The Austin Chronicle

Food Review

Reviewed by Wes Marshall, July 15, 2011, Food


409 Colorado, 472-2822
Monday-Wednesday, 4pm-1am; Thursday-Friday, 4pm-2am; Saturday, 11am-2am; Sunday, 11am-1am; kitchen closes at 11pm every night. Sunday brunch, 11am-4pm.

TenOak is a very special haven for people in love with America's great whiskeys. With more than 100 bourbons on hand, they've made a substantial effort to offer bourbon lovers the same type of coddling that Scotch drinkers have come to know and love at Opal Divine's. The owners have had success in the Warehouse District with both Speakeasy and Imperia, so they seem to have a bead on what those consumers crave. TenOak has lots of standing-around space, as well as several comfortable tables.

Both the food and drink menus show a strong belief that TenOak's customers like sugar. We were tempted to start with the tempura-battered peanut butter and banana sandwich with bourbon-maple butter ($6.95), but decided it was just a little over the top, so we chose the cutely named Fig in a Pig ($9.95), several bite-sized grilled figs stuffed with bleu cheese and wrapped in crispy bacon. TenOak's shrimp corn dogs ($7.95) featured tender shrimp and crispy batter, though the advertised truffle-mustard sauce had no discernible truffle.

The manager actively visited each table to make sure everyone was happy. I asked what he liked on the menu, and he pointed to both the roasted-chicken pizzetta ($9.95) and the Original House-Stuffed Hamburger ($9.95). TenOak has several pizzettas on its menu, but don't expect a traditional pizza. The roasted-chicken pizzetta was more like an open-faced, barbecued-chicken sandwich, slathered with sweet bourbon-based barbecue sauce and topped with chicken, bacon, jalapeños, and cheddar cheese. The onslaught of sweet/spicy/smoky flavors was just fine.

TenOak's burger is a delicious, multi­napkin treat. It's stuffed with bleu cheese and bacon, and the cheese ends up melting all through the handmade patty while the sugary smoked-shallot sauce marries nicely with a wheat bun made by Moonlight Bakery. The folks at TenOak are working hard to serve as many local products as possible, using Moonlight's breads, Jester King beers for braising the pork, Lone Star farm's goat's cheese for the salads and the macaroni and cheese, and Amy's Ice Cream for the desserts. The "shop local" concept extends to the bar, which contains a full complement of Texas libations, including Dripping Springs vodka, Paula's Texas Orange liqueur, Deep Eddy Sweet Tea vodka, Treaty Oak rum, Garrison Brothers and Balcones True Blue whiskeys, and about a dozen Texas beers.

The bartender was happy to make a true Manhattan ($6.50) with real rye whiskey and used some very nice bitters to create a drink that was way better than usual. Many of TenOak's own creations, listed as Elixirs, are quite sweet. The Honey Nut Martini ($7.50) is made with Wild Turkey American Honey, Nocello walnut liqueur, and honey-based simple syrup, finished with ground brown sugar and graham crackers on the rim. It was so smooth that you could accidentally down a few without realizing what happened. The only true misstep of the night was the TenOak Mule ($8.50), made with Jameson Irish whiskey, ginger beer, simple syrup, and candied ginger. The ingredients should have tasted fine, but instead the drink tasted like they had added a shot of Pine-Sol. Rinsing problems, perhaps?

The service was friendly, if a bit slow. TenOak offers black cloth napkins and real silverware. Overall, the food prices were quite fair for the neighborhood, with nothing over $10. They also offer 15 well-priced wines by the half bottle. Their trademark bourbon whiskeys average about $10 a shot but range as high as $90. The bargain of the bourbon list is the rare Garrison Brothers Texas Straight Bourbon Whis­key for just $16. It is a whiskey that is prized by connoisseurs, so having the opportunity to taste it in a bar is a treat.

Overall, TenOak is well-priced, especially during happy hour, and it makes high-quality food and mixed drinks. If you're not a fan of sweetness, you'll have to take a little time to find just the right drink or dish, but it will be worth the effort.

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