ONE OF THE FEW COMPLAINTS we have ever heard about Castle Hill Cafe is that it is too loud—which is true. But the acoustics in this former grocery store built in 1896 are only partly at fault. Blame instead the multitude of loyal customers who flock to this low-key and unpretentious Austin haunt for inventive, flavorful, and sometimes daring offerings. Inspired by the terracotta and purple interiors and the exuberant folk art on the walls, patrons seem to just feel good when they come here—proven by the long lines at lunch and a full house at dinner.
In some ways Castle Hill has been underrated, perhaps because it doesn’t put on airs or inflate its image with self-mythologizing ad campaigns. Offerings here are as good as, if not consistently better than, many of Austin’s pushier eateries—the advantage here is that you don’t have to be told how good they are. For unabashed flavor, the Tuscan-style lamb tenderloin with rosemary polenta can’t be topped. Dressed with arugula, mozarella, sun-dried tomatoes, capers, basil, olive oil, and with a surprising sprinkle of cinnamon croutons, this is a lively dish that you’ll remember for a long time. Spinach-and-egg penne pasta with smoked chicken and asparagus in asiago cream sauce is also unforgettable.
Just don’t get too attached to any of the concoctions chef and owner David Dailey whips up—he changes the menu every other week just to keep his followers on their toes. Of course, some favorites resurface periodically—and everybody’s favorite Castle Hill specialty, the muffins (see recipe) are always available. Desserts can be lavish, such as the hyper-dense triple-layer chocolate mocha torte, but hey—since you’re indulging, why not go all the way?
Castle Hill Cafe 1101 West 5th St. Austin
Tel. (512) 476.0728
Lunch Mon-Fri, 11-2:30pm Dinner Mon-Sat, 6-10pm Closed Sunday
View the menu Castle Hill Cafe.
Try Castle Hill Cafe’s Southern Biscuit Muffins recipe at home.