Toulouse Cafe and Bar | Black Book Ink
Food & Drink

10 Reasons You Should Be Eating & Drinking at The Domain

Published On 09/20/2017
North Italia

North Italia

Sophisticated, from-scratch Italian with a buzzy patio
One of the original Domain restaurants, this light & airy spot takes a modern approach to Italian classics, with plenty of wine, beer, and cocktails to boot. The big windows and large outdoor patio make equally suitable for date night or a friendly neighborhood hang, and the food is all scratch-made daily, from the fresh pastas to the crispy pizzas. This stuff’s good enough to make you forget you’re eating in a mall.

Second Bar + Kitchen

Affordable, elevated American fare
After the demonstrable success of its second street location, David Bull and team opened a larger, more modern Second Bar + Kitchen in the Archer Hotel. This classy spot with a casual feel serves food all day -- our favorite dishes are veal meatballs, braised beef short rib with grits, seared Faroe Island salmon, and the black (truffle) and bleu (cheese) pizza. Craft cocktails, beer, and an extensive wine list make this a no-brainer happy-hour destination as well.

Mark Weatherford

Thai-Kun Rock Rose

Homestyle Thai in flamboyant surroundings
Part of the East Side King dynasty, this food-trailer-turned-brick-and-mortar offers some of the most authentic Thai in the city. Moo satay, larb, crab rice, and fish fritters are popular sellers while more adventurous eaters may opt for the Issan sausage or the chicken skins. Funky art designed by Peelander Yellow graces the walls and the open kitchen is outlined in colorful dangling lamps. Though you won’t find hard liquor here, they have creative sake and beer-based cocktails.

Mia Italian Tapas

Mia Italian Tapas

Italian small plates in a contemporary, comfortable setting
Though North holds down the fort on classic Italian, Mia is like its fun younger sister. The format is Italian tapas, but the portion sizes are generous enough that you might not actually notice. The flat-iron steak and en papillote get a lot of love (for good reason), as do the calamari and mussels. For smaller bites, try the patatas bravas and the bacon-wrapped dates. Mia also draws the deal-seeker crowd with its regular food and drink specials, including $1 oysters on Mondays, half-priced bottles of wine on Wednesdays, and happy hour every day (except Saturday).

Jessica Attie

Paul Martin’s Austin Grill

Traditional steakhouse fare, thoughtfully done
Deep leather booths and community tables dominate the space in this upscale “chain with a conscience,” which focuses on using free-range, line-caught, hormone- and antibiotic-free meats and seasonal produce in its hearty American dishes. The menu is littered with standards -- think St. Louis-style ribs, cedar plank salmon, and New York strip -- with some legit tacos thrown in for good measure. Couple that with the daily happy hour specials on small plates, selected entrees, and specialty cocktails, and you’ve basically got no excuse not to stop by.

Turf N' Surf Po-Boy (at Lavaca Street Bar)

Solid seafood in a lively sports bar environment
Don’t be surprised when you walk into a sports bar and find some of the best casual seafood in the area. Blackened mahi-mahi, crawfish tacos, and fried oyster po-boys should satisfy the seafood lovers, while more carnivorous folks may want to double down on the Kick Yo Daddy (ribeye with buffalo sauce) or the pulled pork with mango. Some of the prices can be variable, since the wild-caught Gulf seafood on the menu is subject to the whims of the market. Order at the counter, and then grab a craft brew while you wait.

Kevin Marple

Toulouse Cafe and Bar

French cuisine with bistro ambiance
This French spot is all warm wood, low lighting, and hand-written menu boards, and while the price tag reflects its lofty leanings, given the dearth of French cuisine in Austin, it’s to be forgiven. The menu is balanced -- lighter fare like Nicoise and Dover Sole Meuniere is offset by escargots, foie gras, duck confit, and boeuf bourguignon -- and the wine list, as you’d expect, is extensive and French-heavy (with half-off French bottles on Wednesday). Desserts like beignets and creme brulee are worth undoing a pants button for.

Velvet Taco Dallas

Velvet Taco

Fusion tacos in a relaxed environment
Just when you thought you’d seen every kind of taco out there, along comes Velvet Taco. Originating in Dallas, this fast-casual spot claims to serve “tacos without borders,” and its fusion-style chops can’t be denied: Nashville hot tofu, fried paneer with tomato chutney, the Cuban Pig (pulled pork, ham, pickle), and the Ahi Poke are only a handful of the specialty tacos on offer here. You won’t find the ubiquitous Austin breakfast taco here, but the frittatas are a treat for brunch.

