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The Best Austin Restaurants For A Special Occasion Dinner

Congratulations, you have something to celebrate. Here’s where to go.
The Best Austin Restaurants For A Special Occasion Dinner image

photo credit: Richard Casteel

For most people, the phrase “special occasion” means anniversaries, birthdays, and promotions. And for others, hitting a string of green lights or closing all the rings on their Apple watch also calls for celebration. Whatever the reason, you’re going to want to go someplace exciting. We’re talking prix fixe menus, white tablecloths, advance reservations, and probably spending more than you would on a typical night out. These are the best fine dining restaurants in Austin for a special occasion, no matter how small the victory. 

THE SPOTS

photo credit: Richard Casteel

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Clarksville

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If it’s not obvious from the valet line of Bentleys, Porsches, and G-Wagons, maybe it’ll dawn on you that you’re about to drop some serious coin at Jeffrey’s when you parse through the menu of caviar service options and dry-aged steaks. This is an impeccable steakhouse experience that sets the bar for fine dining in Austin. Throw on a shirt with buttons and hide those flip-flops where nobody can see them—you’ll want to dress your best for a meal here. And start practicing your drink order for the martini cart—a by-request, tableside cocktail experience that ups the fancy factor another notch. 

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If you’re going to blow well over $300 per person on dinner, the sushi restaurant Otoko is where to do it. The futuristic design of the dining room set in a light tunnel makes it feel like you’re in a fancy spaceship, cruising along to a soundtrack of Bowie, Sun Ra, and Fugazi, with a chef who looks like he could have just hopped off any of their stages. Start with a cocktail at Watertrade next door (it has one of the biggest collections of Japanese whisky in town) then buckle up for a series of small plates that range from ultra-traditional bluefin tuna nigiri topped with fresh wasabi, to a few bites of white sea bass with Mexican marigold, chayote squash, and ume ponzu. It’s a seamless blend of Japanese, Texan, and Mexican flavors, and it feels a lot further removed from Austin than the second-story dining room/spaceship would lead you to believe. 

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J. Carver’s is anything but modest. This is a Downtown steakhouse where opulence and decadence are on full display in a dimly lit dining room filled with small tables and booths covered in white tablecloths. Servers walk by with a small notebook that contains the available steaks for the day, most of which are priced by the ounce at a cost that reflects every minute of the 30 to 50 days that most of them get aged. Kick things off with some oysters and crudo, get some seared foie gras if you want the full luxe experience, then finish with a steak served next to a wood-roasted half Maine lobster. 

Olamaie looks like it was plucked off the cover of Southern Living magazine. The renovated 1930s bungalow is complete with well-manicured hedges, white wood paneling, and a cute patio where you can sip on sweet tea from a mason jar while chatting about the weather. It’s just a few blocks from the UT Campus, but you wouldn’t know it from looking around the cozy dining room. This is a place that feels like it takes the key tenets of southern hospitality—politeness, home cooking, and charm, to name a few—and applies it to fine dining. As a result, it feels warm and inviting, and you’ll somehow always leave with a small box of leftovers that’s just as good the next day. 

The team behind this sushi and Japanese fusion restaurant has built a mini-empire of larger, flashier restaurants, but it all started right here in a cozy renovated house on South Lamar. Despite being just a short walk from Zilker Park, this is not a place you should show up to after an afternoon of disc golf and sand volleyball. It’s dark and sleek, with a casual elegance to it all. Because of the nearly 100 items on the menu (including nigiri), navigating the experience can be a bit daunting. Fortunately, the best way to experience Uchi is with the omakase option—just tell your server how much you want to spend, and let them do the heavy lifting. 

