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An Evening at Benji's Cantina


West 6th street. For an old-timer like myself (I've been in Austin for nearly 18 years) the entire area has lots of great memories: Gatemouth Brown at Antone's with my buddy Noah, Sue Foley, also at Antone's with Dave and Alex. Social Distortion, the Misfits, and Clutch all at Liberty Lunch (RIP). And after great shows like that we would grab a bite at places like Best Wurst, and Katz's (RIP). But things change. Liberty Lunch is gone, and so is Katz's. Change is inevitable and not always a bad thing. For instance, one of the newer arrivals to 6th street is Benji's Cantina, a Tex-Mex and Mexican inspired gem that has popped up recently. The place was recommended to us by good friend Paula, and when Paula suggests a place it is bound to be good. Here's a quick rundown of what we had:

To start, we opted for the guacamole. Guacamole so fresh it's made at your table. The avocados were mashed just the way I like them. Creamy but still plenty of texture, and the tomatoes, jalapeno, and cilantro were just right with a little fresh squeezed lime juice. Table side guacamole service.....I need this at my house.

My lovely wife opted for the fish tacos. A piece of lightly fried redfish with tomatoes, cilantro, and topped off with fresh crema (Mexican style sour cream) and a little green sauce. Like much of what is served a Benji's, the tortillas are made fresh, which went perfectly with an absolutely stellar piece of fish. It was tender, flaky, and not even slightly dry. I'd order this again in a heartbeat.

I decided on Pork Adobodo. I'm not even sure where to start with this. We were told that this dish was one that they worked on for weeks to perfect. Quite frankly it shows. The flavor of the Adobo sauce was deep, rich and just a little sweet. The pork was cooked perfectly. Honestly I don't remember the last time I had pork this good. I ordered mine with corn tortillas. These were some of the best I've had in a long time. Seriously. I've had tortillas made right in front of me in Monterrey, Mexico and these tortillas rivaled any of the tortillas I have ever had there. This one is a must order when you go.

The atmosphere of Benji's is pleasant and upscale. The service is as you would expect at a restaurant of that caliber- helpful, courteous, and attentive. Another thing that impressed me was that both the General Manager and one of the owners were walking the floor and did not hesitate to stop and chat and make sure that things were going as they should. It's that kind of attention that helps to ensure that a restaurant will succeed.

We had a great evening and look forward to trying the fantastic fajitas on our next visit!


The best patios in St. Louis

Photography by Kevin A. Roberts

Neatly tucked between two buildings, the patio at Billy G’s is a slice of nirvana in the heart of Kirkwood. Start with drinks by the fire pit table. Then eat beneath the strings of lights in the main dining area (ideally with friends in one of the covered cabanas). Finally, enjoy a nightcap and a game on the TVs at the outdoor bar. 131 W. Argonne.

The Rock Hill staple wasn’t always known for its sprawling patio. In 1993, nearly 25 years after opening, the owners added an eight-table outdoor area. An instant hit, la terraza has continued to evolve and now boasts lush landscaping, covered seating, overhead heaters, and a full bar that cranks out the margaritas. 9748 Manchester.

Ted and Katie Collier ingeniously use every square inch of the two locations’ patios, placing planter boxes to separate the seating from the parking lots and planting produce for über-local ingredients.

Already a popular hangout, the Valley Park location just got a major upgrade, with a two-tiered, enclosed patio complete with a pergola and flat-screen TVs.

John D. McGurk’s: Inside, the Soulard pub harks back to Dublin, with brick archways and authentic Irish music. Outside, the two-tier patio resembles a wee botanical garden, replete with a koi pond, fountain, and covered bars. Farther west, don’t overlook the picturesque patio in O’Fallon.

Shaded by mature trees, Braddens’ courtyard offers the perfect place from which to survey the scene on historic Main. Start with a bottle of merlot and Brie with apples and bread and unwind to the sound of the gurgling fountain. 515 S. Main, St. Charles.

Grab a bite on one of the sidewalk tables along Lockwood Ave. and then step back inside to grab something from the butcher case. steaks, chops, chicken, and some of the meatiest bacon in town. 146 W. Lockwood, Webster Groves.

At the original Ballwin location, a side patio is open to the elements, and a rear portico overlooks a pond. In Des Peres, a covered deck doubles as the front porch.

Next door to Circle 7 in Ballwin, Marcella’s also offers a serene view of said pond. Don’t overlook the Peppercorn Burger—an unexpected surprise at an Italian restaurant. 14426 Clayton.

St. Louisans and out-of-towners alike have long enjoyed drinks and dining on the patio overlooking The Chase Park Plaza’s famed Mediterranean-style pool. After a dramatic makeover last year, the Chase Club (formerly Café Eau) offers fireside seating on one of the most elegant, storied patios in town. 212 N. Kingshighway.

