With its glamorous, eclectic décor, warm service, and access to free flowing wine, spending Sunday brunch at La V is a must, especially when there is something to celebrate. Since La V falls into the higher end category of restaurants in Austin, visiting during brunch is a great way to sample goods on a smaller budget, especially with their recently added $12 bottle of rosé brunch special. And while the rosé special might have coax you in the door, it’s everything else – from the service to the food – that will entice a return visit, as proven by a recent leisurely Sunday spent at the east side restaurant.
Brioche Donuts – $11
Our meal started and finished on a high note, bookended by two ridiculous orders of La V’s brioche donuts. Light and airy on the inside and coated in cinnamon sugar on the outside, the donuts are perfection. Though the donuts, created from twice-proofed brioche, hardly need any help, La V ups the anti by serving them with a freshly made berry jam and vanilla bean pastry cream dipping sauce on the side.
The straightforward presentation of three high quality cheeses, fig preserves and crackers was another winning way to start the meal. I am not the hugest fan of soft, pungent cheeses, so I was pleasantly surprised to find La V’s plate offered a selection of three crowd pleasing yet interesting cheeses rather than sticking to an all-French lineup.
Cheese Plate – $12
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With football season, music festivals, and other ongoings, chances are you’ve got a spare bedroom full of guests every weekend. No matter what draws these friends to town, there is a good chance that at some point, an epic brunch will be in order. When the inevitable question of where to eat is posed, there are a few go-to staples that always fit the bill. One of these places is perennial favorite Perla’s Seafood & Oyster Bar. While champagne and oysters certainly come with a higher price tag then, say, a breakfast taco, its location, atmosphere, and solid menu of brunch favorites makes Perla’s a worthwhile investment.
Salt and Jalapeno Pepper Calamari – $14
Whether playing tour guide or merely recovering from a long weekend, Perla’s bright, Carolina-inspired patio overlooking South Congress Avenue is a perfect spot to press the reset button with a glass of bubbly or ambitious brunch cocktail like the Caeser or appropriately named Corpse Reviver. Continue reading Brunch Ups: Perla’s Seafood and Oyster Bar
In the midst of the headline-grabbing newly reopened and revamped Jeffery’s of Clarksville, Larry McGuire & Co. also penciled in a time to open Josephine House next door after it underwent a similar makeover. In the past, the spot often served as primarily an event space, but it now serves a full service eatery specializing in drinks and small plates.
Josephine House is undeniably lovely; the nuanced details of the quaint space exemplify casual elegance, and its hard not to be charmed by Jeffery’s WASPy little sister restaurant. In fact, if this review were based on the ambiance alone, Josephine House would have garnered immediate gold stars. But with all its pretty trappings, Josephine House falls flat.
Continue reading First Look: Josephine House
After a couple visits to Elizabeth Street Café, the newly opened restaurant has left a promising first impression, as examined in a recent morning visit. Since opening in late December, the French Vietnamese restaurant has seemingly been faced with the happy predicament of instant popularity as it is mostly bustling daily morning, noon, and night. While taking advantage of a work holiday, I visited post morning rush to enjoy a rare indulgent, leisurely full service breakfast. During a previous lunch rush visit service seemed a little green, but overall friendly and accommodating. Despite visiting at the tail end of Monday breakfast service, each moment still felt fresh and energized.
Because no Monday morning, holiday or not, should begin without ample caffeine, first order of business was an Americano and a house specialty Vietnamese coffee. The Americano, made from Portland’s famed Stumptown espresso, was gone in seconds. The Vietnamese coffee served with strong pressed coffee was a tad sugary from the sweet condensed milk on bottom. The breakfast menu features a variety of French baked goods and Vietnamese dishes similar to lunch and dinner options recrafted for morning. Breakfast orders included a bahn mi and ham and gruyere croissant.
Breakfast Bahn Mi - $7
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After Franklin’s attempt number one for the weekend failed on Saturday, the nearby Takoba became brunch plan B. Takoba is one of those places I have had on my list to try for some time now, but for one reason or another, kept putting off. While I am still hungry to try Franklin’s BBQ, I am certainly glad to discover what Takoba had to offer. Since Takoba opened last year I have heard a good deal about the bright, beachy, and modern décor, exemplified by the adult sandbox outside. The space is worthy of the buzz; I felt like I was dining in Southern California, minutes from the beach.