When you tell people you’re eating at Barley Swine, it’s usually followed by the question “Oh! What’s the occasion?” It’s one of the most “Austin-y” fine dining spots in town—you could show up in a nice flannel or jeans and not feel judged. Despite the semi-rustic feel of the dining room that feels like a cozy lodge in a much colder city, there’s nothing casual about the food. It’s tasting menu-only with dishes defined more by local ingredients and seasonality than any one region. Expect to find bites like baked oysters with hot sauce creamed broccoli and masa right next to 40-day dry-aged ribeyes served with beer cheese and cauliflower chimichurri. At the end of your meal, you can even add on a half-dozen brown butter cookies packaged in a take-home box to keep the experience going.

Hestia is one of the few spots in town where a suit doesn’t feel out of place. Pair that with local ingredients cooked over a live fire, an excellent wine list, and a dining room that looks like it was plucked out of a much bigger city, and you get one of our favorite spots Downtown for a fancy night out. Nearly everything on the menu is cooked on a 20-foot hearth that anchors the dining room, but this isn’t some rustic cowboy hibachi experience. You won’t necessarily see most of the live fire action, though you’ll certainly taste its effects in various forms, from ash-aged chevre to hearth-roasted beets. There’s an a la carte menu if you’ve got your eye set on that 12-oz. Texas wagyu ribeye with smoked beef lardo, but we recommend the tasting menu for the full experience.

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Fabrik is a plant-based fine dining experience on East MLK that uses ingredients like miso butter, caramelized yeast, and tamari caramel to impart rich and savory elements into their dishes. The dining room is not particularly fancy—it’s at the bottom of an apartment complex, and the bathroom is shared with a neighboring sandwich shop outside—but it’s a meal that feels like it could hold its own in any conversations about fine dining, vegan or otherwise (enter: this guide). Just know that if you sign up for dinner here, you’re signing up for a five- or seven-course experience (with an optional beverage pairing) that seamlessly blends Japanese, Nordic, and Italian flavors with local, seasonal ingredients.

photo credit: Richard Casteel

Walking into Qi feels like entering a private vault. The front patio of Qi has all the expected cool factor of a restaurant built on the ground level of a West Sixth street high-rise, which is to say, not much. But once you open the tall (and heavy) wooden doors into the dining area, you’ll find yourself in a lively room with exposed beams, tall windows, and hanging paper umbrella lanterns. It’s a Chinese restaurant, and dumplings are the specialty, but you’ll also find Peking duck, Cantonese fried whole fish, and premium renditions of a few Chinese-American classics. Come to Qi when you want to celebrate with a group, or if you’d rather get your meal in during brunch hours—our favorite time to eat here. 

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The dining room at Juniper feels like it was plucked off the Pinterest board of a James Bond villain, complete with a sleek, modern interior, very little color, and a wall of spirits accessible only by ladder. It doesn’t really fit the mold of a traditional upscale Italian restaurant, but after a few bites of excellent handmade pasta, you won’t really care. There’s a prix fixe menu that you can order from if you want the full experience, but we like to order off the a la carte menu since it lets us load up on paccheri, campanelle, bucatini, and whatever other pastas are on the menu that day, because that’s where Juniper is at its best. 

Lutie’s feels like a fairytale. It’s a garden party all the time, with hanging vines, leaves, and plants obscuring whatever ceiling manages to keep all the magic inside. But it’s more than just a flashy coat and a nursery worth of plants—this is a “garden restaurant” that feels like a tribute to vegetables. The menu is made up of whatever some farmer decided was looking pretty nice this time of year—and it changes often—so throw on your linen suits and sundresses and step into one of the prettiest restaurants in the whole city. 

We usually associate hot pot with big group dinners, but DipDipDip takes a different approach. It’s dark and intimate—everybody gets their own personal pot and the tables are mostly optimized for couples or very small groups. It’s easily the fanciest hot pot experience in Austin, and it comes with a price tag to match. Order the “baller omakase,” where you’ll start your meal with a round of oysters before diving into Alaskan snow crab, foie gras, and A5 wagyu, or choose from one of the other set menus that are a little easier on the wallet. With any route, you’ll get to choose from four broths, plenty of a la carte options, and access to a giant wooden cart that gets rolled around the dining room holding daily specials. 

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