Funky South Congress has always been one of my favorite areas of Austin.
While it’s only a short drive away from where we live now, at times, I miss the days when I lived on the street, a hop, skip and jump from the fun shops, picturesque Capitol views, and iconic restaurants.
While there have been a handful of boutique hotels located off of South Congress for years and years, most new construction has been kept downtown. Being so, many were skeptical when news broke that there would be a new hotel going up, right at the heart of the district.
People were probably scared a big, glass monolith would go up and mess with the Austin culture-y vibe the street is known for. But, surprisingly, the South Congress Hotel, with it’s mid-rise stature and 70s feel, fits right in. In fact, I bet if you were new to Austin, you might not be able to tell that the whole block is brand new.
Central Standard Kitchen & Bar is one of South Congress Hotel’s two anchor restaurants. Unlike its bright and airy counterpart, Café No Se, Central Standard is dark and moody – low, yellow lighting, brass fixtures, and wood; the perfect vibe for a date night on a fall evening.
Because we finally had some decent weather roll through (to where sitting outside in jeans is actually comfortable), Travis and I opted to sit on the patio. The patio is L-shaped where some guests can be seated in front of the restaurant facing South Congress, while others (including us for this visit) are seated in the building’s arcade with views of the other shops and businesses housed by the hotel. We loved where we sat, quieter than the main road, but still buzzing with action from the other shops.
We started with a drink; I opted for a house cocktail before switching to wine with dinner. A champagne cocktail lover, I tried the Pear & Sage. I was nervous it would be too sweet, but the ratio was in champagne’s favor, making it perfect for my palette.
To start, we tried the Mussels Toast (above)
Shaved Ham (above)
and the Wagyu Steak Tartare (above & below).
I was expecting mussels AND toast vs. mussels ON toast, so admittedly, that one, while good, wasn’t my favorite. However, I really LOVED the Shaved Ham and even tried it with the toast it was served with, which had a delicious peach marmalade that really took it to another level!
The tartare also didn’t disappoint, having all the right ingredients and textures to make a refreshing and satisfying pre-main.
For mains, Travis got the Cheeseburger (above) and paired it with the Ash Roasted Vegetables (below). I made fun of him for being “basic” but it turns out Central Standard’s cheeseburger was actually named one of Texas Monthly’s 50 Best Burgers in Texas (already!). He gets a pass this time…
I ordered the Texas Redfish (below), which, with its perfect texture and crispy skin, was absolute perfection. This may sound weird, but this dish was almost pot roast-eque, in that the fish and braised artichokes sit on a broth and root vegetables. Though a light and refreshing entree, somehow the broth and veggies made it feel like comfort food. I’ve never had anything like it and actually thought about my dinner all weekend after – it was that good!
For dessert, we opted to try scoops of their house made ice cream and sorbet. Both the fun and flavorful Blueberry Mint Tea and the dreamy, creamy Pecan Brown Butter scoops were ON POINT, and the perfect size for when you want a little something sweet, but aren’t trying to drown in ganache and deconstructed piecrust.
If you’re looking for a nice, intimate spot with excellent food and service, and a chill vibe, perfect for conversation and weekend unwinding, definitely reserve a table at Central Standard – you won’t be disappointed.
See you next time!