The quintessential “Italian food on The Hill” experience doesn’t get much better than an evening spent seated on the restaurant’s semiprivate tree-shaded patio. Look for servers’ names inscribed in the trunks of two magnificent magnolias. 5226 Shaw.

One of the city’s iconic alfresco dining experiences has taken a different tack. Under the guidance of chef Jack MacMurray and Sugarfire Events, the restaurant now serves a menu of proven hits. On busy weekends, look for additional items from guest restaurants and food trucks. 6101 Government.

It’s almost impossible to round the corner at Maryland and Brentwood on a temperate evening and not be drawn in by the soft seating, stainless steel fire sculpture, and (occasional) live music. Park the car and join the party. 8100 Maryland.

The interior is spectacular, but nothing says German Bierhalle like the Biergarten, which seats 200. 123 St. Eugene.

Sunday brunches are terrific. Think poached eggs with cornbread Benedict, eggplant involtini, and seafood frittata along with live music and restorative Bloody Marys. With its own bar and tranquil atmosphere, the covered patio will quickly become a favorite haunt.13 Maryland Plaza.

Mark Twain was still alive when the building that houses Hendel’s was constructed. He’d have adored the rustic courtyard, with its widely spaced tables shaded by mature oaks in a quiet Florissant neighborhood. 599 St. Denis.

All three locations offer great specials. The best spot to enjoy said deals? The cozy patio at the West County location.

In Creve Coeur, EdgeWild’s intimate patio is neatly tucked below the hustle and bustle of Olive Boulevard. 12316 Olive.

Enjoying a meal at Vito’s before the symphony is a St. Louis tradition. Dining on the streetside court is a warm-weather joy. The pizza’s thick specialties, pastas, and salads are Sicilian-accented. A small outdoor bar adds to the relaxed, unhurried atmosphere. 3515 Lindell.

The sprawling multi-level outdoor dining space, filled with umbrella-topped tables, is a destination for Cajun specialties. Oyster shooters make a good beginning. When the live music starts, get serious with po’ boys and seafood jambalaya. (And don’t forget Sunday brunch, when it’s smart to arrive before 11:30 a.m.) 816 Geyer.

It looks less like a restaurant patio than a forest glade. The stone-lined waterfall is spectacular, and greenery surrounds diners. Consider going during happy hour (4–6 p.m. Monday–Friday) for discounted sliders, calamari, and flatbreads. There’s live music some nights on others, the flowing water provides a relaxing soundtrack. 16125 Chesterfield Parkway W.

A florid Art Nouveau ironwork structure, a massive tiered fountain, strings of over-head lights, an array of soft seating… Not much can top Sanctuaria’s splendid bar, but this fun, sophisticated patio does. 4198 Manchester.

Seating is actually in Citygarden, an oasis in downtown’s forest of concrete and steel. Pair a cup of joe with a house-baked scone or a savory dish from the breakfast or lunch menu. Morning meetings on this elegant patio are a visual delight. 808 Chestnut.

Breakfasts here are lavish enjoying them on the partially hidden below-grade patio is a grand way to begin the day. Dogs, who are permitted, give it a rating of five bones. The sandwiches and drinks are great, but let’s be honest: The dessert choices are unbelievable. 5400 Murdoch.

Some know Café Natasha as home to outstanding falafel, hummus, and kebabs. Others go for the unparalleled collection of gins, along with house-concocted tonics. The patio brings the two sides together, offering an umbrella-festooned hideaway that’s romantic and relaxed. 3200 S. Grand.

Dinner here is genteel, with a menu of inspired dishes, steaks from the next-door butchery, and a stellar wine list (including an at-cost glass and bottle that change every week). Dining on the patio should be a Ladue tradition—an evening spent in semiprivacy with a glass of tawny port is wonderfully civilized. 9202 Clayton.

Venice Café Currently closed for winter

Ground zero for kooky weirdness, the café’s patio masquerades as a sculpture park, with Gaudi-inspired mosaics gone mad, splashy fountains, and that famous “boat bar.” It’s the place for affordably priced drinks (but remember to bring cash). 1903 Pestalozzi.

Situated in St. Charles’ former water works, Hendricks hits all the basics for an enjoyable summer twilight: barbecue (think ribs and brisket), beer and liquor (even flavored moonshine), and a quiet setting with a view (the double deck overlooking the Katy Trail). 1200 S. Main.

An unassuming street corner in U. City is home to one of the most alluring sidewalk patios (and some of the best street tacos) in town. 7405 Pershing.

With One North Group’s 4101 Laclede luxury condos opening across the street this summer, Retreat will likely be hotter than ever. 6 N. Sarah.

Sit at one of the comfortable tables under the striped awning and order escargots, steak frites, and a glass of Bordeaux. 427 S. Kirkwood.

Across the parking lot from Café Provencal, Sapore offers a picturesque fountain and fine Italian dining. 451 S. Kirkwood.

