On the Menu: Wildfire
812 South Austin Ave., Georgetown
It’s probably not fitting to call Georgetown a small town anymore. With incredible growth brought on by development in north Austin and Round Rock, a considerable university population and a burgeoning cultural scene, it’s hardly Mayberry, USA. But it does have a town square, a lunch counter, a historic theater, and according to a story in Time magazine, weekly quilting bees. Georgetown is also home to Wildfire, a markedly cosmopolitan little eatery nestled among the bucolic storefronts downtown, evidence that the country does eventually meet the city. And in the case of this addition to the local dining scene, the urban and pastoral converge at something akin to an upscale cookout.
Wildfire’s oak-burning grill serves as the centerpiece for a no-nonsense menu of mostly steaks and chops, poultry, fish and smoky pastas. And at the end of the hallway that separates the restaurant’s comfortable dining room from the fantastic vermilion-walled bar (and smoking section), patrons can peek in on the flames themselves.
A recent dinner in a cozy, high-backed booth started with baked brie on focaccia and a wonderful southwest-inspired seafood chowder, tomato-creamy with a real kick. The cilantro-ungo-stuffed pork chops—filled with mushrooms and cheese—were hearty and just a bit fancy atop a flavorful reduction sauce garnished with chunks of pineapple. Beer-battered shrimp, from the “Flash Fires” section of the menu, were large, plump, and not at all greasy, and came with a tasty version of the creamy variety of cole slaw and Anaheim mashed potatoes (wedge-cut fries and steamed broccoli are alternative sides). Another entree, blue corn crusted catfish, was listed in the aforementioned Time article as reason enough to move here. Our final selection, a vegetarian one, was a spicy grilled radichio, portobello and artichoke pasta. Tossed with perfectly cooked penne, the combination struck a nice balance between smoke and heat. All of the portions were huge, and the reasonably-priced entrees were preceded by big leafy garden salads and bread.
By serving southwestern cuisine and other recognizable fare with just a slight ethnic twist—Jamaican jerk chicken, grilled shrimp scampi, gingered chicken breast and Amarillo antipasto—Wildfire comes off as homespun and rustic, yet right on par with the culinary advances being made in the big city. The food is artistically presented but straightforward and hearty, appealing to both the epi-curious and the real meat-and-potato folk as well.
We were almost too full for dessert, but grilled bananas with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce was unique and yummy. The sugar-fired taste of the bananas made me think of it as campfire ice cream. And keeping with this theme, we made a note to sample Wildfire’s oak-toasted s’mores on our next visit.
“There’s never been anything like this in Georgetown,” announced one of my dining companions, a Southwestern alum who spent four years eating at the one Whataburger in town. Now there’s a place to satisfy his taste for pork tenderloin, too. Atmospheric but not pretentious, Wildfire sets a standard for fine dining that the locals can only hope will be rivaled as Georgetown expands.
812 South Austin Ave.
Open: Mon-Sat, 11am-10pm;Sun 10am-9pm