Tucked away in East Austin, there’s a cozy restaurant that embodies a little bit
of Italy and a little bit of Austin.
A made-from-scratch menu including bread, pasta and pastry specialties similar to what you would find throughout Italy sits in a modern, hip setting that speaks to the increasingly sophisticated food scene just minutes away from downtown.
Juniper, the tree that grows in Northern Italy, belongs to the same plant order as the cedar tree that grows throughout Central Texas. The restaurant, aptly named Juniper, keeps everything “a mia famiglia.”
For anyone who has had the opportunity to dine in Italy, you know that Italians will not rush something as important as a meal and, in fact, allow ample time to take in the ambience of a setting before deciding what to eat. That same eloquence is noticeable as soon as you walk into Juniper. The dark blue and black décor is classic, understated and relaxed. The host greets diners with a calming countenance and wait staff have the ability to be there when you want them to be without ever seeming rushed. The restaurant may be busy and the staff may be bustling but the impression is that your table is the only table.
The menu is printed daily with the chef’s specialties and new dishes of the day. Yet the Puffy Potatoes, an appetizer so simple in its presentation – lightly puffed potatoes with whipped Dijon and herbs – are a mainstay. The waiter smiled and nodded at our delight and commented that “it’s almost like we’re not allowed to remove them” from the menu. Another not-to-miss dish is a popular appetizer called Little Lettuces, so full of flavor they could be called Little Surprises. Sweet meets savory and blends with fresh local lettuce and herbs.
There is an abundance of pasta choices and perhaps the favorite of the evening was the Black Garlic Agnolotti. The handmade pasta was incredible but the sauce, prepared with chicken confit, sage and soubise, was an obvious winner. Our waitress, in pure Juniper eloquence, appeared with a basket of homemade focaccia bread (made fresh daily with local olive oil), and placed it on the table to make sure we didn’t leave as much as a dollop of sauce behind.
Juniper has its version of grilled carrots, something that has begun to increasingly pop up on local menus. Here, the chef chars the carrots and serves them on top of salsa verde, a creative and tasty combination that also has a beautiful visual appeal. Every evening a chicken, red meat and fish entrée are available and, because Juniper supports local farms, ranches and seafood companies, you’re assured your entrée is local and fresh.
By the time you’ve reached the end of your meal, you will have soaked in the calmness that is Juniper and you’ll likely savor a homemade dessert even more. Whether you chose to drink it (dessert cocktails or wine) or eat it (Zeppole or Panna Cotta), be sure to ask about the dessert of the day.
Juniper is open 7 days a week from 5pm-10pm and if you have special dietary needs, such as gluten-free, you’ll be well-served.
Juniper’s menu stays as fresh and updated as its food which means this dish may not always be on the menu. The locally caught Cobia is a Gulf fish that eats shrimp, squid and crab, which makes for a delicious flavor. Photo courtesy Consumable Content
Haven Lindsey resides in Austin, Texas. She is a freelance writer with more than 20 years of experience writing on topics including healthcare, addiction, public policy, education, travel, food and human interest stories.