Dish of the Day: Voodoo Doughnuts

Because every Friday the 13th should involve a little voodoo magic, today’s dish of the day is a box of goodness from the newly opened Voodoo Doughnuts.

Voodoo Doughnut Austin

Voodoo Doughnut Austin

Prior to opening on 6th Street in downtown Austin, the Portland, OR-based doughnut purveyors garnered a cult following, thanks to their extensive menu of doughnuts flavors and surprisingly fair prices. While there are plenty of choices for doughnut traditionalists, Voodoo’s eclectic, offbeat options are what really put the shop on the map. Truly, with toppings ranging from mango to CoCo Puffs, Butterfingers to bacon, Voodoo leaves no flavor combo unturned in crafting its doughnuts.

Sprinkle Cake Doughnut

Sprinkle Cake Doughnut

In the name of research, I have made a couple of trips by the shop to do a little field-testing on some of these said flavors to overall solid results. Voodoo’s traditional cake style doughnut, such as the maple glazed Old Fashioned and double chocolate, are the clear favorites of the bunch. Continue reading Dish of the Day: Voodoo Doughnuts

Happenings: Fall 2015 Austin Restaurant Openings, Part I

2015 has already proved to be a banner year for new restaurants, having already welcomed a slew of hotspots such as Launderette, Shake Shack, Dai Due, and more. And with new spots continuing to pop up everywhere you turn, Austin’s restaurant scene shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon, which makes keeping track of where to eat no easy feat.

To help guide you along your eat, drink, and be merry little way, here’s a list of new restaurants opening in Fall 2015. I’ve already given you the lowdown on one new spot, Juniper (mentioned here), with more . . . → Read More: Happenings: Fall 2015 Austin Restaurant Openings, Part I

First Look: Juniper Austin

Long awaited Italian restaurant Juniper officially opens its East Austin doors this week. Originally slated to open this past summer, permitting headaches and construction delays kept our mouths watering for the highly anticipated restaurant. Despite this red tape, the Juniper team, led by longtime Austin chef Nicholas Yanes, turned lemons into lemoncello by hosting a series of pop up dinners throughout the spring and summer. During one such dinner at Barley Swine, the former Uchi chef gave a preview of Juniper’s northern Italy meets Texas cuisine over six delicious courses.

Our dinner started with Juniper’s take on one of my favorite Italian summer dishes, crispy zucchini blossoms stuffed with fontina and ricotta. Served with a flavorful sweet pepper sauce, it made for a fortuitous start to our preview dinner.

Juniper Austin Preview Course 1

Juniper Austin Preview Course 1

Arriving next was a beautifully composed plate of figs, San Daniele ham, and Brunet goat cheese drizzled with local honey vinegar. The rustic, classic dish was designed to let the ingredients shine, which was a consistent theme throughout the meal.

Juniper Austin Preview Course 2

Juniper Austin Preview Course 2

Next came one of the most surprising dishes of the evening featuring squid with grapes and smoked tomato served on top of a celery root puree. In lesser hands, this combination of ingredients could have easily been a bit of a mess, but instead the dish represented a subtle, harmonious balance of smoky and sweet flavors that married well the textures of the meaty squid and creamy celery root. Continue reading First Look: Juniper Austin

Blackbird & Henry

In the mix of this springs many restaurant openings, Chef Mark Schmidt opened Blackbird & Henry just north of West Campus, offering upscale quality eats in a neighborhood environment. Prior to relocating to Austin, Chef Schmidt was the former owner and executive chef of the much-lauded Café 909 restaurant in Marble Falls. Having been once since it opened, Blackbird & Henry had been very much on my list of places to return. After hearing rave reviews from coworkers reporting back after I had recommended it, I decided it was high time to revisit the restaurant – this time during the newly added lunch service.

Salmon Ceviche - $12

Salmon Ceviche – $12

We started with a promising sounding salmon ceviche marinated with charred tomatoes and jalapenos off the day’s specials menu. Though I expected a little more kick from the jalapenos, the tomatoes added an unexpected depth to the dish. A tad more lime wouldn’t have hurt, but overall it was a solid start to our meal. Moving on to the main event, we opted for the Smoked Trout Salad and the Blackbird Burger.

Smoked Trout Salad - $11

Smoked Trout Salad – $11

The combination of smoked trout and hardboiled duck egg with crispy green beans and endive created a dish that was both refreshing and hearty. The whole grain mustard dressing gave it that perfect tangy kick which added a nice depth to the dish. Continue reading Blackbird & Henry

Noble Sandwich Co. on Burnet Road

Known for crafting stellar sandwiches from mostly housemade ingredients, Noble Sandwich Co. has inspired many a reverse commute to its original trailer turned brick-and-mortar 620 location. Thus, after waiting for what seemed like eternity, fans (i.e., yours truly) of Noble Sandwich Co. rejoiced with the opening of the cult favorite’s Central Austin location last month.

