Friday was a really cold, blustery night and we were taking a bit of a risk barreling in at 7:30 with no reservation. Even though the place was hopping, they found room for my son and me at a nice corner table. The restaurant is somehow transformed in the evenings with cloth napkins, candles and dimmed lighting. Very cozy, with a comfortable neighborhood vibe, yet still somewhat elegant. The focus is on traditional French country and Mediterranean cooking. With that in mind, we started with the Caesar salad with croutons, anchovy and Parmesan. This was a classic Caesar that was nicely put together; the perfect size for sharing. The only suggestion I have for this dish concerns the croutons. They were a bit on the chewy side, so cutting them to a more manageable size was a challenge. They tasted great, but perhaps scaling them down would make sense. For my entree, I had the House Pasta with pea shoots and ricotta. Deliciously rich and indulgent. The pea shoots made the dish extra special by adding some crunch and green freshness. The perfect comfort food on a cold winter's night. My son had the Pork Milanese with an arugula and radicchio salad nestled on top. He is not a big fan of arugula or radicchio in general, but he was after the pork. The bite I had was quite good, with a nice flavor structure and good texture from the crisp breading. For dessert we could not resist the classic Hyde Park Fudge Cake. This has been a favorite of mine since I first tried it in the 80's and it was time to share this chocolate delight with the next generation. Moist, uber-chocolatey, but not so rich that you can't finish it. Service is friendly and eager, offering an unnecessary apology for the "wait" on our entrees (the entrees seemed perfectly timed to us). They are currently working to add a bar to serve wine and beer; in the meantime, you can bring in your own (a corkage fee per bottle/6-pack applies).
Bottom line, Texas French Bread is successful because they pursue a goal similar to Chez Panisse's chef: "Alice Waters’ dictate to seek out the local, the fresh, the simple, the nutritious, and the beautiful, and to serve these in season at their peak." By seeking this goal, coupled with their promise to "reinvent [the] business with food that is fresher, more local, more responsible in it’s production, and altogether more creative," I see a long future for Texas French Bread. They have evolved and reinvented themselves to stay relevant in the constantly changing Austin restaurant scene. (Cathy)