Cheap mimosas, a basket of freshly fried chips and spicy, yet manageable salsa make a trip to Takoba alone. The deliciousness of the chips are even more appreciated when used to dive into the Baja Ceviche and guacamole. The guacamole was simple and flavorful, with a small kick of spice. The generously portioned shrimp ceviche was good, benefitting from just the right amount of lime and vegetables, but I would have preferred the shrimp be cut larger or mixed with white fish. For my entrée I went fairly basic with quesadillas and a salad as I was still in Friday night recovery mode. Both were good, with ample quanities of cheese featured in both. However, everything we ordered was a wash when it came to the star of the meal. At the very bottom of the brunch menu sits an entrée called Birria de Borrego Estilo Aguascaelientes. (If the long name intimidates, just refer to it as I now do: the best lamb brunch dish ever.) When asked, our waitress gave it glowing remarks, but also noted that few people seem to order it. Attention Takoba brunch attendees, this is a mistake! The braised lamb was so tender it melted in my mouth, and a verde sauce provided a hit of spice, which paired nicely with the savory braising liquids and touch of lime. Served with the lamb was the best consommé I have had, which made the dish worth the order alone. While rich in flavor, this was surprising not as heavy as one would think. Truly, it was a good for the soul kind of dish worth a trip to Takoba.
Birria de Borrego Estilo Aguascaelientes.- $10.50
Takoba. 1411 East 7th Street Austin, Texas 78702. http://www.takobarestaurant.com/
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For the past few months when I am in town on the weekends I have repeated the phrase “I want to try El Meson” way too many times without ever actually closing the deal. Even before Texas Monthly featured the hidden South Austin gem in its feature about Mex-Mex restaurants in Texas, El Meson has been on my list as I have always heard great things about the authenticity and value. When it comes to Mexican lunches on the weekends, it is always difficult to convince my friends, especially visiting ones, to break from their favorites that, to me, benefit more from nostalgia than good food. But since I could pull the birthday card this weekend (who am I kidding, month) I finally got to branch out Sunday.
After spending the early afternoon seizing the day by kayaking at Town Lake (aggressive Sunday move), I headed over to El Meson for a late lunch. Because I had Restaurant Week reservations at Uchi that evening, the goal was to have a lighter version of a Sunday Mexican lunch. This was a difficult task when reading over the menu that includes mouthwatering features like Chicken Mole Verde, two kinds of Chili Relleno, and tantalizing enchilada combinations. Uchi is too special of a treat to be too full to enjoy so I resisted as much as possible, but thankfully I have more than enough reason to go back to El Meson to try out all I skipped. While El Meson is a blink and you will miss it spot from the street view, the interior is spacious and lovely, especially for a small, budget friendly spot, with a traditional Mexican tiled floor and ornate fixtures. The patio leaves a bit desired with a view of South Lamar traffic and the Horseshoe Lounge, but once your food arrives you will be too busy eating to notice.
When we first sat down, our friendly waiter brought us a small sampling of a vegetable soup based with a shrimp and tomato broth to get the palate warmed up. I must say, an amuse bouche at a casual Mexican food restaurant was a first for me, but it certainly set the meal off in a wonderful way. I am not a margarita girl, but since I had heard they have a good version made without simple syrup or sugar and with agave juice and fresh lime juice, I gave it a go. Not too much acid and good tequila. I could only do one because it is a bit sweet, but sweet in the way a glass of juice is, not the same candy/sugary mix used many places. I overheard a man leaving the restaurant raving about the guacamole so of course, it was ordered immediately. Hand hacked to order, with a perfect balance of cilantro, onions, tomatoes, and a little spice made this one of the best bowls of guacamole I have had in Austin. The warm Austin day and necessity of a light meal made ceviche the natural selection for lunch. As I have noted, my South Texas roots make me a very picky ceviche lover, but this version more than past the test with its fresh fish mixed with pico and citrus that didn’t use too much cilantro, salt or spice like many comparable places tend to do. Because my stomach has a soft spot for the way masa is used in interior Mexican style street foods like sopes, I couldn’t resist splurging a little and ordering the Tlacoyas. (I have read traditional version omit lard so I’ll pretend these did too) Stuffed with black refried beans and queso fresco and topped with a mild green salsa, the tlacoyos make a solid appetizer. (Throw some guacamole on top, and it is even better!) The meal was rounded out with a few entrée salads, which while very good, were not as special as the previous choices. The Caesar did not lack any dressing, but since it was delicious not complaint there. Order on the side if you like a just a little dressing. I had the Meson salad which was good, but I would have preferred a different dressing rather than chipotle ranch and perhaps less spinach and more of the vegetable toppings. I would add shrimp if I ordered it again, but with so many other things on the menu, I will probably venture out next time.
