When writing full-blown restaurant reviews for the Allandale Neighbor, I follow the ‘New York Times rule’ of visiting an establishment three times before putting pabulum to paper. Visiting three times allows me to test consistency, try a variety of dishes, and account for uncontrolled variables. For Austin Wanderlist, I’m doing hit-and-run reviews (too many restaurants, too little time…) which ups the risk of uncontrolled variables controlling the experience.
Contigo gets highish reviews from other reviewers (rated by Austin Monthly; two stars from Texas Monthly; an Eater Essential). We found Contigo to be competent but not an “OMG we gotta come back here ASAP!” experience. The bride pointed out that perhaps that’s an unfair assessment because we visited Contigo for brunch, which, while delicious, is not necessarily the best meal to evaluate a place. As the late, great Anthony Bourdain said, brunch is nothing but a “horrible, cynical way of unloading leftovers and charging three times as much as you ordinarily charge for breakfast.” And because we don’t day drink (sucks the life out of us at our fragile, northerly age), we didn’t partake of libations (which can enhance a meal in [ahem] several ways).
The first thing to note about Contigo is that it is all outdoor space, about half of it covered. That’s right: just like an old-skool Texas prison, there ain’t no air conditioning. It did look like the sides drape down for heating in Austin’s annual cold season from January 13th to January 17th and there are fans, but ain’t no AC. It was fine for our just-after-noon brunch, but it must get steamy by late afternoon/early evening. Despite a number of empty tables completely out of the sun, the greeter seated us at the edge of shadows where half the table on the diagonal was in the shade but half was not. After quickly assessing the heavens, I assured the bride that the shadows would move favorably. But then the waiter threw us into a slight panic when he said “It’s fixin’ to get hot at your table!” Fortunately, I read the stars correctly.
We started with a roasted tomato kolache ($5) and a fig tart ($5), both delicious (although the kolache was a bit bready). I ordered the roasted mushroom, cheddar, and tarragon quiche ($12) and she chose the grain bowl (marinated tomatoes, black beans, sikil pak, and grilled kale; $11). The quiche was smooth, enormous, and satisfying and went well with its side-pile of rocket. The grain bowl was similarly satisfying. Other dishes include ox tongue hash (I can’t bring myself to eat tongue after my attempt to eat a taco lenqua a few years back felt like I was making out with Betsy the Cow), a biscuit sandwich (which looked good at a neighbor’s table), french toast, smoked trout, and a burger.
The service was friendly and attentive, and, given the temps, there was no wait. All in all a good neighborhood place. We may check it out again in the fall when temperatures are 20 degrees below 100 and the sun is clearly in repose.
This review is part of our sequential tour-through-the-alphabet of Austin’s restaurant scene. Now you know our ABCs!
web&where: interwebs; 2027 anchor lane; (512) 520-1998
overall: ** (food**; drink*; atmosphere*; service*; instagrammability**)
does it scramble? yes
– 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]