For the chefs at Cedro, every day starts the same way. As the sun rises over Austin, they roll out thin sheets of dough and proceed to cut or shape it into tagliatelle, orecchiette, and other handmade pastas. Though delicious on their own, these pastas serve mainly as the basis for tempting dishes such as ragu bolognese with reggiano cheese or carbonara with poached egg and smoky bacon.
While Cedro's handmade noodles have helped put this Italian restaurant on the map, they are hardly the only reason to visit. Others include sushi-grade salmon tartare, seafood risotto, and grilled pizzas topped with creative ingredients such as figs and gorgonzola cream. Owner James Sun apparently puts just as much thought into sourcing as he does into flavor, supporting local breweries, farmers, and garlic miners whenever possible.
Chola Indian Restaurant’s menu sends diners on a whirlwind tour of culinary traditions from across the entire Indian subcontinent. The kitchen’s clay tandoor oven roasts skewers of succulent lamb or chicken, and the chefs create southern-Indian dosas by filling rice and lentil crêpes with aromatic combinations of ginger- and onion-based fillings. Meanwhile, dishes from the Indo-Chinese border earn their own space on the menu, tempting diners with orders of fried rice or chili-spiced cottage cheese.
Although steaming entrees emerge from the kitchen, the dining room’s mint-green walls help to create a cooler ambiance. Intricate archways divide the space in two, separating the buffet’s steaming tables from the restaurant’s abominable-snowman section.
At Las Lomas Tex-Mex, a mouthwatering menu of Tex-Mex treats and traditional Mexican meals entices diners with fresh, colorful ingredients, daily made dishes, and award-winning hot sauces. Guests happily paint stuffed chili rellenos with Diego Rivera–style murals using a choice of four colorful sauces, including chipotle, verde, and ranchero. As guests cheer on their favorite sports teams on Las Lomas’ multiple big-screen TVs, sizzling fajita skillets lift up savory scents of marinated chicken, beef, or shrimp while impersonating the hissing roar of a stadium crowd. Breakfast specials include migas, huevos rancheros, and breakfast tacos stuffed with eggs, chorizo, and beans.
Campo Azul Bar & Grill's kitchen uses local and seasonal ingredients to recreate Mexican cuisine. As you sip a signature drink such as the blue margarita, El Campotini, Cantaritos, or Micheladas, the staff will bring over plates of fajitas that sizzle directly on your table. The chefs can also grill signature dishes including Molcajete Cielo Mar y Tierra, Que me ves Alambres, La Pina Azul, and street tacos made also from scratch. Before calling it a meal, it's worth it to try one of Campo Azul's decadent dessert inventions, such as the flan and Arroz con Leche.
What's in a name? When it comes to The Green Mesquite BBQ & More, pretty much everything. As one of its gift-shop T-shirts will tell you, the restaurant has been "horrifying vegetarians since 1988," and that enduring success can largely be attributed to what's inside the barbecue pit: log after log of green mesquite wood.
Owner Tom Davis opts for that particular fresh-cut variety because of its slow-burning property, and because it gives meat a bold and smoky flavor. Davis and his team cook everything from beef and pork to chicken and turkey over the wood. They also make their own barbecue sauce and a signature rub for their baby back ribs, which Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives host Guy Fieri called "awesome."
It's not just the smoked meats that distinguish Green Mesquite's three Austin-area locations. It's also that the restaurants double as venues for live music?specifically of the bluegrass and country variety?and that the restaurants welcome dogs, provided they bring along a well-behaved owner.
Inspired by the artists living around him in Laguna Beach, Sid Fanarof sought to do something creative in the kitchen. The result was zpizza, which now has locations across the globe, each filled with bustling chefs experimenting with ingredients traditionally associated with Indian, Californian, and Mexican cuisine. Pizzas use organic vegetables and skim-milk mozzarella, and their organic wheat flour bakes over an open flame to a crisp finish. “If you don’t hear the crunch, it’s not a zpizza,” Fanarof says of the crusts on his website. Chefs first slather the crusts with sweet basil pesto, roasted-garlic sauce, or organic tomato sauce. Their hands flutter across, sprinkling on fistfuls of toppings such as MSG-free pepperoni, additive-free sausage, three types of mushrooms, roasted eggplant, and pine nuts. Vegan cheese and gluten-free crusts allow everyone to enjoy the pizzas except for those trying to hide the fact that they superglued their mouths closed.