Austin has, over the past decade, gone from a quaint taco-truck-type town to a culinary Mecca. As food trucks move from the trailer to brick-and-mortar (a phrase that seems born in Austin for such things), they continue to grow and improve their offerings. While barbecue is still the prominent draw and affordable innovation in dishes is still a hallmark of the town, there may come a time during your SXSW 2016 when you want something a little more refined, a little less casual and a lot more couture. Luckily, as the food scene of Austin has evolved, there are some restaurants that fully fit such a bill.
First, there is no reason to not cross off culinary landmarks while in town. For 13 years, Austin’s answer to those who say it lacks a coast has been carving a legacy that has reached far beyond its South Lamar location. Uchi, brainchild and pride of Chef Tyson Cole, began establishing itself as a force to be reckoned with in seafood, despite being hours from any coast. Offering sushi and other Japanese-inspired dishes, the mere mention of their Sake Social Hour is enough to make Austinites leave the office early. Garnering a James Beard Foundation Award in 2011, Chef Cole has been turning out dishes that are, at once, the essence of simplicity, while being innovative and occasionally taking inconceivable risks (note: the Shag Roll is a legend unto itself, in both origin and taste). Make a reservation and take a seat at the most soothing table in town, as the experts guide you through such once-in-a-lifetime dishes as the hama chili, the macho cure and the legendary Shag Roll.
But, in a town famous for beef, slow-smoked and slower-obtained, there’s an undeniable call toward a steak. For the definitive upscale steak, you won’t have to venture far from the city center. Head to 7th and Colorado to enjoy Texas-born and Austin-refined Perry’s Steakhouse and enjoy the best in dry-aged beef that the entire state has to offer. Specializing not only in the quality of meat, but the quality of the environment, Perry’s feels as though you have stepped off bustling Sixth Street and into a 1920s gangster/flapper oasis. A converted bank vault is available for large parties (so long as there’s advanced notice) and the wine list reads like an encyclopedia of the world’s greatest vineyards. Here, you’ll find a genuine Chateaubriand, as well as the perfect – and we mean PERFECT – dirty martini, a somewhat lost art in the age of the craft cocktail (not that we’re complaining! See our craft cocktail coverage next week). Perry’s is how the elite in Austin and the Lone Star State impress clients, dates and potential clients and dates without ever leaving the SXSW area. All of this is to say nothing of Perry’s epic Friday lunch offering (here’s a hint: get the pork chop. Seriously.)
However, when seeking a legend in Austin, the pedigree has to be more than a few years or even a decade. Since 1975, Jeffrey’s has been serving those who have been seeking a rare gem of a dining experience. Once cloaked in darkest wood and designed to be a “best kept secret,” restauranteur Larry McGuire has recently overhauled the space to be more inviting and even more refined, without sacrificing the romance of dark wood. Additionally, he’s added the eternally quaint and impeccable service of a sister property for small plates and fine cocktails next door in Josephine House. This unbeatable duo is all one needs to forget that the hustle and bustle of SXSW and Downtown Austin is going on while you dine on continental culinary favorites like French Onion Soup and Seared Muscovy Duck Breast, or successful fusion experiments like their Carrot & Rutabaga Ravioli. With a staff whose customer service would be welcome in the five star metropolis that is New York City, this is a dining experience that cannot be replicated anywhere else but Austin.
Reservations are strongly encouraged at each of these fine dining establishments, and it isn’t too early to get your table scheduled today to enjoy all the fine dining that SXSW has to offer you.