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Has anyone been to Congress in Austin?


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I first heard about the place by it's cocktail reputation and went to check it out last week, though we didn't dine. There are two bars in the place, each with different menus, which is kind of puzzling but my impression is that one of them is intended to be a little more secluded with an emphasis on more serious cocktails while the main one serves the dining room. Indeed, the second bar is so obscured we were sitting only a few feet away for the better part of an hour before realising it. The drinks were good, imaginitive cocktails and a solid by the glass wine selection (which we didn't sample this time) though I found the beer list overly dominated by hoppy west-coast styles on the one hand and somewhat silly hipster beverages on the other (a 40 oz. of Carta Blanca with dinner, anyone?).

The dinner menu looked good although I couldn't tell you wether it lives up to the praise the NYT heaps on. Austin's dining scene is booming right now and Congress definitely looks like a worthy addition but I'll reserve further judgement until I get to sample the food myself.

One unfortunate side effect of being a restaraunt like that in that part of town is a display of unseemly behavior on the part of some of the clientele. We witnessed one young couple with a misplaced surplus of self-esteem read the menu and then when their order was taken, request something not found in any way shape or form on it. The bartender was very professional despite this and steered them towards the closest items the kitchen had on offer. After accomodating them thusly, we heard the customers snark wondering if the bartender had "even read the menu". We were stunned.

Anyways, we'll be back soon to try some more of the cocktail offerings and maybe even some of the vittles.

Andy Arrington

Journeyman Drinksmith


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  • 3 weeks later...

thirtyoneknots, are you posting about Bar Congress or Second Bar & Kitchen?

Congress is an upscale restaurant with only two options (prix fixe and tasting menu). Bar Congress is kind of the "pass through" between Congress and its sister restaurant, Second Bar & Kitchen. Bar Congress and Second Bar & Kitchen are separated by a thick set of curtains, which is I believe what thirtyoneknots is referring to above.

Second Bar and Kitchen has beer, wine, small plates, as well as cocktails (and TVs showing movies), but cocktails are kind of relegated to a list of 8-10 on the back. It's much more casual than Bar Congress and Congress. It's a full on restaurant with a separate bar you can dine at.

Bar Congress serves small plates, snacks and a limited number of entrees from the menus of both Congress and Second Bar + Kitchen (this is explains the kind of crazy nature of the menu since it's got cheaper small plates and much, much more expensive entrees from the menu of Congress). Cocktails by Adam Bryan, with a separate list than Second Bar + Kitchen. It's the "bar" for the upscale restaurant Congress, and seems to have a heavier focus on cocktails since it's more a bar than restaurant and has a longer cocktail list. The Preferred Lies was excellent: earl grey infused bourbon, apple drinking vinegar, Canton ginger foam. My Mestizo (Hacienda Sotol Blanco, Sour Orange and Lime, Scratch Grenadine, Arbol Chile), was good but not nearly as good. Very nice, very comfy, quiet bar. So sad that last call is at midnight (even on a Friday) as we could probably have stayed for hours. Would definitely go back.

Second Bar + Kitchen actually has difference bartenders in charge: Billy Hankey of the Good Knight and Brian Dressel of East Side Show Room. I only got to try the Texas Benedict, served with pulled pork, sausage gravy, on two pieces of jalapeno cornbread, which was good, but only one of the many, many items on the small plates list. I only got to try one cocktail here but it was quite good. Mazel's Transformer: tequila, egg white, house made grenadine, lime, cholula hot sauce. Foamy and delicious. BTW I really like the chalkboard they have wrapping around the bar with sayings like "No Mexican Martinis" and "I will not use sour mix" written multiple times in chalk a la Bart Simpson.

"I'll put anything in my mouth twice." -- Ulterior Epicure
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