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. 

Between its décor, views, and extensive wine, beer and spirits menu, Chavez’s bar scene is top notch, and perfect for post-work libations or pre-downtown drinks. In addition to a lengthy drink menu, Chavez also offers a number of south of the border inspired house cocktails such as the delicious smoked cherry habanero margarita.

Lump Crab Tosaditas - $10

Lump Crab Tosaditas – $10

Moving on to the main dining room, there is plenty to choose from off Chavez’s Southwestern-inspired menu, but I recommend starting with one of the flavorful, well-balanced ceviches off the raw bar. Appetizers options showcase unique twist on tried and true favorites such as taquitos stuffed with oysters and spicy lump crab and mango tostadas. For something a little more adventurous, I recommend ordering the Texas ‘board’ featuring bone marrow, lardo and spicy butter meant to be spread generously over fresh tortillas and cornbread. Be sure to try one of the small salads like the delicious, bold blackened pineapple and cucumber.

Traditional Ceviche - $9

Traditional Ceviche – $9

Cirkiel is known for elevating familiar dishes or flavor profiles in a way that is both unique and approachable, and this is something that translates quite nicely at Chavez, especially in the entrées. For example, a grilled shrimp al mojo de ajo blends traditional garlic and citrus flavors with a rustic mix of fava beans, greens, and tomatoes to add an unexpected new dimension to the dish. Equally as successful are heavier dishes such as lamb served with a rich mole sauce.

Blackened Pineapple Salad - $4

Blackened Pineapple Salad – $4

With a menu boasting a wide range of options at varying price points combined with its spacious and uniquely Austin interior, Chavez is a very welcome addition to downtown’s dining scene. Now that spring weather is finally on the horizon, I recommend ‘checking in’ to Chavez, located at the Downtown Radisson Hotel, for a lakeside margarita soon.

Chicken Fideo - $7

Chicken Fideo – $7

Chavez, 111 East Caesar Chavez, Austin, TX 78701, 512.478.2991. Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner served daily. http://www.chavez-austin.com

Butter Tamale - $6

Butter Tamale – $6

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