I’m No Food Critic…

And this is a departure form my usual writings, but I do know good food and Annie’s in Austin, Texas is way better than just good. First, Austin may be the friendliest city I have ever visited and I am somewhat envious of my friend Craig who is moving there. There was no shortage of people willing to make suggestions as to where to go to eat or to listen to music.

I was in the region for business and decided to check out Austin for the evening. Not really expecting greatness on a Thursday, but figured I could find a good steak and maybe some live music to check out. My business partner and I were browsing restaurant window menus when a gentleman stepped out and invited us into Annie’s. He said he didn’t work there, but his wife was a part owner, and he guaranteed that I would not be disappointed with the steak.

The first thing I noticed is that the restaurant was light without being too bright. It held a friendly atmosphere that was contagious. Many people were sitting at a bar that boasted an impressive list of high end cocktail fixins for those who indulge in such things and the tables were bar height. The patrons were joining into each others’ conversations in a friendly, non-obtrusive way and it immediately felt like I had known the owner, waitresses, bar-tenders and other guests for years. Maybe that’s just Texas and maybe that’s Austin, but I think it had a lot to do with the place. We were given an appetizer of a thin crust pizza which we barely finished before the meal arrived. I had the best New York strip I have ever eaten and I was told the chef slices them himself – which explains the slightly thicker cut. It was seasoned with cracked black pepper and sea salt and just a few mushrooms. The marinade was just enough to enhance the steak without overpowering it. I can only describe it as perfect. The vegetables were lightly seasoned string beans with a few almond slices and they were also very good. We are in Texas, so the steak came with french fried potatoes. My business partner had the halibut, which I sampled. It was just crispy on the outside, but flaky and light inside. The fish was lightly seasoned and cooked perfectly. The seasoning added to, but did not distract from the flavor of the food. Over all, my experience at Annie’s was worth the trip to Austin by itself.

The night was not over, however. We started looking for some live music and were directed to 6th Street where we soon heard some hot blues coming out of a club called Friends. We went inside and sat down to listen to Brother Magnum, an Austin local with origins in Oakland. Magz can really sing and play guitar. He has a soulful style of blues that brings back some classics like Otis Redding and a voice that recalls a little Hootie mixed with Albert King. I happened to have a couple of blues harps with me and Magz invited me up to sit in on a couple of tunes. Check out his website, brothermagnum.com, and order his CD. Definitely worth listening to.

Truth be told, I had a great time in Austin and I am looking for reasons to go back. When I do, I will eat at Annies and look up Brother Magnum to see where he is playing.

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