These are a few of our favourite things that have opened up in Austin since March 2012…
For a city that knows how to enjoy one of its favourite pasttimes, these new bars do not disappoint. What we see are bars that are increasingly pushing the envelope – not stopping with Prohibition-era cocktails, but moving onto carefully curated lists of locally or well-sourced beer, alchemic cocktails and novel wines. And all this while paying attention to the fact that our hunger for great food – whether a nosh over a happy hour or a late night plate – never seems to get satiated.
What bar doesn’t entice you to check them out with this opening: While our cocktails might loosen inhibitions and the building’s past might encourage licentiousness, we ask that you refrain from excessive displays of public affection and unwelcome advances towards members of other parties. Why yes, the house rules we’ve always looked for.
As it suggests, Midnight Cowboy has a storied past – a former ‘modeling’ or Oriental massage parlour upstairs from Dirty 6th that has now been turned into a Prohibition-era speakeasy. If the light’s on upstairs, take your (slim) chances at a walk-in by pressing on the rather anonymous buzzers downstairs. For a safer bet, just reserve online. It’s a bit of work since you’ll have to work around a 2 hour slot when you can get it, since Food & Wine among others have tagged it one of the best bars in America. But who says all enjoyment should be easy.
And when your cocktail comes prepared table-side – or at least when you know well enough to order the Smoke & Mirrors, it does – you know that enjoyment doesn’t come easy, but it’s worth it.
Weather Up – 1808 East Cesar Chavez
This is the first Austin outpost for NYC bartender, Kathryn Weatherup’s craft cocktail bar with others widely recognized in Tribeca and Brooklyn. The cocktail menu is outstanding, with a speciality ice program no less. Try a stalwart: the Manhattan absolutely will not disappoint; then go from there. And a critical point for the Hobbyists, they have a great menu – from outstanding happy hour specials to proper features like oysters, mussels and charcuterie. Having trained as a bartender in Paris, it seemed Weatherup couldn’t avoid the inevitability of ensuring her clients are well satiated on all fronts. They have a great happy hour (4-7pm!) that not only serves Sunday Funday well, but more importantly is industry-friendly, running from Sunday to Thursday. And Tiki Mondays are a fixture, always.
Just to check out the taps alone, Banger’s makes it worth it. And striking out on a path different than elsewhere on Rainey Street is something that we respect….and then we learned that Banger’s makes its own sausages. Assuming this meant sausages for most, pretzels for the veggies in the house, we were absolutely stunned to learn that they make a couple veg options. Not to detract at all from the 100 taps that we first mentioned…
Truly a great addition to the Rainey St. scene and a mandatory destination for any beer lover in your group this year over SX. Whether a fledgling cicerone or not, Banger’s will get them at either the beer or the sausages, and take down the rest of us with the house-made pretzels and a surprisingly good pub-level wine list.
More beer? Don’t stray too far from Rainey St. then til you hit Craft Pride, a pub that just opened in time for SX. With 54 local Texas beer on tap, you are bound to be able to do your due diligence here on our great state’s craft beer community. Oh and by the way, local resto, Bacon, happens to have a food truck out back. Be sure to grab one of their Bacon Flag T-shirts, after you’ve recovered from the power combo of craft beer and pork products.
Some bars have a food program, others may have a wine program. Freedmen’s has a barbeque program. And a serious one at that. Evan LeRoy mans the pit taking care to go beyond that and make his own pickles, jams and barbeque sauce reduced from turkey and beef stock, smoking beets and cooking offal beans as his sides. Oh and sorry, the bevvies? Yes…it’s a craft cocktail lounge that you can easily settle into its gorgeous, historic interior dating from the late 1800s and give some time to the menu. The cocktail ingredients are made in house, something we always respect. Sunday Brunch with a brisket benedict and a Bloody Swine. Oh and one of our favorites: Whisky Wednesdays all March – $3 Jameson’s.
Duck confit nachos? Why yes….Oh are we blocking again on the great food that our Austin bars are offering? Sorry, it’s becoming a regular fixation. This East side joint had us at the name, after having one of our group being an early percussionist. Giving that up for a cocktail glass years later, finding spots like this are a great nostalgic moment. Hi Hat has a great beer list, great food and is a spot that you’ll be happy you found with a great atmosphere. Reverse Happy Hour & Half off Wine Wednesdays are to be checked out here! Hi Hat’s closed Mondays…likely not over SX, but just a heads up.
