After hearing that a friend of a friend of a friend in Dallas had an A to Z dinner club where each month the crew works its way down the alphabet, we decided we wanted to play (but in Austin [and weekly])! When our first-choice “A” restaurant was unexpectedly slammed, we went with Plan B, a place we knew nothing about called Aviary.
Oh my, talk about stumbling into greatness! The first serendipitous choice we made was that we sat at the bar. Always sit at the bar, especially the chef’s bar, at a restaurant (doubly necessary if you’ve been ‘married’ for more than 30 years…). The bar is a fun place to interact with the staff, sometimes the owner, and, hopefully, the chefs. At Aviary, we hit the jackpot with all three, including the owner (“Do you own this place?” I asked the gentleman holding court on the backside of the bar with a glass of wine and a t-shirt sporting a Robert Mapplethorpe portrait of a naked dude proudly presenting his woolly member. “Nah,” he responded. “This place owns me.”). In one word, Aviary is FUN! Despite serving serious wines and food, it doesn’t take itself too seriously, which made for a magical evening in South Austin.
We didn’t make it past the first page of the wine menu because of the list of “white & orange” wines. Orange? That could only mean one thing: wines from Georgia (the country over in far eastern Europe, not the country bumpkins in far eastern North America). Deeper in the menu, wines are organized by celebrity, for example, David Bowie (twinkly, sparkly, bubbly, fizz), Jayne Mansfield (rose, fresh, lively, crisp), and Twiggy (lean, bright, austere, mineral). The food is tapas style, so staff encouraged us to order dish by dish. We started with the summer salad (red quinoa, summer veggies, arugula, avocado, feta, sunflower seeds, herbed yoghurt), entree’d with mussels tagliatelle (house egg yolk pasta, saffron poached PEI mussels, chorizo, shrimp broth, local tomatoes, blue basil), and ended with fromage (curd-nerd offerings). Everything was delicious with the housemade noodles a special hit.
Three chefs working in the tiny kitchen reminded us that big food can come out of small places. While visiting a friend in southern France many years ago, we marveled at how his mother produced unbelievably good food from a kitchen closet. Aviary is an example of how big fun (and big food) can come out of a small, but sophisticated, neighborhood place.
web&where: interwebs; 2110 South Lamar Boulevard, Austin, Texas 78704; (512) 916-4445
overall: *** (food***; drink; ****; atmosphere***; service****; instagrammability***)
does it scramble? it could, but small plates satiate
about our scale:
– meh [think twice]
* OK [it’ll get the job done]
** good [solid neighborhood joint]
*** damn good [we’ll be back]
**** holy sh!t [transcendental]
what others say:
Texas Monthly: **