Punch Bowl Social – review

A disappointing bar/restaurant with bowling, karaoke, and other games.

Austin isn’t a perfect place. The three most common complaints I hear about Austin is that it’s overcrowded, pretentious, and expensive. While I’m not sure I’d agree with any of those adjectives for the city as a whole, they do describe Punch Bowl Social pretty well.

El Mercado South – Thumbs Up

We enjoyed our meal and are planning to go back soon. I also noticed during our visit to El Mercado that they have a great looking quick lunch menu. I was working nearby El Mercado tonight so I decided to have my wife meet me at El Mercado for dinner. The décor was great; the restaurant was bright, colorful with neat decorations.

We were a little disappointed in the music which was an 80’s mix rather than Hispanic or South American. However, we were fortunate to visit El Mercado on Sunday evening because the margaritas were on special for $3.50 and the dinning room was slow and quiet.

House Park BBQ

I highly recommend House Park BBQ. It is fast cheap and pretty good BBQ. We love a good Texas barbecue joint that is rich in tradition. House PARK BBQ is a total dive which is part of its appeal. It has been in the little shopping center on 12th and Lamar next door to Flora and Fauna and the Tavern for over 30 years. They are only open for lunch. During our visit we tried both the brisket and the sausage. Both were good, but the sausage in combination with their BBQ sauce is very special and we will be back for more. The lunch was also very affordable, which my wallet appreciates. Oh yeah, bring cash! House Park Bar-B-Que doesn’t accept anything else.

Taco Xpress Taqueria

This was our first trip to Taco Xpress since the big relocation with the pharmacy many years ago. We were very impressed with all of the changes and additional decor. I can see how this place is so Austin eclectic. The restaurant was very well decorated and it has a great feel to it. It’s like your walk into a taco joint in Key West Florida. Everything seemed to slow down a bit and we felt really relaxed. There were a couple of disappointments on our trip but nothing that should stop anyone from visiting Taco Xpress and bringing their friends from out of town for the experience.

Gueros South Congress (thumbs way way up)

Gueros has been one of our favorites for years. Everything on the menu is dependably excellent. Gueros is a great place to take a date, family or friends. There is seating outdoors, a private party area and a courtyard for parties and live music. Gueros also has really good Margaritas. There Margaritas may look puny in the little glass they are served in but they really pack a punch. The open kitchen atmosphere of Gueros makes the experience even better. You can smell all of the great food being prepared and if you sit at the taco bar you can even watch the food being prepared. Gueros must treat their employees pretty well because I usually see a lot of the same wait staff people every time I visit. The food is always delivered promptly and the wait staff is always very courteous and on top of their tables.

I recommend anything on Guero’s menu but my favorite must be the El Presedente. This is a huge dinner so be sure you’re hungry when you order this treat. I also love Guero’s Enchiladas with Salsa Fresca which is a sour cream and avocado sauce. But be sure to order dessert when you visit. Gueros has an ice cream and praline with a brandy sauce that is absolutely killer.

Top ten sports bars in Austin 2019

When it comes to sports bars, Austin has tons of them that see large populations of men and women flocking to the places all year round. Whether you fancy napkin-covered tables or a more casual sit up arrangement, there’s a sports bar to suit your style. So which bar do you go to for your next sport social?

Here’s a quick list of the top 10 sports bars in Austin that you can try.

Steiner Ranch Steakhouse

5424 Steiner Ranch Blvd.
Austin, Texas 78732
Phone: (512) 381-0800
Website: www.steinersteakhouse.com
Hours: Sun. 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Mon.-Thurs. 4-10 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 4-11 p.m.

Perched high upon a hilltop at the front of the Steiner Ranch neighborhood is Steiner Ranch Steakhouse. This spot is a multi-leveled eatery with a clubby ranch meets Austin modern feel.  The numerous, generous rock decks offer lots of room for musical performers and amazing vistas of the Hill Country and Lake Travis.

It would be simple to dismiss Steiner Ranch Steakhouse on the assumption that its patios and best-of-the-city views substitute for quality food.  But such an assumption would seriously underestimate the delicious meals being served out of Steiner Ranch Steakhouse’s kitchen.

We visited on a Sunday afternoon, greeted by a sunny patio that provided seriously stunning views of Lake Travis.  As we were seated, Drew Womack played guitar and sang favorites from the likes of James Taylor and Steve Miller Band.  We grabbed mimosas and checked out the menu.

One thing we noticed immediately and consistently throughout our meal was the impeccable, friendly service.   Every person we encountered from the hostesses to our waitress to employees merely acknowledging us in passing were extremely friendly and helpful, lending a welcoming charm.

We started off our meal with two appetizers–the Buffalo Quail Legs and the elk toronadas.  The toronadas featured tender grilled elk slices atop crispy Asiago cheese crostini with pico de gallo.  The elk was perfectly prepared, smoky and tender, and the creamy sauce and zesty pico were the perfect complement to the elk.

