Happenings: 2013 Austin Openings, Part II

With so many new restaurants, brewpubs, and bars opening in Austin these days, it is hard to keep up! The last full list of 2012 contained an overwhelming number of new spots to check out, but even that was almost outdated as soon as it was released. For this round of openings, I’m breaking it down by genre. Part I, found here, started with the latest watering holes. For Part II, we move on to mealtime with a handful of recently opened restaurants to check out.

epicerie

Epicerie – The delightful café and grocery serves a well-priced . . . → Read More: Happenings: 2013 Austin Openings, Part II

April Outdoor Happenings: Art on the Green Exhibit

A projected forecast of near perfect days predicted for the remainder of April means ample opportunity to spend time enjoying Austin’s great outdoors. Thankfully, Austin has plenty of ways to spend time enjoying this perfect spring weather before the summer heat rolls to town. Whether you’re an outdoor adventurer or outdoorsy in that you like porch drinks, Ginny’s Austin will begin a new April series of posts detailing where to spend your days.

Hit the sticks by visiting the Austin Museum of Art (AMOA) for the ‘Art on the Green’ exhibit, ongoing until May 20. The interactive outdoor art installation features a nine hole put-put course with each hole designed by a local artist. The creative holes range from modern to humorous and are as much fun to look at as play. Set on the grounds of the stunning Laguna Gloria, one doesn’t have to be Bubba Watson to enjoy this golfing excursion.

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The family-friendly course is open Tuesdays from 12-8pm, Wednesdays from 12-4pm, and Thursdays-Sundays 10am-4pm.

Green Fees:

Non-Members: $8; 12 and under $4
Members $4; 12 and under $2
50% off Twilight Tuesdays 4–8pm

BUT WAIT…there’s more to discover!

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Mandola’s Italian Market

 I recently stopped by Mandola’s for a long overdue revisit to the classic Austin restaurant. Mandola’s may appear to be an average fast casual restaurant, but appearances can be deceiving. Yes, it is counter service and casual, and there is a cheese and French fry pizza option, but when it comes to the quality of food, Mandola’s is anything but run of the mill. Spend a little time at the Italian market and eatery, and the secret to Mandola’s long running success becomes clear. Service is quick and welcoming, the atmosphere is family-friendly, and the menu is reasonably priced. Most importantly, the generously portioned dishes are both high quality and authentic.

I recently visited Mandola’s during lunch and was quickly reminded why I need to stop by more often. After debating over options like Sicilian tomato salad with fresh ricotta salata and Parma pizza topped with arugula and prosciutto, I opted for a simple order of minestrone soup and salad. While not the most adventurous order, Mandola’s version reminded me exactly why this classic Italian soup is a personal favorite. The broth was flavorful and not overly salty. Seasonal vegetables filled each spoonful. The pasta was still wonderfully al dente, a sign of the soup’s freshness. Paired with the mista house salad, it was an excellent lunch decision. Each meal comes with Mandola’s addictive freshly baked bread which is salty, chewy, and a perfect partner to minestrone soup. After an Americano from the coffee bar to cap off lunch, I left a very happy customer.

As for the market, Mandola’s shelves are adequately stocked enough to please anyone’s Italian grandmother. Mandola’s market is filled with housemade prepared foods and cheeses, charchuterie, and Italian pantry staples. The market’s highlight is a carefully cultivated Italian wine section. The impressive selection showcases a wide range of both varieties and price points with more than a little something for everyone.

 Mandola’s Italian Market. The Triangle. 4700 West Guadalupe St # 12. Austin, TX 78751-3778. 512.419.9700.www.mandolasmarket.com/

Bowl of Minestrone - $6

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Breakfast @ 24 Diner

Insomnia and lack of gym motivation inspired a rare leisurely weekday breakfast outing to 24 Diner a few days ago. When 24 Diner first opened late 2009 I was a somewhat frequent visitor, but for a variety of reasons tapered my outings. Recent buzz, including a write up in Food & Wine and Chef Andrew Curren’s upcoming Top Chef Texas participation, encouraged a revisit to the restaurant. After swiftly drinking the first of two Americanos, my bleary eyes began to take in the open, bright space. The restaurant’s design reflects its concept; it is rooted in 50s Americana but . . . → Read More: Breakfast @ 24 Diner