This is a great spot that’s opened up on the North Loop strip in what everyone will tell you is the old Parlor spot (an Austin stalwart that has focused on its off-Guadalupe location). Focusing on great local drafts, the Workhorse also has locally produced or well sourced spirits and wine. They keep a newly tapped list of beer going that you can check out on their site. And best of all perhaps? A rare bar trying its hand at strictly locally sourced wine, they also do pairings with plates from our favourite, Antonelli’s Cheese Shop. Once you figure out just where to start on the North Loop crawl, this will be on the hit list.
A new downtown craft beer spot to check out with a great list and the care that comes with craft conditioned ale. Easy to get to from most SX haunts, the Chicago House is situated in an old 1880s historic building where you can grab a delicious pour and re-group.
Situated behind Pelon’s at 8th & Red River, you’ll find this spot focusing on cocktails and margaritas. With a solid happy hour from 2-7pm with $5 house margs, we’re sure that you will find not shortage of satiation to set you up to take on your evening!
This lovely husband/wife duo, Mike & Jessica Sanders, have just celebrated their 1st anniversary. So in truth, they were just cracking their doors open when SXSW12 hit last year. All the same, they are part of the renaissance that is North Loop that deserves some love here. Great spot, great cocktails, great beer selection, great pubbing wine list and…wait for it…great homemade bar snacks. We’re good. Check it out on your North Loop pub crawl that we’re setting up for you – you won’t regret it.
Little brother to Casino El Camino downtown, this lounge is worth the trek deep south if you have wheels or a nice local friend to take you on a bit of a crawl. Casino downtown is known for its real vibe and world famous burgers that have long attracted the attention of the Food Network among others – naturally making Casino South Side well worth the drive. And a session there. Open noon til 2am throughout SX.
Hmmm….so what could possibly go better with a happy hour than wine? Positively nothing, except perhaps some great company & olives. For any oenophile, happy hour can sometimes be a wasteland of options…unless you’re strategic about where you plan your happy hours that is.
We personally love this happy hour and make it one of our regulars…The wine selection is so carefully curated, and turned over often enough that you never risk getting wine list fatigue. The staff is fantastic with a great level of knowledge that never wains in spite of their ever changing list. And the food is fantastic. During happy hour, they have $6 appetizers that range from their ridiculously good flatbread pizza to addictively marinated Castelvetrano olives and they offer $2 off all glasses of wine. It’s a great atmosphere that is truly styled for a wine lover – with a decor of stacked wine racks that can entertain any oenophile for much longer than a mere happy hour.
Where to even start with the happy hours available at this South Austin spot? Every day they have great selections for $5/glass with specials Monday to Saturday 3-5pm, reverse happy hours at other times, along with wine tasting classes on Tuesday night. Great patio tucked away off of South Lamar that definitely is worth checking out!
If you happen to find yourself downtown and needing a laid-back space and a solid glass of red to carry you through the rest of your day at SXSW, Cork & Co. will be your place. Perfectly situated for everything going on at SX at Congress & 3rd, it will be hard to avoid stopping in for their happy hour. $3 off their glasses of wine…you can’t say no.
This is a little gem just off Dirty 6th that we hope stays just that way! Brought by Chef Shawn Cirkiel and his team from Parkside situated just in front, it’s a great, intimate little spot that belies where it’s located. Their happy hour (every day til 6:30) is amazing with 1/2 off all wine on their great, representative Italian list as well as 1/2 off all of their delicious appetizers. Of course, being focused on classic napolitano pizza with a wood-burning oven, just try not ordering one.
Certified Wine Professional, Ron Wright, has put together a great selection of wine and a great team to help you seek a moment of calm from the storm. Set just off I-35 on the east side with a patio looking west over the city profile, the spot always seemed like a curious one – til we got out there to enjoy the profile of our great city while getting off our feet one day. Only to learn that Ron practically loves to give away his wine on Mondays when all glasses are 50% off…
We love this place. What more to say? It combines our love of wine, delicious cheese, great company…and fantastic design over excellent 80s music. Done. Marco has put together a great list of wine that you can enjoy on its own, maybe with the odd surprise bottle being offered or alongside an outstanding cheese plate.
