Pleasant Storage Room

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m fairly convinced that you could eat at a different restaurant in Austin every day, and still won’t have exhausted the options after an entire year. There really are that many different places within this fair city. And most of them are amazingly delicious; a treat for your mouth and your stomach, though slightly less so for your wallet. But there comes a point when New Restaurant A, New Restaurant B, and Old School Restaurant C start to blend together. The more places that pop up around this city, the more opportunity for more of the same. So I was pleasantly surprised to find out about Pleasant Storage Room because it truly does succeed as a unique local eatery.

New to downtown Austin, Pleasant Storage Room is part rum bar, part Cuban/Caribbean hot spot that boasts local flavors in a variety of common Caribbean street foods. It sounded like a fun place, but I had heard mixed reviews (mostly on its inconsistency), so I was hesitant to actually try it. But when Brandon and I were looking for a place to celebrate our 5-year anniversary and wanted a low-key, fun environment that veered away from the fancy restaurants we tend to celebrate at, I decided this would be the perfect spot. Plus, we had an upcoming beach getaway planned, making Pleasant Storage Room a great way to build excitement for our quickly approaching vacation.

The vibe in the restaurant was exactly what we were looking for – fun, vibrant, and made you excited for a night of celebration. We sat down and were immediately greeted by one of the largest rum menus I had ever seen – page after page was filled with exotic rum concoctions and punches, though there were other alcoholic options for those who don’t love rum like I do. I ordered their Bay of Figs drink, which combines Black Mission Fig Bourbon, Liquor Strega, Demerara Rum, fresh lemon and orange juice, wormword tincture, and demerara sugar to create a drink that was unique, yet surprisingly familiar. Brandon opted for a classic rum and coke, but still reported that it was crisp and refreshing (they use Mexican Coke, which adds a touch of sugar and a lot of awesomeness).

The menu isn’t huge, but it provides a good sampling of different flavors and options. Everything is served as street food, meaning that the portions are smaller and most of it can be easily eaten by hand. Because the plates are shareable, Brandon and I opted for a variety of different dishes that allowed us to try several different things. We are both HUGE fans of ceviche, and constantly in search of one that beats out the ceviche at South Congress Cafe (which currently holds the top spot in our list), so it goes without saying that we ordered the Napali Death Tuna Ceviche, one of Pleasant Storage Room’s most popular options. Filled with tuna, passionfruit, cashews and jalapeño syrup, the ceviche was an interesting take on the traditional version, though while tasty, it didn’t quite surpass our long-standing favorite. Along with the ceviche, we ordered jerk chicken, both meat and veggie empanadas, and grilled street corn, all of which disappeared fairly quickly and tasted of the Caribbean.

We left Pleasant Storage Room that evening feeling pleasantly full, but I found myself hungry again fairly quickly…though that might be due to the fact that we followed dinner up with some fast-paced two-stepping. I really enjoyed the experience at Pleasant Storage Room, and wouldn’t hesitate to return, but given a more recent happy hour experience there, I think the place is better suited for individuals looking for a drink (or two) and some small plates after work, not people looking for a filling, hearty meal. Even so, Brandon and I left happy and even more excited for our vacation, making our 5-anniversary dinner a success in my book.

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chavez- Austin’s newest culinary hotspot

In Austin we have our fair share of restaurants. In fact, I just had a conversation with someone the other day about the fact that you could realistically eat at a different restaurant in Austin for every meal, and would probably still have options left after a full year. But sometimes, that endless array of options doesn’t matter and there are those restaurants who stand out from the pack; whose reputation in the Austin food world precedes them.

chavez is one of those restaurants.

Recently opened inside the Radisson Hotel in downtown Austin, chavez is the latest endeavor from Austin’s celebrity chef Shawn Cirkiel. With a name like that on the door, chavez had some high expectations immediately out of the gate. Though the southwestern-inspired eatery is a bit of a departure from Cirkiel’s other Austin successes, its quality, atmosphere, and flavors are right on par with sister restaurants Parkside, Backspace, and Olive & June.

Before ever eating at chavez, I had the opportunity to sit down with Chef Mario Medina, Chef de Cuisine. Take a listen to hear what he has to say about Austin’s newest culinary hit.

 

Makes you want to try it for yourself, right?

I’ve been looking forward to trying chavez for months, so I was pretty excited to have a date night there with Brandon this weekend…only a few weeks after its grand openingI wasn’t sure what to expect of the space, given that it used to be home to the hotel’s TGI Friday’s, but you better believe it when I say that the place was completely transformed! Beautiful wood cover the floors and the walls, floor to ceiling windows bring in tons of natural light, and touches of Mesoamerican culture accent the entire space. It’s, in a word, beautiful.

The space was so, so chic, but what I was particularly excited about was the food (a statement which I’m sure shocks you all). A friend of mine serves as one of the restaurant’s sous chefs and he has been raving about the menu for months, so I certainly had an idea of what to expect in my mind, and chavez exceeded every expectation.

