If you remember, earlier this month Brandon and I celebrated our four year (dating) anniversary. When it comes to dining out, we try to save fancier restaurants for our super special occasions – a category that anniversaries fall into if you ask me (along with birthdays, holidays, and the occasional “why not” days). For anniversary number four, we had a few Austin options in mind – Steiner Ranch Steakhouse, South Congress Cafe, and Restaurant Jezebel – but one really was calling my name more than the others (and had been for nearly two years)…South Congress Cafe. It had been on the fancy dinner list for anniversaries two and three, so there was no way I would let it slip by for the third year in a row. So we made the obligatory reservations (which apparently aren’t so necessary on a Wednesday night), and set out to celebrate our anniversary at South Congress Cafe.
Now, I’ve walked past South Congress Cafe more times that I can actually remember – it’s been along mine and Maverick’s walking route for some time now – but I’ve never actually been inside. The restaurant is what you would expect from a cafe, small and homey, but with a slightly more upscale look than the typical neighborhood joint. Exposed brick walls and fresh, modern furnishings give the interior what I would lovingly refer to as an urban polished look, and the clean, white tablecloths make it seem much more fancy than some other cafes I’ve frequented.
We sat down and were greeted by our waiter (at this point, his name alludes me, but I can’t forget how helpful he was while we were trying to make our decisions). Almost instantly, Brandon and I locked eyes on the seafood parfait appetizer. It wasn’t a typical selection for us, but we just couldn’t get over how amazing it sounded – scallops and shrimp, marinated in a chili citrus marinade atop guacamole, red onion, cherry tomatoes and cucumber packed into an oversized martini glass.
In all honesty, it tasted even better than it looked (and I think it looked pretty darn spectacular). Seriously, just last week the two of us vacationed in South Padre (a Texas island surrounded by fresh seafood) and were continuously disappointed in the ceviche options. Nothing came close to the goodness that was South Congress Cafe’s seafood parfait, and we were on an island. Good thing, all I need to do is walk down the street to order this bad boy again.
The delicious appetizer was followed by two equally delicious entrees – the pan roasted duck breast for me and the seafood risotto for Brandon. Now, I’ve never considered myself to be a picky eater, but I would say that there are a good amount of foods I haven’t really tried, duck included. So, I’ve been trying to expand my palette, particularly when visiting nicer restaurants since I can almost always guarantee that the food will be cooked as it should be. In keeping with this plan to branch out, I ordered the pan roasted duck breast with a pomegranate reduction, accompanied by grilled sweet potato and sage quinoa. The duck was good, but it was a little undercooked for my unrefined palette, and I wasn’t really able to east more than a piece (NOTE: Brandon says that the duck was cooked perfectly, and that I’m just being a weenie). Luckily, I have a wonderful boyfriend who was willing to switch entrees with me, so that I would fully enjoy our anniversary dinner. His seafood risotto was much more my style – jumbo shrimp, sea scallops, lump crab, crawfish tails and the market catch, mixed with shallots, red chile, green beans, red bell pepper saffron risotto and toasted almonds. That risotto was like biting into a well seasoned, culinary ocean (aka it was delicious if you enjoy seafood). Plus, Brandon LOVES duck, so I think we both ended up with the right choice.
After those filling dishes, our little tummies couldn’t handle another round, so we opted to pass on dessert, despite the fact that the dessert menu looked too good to pass up (there was bread pudding, people, I’m just sayin’). The benefit of saying no to dessert – 1) There’s a good chance my dress would have ripped if I put any other calories in my body and 2) it just gives me another reason to visit South Congress Cafe again (well, their dessert and their brunch menu, which also looks killer)! Overall, I’d definitely say that South Congress Cafe absolutely lived up to those 2 years of growing expectations – the service was great, the atmosphere was great, and the food was great (and my company was absolutely the best, but I don’t give South Congress Cafe credit for that win…that was all me). It was a little pricey for my slim wallet, but that’s to be expected with a restaurant of its caliber, so I wasn’t too bothered, especially for such a noteworthy occasion.
Have you ever been to South Congress Cafe? What did you think? Any menu options I should definitely keep in my for my next visit? Be sure to let me know in the comments section below.