And what happy hour list could close without a reverse happy hour? After 10pm all of the healthy pours at this new North Loop joint are $5. What more does a girl need to say? They have a great wine list, which is something we would like to see more of at local pubs – a pub doesn’t need a wine program, but it wouldn’t hurt to get with the program a little. So, all that to say that we have managed to taste a few wines up here that have caught our eye at Spec’s – and for $5 as a follow-up to a great dinner at Foreign & Domestic or to change things up from a Brown Sugar Snow at the Tigress across the street, yes! Oh, and did we mention they have homemade Chex mix?
Chop the chilis roughly and then cover with boiling water, leaving them to soak for approximately one hour. Drain the water and puree the chilis in a food processor. Add the spices and garlic, 2 tbsp of the olive oil and 1/2 tsp of the sea salt. Puree the mixture together for 30 seconds, then use a spatula to scrape the sides of the food processor before mixing for another 30 seconds or so. Add 2 tbsp olive oil and 1/2 tsp of sea salt, then puree the mixture again. Continue this cycle, repeating the process until all of the olive oil and sea salt has been added and the mixture has formed a thick paste.
Sterilize the canning jars, using either medium sized jam jars or large squat jars, while sterilizing the lids and rings as well. Spoon the paste in the clean, sterilized canning jars. Process the jars by placing them in a pot of boiling water, with an inch or so of water covering the jars. Keep the jars in the boiling water for 10 minutes, then remove and let cool.
The harissa is excellent for adding that bit of needed spice to couscous, paella or most any recipe around the kitchen that needs a bit of kick. There is always a revolving jar of harissa in our fridge since it finds its way in a surprising number of our dishes…
We are generally big fans of the crisp tropical flavours of a good Verdelho (not to be confused with Verdejo – which we are also big fans of), so we were interested in tasting this offering from Margaret River’s Miles from Nowhere. While we generally tend (when we can find them) toward Spanish Verdellos from Gallicia, we have had a number of tasty versions out of Australia over the years and so had reasonably high expectations for this wine.
Fresh nose that is reminiscent of wet pavement, with a sweet floral note and a hint of citrus. So basically, this wine smells like spring. The palate displays the typical tropical fruit -especially pineapple, lime, honeysuckle and grassy notes that we expect from Verdehlo. Not overly complex, but bold, well balanced and refreshing – just the kind of wine you want to have on hand as warmer weather starts making its annual comeback.
We had this with a curried cauliflower soup and fried Pacific Snapper sandwiches, which was a great pairing for the bold flavours and big aromatics of this wine.
This wine is a blend of Viognier, Gewurtztraminer and Pinot Gris so you know the aromatics are going to be huge – a big nose of peach, tangerine, myer lemon, rose petal, lychee and a hint of honey immediately impresses. On the palate this wine is bone dry with a crisp, refreshing acidity; great balance. Flavours of stone fruit, citrus and green apple with a clean streak of minerals leave you with a long fresh aftertaste. You’ll taste this one for a long time after it’s gone.
We had this with panko crusted cod fillets – wich was delicious – but we immediately thought the big aromatics on this would play well with something with a bit of heat. Thai or earthy Mexican dishes would be an ideal match.
Nichol Vineyards has long been one of our favourite Okanagan wineries (we are generally quite partial to the old Naramata Bench wineries – Nichol, Kettle Valley, La Frenz, Lake Breeze, Elephant Island, Poplar Grove and Hillside), but we generally think of them for their pioneering Syrah and Cab Franc. However, their whites should not be over looked as they produce one of our favourite Pinot Gris (leaving them on the skins like Kettle Valley to extract some of the beautiful salmon colouring) and this very tasty (and very dry) Gewurtz.
For a varietal that is usually known for its aromatics, this wine displays a surprisingly delicate floral nose: rose petals, lychee lime with the slight hint of wet pavement. On the palate this is very far to the dry side of the spectrum of Gewurztraminer with crisp acidity. The palate has notes of lychee, pink grapefruit, white peach, lime zest, hint of spice and a minerally note. This wine has a long finish that carries on that minerally note with a grapefruit pith for what seems like forever.