An unassuming storefront gives way to a partially covered courtyard graced with string lights and plants. 5815 Hampton.

Open all day, Avenue’s charming, west-facing sidewalk patio offers welcome respite and a prime people-watching perch in the heart of Clayton. 12 N. Meramec.

It’s like eating in Oxford. Ivy-draped brick walls tower around the intimate courtyard, tucked behind the Seven Gables Inn. Enjoy such classics as potpies and the Busch's Grove Russ Salad, as well as an astounding whiskey and bourbon selection. 26 N. Meramec.

The perfect remedy after a night spent hopping Soulard’s bars, this neighborhood fixture’s namesake is hidden out back, where regulars gravitate for blueberry cornmeal pancakes and slingers amid a bohemian garden of brick and flora. 909 Geyer.

Just west of Delmar’s main drag, Vicia's Tara and Michael Gallina present excellent food, drink, and pastries in a peaceful haven in a quiet part of U. City. The patio is especially charming at night, with the lights casting a warm glow on the trees and brick building. 7213 Delmar.

This Streets of St. Charles hot spot is the unofficial happy hour headquarters for St. Charles (3–7 p.m. Monday–Friday, 9–11 p.m. Friday and Saturday). Try the $5 sangria and pick from a range of $7 appetizers—or the elaborate $10 sushi rolls (available 5–7 p.m.). 1520 S. Fifth.

First, outdoor seating encircles the restaurant, so there are plenty of options. Second, Joey B’s also offers alfresco booths for cozy dining. Third, the menu covers everything from pasta-centric Italian fare to such pub eats as steak sandwiches. It’s often crowded and always fun. 14445 Manchester.

The ambience on the sprawling patio in Des Peres is Cancun cool, with reservable cabanas, soft seating near a fireplace, and a louvered roof. The downtown location also offers seating aplenty.

Tucked away just off Wash. Ave., the stylish eatery (fashioned by Lori Olsen McElvain, who also designed both Rosalita’s) boasts a pergola-covered space with fans, hanging plants, and wrought-iron furniture. It’s among downtown’s most pleasant patios. 1301 Washington.

This elevated respite at The Grandel has a great view, with Powell Hall in the foreground and downtown in the distance. 3610 Grandel Square.


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An Evening at Benji's Cantina - Recipes

On my last trip to Italy I was overwhelmed by new tastes and experiences. Even though I've been there many times, I'm always amazed by the many hidden gems I find. That was certainly the case with La Cantina di Cianna Cianne in Bari Vecchia. This amazing Trattoria is in the heart of the old city of Bari, and serves traditional Barese dishes you can enjoy while sitting outside on a little side street, taking in the energy of this vibrant city. The charismatic owner, Beppe Stucci, explained the meaning behind the name of his restaurant to me. The name Cianna Cianne is actually a play on words from Barese dialect that means a messy lady. He said that if a man would come home to find the house out of order he would yell and say "What is this, the house of Cianna Cianne?"

Beppe is quite a character, and he and his adorable wife Resi put all of their passion into running their business. They were so accommodating when I arrived late one evening after a very long drive from Sorrento and just needed a good meal. I ended up getting so much more, as Beppe and Resi sat with me and my guests and recounted hilarious anecdotes of the restaurant business and just life in general. By the end of the meal, we were great friends. I'm thrilled that I'll be bringing my Puglia tour group there this year so they can share in the experience - check out the video from my dinner there and you'll know exactly what I mean!

I decided to leave the menu totally up to Resi, and I'm glad I trusted my instincts. This Scorfano was delicious.

Beppe was so sweet to give me this awesome book about Bari.

The evening wouldn't have been complete without someone coming around selling roses. Beppe and Resi bought me all of them without hesitation. Their love story is incredible, and you can hear all about it in the video!

Needless to say, it was indeed an honor to be chosen by Beppe as an Ambassador of the Barese Cuisine in America! Grazie Beppe! See you soon again!

Lunch at La Cantina di Cianna Cianne will be a stop during my Puglia Culinary Tour 2014.


3 Days In Austin, Texas

Back in November, I spent three days in Austin, Texas for a girls’ weekend getaway. Although Mother Nature had other plans (it was cold, even by Chicago standards), it was still a fantabulous time.

Day One

I took an early flight from ORD > Dallas > Austin. Luckily, three of us were landing all around the same time, despite flying on three different airlines. Our 4th friend picked us up and we headed straight to Nutty Brown. This quaint, Texan cafe on the outskirts of the city can make any big city girl happy (those cocktail prices?! I’ll take two, please!).

We went here because it was only five miles from our next (and most important) destination: Deep Eddy Vodka Distillery & Tasting Room, because every good girls weekend begins with going directly to drinking from the airport, right?

