Charcuterie & Cheese: Austin’s Best
AUSTIN FOOD BLOG ALLIANCE CITY GUIDE 2019 – CHARCUTERIE & CHEESE
I consider myself a charcuterie and cheese enthusiast! I am far from being an expert; however, I have indulged in more than my fair share of each, hundreds of varieties across the globe. When I sit down for meal, I really enjoy diversity (I guess that’s why I’m such a huge fan of traditional tapas and other small plates that are a current trend that doesn’t seem to be going away, yay!). While most people might consider charcuterie and cheese as perfect starters, I sometimes enjoy making them into a delightful, personal entrée (albeit I am willing to share…a bit). Gone are the days of simple sausage and cheddar (although still yummy). Establishments have expanded their range of offerings to satisfy people’s ever-growing discerning palates. Many plates or boards now include beautiful terrines, pâté, confit…and regional, as well as global cheeses made from cow’s, sheep’s, and buffalo’s milk. Welcome to my list of Charcuterie & Cheese: Austin’s Best!
I have complied a list of suggested places to enjoy charcuterie and cheese in and around Austin (including your own home), with varied geographical locations, restaurant styles, and budgets in mind (no particular order). By no means is it an exhaustive list! Austin has a lot to offer these days. If you would like to suggest an addition, please, feel free to do so in the comment section. Cheers!
Fabi+Rosi is a cozy, charming space, dimly lit, housed in an adorable c. 1903 cottage. Run by husband & wife team, Chef Wolfgang et al. never disappoint on creativity or execution. Every dish has a touch of German-European flair, and all ingredients are humanely raised and harvested. They also source as many local and seasonal products as possible, including growing their own garden full of herbs and veggies and keeping a hen house for the freshest eggs. They have a respectable wine selection and limited beers by the bottle that all compliment their food offerings. Fabi+Rosi is a great place for socializing during happy hour, date night, special occasion, or a casual experience on their Fido friendly patio. Fabi+Rosi offers three delectable boards to choose from.
Käse Board: shaved Al Tartufo delicately infused with truffle cow’s milk (Italy), a wedge of hard Larra Roncal sheep’s milk that has a great nutty finish (Spain), a buttery Triple Cream Brie, and a chunk of hearty and tangy bleu Valdeon accompanied with olives, house crisps, and a sweet sauce that compliments everything perfectly.
Brotzeit Board: delicious house-made goods; smoky bratwurst with the perfect “snap,” large Bavarian-style pretzel, and melt in your mouth Obatzda Beercheese (scratch made with brie, butter, beer, and more), accompanied with house pickled veggies and a lovely stone ground mustard.
Metzger Board: a large offering of decadent, smooth, and creamy scratch chicken liver pâté, masterful country terrine, fresh Wagyu tatare accompanied with stone mustard and soft, slightly grilled bread.
Hours: Tuesday – Saturday 5-10PM; closed Sundays and Mondays. Reservations available for parties of six or more.
Parking: free street or private lot across the street.
Specials: happy hour offered throughout entire restaurant, including lounge area and patio (no bar), Tuesday – Friday 5-6:30PM with 9$ boards (regularly 15$), 7$ starters, and reduced prices on beer and wine. [Prices and menu subject to change]
The Rotten Bunch is located in a nondescript strip mall, but oh what pleasures to find inside. Pass through the doors to enter a large space that is both rustic and modern. Lots of wood with concrete floors, an industrial ceiling, custom made metal light fixtures illuminating warm light to create an inviting atmosphere, the ambiance is quite charming. Their focus is on American New cuisine, offering dishes that are sophisticated without being pretentious. They have over a dozen Texas craft beers to choose from and have an extensive wine menu that can be ordered by glass, bottle, or flight. Their staff are all very well-informed and will eagerly lead you in the right direction if assistance is desired. A great place for any occasion. The Rotten Bunch offer three “beginners” that include charcuterie and cheeses.
