Dining Guide to Local Austin Restaurants
DINING PICK: WEATHER UP
Killer cocktails, soulful cooking.
Weather Up, in the converted cottage that once housed the beloved Azul, is a relative newcomer on the stretch of East Cesar Chavez that is home to piñata outlets, raspa stands, and newly minted hipster hangouts. It manages to capture all the charms of this neighborhood in transition, representing the best of old and new East Austin. With a speakeasy aesthetic but the soul of your friendly neighborhood tavern, it’s the kind of place you could duck into for a quick cocktail on the way home from work more often than you might like to admit, a place equally suited to an easy date night or a boozy brunch where the kids might get a little loud, and that would be just fine. The tell-me-no-secrets vintage feel inside, with plush leather banquettes, custom marble light fixtures, flocked wallpaper, and industrial barstools, is lovely, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Outside there’s a cool, shady patio that must be one of the best in town for alfresco drinking and noshing, with artfully shabby furniture and the requisite Ping-Pong table.
Weather Up is hip in that East Austin way that makes folks in town for SXSW decide they want to move here, but few people know that it’s also a fantastic place for dinner and brunch, with an ever-changing small-plates menu turned out effortlessly by quietly talented executive chef Kristine Kittrell (who also runs the food program at Mulberry wine bar in the more slick 2nd Street District). Her menu runs to small bites with intense flavors—the Smoked-Whitefish Croquette is rich and crisp, the intense smoky fish inside cut through with a pickled apple relish and napped with sharp mustard crème fraîche. There’s a well-curated meat and cheese selection, along with salty fried almonds, olives, and blistered Padrón peppers that pair perfectly with cocktails tending toward sweet, intense flavors and using house-made syrups and bitters. La Nina, a slushy white rum, lime, and mint concoction blended with vanilla strawberry shrub was perfect for a summer evening, as was a bubbly Peachy Keen, with bourbon, peach ginger syrup, lemon juice, and Champagne. Drinkers looking for something with a little more punch might order the Homemade Fireball Shot with a Lone Star chaser.
Amid an array of enticing brasserie-inspired offerings such as the artichoke and feta tart with wild greens and preserved lemon, seared scallop with foie gras and wild greens, and Ricotta gnocchi with fava beans, truffles and Sun Gold tomatoes, menu standouts included poached peaches with Burrata, the fragrant fruit accompanied by peppery local chicories and sprinkled with crunchy, nutty almond granola, and our favorite, the PEI mussels in carrot ham broth. The dish came with a crusty baguette for sopping, but once that was gone, we resorted to scooping up the smoky, gelatin-rich broth with mussel shells, tilting the dish to scrape the corners and jostling for the very last dregs. The silky sweet corn crème brûlée with huckleberry compote ended dinner on a satisfying note.
The brunch menu offers hearty and thoughtfully considered dishes after 11 am on Sundays. Lamb chorizo with poached eggs and grilled avocado is at home in the neighborhood, while sweet potato waffles with duck confit and brandy- soaked cherry maple syrup is clearly new to this part of town, but certainly welcome. A sophisticated supper club every other Thursday lets the chef explore larger-format dishes—five courses are paired with cocktails (by reservation only—check website for dates and details). 1808 E. Cesar Chavez. Open nightly 4-12, brunch Sunday 11-4.
Photography by Evan Prince