Just back from the Salty Sow. i used to live in the hood and have been eating at that location for 10 plus years. First the sublime J Mueller BBQ, then the uneven but often delightful Gringos, and then a very bad Italian restaurant, par for the course in Austin, and then the jolly and slightly less bad Red House. I feel bad giving Salty Sow a bad review, because everyone was super-nice, and the food was mostly competent, the renovation pretty in an Uptown Dallas way, but words fail me for how bland and depressing it was. There is now a nice-ish upscale restaurant on the East Side.
Things started off badly. We ordered the duck fried french fries which were ghastly and soggy and as far as I could tell had not been within a mile of any duck fat. The cold Bearnaise was good, but they were not really edible. Everything else was fine. I ordered the duck breast with an orange and cardamon sauce with oil-cured olives and boiled/steamed turnips - perfectly fine but very dull. My DC had the crispy chicken thighs with smashed fried potatoes, the latter, frankly, were the only non-depressing thing I ate. We were not brave enough for dessert. Prices were reasonable, $56 for 2 people including 3 glasses of wine, which were all fine, but none great. The price reflects that they sweetly comped the abysmal fries after I complained.
I am not an old time Austinite. I am not an Austinite at all. I danced a jig when the disgusting Katz's closed. I hope the equally vile Mother's is forced out of business soon. When it burned down, I thought God cares about cooking, but then his attention went elsewhere as it reopened. I love the city's culinary renaissance, but mildly yuppy without the guts even to be pretentious is not the way to go. At Salty Sow, I felt like I was eating at a respectable restaurant in the Airport Marriott in Minneapolis.
I wished that we had turned east earlier to East Side Showroom, which has the worst service ever, but tasty and interesting food, or even Braise, or even the short-lived Graze, or kept driving and turned left to the fabulous Foreign & Domestic or kept on boulevard du frontage till the Texas Land & Cattle which is a trashy but reliable pleasure. Truth to tell, I love excellent food, but prefer bad food to mediocre food, and while "mediocre" definitionally resists superlatives- the meal at Salty Sow tonight was the most mediocre meal of my life.
I suspect it will do well, but boycott it, bomb it, move the abomination to the culinary wasteland of Cedar Park. It is in a lovely spot that deserves way, way better. I wanted to like it, but I really kinda hated it: tasteful in the worst sense of the word and not tasty at all.