After a busy morning and early afternoon on a Saturday, where could I find a restaurant that:
- Serves a delicious lunch during that odd 2pm - 4pm time window.
- Has a pleasant, relaxing ambiance.
- Is NOT afraid to run its air conditioner. If morning activities include gardening therapy in the Austin heat, I appreciate spending a couple of hours in a cool place after showering.
I have no constraints or preferences on food type besides it being yummy. Not many constraints on location. Maybe anything past the airport would be too far south. Most of Austin, Round Rock, or Georgetown is fine, because traffic is so minimal on weekends.
Examples of places I've enjoyed so far:
1) Roaring Fork Stone Lake on Northwest Austin
What a beautiful restaurant right on the lake. In fall and spring you can sit on their patio and watch the cute guys jog by. Or more at a distance, the industrious swimmers in the lake stroke by the bright orange round markers. In summer you can still sit there of course but it's too hot late afternoon. Just inside the glass is also beautiful.
Cedar-Planked Salmon with a green bean salad and those yummy corn bread rounds that contain real corn.
The salmon is sushi-grade so you can order it medium without having to worry about needing brain surgery in 5 years to remove a parasite. (After seeing this thing on TV about risks of eating under under-cooked non-sushi-grade salmon and tuna, I now cook my salmon to 165, unless its "sushi-grade". Apparently the freezing process needed to get the "sushi-grade" designation kills them dead :-).
The salmon is coated with a delicious sauce and served with a umami-loaded soy-butter sauce on the side. It tastes like it has more in it than just soy sauce & butter, but the server claims that's all that's in it..
The cold green bean "salad" on the side is unexpectedly delicious. Green beans are usually al dente. The sauce might be more for the salmon, but I use it for dipping the ends of the green beans. I believe the green bean salad also has halved cherry tomatoes and some kind of crumbled cheese.
Every dish I've had at Roaring Fork seems extra special. Two other things I've tried and completely enjoyed from their lunch menu:
- Chicken tortilla Soup
- Lamb lollipops
2) Newk's Cafe
Located in the shopping center adjacent to the PF Changs in the Arboretum
I crave their toasted sandwich bread, starting with the unusual, crispy thin shell around it. It's a small detail, but one I kind of marvel at.
Their Toasted Grilled Chicken Sandwich with half a caesar salad on the side. Sandwich has grilled chicken breast, olive oil, Applewood smoked bacon, Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato, mayo and honey mustard
They marinate their chicken breasts overnight and cook them that morning. I asked how they prepared it because it tastes like real chicken and so much better than Subway or Quiznos chicken sandwiches. Newk's caesar salad dressing is peppery delicious. Their lettuce is always fresh, not droopy or sad. They have BIG lemon wedges for your iced tea in that canister between the tea dispensers. Their drink containers have industrial strength lids and straws, perfect for re-filling with soda and smuggling into the movies.
A late lunch at Roaring Fork or Newks Cafe combined with a matinee at the Arbor is a great way to spend a Saturday or Sunday afternoon.
3) Mulberry in downtown Austin
Meatballs in broth. What more could you need. How DO they make that broth so delicious. I enjoy sitting around that bar too.
4) HomeField Grill in RoundRock
It's located in Sky Ridge Plaza at the Northwest corner of IH-35 & Hester’s Crossing (Exit 251), just North of Texas 45 near Walgreens and Luby’s. It's right off of 35, but look at a map before you go. The address freaks out my GPS.
Their wood-grilled flamethrower flatbreads. Their grill smoke from the bottom + flamethrower from the top gives a yummy charred taste to bread. This is my favorite pizza in Austin or Roundrock, with the House Pizzaria's Margherita extra blue coming in second.
5) Central Market
Central Market north runs lunch specials from 11:30 - 2:30, so they barely squeak into the time window. But why the heck do they have to stop their lunch specials at 2:30?
They do stay open and run their full menu till dinner, and their french fries are amongst the best in Austin. - definitely fried in 2 waves.
4477 S Lamar Blvd Ste 100, Austin, TX 78745