In a few short years, Austin's food scene has exploded, boasting refined restaurants that don't sacrifice a Texan essential: comfort. Below, your approachable edible itinerary:
Parkside At this downtown gem (pictured), you'll discover chef Shawn Cirkiel's not-so-secret formula: haute cuisine with an air of domestic bliss. Try the tender pork jowls served over creamy, fragrantly spiced polenta ($25) or baby back ribs ($13) that fall apart at the sight of a fork. If you're looking for some serious snacks, order generously portioned sides like crispy fried okra served with homemade ranch dressing ($7) or Gruyère macaroni and cheese ($7). Parkside, 301 E. Sixth St.; 512-474-9898 or parkside-austin.com
Justine's Texas was the last place we'd go to seek out authentic Parisian fare--until we found this East Side house-turned-restaurant. French expat and owner Pierre Pelegrin has created a paean to his native country, featuring a menu of bistro classics, including an admirable house-made charcuterie plate ($12) and a rich duck confit ($15). Prolong your visit by indulging in a dish of velvety crème brûlée while Francoise Hardy croons over the old-school record player. Justine's, 4710 E. Fifth St.; 512-385-2900 or justines1937.com
Olivia If you're looking for Texas terroir, head to Olivia, where chef-owner James Holmes proves that the local ingredients are as bold as the Lone Star State itself. The menu changes daily, but with dishes that hinge on freshness, like a beet salad accented with the salty bite of Pure Luck Farm feta ($8) and house-made gnocchi (which might buoy short ribs one night and a rib-eye the next), you can be assured that the quality never wavers. Olivia, 2043 S. Lamar St.; 512-804-2700 or olivia-austin.com
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