The Foodies Have Voted: Congress Restaurant Opens Next Month
Election season is upon us, but one candidate requires no debate: an upscale eatery coming to downtown Austin, designed to suit every constituent’s – er, restaurant goer’s – needs.
Located on 2nd and Congress at the Austonian, Chef David Bull is launching his next big thing: Three eat/drink establishments under one roof. Congress will feature a seasonal, prix-fixe dinner each night; Second Bar + Kitchen will be a more casual bistro/late night spot, serving lunch, dinner, and eventually, a weekend brunch; Bar Congress caters to the cocktail crowd.
“‘Congress Austin‘ is our shorthand way of talking about all three concepts,” says Vice President of Operations Scott Walker, who worked with both Bull and Jeff Trigger once before at the Driskill Grill. “Congress is an intimate, highly detailed dining environment, where we offer a three-course dinner menu and a seven-course tasting menu, all with thoughtfully selected wine pairings, all using seasonal and local ingredients.”
Congress is not only a special occasion eatery – it’s the chef’s playground. Chef Bull designs a menu five days a week, Tuesday through Saturday, using the freshest ingredients on-hand. But what about Bar Congress and Second Bar + Kitchen?
“Bar Congress is an artisan cocktail lounge and wine bar, complete with its own culinary menu,” says Walker. “Second Bar + Kitchen is an eclectic menagerie of American regional fare, featuring a solid wine list, including four wines on tap, eight beers on tap and another 12 to 15 by the bottle, and of course, a focused cocktail list that is perhaps more playful than what you would find in Bar Congress.”
Clearly, Walker, Trigger, and Bull are nothing if not ambitious. In 2006, Bull was an Iron Chef America challenger, and in 2007, he was nominated for James Beard award of “Best New Chef Southwest.” So when he and his team decided to tackle a 3-in-1 culinary space, they hand-selected chefs and mixologists to complement his abilities. And they found them, from east 6th street to Thailand.
Rebecca Meeker, the Chef de Cuisine of Congress, had just opened L’Atelier and Salon de Thé in Taipei, when she got the call from Congress. Ethan Holmes, Chef de Cuisine of Second Bar + Kitchen, is fresh off posts from Snap Kitchen and La Taverna. Jason Stude, Sous Chef of Second Bar + Kitchen, comes from Whole Foods Market and the Crossings Spa in Austin, while Plinio Sandalio, Pastry Chef for Congress, Second Bar + Kitchen and Bar Congress, lent his dessert genius to Textile and Gravitas, both in Houston.
Walker himself directed the food and beverage department at the Driskill Hotel for seven years, and for this project, pulled in Laura Shearer from Cafe Alpine in Breckenridge, Colorado (Walker first worked with her at Houston’s Lancaster Hotel), June Rodil (another Driskill alum, and most recently beverage director for Uchi and Uchiko), and two local bar brats, who east 6th aficionados will know well: Adam Bryan, formerly of East Side Show Room, and Billy Hankey from The Good Knight.
You could say it’s a star-studded culinary cast.
But besides talent, what else can Congress Austin do to earn your vote of confidence? How about some personal recommendations from Chef Bull himself:
Top samplings from Second Bar + Kitchen:
o Chicken fried olives stuffed with pimento and bleu cheese
o Burrata with oxtail marmalade and buttered brioche
o Rotisserie chicken with black eyed peas, escarole and a mustard jus
Top samplings from the Congress three-course menu are:
o Bone marrow brulee with honey crisp apples, smoked almond crumble and sorrel
o Fried green tomatoes with pork jowl, buttermilk dressing and lardons
o Ribeye cap with pomme puree, espresso rub, smoked cardamom and caramel
Are your taste buds, cutlery, and mouths ready? Because come November, it looks like we’ll be stuffing more than just ballot boxes.