The Take-Out

Remembering Congress Restaurant

The Take-Out

When some restaurants close, it feels personal. It's not so much specific meals. Those can be approximated at almost any place with an open flame. But memories aren't so lucky. Those stay attached to place, even if the architecture becomes twisted over time. We take for granted that we will always be able to visit. Without those walls, who will guard the moments held in the clink of a glass? Without those tables, where can we relive them?

I never had the good fortune to become a regular at Congress, but for years it was almost a daily part of my life. Danielle, my best friend since forever, would come home with stories of eccentric customers or industry gossip. At the time, I didn't have very many friends of my own, but her co-workers provided a nifty surrogate. During most of that time, I was battling depression and a life I stumbled into but didn't choose. Congress couldn't be more different.

The first time I ate there, I felt like a celebrity. Danielle made sure of that. From the moment napkin hit lap, everything was perfect – from the foie torchon to the celebratory bubbles. Life may have been imperfect, but one thing better was within my grasp.

There are so many memories of Congress that can't be contained in those walls. There were so many times I dropped her off out front, car rides with Nineties house and louder giggles. There was the last Christmas she spent here, with its impossibly rich meal topped off with an impossibly rich dessert – Riesling-poached Bosc pears, foie gras vanilla bean ice cream made with advice and ingredients from one of the chefs. And there was one of the last days, impatiently waiting in the alley for Danielle to collect the boxes that would be filled with half the objects of our shared home and whisked away to Chicago.

I wonder if restaurateurs are aware of those ghosts, the way the restaurants can mean so much more than the meals they serve. I wonder if they appreciate the enormous privilege they have in being involved in so many beginnings and endings. Or that when we make our final reservations, it's not just because we want one more delicious meal; it's because we need to say goodbye to a friend.

And to one more time say thank you.

Sign up for the Chronicle Cooking newsletter

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

If you want to submit a recipe, send it to food@austinchronicle.com

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  

READ MORE
More The Take-Out
The Take-Out: Responsibility in Food Writing
The Take-Out: Responsibility in Food Writing
How to talk more respectfully about global cuisine

Brandon Watson, Sept. 30, 2016

The Take-Out
The Take-Out
Restaurant interiors need a new look

Brandon Watson, Dec. 18, 2015

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

David Bull

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
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

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

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