In the Field

Are Austin Hotel Restaurants Having a Moment?

By: Veronica Meewes

This time of year, travel is almost inevitable. Maybe you spent the holidays visiting friends and family, or perhaps now you’re finally emerging from hosting endless festivities and are on the hunt for a getaway. Why not one of the many luxe Austin hotels? Now admittedly, when I travel, I don’t typically eat at the restaurant in my hotel (beyond breakfast) unless it comes highly recommended by a trusted source. I’ve been burned before by overpriced, under-performing food at hotels: celebrity chef concepts that fell flat without the actual chef at the helm, second or third locations of lauded restaurants that simply didn’t compare to the original, and just some very soulless, poorly conceived operations. 

However! Lately, I’m starting to think that hotel restaurants are having a moment (well, hopefully more than just one!). In fact, I’ve had some incredible meals at Austin hotels recently, meals I’d return for and recommend to visiting friends and family.

Eat Well at These Five Austin Hotels

Fried chicken and bottles of Champagne from the Birds, Bubbles & Blues event at the Austin Hotel restaurant Geraldine's

Geraldine’s

I’ve eaten at Geraldine’s (at the Hotel Van Zandt) many times now, and I’ve never been let down. The food is well-executed with great balanced flavors and ingredients that change with the seasons. The vibe is as close to a supper club as we have in town (try to book a table right by the stage during one of their shows!). Each Thursday, they host Birds, Bubbles & Blues, an event showcasing local blues musicians with discounted bubbles and a special spicy fried chicken dish.

Order one of their flavorful veggie dishes with it, like the smoked carrots with cultured cream, coffee oil, and puffed quinoa, or the fried beets with pistachio togarashi, miso ginger aioli, mint, and Thai basil. 

Hand holding plate of food from a restaurant in one of the Austin hotels.

Second Bar + Kitchen

This fall, Second Bar + Kitchen returned to Central Austin, opening inside the East Austin Hotel. (Though the restaurant got its name from the original location on Second Street, it shut down several years ago and only its locations  in the airport and the Domain remained open). I went to their opening this fall, and it was a blast from the past to see many of their famed dishes still on the menu: crispy brussels sprouts with bacon, mint, and feta; “black & bleu” pizza topped with truffles, blue cheese, pork belly, and dates—and their well-loved brisket-chuck Congress burger. End your meal with a cocktail on the rooftop bar overlooking East Sixth Street.

Dean’s Italian Steakhouse

In a city that has historically been home to mostly big chain steakhouses,  I was excited to see some other options surfacing lately. One such option is Dean’s Italian Steakhouse, located inside the J.W. Marriott Austin. I had a fantastic meal here earlier this fall (thanks in part to a couple knowledgeable, enthusiastic servers!), starting with cocktails and appetizers on the veranda (where they host a daily weekday happy hour from 5 to 6:30 pm). I’m still dreaming about those oysters rockefeller with absinthe, bacon, and creamed spinach, and the truffle honey burrata with marcona almond, mint, and apricot agrodolce on toast. Also not to be missed is the ribeye, which is dry-aged in house, and the billionaire’s potato, twice-baked with taleggio, fontina, and shaved truffles! I didn’t have any room for pasta, but I look forward to trying that on a future visit.

The Blind Salamander

I have to admit, I was a little thrown by the name at first. The Blind Salamander, located on the grounds of the Omni Barton Creek Resort & Spa, is named for the rare albino amphibian native to the Edwards Aquifer. Not really a thing that screams fine dining, ya know? However, I was blown away by the food (and quality of wine pairings) when I visited for a dinner this fall that included a “chicken fried” snapper draped in caper gravy and a perfectly medium-rare filet with peppercorn sauce and osetra caviar. While that menu was a special offering for that night, I know one thing for sure: Chef Francisco Baca knows how to honor exquisite steak and seafood.

Diners at the Garrison, one of the restaurants in one of the Austin hotels, eating steak.

Garrison

This creative steakhouse concept, located behind a homestead facade inside the Fairmont Hotel Austin, is another one that’s never disappointed me—food, drinks, and service are always top-notch. If you’re a first-timer (or even if you’re not), the signature tater tots with aerated gruyère and shaved black truffles are an absolute must. On a recent Garrison visit, the Akaushi ribeye with black garlic béarnaise was flawless and I overlooked the roasted chicken with sauce charcutière and maitake mushrooms—until our server said it was the chef’s current pride and joy.

And no wonder—it was fantastic. If you really want to end dinner on a decadent note, ask to make a reservation at Room 725, their newly opened champagne and caviar speakeasy on the seventh floor.

Where to Eat and Drink in Austin

Dovetail Pizza

South First Street just got a lot more delicious with the opening of Dovetail Pizza. In addition to thin-crust, light pies made with unique flavor combinations (like the BitterSweet, topped with arugula, sweet and hot peppers, smoked eggplant, and ricotta), you’ll find creative salads and craveable starters like fried castelvetrano olives with calabrian chili, honey, and ricotta ranch. 

The bar at Stay Put Brewer in Austin

Stay Put Brewer

The hospitality group Pouring With Heart just opened Stay Put Brewery on Rainey Street. In addition to their own house-brewed beers (try the Krause Kolsch and the Pease Park Hazy Pale Ale!) and rotating guest taps, they also serve craft cocktails. With a spacious, dog-friendly patio and Wi-Fi, you might find yourself wanting to— well, stay put for a while. 

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