Meat and Cheese Board: varied assortment of Chef’s selection of cheese, cured meats, and accouterments depending on your visit. The featured board includes a delightful smoked salmon rillettes, fennel salami, aged gouda, nutty manchego, slivered almonds, mild Spanish piparras peppers, brie, and caper berries accompanied with a tasty fig and blackberry spread.
Mushroom Bourbon Pâté: a very generous serving of some of the most delicious blend of smoothed chicken liver, flavorful crimini mushrooms with the perfect amount of bourbon flare and a hint of marjoram, accompanied by blackberry mustard and fresh, soft bread.
Just Now Mozzarella: a trip to The Rotten Bunch would not be complete without ordering the Just Now. Each large mound is hand-pulled to order! and served on top of roasted piquillos and fresh basil leaves, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkled with fresh cracked black pepper. Perfect flavor combinations, gooey goodness cheese pull fun, and so tasty you will almost forget that it’s served with fantastically fluffy house-made bread.
Hours: Tuesday – Saturday 4-10PM; weekend brunch available Saturday and Sunday 10:30AM-2PM; closed Mondays. Reservations available for parties of five or more.
Parking: free private lot.
Specials: happy hour offered throughout entire restaurant, including bar, Tuesday – Saturday 4-7PM with 2$ off “Beginners” (the previous three dishes included!), 2$ off Texas brewed pints, and 2$ off 6oz pours of wine. Cheers to that! [Prices and subject to change]
Small Victory is my favorite “hidden” bar in Austin. Located in an old parking garage, finding it is half the fun. Go up the stairs, enter through the large wooden door and step into a smallish space that will take you back in time a bit. Dimly lit, blue velvet covered seating, with stellar mixologists behind the bar that could easily double as mad scientists with all of the small bottles of fresh juices, bitters, and other “potions.” And while they do make some the best cocktails in town, they also offer very respectable build-your-own charcuteire and cheese plates…served on beautiful china. Items are priced separately and vary. I always just ask the “kitchen-keep” to give me a bit of a few of the best currently in house and I have never been disappointed. Small Victory is the perfect spot to start or end a night out! Just do me a favor and don’t anyone, please?
Hours: Monday – Saturday 5PM-2AM
Happy Hour: Monday – Saturday 5-8PM
Parking: adjacent garage, valet at nearby The Driskill Hotel, other paid lots.
[Menu and prices subject to change]
Winebelly touts itself as a “neighborhood” wine bar and I could not disagree. The dimly lit interior is casual, yet enhanced by the beautiful brass bar, the many antique frames that adorn the walls, and nice charming touches throughout including simple white candles on each table. Think old world charm meets industrial streamline. The space is very intimate, but deceptively large. Many tables available and they have a great covered outdoor patio for al fresco dining. A great place for a date or to gather with friends and enjoy several small plates and adult libations. Winebelly prides itself on its expansive wine selection (as they should; named one of the “Top Wine Bars in the US” by Food and Wine Magazine). The refined food menu includes creative tapas (e.g., Braised Short Ribs…) and bar snacks (e.g., Cured White Anchovies…), as well as three delightful charcuterie and cheese options. The menu is seasonal and changes often, and Chef is a big proponent of supporting local vendors for items they don’t make in-house.
Chicken Liver Mousse: very creamy scoop of scratch goodness lightly sprinkled with minced chives and molten salt, accompanied with whole grain mustard, pickled shallot slices, and toasted local Easy Tiger artisan bread.
Antonelli’s Cheese Plate: items on boards vary often; featured is a wedge of Mad River cow’s milk bleu (VT), a wedge of nutty aged Ombra sheep’s milk (Spain), chunk of tangy and creamy Farmstead goat and sheep’s milk (Australia), accompanied with local Good Flow honey, house pickled grapes, a slice of quince jelly, and Easy Tiger wheat walnut bread. [Items vary]
Meat Plate: items on board vary often and are sourced from several places; featured is El Rey chorizo, peppery Dodge City salami, air dried salted beef Bresaola, sea salt and pepper flavored Salchicha Iberico sausage, accompanied by snappy cornichons and Easy Tiger Bread. [Items vary]
Hours: Sunday – Wednesday 4-11PM; Thursday – Saturday 4PM-midnight. Reservations available for dining parties of six to twelve before or at 6:30PM, no later and must be made in advance.
