Clay Pit is the type of restaurant that makes you gush about your dinner to everyone you talk to. This long-standing spot has become beloved by locals and visitors alike and not only has some of the best Indian food in town but is also one of Austin’s top restaurants overall. Eat here and you’ll be able to indulge in incredible cuisine inside an impressively old building that is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. You won’t want to pass up a chance to eat at one of Austin’s treasures.
Enjoy an upscale dining experience surrounded by the beautiful rocky walls of the Bertam Building; built in 1886 with raw bricks made of Austin’s ancient limestone foundation. This atmosphere will infuse your time here with the town’s captivating (and sometimes spooky) heritage. Walk in and you will quickly realize this building has a lot more space than one might anticipate. They have multiple dining rooms including a basement and upstairs event hall. Host your next private dinner celebration in the romantic wine room in back or the cozy cellar below. If you have a large event coming, the massive second floor room is the space to book and the Clay Pit is the ultimate catering team. This historic property and the Clay Pit’s fabulous food will take you to a whole new place and time.
For dinner recently I enjoyed unforgettable food and delectable drinks. To start out we were recommended the Curried Mussels. This rich and flavor packed take on one of my favorite appetizers is next level and sets the bar high. If you love naan like us, go all in and get the cheesy garlic option served steaming and marvelously melty. NEW on the menu is the Mango Bhel with tamarind chutney, tomatoes and puffed rice served as a scrumptious cake patty. Other standouts on the starter list are the Cucumber Salad and Tandoori Broccoli. Truffle lovers will relish this crispy fresh salad topped with tasty tamarind and truffle oil dressing. Blow your taste buds away with broccoli that's been marinated, roasted, and topped with tikka masala sauce. Next we dove into some enlightening entrees and decided to try a classic dish and something new as well. Their chicken Tikka Masala was buttery, everything it should be, and more! Switching up our regular orders, we went with a favorite amongst the staff - the Kothmir Salmon. You might not normally think to order salmon when you go for Indian food, but this dish is worth the dive. They combine a bright beetroot salad, aromatic Basmati rice, and perfectly seasoned salmon which you then drizzle with the gorgeous nutty Goan yellow curry sauce. Every plate brought out is a delicious and compelling composition of traditional and contemporary Indian cuisine.
Don’t forget to try their creative cocktails. The pride and joy of the place is their spicy ginger and mango infused vodka that sits in giant clear jars right on the bar top. With a few different styles of drink made with this elixir, this is a MUST TRY if you like ginger and spicy peppers. Another drink that will light up your mouth is the Karmic Buzz. They say to drink this light lemony gin and sprite cocktail before and after chewing up the “Buzz Button”. This is a little Szechuan flower that famously causes the mouth to feel electric and numb (I compare this to the feeling when you lick test a smoke detector 9v battery) and creates a wonderful sensation and taste as you sip. If you prefer your drinks to be a little more tame on the tongue, have no fear, they have many equally interesting options. Looking for something fun and fruity? Order the rum punch “Peacock” served in the beautiful bird with fresh garnishes and a candy straw. Gin is a personal favorite so when I saw “Not your average Gin and Tonic” and “color changing Empress Indigo Gin” for the "Indian Nights" , I had to try it and I was pleasantly impressed. If you sit at the bar, I recommend watching as they mix and flip the color from deep blue indigo to bright pinky purple then flame up rosemary for a smoky finish. The drinks here are impressive and delightful but make sure to save room for dessert!
One of our overall favorites from the night ended up being the Carrot Halwa dessert. This carrot pudding would hold up at any fine dining restaurant, served with scoops of ice cream, mint leaves, and a cocoa-corn-pistachio soil crumbled on top. We had to take our server up on the tableside flambé presentation of the Pineapple Toffee Kheer, rice pudding served with rosewater and churros to dip. The chefs here had us scraping up every last bite.
Clay Pit has been around for nearly thirty years and it’s clear why. All you have to do is walk down the block near the building and you’ll be awestruck by the multi-spice aromas that waft towards you. Huge THANK YOU to Bali, Dredd, our star server Quentin, and the rest of the Clay Pit team for the love and care they put into this restaurant.
If you’d like to learn about what makes this building so spooky, take a tour with our friends at Haunted ATX. You’ll learn all about the haunted history of places like Clay Pit, The Driskill hotel, and more ghosts across Austin!