First Impressions: Second Bar + Kitchen
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
I loved my drink, Anise Anise, made with anise-flavored liquor, bitters, lemon, and ginger beer. Isn’t it pretty too?
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?Tags: cocktail, Congress, David Bull, drink, Second Bar + Kitchen