Brand new Hotel Van Zandt's restaurant is wowing Austinites and hotel guests alike
Austin has seen a number of hotly-anticipated new restaurant openings in recent days, each with something unique to offer. Geraldine's, located at the new Hotel Van Zandt in the Rainey Street District, is one of these, and it's truly worthy of a visit.
First, there's the space. From the moment you walk into Hotel Van Zandt, you're immersed in the Austin music and art scene. From the creative, original pieces from local artist and musician JT Van Zandt that adorn the walls to the carefully curated music list that plays throughout the hotel, the understated chic of Hotel Van Zandt has Austin stamped all over it.
Geraldine's restaurant on the fourth floor is no different. The open concept includes dining areas (tables, booths, and communal seating); a music stage; a large bar; and the Writer's Lounge just beyond the bar, all in one space. This is adjacent to the gorgeous pool deck, creating a flowing indoor/outdoor feel with magnificent views of the Austin skyline.
Then, there's the food. The Texas-inspired menu, curated by Uchi alumnus Chef Frank Mnuk, offers seasonally-driven dishes inspired by the flavors of the city. A variety of small plates and entree-sized dishes encourages sampling and sharing, with creations such as chicken thigh confit with fried chicken skin and chanterelles, and also a smoked yellowtail taco on a taro root shell.
In a town that practically worships its tacos and has produced nearly endless spins on the classic, this yellowtail taco is truly unique, from the shell to the almost sushi-like fish.
Seafood and pork are stars on the menu, from grouper, Texas Gulf shrimp and Alaskan King Crab to barbecued short ribs and a Texas Heritage pork rack with a grilled polenta cack and charred kale.
Vegetables do not get short shrift here, either. The roasted cauliflower plate with cashews, basil and mustard will challenges anyone who claims to dislike vegetables. Salt-roasted beets with goat cheese mousse and an heirloom bean cassoulet with black trumpet and littlefoot mushrooms also pack big flavors.
Geraldine's also offers what they call "Epic Feasts" – full meals with main courses such as osso bucco, prime rib roast or fried chicken served with salad, sides, and a dessert that are meant for four to six people. The feasts run $220 to $320 and require a 48-hour notice.
But before you get too carried away by the menu, consider starting off your meal with one of Geraldine's fabulous cocktails, with fun Austin-centric names. There's the Willie's Cup made with double rye whiskey, hemp seed milk and sage; Townes' Tea with Earl Grey tea-infused vodka, Laphroaig, pineapple and sage; or the Deep in the Heart, made with local Deep Eddy Ruby Red vodka, strega, lime and prosecco.
Specialty bottled cocktails are $18 and come with two servings, and an extensive spirits and wine list will carry you throughout dinner and beyond.
Last but not least, there's the music. The entire space is a refined entertainment venue that offers local live music every night of the week, allowing guests to catch the hottest up-and-coming acts, who cover a wide variety of genres – from indie singers and bands to more established names and even other entertainment such as comedians.
Geraldine's has announced a new Sunday Jazz Brunch service, which began at the first of 2016. Held every Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., the brunch features a selection of sweet and savory plates alongside the sounds of local jazz musicians.
Brunch menu highlights include a Corn Skillet Breakfast with Benton’s ham, smoked maple, preserved onion, mustard greens and a poached egg; the Red Quinoa Breakfast Salad with a soft poached egg, kale, squash, blueberry and radish; the Sourdough Waffle with strawberry preserves; and the Fried Potato Tot Hash with braised pork rib, a poached egg and hollandaise.
Special brunch cocktails are also offered, such as the Mellow Yellow, with Yellow Chartreuse, Dolin blanc, lemon juice, soda and agave, and the Sunday Bloody Sunday that features Vida mezcal, seasonal sangrita with a chili-lime salt rim.
Service is some of the most exceptional in the city: attentive yet fun and personable. Staff throughout the restaurant and hotel are clearly allowed to be themselves and let their personalities shine through, and it makes for an even more enjoyable experience.
A fun side note is the story of how Geraldine's got its name: There was once a huge guinea fowl that famously roamed Rainey Street and that locals dubbed Geraldine. That's yet another homage to the local culture in Austin at this unique restaurant.