Parking: free private lot.
Specials: happy hour offered throughout entire restaurant, including bar, Tuesday – Thursday 4-6PM with assorted 5$ bites (includes the Chicken Liver Mousse, usually 7$ and a smaller portioned Meat Sampler, full size 13$), 3$ select local draft beers (rotates; have approximately a dozen Austin craft to choose from), 5$ house wine by the glass (rotates; red, white , or rosé). They also offer half price bottles of select wines all day on Sundays and Mondays; no food specials. [Menu and prices subject to change]
THE GROVE WINE BAR & KITCHEN
Four Austin area locations:
800 W 6th Street, #100
Austin, TX 78701
6317 Bee Cave Road, #380
Westlake Hills, TX 78746
3001 Ranch Road 620S
Lakeway, TX 78738
1310 E. Whitestone Blvd, #500
Cedar Park, TX 78613
With four locations in and around Austin, and a fifth slated to open in The Domain Northside in Spring 2019, The Grove is a nice choice for anyone seeking convenience and for the more budget conscious foodies. They have a vast menu, featuring New American cuisine sourcing local and organic ingredients when possible. The kitchen caters to personal needs/preferences and can accommodate gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan diets. Each location is unique; however, they all have great al fresco options. As their name suggests, The Grove has a strong emphasis on wine with over a hundred to choose from (including several on tap) by flight, glass, or bottle. All locations offer one board for 16$ [price subject to change].
Artisan Cheese Board: includes chef’s selection of cheeses and meats. Featured is a nutty manchego, an aged gouda, creamy brie, genoa salami, shaved prosciutto, fresh grapes and crisp apple slices, marcona almonds, olives, accompanied by local honey, fig spread, and two types of yummy bread (one white and one grain). [Items vary]
Hours: Vary by location. Please visit their website. Brunch available on weekends during select times. Reservations available online.
Parking: Cedar Park, Lakeway, and Westlake all have free private lots; Downtown options are street meter parking or valet for 6$, accepts cash or credit.
Specials: Grove Social Hour varies by location. Select discounted food and drink; however. the Artisan Board is not included. Please contact the restaurant of your choice for specifics [information provided on their website at time of publication is not accurate; confirmed by conversations with management].
SALT & TIME is a full-fledged butcher shop and salumeria, so they know meat! The sleek, classic meets modern dining area is directly adjacent to the shop and market. They focus on farm to table dining, using only the highest quality, sustainable, and local ingredients whenever possible. Their menu is innovative and changes often depending on what cuts of meats are currently available, while also offering fresh salads and house-made pastas. ALL of their vast variety of salumi (chorizo, lonza, mortadella…) and charcuterie (country terrine, duck confit, pork rillettes…) are cured, smoked, and dried in-house…including an homage to the Lone Star State, Salumi de Tejas. They offer a full bar (including some signature cocktails), a nice selection of wines, and about a dozen local Austin craft brews plus many other imports by tap, bottle, or can at any given time. Such a wonderful place to grab a great meal or shared bites before hitting up one the area’s many hip and trendy lounges.
SALT & TIME offers lovely charcuturie and cheese options on their lunch and dinner menus. Featured are the Butcher’s Board and Cheese Board, both of which offerings rotate regularly.
Butcher Board (left): delectable head cheese, thick cuts of summer sausage, salty Genoa salami, peppery Mezcal ham, accompanied by pickled turnips, Dijon mustard, and crustini. [Items vary]
Cheese Board (right): creamy Grafton (VT) one year aged raw milk cheddar, nutty Granbury Gold (TX) raw milk Gouda recipe aged for less than five years, a creamy and not overpowering Andazul bleu (Spain) goat’s milk, served with fig jam, a quenelle of pecan pesto, and fluffy honey buns. [Items vary]
Lunch hours: Monday – Friday 11AM-3PM
Dinner hours: Monday – Sunday 5-10PM. Reservations available online.
