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First Impressions: Second Bar + Kitchen

29 December 2010 6,335 views 30 Comments

Last week, I was lucky enough to join Adam and his colleagues for a test meal at the much anticipated Second Bar + Kitchen. Adam is working on the Congress Austin website.

In our two years of dating, this was the first time that having a food blog actually worked against me — I almost didn’t get in! I promised not to tweet about the experience until the opening.

On Sunday, the day after Christmas, Second Bar + Kitchen officially opened for dinner. Since then, the buzz about the place has been steady with a great blog post on Rebeccamendations, and discussion on Twitter.

Some highlights from my lunch there include the amazing drinks by Billy Hankey, lead barman at Second and former bar manager of The Good Knight. Favorites so far were this Appleseed Cup and his Gin + Jam cocktail which consists of Citadelle gin on the rocks with an overflowing spoonful of cranberry preserves that Billy makes himself to stir in.

Appleseed Cup

Appleseed Cup

You kind of have to order the black truffle fries with truffle aioli dipping sauce. I’d be happy with a cocktail and these fries and nothing else.

Black Truffle Pomme Frites

Black Truffle Pomme Frites

Not a southerner or Texan by birth, I’m not usually drawn to fried pickles (or fried okra for that matter but that’s not on this menu). However, Chef David Bull, formerly of the Driskill, puts a unique twist on these in the way they are sliced to give the most surface area as possible to the fried crust. He also puts his own hot sauce on them to give them a nice spicy kick.

Buffalo Fried Pickles

Buffalo Fried Pickles with Gorgonzola Dipping Sauce

The Pepperoni Soup is really special and I wouldn’t have thought to order it if it wasn’t recommended as an outstanding dish. The pepperoni chunks are delicious and with the tomatoes, mozzarella, and garlic croutons, this almost feels like a pizza in a bowl but with lots of red pepper flakes incorporated. Also, how cute is this serving dish?

Pepperoni Soup

Pepperoni Soup

The Beef Short Rib Sliders are definitely a star as well. The short ribs were perfectly cooked and these babies had a lovely melted cheese topping. With a little mustard or something pickled, I think these sliders would knock me right off my chair.

Beef Short Rib Sliders

Beef Short Rib Sliders

Dessert is the time to shine for Plinio Sandalio, formerly of Textile and Gravitas, both in Houston. Some of my dining companions went crazy for the Chocolate Sticky Toffee Pudding with Bacon Ice Cream but the winner for me was this Pumpkin Molten Cake with it’s slightly undercooked and oozing center and ice cream to mop it up with.

Pumpkin Molten Cake

Pumpkin Molten Cake

Last night, we went back to Second Bar + Kitchen for a drink — this was when I sampled Billy’s lovely Gin + Jam. From there, we went bar hopping without leaving the building, moving to Bar Congress which opened for the first time last night. Adam Bryan is the Bar Manager of Bar Congress and was previously at East Side Showroom and Lambert’s.

Adam Working his Stache and his Magic at Bar Congress

Adam Working his Stache and his Magic at Bar Congress

I loved my drink, Anise Anise, made with anise-flavored liquor, bitters, lemon, and ginger beer. Isn’t it pretty too?

Anise Anise from Bar Congress

Anise Anise from Bar Congress

A few more of my photos from Second and Bar Congress are on my Flickr account but unfortunately, I didn’t take photos of the atmosphere of Second while I was there. Clearly, I was head down focused on the food most of the time! However, the space is very bright, with lots of windows and a roomy bar where you can sit and chat with Billy while he makes you drinks. There is a ton of outdoor seating on the sidewalk on 2nd Street and an upstairs covered patio with astroturf.

As you can see in the above photo, Bar Congress is a narrow room with a clubby, more upscale and sexy feel. I could definitely see hanging out at Bar Congress before or after dinner at Second (or the yet-to-be-opened fine dining restaurant called Congress). Also, I believe Bar Congress will offer some menu items from both Second and Congress.

As an aside,  it’s been a bit confusing to me to distinguish Second Bar + Kitchen with Bar Congress and Congress to the uninitiated although it does make sense when you see the space for yourself.

Congress, the intimate, top tier restaurant with room for about 40 people, will open for the first time on New Years Eve with two seatings. I haven’t seen the menu yet but when we were there last night, Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top was hosting a private dinner at Congress, so it must be good enough for a rock star!

Before I close this post, I do want to make some additional recommendations. The Burrata with Oxtail Marmalade and Buttered Brioche is to die for. Also, the salads are very nice for those looking to be a little healthier in the New Year. Finally, I’d recommend the Rotisserie Chicken pizza with goat cheese. I’m looking forward to exploring the rest of the menu soon since Second is down the street from my office.

Have you been to Second yet? What did you think?

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  • Rebeccammendations

    Jodi, thanks so much for the mention of my post! Your cocktail picture makes me want to indulge after work :) Thank you for reviewing Bar Congress, I haven't made it there just yet! Also, having Billy at 2nd makes it a hard choice to decide between there and Bar Congress– a tease, but great to know two new options for a quality beverage close by.

  • jenn

    I went to Second for lunch yesterday, and it didn't disappoint. I did the fries and pepperoni soup as a perfectly sized lunch. And then I went over the top with the pumpkin molten cake, which was no joke. Everything was simple, yet delicious. And the chardonnay on tap was crisp and tasty. Can't wait to go back!

  • jodibart

    Thanks, Jenn. I've been hearing good things about the wine on tap but haven't been able to tear my attention away from the drink menu.

  • jodibart

    Thanks, Jenn. I've been hearing good things about the wine on tap but haven't been able to tear my attention away from the drink menu.

