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Restaurant Reviews


"Ruben's reviews"
About the Author:

Ok, so I am admittedly a
"Meat and potatoes" guy.
So my reviews will not include the best wines nor the amuse bousch of the caviar. What I do know a thing or two about is how a good cut of meat should taste and what "works" for me and what my sometimes odd but seasoned tastes tell me about good food.

Ruben's Favorite
Mixed Drinks:

Take a highball glass and fill 3/4 with crushed ice.
1 Part Kajmir liquor
1 Part Tom Collins mixer.
Fill remaining glass with Dr. Pepper.


Jack Collins:
Fill highball glass 3/4 crushed ice.
1 Part Tom Collins mixer.
1 Part Jack Daniels single barrel.
Fill with cola.

Crown and cola with a twist:
Fill highball glass with ice.
1 Part Crown Royal
1 Part Dr. Pepper
Add a twist of lime.

Austin Restaurants:

Saltlick: BBQ : Casual : $$ (~$26 per person)
Ok, so the Saltlick is in Driftwood Texas which is not technically Austin, but this  is my all time favorite place to eat. It is almost a half hour drive down FM1826 to a very country ranch looking place but when you turn the bend and see 500 cars in the parking lot on a Saturday night, you will begin to understand.
Menu here is simple, order "Family Style".
This will get you a plate of meats (Brisket, pork ribs, sausage) and a bowl of potato salad, a bowl of beans, some bread and coleslaw and finally some pickles and onions.
Ok, here is the good bit, any of these plates you empty, they will bring back full until you give up !
Come hungry, bring friends and your own booze (it's a dry county), and be prepared to wait on nights and especially weekends.
P.s. don't even think about going on a big holiday or after a UT home game unless you want to make a day of hanging out front waiting for your table.
The food is good stuff, with some of the best pork ribs you will find anywhere. Now the preparation is nothing special (it is a giant old smoke pit, nice, but not that special around these parts) nor is the flavor anything to go crazy over (The sauce is the magic, good sweet BBQ flavor with a nice slow after glow heat).
What makes this place work is the old adage that it is more than the sum of it's parts. The food is good, there is lots of it and the sides and the sauce tie it all together, mix in the old picnic style tables and the smell of fresh meats smoking just feet from your table, and it makes it something that to me is just magical.

Franklin's BBQ : Casual : $$ ($20 per person)
Ahh Franklins, BBQ Nirvana. Don't get me wrong Saltlick will always be my favorite, but there is no denying (and the 3 hour long line of people will attest to) Franklin's near perfect recipe for good BBQ.
Franklin's has gone from an Austin food trailer to a small east Austin restaurant that literally has a 3 hour long wait the 6 days a week they are open. BTW, they are open from 11am till the meat runs out around 2pm. And they have run out of meat every day they have ever been open, (Despite running 3 giant smokers out back)!
The Brisket is a 18hr mesquite smoked piece of perfection. The pulled pork has been described by my wife as Ambrosia, and finally the ribs are tender and flavorful. Food reviews from Bon Appétit  and Texas monthly to the New York Times have hailed it some of the best BBQ in existence. It is a pilgrimage any food lover should experience at least once (but pack sunscreen and bring a lawn chair, because the line extending out into the parking lot in the Texas heat is part of the experience). You will make new friends in line and purchase several drinks from the girl selling libations to the line (They insist it is not to turn a profit but rather to keep from having to call the paramedics to rescue patrons from heat exhaustion every day ;). When you finally do get your plate and sit down, enjoy, savor, and know that you have had the best.

Fogo de Chao : Formal : $$$$ (~$100 per couple)
Fogo, here was a surprise that I thought I would have heard about earlier.
This is a Brazilian style steakhouse chain. There is no menu to speak of, you come into this very beautiful dark wood covered restaurant with wine bottles gracing the walls and see a salad bar dominating the center, which seems out of place at first.
After you are seated you are free to make as many trips to the salad bar (which has an extensive list of choices such as artichoke hearts and prosciutto hams).
After you have had your fill of salads is when it gets interesting. You are given a dinner plate and a small table card (one side is green while the other is red) as long as you have the card green side up, roaming servers (called gauchos) will come by with giant skewers of meats (ribeye, top sirloin, ribs, tenderloin, the list goes on and on), and they will serve you any amount you want. You can have a little of everything or stuff yourself silly on any item you choose!
The meats are well prepared and decently flavorful if not a touch under-spiced, sides are limited but they will bring you A1 steak sauce or whatnot to add whatever flavor you are looking for.
Overall, this is a great chance to sample several different cuts of fine meats and makes for a very different experience from your traditional formal meal.

