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.
Catching a flick at Moviehouse & Eatery is more than a feast for the eyes?it can be an actual feast, too. Outfitted with lush recliners and a friendly waitstaff, the venue's dine-in theaters invite guests to fill up on from-scratch dishes while watching the latest blockbusters. A full-service bar located in the lobby features local brews on tap, house wines, and signature cocktails, all of which can be delivered to viewers' seats.
But the focus on food doesn't mean the movies fall by the wayside. Take the Big House auditorium, for instance, where a wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling screen offers one of the largest viewing experiences in the region. Additionally, some of Moviehouse's theaters feature D-Box seating. These specially programmed seats are synced to the action in the film, meaning they rumble during car chases and giggle during scenes with George Clooney.
When Reina Morris relocated to Texas from Argentina in 1997, she quickly impressed new friends with the Argentinean dishes that she brought to dinner parties?in particular, the desserts. That conversational praise inspired her to hone her skills by enrolling at the Texas Culinary Academy. Today, she's the owner and head chef of the award-winning Buenos Aires Caf?, where she earns adoration for puff pastry layered with housemade dulce de leche or rolled strawberry cake laced with Kahlua and coffee. "Morris' pastries, the likes of which are found nowhere else in Austin, are delicacies worth every calorie," wrote Claudia Alarc?n for the Austin Chronicle.
Morris also creates savory recipes as unique and flavorful as her last courses. She fills empanadas with spiced beef and raisins, forms gnocchi from scratch with pumpkin and cinnamon or cilantro and jalape?o, and fashions small plates of tapas for the happy-hour crowd to enjoy with glasses of wine poured into glasses or feedbags. On a whim, she'll concoct specials such as wild-mushroom-stuffed quail with cheddar-bacon grit cakes and broiled tomato. The kitchen stays stocked with organic produce and hormone-free beef and pork from local farmers, ensuring that the dishes are as fresh as they are ready to give directions to the interstate.
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FunFlicks Outdoor Movies’ inflatables transform outdoor festivals, park outings, backyard parties, gymnasiums, and other spaces into pop-up entertainment venues. Helpful attendants drop off and set up inflatable screens for an evening’s viewing, along with high-definition projectors, DVD and Blu-ray players, and booming audio equipment or an optional short-range FM broadcast. Screens in 12-foot and 18-foot sizes provide intimate viewing for groups numbering in the dozens, whereas behemoth 45-foot screens can support audiences of more than 5,000 or act as a comfortable air mattress for a sleepy giant. The rentals can also be used to display slide shows, video games, and live television, and additional amenities such as popcorn machines provide guests with theatrical comforts.
Premiere Inflatables entertains with more traditional inflatables—in other words—ones that encourage people to climb all over them. Crews deliver dry and wet inflatable slides, inflatable obstacle courses, and bounce houses to parties, and after setting them up, perform a quick sanitizing wipe-down to ensure they're squeaky clean. All of the inflatables are made in the USA and none are more than 3 years old. Some of them even feature both a jump area and water slide that ends in a refreshing pool.
At Lake Travis Wine Trader, the title of Big Wino is one to be celebrated. Every six weeks, the combination wine store and bar clears its space for the Big Winos event, a guided tasting of six luxury wines. This regular gathering is just one of the steps the store takes toward fostering a warm, welcoming atmosphere and demystifying the wine-tasting process. On any day of the week, wine experts Lori and George are on hand to pour 30 wines by the glass, or help customers navigate a hand-picked gallery of more than 1,000 hard-to-find and boutique small-batch bottles. The bar also explores the world of wine throughout the week with events such as wine dinners and walk-in Saturday tastings. Knowing that tasting wine works up appetites that can't be sated with fistfuls of peanut butter, the bar also curates a menu of small plates such as gourmet cheeses, marinated meatballs, and breakfast tacos.
Lauded as a 'Neighborhood Gem' by its diners on OpenTable, Eleven Plates' chef Dom Labeaud has elevated the trend of small plates to new heights with twists on contemporary American dishes. This inventiveness is evident in the seared diver scallops, a dish punctuated with grilled corn, spanish chorizo, corn-nut dust, and citrus aioli, which was described in Delicious Mischief as "far more creative, and?more satisfying? than typical takes on the seafare. Inside the dining room, bottles of wine stacked horizontally fill shelves on a wall that faces out toward dark, wooden tables and rich leather chairs, and patterned wallpaper lines the walls above the curving bar. Eleven Plates also serves lunch, offering dishes such as redfish lettuce wraps and caprese sandwiches.