by David Israel - 0 Reviews - 11 List
In-the-know blogger Tolly Moseley of Austin Eavesdropper counts down the top 5 most new & notable destinations in town.
Updated: April 24, 2012
Tucked right behind Cisco's Restaurant on East 6th lies a bar that won't just get you drunk - it'll get you through your hangover. The Eastern specializes in bass-heavy hip-hop, curated by a rotating roster of local DJ's, but what truly makes it stand out among east Austin bars is its Sunday special. Beginning at noon and lasting into the early evening, The Eastern offers Sunday sports on the big screen, with a side of $3.00 Bloody Mary's. The inside is teensy, so don't bring your rowdy gang of 20 friends to watch the game - just you and perhaps your drinking buddy from the night before. Or was it dancing buddy?
Before it was a boutique, it was an eBay store, and before it was an eBay store, it was one really freaking stylish lady named Stephanie Villalobos (now Villalobos-Fellabaum). That's the short history of Laced with Romance anyway, which has been around for a while, but is just now starting to get the attention it deserves. A small vintage outpost on South First, LWR is known for tough rocker tees, studded boots, fringe jackets, accessories made of bone and shark's teeth; the kind of place where mini Zooey Deschanel's and cupcake aficionados need not apply. Unless they're ready to explore their darker side, that is, and for that, LWR has an online boutique where they can explore edgy looks from the safety of their pink bedrooms. We especially like their affinity for leather vests and motorcycle jackets.
Austin restaurants love to play with high/low elements, and Contigo does it exceptionally. Everyone sits outside, and the atmosphere here feels like a big ranch party. (That's deliberate: Contigo Austin is actually an offshoot of Contigo Ranch.) Dogs accompany patrons, kids climb bench seats and play tag around tables. But the menu appeals to the more sophisticated reaches of your palate, with beautiful Hill Country fare: think rabbit and sage dumplings, duck confit, ox tongue sliders. The drinks menu is also nothin' to shake a stick at (as we say on the ranch), with creative cocktails that help dinner wash down easy: Classic's like the Bee's Knees mix with Contigo originals like the El Pepino, which combines tequila, cucumber water, mint, and lime. And as any 21st century Austinite knows, a drinks menu just isn't complete these days without a Moscow Mule -- never fear, Contigo's got one.
As an Austin teenager, Chef Bryce Gilmore grew up in the kitchen of Z. Tejas Southwestern Grill, the Tex Mex restaurant where his father used to work. But after earning his cooking pedigree at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco and enjoying a cooking stint in Austin, Gilmore came home inspired to open up a place of his own. That led to the food trailer Odd Duck, which quickly earned a famous fan in Anthony Bourdain, and now, Barley Swine: Where the tables are communal, plates are small and luscious, and the beers are high falutin'. In 2011, Gilmore was named one of Food & Wine Magazine's 10 Best New Chefs, and it's not hard to see why: Like Odd Duck dishes are sourced regionally (if not locally), with flavor arrangements to make you double-take. Exhibit A: Chocolate semi-freddo, goat cheese parfait, foie gras snow. Exhibit B: Chicken fried chicken egg, grilled sweetbreads, hay grits, mustard. See what I mean? I defy you to tell me what a "chicken fried chicken egg" is. I double defy you to take me there on a date so we can find out together. Speaking of which, Barley Swine does not take reservations, so be prepared to wait. It's well worth it.
One of the most distinguishing characteristics about Skinny's is its funny location. Just a stone's throw from the Four Seasons, this is a place that would be right at home on the east side or even in south Austin, but it's scruffy setting actually makes it a welcome location in a block stretch more known for suits and expensive cars. In Austin, even suits like to get down and throw back a Lone Star. And even "scruffy" isn't exactly accurate here: Skinny's is adorable, with bright tufted furniture and mini chandeliers flanking the stage. It's flavor is fancy hipster, though the clientele is more diverse than that. No matter who comes, everyone loves music trivia night (Saturdays) and the winning addition of comedy acts in a downtown music venue. Oh, and did we mention Skinny's is also a radio station? In addition to loading up their 35,000 song digital jukebox, they stream (when bands consent) their live shows.