Top Dining Picks
Where to eat in Austin right now: Cool restaurant happy hours and hot ladies nights
The summer heat may be uncomfortably sweltering, but we’ve rounded up some refreshing spots for August that offer great happy hours, half-price menu nights, value lunches, and a special women’s chef night for a good cause.
There’s no shortage of downtown dining spots. Although some neighborhood corridors welcome a certain concentration of passersby — namely the 2nd Street District and longstanding Warehouse District — there are a few other spots worth exploring.
Take for instance, Caesar Chavez, just across from Lady Bird Lake, where you’ll find The Bonneville, a sleek bistro with a variety of enticing menu items and friendly service. Bonneville does daily happy hours from 4:30-7 pm (excluding Saturday), with discounted craft cocktails, glasses of wine and select beer, as well as discounted grilled pizzas and other appetizers.
But stopping in for dinner is also a treat. With a sophisticated yet laid-back atmosphere, you’ll discover that many of the gems on the menu are appetizers, such as creamy bacon and egg ravioli with brown butter and Parmigiano Reggiano or mussels bathed in a spicy red curry-coconut broth. But don’t overlook house specialties, such as chicken under a brick with heirloom tomato-panzanella salad or seared Diver scallops served on a crispy scallion rice cake with tangy grapefruit supremes.
Weekend brunch is also an urban dweller’s treat. And, in anticipation of cooler fall months ahead, the restaurant will soon welcome patio seating for taking in the best of Austin’s festive outdoor atmosphere.
Max’s Wine Dive
Max’s makes soul food fun with a permanent menu of some of the best fried chicken in the state and thick and hearty cuts of house-made meatloaf that evoke childhood memories of the good old days. However, food like this can certainly add unwanted inches to the waistline.
But chef Erica Beneke — whose recent win on the Food Network competition show Chopped has earned her a steady local following — serves a seasonal summer menu too, so it’s hard to stay away. Among the many tasty treats are stewed okra with smoked tomatoes and savory quail sausage, and a refreshing Bloody Mary salad with sweet and tender heirloom tomatoes and delicious horseradish sorbet that finishes with a nice, slow burn.
Blue plate lunch specials include one protein and two sides — and they are a steal at $9. This month, Beneke rallies an elite group of the finest female chefs in Austin for a special “Eat. Drink. Empower.” dinner in which each chef prepares one of five courses. All proceeds go to SafePlace, a local nonprofit organization that provides services to those suffering incidents of domestic or sexual violence.
Olive & June
This is one of the best places in town to enjoy an evening with friends, particularly because of the wide variety of tastes and small plates. And with Mezzo Mondays in full swing, there’s no better way to get a fresh, seasonally inspired meal for a great value.
On Mezzo Mondays, items on the piccoli piatti menu (a sampling of small plates) are half-price, as are wines by the glass, which they happily extend to bottles offered by the glass. Fried risotto suppli and semolina gnocchi are delicious, but toasted crostini with peach marmellata and basil-ricotta cheese is little slice of summer in one perfect bite.
Main menu items such as classic spaghetti pomodoro or summer seafood risotto shouldn’t be overlooked, but be sure to order a side of tangy grilled green beans with mustarda and crispy onions for the table.