One of the best restaurants in Austin and one of the city’s few white tablecloth dining establishments will serve its final meal on New Year’s Eve. Executive chef David Bull’s Congress (200 Congress Ave.) will close on the heels of its fifth anniversary.
The first restaurant to be awarded five stars from former Statesman critic Mike Sutter, Congress, as I wrote in this year’s dining guide (where the restaurant ranked #7), has never been afraid to be the adult in this flip-flop-clad Peter Pan of a city.
Though service was carefully honed, wine and cuisine thoughtfully curated and décor elegant, Congress always had a friendly vibe befitting the city. It was a serious restaurant that wasn’t afraid to rock out a little bit, as evidenced by the dining room’s soundtrack, though some may have seen the restaurant as an anachronism better suited for a different era or city.
While the (Congress parent company) La Corsha Hospitality Group’s adjacent Second Bar + Kitchen has consistently drawn busy crowds for lunch and dinner, Congress struggled over the years to fill its chandelier-dappled dining room. The uneven business is indicative to me that, though guests may desire excellence in service, food and wine (all hallmarks of Congress), traditional white tablecloth dining and its formal trappings hold little appeal for regular Austin diners. Outside of Jeffrey’s, there are few dining rooms in Austin that match the level of measured sophistication.
The closure of the restaurant at the base of the Austonian, will allow Bull and the La Corsha Hospitality Group in which he is a partner to focus on upcoming ventures.
Bull, whose impressive career includes time at Austin’s Driskill Grill and the Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas, will open Boiler 9 Bar + Grill in the Seaholm Power Plant development next year, and the La Corsha team will open a second Second Bar + Kitchen next year, this one at the Archer Austin, a 171-room boutique luxury hotel at the Domain.
Earlier this year La Corsha took over ownership of the historic Green Pastures, which it plans to update, and the hospitality group headed by Jeff Trigger is also overseeing the revamping of the Baker Hotel in Mineral Wells.