As Austin’s trendy East side restaurant scene is beginning to mature, we’re invited to enjoy new and traditional flavors with a great outdoor view of the water from Tillery Kitchen and Bar, a far east upscale eatery that combines modern and cozy inside and out. Located at 3201 East Cesar Chavez where its namesake, Tillery Street, meets Cesar Chavez Street, Tillery definitely fulfills its motto of "bringing people and nature together."
The natural ease and welcoming feel begins upon arrival with complimentary valet for simple, no-fuss parking right off Cesar Chavez. We visited on the second day after opening and the restaurant was not (yet) overrun with patrons so our wait time was only a few minutes. If there are wait times at Tillery in the future, we don't feel like they'll be overly frustrating as the large outdoor space offers the perfect spot to enjoy the views and a glass of wine. Half of the outdoor area is a covered deck wtih tables and the other half offers more of an outdoor feel with gravel, fire pits, and comfy outdoor seating over overlooking Lady Bird Lake which actually begins to feel like the lower Colorado River this side of the damn at Pleasant Valley.
As described on its website, Tillery serves dishes “Infused with Mediterranean and French style" cuisine. The menu provides options for those looking for something light to those who claim a more carnivorous passion. On the light side, there are plenty of flavorful options including the beet sliders, a seasoned vegetable fettuccine, and a perfectly creamy polenta, all of which were filling and well thought out. For those aiming for something more hearty, Tillery features skewers of Grilled Texas Tenderloin and Citrus Chicken grilled to perfection and laid on top of a large pita bread. We met the chef, Justin Trapani, who said they source locally, aiming for farm-to-table entrees, with plans for seasonal menus and daily specials based on what Justin and team acquire and dream up. Although our younger guests were a bit intimidated by some of the menu items, like the Sauteed Chicken Livers (which our friends with more developed palates absolutely loved), there are also more typical dishes like the Fettuccine, a Cubano Pork Confit Sandwich, and Paparadelle with pork confit and asiago. Fun appetizers like house-made pepper spiced pickles served in a mason jar added a surprising pop and lamb fritters were also a big hit across the board. We were so full after the appetizers and entrees, that we didn't get a chance to try dessert but look forward to it on the next visit.
Service was very well done. Yes, any server can and should be friendly, attentive, and knowledgeable, but our server and kitchen crew brought an extra level of sophistication with the work they did in the background. Their knowledge of just when and how to serve our courses was great. We never felt as though we were waiting impatiently for our food, but we also never found ourselves sitting under a pile of dishes all at once. We chose to order several starters and a few entrees for sharing tapas-style and Tillery’s menu allowed us to do that well, and without spending way too much. Not to be misunderstood, Tillery prices aren’t exactly cheap, but there are starters under $10 and entrees ranging from the high teens to twenties, completely expected for a restaurant of this caliber and worthwhile for thoughtful food that actually filled us up. While we wondered if perhaps they’ll add more dinner tables to the back patio at some point, for now Tillery’s dinner service is contained in a quaint outdoor dining area and one dining room done in warm natural woods and soft lighting with a full bar for an intimate and special feel. This could be a romantic date night location, or as in our case, a nice place to take friends with whom we actually want to be able to converse and hear from across the table. We expect they'll have quite a happy hour destination on their hands during the good weather.
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