From L to R: Jen, Toni, Melissa, Me

Deep Eddy Vodka is now my favorite! It’s an awesome place (I’ve learned it was recently opened), the staff was friendly and knowledgeable. And well, being from Chicago, the prices were mind-bogglingly awesome.

Not to mention, I had to purchase this t-shirt that was practically MADE for me.

After two drinks there (yes, it was a two drink maximum) we headed back to the place we were staying. We lucked out, as our travel mate’s sister-in-law had a larger than average, gorgeous new house less than five miles from the famed South Congress Avenue district. But first, we did stop for a bottle of the Deep Eddy Ruby Red Vodka and mixers to enjoy a beverage while getting ready to head to dinner.

Dinner was at Benji’s Cantina where my friend had some ex co-workers that joined us. It was quite busy, but luckily the upstairs rooftop was open. It was frigid at around 40 degrees, but I’m from Chicago and there were heat lamps, so we survived! From the chips and salsa to the queso to the fajitas to the cheesecake, everything was delicious.

I highly suggest that you wear comfortable pants because you will be stuffed! Oh, and definitely try the Pepino Endiablabo cocktail while you’re there.

After dinner, we walked across the street to The Dogwood (fun fact: it’s owned by the former two-timing Bachelor Brad Womack). We enjoyed a corner booth (where we may have pretended it was VIP), with tasty drinks.

…and some DIY entertainment. I had specifically purchased some funky print pants that we dubbed fancypants.

Toni and me modeling some fancy pants

Next up on the to-do list was supposed to be a bull-riding adventure at Rowdy’s – however, I passed on that option and we all headed back to the house for a good night’s sleep.

Saturday

Our plan was to do brunch at South Congress Cafe (yes!) I’ve heard this is a popular place. Not a lie. We did have to wait a super long time for a table (I think I nibbled at my arm I was so hangry!) but finally, FINALLY five of us squeezed into a booth where we all sipped on mimosas and devoured food. It’s definitely worth the wait.
After the semi-food coma, the five of us went to get a lil’ mani action. Luckily a friend’s sister-in-law recommend a place. It was a small place but packed with patrons (good sign that it must be worth it). Now, I admit that I do my own nails every Sunday so had no idea what to expect. A little massage action, lotion, neck rolls. The whole shebang! Also being from Chicago, I expected pricey services. Nope, Austin has stolen my heart, and not my wallet.

The original plan was to stroll along the downtown area and shop. Unfortunately, for us, the weather was less than agreeable so we ended up at a Doc’s Bar for day drinking round two. This is where I fell in love with Shinerbock Holiday Cheer.

This also led to discussions about tattoos. I do not have any tattoos (because I never knew what I wanted or where). Leave it to a few drinks in Austin on a Saturday afternoon to make progress, but more on that later.

We all eventually headed home to start getting pretty for dinner (and of course enjoying some Deep Eddy vodka drinks while putting my face on). Decisions for restaurants went back and forth and finally settled on Vespaio. A cute lil’ Italian place, with good food.

And again, expecting Chicago prices for good Italian food, I was pleasantly shocked. Practically half as much as I expected the bill to be. That just meant less guilty conscience for the round of drinks…at CU29 bar. One of the gals was friends with the head bartender, and let me tell you, this place….the drinks…please open up a location in Chicago! I enjoyed the Samoa Martini. (Take a minute, wipe the drool from your face). It was literally that good liquid girl scout classic that was so rich and creamy it could have been dessert. Melissa had the Carrot Cake Martini. Again, wipe the drool because this concoction should be illegal it’s soo good. Real whipped cream on the rim. Don’t even think about the calories.

And then, after the sweet smooth libations, tattoo time! A tattoo was settled on – design and location. We walk into the place and I was mesmerized. I begin asking a lot of questions…as Melissa was getting her’s applied. And yes, sorry to disappoint, but I half chickened out as I couldn’t 100% decide on how I wanted the tattoo to be (i.e. text/script vs symbol). I do know I want it on the back of my neck. Stay tuned as hopefully someday soon I’ll break my tattoo-virginity!

We walked down 6th ave – which reminds me of a vibier version of Bourbon street and soaked in the glorious atmosphere. It finally stopped raining and despite Austin being in a deep freeze (no joke, like 35 degrees) it had warmed up a bit to 45 degrees and well, for us Chicagoans, it was practically summer temps.

All in all, an enjoyable and entertaining (albeit calorie-ridden) Saturday evening.

Sunday –

After sleeping in a bit and doing the final packing up we headed to Frank’s for brunch. This place…is pure fabulousness. The vibe. The food. The drinks. Couldn’t get enough!

It was the perfect ending to a quick weekend getaway. Jen drove Melissa and I to the airport for the final farewell (Toni left earlier). But of course, after purchasing the Day Drinking Team t-shirt I felt it was only appropriate the end the weekend on the perfect note – with a wine flight at Vino Volo while awaiting my plane.