Brandon and I ordered A LOT of dishes (probably more than is socially acceptable for two people…no judgement, people) in an effort to really try a wide variety of food. Seriously y’all, from appetizer to entree to dessert, every dish was more delicious than the one before it – the food was spiced, but I wouldn’t call it spicy; it was unique without being too crazy; and everything was incredibly fresh (the fish looked as if it had been pulled from the ocean that morning). It’s been a really long time since Brandon and I left a meal without a single complaint about a single dish, but chavez did that for us.

If you go, I encourage you to try as much as you can, but if you do not order the Traditional Ceviche, you are doing yourself and your stomach a major disservice. I love me some seafood, especially when it’s mixed with avocado, but that ceviche was some of the best I’ve ever eaten. I don’t think I’m lying when I say that I could eat it every day and still find myself craving more.

But chavez is more than just the food y’all, it truly has the whole package. Not only was the food and the ambiance spot on, but the service was spectacular. Our server, Preston, was on his game. He made every dish sound incredibly appetizing (even the ones with ingredients I don’t love), and I ordered several dishes based on his recommendation. He was attentive to our needs and enjoyable to talk to, and I imagine that quality extends to the rest of the staff.

Plus, with its location on the corner of Congress and Cesar Chavez, chavez sits right above Town Lake, and is the perfect spot for watching the bats on the South Congress bridge (another Austin favorite of mine).

Seriously, I can talk and talk about how wonderful chavez is, and about how Chef Shawn Cirkiel and crew really outdid themselves with this one, but I think it’s best that you see for yourself. So go. Soon.

Until then, experience chavez through my eyes, and enjoy.

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Down The Street Eats (S 1st St Edition) – Sway

Those of you who live in Austin already know this (and those of you who don’t can probably attest to this fact in some sense), but Austin has so many things that make this city truly stand out. One that I love in particular is the incredible amount of diversity that you can find in a relatively small area.

I’m pretty open about my love of the fact that Austin contains the best of the big cities in its food, culture, and music, AND also embodies all that I love in small towns – its nature and down-home attitude to name a few. But, what I really love is that even within Austin, there are these small bubbles of activity, often centered around a particular street. I’ve been especially interested in the changes I’ve seen happening on S. First, the street I have called home for the last two years, and it made me think, “If I’m going to explore all my beloved S. 1st St. has to offer anyway, why not do it on the blog?”

So with that I am introducing you to “Down The Street” – a new mini-series here on the blog that explores the food, coffee shops, treats, and activities that make up one of the most well-known streets in central Austin. Let’s dive in, shall we? 

It’s almost impossible to narrow this street – which spans nearly 2.5 miles and is filled with some of the greatest businesses – down to a single restaurant, coffee shop, dessert spot and activity. Food-wise, I had my choices narrowed down to a handful, and in the end, went with Sway, one of the most highly-regarded restaurants on South First.  Even before Sway opened in 2013, it was getting quite a bit of coverage, so much so that I wanted to try it even before I had more than a vague idea of what it was. But month after month went by, and I walked past the unassuming building without venturing through the hidden yellow door – the only sign that you have arrived at your destination.

Sway thai Austin

After almost a year of being opened (and me singing the praises of a place I had never even stepped foot in), I decided that it was time to finally give Sway a try. So Brandon and I went for my 25th birthday last December.

You know when you build something up in your  mind so much that you end up disappointed once you actually get to experience that thing? That is not what happened when I finally tried Sway. If was just as good, if not better, than my mind had imagined.

The restaurant is set up to imitate communal eating, so we sat at a large table with several other couples, though the seats are far enough apart that you can still keep to your group if you want (in our case, we did). The food, a varying array of traditional and non-traditional thai options, is also meant to be eaten by multiple people so Brandon and I ordered three different menu items to share: Pad Thai, Tiger Cry, and The Blue Crab Fried Rice.

Pad Thai || rice noodle, blue prawn, egg, tofu, toasted cashew, bean sprout, thai basil

Sway Thai, pad thai

Tiger Cry || char-grilled hanger steak, red chili nahm jim, thai basil, fresno chile, toasted rice, nahm prik pao

Sway Thai's Tiger Cry

Blue Crab Fried Rice || egg, lemongrass, ginger, snow peas, scallion, thai basil

Sway's blue crab fried rice

If you were to ask me then, and ask me now, I don’t think I could pick one dish that was better than the others (though Brandon might not be so indecisive). For me, each bite was better than the one before it. And each dish had such unique flavor profiles and ingredients that I found myself pretty enamored with each one. Multiple friends had sung the praises of the Blue Crab Fried Rice, so I had pretty high expectations of the dish ahead of time — and I think those expectations carried over into our other two selections, but I didn’t find myself disappointed or wanting for a missing flavor at all, though I did find myself wanting more food despite my incredibly full belly. Having eaten a little bit of Americanized thai food before, I had a vague idea of what the food would taste like — and it not only completely satisfied those ideas, but gave me so much more. The food was rich, flavorful, and full of intense texture and taste. An overall delicious meal.

We left Sway at the end of the night with smiling faces, full stomachs, and only slightly less full wallets. The thai food options in Austin are pretty extensive, but if you’re looking for something a little bit different, a little bit fancy, and a lot of fun, I would definitely recommend paying a visit to Sway. Unfortunately, they don’t take reservations, so go early or plan to wait a little bit (though they have a good bar, so you can keep busy while waiting for your table).