Sage on West Alabama


A generation ago, when our era’s fascination with gourmet food took off, many restaurants were tucked into charming old buildings and houses just like this one. Once an antiques shop, Sage’s pleasant warren of small rooms and patios invites a ramble to choose a table. You might even stop in the bar, with its exposed wooden beams, for a relaxing drink. The food, described as European, has considerable promise. Recent highlights included a grilled eight-ounce filet mignon served with béarnaise and roasted red onions and peppers and a vegetable soup featuring lentils. We consumed every morsel of the fettuccine with a hearty short rib ragoût, Parmesan, and fresh basil. The only glitch we hit was an overcooked tuna filet. Bar. 2221 W. Alabama (713-526-6242). Dinner Tue–Sat 5:30–11. Closed Sun & Mon. Reservations recommended. $$–$$$ W+

El Chile


Norteño Austinites are practically dancing on the tables now that El Chile has finally established an outpost in their neck of the woods, in the former Mesa Hills Cafe location. On our maiden visit, we noticed many customers from the toddler set—hipster families apparently live in the suburbs as well as close to downtown. Attractions include sitting on the small patio while sipping a spicy orange margarita, munching on a flaky chorizo-stuffed quesadilla (a tad greasy, but the chile-laced marg cuts right  through), and watching the sky turn pink at sunset. Happily, all this helps you ignore the glare of headlights on Greystone. The crisp tortilla-crusted tilapia was moist inside, but the carne asada was chewier than our jaws could take. Pop-art Frida paintings and bright red and yellow chairs match the energetic feel of the original location. Bar. 3435 Greystone Dr (512-284-7863). Open Mon–Sat 11–10, Sun 11–9. $$ W+