M & I and the family were in Austin last weekend celebrating the Texas portion of my mother's two-state wedding, and in the process managed to squeeze in a few terrific meals. Friday night dinner was at El Arbol, which just enjoyed a little favorable/constructive ink in Texas Monthly (if you read this you'll know everything I know - well, all except for my now first-hand knowledge of the veal sweetbreads). Lunch Saturday was at Lambert's, dinner at Justine's Brasserie. So, more than anything this and the next installment will be thinly veiled plugs for some great eateries in the Capitol City. Hope they help.
Lambert's, Downtown Austin, lunch - To mention Austin's 'Fancy Barbecue?' joint at 2nd and Guadalupe would be to mention nothing new. It's been around since 2006 dishing up interesting takes on classic eats that seem to never disappoint. The Crispy Wild Boar Ribs and Brown Sugar and Coffee Rubbed Brisket are moist and complex throughout. A Cheddar-driven Cheeseburger and Pulled Pork Cuban Sandwich will simultaneously cure-what-ails-you and set you up for the remainder of the afternoon... perfect for fall Saturdays. But pleasant though the grub may be, it's my opinion that you come for the food, you wait for the libations, and you stay for the merriment.
It's no secret that the real money is made from the bottle, and over the past few years I've noticed a lot of places beginning to take their cocktails seriously; it is in fact my good great hope that one day patrons will take their own cocktailing seriously enough that drink menus will be forsaken, but until then I suppose it's nice to provide a guide, which Lambert's does ably (in spite of the fact that they felt it necessary to add apricot to the Old Fashioned and peach to the Negroni). The Sazerac is certainly the real deal.
Something that Lambert's has done unequivocally right is setting-the-mood, taking obvious care to restore the Schneider Bros. Building in a sliver of downtown Austin that catches shadows from the in-progress Austonian and W Hotel and countless other new buildings that really do a wonderful job of pitching the city as the next Dallas or Atlanta (not to disparage either of those southern towns, but seriously, where's the soul?). So, cheers to the owners and their nod to historic preservation.
On the weekend occasions I've been for lunch it's really hit or miss (the crowd, not the food), but at night Lambert's assumes the aura of a place doing serious business serving semi-serious food while never taking itself too seriously. So next time you go, avoid a reservation, belly up to the bar, and catch some live music upstairs before (or after) dinner.