The birds are chirping. The flowers are blooming. The sun is shining. Spring is in the air. Romance has sprung. If you and your sweetheart are looking for a romantic date night in Austin, we’ve got you covered with these four picks that’ll make your heart sing — and not just because it’s spring!
#1. Old Thousand
First on the list we have Old Thousand, located on East 11th Street. This is authentic Chinese at its finest. What’s great about the menu is how diverse it is, and how perfect it is for all — whether a meat lover or vegan. A lot of the dishes can also be made gluten free, so that’s a plus. But don’t be fooled! Not all of the items are available all the time, as they have food specials on certain days to keep you coming back for more.
Start your tasting journey by trying the sweet Green Beans, an Old Thousand classic. The taste reminds me of yummy sesame chicken. Next, try the Chongqing Chicken that’s super spicy, crunchy, and very flavorful with a hint of lime aftertaste. You’ll really crank up the heat with this dish. The chili oil stays on your tongue, so be sure to have water on deck!
Staying on the chicken trend, we also recommend General TSO’s Chicken. It tasted super fresh, and unlike the Chongqing Chicken, there’s very little spiciness. The chicken and the apples go hand in hand, both balancing each other out making the perfect pair.
For vegans and vegetarians, try the Buddah’s Delight. The sauce and the blend of the vegetables give it a smokey flavor, almost reminiscent of a BBQ taste. These are the types of radishes you don’t want to pick off your plate! The sauce is exquisite, as it’s not one of those bland vegan meals. Another favorite was the Vegan Fried Rice with Bok Choy and beautiful Beech Mushrooms that were placed perfectly in the bowl. Pro tip: Add beyond meat for an even more filling meal.
#2. Sazan Ramen
Located on Airport Blvd, Sazan Ramen is one of those restaurants where a reservation is a must. Without one, you’ll be waiting a long time. And for great reason too!
To start, we highly recommend trying the ever so popular Steamies. The place next door created these delicious dumplings. People love them so much that they will actually go next door and eat them while they wait in line. Talk about dedication! The steamies were my favorite on the menu by far. They were crunchy yet soft and had just the right amount of burnt crust. Their secret dipping sauce brings all the flavors together, adding sweet and sourness to your taste buds. You also have the choice of choosing vegan dumplings.
Next try the Indomitable Fries that were thrown together one Friday night when they ran out of ramen. The staff decided to keep it on the menu because of how tasty it was. The okonomi sauce has a slight barbecue flavor while the green onions really bring it together. Now for the main star, the ramen. (The whole reason you are even here!) We suggest the Ma-yu Black Ramen, a savory broth featuring black garlic oil. I mean, you can never go wrong with garlic! There’s no spice in this whatsoever, but you can add a spicy bomb for even more flavor. For those that love for their tongue to scorch, you’ll love the Spicy Paitan Ramen, which is a spicy version of the Paitan.
For some delectable dessert, check out the Mochidoki Mochi. You can get them for $2.50 each or $11 for all five flavors. The mochi flavors rotate pretty frequently. The ube (purple) had a vanilla taste. T’was my favorite! The lychee (pink) was a green tea flavor, and vegan. Ask your server for today’s flavors and try them yourself.
Wash it all down with their drink called “First Love.” I was the first to try it out so I felt pretty special. It was released on Valentine’s Day and goes down super easy. The sweetness reminds me of a mojio. It’s refreshing and sweet, but not too sweet. This is a drink I could get on a regular basis! The Green Tini is super strong while Lucy’s Love Potion looks aesthetically pretty. It’s also strong and sweet, but easier to gulp down.
#3. Aviary Wine & Kitchen
Located on South Lamar, Aviary Wine & Kitchen was first created in 2006 by lovebirds and world traveling wine enthusiasts Marco Fiorilo and Shanna Eldridge.
The popular decor destination has a casual-cool vibe with a sophisticated menu offering and robust wine selection. The dinner and wine pairings are perfect to celebrate a special occasion (like date night!), but it’s not a place to have a big meal if you’re starving. The dishes are intricate and intriguing, layering tastes and textures that complement each other well.
