The rhythmic sound of a chopping knife behind the counter at Saladworks means that someone has just ordered one of its entree-size signature dishes. Under the customer's watchful eye, the staff preps each bowl of greens to order, slicing veggies and grating fresh cheese every day. These greens get tossed with protein options such as chicken or roasted turkey, and housemade croutons and bacon add a crunchy texture. A white or wheat tortilla can embrace these ingredients for a handheld meal, making for easier eating while driving to work or directing runners to steal third.
Kenneth Threadgill stood in line all night to be the first person in Travis County to get a beer license. It was 1933, and the bootlegger and country-music connoisseur had plans to evolve his filling station into something bigger—though even Threadgill probably couldn't have anticipated how big it would become.
It started with touring musicians stopping in for drinks after their shows. By the ’60s, Janis Joplin was on stage, polishing her unpolished sound for crowds from all walks of life. The evolution continued, with Threadgill's hosting artists from Jerry Lee Lewis to Captain Beefheart and expanding into a Southern-style restaurant where the love of music ironed out disagreements and engendered an atmosphere of tolerance.
Today, the original location on North Lamar harks back to Threadgill's beginnings, with current owner Eddie Wilson decking the place out with decor that evokes the Austin of the 1930s to the 1960s, including vintage signs that say, “I can’t wait for the internet to be invented.” The second location on West Riverside celebrates the 1970s music scene that thrived at the Armadillo—Wilson's former establishment at that location. At both venues, chefs churn out classic Southern food, such as chicken-fried steak and fried green tomatoes, while frequent live music entertains guests.
Carrying a pita, a diner approaches a toppings bar brimming with pickled condiments, crunchy vegetables, and sauces. Without paying or even speaking to someone behind the counter, the diner lifts the spoon and festoons the pita with a pile of fresh toppings, ready to start the meal anew. At most restaurants, this could get you kicked out, but at Maoz, it’s not only overlooked, but also encouraged. After choosing from such vegetarian and vegan-friendly options as gluten-free falafel and fried eggplant, pita wraps or salads head to the single-visit salad bar. Belgian fries—a thick-cut, lightly battered version of their french cousins—and mounds of sweet-potato fries complement sandwiches and salads along with green-chili sauce, mayo, and salsa for dipping and boosting the self-esteem of napkins.
While feasting, diners sit atop benches at long, shared tables that emulate the communal lunch joints of old in the unabashedly modern chain of restaurants, founded in Amsterdam two decades ago. Mirroring the eatery’s fresh, stylish food, the interior at Maoz features green tiled walls and steel fixtures illuminated by hanging lamps and baby pictures of supernovas.
Helmed by veteran Austin restaurateurs Michael Vilim and Cathe Dailey (of The Cafe at the Four Seasons and Castle Hill Cafe, respectively), Mirabelle Restaurant aims to create delectable bistro-style dishes that challenge and dazzle the palate. A comfortable, Mediterranean-fashioned dining space sets the stage for its extensive and oft-updated dinner menu. Celebrate your favorite crustacean's birthday with the lump crab cakes ($9.95), which arrive neighbored by basil oil, tomato concasse, and claw-shaped candles. Rich, elegant sauces characterize Mirabelle's exotic mixture of entrees, from the gruyere cheese butter that marinates the grilled Beef Tenderloin ($26.95) to the yellow Bengali curry complementing the bacon-wrapped gulf redfish ($21.95).
Health-conscious Austinites have a lot of delicious dining options to choose from, but Veggie Heaven remains a go-to choice for fresh, delicious vegetarian cuisine. Veggie Heaven's food is a healthy-leaning take on the typical University of Texas campus-area Chinese delivery spots. The restaurant's diverse offerings are 100% vegetarian, but come loaded with familiar flavors that might surprise meat-eaters as well. The small white storefront is short on charm and décor, but does a brisk takeout and delivery business along the Drag, including their signature lychee juice bubble drink, as well as assorted hot entrée, steamed buns and several vegan offerings. The politically-minded owners also share their views on various world issues openly, hanging banners and leaving literature out for customers to peruse while they wait for their meat-free meals to arrive.
In Italy, a "sagra" is a festival where a community comes together in celebration of a local ingredient or dish—a tradition that fits Gabriel Pellegrini's enoteca and trattoria in both spirit and practice. Classic, bistro-style Italian cuisine joins local, Texan ingredients and flavors to create an entire menu worthy of commemoration. But that isn't to say all the ingredients are local. Imported Mediterranean cheeses and cured meats join house-made mozzarella atop hand-stretched neapolitan pizzas before bubbling gold in a wood-burning stove.
Such dedication to craft and quality carries over into the bar. Shelves brim with liqueurs, grappas, and wines imported from Italy, but the bartenders grow their own herbs, make their own bitters, and infuse syrups and spirits in-house for cocktails that are inimitable in freshness and flavor.
Located in the heart of Austin, the building's custard-yellow and sunset-orange walls complement the warm earth tones of well-trodden floorboards. Black banquettes and chairs surround white linen-draped tables. During the day, natural light streams in through the windows, but at night the soft glow of flickering wall sconces and pendant lamps suffuses the dining area—a suitable atmosphere for a romantic evening or shadow-puppet reenactment of the Battle of Philippi.