Second Bar + Kitchen offers first-rate food in a comfortable setting. For the food enthusiast, you can sit at the bar and watch celebrity Chef David Bull work his magic. For the downtown worker, you can come to the bar after work and relax amongst other professionals in a clean, soothing environment. Although it lacks pretense, the ambiance demands respect and good behavior. You can come in for happy hour and have a terrific drink and a hearty appetizer or you can sit down and have a full five course meal. Of course I have gone both routes numerous times.
Upon my first visit to Second Bar + Kitchen I spent a lengthy period of time divulging the bar menu. Finally I settled upon the Congress GT anxious to try their house quinine. Unfortunately they were out of the quinine so I asked the bartender to make me something similarly dry. She presented me with a very pretty Pink Pony - a very crisp grapefruit meets gin concoction that I highly recommend requesting. I ordered the spicy fried pickles (think wings and blue cheese but with pickles) and the black truffle pommes frites to balance this whip-smart drink. Although I tripled my weekly fried foods intake in one sitting, these were some of the best appetizers I have ever had. If you have read my reviews before, it is no secret that I love pickles. These pickles were stacked log cabin style, breaded and crisped with a nice heat to them from the zesty sauce and breading spices. The blue cheese dip is appropriately rich while not being overbearing. There was something reminiscent of Brooklyn here with the offering of pickles and the easy going service. The real star was the pommes frites with layers of course sea salt and drizzled with truffle oil... the potatoes were perfect and the truffle oil gave them an earthy savory appeal that makes it impossible to stop munching on them. The aioli it comes with is fresh and light.
Hooked, I returned again for dinner and ordered the blue crab fritters, garlic and chive gnocchi, the corn gazpacho, rosted salmon with brussels sprouts, and concluded with a blueberry vanilla fried pie. The peaks of this meal rested with the fritters, gnocchi and gazpacho. Let me tell you a bit more -
The blue crab fritters come with a gorgeous presentation. Festively pierced on skewers the fritters are like a dessert warm- up. The crab is delicious and fresh tasting with a delicious caramelized glaze. They are seasoned in a way that you get a delayed heat from what I suspect was a roasted or fresh jalapeno. The corn gazpacho is served with fresh avocado, tomatoes, house tortilla strips, and cilantro so each spoonful is infinitely different than the previous. This was a clean, savory gazpacho that you will try to grasp with each bite yet continue to find something new. The gnocchi melts in your mouth and I seriously recommend ordering two - it is the perfect marriage of airy house-made gnocchi and a chive-singed buttery sauce. The salmon was lovely, but in contrast to the other dishes too straightforward. I felt cheated of the excitement and puzzles that accompanied other menu items.
Second Bar + Kitchen is the more affordable sister to Congress. It is a terrific opportunity to try one of Austin's most esteemed chef's work, to converse with a colleague, or to go out for a date. It is a sensory indulgence with something for everyone's budget and tastes.