Wednesday, October 23, 2013


Here in South Austin, the South First/Oltorf/South Lamar food corridors have gotten a lot more interesting  in the past couple months. First Barlata on South Lamar, a Spanish tapas bar (see my post here), and now Winebelly at South First and Oltorf, also a tapas bar, but serving a wider range of cuisine. (And I would be remiss if I didn't mention the Austin Beer Garden Brewery, just east of Lamar on Oltorf with their various beers brewed on site and delicious pizzas.) I tracked the openings of both Barlata and Winebelly and waited a good six weeks for things to shake down before trying either one. Verdict: worth the waits.

Winebelly took over the Green Muse Coffee Bar; it's on the south side of Oltorf, just east of South First, with sort of a disparate grouping of businesses (the gas station/convenience store on the corner, Pizza Patron, two financial services, Austin Rebuilders and Habanero). Fortunately, once inside, you don't feel like you're in a (quasi) strip center. The bar is directly in front when you walk in, with table seating around to the right and back, including what looked to be a nice patio area outside.

We started with some cocktails, I had the John Lee Hooker, a very tasty concoction of Gewurstraminer, Cava, agave nectar, ginger, and a dash of hot sauce. Winebelly presently offers only beer and wines, no liquor.
My friend started with the panzanella salad, which was beautiful and delicious! Lacinato kale dressed in a light sherry vinaigrette with watermelon radishes, idiazabal cheese (an aged Spanish sheep's milk cheese), and crisp bread cubes, which I much prefer over soggy ones often found in a panzanella.
I had the cauliflower soup, which was creamy and velvety beyond belief. It's topped with smoked trout and trout roe, and what you can't see but was an amazing addition was little bits of lightly tart apple at the bottom of the bowl. All the flavors were extremely well-balanced.
This is the specials board, which I didn't see when we walked in; it's on the wall to the left of the door when you walk in, but the hostess stand was to the right, so I missed it. We had a great waitress who was knowledgeable about the menu, and didn't hesitate to name her favorite dishes when I asked. Her only miscue was when describing the pork belly special, she said "summer squash puree" which sounded odd to me, and I even repeated it back to her. Clearly it didn't stop me from ordering the pork belly, and fortunately, it was with a sweet potato puree, whose sweetness countered the savory nature of the pork belly. The belly was nicely crisp on top, but still fatty -- without seeming fatty -- in the middle, you know what I mean? The Brussels were good, though I am having a hard time remembering how they were seasoned.
The meat balls was the one dish that neither of us were real impressed with. It's a decent enough serving of five not quite golf-ball sized  pieces, and they are a combo of pork, veal and beef. The flavor was okay,  however something was off with the texture. They held together, but were too....loose? Squishy? Undercooked, but not raw? Can't quite put my finger on it, but we didn't finish them.
We both wanted dessert, but presently Winebelly is only offering sorbets and gelatos. Something toothsome like cake or a brownie is what we both were craving.....hopefully in the future, they will offer more of a selection. The place has a great vibe, shabby chic decor, though a little dark even in the daylight hours (had to use the flash on the food pictures). I look forward to sitting out back and sipping on some wine for my next visit. Or perhaps some bubbly! The Mark Twain quote was inside one of the bathroom stalls.... might have to sneak a peak inside the men's room to see what inspiration is in there. Cheers to a great new addition to the neighborhood!
I believe Winebelly does a seasonal menu, so all items I described might not be on the menu when you go! Another side note, the owners are the Tran family that owns Hai Ky on East Oltorf.