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Laura McIngvale Brown, Vince Young Steakhouse and more

vinceyoung1
Michael Barnes

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FOOD 1: Everybody stood up for Vince Young. But of course anyone from Austin would. A dozen media types were seated at Vince Young Steakhouse when the tall, sleek retired athlete sailed into the private dining room. He graciously posed for pictures and dodged questions about football. Virtually no one noticed later when a striking, self-assured blond took a seat near the end of the table. Yet Laura McIngvale Brown is the co-owner of the four-year-old downtown eatery that is not a sports bar, nor just a steakhouse. Along with her shy chef husband, Phillip Brown, they've beat the odds, remaining the only freestanding, one-of-a-kind steakhouse in a downtown crammed with steakhouses. The two go back to hospitality school at the University of Houston; he later thrived through culinary school. At age 24, they took on the Austin project; their friend the Rose Bowl champ receives naming fees and drops by the restaurant three times a week. Turns out Laura is daughter of Houston furniture live wire John McIngvale, who vowed to "save you money!" during insistent late-night TV ads. The Browns have not followed the usual Austin food culture route and yet they've created their own attractive culture in the classy joint that once served as the "Real World" crib. (I see a big profile down the road.)

FOOD 2: The tasting menu demonstrated the range of the steakhouse. Chef Brown started us off with shared appetizers, including juicy, spicy lobster rolls, thick crab cakes, and crispy quail with thin waffle trailings. Those were followed by a watermelon salad with burratta and ripe red tomatoes, then small medallions of three steak varieties. Sides included the required mac and cheese, perked-up kernel corn and bacony Brussels sprouts. The entrees were a matched, fat sea scallop and a mini-pork chop with some savory dressing. All this was accompanied by a sturdy cabnernet sauvignon labeled by Vince Young Steakhouse as Eleven Ten. Our eyes widened when oversized portions of seven desserts were passed around the long table. The suprise of the evening was a cabernet shake that had all the food fans cooing with delight. Wine in your shake? Yes! (The Browns came up with the idea during a private dinner catered for Tom and Lynn Meredith, regulars at the restaurant.)

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