Parking: free private lot.
Specials: food and drink happy hour offered throughout entire restaurant, including bar, Monday – Sunday 3:30-6PM, all night drinks specials until 10PM on Sundays; includes 10$ boards (usually $18), 2$ off draft beers, 3$ local canned beers, 2$ off wine by the glass, and 6$ bubbles. Half price bottles of wine on Wednesdays 5-10PM. All bottles of wines are available to take home at 50% off! [Menu and prices subject to change]
Editor’s note: Salt & Time owners, Runkle and Butler, are slated to open a second similar restaurant in the Saint Elmo Public Market, located at 4329 South Congress Avenue in Spring 2019.
Dai Due is a lovely restaurant with a warm, inviting environment that has an open kitchen and small bar. Many of the menu options vary daily, as Dai Due really emphasizes seasonal, regional, and farm-to-table friendly fare. Their dedication to using Texas ingredients (fruits, meats, vegetables, cheeses, olive oil, and even all of their beer and wine offerings) is quite impressive and takes “support local” to another level. They have a classic butcher shop inside the restaurant and get all of their meats from local Texas producers. All sausages and other charcuterie are done in-house, and pay honor to their Mexican, German, and Cajun roots. They stock about a dozen craft beers on tap or in can, and have a very respectable wine selection sold by glass or bottle. Dai Due is great for any occasion. Stop in for some libations and a snack or go all in and enjoy one of their various prie fixe “Supper Club” features (e.g., Tallow fried chicken on Sundays!).
Dai Due has many offerings on their dinner menu, including Chicken Liver Mousse and a Cold Meat Board.
Chicken Liver Mousse: very delicate texture, fantastic flavor, served with pickled blueberries and house buttermilk bread.
Cold Meat Board: easily shareable for four people as an appetizer, a very generous serving of a selection of their house-treated meats. The board includes thick slices of wild boar city ham, moist roast beef, delightful summer sausage, masterfully crafted bierwurst, wild boar rillettes, served with pickled green tomatoes, chunky chow-chow, Dewberry mustard and plenty of grilled house-made rye bread. Truly a carnivore’s delight. [Items vary]
Hours: breakfast & lunch Tuesday – Friday 11AM-3PM, Saturday – Sunday 10AM-3PM; dinner Tuesday – Sunday 5PM-10PM; closed Mondays. Reservations recommended.
Parking: free private lots at front and rear entrances of restaurant.
Specials: food and drink happy hour (varies daily) offered throughout entire restaurant, including bar, Tuesday – Thursday 5-6:30PM typically with three discounted appetizer choices, [always] 17$ Cold Meat Board (usually 24$), and 4-5$ wines by the glass and 3$ beers. [Menu and prices subject to change; some menu items change daily]
Hudson’s Hill Country (in the same location as prior iconic Hudson’s on the Bend) is up and running with gusto. Their “Tradition Refined” menu is reflected in the wild game dishes, regional, farm-to-table, and sustainable fare they offer, including a delectable and beautifully presented charcuterie and cheese board (available daily for 18$; offerings vary). Only about a 30 minute scenic drive to the pretty Lake Travis Hill Country area, Hudson’s is truly great place for a stellar dining experience or even just for a delightful happy hour.
Hours: Tuesday – Wednesday 4:30-9PM, Thursday – Saturday 4:30-10PM, Sunday 4:30-9PM; closed Mondays. Reservations recommended.
Parking: free private lot.
Happy Hour: Tuesday – Saturday 4:30-6:30PM; discounted select food and drink. [Menu and prices subject to change]
Just beyond Austin…
Take a scenic drive into the Texas Hill Country, about 45 minutes outside of Austin, and visit Sorellina Pizzeria for a unique experience. Better yet, make a day of it and visit some of the nearby craft distilleries, wineries, and breweries too!