Texas, you don’t mess around and I do hope that my weekend adventure helped keep Austin weird.

PS: you know I followed these 6 Travel Hacks!

How do you spend 3 days in Austin? Share your tips below!


Austin restaurants: Where to eat outside

Alcomar. 1816 S. First St. 512-401-3161, alcomaratx.com. The Mexican seafood restaurant from the El Chile family offers a taste of the coast.

*Apis Restaurant and Apiary. 23526 Texas 71, Spicewood. 512-436-8918, apisrestaurant.com. A patio where you can actually glimpse Hill Country stars and burnt orange sunsets while enjoying remarkably sourced fine dining.

Aroma Italian Kitchen & Bar. 3403 S. Lamar Blvd. 512-900-8670, aromaitalian.com. Italian food with an outdoor patio that sits nestled just off the busy action of South Lamar Boulevard.

*Austin Beer Garden Brewing Co. 1305 W. Oltorf St. 512-298-2242, theabgb.com. A casual, straightforward pizza-and-beer joint with plenty of outdoor seating.

Banger&rsquos. 79 Rainey St. 512-386-1656, bangersaustin.com. A large, pup-friendly beer garden and roster of creative sausages make this spot one of Rainey Street&rsquos most popular.

Bartlett&rsquos. 2408 W. Anderson Lane. 512-451-7333, bartlettsaustin.com. This restaurant has changed little since its transition from Houston&rsquos, and that&rsquos not a bad thing.

Benji&rsquos Cantina. 716 W. Sixth St. 512-476-8226, benjiscantina.com. This Tex-Mex spot offers fajita meat with a pedigree and great views of West Sixth Street from its rooftop patio.

*Black Star Co-op. 7020 Easy Wind Drive. 512-452-2337, blackstar.coop. The cooperatively owned brewpub offers a robust roster of house and guest beers, as well as a menu of thoughtfully crafted pub food, with outdoor seats near the Crestview Metro Rail station.

*Blue Dahlia Bistro. 1115 E. 11th St. 512-542-9542, bluedahliabistro.com. The shady back patio is something of a secret garden the menu, an ode to light French cuisine.

*Bouldin Creek Cafe. 1900 S. First St. 512-416-1601, bouldincreek.com. One of Austin&rsquos true temples to vegetarian and vegan fare has a bustling patio out front.

Botticelli&rsquos. 1321 S. Congress Ave. 512-916-1315, botticellissouthcongress.com. Intimate Italian dining on bustling South Congress, with a patio out back for a relaxing glass of wine and maybe some tunes.

*Clark&rsquos. 1200 W. Sixth St. 512-297-2525, clarksoysterbar.com. This jewel-box oyster bar looks like it was snatched up from the Hamptons, dusted of sand, and placed in West Austin. If you&rsquore lucky you can snag one of the few outdoor tables lining the front windows.

*La Condesa. 400 W. Second St. 512-499-0300, lacondesa.com. The patio-wrapped restaurant has the feel of dining in one of Mexico City&rsquos leafy, upscale neighborhoods.

*Contigo. 2027 Anchor Lane. 512-614-2260, contigotexas.com/austin. All wood, leather and wrought iron, Contigo spills from its garage-size interior bar to a massive outdoor seating area featuring long picnic tables.

County Line. 6500 W. Bee Cave Road. 5204 RM 2222. 512-346-3664, countyline.com. This local barbecue behemoth has been cranking the &rsquocue for about 40 years at its original location. Both Austin locations offer excellent outdoor seating.

Curra&rsquos Grill. 614 E. Oltorf St. 512-444-0012, currasgrill.com. One of the early movers in Austin&rsquos interior-Mexican cuisine scene, Curra&rsquos has a wraparound outdoor seating area.

Easy Tiger. 709 E. Sixth St. 512-614-4972, easytigeraustin.com. A bake shop, beer garden and outdoor oasis just on the fringe of Sixth Street&rsquos shot bars.

*Elizabeth Street Café. 1501 S. First St. 512-291-2881, elizabethstreetcafe.com. This posh little spot dotted with outdoor tables serves Vietnamese classics made with quality ingredients.

El Sapo. 1900 Manor Road. 512-366-5154, elsapoatx.com. Even the indoor seats in this garage-door style bar can catch a breeze while you dine on burgers with a Tex-Mex flare.

*Enoteca. 1610 S. Congress Ave. 512-441-7672, austinvespaio.com/enoteca. Vespaio&rsquos cute little sister, Enoteca makes very good pizza, piping hot pastas and solid Italian desserts and offers patio seating just off South Congress Avenue.

*Épicerie. 2307 Hancock Drive. 512-371-6840, epicerieaustin.com. Chef Sarah McIntosh&rsquos French café and grocery delivers well-constructed sandwiches and bistro dishes and a tranquil, shaded outdoor seating area.

