If ever you find yourself on the other side of I-35 near downtown Austin, have it be at a place like Contigo. This unassuming farm-to-table chow spot is modeled after its namesake, Contigo Ranch in South Texas, and a definite must for reasonably priced ‘bar food’ (their words, not mine!) utilizing the freshest of seasonal ingredients, often unique to the Lone Star State.
Since its inception in Spring 2011, Contigo has done its best to bring the ranch experience to city dwellers on Austin’s expanding East Side; a relaxed, primarily outdoor setting that makes for a carefully orchestrated design to carry on the long standing ranch tradition of quality and appeal.
The entire staff was wonderful and extremely knowledgeable — often times engaging customers about the food and their dining experience, even if it wasn’t his/her table to cover. At one point I asked a particularly cheerful employee (whom had stopped by our table several times) if he was the manager.
“Nope!” he replied with a grin. “I just enjoy chatting about good food.”
And what ‘good food’ it is. We began our meal with an order from the Bar Snacks section of the menu: Crispy Green Beans served with a sensational Sambol Aioli. The texture was perfect and the beans themselves tasted as though they were harvested that day!
Moving on to their charcuterie options, our waiter, Andrew, recommended the Pork Blood Terrine — a terrific sampling of juicy, pealed orchard apples, whiskey mustard (with a tremendous kick!) and house-made onion rings. The presentation on a retro wooden slab was simplistic yet appreciable with pieces of thinly sliced baguette to create your own mini sandwich included. A major plus! The pork itself was also off-the-charts delicious.
The main-course I decided upon (and apparently one that’s a firm fixture on a menu otherwise in flux) was the Rabbit & Dumplings. After I’d already placed my order, I overheard one patron nearby informing two first-timers in his party that this is his favorite dish in all of Austin! Plated in a small, bubbling, cast-iron cauldron with three buttery biscuits (made from scratch), chopped carrots, diced Cipollini onions and sage dumplings, the aromas were immediate, immense and fully intoxicating…
The rabbit meat is a longtime ranch favorite and came shredded and oh so tender! Not too gamey or exotic in the least.
We decided to cap things off with a few cocktails off the recently unveiled Spring Menu. The Death in the Gulfstream (Left) was looking quite dapper with its brilliant crimson hue, composed of Genever, lime and bitters. It’s a refreshing concoction made especially for right now. Then there was an old house standard, the Vinegaroon (right), made from tequila, pineapple sage shrub, lemon and Herbsaint. Also divine:
Before I knew it, dessert was on its way — and complimentary I might add! What a lovely gesture to conclude a marvelous meal. A guiltless portion of homemade Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies & Cream ice cream…some of the best I’ve ever had of that particular flavor. Bravo, Contigo! Until next time (and there WILL be a ‘next time’)…