A meat lover’s dream, Noble Sandwich Co. has garnered much of its notoriety from sandwiches featuring ingredients such as high-quality charcuterie like the Smoked Duck Pastrami as well as more ambitious options such as the Red Chili Braised Pork Cheek sandwich. On this visit, the restaurant’s namesake sandwich The Noble Pig won plenty of praise thanks to a pig three ways blend of spiced ham, pulled pork, and crispy bacon. Topped with melted provolone, mayo, and delicious whole grain mustard, it’s a gut check worth investing in.

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Oyster Mushroom Rueben – $8

 

Continue reading Noble Sandwich Co. on Burnet Road

First Look: Licha’s Cantina

One of the most disappointing, though not entirely unsurprising, closures of last year was East Austin Mexican restaurant Papi Tino’s. Its former location, situated in the heart of East Austin, is now home to the promising Licha’s Cantina. After brightening up the space and opening the back patio, owner Daniel Brooks quietly opened the new restaurant just prior to SXSW, drawing on his Mexico roots in developing the cantina concept.

Licha's Cantina

Licha’s Cantina

Roasted Duck Tacos - $12

Roasted Duck Tacos – $12

Having earned his stripes as the GM at Austin’s Vespaio, it should have come as no surprise to find the service at Licha’s Cantina to be exceptional. The gracious and friendly staff helps create a welcoming atmosphere one can’t wait to return to again and again. Our server was also well versed on the components of each dish and extremely helpful making recommendations. Continue reading First Look: Licha’s Cantina

First Look: Chavez

With a number of highly anticipated restaurants in the works, 2014 is forecasted to be quite the year for eating out in Austin. Right off the bar, the first of these buzzworthy spots, the modern Southwestern-inspired Chavez, set the bar high with the opening of its downtown doors last week.

Located in the former TGIFriday’s at the Downtown Radisson, Chavez is part of the hotel’s larger top-to-bottom overhaul. To spearhead the restaurant’s new direction, the management team tapped Parkside, Backspace & Olive & June chef Shawn Cirkiel, and, based on first impressions, it’s a partnership off to a great start.

Smoked Cherry Habenero Margarita

Smoked Cherry Habenero Margarita

The gorgeous space might just be designer extraordinaire Michael Hsu’s best project yet. To capitalize on the hotel’s exceptional location, floor to ceiling windows overlook Lady Bird Lake and a glamorously redesigned pool area. Clearly a collaborative effort between chef and designer, Hsu made Cirkiel’s modern Southwestern concept come to life down to the smallest detail.

Grilled Shrimp al Mojo de Ajo (lunch) - $15

Grilled Shrimp al Mojo de Ajo (lunch) – $15

But what I found most appealing about the space was how well they incorporated different seating options throughout the bar and main dining area. From semi-private large tables to the open dining room, Chavez is the type of place you can take a client, and yet at the same time, it is a great spot for a laidback group dinner, which is somewhat of a rarity in downtown Austin.  Continue reading First Look: Chavez

Winebelly

There’s no question South 1st Street has undergone something of a metamorphous over the past couple of years. Despite a wave of new restaurants opening up and down the street, it seemed – at least for a long time – the Oltorf area was immune to the changes happening around it. That’s not to say the neighborhood was hurting for amazing places to dine with a list of options ranging from upscale spots like Sway and Lenoir to highly addictive Tex-Mex eats like Polvos and El Primo.

However, for those looking for something in the middle – that easy post-work spot to grab a good glass of wine or appetizer – the options were previously few and far between. Thanks to its reasonable prices, strong menu offerings, and relaxed atmosphere, Winebelly is now helping to fill that void while adding a little charm to Oltorf in the process.

Winebelly’s Spanish tapas-inspired food menu consists of a dozen or so small plates with price points ranging from $5-$16. We started with the cured white anchovies topped with a Spanish salsa verde. The bright flavor of the delicate, salty anchovies and herbaceous, tangy salsa made for a delicious welcome to Winebelly. Next up was an order of another traditional tapas favorite, tomato bread. The bread was soaked in a mixture of sweet tomatoes, garlic and olive oil and offset by the crunchy crust. Once again, this dish highlighted what can happen with well-executed simplicity.

Cured White Anchovies - $5

Cured White Anchovies – $5

Less successful were the pork, beef and veal meatballs, served in a nondescript tomato sauce; Continue reading Winebelly