Tucked alongside the Thompson Austin Hotel, just around the corner from the 6th Street Historic District is Diner Bar. This is NOT your typical hometown diner, folks! They embrace key aspects of the popular classic restaurants and use them to lock into something sensational. Chefs Mashama Bailey and Kristine Kittrell have tricks and treats up their sleeves. Show up expecting anything and they are sure to shatter those expectations and shock your taste buds. One guarantee is that the sterling staff will expertly transport you through a memorable meal.
Diner Bar’s modest brick exterior veils the rich burst of ambiance that proudly stands inside. Walk through the door and you are greeted by a breathtaking horseshoe bar, bright and welcoming staff, and the warm hospitality that makes a good diner so inviting. Sit in a supple booth seat surrounded by Moderne art and decor or belly up to the enormous bar where you can watch the servers shaking drinks and shucking oysters. They’ve arranged a setting that invites you to sit down and stay for a while.
Oysters Eating here is more than just dinner, it is taking a trip through these top-shelf chef’s finely crafted works. We started our tour of the menu with raw oysters and paired wine. We sampled all six of their current oysters from the rotating menu, each one offered a unique and succulent slurp. To sip along with those, we enjoyed the amazing amber colored Contratto “Millesimato”. This pinot noir rosé is refreshing and has the qualities of a pinot matched with the brightness of sparkling wine making it a splendid match for seafood. Standing out on the oyster platter were the huge Grand River Malpeques with thick, crispy tasting meat. They’re all served with a mini amber bottle of mignonette; just a few drops adds a dashing dimension to the sweet and salty dollops. Our discovered favorite from the group were the Belle Du Jour half shells from New Brunswick; their buttery texture with balance of brine and nutty flavor make these a must taste. Stop by the oyster bar to see what else they’re cracking open from Texas and the North East. Hit Oyster Hour, 4-6pm Tues-Sat and all night Sunday & Monday, to snag “any and all” oysters for $2!
Cocktails Diner Bar shakes up a divine drink menu. They offer classic cocktails and creative mixups, each with fine tuned flavors that will linger warmly on your palate and mind. Astounding us right at first sip, I can easily say the Just A Dream cocktail is one of the best drinks I’ve had the pleasure of tasting. As named, this drink is a flavor fantasy and presents a creamy dreamsicle take on a gin sour. The blood orange caramel and tangerine shrub with shaken whole egg make for a rich, frothy, adult-candy cocktail that will create a new craving. If you lean less sweet, try one of their vintage recipes like the New York Sour; a rye whisky egg white sour with a red wine floater. This drink is smooth and more spirit forward with a great balance of dry spice, lemony sour, and red wine sweet. Every drink here will leave you struggling to set it down, be sure to savor the moment!
Food We quickly realized that our meal at Diner Bar was going to be significantly finer dining than the humble name implies. Dishes here are artistically balanced, beautifully complex, and plated in such lovely ways that taking the first bite feels like destroying a masterpiece. However, once you get a taste, it won’t be long before you’re scraping the bottom. We started with the fresh and fruity Crudo with a colorful crown of melt-in-your-mouth hamachi, cucumber and radish above a pool of mango pineapple purée. Next on the journey was the equally colorful and exceedingly complex Ricotta Gnudi; thick and cheesy gnocchi style dumplings under a mosaic of bold elements (and our favorite from the food we tried). The gnudi and carrot Pernod sauce form a cozy, winter spice base for an abundant collage of bright radish and carrot, fresh feta, and crunchy almonds. Our main course was their Berkshire Pork Shoulder and a side of corn pudding. Laid on a bed of zucchini strips and squash purée is a tender, perfectly done hunk of pork smothered in succulent onion glaze. The pork shoulder was so savory and delicious that it was hard to share. This was matched well by the richness of the buttery corn pudding. We struggled to save room for dessert, the signs of a truly top notch eatery.
Dessert and Dessert Wine Diner Bar finished on a strong note with a final course of decadent desserts and wine. The Benne Bar is an elevated candy bar and cake fusion served with a perfect peanut ice cream. Delicate and delightful peanut butter mousse resting on heavenly chocolate cake make this a mood lifting goody (just like Snickers in the “you aren’t yourself when you’re hungry” commercials). To accompany this, we sipped on the recommended Graham's 20 year Tawny. This full body port has a deep fruity taste that is ideal to pair with delectable plates. We also tested a treat at the other end of the sweets-spectrum. Their Prickly Pear Sorbet is sharply scrumptious with a smooth frosty consistency and tantalizing tart taste. We ended with an addicting sweet and sour affair of nutty and lush Château Laribotte Sauternes. This double date of a dessert was the cherry on top of an already exceptional day at the diner.
Each element of this restaurant is a familiar comfort that the team has transformed into a whole new enthralling experience. We must give an incredibly grateful shout out to our supremely skilled server Katharine for guiding us through this adventure. Another big Thank You to the General Manager Bobby for inviting us into the deluxe Diner Bar world.
We will certainly be going back for more, see y’all there.