  • jodibart

    I think it's great that Billy and Adam are overseeing different bars. It will keep the competitive spirit up and the drink quality as high as anywhere in the city.

  • Rebeccammendations

    Jodi, thanks so much for the mention of my post! Your cocktail picture makes me want to indulge after work :) Thank you for reviewing Bar Congress, I haven't made it there just yet! Also, having Billy at 2nd makes it a hard choice to decide between there and Bar Congress– a tease, but great to know two new options for a quality beverage close by.

  • jenn

    I went to Second for lunch yesterday, and it didn't disappoint. I did the fries and pepperoni soup as a perfectly sized lunch. And then I went over the top with the pumpkin molten cake, which was no joke. Everything was simple, yet delicious. And the chardonnay on tap was crisp and tasty. Can't wait to go back!

  • jodibart

    Thanks, Jenn. I've been hearing good things about the wine on tap but haven't been able to tear my attention away from the drink menu.

  • jodibart

    I think it's great that Billy and Adam are overseeing different bars. It will keep the competitive spirit up and the drink quality as high as anywhere in the city.

  • Denise

    Great post. I hope to stop by this week or weekend. I believe they have Texas wines on the list..and can't wait to check out the wines on tap too. What a great location…what fun.

  • Denise

    Great post. I hope to stop by this week or weekend. I believe they have Texas wines on the list..and can't wait to check out the wines on tap too. What a great location…what fun.

  • http://shefskitchen.wordpress.com/ shef

    awesome can’t wait to try it! next time you want to go bar hopping, call us!!

  • http://www.fabulousdrinksaustin.com/ Fabulous Drinks Austin

    Can't not wait to have a fabulous drink at both and report back my thoughts. Those truffle fries are calling my name:)

  • jodibart

    Can't wait to hear what you think! By the way, I know you love Fabi and Rosi and I finally went there this past weekend and had a GREAT experience.

  • jodibart

    Sounds great! And there are so many new places opening to try!!

  • jodibart

    Oh you must feel like a kid in a candy store with all of these talented bartenders opening up new spots. And Haddingtons any day now…!

  • jodibart

    Can't wait to hear what you think! By the way, I know you love Fabi and Rosi and I finally went there this past weekend and had a GREAT experience.

  • jodibart

    Sounds great! And there are so many new places opening to try!!

  • jodibart

    Oh you must feel like a kid in a candy store with all of these talented bartenders opening up new spots. And Haddingtons any day now…!

  • FoodieIsTheNewForty

    I'm SO excited to try Second…in no small part because of those truffle fries! We did get to try Congress on New Year's Eve, and it was excellent.

  • FoodieIsTheNewForty

    I'm SO excited to try Second…in no small part because of those truffle fries! We did get to try Congress on New Year's Eve, and it was excellent.

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  • Lernerilyse

    I am going there tonight and am going to order every non-meat item you recommended (ok, maybe just the fries and cocktail). You're the best!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Ilyse

  • Lernerilyse

    I am going there tonight and am going to order every non-meat item you recommended (ok, maybe just the fries and cocktail). You're the best!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Ilyse

  • http://kitchenbacksplashes.blogspot.com/2011/01/kitchen-design-ideas.html Kitchen

    Now im loving the sound of pepperoni soup!

  • http://kitchenbacksplashes.blogspot.com/2011/01/kitchen-design-ideas.html Kitchen

    Now im loving the sound of pepperoni soup!

  • Smitty

    We had dinner her for new year's eve and it was incredible. We were in a party of 6 and had excellent service the whole night. We ordered the buffalo pickles, the black truffle fries and the cheese plate. It was all incredible, each of the plates were balanced and the tastes complimented each other. We were a bit surprised at some of the pairings but took our waiter's recommendation and were really surprised. You can't be cautious when you visit this place, they have so many unique tastes and combination that you owe it to yourself to dive into the menu and get adventuresome. Most of our table ordered the ribeye on a bed of grits and brussels sprouts and it was amazing. That is all the more amazing because I don't really like grits or brussel sprouts, but all the flavors just worked out great. We finished off the night with about half the desert menu, all of which was great. My only regret is that I can't remember the Belgium beer the waiter recommended because I want to buy some for the house.

  • Smitty

    We had dinner her for new year's eve and it was incredible. We were in a party of 6 and had excellent service the whole night. We ordered the buffalo pickles, the black truffle fries and the cheese plate. It was all incredible, each of the plates were balanced and the tastes complimented each other. We were a bit surprised at some of the pairings but took our waiter's recommendation and were really surprised. You can't be cautious when you visit this place, they have so many unique tastes and combination that you owe it to yourself to dive into the menu and get adventuresome. Most of our table ordered the ribeye on a bed of grits and brussels sprouts and it was amazing. That is all the more amazing because I don't really like grits or brussel sprouts, but all the flavors just worked out great. We finished off the night with about half the desert menu, all of which was great. My only regret is that I can't remember the Belgium beer the waiter recommended because I want to buy some for the house.

  • Smitty

    We had dinner her for new year's eve and it was incredible. We were in a party of 6 and had excellent service the whole night. We ordered the buffalo pickles, the black truffle fries and the cheese plate. It was all incredible, each of the plates were balanced and the tastes complimented each other. We were a bit surprised at some of the pairings but took our waiter's recommendation and were really surprised. You can't be cautious when you visit this place, they have so many unique tastes and combination that you owe it to yourself to dive into the menu and get adventuresome. Most of our table ordered the ribeye on a bed of grits and brussels sprouts and it was amazing. That is all the more amazing because I don't really like grits or brussel sprouts, but all the flavors just worked out great. We finished off the night with about half the desert menu, all of which was great. My only regret is that I can't remember the Belgium beer the waiter recommended because I want to buy some for the house.

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