AC Date Night: Three Little Pigs & East End Wines
Wine 'em and swine 'em in East Austin
There's no shortage of great drinking and dining spots in Austin, but choosing the right one for a first Tinder date can carry a lot of weight. Five courses with pairings is too much commitment for an initial meet-and-greet, but hitting up a neighborhood dive for cheap drinks is unoriginal. And what if dinner goes well? You'll want a plan for continuing the good times. That's why we're here to offer delicious ideas that won't break the bank and will earn you plenty of style points.
On a recent date, I tried two Eastside businesses – a pork-focused food trailer saddled up to a wine shop, conjoined by a shared dining space with picnic tables and shady awnings. The trailer – Three Little Pigs – is from renowned chef Raymond Tatum, a 12-year veteran of Jeffrey's. That training shines in the menu, half of which is dedicated to changing daily specials. It doesn't have a liquor license, of course, but its close proximity to East End Wines takes care of that.
The Queen Anne home-turned-wine-emporium houses nearly a thousand hand-picked wines. And the gentleman at the counter was more than happy to help with pairings. After the knowledgeable clerk and my date – a sommelier-in-training – nerded out on southern France varietals, we settled on a 2013 Cote 125 Corbieres Rouge ($13.57). After the $7 corkage fee, it still came in well under what we'd pay at most restaurants in town. In fact, about 90% of East End Wines' offerings (including an extensive cider selection) sell for $35 or less.
Back at the table, the pork belly slider ($7) arrived as a nearly two-inch-thick slab slathered with a salty-sweet soy-maple glaze – balanced by cool slices of crisp green apple and crunchy fried onions. The sesame coleslaw side would bring me back here all on its own. Pig cheek ($9), cooked in lime juice and fish sauce, was tender and tangy. Garnished with a generous portion of fresh mint, it was the perfect accompaniment for white rice. We ordered a third dish, which was more than enough food, but we couldn't help but want one of everything. Tatum recommended a special of twice-cooked pork belly ($10) with Chinese broccoli and hon shimeji mushrooms. The texture – crispy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside – had me and my date locking eyes and nodding in silent approval. Who knew pork could be so varied?
The casual setting (and the wine) takes all the edge off a first date. And if things go well, you can take a post-dinner stroll down East 11th to catch some live music at Kenny Dorham's Backyard. Whether your OkCupid date actually turns out to be an 89% match remains to be seen, but Three Little Pigs and East End Wines are one couple we think will make it.
Three Little Pigs1209 Rosewood, 512/653-5088
East End Wines1209 Rosewood, 512/904-9056
Mon., 10am-7pm; Tue.-Sat., 10am-10pm
"Date Night" is a recurring column featuring drinking and dining options for a fun night on the town. Got an idea for a great "Date Night"? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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