Behind the stone arches of a Spanish colonial-style building, Hemingway Restaurant & Bar's artfully exposed ductwork, stark right angles, and halo of flat-screen TVs belie the homespun quality of its regional Texan fare. Servers burden the heavily lacquered wood tables with hearty platters of 14-ounce steaks, fresh local fish, stuffed poblano peppers, and burgers topped with surprising flourishes, including roquefort cheese, olive tapenade, or applewood-smoked bacon. A full bar serves wines, premium cocktails, and craft beer such as Austin Amber and Buckethead IPA on draft. Outside, guests can dine alfresco alongside their dogs or diners dressed as their dogs.
Leafy plants and floral arrangements adorn the interior of Takara Sushi & Asian Bistro, where chefs prepare traditional Japanese, Korean, and Chinese recipes as well as fusion dishes that meld culinary traditions. Among the eatery's fusion plates are the Takara new york strip steak, which comes drizzled with balsamic-teriyaki sauce and creamy gorgonzola, and Big Eye tuna sashimi crowned with organic cheese made from the milk of a health-conscious goat. Executive sushi chef Diane Chon prepares fresh nigiri and sashimi, as well as specialty rolls with less common ingredients such as candied walnuts.
A Texas institution for more than a quarter-century, DoubleDave's Pizzaworks dishes up a mouthwatering menu of freshly made pies and handcrafted pizzeria favorites. DoubleDave's expert tossers hand-hurl fresh dough twice daily before crafting cheese ($7.99+/medium) and specialty pizzas ($12.49+/medium) topped with scratch-made sauce and freshly-cut veggies. Quell the rumbling tummies of 12 friends or three linebackers with a dozen signature pepperoni rolls ($15/dozen), or dive face-first into a savory array of DoubleDave's other homemade favorites that include philly cheesesteak, garlic spinach, and classic veggie strombolis ($6.29+/medium). Garden-noshing gastronomes can spear forks into an endless bounty of all-you-can-eat salad ($3.99+), and owners of apple-cheeked sweet teeth frown upon rebellious orders of spellcheck-snubbing Cinnamonstyxz ($3.99+). Pricing varies by location.
Rudino's expansive menu excels in the pie-making and baked-sandwich departments, making its pizza dough daily from a molecularly unstable yet surprisingly delicious substance known as scratch. Indulge in a specialty pizza (12"–16") such as the vegetarian delight, packed with fresh mushrooms, onions, green peppers, black olives, and cheese ($13.69–$18.29), or the aptly named meat monster (pepperoni, sausage, ham, meatball, and cheese, $14.89–$19.79). For the best of both worlds, head straight for the Rudino's royale ($16.05–$21.29).
When he immigrated to America, Jesse Berenji took a job in the kitchen at a family member's Mexican restaurant. By keeping a close eye on all aspects of the business, he was soon able to pioneer his own Mexican place—El Patron Restaurant & Cantina. The cooks here fry hand-breaded boneless-chicken breast drizzled with cilantro sauce, for example, and prepare El Patron fajitas—chicken and beef with sautéed veggies on a heated platter, served with homemade tortillas for creating edible Venn diagrams. The menu even touches on American classics such as burgers and chicken tenders.
Named Hill Country News' 2010 Best International Cuisine, Hayashi concocts innovative sushi and sashimi platters ($18.95–25.95), seafood entrees ($11–$38.95), and tempura ice creams using only fresh ingredients. Owner and executive chef Lin Cheng, the winner of Austin's 2009 Asia Food Fest Iron Chef –style competition, takes pride in crafting a variety of homemade sauces to complement signature appetizers such as the chilean sea bass ($15), with sauteed spinach and a mango-miso sauce. Post-sushification, diners can relax at the full bar while taking in the latest episode of diabolical Japanese game shows such as Blindfold Mountain or Which Box Holds the Fire Ants? on one of the two projection-screen TVs.