Dear Glutton: Looking for an Un-Kid-Friendly Restaurant
Where to play while the kids are away
With school back in session, my wife and I are looking for a good place for a totally un-kid-friendly celebratory lunch. Thoughts?
– Desperately Avoiding Dinnertime
What I'm picturing here is you two channeling a less misogynistic version of Mad Men, whiling away your afternoon over bacon-wrapped canapés and three martinis in an atmosphere of midcentury glamour – or as close to that as you can get between noon and 1pm in the heart of Texas – somewhere clean, and immaculate, and bracingly adult, preferably with leather banquettes and white tablecloths unspoiled by crayoning, a chance to check in with each other, affirming the value of your relationship not only as parents, but also as two adults who, you know, like each other a little.
I think this is a great idea, because lunch is one of the most severely underrated meals of the day. My detractors may claim that I think that every meal is the most severely underrated meal of the day (4pm snack time, anyone?), but those guys just don't know how to live. Lunch gives us an opportunity to take a pause from whatever we've been tapping away at, to step away from our computers, and go out into the world to engage our senses and take a moment to do something nice for ourselves. It's a small reminder to indulge a little more and be a little less hard on ourselves. These moments don't come along too often. A good lunch, well managed, can be a perfect quotidian chance.
Unfortunately for you, most of my favorite fancy pants local restaurants aren't open for lunch, and so I would like to misuse my public forum to complain about this issue a little before I answer your question.
Fancy Austin restaurants: Why are so many of you not open for lunch? This is totally unacceptable on every level. We're supposed to be a sophisticated, world-class food city, the type of place where self-respecting parents can take themselves out for a midday meal in a restaurant fancy enough that having a daytime glass of wine with their lunch makes them feel interesting and grownup, not like sad alcoholics ordering a 10am coping mechanism mudslide at a mini-mall Applebee's. In other parts of the world, the most famous restaurants use lunchtime as a proving ground for their junior employees, a chance to see who can handle the preparation and presentation of a full menu, and providing regular folks with the chance to splurge out a little on a prix fixe menu whose dinner equivalent would cost more than they could normally afford. Let's steal from their example, guys, and make things around here a little more Parisian, a little less Paris, Texan. Parisian Texan? You get the idea.
In a landscape peppered with gastronomical constraints, your best bet is probably longtime Downtown standby Chez Nous. And it's not a bad choice, at that. It might not be the hottest ticket in town, but Chez Nous' cozy, warmly lit dining room feels quietly elegant, the kind of place your parents might have taken you out for a special meal when you were young and learning to like grownup things like escargot and pâté. The menu drips with the kind of unpretentiously continental sophistication that feels right at home on a blustery (or, more realistically, a scorchingly-hot-but-you're-pretending-it's-blustery) fall day. Start out with some charcuterie and a glass of Bordeaux. Hold your wife's hand under the table. Share a chocolate mousse for dessert. And then get out of there; you're still parents, after all, and I wouldn't want my bad advice to make you late for pickup!