I just recently got back from my first visit to Austin (I was visiting a friend), and I ate at a LOT of great restaurants while I was there. I was honestly surprised at how good each restaurant was, because there aren’t a ton of great restaurants in my hometown of Eugene, Oregon. Not one of the restaurants that I visited in Austin was bad, although that may have been due in part to the fact that my friend knows the cuisine. He wouldn’t have taken me to a bad restaurant. Now that I’m home, I thought I would take the time to type up my thoughts on each restaurant.
Roaring Fork was the first restaurant we visited, and I think I remember it the most because of my surprise at how great Austin’s restaurant food. Roaring Fork is located in downtown Austin (the financial district). I ordered the cedar plank salmon, and my buddy Nate had the mussels. Our food was amazing, and there were a few things that I noticed about the restaurant while we were there. I’m going to use them to help me guide the review and organize my thoughts. First of all, I have to talk about the food.
Even while we were waiting for our food, it appeared that everyone around us was enjoying their food. I did a bit of eavesdropping, and it didn’t sound like anyone had any major complaints about the food. Nothing that would cause them to send it back, of course. The menu at Roaring Fork has amazing variety, and I appreciated the wide selection of food on the menu. It doesn’t have a specific theme, like Italian, which enables the chefs to experiment in a broad range of items for the menu. I personally had no complaints with the food, and I was really into how fresh all of the ingredients tasted.
I’ll have to talk the chefs sometime about where they get their produce. Maybe it’s just an Austin thing, who knows. Ordering my food was not a hassle, as it has been in some other Texas restaurants that I have been to. Nothing is worse than being super hungry, and the wait staff won’t even acknowledge your presence. I’m not sitting inside of a restaurant because I like how the tables look, I’m here for food. Roaring Fork’s aren’t just quick, though.
They’re also very experienced and friendly. My waiter could name at least four different things that he enjoyed off of the menu, and that was before he even started bringing up what customers have enjoyed. The fact that he knows the menu so well shows that he is great at his job, but also cares about the menu. Some waiters don’t even like the food on their menu, and they struggle to hide it when you ask them for a suggestion.
Also, the server kept making sure our glasses were full. It wasn’t like he had to make sure they were full or he wouldn’t get paid, he went out of his way to do it. That’s quality service. The final thing that I really liked about this Austin restaurant was the ambience. We were dining in downtown Austin, so of course the interior of the restaurant was going to look great. It’s not like we were eating nearby section 8 housing.
Lots of nice decor on the inside, nothing too colorful or uncomfortably weird. One restaurant I have been to had a giant fish tank above the bar. Talk about distracting and weird. If you’re curious to learn about the other items on Roaring Fork’s menu or you just don’t believe me, make sure to check out the plenty amazing online reviews on yelp and google.
Next, there’s True Food Kitchen. The name sounded kind of generic, so I wasn’t expecting much. I read all the great reviews on the way there, and my opinion was flipped upside down. Everyone was praising how great the food and service are, so I knew I had to try it out. Fortunately for us, Nate and I were already in downtown Austin (he was driving). Austin’s Market District has a lot of great restaurants, from what he was telling me.
What this restaurant does different from its Austin restaurant competitors is the sanitation. The other restaurants aren’t especially dirty, this one was just especially clean. Everything was clean, from the tables to the silverware to the bathrooms. I know that it’s not something people specifically look for in a restaurant, but my aunt was a health inspector and the stuff she told me made me sick.
Kitchen cleanliness is also paramount, as the danger no longer just lies in bacteria. A.K.A., fire. Nate told me that he used to have a friend who worked for some Austin restaurant hood cleaners, and he was telling me all sorts of stuff about the industry. True Food Kitchen should really look at this business as an option if they don’t have one lined up yet. They offer a ton of services, like commercial kitchen equipment cleaning. I’ll just let the owner know the URL for the website, and he can read up on the about page. Better to be safe than sorry.
The final restaurant we visited was Second Bar + Kitchen. I’m not sure why they chose to put “second” in the title, because this Austin restaurant deserves first place. In the bar category, at least. I decided to save this one for last because not everyone can go to bars, and I wanted to make this review list as accessible as possible.
My favorite thing to get at Second Bar + Kitchen (and the only thing I have ordered, really) is the strawberry shortcake with cornbread ice cream. At first the ice cream sounded pretty nasty, but I am glad that I had the guts to try it. This time around, you will be dining in the Warehouse District in Austin. Nate and I both left positive online reviews, and I am genuinely looking forward to my next visit to Austin. Maybe now more so than he is.