Geraldine’s, recently opened inside of the Hotel Van Zandt, really knocked my socks off – in a great way. For starters, the name selection is endearing to locals like myself. If you don’t know, Geraldine’s derives its name from the famous Rainey Street guinea fowl of the same name (may she rest in peace) and gold sketches of Rainey’s girl are incorporated into the decor. Second, the hotel lobby and restaurant are stunning: elegant, plush and luxurious yet somehow grounded and inviting even to pretention-averse patrons. Third, the restaurant/live music venue ushers in a much-welcomed respite from the douchery that has taken over Rainey Street. Fourth, but certainly not least, the food and drinks pay homage to Austin and foodies alike demonstrating solid execution and creative eccentricity.
Candidly, those are words I never thought I’d type about a corporately owned hotel restaurant, but Geraldine’s is a space unto itself. Despite the corporate setting, their early days manage to honestly emulate Austin’s culture and establish the space as a dining destination for music lovers.
And thus, I bring you the nitty gritty.
The team helming the kitchen – Executive Chef Frank Mnuk, formerly of Uchi, and Pastry Chef Callie Speer, formerly of Swift’s Attic – dub their menu “contemporary Austin Fare.” The culinary endeavor was guided by Mnuk’s inspirations — a considerable blend of Southern, Asian and Austin cuisines. His goal: create local-forward dishes that serves as an ode to the food that raised him.
Globally-infused offerings range from baked goods – like glorious seeded popovers and buttermilk crackers accompanied by cultured butter – from the house bread program, to refined southern comfort items like fermented chili hush puppies, corn skillet cakes with ham and maple and Texas heritage pork rack with grilled polenta cake. The menu goes further, diving into the sea realm with snapper ceviche, smoked yellowtail tacos in a taro root “tortilla” and grouper with acorn squash. Creative accoutrement includes black garlic spread, pickled fennel ranch and sweet potato curry sauce.
Speer delivers sweet finesse with legendary whimsy crafting desserts that blend contemporary southern fare with classic French application. Highlights include Chestnut Honey Ganache with perfect sweet potato beignets and espelette peppers; a play on Biscuits and Gravy with shortcake masquerading as the biscuit; Goat Cheese Cake with pistachio sorbet and oat crumble; and, Lemon Buttermilk Pie with cornflake crunch, apple butter, almond ice cream and gingersnap soil.
The Crispy Pork Ribs, with pickled watermelon salad, mint and cilantro, should come 200 per order (yes, I could eat them all). They are just incredible. They are light and flavorful and the fall-off-the-bone meat pairs perfectly with subtle Asian flavors. The watermelon salad is a refreshing finish.
The Roasted Cauliflower, with cashew, basil and mustard, and the Salt Roasted Beets, with rye, goat cheese mousse and beet vinaigrette, are wonderful dishes for vegetarians and carnivores alike.
The Ricotta Gnudi & Goat, with castelvetrano olives, lemon and brown butter jus, combines succulent goat with cheese dumplings in a decadent brown butter coating. Note, this dish sells out (I’ve missed out on two occasions now) so commit to the order quickly.
Queso aficionados will swoon over the Texas Strip Loin, with cheddar tater tots, potato mushroom fondue, roasted garlic and table side bordelaise service. The dish essentially combines the most revered food group in Austin (queso, obviously) with the most revered protein in Texas (Texas beef) in one glorious, rich dish. The mushrooms in the fondue were my favorite part of the gooey sauce.
Geraldine’s ambiance is exquisite. Arched ceilings foster great acoustics, subtly vintage decor and softly lit chandeliers set a relaxed-meets-sultry mood while elegant furnishings promise creature comforts. Snag a seat in the raised dining area facing north for a stunning view of downtown showcased though antique-style boxed window frames. Music lovers should opt for the lower dining floor, equipped with plush armchairs and a stage view. The bar and lounge is a lively watering hole and the outdoor patio and deck offer fireside views of the river (note that the pool is only for hotel guest use).
What I love most about Geraldine’s is the music program that harmoniously collides with the food program. They have nightly sets from incredible Austin artists (past performances have included Eric Tessemer, Ruby Jane, Dan Dyer, Suzanna Choffel, Lex Land, Graham Wilkinson and Julian Acosta). Superb acoustics permeate the entirety of the space, carrying amped singer-songwriter driven sets beautifully. They have recently added a Sunday jazz brunch (we haven’t been able to check it out yet, but anxiously await the tunes and food alike). There is something magical about enjoying a good nibbles, cheersing with great cocktails and lounging in comfy chairs with friends with live music as the backdrop. Even in the Music Capital of the World, this concept remains a novelty and Geraldine’s nails it. Did I mention the shows are free? For this lover of creature comforts, food, cocktails and live music, Geraldine’s is a bonafide heaven.
Full disclaimer: I drink Ketel One with water and Blanton’s or Maker’s on a proper rock, ergo, I’m not going to debase you or Keyser’s brilliant cocktail list with a slew of neophyte libation insights. I will, however, say that I found the milk of the Gods at Geraldine’s. The Willie’s Cup is brilliance. The masterpiece combines High West Double Rye Whiskey, hemp seed milk and sage in a steel cup Willie’d out with a red bandana and roach clip. I Willie, Willie love the Willie’s Cup.
“There was definitely an AHA moment there,” says Keyser. “It was missing something, but I couldn’t pinpoint – turns out, it just needed to be dressed. The bandana and roach [clip] completely transformed it. It’s the drink I am most proud of.”
A huge negroni fan with hefty love for mezcal, Keyser’s favorite cocktail is a play on a negroni. The Velvet Voice with blends Vida mezca, Campari, hibiscus-infused dolin rouge and orange bitters. In terms of classic cocktails, the Old Fashioned doesn’t disappoint and the Rattlesnake with Templeton Rye, lemon, egg white, absinthe and bitters is not to be missed. The Guinea Hen Hooch is offered as a speciality bottled cocktail (two servings per bottle) combining vodka, hum liqueur, tart cherry and citrus. The bar houses over 80 whiskeys, five Texas drafts and a good selection of wine (the latter includes several selections at affordable price points).
605 Davis St, Austin, TX 78701
|Thursday||7:00 – 11:00 AM, 5:00 PM – 1:00 AM|
|Friday||7:00 – 11:00 AM, 5:00 PM – 2:00 AM|
|Saturday||7:00 – 11:00 AM, 5:00 PM – 2:00 AM|
|Sunday||9:00 AM – 3:00 PM, 5:00 PM – 1:00 AM|
|Monday||7:00 – 11:00 AM, 5:00 PM – 1:00 AM|
|Tuesday||7:00 – 11:00 AM, 5:00 PM – 1:00 AM|
|Wednesday||7:00 – 11:00 AM, 5:00 PM – 1:00 AM|