Orthogonal Thought | Random musings from the creator of Cooking For Engineers and Lead Architect of Fanpop





What I Ate: September 28, 2009 (Railroad Bar-B-Que, South Congress Cafe)

Posted 28 September, 2009 at 11:20pm by Michael Chu
(Filed under: Food, What I Ate)

Dinner: We went to the Austin Restaurant Week Wrap-Up Party & Celebration (at Paggi House) which turned out to be more of a drinking party than a foodie get together. There were four different appetizers that went around - all good, but none very good.
Paggi House - Appetizers

Once it became clear that there wasn't any more food, Tina and I decided to go to South Congress Cafe to try dinner there. We had just had an excellent brunch there, so were eager to see how they would perform at dinner.

We started with one of the specials: an appetizer of rock shrimp dusted in blue corn, fried, and served on a salad of mixed greens tossed in a lime-chipotle vinaigrette and served in an edible taco shell bowl ($12). The shrimp was perfectly cooked and the slightly spicy dressing was full flavored and worked equally well on the shrimp and on the greens.
South Congress Cafe - Rock Shrimp Salad

We also shared a cup of the gumbo with duck and oysters (A cajun-based duck stock with andouille sausage, oysters, duck, okra, onions, and celery. Topped with white rice and duck cracklings. $7) which was delicious and spicy.
South Congress Cafe - Duck and Oyster Gumbo

Tina had the wild mushroom asparagus fettuccine (Porcini, oyster, shiitake, and portabella mushroom with asparagus sauteed in herbs de Provence with pearl onions, sour cream and Madeira wine. Served on a bed of fettuccine and finished with fragrant white truffle oil. $21). The sauce was magnificent - capturing the strong flavors of the mushrooms, herbs, and sweetness of the wine. We've had dishes like this at other restaurants where it sounds like it would be so good, but it just fails (usually due to blandness), but South Congress Cafe does this one right. There's only one problem - too much cheese on it. The Parmesan is a bit too strong and too salty and competes with the incredible flavor of the mushrooms, the sauce, and the fettuccine. I recommend ordering it with the cheese on the side. It's a very rare thing for me to recommend a vegetarian fettuccine dish that costs over $20, but, in this case, I wholeheartedly encourage everyone who has the opportunity to order this and enjoy every bite - it's worth it.
South Congress Cafe - Wild Mushroom Asparagus Fettuccine

I had the Smoked Duck Breast (Lightly smoked boneless duck breast cooked to your liking, and finished with port cherry chipotle glaze. Accompanied with guajillo mashed potatoes and vegetables du jour. $19). With this dish, there is actually the choice between the port cherry chipotle glaze or having the duck honey glazed with apple-habanero relish. Kelly, our server, recommended the cherry glaze, and she guided us to one of the most heavenly flavor combinations we've had recently. The duck, cooked to medium-rare, was very tender and had a wonderful smokiness from the mesquite. Cutting a piece of the breast, sweeping it across the sauce, and picking up a cherry with it was the ultimate way to eat this dish. The cherry contributed a tartness that was barely countered by the sweet, yet savory, sauce. All too often, fruits in poultry dishes are overly sweetened, but here the natural tartness of the Bing cherry is able play against the smoky meat without it becoming saccharine sweet. I did find the guajillo mashed potatoes to be a bit too spicy for me to eat much of (although I did like the flavor). Perhaps a smaller quantity on the plate would have worked better.
South Congress Cafe - Smoked Duck Breast

Although none of the dishes are ugly, the food at South Congress Cafe looks similar to how the place feels - casual yet classy. The flavor and execution of the dishes are above and beyond the plating and I think that works in South Congress Cafe's favor. We like the casual feel - we're going to be dining on food made by people who obviously know what they are doing and are well practiced at making the dishes, served by attractive wait staff that are passionate about food, and presented in a comfortable atmosphere without pretense or stuffiness.

South Congress Cafe is fast becoming one of our favorite restaurants in Austin. We definitely plan on trying more of there menu in the (hopefully near) future.

Lunch: Tina and I ate at the Railroad Bar-B-Que (107 E Center St, Kyle, TX‎ - (512) 262-4641‎) in downtown Kyle. Not spectacular BBQ, but not bad either. I'd definitely head back there if I was looking for a barbecue lunch and was in Kyle. I'll have to try Milt's BBQ next (also in Kyle). We shared a combo plate with ribs, moist cut brisket, and sausage with sides of cole slaw and macaroni salad. The sausage was particularly good while not being overly greasy.
Railroad Bar-B-Que - Ribs, Brisket, and Sausage

4 comments to What I Ate: September 28, 2009 (Railroad Bar-B-Que, South Congress Cafe)

Optimista, September 29th, 2009 at 5:36 am:

  • Funny…I went to South Congress Cafe after my last trip to Paggi, too. I'm always hungry when I leave Paggi.

Jason V., September 30th, 2009 at 11:38 am:

  • Okay, that seals it. Next time I'm in Austin, I'll have to go to South Congress Cafe. Unfortunately my flight back home is early enough on Saturday that I can't stop there before I get to the airport. Maybe next time I fly in, I'll go there before I drive away from Austin.

Michael Chu, September 30th, 2009 at 12:37 pm:

  • On weekends, brunch usually has a 1-2 hour wait unless you get there real early. You can also call ahead and they'll put you on a list so when you arrive you'll be at the top of the list - just tell them you called ahead when you arrive.

What I Ate: January 16, 2010 (South Congress Cafe) | Orthogonal Thought, January 16th, 2010 at 10:44 pm:

  • […] Posted 16 January, 2010 at 10:43pm by Michael Chu(Filed under: Food, What I Ate) Dinner: Our friends Braden and Kelly came over, so we headed over to South Congress Cafe (1600 S Congress Ave, Austin, TX‎ - (512) 447-3905‎) for dinner. To start, Braden ordered a Pan-Seared Tuna Salad (marinated ahi seared rare served on a bed of field greens, pear tomatoes and garden fresh veggies. finished with jicama, tortilla confetti, sesame seeds, and spicy avocado vinaigrette, $14) which looked and tasted great. They also ordered the Gumbo with Duck & Oysters which Tina and I had on a previous visit. […]