The Year in Food

The 2014 tastes we just couldn't stop thinking about

laV (Photo by John Anderson)

Top 10 fine dining on a budget

1) BARLATA The best – and only – authentic Spanish restaurant in town also has a killer happy hour, with half off many of their most popular tapas, including a $7 daily paella (with a cocktail pairing for $10), $5 house wines, and $3 Estrella Damm on draft.

2) DAI DUE This hyper-local darling gets loud and funky on Tuesdays for Ladies Steak Night, featuring hand-cut, perfectly cooked 6-ounce cuts for $10. Go with a friend, get a couple sides ($6) to share, and you have dinner under $25 at one of Austin's best.

3) LAV Dinner at this exquisite French-influenced restaurant will likely hurt your wallet, so go during happy hour or late night. You'll get 25% off select items from the seasonal bar menu (oh, the curry mussels!), plus daily specials on wines and cocktails.

4) SWIFT'S ATTIC Everything I've ever eaten here is divine, and even more so from 2-6:30pm, when they feature specialty cocktails for $6, select wines for $5, and an enticing menu of affordable nibbles like the addicting squid "fries" with roasted garlic aioli ($6).

5) CAFE JOSIE If your drink tab is usually higher than your food tab, you're not alone. That's why I love the happy hour here, when all wine, beer, and wine-based cocktails are half off from 3-6pm. That leaves plenty left to spend on their superb food (two words: grilled octopus).

6) BLACKBIRD & HENRY At B&H, there is something on special every night of the week. Happy hour features $2 off all tap cocktails, beer, and wine, plus food specials. Wednesday's Curry and a Pint for $20 is a great deal, and on Sundays you get half-price East Coast oysters after 5pm.

7) UCHI/UCHIKO I always go during the daily Sake Social (5-6:30pm), when they feature smaller portions of some of their most popular dishes and rolls for $3 to $6, a couple sake selections for $3, and special wines for $7 per glass. Don't forget to try their seasonal dessert as well.

8) PARKSIDE Always reliable and fresh, and especially great during happy hour, when you can find half-price bar menu items, beer, and cocktails. That Blonde Pâté is still one of my all-time favorites. And did somebody say steak and frites for $10? Yes, please.

9) FINN & PORTER Although F&P has been under the radar for a while, young chef Peter Maffei is dishing some pretty tasty stuff, embracing seasonal and local. Stop by for happy hour Monday-Friday, 5-7pm, for half off signature sushi and chef's tastings and see for yourself.

10) EAST SIDE KING Whether you crave the chicken karaage, the brussels sprouts, a steaming bowl of new-wave ramen, or the awesomeness of Thai Kun, you can't go wrong with ESK. And while some may scoff at calling it fine dining, the three talented chefs behind the concept are no joke.

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Top 10, Barlata, Dai Due, LaV, Swift's Attic, Cafe Josie, Blackbird & Henry, Uchi, Uchiko, parkside, Finn & Porter, East Side King

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