Austin, TX(512) 472-9463
Laura: My good friend David has been recommending Cru for months. Yes folks, it is a chain. I looked at their website to find that they had locations not only in Austin, but also in Dallas, Denver, Plano and the Woodlands. Knowing that it was a big success in Dallas, I wasn’t quite sure it would be my kind of place, but I wanted to find out.
Mariah: I’m still recovering from my 6 years in DFW and haven’t quite been able to wash the stink of that place off me. I generally avoid places that are popular in Dallas but the lure of wine is strong. Probably stronger than my dislike of Dallas.
Laura: Mariah picked me up and we drove down to the ultra trendy and ultra expensive second street district. And if you don’t believe me that it is ultra expensive, consider this- Cru is right next to the clothing store Estilo. I once won a $50 gift certificate there off the radio. When I went to redeem it, I could not find a single decent item I could afford, even with the gift certificate. However, I did find a really awesome designer dress that I had to call my grandmother to talk me out of spending my rent money on.
Laura: Anyway, we get down there and we are looking for parking. I, ever the Eagle Eye, spot a car exiting a spot, so Mariah speeds across three lanes of traffic to swoop in for it, getting flipped off by a rightly pissed off driver in the meantime. My deepest apologies to that poor guy and the sad explanation that neither of us had enough cash to pay to park.
Mariah: Yeah I’m an awesome driver. I had to dust off some aggressive driving skills I learned while living in Chicago. Laura didn’t give that maneuver justice, we were stopped in the far left lane at a traffic light, there were cars in the other two lanes to the right of us. I inched forward and as the light turned green, I sped up quickly (as quickly as my junky Mazda can go) dodged up and around the two other cars in the middle and right lane, into the far right lane, and braked to snag the spot. All in the space of 100 feet. I rock.
Laura: As we walk into Cru and are faced with super swank bar, décor and staff, we notice what an awesome patio they have and request to be seated there. We get a couple of funky glances and are seated in a two person table in between another crowded table, a walkway for the wait staff, and a large back of a sofa chair that is making me extremely claustrophobic. When I express my concerns, what seems like the manager turns very passive-aggressive. One second he apologizes kindly, and the next minute his voice turns arrogant as he explains that there are no other tables available. Then he turns back to Dr. Jekyll as he offers to let us scoot our table and chairs over, and then after I explain to him that we would be in the walkway of the wait staff if we did that, he again changes to Mr. Hyde and tells us we will have to sit inside if we are uncomfortable with our chairs and explains that some customers like the privacy the side of the couch provides.
Laura: “I can deal” I say. It’s too nice of an evening to be inside. A really sweet and really cute waitress comes over and offers beverages and food. Its half price champagne night so Mariah and I go for a bottle of Perrier-Jouet, something we’d never choose normally, but at half price is so reasonable.
Mariah: The patio here is really nice. It’s more of a fenced off portion of the sidewalk. But the inside of the bar and the patio are open to each other creating a nice airy effect. It reminds me of a Paris sidewalk café. After we were seated, I looked over the wine menu. I had already eaten at Chez Nous (the review is forthcoming) so I didn’t bother long with the food menu.
Laura: But I was in need of some grub, so I start scanning the food menu. They have a few pizzas, a few meaty entrees, a couple of salads, and some interesting looking cheese flights. I was feeling extremely indecisive, so I eenie meenie miney moed and ordered White Truffle Oil Cheese Fondue with apples, carrot and rustic bread.
Laura: The clientele was varied. Mariah had a better look at all of this than I did, as I was being sequestered by the sofa wall. She explained to me that people were going between tables inside and that the place seemed very friendly. But the patio seemed full of girls with fresh highlights and $1000 Fendi purses. And not the knockoff ones my friends (Mariah) have.
Mariah: Whatever. My knock-off Fendi is awesome. I definitely see how this place works though. If you don’t have a seating preference they put the young good looking people out on the patio and the older less trendy people inside. Thats probably why the host looked a little nervous when we asked to sit on the patio (despite there being 6 or 7 open tables) and why were were seated behind a large couch. Apaprently we don't look cool enough to sit on their patio. Its filled with young 20-something (some looked even younger though) with short skirts, flat ironed hair, Abercrombe& Fitch polos, and way too much hair gel. The people inside looked normal and were clearly having a good time. There was a lot of laughing and table hopping. I’m guessing the place has quite a few regulars. But I wonder if they see the lipstick segregation.
Laura: I didn't notice the segregation (thanks again, Sofa Wall). And I don't understand it. So what I was wearing flip flops and don't have an expensive purse? We're two really cute girls! And this is Austin damn you. Flip flops here ARE couture. Anyway, the champagne was young but not send back worthy, although at full price ($70) I would have been horribly disappointed.
Mariah: It was really green. It was very acidic and didn’t have a good balance of flavors. I’ve had better bottles of $40 champagne (Nicky Fou Rose or Moet White Star)
Laura: A waiter or waitress came by every minute and a half to refill our glasses. This tactic kept us drinking at a quick pace. The fondue arrived and I went in for a bite. Initially, the cheese was very liquid (as expected when warm) and the apples and carrots were fine, but the bread was hard as a rock. Even after soaking it in the fondue, it still did not give.
Mariah: Seriously! That bread was stale! It was disgusting. I don’t know if that’s the effect they were going for. I understand there’s a time and a place for stale bread (bread pudding, yum!), but not normally when you’re just eating it plain.
Laura: As time passed on, and the fondue cooled, it never thickened in the least bit and did not adhere to the apples or carrots. We used our scientific reasoning to deduct that it was heavily diluted with milk and wine. At this point my tongue started to swell a bit. Guys, I’m about to admit something. I’m mildly allergic to cheap wine. I found this out on a trip to boyfriend’s dad’s for Thanksgiving when they busted out with the notorious bang for buck bottle of Two Buck Chuck and my entire mouth swelled. When my tongue started swelling at Cru, we had long finished our bottle of champagne, making me think that the wine in the fondue was scraped from the bottom of the grape stomper’s feet.
Mariah: We also noticed the previously ever present (and pouring) waitress disappeared the second we finished our bottle and decided we weren’t going to order another. We literally sat there for 10 or 15 minutes waiting for her to come back so we could settle out bill. Finally we had to flag down Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde to get our check.
Laura: We asked for our check and found that they had charged us full price for the champagne. Kind of cheeky, eh? After having the problem corrected by Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, we left, vowing not to return.
Overall: Cheeky attitude of restaurant staff/management. Full price bottles are overpriced. Fondue sucks. But goddamn that patio is nice… if you can avoid the $30k Millionaires and lumbering furniture.
Mariah: 5 (The patio IS really nice)