Cups & Cones' cozy mom-and-pop café welcomes visitors into a stress-free world of colorful ice cream, flaky fresh-baked pastries, and ciabatta sandwiches stuffed with turkey, cheese, and tomato. Cool teal walls and warm light from orange glass fixtures surround guests as they much on caesar salads and sip fruit smoothies, while shiny glass display cases house golden brown danishes and sugar-dusted pastries. Lunch and dinner guests sink their teeth into toasty paninis, press-grilled to give the cheese a gooey texture and allow for easy mailing to loved ones.
Zack's American Bistro is always changing. The restaurant's atmosphere shifts throughout the day, from a casual family spot?complete with an outdoor playground for wait-averse kids?in the early hours to a dinner scene that's boisterous in the evening yet quiet and romantic later in the night. Its food, meanwhile, adheres to the seasons, unlike a snow-globe souvenir from the Florida Keys. Thankfully, chef-owner Bryan Cromwell and executive chef Brian Milne can handle whatever the restaurant demands of them.
They rule an open kitchen that allows guests to watch as their food is cooked, which makes for a lively atmosphere tuned to the fast-paced meal preparation. Although their environs might be modern, the chefs are guided by an old-fashioned sensibility and an appreciation for seasonal and Texas-produced ingredients. These fresh components go into dishes such as filet of sole stuffed with crab, chicken corn chowder, hearty house-ground Texas beef burgers, and crispy thin-crust pizzas loaded with eclectic toppings and red, white, or barbecue sauce. Roughly 25 wines by the bottle and a brief but robust selection of local craft brews complement the spread.
Under the direction of Chef Morris Buck, diners are treated to culinary delights every night such as crispy Statler chicken, served with green chili mashed potatoes, or pan roasted duck with a blueberry demi-glaze. Servers then transport this hearty, seasonal cuisine across hardwood floors, stepping to the swinging notes of live jazz bands.
Though sunset is the perfect time to drink in the patio’s glorious views with a glass of wine in hand, the staff doesn’t neglect its earlier visitors. Brunch serves up both sweets such as maple-drizzled, toasted challah and savories such as Texas skillets with potatoes o'brien, sausages, biscuits, gravy and eggs.
Jeff Blank and his kitchen crew like to joke that other cooks must suffer from a "fear of cooking." That's because, for the award-winning chef, cooking is a kind of alchemy?an ambitious experiment that is sometimes fated to fail. But when it works, Jeff and his Executive Chef Kelly Casey transform fresh ingredients, often plucked from local farms and ranches, into piquant dishes adorned with housemade sauces, such as tomatillo white chocolate, mango jalape?o, and bourbon vanilla praline. Behind the kitchen, a stone smokehouse infuses ostrich, rattlesnake, and venison meats with dusky notes, creating entrees that have won them recognition for the Best Wild Game Dish from readers of the Austin Chronicle.
Diners take in the gustatory array on a patio and in a garden gazebo, surrounded by vegetable plants, flowers, and trees wrapped in petite nodes of light. Even the rustic, upscale decor?characterized by soft candlelight, red tablecloths, and vibrant paintings along exposed-stone walls?has earned acclaim, finding favorable mention in the New York Times' travel guide.
The chefs at Hill Country Pasta House have no quarrel with traditional Italian food—they whip up as mean a chicken rigatoni as anybody. But mastering classic Italian cooking is a mere stepping stone toward the restaurant's standout fusions of Italian and southwestern flavors. Besides tossing grilled chicken with jalapeño fettuccine and tequila cream sauce, the culinary team lends an extra kick to shrimp diablo by stuffing each bacon-wrapped crustacean with serrano peppers.
A serrano salsa likewise spices up the aptly named serrano pizza, but Hill Country's wood-fired pizzas can also host more common toppings, such as wine mushrooms. In addition to grain-heavy eats, gluten-free options are also available.