This will pair well with Asian flavours- think five spice rubbed pork tenderloin or hoisin glazed chicken. The spice holds up to the strong flavours and the crisp acidity a citrus notes beautifully cuts through fats and slaty flavours alike.
Rich smokey notes of tar, plum and vanilla make this wine instantly enticing – just what we want in a good Montepulciano. The plum notes follow through on the palate, with notes of blueberry, tea and a hint of cinnamon. Nice balance and structure here, with grippy tanins that soften as it opens. Nothing mind blowing here, but make no mistake this is a solid wine that delivers everything you want to see in a Montepulciano at this price point. The deep purple colour of this wine only helps to draw you in more.
We had this with a spicy bruschetta and burrata – tasty. You’ll be happy with this as your pizza and pasta wine, but it would also be great with a grilled steak served with a squeeze of fresh lemon, salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil – it cries out for the flavours of Italy.
Aromas of apricot, citrus and wild flower honey with a hint of cinnamon give this a very different profile than most Vinho Verdes on the nose. On the palate this is dry and crisp, providing a great contrast to the sweet and spicy nose, but without the mouth puckering acidity of some Vinho Verdes. Flavours of dried apricot, orange zest and lemon lead to a clean mineral and citrus finish. One complaint on this wine is that it lacks the usual effervescence that is typical to Vinho Verde. Not the end of the world as this is still a tasty and unique wine, but we’re normally big fans of the refreshing citrus fizz of Vinho Verde. This is a richer, more full bodied Vinho Verde than most – definitely not your typical cheap Portuguese fizz.
Try this paired with grilled white fish -the fattiness of halibut, sole or lingcod would be ideal the ideal foil for the crisp citrus flavours, but this wine also has the weight to stand up to them.
Unique and thrilling stuff – try this with The Weeknd’s latest mix tape Echoes of Silence.
Ever since we had their version of this soup at Edible Canada Bistro on Granville Island we’ve been utterly infatuated. Fitting that we post this recipe on Valentine’s Day because we are in love with this soup. Who knew that blue cheese and cauliflower were meant to be together. If you can get your hands on some bacon salt to garnish the top you won’t be disappointed. We haven’t tried using roasted cauliflower but think it would add terrific flavour. We will be sure to try it next time and report back. Paired with a delicious riesling (like the Pressing Matters R9 Riesling) or gewurztraminer and you have a great meal ahead of you.
1 medium head of cauliflower
1/4 cup butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 leek (white and pale green parts only), chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
1 tsp. smoked paprika
3 tsp. all purpose flour
3 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 cup milk
3 ounces Stilton cheese, crumbled
1 tsp. ground pepper
2-3 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
Chopped fresh chives, bacon salt and fresh extra virgin olive oil.
Break down the cauliflower into small florets. Over medium heat, melt butter in large saucepan. Add onion, leek, celery, and cauliflower. Cover and cook until onion is tender, stirring frequently, about 8 minutes. Add flour, paprika and pepper and stir for two minutes. Gradually stir in broth and milk and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover partially and simmer until vegetables are tender and soup has begun to thicken (about 20 minutes). Puree soup in blender and return to saucepan. Bring to a simmer and gradually add the stilton cheese. Once the cheese has combined into the soup add the apple cider vinegar. Season to taste with white pepper and salt.
Our fondness for Spanish wines has been fairly well documented, so it is not surprising that this well-priced old vine Grarnacha from just outside of Zaragoza caught our attention.
Very concentrated deep ruby colour on this wine. Not a lot going on on the nose on this wine. Aromas of sweet dark fruit dominate with a herbal / floral note and hint of black pepper and spice. Flavours of raspberry, strawberry and under-ripe blackberry give way to a black pepper, carmel and vanilla notes. Good acidity and soft tannins, but a little out of balance. Overall a pleasant and interesting wine, but definitely not a blockbuster.
We had this with a delicious ghormeh sabzi (a Persian dish with lamb and herbs) – which was a great pairing. Lamb is a natural pairing for Grenache, and this wine is no exception.
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