joseph Phelps Innisfree Cabernet ($8/$30). This is a junior bottle to Phelps' $200 Insignia, and it uses grapes from the same vineyards as well as the same winemaker. It's the bargain of the list.
The Trading Post is a welcome addition to the Bee Cave area. Given the recent move of Zoot to the area, local residents are feeling pretty well taken care of, and for those folks who miss Jim Bob's sumptuous breakfast tacos, the Trading Post has decided to keep selling them on weekends from 8am until noon.
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