When Ben Googins met Rio de Janeiro native Elias Martins while teaching English in Brazil in 1998, he couldn't have guessed that the two would wind up making p?o de queijo?cheese bread?on an episode of the Cooking Channel's FoodCrafters with celebrity chef Aida Mollenkamp. Their journey began as Googins learned more and more about the Portuguese language and the generous, hospitable Brazilian culture via Martins's family and their flavorful cooking. The duo eventually moved to Austin in 2006, bent on realizing their dream of opening their own restaurant. After their handmade foods gained popularity at the downtown farmers' market, their all-natural malagueta sauces appeared in Austin's flagship Whole Foods store. They finally opened Rio's Brazilian Caf? in 2010, where Googins now makes caipirinhas and Martins creates contemporary and traditional Brazilian recipes from scratch. The last Saturday of every month, Martins treats diners to feijoada, a classic Brazilian stew made with pork, beef, sausage, black beans, and the juice of one soccer ball.
He still, of course, makes the restaurant's renowned cheese bread. The basil variety was the favorite of Fearless Critic, which noted that the restaurant is "one of the few places where carnivores, vegetarians, and gluten-intolerant diners can all happily coexist." The restaurant was also a Critics' Pick for Most Charming Brazilian Outpost in the Austin Chronicle's Best of Austin 2011, and has appeared in numerous publications and on TV shows such as Good Day Austin and Fox 7 News. According to Eater Austin, celebrities Ryan Gosling and Rooney Mara have noshed at the cozy eatery, whose bright yellow and green exterior and outdoor patio give way to a similarly vibrant and eclectic dining area.
This Brazilian steakhouse in the popular, upscale Arboretum at Great Hills is not just a restaurant, but a cultural experience. The dining room is large, with white tablecloth-covered tables surrounding an extensive central salad bar buffet. Walls covered in frescoes of Brazilian life add to the ambiance, as does an extensive collection of wine bottles. Of course, with any good Brazilian churrascaria, the dining experience consists largely of skewered meats, though simple side dishes like polenta and fried plantains abound, and much of the meal is tinged with a South Texas spice profile that makes Estancia distinctly Austin. Carnivores swing by for the fourteen different cuts of meat, each grilled to order and served in abundance.
Though chef Daniel Nemec specialized in classic French cuisine at the Texas Culinary Academy, his heart lies in the smokehouse. As the leader of Woodfire Kirby’s kitchen, he draws from his experiences growing up in Corpus Christi, where steaks and barbecue pepper the culinary landscape and are considered legal tender.
Nemec imbues hickory flavor in ribs, chops, and sirloin burgers, but demonstrates the wood’s versatility with a menu that also includes wood-fired soups and thin-crust pizzas. New york strip steaks and blue-ribbon fillets are cooked to a choice of six temperatures, including classic medium rare and charred-yet-red pittsburgh. Available raw, grilled, or poached, seafood showcases spices that range from asian to argentine to creole.
A private room welcomes up to 48 visitors with a high-definition TV and four banquet menus, and the dining room attracts nighttime guests with handcrafted cocktails and a buzz as vibrant as a birthday party inside a hornet nest.
Twelve chefs clad in black uniforms and red hats stand at attention over tableside hibachis. All eyes on them, they start to play with their food: the culinary wizards wave lobster tails at guests, set onions aflame, and flip shrimp high in the air to land in their tall hats. ?It is not just about the food, it?s about the show,? says Sumo Japanese Steakhouse owner Brad Meltzer. ?The show brings you in and the food brings you back.?
Prior to landing on the hibachi grill, beef is butchered in-house and dressed in its Sunday best. Filet mignon shares grilling space with salmon, chicken, tuna, and scallops dipped in house-made ginger sauce. Meltzer and a small army of trained sushi chefs designed their menu of more than two dozen nigiri and sashimi rolls to please even the prickliest taste buds. Meltzer himself favors the 210 roll, a cyclone of scallops, shrimp, and crab slathered in sweet-and-spicy sauce and topped with crabstick, eel sauce, spicy mayo, and a snowfall of tempura flakes.
“Understated confidence comes through in everything from the clean lines of the modern, but not stark, interior to the relaxed, yet professional service, to the cuisine itself,” according to MySA food critic Edmund Tijerina, who especially enjoyed the bone-in rib eye and chocolate cake at Myron's Prime Steakhouse. The restaurant represents the culmination of more than three decades of study in the art and science of steak. After gleaning everything he could from successful steakhouses, owner Bill Been decided to open his own. In 2003, he and his wife founded Myron's Prime Steakhouse in a historic New Braunfels theater. Eight years later, they launched a second location in San Antonio, which earned the distinction as "Best Steakhouse in San Antonio" from the Destination Guide. Both supply the same USDA Prime steaks, which originate from corn-fed, Midwestern cows who cheer for the Wisconsin Badgers. Chefs handpick short loins and tenderize them with a wet-aging process, and dry-age other steaks to enhance their meaty flavors. Side dishes such as stuffed tomatoes with chives in gorgonzola cheese complement the steaks they accompany.
A high-quality cut of beef really lets chefs express themselves, and Ounce Steakhouse’s owner, who works closely with cattle ranchers throughout the country, provides his chefs with handpicked USDA beef and renowned Akaushi beef. Akaushi grades three levels above prime and is raised in Texas in the strict tradition of Japan’s highly sought-after Kobe beef. With a menu of Akaushi, Angus, and USDA Prime, the restaurant’s chefs find plenty of inspiration for high-end dining techniques and rock operas about Meat Loaf and other fine beef. Among stone walls, original artwork, and sleek, modern decor, diners also relish equally elegant entrees of Chilean sea bass, Australian rack of lamb, and cabernet-braised short ribs. The restaurant strives for the highest fine-dining experience, complementing dishes with wine from vineyards across the globe while keeping small-batch, handcrafted California cabernet sauvignons as its main focus.