Celebrate is what they do best in Austin, long known as the Live Music Capital of the World. While the city is still legendary for its lively blend of Tex-Mex, margaritas, and music, Austin has certainly come into its own as a city ripe for the eating and drinking sort.
The farm-to-table trend has become a lifestyle in Austin. You will find the city's hot young chefs perusing the wares of local farmers markets, and menus often change seasonally according to what is growing locally. The food trailer scene continues to thrive, delivering an elevated level of dining options to the masses and adding a heightened awareness to the local food culture.
Chef Bryce Gilmore first introduced farm fresh cuisine to Austin with the Odd Duck Trailer and quickly built a loyal following. The young and innovative chef then opened Barley Swine, his first brick and mortar establishment. Barley Swine offers shared plates and pairs uniquely prepared dishes with craft beers. Food is an art here, and the shared seating and open kitchen where Bryce can be seen in the throes of his nightly creations, gives this small space a uniquely urban appeal. Bryce's next venture, the reinvented Odd Duck, will be opening next year.
A sampling of the fares at Henri's Cheese and Wine next door is not to be missed. Andy Means and Will Angst, long time friends, conceptualized this European-style wine, cheese, and charcuterie bar. The wines are carefully curated from regions around the world, and the cheese and charcuterie pairings are exceptional, thanks to Andy's culinary background with the illustrious CIA in California. The service and ambiance are warm, lacking in any sense of pretention.
Austinites swear by Tyson Cole's Uchi +Uchiko and with good reason. The contemporary Japanese dishes and inventive sushi plates are intoxicating. The atmosphere is warm. The service is exceptional, and the sake goes down smoothly. You're pretty much guaranteed a good time. Uchiko's Executive Chef Paul Qui of Top Chef fame, and a recent James Beard award winner, will be opening his own restaurant next year.
If you have more time in Austin and you've ticked those off your list, here are your next steps. Lambert's presents a luxurious take on barbeque with live music nightly in a historical downtown locale. Perla's Seafood & Oyster bar offers one of the best patios for people watching on bustling South Congress. Elizabeth Street Cafe delivers an innovative fusion of French & Vietnamese cuisine in the distinctly Austin fashion of setting up shop in a charming Austin bungalow. The latest addition, Clark's Oyster Bar mixes an enticing raw bar with classic cocktails, and locals are waiting feverishly for the reopening of Austin's first fine dining establishment, Jeffrey's Restaurant & Bar in Clarksville.
For a uniquely Texan experience visit Kevin Williamson's trio of downtown watering holes. Ranch 616 presents gourmet cuisine with a touch of cowboy cool in a colorful setting. Drop in to The Rattle Inn, his latest venture in collaboration with country music legend Ray Benson, for live music seven nights a week.
Photo credits: Barley Swine courtesy of Barley Swine; Uchi + Uchiko courtesy of Paul Bardagjy; Ranch 616 courtesy of Ranch 616