Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A restaurant for every season

The other day I was walking by Mother's in Hyde Park, thinking how fitting it was that I always go there when I need to be comforted. Much like...a mother.

And that got me thinking about the restaurants I hit up here in Austin for my regular needs. Think of it like people: there's the friend you turn to when you need to laugh, the friend who will tell it to you straight, the friend who makes you feel smarter...etc.

So here are the Usual Suspects on my restaurant list.

1. Mother's Cafe & Garden
Like I mentioned before, Mother's is my comfort restaurant - but not because it has comfort food. I usually end up eating something non-descript, like a salad. But it's the one place I can go where I feel like it's ok for me to cry in public (and in fact have the last two times I've visited). It's all-vegetarian, but whatever: I'm only there for the wine and the charmingly laissez faire wait staff. Mother's actually burnt to the ground last summer, and for whatever reason, I just feel like they'll understand if I'm having a bad day. Vegetarians are sensitive to pain, after all.

2. El Chile
Easily my favorite spot for R and I's date night: low-lit, colorful decor, killer drinks (especially the spicy orange Chilango Margarita). It's an excuse to visit the east side, and a more sultry atmosphere than most of its kind - don't you hate it when you see sombreros and pictures of donkeys everywhere at Mexican food joints? El Chile is pretty much the opposite of that. And, not too pricey for a good date place.

3. Clay Pit
Quite frankly, the restaurant where I stuff myself beyond all recognition.

4. Whole Foods (Downtown)
It's not a restaurant per se but definitely the place where I make most of my dining expenditures. Whole Foods is the place I go on Sundays - for me, it's like church. Or a bazaar. The closest thing to a little microcosm of Austin, where I can see everyone, everyone in town. And at the same time, remain anonymous. It's lovely, actually: families, dogs, chocolate truffles, Bing cherries, avocado gelato, wheatgrass shots, brown sugar cashews. Kids giggling, espresso machines whirring, the pizza guys tossing dough. Paradise.

5. Ararat
The restaurant for whom I will forever mourn it's closing: a teensy hole-in-the-wall Middle Eastern place on North Loop, just down the street from Room Service. I think the seating capacity was 20. Silverware was completely optional. And it was BYOwine, because beer and baba ghanoush is nasty!

In many ways, I feel like Ararat was my first love here in Austin, restaurant-wise. It was an affair that could never last. I was far too greedy - perhaps we all were! - and then, just like that, it was cruelly snatched away. Sigh.

As fate would have it though, I met the former owner recently at Hot Mama's, where she's working! I've said it before, and I'll say it again: it is downright astounding how many bizarre connections/crossovers there are in this town.

What are your restaurant regulars?

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