Buca de Bepo : Semi-casual : $$ (~$25 per person)
Bucas is another small chain restaurant. This is old style itialian.
Everything on the menu is family style, so the more people you bring the more you fun you will have and the more dishes you will get to try.
The place is very eclectic and pictures and posters dot every inch of the rooms.
Food is good, traditional and full of flavor, very large portions even for the "small" order.
A do not miss here is the Chocolate cake desert with the "Zambuca" sauce, ask for extra as this stuff will send anyone into a diabetic shock :o

Whole Foods Flagship : Casual : $$ (~$20 per person)
Ok, so you might be wondering what a grocery store is doing on my list....
Well, I am sorry, but you will have to go there to understand. This grocery store has food that can be "prepared" for you onsite from the wares of the store itself ! From the meat area you can get cooked ribs and brisket plate. From the fish section you can get a crab cake sandwich and from the checkout area you can get a freshly made pizza or smoothie (or a wheatgrass shot, which are bizarre but surprisingly good at warding off colds).
Foods are fair to good, it can get pricey, as you will get this from here and that from there, but in the end that is what makes this place so special. Where else can you get a kippered king salmon appetizer with a brisket sandwich and then finish it off with a tropical smoothie and a homemade doughnut :o
BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse : Semi-casual : $-$$ ($10-$20 per person)
BJ's is a small chain that just opened in south Austin.
This place is a cross between a restaurant, a sports bar and a brewhouse.
There is a decidedly "Chicago" feel, with Deep dish pizzas featured in the munu.
The atmosphere is somewhat upscale with nice leather booths and hardwood floors but also a fun side as the wood floors are random different woods both dark and light. There are plasmas on every wall tuned to sports and visible from ANY seat in the house. Over the bar is a giant screen which can be split into smaller sections to show multiple games at once, or turned into one giant "jumbotron".
The food is good, not amazing, but the selection is nice. This is a place where you and a friend can come in, watch the game have some drinks and some "sliders" and get out for $20. Or you can bring a date here and have a steak or seafood dinner with some really nice mixed drinks and yet still catch the game.
The deep dish Pizza is some of the best in Austin, you can make your own or choose one of the house favorites.
Finally, there is an extensive beer selection, I don't drink beer so cannot attest to how good or bad the brewhouse is, but the selection is impressive.

Coal Vines : Semi Casual : $$ (~$20 per person)
Coal Vines is a great little hideaway in Downtown Austin.
A giant poster of Dean Martin adorns the entry and like music is played softly through this small Restaurant/Bar location.(There is still a big screen over the bar but that is almost a given now.)
They have a good wine selection and some good pasta and salads, but if you go, GET THE PIZZA.
The pizza is made with a coal fired oven, it is thin, crisp and near perfection. Flavor is amazing and along with a nice wine makes for a great date night retreat.

Botticelli's : Semi-formal : $$$ (~$50 per person)
Botticelli's is an Italian restaurant on south congress. Small, quaint, open kitchen style with good food.
They have a good wine selection and authentic Italian style menu.
This place is great for date night or taking friends from out of town, cozy "not a chain restaurant" feel.

Green Pastures : Semi-formal to Formal : $$$-$$$$ ($50-$100 per person)
Finally, Green Pastures. This 100+ year old Victorian home is usually reserved for red letter dates.
Rather it is an Anniversary, wedding reception, or simply Easter brunch or Thanksgiving feast, the
food is excellent, atmosphere is authentic and the grounds are superb (complete with free roaming peacocks).
In operation for over 60 years, this restaurant serves French inspired gourmet food and good service.
I personally have them make my Thanksgiving turkey (takeout) every year, it is delicious and worth not having to do it myself.
Tucked away in the heart of a residential south Austin neighborhood, it is hard to find, but you will be glad you did.

Las Vegas Restaurants:

Prime (at the Bellagio) : Formal : $$$$$ (~$200 per couple)
Prime at the Bellagio is one of the finest steakhouses anywhere.
The rooms are very formal and upscale (as would be expected for the price).
The views can be spectacular, with views of the fountains but you will likely have to call ahead and "be somebody" to get the best tables.
Meats are 30 days dry aged and seasoned to perfection, Ribeye's will almost melt in your mouth :o
There is nothing on the menu we sampled that was not exceptional.
This is a great "splurge" meal and not to be missed if you are a connoisseur of fine meats prepared almost perfectly. Honestly, I can only top these meats at home with my own grill and even then only when I get "lucky" with temperature and timing ;) This is one of the few places where I can count on absolutely awesome steak and am away from home.

Eiffel Tower restaurant: Formal : $$$$$ (~$200 per couple)
Eiffel tower restaurant has some fine French inspired food (some surprisingly good steaks as well) but it makes my list here for a very special reason.
This restaurant takes the award of absolutely PERFECT service. I did not say great service or wonderful service, I said perfect and I meant it. I am sure there is an institute for servers and the people who served us were no doubt at the top of the class. Everything, and I mean everything was done "properly". Menu's were handed to us in order of social respect (Ladies first, then men from oldest to youngest). Water was served so it would not splatter and any crumbs from the breads was crafted away deftly. Also, it should be noted that all serving was accomplished without ever reaching over anyone, for any reason. When I ordered a steak, my knife was quietly replaced with a steak knife. When we needed something there was someone at my ear immediately and my requests were handled with the speed you would think we were the only ones there (we were by no means the only ones there). The food was good, the prices expensive, but if I absolutely positively wanted to impress someone, I can think of no better place on the planet than the Eiffel tower restaurant !


This site was last updated 05/06/12