Austin Restaurants: Special occasion dining
Each week in Austin360, we’re offering a rotating list of places to eat right now. This week: Whether it’s a birthday, an anniversary, celebrating a raise or you just want to treat yourself, these special occasion restaurants fir the bill. They’re what some people used to call “fancy restaurants,” though I reckon some of them would prefer not to carry that label. More restaurants broken down by category here.
Austin Land & Cattle. 1205 N. Lamar Blvd. 512-472-1813, ALCSteaks.com. This steakhouse is good representation of Austin’s utter lack of pretension.
The Carillon. 1900 University Ave. 512-404-3655, TheCarillonRestaurant.com. The New American restaurant helmed by chef Josh Watkins is the most underrated in the city. It hides at the bottom of the massive AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center on the University of Texas campus.
Congress. 200 Congress Ave. 512-827-2760, CongressAustin.com/Congress. There is not a finer service experience to be had in the city, and chef David Bull has long been one of Austin’s culinary stars, with very good reason.
Driskill Grill. 604 Brazos St. 512-391-7162, DriskillGrill.com. A throwback piece of Austin dining culture that too often goes overlooked.
Fonda San Miguel. 2330 W. North Loop Blvd. 512-459-4121, FondaSanMiguel.com. Fonda San Miguel introduced Austinites to the idea that Mexican food didn’t need a “Tex” in front of it and that you shouldn’t always expect it to be cheap.
Green Pastures. 811 W. Live Oak St. 512-444-1888, GreenPasturesRestaurant.com. This classy old gal feels like she was transplanted from the South, minus any of the ugly connotations that would imply, and plopped down in South Austin. Try the rack of lamb.
Hudson’s on the Bend. 3509 RM 620 N. 512-266-1369, HudsonsOnTheBend.com. Enjoy exotic game, excellent steaks and attentive service in this unique and lovely setting at the edge of the Hill Country.
Jeffrey’s. 1204 W. Lynn St. 512-477-5584, JeffreysOfAustin.com. Updates at this Austin institution that feels like a private club include uniformed valets, plush couches in the bar area, a martini cart and quality dry-aged steaks.
Jezebel. 800 W. Sixth St. 512-436-9643, RestaurantJezebel.com. With his Restaurant Jezebel, Chef Parind Vora wanted to heighten customers’ expectations of fine dining in Austin, so he instituted the only jacket-required dress code I know of in town and did away with menus, instead implementing a Q&A approach that allowed the chef to tailor meals to guests’ preferences.
Olivia. 2043 S. Lamar Blvd. 512-804-2700, Olivia-Austin.com. Abilene native James Holmes blends country and class at this elegant restaurant on South Lamar.
Perry’s Steakhouse & Grille. 114 W. Seventh St. 512-474-6300, PerrysSteakhouse.com. They serve a sweet pork chop the size of your head at this ostentatious steakhouse that can feel like dining on a fancy cruise ship.
Qui. 1600 E. Sixth St. 512-436-9626, QuiAustin.com. The scene may be a bit hip for older diners, but the thoughtful staff make every effort to provide a comfortable experience at the restaurant of arguably Austin’s most well-known chef.
Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse. 107 W. Sixth St. 512-477-7884, RuthsChris.com. Sure there are Ruth’s Chris all over the country, but none of the personalized warmth at the Sixth Street spot overseen by Greg Davey, Gary Porfirio and Bill Andrews (and GM Sal Olivas and barman Buddy Jordan). The porterhouse here may be my favorite in town. Make sure to try the chicken as well. (Blasphemy, I know.)
Siena Ristorante Toscana. 512-349-7667, SienaAustin.com. A taste of central Italy in Central Texas at this massive Texa-terranean style manse in West Austin. Try the tagliatelle al Bolognese or the pappardelle with Chianti-braised wild boar. When in Siena …
Trace. 200 Lavaca St. 512-542-3660, TraceAustin.com. Trace does an admirable job battling the stereotypes that often come with being a hotel restaurant. Service is polite and measured in the mod space colored with shades of black and white, and the menu is always fresh and engaging.
Trio at the Four Seasons. 98 San Jacinto Blvd. 512-685-8300, TrioRestaurantAustin.com. You needn’t check into a room at the Four Seasons to be treated like a VIP at Trio. The accommodating and exceedingly polite staff anticipates your needs in guiding you through the restaurant’s menu and wine list, composed by sommelier Mark Sayre, one of Trio’s finest ambassadors.
Uchi. 801 S. Lamar Blvd. 512-916-4808, UchiAustin.com. Zero. That’s the number of times I’ve left Tyson Cole’s sushi restaurant disappointed. Exceptional service, amazing technique and fresh fish. Get the shime saba and boquerones (in addition to whatever the server recommends from the daily specials) and end with foie nigiri.
Vespaio. 1610 S. Congress Ave. 512-441-6100, AustinVespaio.com. A classy spin on red-sauce Italian, Vespaio has been a long-standing staple on South Congress thanks to dishes like their lasagna and veal scaloppine.
Wink. 1014 N. Lamar Blvd. 512-482-8868, WinkRestaurant.com. The farm-to-table trailblazers in Austin haven’t missed a step in their 14-year run. Wink favors earth and spice and does an impressive job of coaxing sweetness from vegetables. Servers treat you with a nice blend of respect and familiarity.