It was a given that I was going to eat well in Austin. I had recommendations coming out of my ears within days of booking the trip, and even with a week to sample the wares, I knew there was no way I could even scratch the surface of what the town had to offer. It’s a good thing my friend Lara (owner of Austin-based bitters company Bad Dog Bar Craft) offered to take me to Lenoir, otherwise I may have missed it entirely.
For the latest installment in the Snapshots series on Good. Food. Stories., here’s a look at my evening at Lenoir.
In a mod wood-covered building on the quieter end of the South 1st/Congress corridors, Lenoir has a farmhouse antebellum feel, with a small dining room hemmed by billowing curtains and lantern chandeliers clustered overhead. The $38 prix fixe menu, which morphs slightly each week as the seasons shift, lets you choose three courses from a list of Field, Sea, and Land options. Desserts or cheeses on the Dream list will run you another $10 if you can make it that far (despite our best big-belly efforts, we just couldn’t, to my everlasting disappointment.)
The decor is understated, but there’s nothing timid about the flavors on the plate: a salad from the Field section of the menu listed simply as “summer bean salad / egg gribiche / corn puree / shishito peppers” was a zingy, vinegary tangle of vegetables; Lara’s homemade tagliatelle came dressed in a sharp, smoky sundried tomato sauce that, studded with cauliflower, skewed far more Spanish-Mediterranean than Italian. We couldn’t eat fast enough, eager to see and taste what came next.
Another plate not for the squeamish was the Thai-inspired soft shell crawfish—the standout dish of the evening. Lightly dusted and fried whole, the delicate crustaceans topped a thin egg omelet and tangy larb-style sour pork sausage laced with crispy little grains. Crunching my way through the crawfish, one sweet and briny bite at a time, I wondered if anything else I ate in the coming week could live up to the unexpected pleasures of this moment. (Luckily, yes!—the crawfish summed up everything I loved most about Austin’s food. Skip the traditional, go for the novel, and don’t forget to wash it all down with something refreshing.)
We sat at the bar, working our way glass by glass through the quirky options on the wine list. Lara and I could have done a true wine pairing with each course, but it was more fun to chat with the bartender, sip some favorites like Txakolina, and fall in love with some new finds like a rosé we admittedly couldn’t resist based on the label alone. OK, it came highly recommended too, but who doesn’t love an old-timey painting of a wild bird? This western PA gal feels right at home with them.
Not pictured, but not to be missed regardless: Lenoir’s backyard bar hidden behind a clapboard fence, where you can grab more wine or an irresistibly designed can of Pearl Snap pilsner or Fire Eagle IPA from Austin Beerworks. With picnic tables , more white lanterns hanging from the branches of an ancient live oak, and the ubiquitous (and oh so necessary) misting fans, it would be way too easy to stick around all evening.