the spot: Lenoir 1807 S. First St. Austin TX 78704
the eats: seasonal menu, stick with a fair amount of produce driven dishes, desserts
the bucks: $$$ – Plan on spending $100 a person and can go up
the full nelson: A small, intimate Austin farm to table restaurant that can serve up a special occasion tasting menu or a relative deal during Happy Hour
Earlier today I was looking back at a post on Cheap Eats Des Moines, an episode of my breakout show that filmed in 2016 and aired in 2017. Looking back on what I spent then makes me want to do a double take when I embark on this post about a restaurant that commands near three figures a person for food, drink, and tip. Time have changed, inflation is at a high and frankly Cheap Eats aint cheap no more. I find far more value in the dining experience when I spend more which means being more selective about how often I go out. And that brings me to a low key splurger that sneaks in some value here and there: Lenoir in Austin TX.
Off the bat the move at Lenoir is to take advantage of this deal. All restaurants mark up wine but not every restaurant puts together a great wine list. Not only does Lenoir give you the opportunity to expand your wine knowledge but you can get a great deal on sparkling wine on Wednesdays. Pro tip: sparkling wine pairs with every kind of food.
I love oysters but admittedly am biased towards West Coast. These were gulf oysters that got hit with wonderful smokey and spicy mignonette. I was happy even if I didn’t Kumamoto. And if you’re an oyster lover and have never had a Kumamoto, get thee to Hog Island Oyster Co. in San Francisco.
Lenoir has a reputation for working with great farms in Central Texas. The term farm to table gets tossed around so much that it almost seems like a given. What’s not a given is dishes like pressed watermelon in Mezcal(top) that get absolutely set off with the freshest mint. The yellow tomato on the porchetta(bottom) were the tomatoes that make 100 degree summers tolerable. The seared black pumpkin served with lucious labneh make a Meatless Monday sound as sinful as a late night double cheeseburger.
Oh and speaking of burgers . . .
I had zero intentions of getting a burger at Lenoir. I was actually pretty sated and then chef surprised us with this fine smashed burger. While smashed burgers seem to be everywhere these days, twice now I have had chef driven smashed burgers that push the expectations beyond the technique of perfect laced edges.
Lenoir ups the ante with a beef fat brioche bun made with Barton Springs Mill heirloom flour and Texas Wagyu beef patties from Legacy Farms. The burger stays true to form with American cheese, “shrettuce” which you might figure is simply shredded Iceberg lettuce and a signature “comeback sauce” that throws chili oil into the house made aioli. All this comes at a price: $18 with fries but chalk that up to 2023 and I sincerely doubt anyone who dines out regularly in Austin should be caught off guard by a $20 burger.
The churro and ice cream capped off a meal that lived up to the hype for one of the more noteworthy restaurants in Austin. Lenoir has been in operation since 2012, no spring chicken, but the food seems as timely and en vogue as anywhere else. Farm to table restaurants that freely roam the flavors of Mediterranean, Mexico and the South and aren’t exactly new. But when I take a bite of superbly fresh dill or mint on a dish at Lenoir, I’m reminded me why fine dining can be special: when you’re treated to the very best ingredients available on a given day.
I’m curious to try the tasting menu with wine pairings at Lenoir. Five courses with wine for $140 a person is something I could swing for the right occasion. I also love the fact that I can slip into Lenoir on a Wednesday for half off sparkling bottles of wine or half off wine bottles under $80 on Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays till 6:30pm and order a few dishes. The laid-back attitude also comes with attentive service and whether you roll deep or light and quick, Lenoir makes it all pretty special.