Chronicle's Brandon Watson ventured into animal territory with a dog-less visit to Yard Bar. After he got a bit lost navigating the maze that is the animal check-in (where dog owners pay fees to enter with their pets), he encounters more than just a dog park. Amiable to non-canine owners, Yard offers drinks from the inside bar counter and outdoor table service for food. The cocktails are considerate and well-done, and the dishes solid. There was one stand-out ingredient that whisked Watson back to his childhood: the housemade Cheez Whiz used throughout the menu:
That sharp cheese sauce, simultaneously exactly and much better than the stuff you licked off your fingers when you were 12, appears all over kitchen manager John Workman's menu. It's a dip with greaseless medium-cut house chips ($6); it's a condiment on a classic American hot dog ($1 extra to the $6 base price gets you cheese and piled crispy onions); and it's damn near a benediction in the hush puppies ($9 for a dozen, $3 more with extras).
Plus, it has a separate pup-focused menu with sliders and ice cream, although Watson didn’t try anything from it.
Now it's Austin Monthly's turn to check into Chicon. There, critic Jolene Bouchon finds a friendlier environment than predecessor Gardner, both through decor and the sharable dishes, much in the essence of sibling spot Contigo, but there are still hints of of the former vegetable-centric restaurant’s finesse:
Excellent beer-battered fish is fried in beef fat. Camp bread rather than tortillas, as well as a sprinkling of tobiko (flying fish roe), make them more than mere fish tacos. A bright-tasting and beautiful carrot hummus served arranged with slices of raw beets and crisped sweet potatoes recalls Chicon’s former life as a paean to vegetables, as does a sunflower seed risotto with yellow squash, black olives and spring onions.
Aside from a heavy hand on the salt with some dishes, the dessert menu is modest but strong and interesting (black pepper ice cream), the cocktails are killer, and bar snacks and brunch as satisfying.
THE BLOGS — Fed Man Walking took advantage of Jacoby's straight-from-the-source bar burger and fries, Dine With Shayda tried out El Taquito and PhoNatic, and Sushi in the ATX partook in Jinya Ramen Bar's offerings.
- Review: Yard Bar: Every dog has its day at north Austin hot spot [Chronicle]
- Restaurant Review: Chicon [Austin Monthly]