All in all, El Meson is an instant favorite. The quality and style of food reminds me a bit of Fonda San Miguel, but with an everyday price tag. I can’t wait to try some of the heavier entrees soon.
A little amuse bouche to start…
Guacamole - $5.29. A must order!!!
Guacamole sides. The salsas were packed with flavor and spice that burned without overpowering.
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As I have previously mentioned, Enoteca Vespaio is one of my favorites in town, and a recent stop in only reconfirmed why it makes my list. The South Congress sister restaurant to the upscale Italian classic Vespaio is known for its delicious pizzas, but they also have a wonderful Sunday brunch offering as well. My only complaint about the brunch menu is I wish they had one or two dishes without egg in them. Sometimes I am craving the lunch in brunch! Still, I have never eaten a meal at Enoteca and left anything but satisfied, which to be fair, when your menu features all my favorite food choices, it would be tough to walk away disappointed. However, on this particular visit the level of service I observed showed just how great of a spot Enoteca truly is. From the moment we walked in to the time we left our hostess and waitress were attentive and friendly. Our waitress was extremely educated on the menu, complete with the story of why a certain dish was named what it was, which surprisingly isn’t always the case. However, it was how our waitress handled a situation at another table that reflected just how important service is to the restaurant. At a table next to us a diner had something legitimately wrong with her meal and informed our waitress not so gently about it. Without missing a beat, she immediately apologized and took the dish back. About a minute or two passed by and the waitress returned with a manager in tow, apologized again and rectified the situation by removing it from the diner’s bill. Even though they didn’t get the same response from the diner, both never were anything but nice. While many places would have probably remade the meal or remove the cost from the bill, it was the efficiency and quickness in which Enoteca handled the situation that was just a little bit different than how most places. Sorry for the long winded story, but there is nothing better than a restaurant that understands good service is a key ingredient to a great meal!
Croquet-Madame with Sunny Side Up Eggs – $16.
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While the Tarrytown/Clarksville area is fairly limited on places to eat, what the old West area does have is in the way of dining destinations are all pretty good stand-bys. One of my favorite spots is Cipollina located on West Lynn right next to Fresh Plus. I first started frequenting the cute bistro because the thin, crispy wood fire pizza is one of the best in town. Originally founded by the upscale favorite Jeffery’s owners as a takeout spot, Cipollina has grown into a place all its own in the decade it’s been open. Since its inception, the restaurant has undergone a few tweaks, and now offers a more upscale farm to market dinner menu with changing seasonal offerings. During these periods of transition, Cipollina had a few hits and misteps along the way, but the most recent changes seem to be working quite nicely. The more grown up version of the Clarksville establishment now offers a casual, seat yourself, order at the counter lunch and a nicer, full service dinner. Thankfully, although the menu and concept have varied slightly, the pizza is still as good as ever. The dinner price points are still reasonable, with most around the $15 range. I haven’t yet ventured too far off my usual order, but I do hear good things. Despite the more upscale approach to the entrees, Cipollina hasn’t lost the casual, quiet ambiance it has always had. It is a quaint spot to take a date or a small group of friends. Bonus points for the ample parking and 1/2 off pizza during Happy Hour.
My tried and true favorite, the pizza. Mmmmm. Tonight’s selection is a Margarita made with Overnight tomatoes, housemade mozzarella & basil – $12.
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