*Freedmen&rsquos Bar. 2402 San Gabriel St. 512-220-0953, freedmensbar.com. Sophistication and smoke rub elbows at this barbecue joint in a rough-hewn historic building near campus.

*Garbo&rsquos. 14735 Bratton Lane. 512-350-9814, garboslobsteratx.com. Sit at picnic tables and eat lobster rolls for a taste of the Eastern Seaboard in Wells Branch.

*Hightower. 1209 E. Seventh St. 512-524-1448, thehightoweraustin.com. A great example of flavorful food at mid-range prices. Austin needs more places like this one.

*Hillside Farmacy. 1209 E. 11th St. 512-628-0168, hillsidefarmacy.com. Pâtisserie and café in the morning, solid deli in the daytime and an evening menu full of bistro classics and oysters.

*Home Slice. 1415 S. Congress Ave. 512-444-7437, homesliceaustin.com. Pizza party on the back patio. What more could you want?

*Hopfields. 3110 Guadalupe St. 512-537-0467, hopfieldsaustin.com. A shaded patio is located at the back of this French-inspired gastropub that serves one of the best hamburgers in the city.

*Hula Hut. 3825 Lake Austin Blvd. 512-476-4852, hulahut.com. A little taste of the tropics on Lake Austin. Sit out on the lakeside bar or dine inside on dishes like fajitas with a sweet Polynesian plum sauce.

*Jack Allen&rsquos Kitchen. Multiple locations. jackallenskitchen.com. Comfort food with a side of al fresco country living from a longtime Austin stalwart.

Juliet Ristorante. 1500 Barton Springs Road. 512-479-1800, juliet-austin.com. A massive outdoor patio and wrap-around bar feel plucked from an Italian coastal resort or garden.

*Justine&rsquos. 4710 E. Fifth St. 512-385-2900, justines1937.com. Left Bank jazz club meets urban garden party at this home to quality cocktails and French bistro fare.


Benji’s Cantina – Austin

Address : 716 W 6th St, Austin, TX 78701

Our Rating :

Type of Margarita Tasted : Clasico, Strawberry Fields and Jalapeno Business

Review : Benji’s Cantina in Austin came highly recommended by one of our Instagram followers. We were planning travel to the area so we asked for suggestions and this was a must-do restaurant for margaritas. Located on 6th Street, well-known for bars and restaurants in the area, Benji’s offers outdoor seating creating a perfect environment for enjoying a cocktail. We had also heard great things about their food so a stop by on arrival to the capital city was made.

As per usual, when a jalapeno version of a margarita is offered on the menu, we tend to order. The “Jalapeno Business” met this criteria and stood out immediately so it was the first to be ordered. Overall, the ingredients were fresh and balanced perfectly between the subtle sweetness and approachable spice in the included jalapeno. Next up was the “Strawberry Fields” a fruited version of the drink also with jalapeno. Pieces of strawberry were floating in the beverage which continued the theme of fresh product in their drinks. Once again, the way they are able to balance the flavors and keep us wanting that next sip. The “Clasico” was more inline with your standard margarita recipe but in taste was far from standard. This drink had a refreshing lime flavor and just the right ratio of tequila.

All of the margaritas we ordered were delicious and the taco’s were special as well. The menu has a variety of margaritas to choose from to cover any of your tastes. If you are ever on 6th Street in Austin, we recommend stopping by Benji’s, especially on a nice day so you can sit outside. Have you tried any of the margaritas at Benji’s? Leave us a comment below and let us know your favorites.


Queso

Loved this place first time going and Jazmin the waitress was wonderful. My favorite thing was they are Keto friendly. White queso with beef and chicharrones were bomb. The cucumber margarita had me tipsy on the 1st one and still coming back for more. Last but not least, the food tasted fresh and organic. Definitely going to be my new spot for friends and family.

Others will see how you vote!

The restaurant was not busy but service was slow. The food was bland. Very little flavor in the fajitas and the queso . We waited over 10 minutes for the bill. We were told they were in a "meeting" on a Friday night. Asked other wait staff for the bill twice before finally receiving it from someone we hadn't seen. Will not be visiting this restaurant, again.

Others will see how you vote!

We have been coming here for a few years and El Primos is dubbed as "The Place Where Locals Go. ". After a very disappointing experience, we will NOT be coming back. At first it went well then very quickly went downhill from there. customers should not have to ask for refills or ask where our chips, salsa, and queso are and when our meal came out, the side was completely different. The food runner advised they were out of the ordered side and then our server FAILED to quality check our meals before it left the kitchen line nor inform they were completely out of the sides. El Primo did a good job in renovating but service is severely lacking behind.

Others will see how you vote!

  • Neva B.
  • Beaverton, OR
  • 8 friends
  • 72 reviews
  • 138 photos
  • Elite ’21

This place is SO overrated in my opinion. I have gone on two separate occasions. The service has been fine, but the food is mediocre at best. The first time I went for brunch and ordered the chimichanga which was lacking flavor and warmth. The queso seemed very processed.

