a is for aviary wine & kitchen

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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.

August 2019 update: To celebrate the one year anniversary of working our way through Austin’s culinary alphabet, we returned to Aviary. We loved this place but, sadly, hadn’t made it back until now. Our recent visit reminded us why we loved it in the first place and caused us to vow to visit at least once a quarter. Such a good vibe, good people, good food, and good (and interesting) wine.

This review is part of our sequential tour-through-the-alphabet of Austin’s restaurant scene. Now you know our ABCs!

web&where: interwebs; 2110 South Lamar Boulevard, Austin, Texas 78704; (512) 916-4445
overall: **** (food****; drink*****; atmosphere****; service*****; instagrammability****)
cost: $$$
does it scramble?
it could, but small plates satiate

our scale:
–          meh [think twice]
*         OK [it’ll get the job done]
**       good [solid neighborhood joint]
***     damn good [we’ll definitely be back]
****   yippity-yikes that was amazeballs [fantastic; one of the best]
***** holy sh!t [transcendental; best of the best]

each $ = $10; cost is based on a typical dinner entree and appetizer (no drinks)

what others say: 

Texas Monthly: **

August 2019 update: To celebrate the one year anniversary of working our way through Austin’s culinary alphabet, we returned to Aviary. We loved this place but, sadly, hadn’t made it back until now. Our recent visit reminded us why we loved it in the first place and caused us to vow to visit at least once a quarter. Such a good vibe, good people, good food, and good (and interesting) wine.

We started with a glass of orange wine from Kakheti, Georgia (Dilao Amber Dry; $11) and Amberjack Ceviche (with cantaloupe hot sauce, charred olives, pistachio, and asian pear; $14) followed by Carrots Al Pastor (hay-smoked carrots, corn masa aioli, and pickled carrots; $9) and Unicorn Spaghetti (with uni butter, cheddar, shishito, and fermented corn ash; $18). All was delicious with richness tempered with vegetables and tangs of this and that. The owner regaled us with a description of the lasagna special, so we had that for dessert. Dee. Lish. Uss.

We’ve started looking property within walking distance of this neighborhood gem.

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Amberjack Ceviche

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Carrots Al Pastor

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Dilao Amber Dry

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Unicorn Spaghetti

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the lasagna special

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photos from the original visit:

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