A visit to Sorellina Pizzeria never disappoints. The casual counter service and communal table ambiance fit well with the adorable and rustic high arched building, with a huge outdoor area complete with chicken coop. Great for adult debauchery of food and beverage or a fun family outing. They offer a nice beer selection including local Austin crafts and imports, and a respectable selection of wines by the glass or bottle. Of course, they create amazing artisan pizzas, from the dough up. They use a 10 year old sourdough starter and milled Texas wheat and flour straight from Napoli! For this list, it’s about some of the items they put ON their pizzas before being blasted in their custom wood-fire oven, especially the meats! Sorellina’s philosophy is based in traditional Italian roots, which lends to some pretty amazing goods being produced in the growing town of Spicewood. Their menu usually consists of five choices of house marinated, cured, and aged salumi; they will occasionally have a few extras rotating depending on when appropriately aged. All of the salumi are made from Hopgood Ranch (Clay County, TX) wild boar, that are trapped and fed out in a humane manner. The art of creating traditional salumi is not something most people are skilled in, especially in the States. So, what a treat indeed!
Featured are all five salumi from the menu and two extras they happened to have on my last visit. Each is ordered individually for 5$ per style.
From left to right, top to bottom: Alto (Jan 2016) younger, seasoned with bay leaf and juniper; Coppa (Nov 2015) boar shoulder cured with bay leaf and juniper; Culatello (super aged, typically five years longer than others; not on menu) is sometimes referred to the King of salumi because of its really long aging time and expertise to make it and it’s processed from a boned out and rolled leg muscle meaning that prosciutto cannot be produced; Red Waddle [sometimes called wattle] is thought to be a descendant genus from other East Texas hogs (provided to Sorellina by TerraPurezza farm located right in Spicewood) produces a more fatty Coppa from part of the neck and shoulder and is cured with bay and juniper; Finocchiona (Nov 2015) cured with dried orange and fennel seed; Nostrano (Aug 2015) is processed in Sorellina’s special way [“our” style] with salt and black pepper; and Lonza (Aug 2015) cut from the boar’s loin muscle and seasoned with bay, garlic, and black pepper. All are literally melt in your mouth. The execution is amazing, complex flavors and the use of wild boar gives each salumi just the right amount of game so you know you are enjoying the something very special. Choices to please everybody’s palate. Be sure to order a loaf of their James Brown’s (local miller from Barton Springs) various heirloom wheats sourdough (same 10 year starter as used in crust) and cultured olive oil butter to enhance your salumi experience…an experience it is.
Hours: Wednesday – Thursday 5-9PM; Friday – Saturday 5-10PM; Sunday 12-8PM; closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
Parking: free private gravel lot.
Specials: Every Wednesday get one free kid’s pizza (limit one; cheese or pepperoni) with the purchase of a Sorellina Signature Pizza. They offer Wednesday beer specials as well, including 2$ off draft pints and 19$ pitchers. DURING SPRING/SUMMER every Sunday they offer Bloody Mary’s and Mimosas from 12-3PM during the Pedernales Farmer’s Market that runs from 10AM-2PM on their lot. Plastic cups available if you want to take your drinks with you while you shop. [Menu and prices subject to change]
Of course there’s always the Build Your Own option if entertaining or dining in. Simply pick up some meats, cheeses, fruits, pickled stuffs, and more…arrange on a cutting board or tray…and serve. Here I included some delicate 34Degrees Crisps; however, I also like to use thin Italian bread sticks, crustinis, water crackers, or petite toast…it’s whatever you want!
Here is a list of a few great Austin area and Lone Star State places to buy some fantastic items from [some items can be ordered online]:
Antonelli’s Cheese Shop – Austin, TX
Austin Cheese Company – Austin, TX
Easy Tiger – Austin & area, TX
Fat Belly Pretzels – Hudson Bend [Austin], TX
Salt & Time – Austin, TX
Central Market – various
Whole Foods – various
Spec’s – various
Buc-ee’s – various
Slovacek’s – West, Texas
Fredericksburg Farms – Fredericksburg, TX
Rustlin’ Rob’s Texas Gourmet Foods – Fredericksburg, TX
Gourmage of Texas – New Braunfels, TX
New Braunfels Smokehouse – New Braunfels, TX