The second time I went I ordered a bowl of chicken tortilla soup. I like that it came with rice and a good amount of ingredients. It definitely was a large bowl and enough for a meal if you are not super super hungry. However, the broth was flavorless. Once I added an entire lime or two and a few hefty shakes of salt it was actually okay.

Others will see how you vote!

Cade was an awesome waiter! Will definitely be back. The old fashion he recommended was awesome. Thumbs up to the white queso as well!.

Others will see how you vote!

Love the fact that on the few days in Texas weather that you can sit outside, this place welcomes my fur babies! Plenty of umbrellas for shade. There is an interior "patio" that allows for open air dining but no dogs allowed in there. A few more fans would be a welcome addition. Drinks are spot on, today it's the pineapple margarita! Most excellent ! White queso initially came out a bit cool but my server fixed that promptly. He also didnt blink twice when what I wanted wasn't on menu! He just took care of it! Really like this place!

Others will see how you vote!

  • Lauren M.
  • Fort Worth, TX
  • 411 friends
  • 259 reviews
  • 778 photos
  • Elite ’21

My hubby R and I took his parents here this morning for Sunday Brunch. We arrived right around 11am and were seated immediately. The first thing we all noticed was the ambiance, which was upscale, relaxing and most notably included the jazzy music of a sax player. What a treat!

We all ordered the brunch buffet ($16), with three coffees ($2.75) and one mimosa (.99). The coffee was hot and fresh and they offered regular and decaf. The mimosa, served in a highball glass and the OJ had some pulp (not sure if fresh squeezed or not) and the drink was pretty average, as mimosas go.

The breakfast offerings at the buffet included scrambled eggs, biscuits and gravy, bacon, bread for toast and some type of casserole with eggs, potatoes and maybe sausage. There was also a station with made to order omelettes and I believe a steam tray of waffles and pancakes. First, the meh part - pancakes/waffles do not fare well when left in a steam tray. Now, onto the rest! The bacon was all super-crispy, which is perfect for me, but maybe not everyone. That was probably the best bacon I've had anywhere, hands down, in forever. The biscuits were good - with or without the gravy. The gravy tasted like a sausage gravy but there were no discernible chunks of meat in it. The biscuits were among the better biscuits served - not too flaky and definitely not too dense - somewhere in the middle of biscuit-vile-texture. Didn't have any bread/toast, so no comment, but it looked rustic and sliced thicker than average, but not quite Texas toast. The eggs. ahhhh those eggs. Clearly not powdered eggs, these were creamy, fluffy, silky and amazing. I normally try the eggs at a buffet with very low expectations, so maybe 1/4 of a cup to start. These were so yummy I went back for more. My father in law is an Atkins/Keto guy, so he was thrilled with the great bacon and fantastic eggs. They serve their salsa warm (over by the lunch foods) and R put that on his eggs and proclaimed them outstanding. Father in law had an omelette and he ate it all, so I'm thinking SCORE!

The lunch offerings were more limited. There was a middle table that had mixed greens, maybe 2 different dressings, pico, shredded cheese, guacamole, sour cream and assorted fruit (watermelon, grapes, etc). The main lunch table offered pozole, cheese enchiladas, rice, beans, flour tortillas, chicken fajitas, chips, warm salsa and some super spicy green/avocado dip (SSGAD) thing and green salsa. I tried the enchiladas (very good with a solid sauce - either ranchero or chile con carne) and chips with pico and sour cream. The SSGAD was in a bowl under a yellowish light and was masquerading as queso ! My mother in law found that out when she glopped it on her chips, got back to the table and said hrmmmm green queso ? She took a scoop and about died - she's a wimp when it comes to spicy but my hubby loved it. Mother in law said chicken fajitas were 'eh' and I was surprised they didn't offer beef. Can't remember if anyone else ate anything else, so that's it for the lunch side review. Oddly enough, there was no queso anywhere to be found. Just seems weird to have chips, but no queso . So, since MIL wanted some, I ordered a cup of queso . It was quite tasty, yellow cheese with some tomatoes, onions, peppers and mushrooms and it was probably about a scant cup total. They only charged us the happy hour price for it (deal) but it was still $5. WAY too much for that little teeny bit of queso . Would hate to see the non-HH price!

There was a selection of desserts and the only person who had room left was my MIL and she picked something she thought was creme brûlée and turns out it was flan (duh. it's a mexican place).

Drinks refills could have been a bit quicker but they did get quite busy, so we'll give a pass on that one. Same with plates being cleared, but again. busy. By the time we left around 12:15pm, there was a line out the door.

Overall, this place really has it going on. They have a cute little 4-hole golf thingie out front, a big covered patio (with windows that open up) and a whole dog-friendly patio on the side, complete with a bar and a doggie entrance. Love the whole atmosphere and we will definitely return for lunch or dinner.

