AC Date Night: Aviary Wine & Kitchen
Furniture boutique turned restaurant glams up South Lamar
I was far too recently single to even think about that weighty February Hallmark holiday, so I celebrated an early Galentine's Day with one of my best babes by wining and dining at Aviary. We had both loved the quirky and intimate home decor shop and wine lounge before it closed for renovations last spring, and have separately frequented the lofty new space since it reopened in the fall with a full menu, impassioned wine list to match, and bathroom wallpaper that begs to be immortalized in a selfie.
We arrived just in time to catch the tail end of happy hour on a Wednesday and couldn't not notice that all the patrons were women. Maybe all of Austin's single ladies were also in the Lonely Hearts Club? (We all saw that Match.com survey about Austin men, right?) As we walked in, we were greeted warmly, seated at a table in the middle of the room, and told that oysters were a dollar off until 6pm, and beer and wine were also discounted. We were in an oysters-and-bubbly mood and our super-friendly and knowledgeable server Laurelin steered us toward an effervescent Amrita from the Willamette Valley. We ordered two of each oyster variety: Lady Chatterleys, Black Points, and Sweet Petites.
Laurelin pulled out a small notebook to elaborate on the cheese and charcuterie offerings, some of which had just arrived that day. We were intrigued by the caprino stagionato, an aged goat's milk cheese firm in texture with a tangy flavor, and had to try the jamón Ibérico. The spread came with more than enough sliced baguette from Easy Tiger, house-made pickles, and fig preserves. We were delighted to find out that select wine bottles were half-off that evening, and our server was well-versed on tasting notes and even the winemakers' backstories, which made choosing the 7 Fuentes, a Spanish Tintilla, easy. It was light-bodied but full of flavor, and went perfectly with the two entrées we shared.
Executive chef Thomas Calhoun's food is French- and Mediterranean-inspired, but rooted in seasonal Texas ingredients. The sweet potato gnocchi was tossed in a very light lemon and butter sauce which made way for salty slices of fried pork belly. (We were low-key obsessed with the fried sage garnish.) Our other entrée, boudin blanc with white beans and bok choy, was so spicy we had to revisit the baguette to soothe our taste buds. The menu did warn of a "tomato habanero broth" – we were just so involved chatting (or was it the drinking?) that we missed that detail. The flavor of the rouille was incredible though, so we weren't upset. For dessert we chose the Texas olive oil cake with spiced orange marmalade, crème fraîche, and a crown of kalamata tuille that made a pretty successful boomerang when rotated in our table's candlelight. With Calhoun's background as pastry chef at Lenoir, it's no surprise the desserts at Aviary taste as stellar as they look.
The following Sunday I returned to Aviary for Wine School – the first class of a yearlong series. Beverage Director Alex Bell and co-owner Marco Fiorilo discussed four varietals that made them fall in love with wine. Fiorilo has a wealth of information (be sure to bring a journal for note-taking), and Bell is a hoot, making this class way more entertaining than anything I took in college. There's something about good wine and good conversation that makes the time fly, so expect the classes to run a little over the allotted two hours. "Students" also had the opportunity to purchase the featured wines at a massive price break. Offering lunch, brunch, dinner, and now a super-fun wine class, this modern neighborhood wine bar has no shortage of opportunities for you and your favorite oenophile to plan your next date.
Aviary Wine & Kitchen2110-C S. Lamar
Lunch: Tue.-Sat., 11am-2:30pm
Dinner: Tue.-Sat., 4pm-12mid
Sunday Brunch: 11am-3pm