In a dazzling spot high above Rainey Street, a veteran chef delivers as much substance as style
By Karen Spezia
Photographs by Reagan Taylor
March in Austin means good times. You’re either skipping town for spring break (see ya in Colorado) or flying in for SXSW (welcome, pardner). But if you’re not in either camp and feeling left out of the fun, head to Geraldine’s, a buzzing new restaurant and bar that’s like a vacation in your own backyard. This stylish adult playground offers delicious dining, cocktails with city views, nightly live music and poolside entertainment — all under one roof. Located in the chic new Hotel Van Zandt on Rainey Street … wait, did I just lose you? Fear not, Geraldine’s literally rises above the Rainey Street chaos with its discreet fourth floor location that hovers above the pulsing scene instead of wallowing in it. Better yet, there’s valet parking.
But don’t let Geraldine’s sizzle and sex appeal fool you: this place is legit. With Austin’s slew of new restaurants that value style over substance (you know who you are), Geraldine’s resoundingly delivers on both. Texas-native and Executive Chef Stephen Bonin honed his chops at Austin standouts like Odd Duck, Epicerie and The Driskill, and now delights Geraldine’s diners with a menu chock-full of tasty dishes. We started with crunchy Cornmeal Fried Oyster Mushrooms, a sophisticated riff on the standard pub fare.
Crispy pork ribs were worth the mess, lacquered with a sweet-and-spicy Asian glaze.
Next came a lovely salad composed of beets — roasted and pickled — atop creamy deviled egg mousse and scattered with crispy rye crumbles. Smoked carrots got star treatment with a toothsome mole and puffed amaranth. Crispy pork ribs were worth the mess, lacquered with a sweet-and-spicy Asian glaze. Silky Wagyu steak was enhanced with a subtle coffee rub that added just the right amount of flavor and depth. Fresh gulf coast cobia was dusted in blackening spices and garnished with tomatillo relish. And in a meal of outstanding dishes, the barbecued short ribs won first prize: meltingly tender yet still retaining the coveted ‘burnt’ ends, and served with a refreshing, fat-cutting garnish of shaved cucumber, pickled carrots and fresh herbs. Although you will have cleaned your plates, make room for Geraldine’s mouthwatering desserts, like the sweet-and-sour passion fruit tart or one of the rotating selections of creamy, complex homemade ice creams.
Geraldine’s is as much a bar as it is a restaurant, so don’t forget beverages. In a city full of craft cocktails, Geraldine’s stand out with unique and intricate flavor profiles, like the smooth-and-spicy Mission Style Martini and the smoky, rum-based Far From the Tree. The beer and wine list is full of treasures and our knowledgeable server helped perfectly pair our dishes with glasses of Italian Barbera and an Australian Bordeaux blend.
After filling up on tasty food and drink, sit back and enjoy the live music showcased nightly on the dining room stage or work off you meal on its intimate dance floor. Music starts later in the evening so rather than compete with your dining experience, it enhances it — enticing diners to linger with a nightcap from its impressive selection of 80 different American whiskeys. On Sundays, Geraldine’s hosts a jazz brunch and, in warmer months, a dance party on the adjacent pool deck with live DJs spinning the latest tracks. There’s a lot going on at Geraldine’s — and it’s all good.
Read more from the Music + Film Issue | March 2017