Please excuse the lack of pictures - I was busy visiting and eating those eggs! Happy Brunching!


An Evening at Benji's Cantina - Recipes

Friends and supporters, it’s time to start thinking about your auction bids at this Saturday’s Texas 4000 Tribute Gala!

Plan ahead with friends to bid on our premiere live auction packages! Below are a few of the fabulous items that will be available:

On the Road Again (Live Auction)
There’s room for up to 20 on Willie Nelson’s personal tour bus! Take the bus on your very own tour around town for up to six hours. The 1983 Silver Eagle Bus, named “Me & Paul” after Nelson’s well renowned song and album, was built for the Willie Nelson Family Band and was owned by his drummer, Paul English. The band toured on this bus for four years during the 80’s. Special thanks to Vintage Innovations for this fantastic donation.

Sun or Ski in Aspen (Live Auction)
You and 5-7 friends can enjoy all the wonder that Aspen has to offer, from exquisite dining, great shopping, galleries, outdoor activities, world class skiing, year round festivals and more during your three-night stay in the Christiana Luxury Condominium. This spacious, three-bedroom condo sleeps six to eight people and is located on the Westside of Downtown Aspen. A five-minute walk from the heart of downtown, this newly renovated and charmingly decorated condo is the perfect locale for families looking for a mountain escape. Extra nights can be purchased, black out dates apply and holidays are excluded. A one-time $150 cleaning service fee is required and the trip should be booked six weeks in advance. Special Thank to M. R. Dickson Holdings.

As for a brief preview of our silent auction, gear up for some serious bidding wars on the packages below:

Foodie Dinner Party for 6 (Silent Auction)
Enjoy a four course dinner with wine pairing for six, prepared in your home by Annette Joseph, food stylist, entertainment guru, cookbook author and Today Show contributor. Each guest or couple will also receive a signed copy of Annette’s cookbook Picture Perfect Parties.

Velo View Luxury Rides Bike Trip for One (Live Auction)
Tour the wine country of California, the ski towns of Colorado or take in the beautiful fall foliage of the Carolinas in true Texas 4000 style – on a bike! Enjoy an all-inclusive bike vacation for one with Velo View Luxury Bike Tours on any out-of-state tour. After working up an appetite on the bike, you’ll enjoy lunches and dinner at a variety of local restaurants with the best food and atmosphere the areas have to offer. At the end of each day, you’ll be able to rest and relax in first-rate accommodations in all of the destination towns. Velo View can help take care of everything for you, whether shipping and assembling your own bike or renting an appropriately-sized performance bike for your use. Special Thanks to Velo View Bike Tours.

Girls Night Out in Downtown Austin (Silent Auction)
Start your night at Benji’s Cantina on West Sixth with your best girlfriends. After your fantastic dinner, start your party at Kung Fu Saloon around the corner. Finish off your fun night out on Rainey Street at Lustre Pearl, Clive Bar, Bar 96 or the new, cool kid on the block – Container Bar. Value $300. Special thanks to Chris and Brandi Horne and the Dunlap Group.

Cottage on the Cape (Silent Auction)
Love life in a 2 bedroom New England cottage for a week next June in picturesque South Dennis, Massachusetts. (specific dates only, airfare not included). Thanks to Julia Skiles for this generous donation.

Each guest’s credit card will be registered at the door and you’ll have multiple opportunities to give on many levels throughout the evening, including auction bidding, paddles up, and raffle ticket purchases.

We can’t wait to see you all on Saturday evening at the Austin Music Hall. Get there early to get your bids in! The silent auction opens at 6, and our auctioneer kicks off the live auction around 8:30.


HOW TO MAKE ‘NDUJA

‘Nduja: the spicy, creamy, spreadable salami, is a distinctly Calabrian product, but only certain areas of Calabria. The most famous of these is Vibo Valentia, the home province of my Zia Agnese, who taught me this recipe.

There a many uses for ‘nduja. We eat it on toasted Calabrian bread (crostini), pizza, and semi-matured cheeses, and in frittatas and pasta sauces. Fileja con ‘nduja (a Calabrian handmade pasta) and Zuppa di Fagioli con ‘nduja (a traditional bean soup) are common dishes.

The origin of its odd name stems from the Latin inducere, meaning “to insert.” Etymologically it’s connected with two other salami insaccati: salam dla doja from Piedmont and Andouille from France.

Since the term is likely of French origin, some date the invention of ‘nduja during the Napoleonic period (1806-1815). Others believe it was the Spaniards who introduced it when they brought the peppers to Calabria for the first time. Whatever the true story may be, it’s unclear to us today, hidden in the tales of the older generation and conflicting official histories.


Watch the video: Star Wars - Cantina Band. The Danish National Symphony Orchestra Live (January 2022).