Try the Aviary Egg – a fried ajitama “ramen” egg with garlic aioli and smoked trout roe. Comfort food at its best. It was smokey, velvety, soft yet crunchy. Wine pairing: Chéreau Carré Vices & Vertus Orgueil Brut. The Aviary Dumplings had a great flavorful filling, enough to warm you up from the inside. The Burrata was bright and juicy, very flavorsome. (It grows on you after a few bites). Wine pairing: Mesquida Mora ’Sincronia’ Blanc.
The Seared Kampachi contained spinach, rutabaga and fermented turnip. You need all these veggies in one bite to get the full tasting experience, so be sure to fix yourself a good one. The Roasted Cauliflower was super savory and my favorite dish! I could eat a whole plate of this. The 72hr. Short Rib was another one of my favorites. So tender and juicy. The carrot brûlée is what makes the dish marvelous. It could be its own filling sauce. Wine pairing: Doulousfakis Winery ‘Dafnes’ Liatiko.
The lovingly crafted food menu was brought to life via hot plate by John Coronado. Now, it’s co-owned by both original owner Fiorilo and Coronado. With the additions of Executive Chef Andre Molina and Beverage Director Alex Wheatley Bell, the team’s knowledge of Aviary’s extensive wine list and pairing-focused food menu will guide you through one of the best dining experiences you’ve ever had!
#4. Fareground Austin
Fareground food hall on Congress Avenue features six eateries serving over 120 dish offerings with cuisine inspired by global fare including Asia, the Middle East, Europe and the Americas. We love its central location and outdoor seating. Fareground is ideal for groups of friends with differing palates or those wanting to try a variety of foods. Head inside and pick your culinary delight; then enjoy your meal in the courtyard with some Vitamin D on those nicer Austin weather days.
Our favorite pick was Little Wu led by Chef Ji Peng Chen (Wu Chow, Swift’s Attic, Rosedale Kitchen & Bar) featuring Dumplings, Potstickers, Shumai, and a variety of Noodle and La Mian dishes including Sichuan Red Braised Beef, Spicy Pork Wontons with bok choy, Shrimp and crab cake. The Market has salads (Cobb, Kale Caesar and Rainbow Quinoa), pizzas (Margherita, Funghi and Carne) and sandwiches (Avocado, Caprese, Grilled Chicken Panini, Ham and Cheese Panini, Tuna Wrap and Turkey Wrap).
Austin Rôtisserie offers Rotisserie Chicken (whole, half and quarter bird), salads, soups, sides and bowls (Salade de Chèvre, Roti Bowl, Salade Niçoise, Potage de Carottes and Petite Patates) and baguette sandwiches. Taco Pegaso boasts small bites such as chips and guacamole, salsa and queso, as well as a variety of tacos and burritos including Carne Asada, Pescado, Al Pastor, Chicken Tinga, Picadillo and Champis.
Henbit offers the Henbit Burger, Fried Chicken Sandwich, Salmon Bowl, Kale and Avocado Salad, Harissa Chicken Bowl, and sides including Crispy Sweet Potatoes with Chiltepin Aioli, House Chips with Chipotle and Fresno Hot Sauce and Coleslaw. TLV is where to go to get Manot dishes (plates with pita) including a classic hummus plate and falafel plate, Be-Pita dishes (pita sandwiches with a side of pickles) including sabich and schnitzel sandwiches, as well as Salatim dishes (assorted sides) such as babaganoush, fire roasted eggplant, summer cucumber salad and more. ~MF
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Cover: The variety of food at Fareground. Photo courtesy Dillon Burke
Leean Vargas is the Highlight Reel newsletter editor at Texas Lifestyle Magazine and an honors graduate of Texas State University with a bachelor’s degree in Public Relations. She is a concert enthusiast who loves traveling, photography, good food, and discovering new hangout spots in her beloved city, Austin, Texas.