Restaurant Review: Destination Dining Downtown

Austin is turning into quite a sophisticated bar town, and this one tops the list

Bar Congress

200 Congress, 512/827-2760,
Tue.-Sat., 5pm-11:30pm
Destination Dining Downtown
Photo by John Anderson

Bar Congress

200 Congress
Tuesday-Saturday, 5pm-12mid

Bar Congress brings together three of Austin's top restaurant people – chef David Bull, sommelier June Rodil, and mixologist Adam Bryan – and gives them an intimate and elegant stage to show off their many talents. Lucky us!

Bryan is one of our very finest mixologists. Where most bars focus on speed, Bryan makes each cocktail individually and with great care. His Walker Manhattan ($12) is a dazzling blend of Michter's US 1 Straight Rye and Vya red vermouth. The Vya is the secret ingredient, adding intense aromas you just don't get in the normal $5-a-bottle vermouth. Asked what the house specialty was, our attentive waitperson recommended the Preferred Lies ($13). Its bergamot aromas come from Earl Grey-infused bourbon and were set off by delightful foam made from Canton ginger liqueur.

Bar Congress also has an ingenious wine list. Rodil, a past winner of Texas' Best Sommelier Competition, has put together a brilliant Euro-centric wine list. We enjoyed the hazelnut aroma of the Simon Bize & Fils Les Cham­plains white Burgundy ($14) and a palate-cleansing Guasti Clemente Cortese dell'alto Monferrato ($12). The bargain of the wine list is the Domaine Notre Dame des Pallières Rasteau ($11), a bold red that's perfect for the meats on the menu.

The final part of Bar Congress's hat-trick is delicious food from the ever-inventive Bull. As usual, he finds the perfect balance of innovation and informality. We went gaga over the veal meatball slider ($8), which also had sweetbreads and a hint of arugula. Fans of potatoes will like the beef short rib croquettes with Gruyère fondue ($12), a bundle of crispy and creamy pleasure with a hint of beef flavor. We also tried two large plates. The Thumbelina carrot ravioli ($18) is a delicate bowl of pasta pillows with carrot puree and distinct lemongrass aromas. The best dish of the night was Bull's short rib "Pot Roast" ($24) with a soft poached egg, celery root, and a touch of mascarpone.

Austin is turning into quite a sophisticated bar town, and Bar Congress belongs right at the top of your list of new places to try.

Sign up for the Chronicle Cooking newsletter

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

If you want to submit a recipe, send it to

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Food Reviews
A Trio of Mediterranean Dining
A Trio of Mediterranean Dining
Just when you thought you couldn't possibly get any shawarma, right?

Wayne Alan Brenner, Sept. 4, 2020

Hot Sauce: Your Lifestyle Is the Target
Hot Sauce: Your Lifestyle Is the Target
What does your favorite condiment reveal about who you are?

Wayne Alan Brenner, Aug. 28, 2020

More by Wes Marshall
Weekend Wine: This Dry Rosé is a Summertime Dazzler
Weekend Wine: This Dry Rosé is a Summertime Dazzler
It's a Washington winner in deep pink

July 18, 2020

Weekend Wine: Pinot Noir at a Reasonable Price
Weekend Wine: Pinot Noir at a Reasonable Price
Four Austin dudes shake up the red wine world

May 30, 2020


Bar Congress, David Bull, June Rodil, Adam Bryan, Texas' Best Sommelier Competition

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle