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Given the expansive outdoor seating (think well-designed picnic tables and benches) and the allure of many beers on tap, the food needed to be just passable. Surprise: The casual menu is darn good, thanks to chef Andrew Wiseheart and manager-owner Ben Edgerton. What about rabbit and dumplings, with three sage-accented, biscuity dumplings afloat on a hearty stew? What about a juicy chicken-and-apple sausage on a baguette, with skinny french fries? The ox tongue sliders are delicious, as rich and unabashedly fatty as short ribs (and talk about nose-to-tail eating). True, a couple of things were a little off—those pickled beets were awfully tart—but they were few and far between. Wish list: Please add misters before the weather gets blistering hot. Oops, too late. Bar. 2027 Anchor Ln (512-614-2260). Dinner Sun–Fri 4–midnight, Sat 4–1 a.m. $$ +
Here’s another slick trick from the RDG group, equipped with tile floors, banquettes in sea blue, and a view of Kirby Drive (it’s located right above Ava Kitchen). Appetizers at the treetop-level pizzeria include the likes of steamed clams, snappy with a flurry of quick-sautéed fennel and parsley, and larger dishes feature such temptations as pasta slathered thick with tomato cream sauce and topped with red chile slivers and butterflied shrimp. Tasty thin pizzas proved inconsistently crispy, though we got a winner with a combo of speck, onion, and arugula, a great mix of savory, smoky, sweet, and bitter. Bar. West Ave development, 2800 Kirby Dr, at Westheimer Rd (713-386-6460). Open Wed & Thur 5–midnight, Fri & Sat 5–1 a.m., Sun noon–8. Closed Mon & Tue. $$