Flower Child

Eco-conscious fare with a farmers market feel
This is exactly what you’d expect from a place claiming to make “healthy food for a happy world,” although we might also add tasty to that descriptor. Vegetable-forward selections include generous salads, mix ‘n match bowls, and whole grain wraps filled with spicy Japanese eggplant with thai basil and cashew, but folks in search of protein can feel good about what they’re eating, too -- grass-fed beef, all-natural chicken, sustainable salmon and non-GMO tofu are all equally viable options here.

Gloria's Latin Cuisine

Gloria’s Latin Cuisine

Latin fusion, margaritas, and Saturday salsa nights
This is the only eatery in the Domain where you can find those Latin flavors you’ve been looking for. The owners are Salvadoran, and their menu reflects that influence along with Texas’ Mexican: Salvadoran plantains, ceviche, and tamales wrapped in banana leaves sit side-by-side with Tex-Mex fajitas, enchiladas, and burritos. There’s also a SalvaTex section that takes the best from both cultures and smashes them together on one plate. The happy hour here is bangin’ and Saturday Salsa nights are surprisingly slammed as well.

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Austin's Best New Restaurants of 2017

Published On 11/13/2017
T here were plenty of restaurant openings in Austin this year, but the best ones all had a few things in common: comforting, un-gimmicky foods, served in chic surroundings, by (unsurprisingly) the top culinary talent in the city. They may not be the places with 4-dollar-sign price points, or the ones with two-hour weekend waits, but each of the restaurants below quickly earned top spots on Austin’s “You’ve gotta eat here” board. Whether you start with pimento and peacocks on the patio of a historic Victorian home, or by submitting your naughtiest behavior into a confessional box after an order of fries and soft serve, you’ll enjoy eating your way through Austin’s best new restaurants of 2017.
Thomas Allison / Thrillist

Bonhomie

Burnet Avenue

Casual-yet-refined French/American diner with classic cocktails
Chosen as one of Thrillist's Prime 13 best new restaurants of 2017, this French bistro/American diner mashup features the tinge of Asian flavors you’d expect from chef Philip Speer, former director of culinary operations at Uchi. Don’t expect to find any pretension here -- Bonhomie is approachable, casual, comforting, and yes, affordable! The double-meat burger is oozing with Dijonnaise and cheese, the pommes rosti are crispy potato birds’ nests with toppings like roasted mushrooms, caramelized onions, and spinach (our favorite), and the croque monsieur and French onion soup are so over-the-top-rich that you practically have to share them. There are no literally no wrong choices, except not dining here -- or drinking here, thanks to the full bar and fantastic cocktail list.

Robert Lerma

Holy Roller

Downtown

Comfort food, cocktails, and kitsch from pastry chef Callie Speer
Callie Speer, former pastry chef of Swift’s Attic and Geraldine’s, opened punk rock diner Holy Roller as a labor of love, alongside an all-star team of women including beverage director Jen Keyser. The menu is full of comfort food, and each Texas classic is stamped with Callie Speer’s signature whimsy, like the addictive Trash Fries (gravy, sunny-side egg, sour cream, corn, lime, and cotija cheese) and the migas kolache (stuffed with queso, crispy potatoes, and jalapeño). Better still, Holy Roller caters to Austin’s brunch-obsessed masses by serving it all day on Sundays, including the Sunday School menu of pastries and tasty cocktails based off the Seven Deadly Sins. Drop a confession note in the box by the bathroom, and it might just get chosen as inspiration for Holy Roller’s next special cocktail.

Kemuri Tatsu-ya

East Austin

Mash-up of a Texas smokehouse and a Japanese gastropub
Describing Kemuri Tatsu-ya to the uninitiated gets convoluted: a Japanese izakaya in a former Eastside BBQ joint, with Texas influences and a killer Japanese whisky selection? Sure. The menu starts with bites like the uber-popular, Gouda-and-brisket-stuffed Hot Pocketz, and ends with ramen served with a thick dipping broth and fiery jalapeños, but not without a few twists and turns along the way. The “odd bits” menu offers tiny dishes of the (very) funky squid marinated in its own guts, as well as sweet and sour marinated jellyfish, while the yakitori offerings range from familiar chicken meatballs to challenging chicken hearts. And don’t even get us started on the cocktail program; arguably one of the best in Austin, the menu features fun, shareable portions served in kitschy vessels (like the Matcha Pain Killer, served in a cat-shaped cup). Think of Kemuri Tatsu-ya as a choose-your-own-adventure dining experience; stay in your comfort zone or get weird, it’s all up to you. Whatever you do, though, order a crisp Orion lager: it gives your go-to light beer a run for its money.

