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Supper club: A guide to 3 types of progressive dinners around Austin

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Austin photo: Places_Food_Contigo_Exterior
Contigo Photo by Contigo
Austin Photo Set: News_Adam_east side king_four locations_dec 2012_liberty beets
East Side King's Beet Home Fries. Courtesy of East Side King
Austin Photo Set: News_Jackie_elizabeth street cafe_feb 2012_6
Elizabeth Street Cafe Photo by Casey Dunn
Austin Photo: Places_Food_parkside_interior
Parkside Courtesy of Parkside
Austin Photo Set: News_Layne_ARW_march 2012_trio
Trio Photo by Lara Kastner
Austin photo: Places_Food_Contigo_Exterior
Austin Photo Set: News_Adam_east side king_four locations_dec 2012_liberty beets
Austin Photo Set: News_Jackie_elizabeth street cafe_feb 2012_6
Austin Photo: Places_Food_parkside_interior
Austin Photo: Places_second_bar_and_grill_drinks
Austin Photo Set: News_Layne_ARW_march 2012_trio

The progressive dinner — that concept of moving from house to house for a different portion of a meal — sounds appealing yet somewhat overwhelming. The socializing would be entertaining, but the cooking and clean-up might be a bit tiring.

Enter the upgrade.

Go from restaurant to restaurant — not house to house — and sample some of the city’s finest offerings. There are no dishes to wash or broken wine glasses to replace. What’s not to like? Honestly, as many restaurants in town don’t take reservations, you might hit a snag in timing, but doesn’t waiting for a table allow for more time to chat? We think the benefits overwhelmingly outweigh the cons, so we’ve put together a list of curated dinner options — each with an aperitif, an appetizer, an entrée and dessert — to whet your appetite. Bon appétit.

Casual

Isn’t it wonderful to live in a city where anything goes? We take comfort in the fact that we don’t always have to dress to go out; we can hang in our shorts or jeans and nobody cares. On one of those lazy nights, hit these cool spots and chill with friends. 

A Drink Before Dinner

The outdoor bar area at Contigo oozes Austin. Try the El Pepino — tequila, cucumber, mint and lime — and shoot the breeze for a while.

The Gotta-Have App

Top Chef winner Paul Qui has been steadily building a loyal following of East Side King devotees. Try the Beet Home Fries — deep-fried roasted beets with kewpie mayo, schichimi togarashi  and green onion — at the Hole in the Wall location.  

The Main Course

Über chef Larry McGuire’s French Vietnamese spot, Elizabeth Street Café, features everything from pho soups to banh mi sandwiches in a smartly redesigned cottage. Sit back and enjoy the setting while you nosh on the Grilled Gulf Shrimp Bún — a rice vermicelli bowl with lettuces, herbs, cucumber, carrot, roasted peanuts and nuoc cham.

A Sweet Ending

End the night with a scoop of Mexican Vanilla at Amy’s Ice Creams, the quintessential Austin dessert spot.

Downtown

Austin’s center is buzzing with new construction, trendy spots to grab a cocktail, outdoor cafes, late-night retail spaces and crowds navigating through it all. Join in on the fun and spend a night dinner hopping.

A Drink Before Dinner

Lose yourself along ultra-cool Rainey Street and drop in at Bridget Dunlap’s Clive Bar for a Spiced Vodka Negroni — spiced pear Cinco Vodka, Carpano Antica and Suza. You’ll be in the perfect mood for a night on the town.

The Gotta-Have App

True-bloods know that you must sample the Oyster Tostadas at Garrido’s. One bite of the mollusk perched on a yucca root with honey habanero aioli, cabbage and pico de gallo, and you’ll be glad you live in Austin. 

The Main Course

This is a time when valet parking comes in handy. Leave your keys and make your way to Parkside, an industrial-designed space headed by chef Shawn Cierkiel. We suggest the Braised Lamb Shank, which is sided by Israeli couscous, roasted tomato, carrot and parsley.

A Sweet Ending

Nothing says Southern comfort more than the Maple Bread Pudding with scotch hard sauce and whiskey-raisin ice cream at Lamberts. Chef and restaurateur Larry McGuire has it going on. 

Upscale

For a Big Night Out, Austin delivers. The city is teeming with sophisticated dining establishments and top-notch cuisine. So when the mood strikes you, do it up in style.

A Drink Before Dinner

Feel elegant and grown-up while sipping a Green River — one of mixologist Jason Steven’s concoctions made with vodka, basil, grapefruit peel, agave, lime, green chartreuse and force carbonated — at David Bull’s chic Bar Congress.

The Gotta-Have App

At Tyson Cole’s trendy Uchiko, you’ll be part of the see-and-be-seen crowd. Linger over the Shag Roll — a tempura fried salmon roll with sun-dried tomato, sumiso and a spicy sauce — while you take in the view.

The Main Course

Bob’s Steak and Chop House exudes a stately clubhouse feel without the pretentiousness. It’s a good bet that all the hand-selected and aged USDA prime beef is delicious here, but we suggest the New York Strip ordered to your specifications.

A Sweet Ending

To finish off your repast in style, go to Trio at the Four Seasons, and weather permitting, sit outside near the grassy bank and Lady Bird Lake beyond. Share a slice of the Molten Chocolate Cake with salted caramel ice cream and cocoa nib brittle — or not.

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