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April 4 / Restaurant

Austin: Elizabeth Street Café

Words by Jodi Murphy Photographs by Michael A. Muller

Elizabeth St. Café is a leader among fusion restaurants in Austin, Texas.

The establishment is part eatery, part coffeehouse and part tearoom with a menu comprised of staples of Vietnamese and French cuisine, made using modern techniques and epicurean ingredients. Fresh croissants and pastries are served during the morning hours with Vietnamese coffee and steeping-room teas. Lunch and dinner service features dishes that are classic to the culture, enhanced by locally sourced proteins and produce.

History makes the mash up of influences seem less obscure, as the French once ruled Vietnam, and the restaurant is inspired by the colonial cafés of Hanoi.

Industry pioneers Larry McGuire and Thomas Moorman, both trained in classical French cooking, opened the restaurant as homage to Vietnamese food and succeeded at creating the kind of unique atmosphere with which they have made a name for themselves. The café replicates the aura of French Colonial Hanoi through landscaped outdoor seating, shaded by oak trees that are more than a century old, and an interior that is both bold and elegant with vibrantly colored accents, art and French-Vietnamese antiques.

It’s a great place to visit both for its unique environment and imaginative menu offerings. House favorites include banh mi sandwiches with a choice of proteins including grilled marinated pork, poached shrimp, grilled McAllen ranch flank steak or house-made country-style pâté, all served on house-baked baguettes with homemade mayonnaise, cucumber daikon, carrot, sambal, cilantro and jalapeño. Classic Hanoi dishes such as soups and bun bowls are offered with braised brisket, red snapper, jumbo lump crab, grilled octopus and fresh seasonal vegetables.

Be warned that this place is known to fill up early, and they don’t accept reservations or calling ahead.  The upside to waiting in line, however, is being all the more hungry and ready for a delicious meal by the time you take a table.

1501 South First Street
Austin, Texas
Telephone: 512 -291-2881

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