Nicolai McCrary

Soursop

South Congress

Pan-Asian fusion served on the patio of a craft brewery
Soursop, the pan-Asian trailer serving bar food on the patio of St. Elmo Brewing Co. is a standout in the neighborhood, the food truck landscape, and Austin in general for a few reasons: inventive flavor profiles, the fact that St. Elmo’s beers magically pair with everything on the menu, and the culinary team’s (possibly tongue-in-cheek?) shrine to Guy Fieri. Menu offerings occasionally change, but our favorites don’t appear to be going anywhere -- namely the Water-Burger (a refreshing burger made with ground chuck and brisket, caramelized onion ranch, lettuce, marinated cucumber, garlic pepper, and toasted rice powder), and the huge, sticky sambal wings (jumbo whole wings, Thai chili, palm sugar, fish sauce, coconut vinegar, peanut, mint).

Charles Reagan

Native Hostel

East Austin

Upscale hostel and bar serving modern diner classics
Hip digs and a kitchen with generous hours add up to Austin’s newest hotspot for sleeping, eating, drinking, and checking out live music and DJs. The kitchen has everything an Austin guest (or resident) could want, comforting diner food, brunch and lots of vegetarian options. With picks like the fried chicken sandwich (pickle brined chicken, dill pickles, pickled peppers, mayo) and the meatless chilaquiles (veggie chorizo, corn tortilla chips, pickled peppers, tomato, avocado, queso and sunny-side-up egg), this is the sort of food that late dinners and (ahem, challenging) breakfasts require. Pro tip: Native serves brunch until 3pm on weekends.

El Chipirón

South Lamar

Spanish tapas and cocktails found on first floor of residential building
A new kid on the block, El Chipirón earns its stripes with Spanish tapas and pintxos in a modern Euro setting alongside a lovely cocktail menu with an emphasis on gin and tonics (like The Tejano, which involves lots of smoke and herbs). The menu is decked out with meat and cheese boards, small plates, and a couple of large options like the juicy lomo de vaca (44 Farms strip steak, Padrón pepper, LaFou demi-glace, tomato, potato); standouts include the squid ink (colored and flavored) black rice with squid, mussels and scallops and tabla de ibéricos loaded with Spanish chorizo, Iberian ham, salchichón, and accoutrements.

Laura Hajar

Pitchfork Pretty

East Cesar Chavez

Stylish eatery taking a chef-forward approach to modern Southern fare
Helmed by executive chef Max Snyder, Pitchfork Pretty appeared seemingly out of nowhere -- before anyone realized what happened, East Cesar Chavez was home to a design-forward, A-frame building with a mix of chef-y small plates and hearty fried chicken, and cocktails that satisfy both the cucumber margarita and whiskey crowds. The concept is hard to pin down but easy to fall in love with. Critics are rightly swooning over the pickled quail egg on crispy leeks -- a perfect bite consumed like you would an oyster -- and the gluten-free, chickpea flour-breaded fried chicken brined in a habanero vinegar.

bao'd up

Bao'd Up

Mueller

Fast casual joint for steamed buns and bubble tea
Bao’d Up, Mueller’s new steamed-bun-dedicated restaurant from chef Ting Li, is making waves with its bite-size offerings made with the sticky, steamed bread in multiple forms: baozi, mantou, gua bao, and bao fries. We like the simple BBQ pork bao and Szechuan fries topped with spicy mayo, sesame, and green onion, and no trip to Bao’d Up is complete without a build-your-own bubble drink; the matcha and taro are favorites.

Nick Simonite

Mattie's

Bouldin Creek

Elevated Southern cuisine served among live oaks and peacocks
The former Green Pastures (which now refers solely to the event space), Mattie’s is the revamped new concept from Austin developer Greg Porter and La Corsha Hospitality -- which operates Second Bar + Kitchen and Boiler Nine. With its marble countertops, exquisite light fixtures, copper hardware, and textured wallpaper that begs to be touched, the new skin applied to the home’s old bones is incredibly gorgeous to behold. The menu is also just as impressive, whether you’re having dinner in one of the many dining rooms or on the lawn alongside the resident peacocks. Southern dishes sprinkled with French and Asian influence as well as untouched classics like pimento cheese and fried chicken eggs Benedict sparkle at Mattie’s... just as much as the dreamy surroundings.