photo credit: Richard Casteel
Some restaurants just take you to another place. If you have dinner at Lutie’s, you’ll technically find yourself at the Commodore Perry Estate—a swanky resort in a restored old mansion across the street from one of the most grackle-laden HEBs in Austin. But once you’ve entered the grounds, you’ll feel more like you’re eating outside the gardens of Versailles. If there were ever an occasion to wear lots of bright linen and perhaps even a large floppy hat, this is it.
The patio overlooks a large hedge garden built around a fountain that has undoubtedly granted a few wishes in its time. There’s probably a ceiling in the dining room somewhere, but it’s hidden behind a layer of hanging vines, leaves, and plants that are likely hiding a team of garden gnomes pulling the strings. But despite, at times, feeling like a proper garden party, Lutie’s doesn’t rely purely on theme as its primary draw.
As you might expect from a place that calls itself a “garden restaurant,” the menu is a tribute to vegetables, in both ubiquity and attention. Sure, there’s tartare, pork chops, and fish—and you should absolutely make some of these proteins a part of your meal. But it’s dishes like sunchoke falafels, and the aptly-named “green dish”—rotating vegetables in a green, kombu broth—that steal the show. Roasted lettuces act as a warm, savory inspiration to salads everywhere. And the petit aioli is a bit like one of those big veggie trays you’d regularly find at a Super Bowl party, but limp sticks of celery and unripe tomatoes are subbed out for grilled, and pickled garden vegetables, accompanied by a rich, tangy aioli that you’ll want to spread on everything within arm’s reach
After dinner, take a stroll through the gardens, and pretend like you’re in a city made of bricks with fresh baguettes at every corner. The grounds are surrounded by a tall, ivy-lined fence that does a pretty good job of maintaining your immersion by shielding your eyes from the sports bar across the street. Maybe next time you can even grab a room at the hotel, and make the escape last just a little longer.
This is one of those times where it’s OK to get excited about the bread (if there was ever any doubt). It’s warm, soft and buttery on the inside, with some bite on the outside. But most importantly, it’s the perfect vessel for enjoying the little brick of brown and cultured butter that accompanies it all.
This is basically a giant platter of chilled, seasonal vegetables, most of which have been lightly grilled or pickled. It’s served with a bowl of slightly-tangy aioli that you’ll want to dip just about everything into. If you’re a fan of really good, local produce, you’ll definitely want to order this.
Delta Blues Rice
This is another dish made up of just a few (relatively) simple ingredients that really shines. The fish changes regularly, but it’s the rice—a small-batch, artisan milled grain from Mississippi—that really shines. Well, that and the jar of smoked trout roe that gets poured over it all, tableside.
The aptly-named Green Dish changes out pretty often, but the core of it stays the same. It’s made up of an assortment of vegetables—sometimes, green, sometimes not—in a kombu broth, that’s both savory and a bit salty. It’s light and refreshing, and a great early course in the meal.
There’s a really solid wine list, with plenty of options by the glass, and a bunch by the bottle. But it’s the inventive cocktails that feel like an extension of the menu—it’s where you’ll find ingredients like blackberry basil shrub, lemon oleo, and celery bitters that probably came from the same garden the rest of the food did. And the Sherry Cobbler cocktail—with blueberry jam and muddled oranges—could serve as an excellent dessert, if those weren’t just as noteworthy.
Kouign Amann Ice Cream
All of the desserts at Lutie’s are excellent, but our favorite was the Kouign Amann ice cream. It’s rich and creamy, with chunks of the sweet, buttery pastry inside. It’s like a Dairy Queen blizzard that went to culinary school. The whole thing is topped off with a cute mini kouign amann perched on top like a little hat.