Devil May Care’s Exotic Cocktails and Creative Mediterranean Fare Shine Late at Night
Austin is ready for a wicked good time when dining meets nightlife at a new lounge
By Karen O. Spezia
Photographs by Holly Cowart
This article was conceived and written before coronavirus concerns closed all Austin dining rooms. Be sure to check the restaurant’s website for to-go and delivery options.
I picked the perfect night to visit Devil May Care. It was damp and chilly, the kind of drizzly spring evening when I’d typically curl up at home with Netflix. Instead, I got dolled up and ventured out to one of Austin’s swankiest new lounges, Devil May Care. The perfect antidote for a soggy night, the restaurant warmed me up with its sultry ambiance, friendly staff, impeccable drinks and creative Mediterranean cuisine.
Cozy and alluring, Devil May Care is an underground hideaway tucked beneath downtown’s historic 1918 Stratford Arms Building. Formerly occupied by Sophia’s supper club and Bess Bistro, the subterranean location is one of Austin’s most unique dining spaces. A clandestine entrance leads down to a sprawling cellar, filled with a sense of exotic mystery.
Borrowing its name from an idiom for “carefree” and “reckless,” the restaurant reflects that same nonchalant attitude. The vintage décor is reminiscent of a modern speakeasy, featuring exposed brick, antique mirrors and polished brass balanced by theatrical neon lights, dramatic murals and DJ turntables. Additional accents such as flickering candles, retro sofas and rolling bar carts all indicate that this ain’t your typical Austin cowboy-chic, urban-hippie scene. Then again, that’s the point: to take a risk and try something different.
Defining Devil May Care is tricky: It’s a lounge, club and restaurant rolled into one. The unique dining-meets-nightlife destination is definitely for adults, since you must be 21 to enter and cocktails are front and center.
Exuding an unapologetically sexy vibe, the concept encourages exclusivity with VIP table reservations, house accounts and bottle service. Be sure to dress to impress, as the “Austin Upscale” dress code frowns on flip-flops and ball caps. Managed by Chicago’s BDG Hospitality and Nova Hospitality — which also runs the new Japanese-inspired TenTen restaurant across the street — Devil May Care’s lineage certainly makes a big-city statement.
As a lounge first and foremost, cocktails are king at DMC — and they don’t disappoint. Skillfully mixed and stylishly presented, they’re a notch above most you’ll find in town. We started with the signature Hellfire, a radiant scarlet cocktail bursting with layers of complex flavors. The delicious mixture of reposado tequila, dry Curaçao, Fresno chile peppers, orange bergamot bitters and fresh citrus juice was at once tantalizingly sweet, spicy and salty.
If you’re a martini lover, don’t miss the De España, a silky blend of Spanish olive oil-washed gin, manzanilla sherry and dry white vermouth. Presented on a lovely silver tray, the classic cocktail expertly balanced roundness and bright salinity. Devil May Care’s Mediterranean wine list is evolving, but it’s already starting to feature interesting varietals from Lebanon, Greece, Portugal and Spain.
Soak up all that booze with some food from the diverse menu of Mediterranean-inspired dishes. Since the relaxed dining space is mostly filled with sofas, stools and cocktail tables, shareable plates are prevalent. The Devil’s Eggs are a colorful riff on the classic: hard-boiled eggs soaked in purple beet juice, then filled with whipped feta and spicy horseradish. The grilled halloumi cheese atop a crispy tot was a fun bite, and classics like raw East Coast oysters and homemade hummus were solid. Ubiquitous and often predictable, Brussels sprouts were a surprising standout: perfectly roasted with sumac honey and toasted chorizo-flavored falafel crumbs. We fought over the last morsel.
The hands-down slam-dunk of the meal was the chicken. Like Brussels sprouts, chicken can be a yawn at most restaurants, but Devil May Care has elevated it to new heights. Generously seasoned with garlic, citrus, harissa and pan jus, a succulent half-chicken is roasted until its skin is addictively crispy. This dish is ample enough to share, served with a dome of crunchy Persian rice, pita bread and assorted dips and pickled veg. For dessert, we indulged in a lovely duo of flaky pistachio baklava accompanied by a spin on Italian affogato: brown butter ice cream drizzled in aromatic Turkish coffee.
Devil May Care was a delightfully exotic escape from the norm — and a rainy Austin night. As spring evolves, the airy upstairs patio will be a welcome spot on pleasant evenings; when summer hits, the cool subterranean lounge will provide respite from the heat. Whatever the season, Devil May Care makes for a tasty and seductive change of pace.