Austin, how I love you. I have family who live in the city, but my last visit in about the last 10 years was this year’s South by Southwest festival. I hadn’t experienced the new, hip Austin that so many of my peers are moving to or at least roaming the streets during bachelorette parties.
During SXSW, I fell head over heels for the eclectic neighborhoods, fun ambiance, vintage shopping, and of course, food. I’ve been itching to return back to Austin at a less hectic time of year to truly experience it like a local. So last weekend, I booked a last minute trip to visit friends and escape the NYC heat…for the Texan heat.
With so many awesome restaurants in town, I knew at least one brunch was in order. My friend Yuichi, a Manhattanite turned Austonian, recommended Perla’s in Austin’s South Congress neighborhood and I knew he wouldn’t steer me wrong.
I had previously had a fantasy of packing up and moving to Austin’s hip yet gritty East side, riding a single speed bicycle with fresh produce from the farmer’s market in the basket, but after driving through South Congress I knew I had found my new neighborhood. This area has a ton of acclaimed hot spots–Jo’s Coffee, Homeslice, Amy’s Ice Creams–and cute boutiques with a neighborhood feel.
My friend Pete and I met Yuichi for an early morning brunch; even by 11 a.m. the restaurant was packed. I was immediately charmed by Perla’s nautical-inspired ambiance with vintage typography, striped umbrellas, and vintage string lights. Although it was nearing 100 degrees, we opted to sit out on the expansive patio. The combination of shaded umbrellas and water misters made the outdoor seating very pleasant and it was perfect for people watching.
First order of business, cocktails. Yuichi and Pete opted for the Caesar, basically a Bloody Mary with clamato. I’m not a Bloody Mary fan so the inclusion of clam juice kind of freaked me out, but this drink was surprisingly tasty. It was light, zippy, and didn’t taste fishy at all. And of course their liquor of choice was Austin’s own Tito’s vodka.
I was intrigued by the “frozen drink of the day,” which happened to be a cherry-flavored drink with bourbon. Although I don’t typically lean towards brown liquor, a frozen drink sounded heavenly on this hot Texas day and our friendly server gave it rave reviews. He was right; this drink went down easy, so easy that I had to consciously slow myself to avoid a brain freeze. The frozen drink was a fun alternative to my typical mimosa.
After a round of cocktails, we were more than ready to dig into our entrees. I had gone for a run around Lady Bird Lake that morning so I had worked up an appetite. Perla’s has an expansive cold bar selection so we started with the fish and shrimp ceviche with avocado and fried tostaditos. The seafood was fresh and well-seasoned, perfect for such a steamy day. I appreciated that they served us a healthy portion of seafood since so many ceviches can be skimpy.
For our main courses, Yuichi and Pete both had the lobster omelet. This impressive egg dish was stuffed with white cheddar, creme fraiche, and topped with caviar. It was delicious and decadent, as it should be to warrant the $26 price.
I branched out with the breakfast crab cake, which I’ve never seen on a menu before. A sunny side up egg and caramelized endive completed the crab cake. I loved the combination of the buttery yolk and fresh greens with the fishy crab. This dish was light and felt relatively healthy.
After a weekend of too much tequila, tacos, and queso, I can’t say the rest of my Austin trip was healthy, but it sure was fun. Austin, you never disappoint.
The Bitches say: A. Chic, neighborhood ambiance, amazing seafood, and great service.
1400 S Congress Ave.
Austin, TX 78704
Perla’s serves brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 10:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m.