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Chronicle Critic Finds Too Many Inconsistencies at Austin Central Library’s Restaurant

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CultureMap editor shares the year’s top new restaurants

Chocolate cake from Cookbook Cafe
Chocolate cake from Cookbook Cafe
Cookbook/Facebook

Chronicle reviewer Melanie Haupt visited the Austin Library’s Cookbook cafe and bar and was left underwhelmed. Haupt recalled donating books from the library of her mentor and former Chronicle critic, Virginia B. Wood, so she admitted the review is “somewhat difficult” to write.

Run by the ELM Group, the menu from chef Andrew Curren did have promising notes, like artichoke fritters Haupt called “crispy and addicting” and macaroni and cheese. However, entrees of shrimp and grits and a chicken pot pie fell flat:

[...] despite a parsimonious portion of shrimp relative to the grits, the dish was a flavor bomb compared to the chicken pot pie, which featured undercooked carrots and precisely one chunk of chicken and was, in my friend’s description, “criminally bland.” However, a reprise of the shrimp and grits on a later visit lacked seasoning and was garnished, inexplicably, with halved cherry tomatoes, which speaks to a consistency issue in the kitchen.

Haupt also took issue with the chicken croquetas (“bland, starchy mashed potatoes with microscopic bits of chicken flecked here and there”) and a California sandwich (“wanted seasoning”).

However, the desserts from pastry chef Mary Cath­erine Curren proved to be a high point, like the chocolate torte that Haupt called “a scene-stealing bombshell” and a “pleasantly tart” apple tart. Haupt surmises she would only dine at Cookbook if it were convenient.

Over at CultureMap, food editor Brandon Watson named his top new restaurants of 2018. He first prefaced his list by noting that in 2018, “the staggering amount of capital thrown into restaurants bought a lot of selfie props and even more mediocre food.” However, those that “did manage to peek out from the miasma” included:

  • Better Half (“filled with treats you’ll want to eat time and time again.”)
  • The Brewer’s Table (“When combined in a meal, it all comes effortlessly together to form one toe-tapping duet.”)
  • Discada (“Behind the scenes, however, that meat is marinating for an entire day before being slowly roasted for even longer.”)
  • Garrison (“Garrison came through where it really counts: impeccable service, an inspiring beverage program, and a kitchen team that knocks it out of the park every time.”)
  • Sour Duck Market (“Sour Duck is the kind of place I wish was on every corner.”)
  • Suerte (“No new restaurant this year was as electrifying”)

ON THE BLOGS: It’s the season of recaps, and Big Bite Out and A Taste of Koko also shared their favorite new restaurants. Big Bite Out’s list comprised The Brewer’s Table, Pool Burger, 40 North, Sour Duck Market, and Rosewood, while Koko’s included the new Tatsu-ya addition Domo Alley-Gato, bakery Thoroughbread, and vacation bar Last Straw.

Cookbook

710 West César Chávez Street, Austin, Texas 78701 Visit Website

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