Dish of the Day: Donn’s Depot

Over the years, there has been much about Austin that has changed from the skyline to traffic to the people. There was a time not so long ago tourists wouldn’t have dared to walk up and down South Congress, even in daylight, and Far West was considered way up North (it still is to me). However, the great thing about this city is despite these and other changes, there are still relics of Old Austin alive and well. One of these places is Donn’s Depot on West 5th. Donn’s has been around Austin for over 30 years, and many . . . → Read More: Dish of the Day: Donn’s Depot

Counter Cafe

 

Any given Saturday around 11:30 or 12, drivers will notice a number of people lingering outside a small diner on Lamar, just a few blocks North of Whole Foods. Regulars know to get there early, especially since Texas Monthly wrote a little article about burgers, spurring countless debates from Orange to El Paso. I am talking, of course, about Counter Café. Prior to the Counter Burger being named Texas Monthly’s 2nd best burger in Texas, locals knew for a great daily brunch or lunch, Counter Café was golden. Finish reading  [expand title = Here] From the outside Counter Café appears to be the usual greasy spoon diner, especially given the location’s predecessor was the famously (and delightfully) unhealthy GM Steakhouse. But this is Austin, after all, and Counter Café is certainly an Austicentric diner from menu to motto. Glancing over Counter Café’s daily chalkboard and regular menus you will find a collection of diner favorites, some reinvented or given gourmet touches perhaps, but enough items to appease those longing for the GM Steakhouse of yesteryear.  But showcased alongside down home staples like bacon cheeseburgers and biscuits and gravy, there are also locally sourced organic, healthy options like spinach salads, homemade daily soups, and grilled quail. Anyone proclaiming to be a burger lover must try the burger at least once, if not only to be able to throw two cents into the great burger debate. The list aside, Counter Café’s burger is delicious. Served medium rare on a sweet bun, fresh off the grill with cheese, with grilled onions added, it is pretty hard to beat. Best burger in Austin? I still cast my vote for Contigo, followed by the Tavern or Red’s Porch, but it is definitely good enough to appease any burger lover. As my office would prefer to not find me asleep under my desk a la George Costanza, I skip the burger when venturing to Counter Café for lunch during the week instead choosing a bowl of what is surely wonderful, fresh soup and a spinach salad. What is great about Counter Café’s healthier options is they are always good enough to avoid a serious case of food envy from my cohort’s undoubtedly greasier order. When I am living on the edge beyond salads and the burger, I love the grilled pimento cheese sandwich or crab cakes and eggs. With a ying and yang menu, Counter Café shows combining two normally round peg, square hole styles of dining, can sometimes be a welcome compromise. [/expand]

 

Counter Café. 626 N. Lamar, Austin, TX 78701. 512.780.8800. http://www.countercafe.com/

The famous Counter Burger - $10

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TRIBEZA Chef's Table Series: La Sombra

There are few cocktails I find more refreshing than a pisco sour, and there are few places in Austin who make a pisco sour quite like La Sombra. Give this girl either a Chilean or Peruvian style Pisco, one of La Sombra’s amazing ceviches  and a seat on the patio, and a happy state of relaxation will prevail.  La Sombra is a South/Central American style restaurant located in North Central Austin, and if you have yet to try it out, I highly recommend next Tuesday and Wednesday Tribeza Chef Series Dinner. The cost for cocktails, a four course dinner and an intimate evening with both head Chef Julio-Cesar Florez and GM Raul Escobar is $65 pp and should be an amazing evening.

 For more about La Sombra, go here.  

For Reservations and full menu to Tribeza Summer Solstice Chef’s Dinner Series, go here.

 For a few pics from a recent Ginny’s Austin visit, check them out below!

 

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Dish of the Day: Bar Lamar @ Whole Foods

While I recently told you about a few grocery delivery services, Whole Foods’ new Bar Lamar might be reason enough to spend some time shopping the old fashion way.  Considering I already spend way too much time wandering around the store’s aisles, management may start asking for a rent check since Bar Lamar’s addition.  How can anyone resist taking a shopping break for a $6 cheese plate and glass of wine?  There is a great selection of beer and wine on tap or chose a staff selected wine flight.  The cheese pairings are meant to accompany the flights. Extras . . . → Read More: Dish of the Day: Bar Lamar @ Whole Foods