We showed up at Emilie’s–30 minutes early for our 5:30 reservation–thinking we’d be the only losers there so early on a Saturday. False. They were packed. I’d soon see why. I was so SO happy to see that I had thoughtfully booked us for counter seats rather than table seats because there’s nothing I like more than the constant entertainment of watching the chefs do their thang. This was no exception. My husband was at first embarrassed to be wearing jeans and a T-shirt until one of the chefs complimented on what he was wearing–the shirt he got at Franklin BBQ on our most recent trip to Austin.
None of the cocktails were super attention-grabbers, and I settled on the Absinthe Frap. “Question: do you like the flavor of licorice?” asked the server. This poor guy. I think he must get so many customers ordering absinthe with dreams of hallucinating only to find that it is actually just potent, distilled licorice. I assured him that I knew what I was doing. My husband, unsure and craving something different, described his favorite drink of all time (sage-infused bourbon, amaro, and black walnut bitters, served on the rocks) and asked them to make him something similar.
They came back with the monstrosity you see on the left. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t bad and I would have gladly traded for it. But it was sweet, tart, and fruity, not at all what he had requested. The server was not lying about the absinthe–this cocktail is not for the faint of heart. I didn’t mind it but it felt kind of one-note, and definitely could have used some additional sweetness.
Emilie’s really pushes their homemade breads and fancy tray of accompaniments. They have two breads–focaccia and sourdough. But at $12 a pop, plus the ensuing carb hangover (we saw just how big those portions are!), we decided to forego. If you go here with a group of 4+ people (which I will recommend for other reasons), then by all means go for the bread. Otherwise…it’s just stupid bread.
So we started with the ocean trout crudo, which I picked mostly because it comes with smoked trout roe.
Yesssss, this is the tiny portion I was hoping for. It was predictably delonculous with finely sliced beets and a spicy mayo underneath. It felt luxurious. (Trout roe not to scale.)
They delivered the baby gem salad next. For a plate that consisted entirely of one type of lettuce leaf with stuff shredded on top, this was amazing. The breadcrumbs were crunchy and plentiful and the whole thing was coated in grated cured egg yolk, a tasty bit of yum that I tried and epically failed to make about a month ago.
I am soooooo glad I passed up on the bread in order to get the champon noodles–delightfully chewy, curly ramen noodles coated in rich miso butter and brimming with coarse, fresh-cracked pepper. The server described it as their take on cacio e pepe but wow….it was like cacio e pepe e pepe e pepe. In a good way. It had a lingering heat just from black pepper. I am normally pretty meh about noodles but omg this was well worth it. Don’t leave without it.
Finally, we saw the chef in front of us start to prep the Texas toast that would eventually arrive with our fried chicken platter. Emilie’s recommends one of their two large share plates for the table. We were initially glad we chose the fried chicken when we saw the other dish–the 25 ounce pork steak–cooking on the griddle before us. Ho. Lee. Shit. You don’t realize how big 25 ounces of pork is until you see a piece of meat as big as your torso. So anyway. We didn’t see the fried chicken before it arrived. We waited a while, happily, I should add, because we had some time to digest and prepare ourselves. However, there is nothing that could actually prepare our stomachs for this genuinely epic homage to heart disease:
This is four–count ’em, FOUR–large fried chicken thighs plus FOUR enormous, thick slices of pre-buttered Texas toast, along with their housemade hot sauce, housemade ranch, and, y’know, some pickles, so we could feel virtuous. The chicken was crispy and moist beyond belief, with a flavor unto itself. We removed the shaker lid from the hot sauce to enable an appropriate amount to be added to our food. But the real magic was in the ranch dressing. I don’t even LIKE ranch dressing usually but this was not like any gloopy glorpy plastic-bottle nonsense–it was tart from buttermilk and contained all the dill. Like, all of it. More tzatziki than Hidden Valley.
We ate all the chicken. Sorry, not sorry. Actually, kinda sorry. It was a lot of food. If I knew then what I know now, I might just stick to small plates. Do yourself a favor and come here with at least four people. The button on your pants will thank me.
Price: $80 per person.
Bottom line: Emilie’s is absolutely freaking delicious and you should definitely believe the hype it’s getting. It’s very easy to go overboard.