Austinites of all stripes were shocked and sad to hear of Hickory Street’s closing in October as the 27-year-old establishment was seemingly set to be demolished to make way for new buildings downtown. But alas, along came three knights in shining armor – Brendan Puthoff, owner of Third Base and Barcelona teamed up with Nate Howry and Mason Wheeless to renovate and reopen the restaurant just in time for SXSW.
Despite changes in appearance and food, Hickory Street maintains its unique Austin character – the space is casual with a laid-back atmosphere, but nice enough for a date. The outdoor patio really takes it away and blows the old establishment out of the water – gone are the plastic zip-up walls and fans, replaced by made-over patio complete with a red wooden deck and garden for chef Camden Stuerzenberger’s fresh ingredients. The patio allows for enough interaction with Congress at 8th Street while the wrought iron fence still provides a barrier from the sidewalk. The shiny corrugated metal roof that hung over the patio is also gone, and dim string lights provide the perfect atmosphere at night. Trees offer shade during the day, and the owners say umbrellas will soon be added to shield from the hot Texas sun.
But the real treat at Hickory Street is the food and drink. The guacamole is stellar, with charred sweet corn, crumbly cheese and house-made potato chips. The Carrot Quinoa Salad is a refreshing, healthier option with grilled and roasted carrots and beets in a toasted coriander vinaigrette. One of the best things on the menu is the Lobster Corn Dog, paired with a spicy Habanero ketchup. The corn dogs have just enough shellfish taste, the lobster’s soft texture coming together nicely with thick breading. The Mini Bison Burgers are juicy, thick and flavorful and seasoned to perfection with a slight spicy kick, complemented by the caramelized onion and smoky sharp cheddar. Another favorite was the Roasted Mushroom Flatbread, a concoction of different Texas wild mushrooms topped with sunflower seeds, Bosque bleu and truffle aioli all on a pita baked in-house (like everything else with the exception of bagels and tortillas).
And now for the drinks – oh, the drinks. The Hickory House Rita uses Z Pepe Silver Tequila and piloncillo mix, which gives it a really sweet flavor and an interesting color. The Rita is good, but is overshadowed by the Hickory Street Cooler – a deliciously refreshing combination of Waterloo Gun, fresh lemon juice, elderflower liqueur and simple syrup with strawberries and mint. FULL REVIEW