Chicken in soy sauce
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What: Food made with fresh, regionally sourced ingredients. Austin is rife with eateries that undertake to use local farms and suppliers, from high-end restaurants to Tex-Mex cafes to outdoor food trailers, but here we’ll focus on those restaurants that make the biggest effort—including one that has its own sprawling garden out back.
Where: The organic garden behind Eastside Café (2113 Manor Rd., map) was there even before the restaurant opened in 1988. Today, although the restaurant cannot source all of its produce from the garden (Austin-based HausBar Farms supplies additional produce, depending on season), dishes that feature the vegetables, herbs, and even flowers grown out back are given prominent space on the menu. Since 2009, the café has also had chickens back there, helping to provide a source of eggs.
When: Mon-Thu, 11:15am-9:30pm; Fri 11:15am-10pm; Sat 10am-10pm (brunch till 3pm); Sun, 10am-9:30pm (brunch till 3pm)
Order: The colorful seasonal garden crudite ($8.95; pictured) is a beautiful plate of whatever’s fresh—raw vegetables served with anchovy herb butter, lemon tarragon vinaigrette, baba ghanoush, and kosher salt. During our visit, the platter included radishes and watermelon radishes, carrots, red and green peppers, kohlrabi, and jalapeño. Other dishes placing the garden front and center are the (fittingly Tex-Mex) vegetable quesadillas with house-made salsa and vegetable enchiladas with brown rice and black beans, plus specials like the excellent tomato and garden poblano soup on offer while we were there. On the meat/seafood front there’s locally raised all-natural chicken from Holmes Farms, greens from HausBar Farms, Texas Gulf Coast shrimp, and grass-fed Thunder Heart bison, from South Texas. Pair it all with a local beer or herbal iced tea brewed with lemongrass from the garden.
Good to know: Another restaurant that is not expressly locavore but has its own incredible organic garden is Mexican favorite Fonda San Miguel (2330 W. North Loop, map)—see also: Interior Mexican food.
Alternatively: Chef David Bull’s three-in-one restaurant-bar complex Congress (200 Congress Ave., map) took the restaurant world by storm when it opened in 2011; the refined American-comfort-food menu and focus on high-quality, local, and sustainable ingredients earned it a spot on many major best-of-2011 lists nationwide. From the chef behind Austin’s (onetime) most locavore-ish trailer, the now-defunct Odd Duck Farm to Table, is Barley Swine (2024 S. Lamar Blvd., map), an intimate gastropub—so named for chef Bryce Gilmore’s affinity for beer and pork—that focuses on rustic yet refined small plates using seasonal ingredients sourced from local farms and purveyors, including on the beer and wine list. Wink (1014 N. Lamar Blvd., map) likewise emphasizes the fresh and seasonal, with a daily-changing menu listing a paragraph’s worth of Texas “farms, foragers, gardens, and ranches” they work with. The rustic-French-meets-soul-food menu at the family-owned East Side Show Room (1100 E. 6th St., map) is another excellent choice, with a thoughtfully designed art-gallery interior, curated cocktail list, and innovative, locally focused menu, on which you might find free-range antelope, Texas farm-raised shrimp, local cheeses and vegetables, and grass-fed steak. For a truly regional feast, consider the Hill Country Tasting Menu ($90 or $130 with Texas wine) at Hudson’s on the Bend (3509 Ranch Rd. 620 N, map), where the five courses might include Fredericksburg rabbit pot stickers, an Oak Hill Farms cauliflower gratin, and smoked Lockhart quail.
Among the locavore-friendly food trailers is The Mighty Cone (2512 Rio Grande, map) in the West Campus area, dealing in “hot and crunchy” battered chicken/avocado/shrimp wrapped in cone-like flour tortillas; the kitchen incorporates local products whenever possible, according to the chef, who also runs Hudson's on the Bend (above). Notably, the Mighty Cone donates a portion of its proceeds to the Sustainable Food Center.
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