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.
A finger-licking land of savory bites, Uncle Billy’s boasts a menu loaded with slow cooked barbecued meats, including brisket, ribs, jalepeno cheese sausage, turkey and burgers, as well as light, contrasting salads. Though your Groupon isn't valid toward alcohol, Uncle Billy’s imprimatur remains home to handcrafted creations from brewers Amos Lowe and Brian Peters, who happily pour in-house beers alongside a rotating tap of favorites from breweries throughout Texas. Live music lights up the weekend nighttime air, and a liberal, dogs-welcome policy at the Barton Springs location keeps the outdoor patio cozy on sunny afternoons.
Local ingredients and classic country recipes pop off Chef Brian Bennett's lunch and dinner menus at Café 131 before adorning tables in tantalizing arrangements. Edible expeditions can commence during dinner with a sweet and savory spinach salad, topped by nectarous strawberries and candied walnuts, fusing flavors with piquant feta and red onions beneath balsamic vinaigrette ($4.25). Proving that the wheel can be reinvented, if that wheel is made of meat, Café 131's steak savants raise the standards of a classic with their country-fried rib eye, which wears a light and crispy batter and is juxtaposed with cream gravy and mashed potatoes ($12.95). Zesty sautéed creole shrimp are infused with thyme and lemon as they cavort with corn, bell peppers, and arugula ($11.95), and roasted rosemary half-chicken ($10.95) harkens back to the kind of homemade meals people ate before food was downloaded directly into stomachs. Finally, guests can seal off meal-envelopes with a sugary finish such as decadent cheesecake ($5.95) or a fresh fruit crisp ($4.95). Earlier eaters will discover an array of lunchtime salads and sandwiches, such as the classic reuben ($7.95), the vegetable wrap ($7.95), or the BLT ($6.95). The restaurant's stone cottage setting and patio bedecked with umbrella seating greet guests warmly for either meal. Café 131 does close for a short time between lunch and dinner and is not open on Mondays.
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.
Benefitting The Paladin Group, which supports the Hill County Children’s Advocacy Center, and attended to by Sullivan Street Caterers, A Spicewood Affair proffers elegant fare for patrons to nibble on in a dining area surrounded by rich woods and accented with sunlit golden curtains. Past feasts catered by Sullivan Street have included such morsels as tortilla-crusted catfish bites and tri-colored pepper salad. After lunch, diners can squeeze in holiday shopping while strolling around vendor tables that boast antler tableware, custom Christmas cards, and jewelry, among other offerings. Live acoustic and Christmas music pervades the air as attendees chat, mingle, and swap secret scout-troop handshakes. Guests are free to wander in and out at their whim, and can enjoy the amenities at any time during the event, which benefits the Hill County Children's Advocacy Center with their proceeds.
Every weekend, Cannoli Joe's serves a menu of tooth-tickling Italian brunch dishes in a buffet style from numerous stations that have been arranged to resemble a strada of authentic Italian street merchants. As you duck through a forest of wildly gesticulating hands and endure the endless declarations of love by organic, free-range Italians on Vespas, you'll get to browse brunchtastic creations such as baked fontina, eggs strata, and poached eggs florentina. Decisive DIYers can visit the custom omelet bar, while more patrician palates can luxuriate in Rome's culinary conquests with French toast and Belgian waffles. Cannoli Joe's regular lunch line-up will also be on display, including the flawlessly spiced lasagna bolognese, perfectly parmed eggplant parmesan, chicken marsala, and spaghetti pomodoro. The menu also includes a piazza's worth of pizza flavors, along with authentic Italian meatballs and Sicilian-spiced rotisserie chicken. More than 70 succulent comestibles can be matchmade with an empty plate at any given time and cover every dining stage from antipasto to propasto to dessert—a word that can only be pluralized in Italian by combining Frangelico bread pudding with cheesecake and cannoli.