The Buffalo Quail Legs were also delicious. The sauce was a smoky mingling of barbecue and buffalo sauces, with hints of roasted garlic. The batter on the legs was so delicate as to almost appear grilled, and the smoky sauce was the perfect off the gaminess of the quail. The smoky-sweet sauce was further complemented by a stout, creamy gorgonzola dip. As we finished up our appetizers, we were treated to a multi-song performance by an operatic duo.

Our party also grabbed a couple of salads. The Caesar was fresh and crispy, with a salty anchovy resting atop and a tart, creamy dressing.

The wedge salad was scattered with tomato, green onions, applewood bacon, and Gorgonzola crumbles. The salad was finished with a creamy blue cheese dressing. Both salads were remarkably fresh and crispy and very large (definitely large enough to share).

We next sampled three entrees. First up was the chicken fried Denver elk. The elk was carefully tenderized, then lightly battered and fried. The elk was covered with a surprisingly light gravy with hints of red and black peppers. The elk was paired with a generous portion of skin-on mashed potatoes that were creamy and rustic. The plate was finished with asparagus, which was a bit on the undercooked side, but the elk and potatoes were so massive and delicious, that we did not miss the asparagus anyway.

One person in our group opted to sample the kabobs from the appetizer menu as an entree. The kabobs on our visit featured skin-on grilled mahi mahi medallions, paired with red bell pepper and onion slices, and mushrooms. The kabobs were grilled just to done, and dusted with zesty seasoning.

We grabbed one side for the table (which we really did not need, in light of the huge entree portions). We opted for the lobster mac and cheese (again, a surprisingly generous portion), which arrived bubbling in a skillet. The penne pasta soaked in a peppery cheese sauce, and was coated with ample amounts of grilled cheese atop the dish. Throughout the pasta were huge chunks of succulent lobster. This side was filling and large enough to serve as an entree in its own right, and was downright delicious.

Finally, we tried the Austin Ribeye, a 10 oz. cut that was prepared to a perfect medium rare. The Steiner Ranch ribeye was topped with an herbed butter with shallots and chives. The steak was seasoned with restraint, letting the meat stand on its own. The steak was paired with the same mashed potatoes and asparagus that came with the elk.

We left Steiner Ranch Steakhouse wondering why it had taken so long for us to seek out this spot. Between the amazing views, delicious food, and welcoming atmosphere, Steiner Ranch Steakhouse is the type of place you want to make your go-to special meal spot. We will definitely be returning.

Supper Friends

Austin is lucky to have a thriving foodie population, which offers lots of unique opportunities for new and surprising food experiences.  One of the more interesting hidden gems I have encountered lately has been the Supper Friends experience hosted by 2 Dine 4 Fine Catering.

Located on East Side near East 7th and Pleasant Valley Drive is 2 Dine 4 Fine Catering’s facilities, which include a beautifully renovated and totally charming bungalow called The Swoop House.  This spot plays host to 2 Dine 4 Fine’s Supper Friends experiences, multi-course meals designed by either the company’s own culinary team, or by guest chefs.  (An upcoming event on February 8, for instance, features Perla’s sous chef, Josh Venne).  The dinners are open to the public, with reservations available by phone at (512) 467-6600 or email at superfriends@2dine4.com.

We checked it out on a recent Friday night, and found ourselves pleasantly surprised by the beautiful setting, delicious food, and unexpectedly welcoming atmosphere.  We arrived at The Swoop House around 7 p.m. for appetizers and cocktails.  We were total strangers to the event, and did not know anyone else who was attending.

The Swoop House itself drips with warmth, thanks to lots of cozy lighting, beautiful wood, and charming appointments.  The bungalow includes a small bar with a handful of chairs as you enter, which shares a room with the first of three large tables for guests.  The tables, scattered between three rooms of The Swoop House, were decked out in white linens with charmingly mismatched white wooden chairs. Guests names await on place cards, as the catering team begins greeting them with trays of appetizers and a welcome cocktail.  (Be advised, though, that the rest of the evening is BYOB, so alcohol for dinner is up to guests).

The Supper Friends events evolved as a more interesting method for offering tastings to would-be customers of the catering team.  The team noticed that people enjoyed the tasting experience more where more people were sharing the experience, and the setting felt a little less rigid.  Thus, the Supper Friends events emerged as a way for potential catering customers to try out the meals for their upcoming events in a festive atmosphere, while also having the opportunity to see others experiencing the potential menu.

The night of our visit, a bride-and-groom-to-be were having a tasting of a Latin-inspired menu.  We sampled tasty items ranging from tangy sofrito nachos to an absolutely delicious pork carnitas tamale.  The dinner conversation was lively, and guests seemed truly excited and enthusiastic about the experience.  The chef and catering team did a great job of keeping guests informed about their offerings, and welcomed input about the quality of the meal.

The Supper Friends experience was one of the most unexpectedly enjoyable food experiences I have had in some time.  The menus and dates are announced by email on the Supper Friends mailing list, and are also available on the Supper Friends website.   The menu prices change, but generally run anywhere from $45-$75 for a multi-course meal. I highly recommend signing up for the mailing list, or checking out the menus online, and selecting one that tempts your palate.  I will definitely be checking out another Supper Friends event soon.