As the weather turns a bit cooler this month, we look to a few places that inspire the appetite and warm the soul.
Okay, so this isn't technically a restaurant, but any beer drinker knows a hearty stout or a hoppy IPA can feel like a meal. It takes a lot of commitment to devote an entire beer selection to Texas craft beers, but at Rainey Street's Craft Pride Brewery, they wouldn't have it any other way.
If you're looking for a quick lesson in what some of the state's breweries are producing, this is the best way to take a tour of more than 20 breweries without leaving your bar seat. Ask for a flight of top picks from the well-educated bartenders. They'll set you up with the best bets based on your personal tastes and may even throw in something a little unexpected.
When you get hungry, head outside to find...
The best pairing for your brew is waiting in the backyard beer garden at the Via 313 trailer. Serving a special "Detroit-style" pizza, look for a regional spin on the typical Sicilian pizza using a spongy focaccia-style crust in a deeper square pan. Crafted by Detroit natives (and brothers) Zane and Brandon Hunt, it's a welcome addition to Austin's pizza scene.
The Carnivore with pepperoni, Italian sausage, sliced ham and bacon is a hearty undertaking, while The Cadillac with gorgonzola, prosciutto and fig preserves is a sweet and savory treat. But you can't go wrong with a the humble cheese pizza with toasty mozzarella melting into the crunchy edges of the crust topped with a smear of velvety tomato sauce.
This former Rainey Street food truck made a lot of people happy when it became a brick and mortar restaurant housed in a charming renovated house. Perhaps none more so than chef/owners Iliana and Ernesto De la Vega, who finally had enough space to stretch out and showcase the classic Oaxacan-inspired dishes that remind them of home.
Instead of the typical Tex-Mex serving of salsa and chips, an El Naranjo meal begins with warm ciabatta-style bread served with an assortment of salsas (the rich six chile "macha" salsa steals the show) and citrus butter.
Made-to-order guacamole is delicious as was a recent black bean soup of the day including chile pasilla oaxaqueño, something Chef De la Vega sources directly from her hometown markets. Tender medallions of beef tampiqueña is perfect for the big appetites with sides of rice, beans, and luscious poblano mole, but those looking for something lighter should try the achiote marinated sea bass.
Though tres leches is always a welcome treat, the restaurant's version served in a mason jar is a bit messy to manage. Instead, opt for the pecan flan with a silken custard center fading out to nutty roasted caramel edges.
If you're looking for great classic Neapolitan-style pizza, give this new East Cesar Chavez place a try. Though it's a few blocks east of the rest of our October picks, we just couldn't go another month without putting it on our list.
With a few long community tables in the center of the room, a handful of intimately arranged tables along the side wall and a few stools set up along the diminutive bar, what this restaurant lacks in ample space, it makes up for in serving perfect pizza. (And it has a bright and shiny white custom Italian oven claiming a third of the main room to prove it.)
The menu is about as compact as the space with a short list of appetizers made from seasonal local ingredients and a small, yet on-point traditional selection of wood-fired pizzas. (The teleggio with fresh Italian sausage and scallions is divine, but you can't go wrong with the artful simplicity of the Margherita with crushed tomato, mozzarella, and basil.) The crisp, char-kissed crust gives way to a warm chewy center, and the delicate mozzarella is pulled fresh daily and often made from local dairy milk—when supply is available. Be sure to check out the wine menu and ask for suggestions from its eclectic, yet well-selected lineup.