Austin: Barley Swine for One Helluva Dinner

Sometimes you need a break from all of the SXSW madness, and my friends Megan and Chris always find me an oasis of killer, locally sourced Austin food to sneak away and taste. This year, it was famed Barley Swine. You may know of it as Chef Bryce Gilmore "Food & Wine Best New Chef 2011"'s place. I knew of it as the brick and mortar companion with last year favorite Odd Duck Farm to Trailer (which is sadly closed now.)

Barley Swine
Barley Swine is a few things. It is small. Real small. It has egregious waits. But they can sometimes evaporate as people decide not to wait. Like, our two hour quote turned into a fifteen minute wait and we had to rush back over. But, I was so glad that we did, because the meal was so interesting and creative. Each bite of the small plates had an amazing pop of flavor, so that we all finished the meal smiling and satisfied.

My iPhone photos from a night time meal just don't do it justice, but I had to share some of my favorites. First up, the pea shoot soup with parmesan fritters. (You know I'll order anything that says "fritter.")
Sweet Pea Shoot Soup
Next up, an artfully arranged beet salad with a rainbow of local beets - did you know you can eat beet tops roasted? One is peeking out of the back of this photo:

Beet Salad
I keep saying on my next visit to Austin, I'm going to go on a pork belly and avocado diet and make a million. This pork belly from Barley Swine could keep me going for days. It was candy sweet and paired with carrots.
Pork Belly
Remember when, faced with a dinner full of food writers, I ate tempura fried rabbit hearts? Yeah, I kinda still regret that - Austin must put me into crazy food positions. But trying foods at least once before saying no forever is my jumping out of airplanes. So, when presented with grilled shrimp paired with FRIED SHRIMP HEADS, I said, WHAT THE HELL? I mean, there's a well re-told story in the Gordon family lore about one of my brother's friends who came over for dinner and didn't know you were supposed to de-shell the boiled shrimp and was just crunching away. Wouldn't this be the same?

Well, I wouldn't know until I tried, right? So, I jumped right in for one. Here's the deal. I'm glad I wasn't a wuss. And it totally worked with the dish. But, I could also pass on fried shrimp heads. But, ya never know... when in Rome... and faced with a talented cook... why not?
Grilled Shrimp with Fried Shrimp Heads
Y'all know I'm also not a huge steak fan, but if all steak is like this coffee Waygu topped with celery root slaw, count me in!

Waygu Steak
One pic that I didn't get was of the Chicken Fried Chicken Egg. All I can say is, get it. It was inhaled quickly and I still am thinking about it!

Tune in for dessert and details on the location, after the jump. Then we're back to DC tomorrow.

After all of that craziness, you know we had to try the desserts by Pastry Chef Kyle McKinney. We split two - the chocolate torte, with ladyfinger meringue and goat cheese ice cream:
Chocolate, Ladyfinger, Goat Cheese Ice Cream
And the carrot cake. 
Carrot Cake
Barley Swine is located at 2024 South Lamar Boulevard in Austin, TX. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter and visit next time you are in town.

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