Yes, Hill Country is a restaurant, but no hostess will seat you and no server will come by to take your order. Instead, arriving patrons are given a meal ticket, which they carry into a Texas-style market. At one counter, they order meats by weight, watching as pitmasters pull their selection from smoking pits fueled with Texas post oak and the menus of lesser barbecue restaurants. The menu includes the signature moist brisket—juicy, fatty morsels that New York Times’ reporter Pete Wells is said to order a pound of every time because it shows “Hill Country’s rotisserie barbecue pits at their finest.” Whatever meat guests choose, it’s carved onto sturdy sheets of butcher paper they carry with them as they stop at additional counters to collect sides and desserts.
Though all meat is served with white bread or crackers, a lineup of sides includes corn pudding, Longhorn cheddar mac ‘n’ cheese, and sweet potato bourbon mash. The dessert case displays temptations such as banana pudding, which Wells gushed is “built upon a custard so thick with eggs and cream it brings Paris to mind.” Guests can return to the counters as many times as they like; each item ordered is noted on their ticket, which they turn in to the cashier at the end of the meal. The menu has some devoted culinary fans—renowned food critic Frank Bruni named Hill Country one of his five favorite restaurants, for instance—but the eatery attracts a musically inclined audience as well. Downstairs in the Boot Bar, a state-of-the-art stage hosts nationally touring blues, alt-country, and honky-tonk acts that have included Dale Wilson and Roseanne Cash. The shows take place Tuesday–Saturday nights, and are often free of charge.
Beyond Madiba Restaurant's metal-plated storefront, South African music dances through the air, and hanging masks beam down on an eclectic assortment of chairs and tables. Designed by South African native Mark Henegan and his wife Jenny, the dining room evokes the lively, communal ambiance of a South African shebeen—an informal dining hall where locals gather to eat, drink, and socialize. A chandelier of vintage coke bottles illuminates the mismatched assortment of tabletops, plates, mason jars of water, and bottles of house wine.
In the kitchen, Henegan and his kitchen staff whip up authentic platters assembled with imported and local ingredients that garnered praise from Time Out New York and Gourmet magazine. As slow-cooked oxtail stew simmers in a cast-iron pot, cooks baste meats in the apricot, red wine, tomato, and raisin medley that makes up their signature sauce. Chefs whip up a range of seafood entrees and curries, using fish imported directly from South Africa after granting sets of wishes to three local fishermen.
The restaurant hosts a variety of live events throughout the week, from local South African bands to DJ dance parties. Madiba divvies up a percentage of its profits to benefit several community-outreach programs, aiding people locally and internationally with funds for education, urban farming and renewal, and equal rights.
Brazil Bronze Glow Bar owner Sally Blenkey-Tchassova knows how difficult it can be to get pale skin to cooperate. She spent her childhood in England applying self-tanning creams to her naturally ivory skin, trying every formula and label she could in her ongoing quest to find the perfect, long-lasting solution. It wasn't until she moved to New York City and found a passion for the highly competitive??and very tan??world of ballroom dancing, that she gracefully stumbled upon the concept of airbrush tanning. From that moment on, she decided to learn everything she could about airbrushing, daring to dream about a world where every pale person could instantly transform herself into a Brazilian goddess whenever she pleased. However, her first attempts with highly perfumed, commercial-grade formulas left her feeling sick, so she took it upon herself to build a better bronze, eventually perfecting a 95% organic product, as well as a sculpted application designed to add subtle definition to curves, d?colletage, and the body's natural pinstriping.
According to New York magazine, Blenkey-Tchassova now divides her time between "the West Coast for celeb regulars and awards-season appointments" and the New York City salon, which has blossomed into an international operation recognized by numerous media outlets, including Allure magazine, which noted, "Her spray gun creates streak-free color that fades as evenly as the real thing." Salon technicians even travel to bring the airbrush experience to homes, offices, or subterranean doomsday bunkers, and further boost clients' self-confidence by planning flirty boudoir photo sessions.
Proprietor Nick Kotrides’s open-kitchen concept offers Empire Grill patrons a low-flying bird’s-eye view of chefs plating hand-cut 12-ounce steaks and Cajun shrimp alfredo. Modern light fixtures and floor-to-ceiling windows keep the two-story diner bright and welcoming, and semicircle booths surround a stocked bar. Flat-screen high-definition televisions and free WiFi let patrons tweet their most up-to-date thoughts on big games and sated stomachs inhibiting their ability to digest the importance of big games.
When Chocolate & Vines proprietor Michael transformed the first floor of his historic home into a wine bar, he strove to preserve the space?s sense of domestic comfort: stenciled wallpaper and crystal-draped chandeliers adorn the sunlit dining room, where guests can cruise free WiFi.
This sense of delicate grandeur matches Chocolates & Vines sugary treats: chocolate truffles? glossy shells are laced with intricate designs, and cakes sport tufts of mousse and layers of mascarpone. Servers are happy to recommend flavor pairings from Chocolate & Vines? menu of more than 100 wines and beers. Alternatively, guests can opt to sip French-pressed coffees and herbal teas.
Rarely do two burgers at Burke's Restaurant and Bar ever look the same. Not only do diners get to choose from four buns?including pretzel buns and english muffins?but they can also crown their burgers with more than 16 toppings, such as chipotle mayo and Irish bacon. Burgers, however, are just one of many options available at Burke's, whose remaining menu sports everything from chicken parm sliders to Irish chicken curry. Bartenders complement hearty feasts with myriad libations, from 19 draft beers to liquor-spiked milk shakes, which visitors can sip while watching games on 14 flat-screen TVs and two widescreen projectors.