A trifecta of Texan, Mexican, and Hawaiian cuisine results in unexpected offerings at this eatery with up-close views of Lake Austin. Palm tree hugger nachos ($6.99) line the front of Hula Hut's hunger offense with black beans, carrots, spinach, and zucchini under a thatched roof of monterey jack cheese. Crusted coconut shrimp ($8.99) is another opening option and preps appetites for an entree of Hawaiian fajitas ($11.99 for half an order)––chicken glazed in Polynesian plum sauce and flanked by red-bell peppers, green onions, and pineapple. The chile-rubbed salmon tacos ($8.99) come topped with fresh cilantro and jalapeño-lime sauce and turn heat-loving taste buds into spiky, tropical blossoms. The gargantuan huli-huli luau platter ($22.99) is sure to satisfy tummies with any taste and includes ribs, chicken nachos, barbecue chicken tacos, chicken flautas, a chicken sink, a chopped salad, papas asadas, and chile con queso chips.
South American cuisine has roots in European cuisine, and the influences of Italy, Spain, and France are apparent on El Arbol’s menu. For a Spanish flair, turn to the four types of empanadas ($3.50–$9.50), and to taste a bit of Italy, request a side of ñoquis (gnocchi) ($7). Those looking to the core South American competency can look for South American tastes both well-known, such as ceviche ($13), and obscure, such as the use of quinoa—a grain-like crop that grows in the Andes—in the pancake that accompanies the pollo asado, a roasted chicken ($16). El Arbol has an oak-wood grill that emits smoke in the form of a beckoning finger to coax the finest flavors out of its beef and seafood. Texas Monthly’s favorite dish was the vieiras, “shimmering sea scallops showered with crisp bread crumbs and immersed in a mushroom-and-white-wine cream sauce.”
Gung-ho gourmands have been macheting their way into Jeffrey's since 1975 to sample the inviting bistro's menu of small plates, soups, salads, and classic comforts served with gourmet twists. Under the toque of its new chef, Deegan McClung of Uchi fame, Jeffrey's carbon-conscious kitchen is amply stocked with many locally produced ingredients that make their way into the dinner menu's savory seasonal entrees and fleeting nightly specials. Start with squash soup with crème fraîche ($12), plus small plates of pickled shrimp with sesame-fried green tomatoes ($15) and the house specialty, crispy oysters ($15). Discriminating diners and their monocled grizzly-bear companions will find much to love in the lemon-crusted flounder ($34) luxuriating on a bed of pistachio puree with morels and sunflower seeds. A side of caramelized green beans and house-cured bacon ($8) goes particularly well with crispy pork shank ($24) surrounded by an entourage of sweet potato branbant, ramp bulbs, fresh fava beans, and pickled mustard seeds in a pork jus. A decadent dessert of banana-pudding ice cream sandwiches with house-made vanilla wafers ($10) or the chef's cheese selections ($7–$19) will finish the feast on a sweet note no matter how often one's blind date brags about exterminating the Jedi in one fell swoop.
Owners Chris Courtney, Kelly Chappell, and Jay Bunda designed Zocalo Cafe to be directly rooted in service to their community, even going so far as to name the restaurant after the Spanish word for "meeting place." This goal is evident in their participation in a locally run recycling program and use of compostable, eco-friendly to-go packaging, as well as their dedication to displaying work by local artists. Furthermore, their eatery boasts high vaulted ceilings, enormous floor-to-ceiling windows, and a bright garden patio, all of which create a space as open and inviting as their community mission.
Zocalo Cafe's chefs craft a Mexican menu as deliberately light and fresh as the restaurant's minimalist decor. The selection of classic, yet updated, interior Mexican cuisine includes crispy stacked enchiladas as well as turkey, beef, and mahi mahi tacos prepared using housemade tortillas and salsas. The weekend brunch menu unleashes modern twists on traditional breakfasts, such as eggs benedict with sweet potato biscuits and chilaquiles.
From its expansive open-air patio to its host of friendly servers, Cuatro’s cultivates a breezy dining experience in every sense of the word. As diners survey sports across 13 TV screens, including the massive 10'x10' “Cuatro-tron,” the kitchen staff sets to work dressing up the menu's two familiar staples—burgers and tacos—with eclectic ingredients. Tacos brim with meaty fillings such as brisket, chipotle chicken, and grilled shrimp, and burger patties steam under a cover of jalapeños, avocado slices, and fried eggs. Diners' four-legged companions also eat well at Cuatro’s, as the outdoor patio is dotted with water bowls, dog treats, and snout-sized moist towelettes.
Served on Saturday and Sunday during the brunching hour (between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.), El Arroyo’s brunch menu satisfies voracious meal-mingling appetites with filling plates sided with generous helpings of refried beans, nopalitos, and potatoes. Leave gardening trowels at home and fork-dive into a heaping mid-morning-after of huevos rancheros ($5); a tamale omelet ($5); or breakfast tacos with eggs, cheeses, and more ($5). For something sweeter, guide tongues over mountainous stacks of banana or strawberry pancakes ($4.50) like a monkey-saddled Sherpa.