FORGOING HYPE AND HIPNESS, AN AUSTIN STALWART DAZZLES WITH CONSISTENCY AND QUALITY
by Karen O. Spezia
Photograph by Knoxy Knox
LOOKING FOR AUSTIN’S NEWEST, HOTTEST RESTAURANT? Then stop reading. How about an Austin mainstay that’s been packing ‘em in for almost three decades? Read on. Bartlett’s is where I – and legions of other loyal customers – dine when they crave a consistently excellent dining experience. Although it’s not flashy or trendy and its chef isn’t a celebrity (although he comes with an impressive pedigree), Bartlett’s continues to draw crowds with its top-notch food, drinks, service, and ambiance.
Opened in 1990 under the Houston’s moniker as part of the Hillstone Restaurant Group, it was rechristened Bartlett’s in 2010 after founder-owner Tim Bartlett. Besides the name, not much has changed over the years. And that’s a good thing. The menu still features outstanding American favorites; the bar still mixes perfect, classic cocktails; the service is still some of the best in town; and the décor remains understatedly upscale.
Don’t look for trendy pork belly, poke salad, or miniature tasting portions at Bartlett’s. Instead, you’ll find generous servings of proven American fare. For starters, the gooey, creamy spinach and artichoke dip is legendary, arriving in a bubbling crock with a side of cool sour cream, zippy salsa, and crispy tortilla chips. Signature homemade soups change daily, including clam chowder, baked potato, arroz con pollo, firehouse chili, and New Orleans red bean. Enormous salads are always garden fresh, like the Caesar, grilled chicken, and Asian steak and noodle. For sandwiches, the cheeseburger is one of the city’s best and the French dip is piled high with shaved prime rib. Tender barbecue pork ribs and juicy roasted prime rib are popular items, as are the roasted chicken and the seasonal selections of grilled seafood.
Side dishes at Bartlett’s stand on their own merit. For potato lovers, there are addictive shoestring fries, garlic mashed potatoes, and a killer baked potato with crusty, salted skin. There’s a rotating selection of delicious seasonal vegetables, plus creamy cole slaw and, surprisingly, on-trend quinoa. Save room for one of the decadent, ample desserts, especially the sweet-tart Key Lime Pie. The talented bartenders mix a fine cocktail and the award-win-ning wine list features a crowd-pleasing choice of domestic all-stars and imported charmers.
Located just north of downtown on Anderson Lane, Bartlett’s offers a variety of seating options. The large, oval bar is always buzzing, filled with drinkers and diners greeting old friends and making new ones. The multilevel dining room overlooks the open grill and features cozy booths and roomy tables. Its clubby interior is illuminated by flickering candles and subtle lighting. There’s also a small patio for al fresco cocktails and nibbles.
Surprises are fun, but sometimes I just want a sure bet. So when I tire of chasing the next big thing, I head to Bartlett’s. I can always count on its consistently good food, drinks, service, and tasteful atmosphere. It’s where I go for lunch or a weeknight dinner, to catch up with friends, to entertain clients, or to celebrate an anniversary. Any time is Bartlett’s time.