• Gabrielle Faust

Heavenly Crab Cakes in the Heart of the ATX SoCo District

Updated: May 26, 2019

This is going to be one of those “reviews” that is rather biased as I have been going to South Congress Café for nearly a decade. So, I will keep this short and sweet – South Congress Café is off-the-chain amazing! After a few months away from my beloved South Congress bistro, my man and I took a long stroll up and down the bustling thoroughfare last Sunday and wrapped up at South Congress Café in Austin, Texas for a light afternoon nosh and a couple of cocktails. Again, even though it had been nearly a year since my last visit, SC did not disappoint.

Everything was as consistently delicious as ever before. And that is something I think, the older I get, and the more experienced I become in the food world, I really appreciate – consistency. Experimentation is all well and good. As a food establishment you want to give your chefs the ability to flex their creative wings in the kitchen and add new items to the menu. However, for the tried and true loyal customer base you also want those classics you’ve developed in the beginning, the ones that won you recognition and cemented your place in Austin’s (or wherever your restaurant may be) food scene, to be the same, year after year.

For me, it is about comfort and about a sense of grounding in a world that is ever-changing. I can name a handful of places in Austin that I go week after week, year after year, because I know that when I go there my sense-memory will be cradled in love and nostalgia. Invention, in any creative scene be it the culinary world or the fine arts scene, is what keeps culture alive. But we always need that big ol’ hug from mama that makes us sigh and feel warm and alive and like everything is going to be okay.

As aforementioned, we popped in for a quick bite. It was slow in the afternoon on Sunday – the brunch crowd had dissipated, the bar was full of lazy day revelers leaving the dining room mostly open before dinner service began. We ordered two cocktails, an Old Fashioned with Bullet Rye Bourbon for the man (he continues his hunt for the perfect Old Fashioned) and a Frozen Lemonade made with Deep Eddy’s Lemonade Vodka, with a Ruby Red Deep Eddy’s Vodka floater for an extra punch. For our nosh we ordered the Crab Cakes ($14 - crispy lump crab and shrimp cakes with cilantro and basil, mango aioli, red chili sauce, field greens, citrus vinaigrette) and the Grilled Cauliflower ($10 - grilled, breaded, and crisped cauliflower on a gouda cauliflower puree and drizzled with arbol sauce).

The drinks were superb (though they took a while to get to our table – the food arrived first). The crab cakes were absolutely divine. Crispy and perfectly seasoned served three to an appetizer plate drizzled with siracha and a mango aoli with a fresh little salad in the mix. My happy place! The cauliflower was extremely complex. After analyzing the dish and mulling it over we decided this has to be grilled first and then marinated in some godly sauce (or vice versa), then lightly breaded and deep fried in a (I think) panko bread crumb. The sauce is nothing short of divine. Both of these dishes are a must have whether for brunch, lunch or dinner!

I have also partaken of the Jalapeno Venison Meatloaf, the Shrimp and Grits, and the Grilled Beef Tenderloin upon occasion, all of which will leave you rolling your eyes with food bliss and saying “Ga’ damn! That’s good!” Suffice to say, everything on this menu is excellent. The hard part is finding a seat. Definitely call ahead for reservations for lunch, brunch, or dinner. If you’re planning to “pop in” make it an off hour between the hours when people normally go to the aforementioned three dining experiences. Even then, the bar will most likely always be packed.

If you are living in Austin and have never tried out South Congress Café, make it a point to do so soon. If you’re in from out of town, do not miss out on this café as part of your vacation. As an Austin native since the age of two, I know Austin food, inside and out, and this is damn good food!

Visit South Congress Cafe online at http://www.southcongresscafe.com/ or pop in for lunch, brunch or dinner at 1600 South Congress Ave. in Austin, Texas.

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