Where to Eat

Top dining picks for December: Pink pigs, oysters and prix fixe dinners in the heart of campus

Top dining picks for December: Pink pigs, oysters and prix fixe dinners in the heart of campus

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Tenderloin and foie gras at The Carillon. Courtesy of The Carillon Restaurant Courtesy of The Carillon Restaurant
Austin Photo Set: News_dupuy_where to eat dec 2012_the carillon
Averna Mousse: Chocolate Financier, Clove Sorbet, Espresso Ganache, Cherry Pudding, Cocoa Nibs at The Carillon. Courtesy of The Carillon Restaurant
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Clark's Oyster Bar Courtesy of Jett Butler from FODA Studio
Austin Photo Set: News_Layne_new restaurants opening_oct 2012_clarks oyster bar3
Clark's Oyster Bar Courtesy of Jett Butler from FODA Studio
Austin Photo Set: News_Layne_new restaurants opening_oct 2012_the pink pig2
The Pink Pig Courtesy of The Pink Pig
Austin Photo Set: News_Layne_new restaurants opening_oct 2012_the pink pig
The Pink Pig Courtesy of The Pink Pig
Austin Photo Set: News_dupuy_where to eat dec 2012_the carillon2
Austin Photo Set: News_dupuy_where to eat dec 2012_the carillon
Austin Photo Set: News_Layne_new restaurants opening_oct 2012_clarks oyster bar2
Austin Photo Set: News_Layne_new restaurants opening_oct 2012_clarks oyster bar3
Austin Photo Set: News_Layne_new restaurants opening_oct 2012_the pink pig2
Austin Photo Set: News_Layne_new restaurants opening_oct 2012_the pink pig

This month we celebrate oysters, holiday menus and little pink pigs.

The Carillon

Tucked in along the south side of the University of Texas campus, the Carillon stands out as a restaurant that takes itself as seriously as the Longhorns do football, yet is as playful in its approach as the tens of thousands of undergrads that surround it. You can thank Chef Josh Watkins for that.

As serious as he is youthful, Watkins has a knack for taking classic, traditional flavors and reinventing their overall presentation in a perplexing yet tantalizing way. What’s even better are the monthly prix fixe menus he crafts together using seasonal flavors and local ingredients.

I’m particularly looking forward to the December menu, which includes a fresh green salad with candied pork belly, beets, Texas pecans and a red pepper gelée to start, a thick-cut pork chop with apple butter, blue cheese and yogurt, and a white chocolate and beet coulant (cake) with cumin, walnuts and goat cheese custard from skillful pastry chef Plinio Sandalio. For a mere $29, special menus like this are sure to make this holiday season very merry, indeed.

Clark’s Oyster Bar

If you’ve recently driven down West Sixth Street and failed to notice the cheerful yellow awnings and bright neon sign reading “Clark’s” where the former Portabla restaurant used to be, then you should pay better attention. The kid sister of Perla’s, Clark’s opened a couple of months ago as the fifth of Larry McGuire’s (and his restaurant group McGuire Moorman Hospitality) portfolio of restaurants.

This self-proclaimed oyster bar has a much more limited layout and menu along with a few lovely little details that take the charming locale well above your average shuck shack — note the gold Portuguese serving utensils and the assortment of caviar options.

Oyster lovers will love the diverse selection on the menu and probably won’t mind the premium you pay by the half or whole dozen to savor them. (This is a Clarksville restaurant after all.) Other menu standouts include shrimp toast with harissa aioli, fresh cioppino and a sinfully rich and decadent lobster en cocotte with butter-poached farm eggs and toast.

The Pink Pig (Fredericksburg)

Named for the simple yet luscious pig-shaped sugar cookies glazed with pastel pink icing that have become one of celebrated chef Rebecca Rather’s trademarks, the Pink Pig is a long-anticipated answer to the restaurant-barren stretch of road along U.S. Highway 290 between Johnson City and Fredericksburg.

Much like her formerly famous Rather Sweet in the heart of F’burg, the Pink Pig offers an abundance of sweet and savory baked goods at the counter for breakfast, as well as sit down lunch and dinner service with dishes such as a chile rellenos stuffed with macaroni and cheese, pulled pork in Garrison Brothers barbecue sauce on fry bread, and even wine and cheese plates for those passing through on a Hill Country wine tour.

Even the turkey and cranberry relish sandwich on house-made focaccia is to die for. (Ask for a side of homemade potato chips.) Finally, touring the Hill Country Wine Trail has something to satiate a wine-induced hunger and keep people coming back for more.