Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Feasting in SoCo

One of the most eclectic, hip neighborhoods in Austin is SoCo, which is short for “South Congress Avenue”. The area of the SoCo neighborhood stretches from Lady Bird Lake (once known as Towne Lake) near downtown Austin along South Congress Avenue down to Oltorf Street at St. Edward’s University.

The neighborhood even hosts a monthly event called First Thursday. The SoCo shops stay open later, merchants set up tents to showcase their wares and music abounds.

Gene and I discovered a wonderful restaurant in SoCo, called South Congress Café at 1600 South Congress Avenue.

Last night, not wanting to cook dinner, we set out for this hip, happenin’ haven for the Hungry. I was shocked that the place was packed on a Monday evening!

Rather than wait 15 - 20 minutes for a table, we decided to eat at the bar, where the service and food were just as good as the dining room, but the ticket was 20% off!

For an appetizer, Gene ordered the Duck Oyster Gumbo, which I had eaten on a previous visit. As before, this scrumptious, dark rue gumbo was full of succulent duck and oysters.

The Very Bleu Salad, with field greens, rosemary candied pecans and hard-boiled quail eggs, was drizzled in a gorgonzola cream dressing. Rather than an over-powering bleu cheese taste, the salad was refreshing and the dressing was surprisingly mild.

For his main course, Gene chose the Barramundi Almondine ($24), a delicious, pan roasted, white, flaky fish, drizzled in chipotle brown butter, sprinkled with candied, slivered almonds, topped with perfect fresh green beans, all on a bed of garlic mashed potatoes. The Barramundi, also known as Asian Seabass, is farmed raised in Vietnam, Indonesia and Massachusetts.

My main entrée won the prize for the evening, though. I chose the Beef Milanesa ($14), which was cracker-crusted, seared beef tenderloin medallions smothered in crawfish cream gravy, served with garlic mashed potatoes, miniature carrots and broccoli. Oh, how luscious, how perfect was this culinary combination!

The vegetables were indescribably delicious. I have no idea how the broccoli was prepared, but it must have been drizzled in some type of yummy, hot chile oil. The carrots were faintly sweet, but not candied.

The leftovers made for a full lunch the next day. Oh happy day! And, even the little details were attended to, such as writing the name of the restaurant and the date on the lid.

The first time we visited South Congress Café, our waiter was spectacular, and this visit confirmed that South Congress Café hires outstanding wait staff and trains them well on specific food details. Our bartender/waiter knew all about the Barramundi fish, which we’d never heard of.

Everything we’ve had here, salads, soups, meatloaf, fish, beef, vegetables, gravies has all been so delicious and delectable. The flavors blend perfectly and the selections are unusual and enticing. I encourage you to try my new favorite restaurant!

If you want to tempt yourself, see the photos of various dishes on the South Congress Café website.

“If life were predictable it would cease to be life and without flavor.” –Eleanor Roosevelt

“All our words are but crumbs that fall down from the feast of the mind.” –Kahlil Gibran

Celebrate Life & Enjoy the Flavor, Y’all!!


  1. You know Grayson everything sounds delicious with one exception, the "garlic" mashed potatoes. I'm sorry but taking the perfect partner of most comfort foods and ...well jerry-rigging it with garlic is unacceptable. I have been on a bit of an anti-garlic mashed potato rant up here in Connecticut. When I order a meal and it comes with garlic mashed potatoes I politely ask that they hold the garlic in my mashed. They never do. Why is life so unfair!Well, all this ranting has made me hungry, I'm off to have steak smothered in ketchup. :)Clint

  2. I looooooove garlic. And, I like it in my mashed taters if the taters are cooked right - thick and creamy.