Last week was the conclusion of Austin Restaurant Week, where a number of area restaurants offer a three-course prix fixe menu, no more than $37 for a dinner. It allows patrons to perhaps try some places that they haven't been before or that are generally priced above their budgets. Restaurants in turn donate a portion of the proceeds to a designated non-profit, which was Meals on Wheels.
A friend and I went to The Backspace on San Jacinto between 5th and 6th; I believe the name comes from the fact that it is located behind sister restaurant Parkside, whose entrance is on 6th. It's a long, skinny spot, dominated by the bar that runs almost the entire length of the restaurant; I'd say the whole place seats about 40 people tops. I liked the decor -- the old (not sure if it was genuine or faux) tin ceiling, the stained glass, and the "modern farmhouse" look of the bar stools. The women's restroom was plastered in wine and water bottle labels!
The value of The Backspace's ARW menu was quite good. They priced it at $54 for two people, which included shared dished of an appetizer, a pizza, a dessert, AND a bottle of wine (the bottle we had normally retails there for $30). We started with the oven-roasted green beans with pancetta, guanciale, a bit of chile flakes, Parmesan and some little crispy fried onions on top. For me, the beans were cooked perfectly (I think overcooked green beans are the scourge of the earth!), and the flavors of everything together was really good, though I don't think I could distinguish pancetta from guanciale in this case.
For our pizza, we picked the squash blossom, with ricotta, mozzarella, pesto, and scarto (apparently, a homemade sausage, I had to ask, as I was unfamiliar) that was crumbled on top. It was delicious! It's a yeasty crust, and thick around the edges, but still manages to be thinner in the center; I wouldn't call it crisp in the middle part, but it wasn't soggy either. Fresh cheeses. Great flavors. Now I am realizing now as I study the picture and the menu description that "squash" was not on the ingredient listing, and I am wondering if they were low on squash blossoms, as there weren't many of them on the pizza, so maybe they compensated with squash. Doesn't really matter, we ate the entire thing!
The choices for dessert were a hazelnut chocolate budino (pudding) or a ricotta cheesecake; nothing wrong with cheesecake, but I am a sucker for hazelnut anything, and fortunately my friend was more than willing to try the budino. Again, not disappointed. The toffee on top was like crack, and the pudding was silky smooth.
I am only disappointed that I have not been to the Backspace sooner, as the regular menu sounds yummy too. I also wish it weren't downtown, just because parking is more of a pain as is the whole 6th Street scene. But for early dinners, this is perfect, and I look forward to a return trip. Our waitress was friendly and knowledgeable, which always helps too. Cin cin!