When you think of Rainey Street you think of the “new Sixth Street,” aka bachelorette and bachelor parties, loud music blaring, bar hopping, late night food trucks, and party people. Never would you know that Emmer & Rye, one of the best restaurants in Austin, where the mill their own grains, have a hefty wine list, and offer random dim sum carts sits at the end of the historic district. Chef Kevin Fink who made Food & Wine’s Best New Chef 2016 list, has an in-house fermentation program and they source whole animals. The place even feels like it’s all made of wheat with hazel, wood-paneled walls and heaps of rye decorated neatly in vases on each table. First things first, do not get distracted by the dim sum carts. Surrreee, they are CUTE and fun and you get a little snack before you even get to order your food, BUT the best part at Emmer & Rye is the well thought out menu. Skip the beef tartare bites that set you back $8 a piece or the butternut squash ribbons. Save up for the Farmer’s Cheese spread and homemade bread. Full disclosure, this is the #1 reason why I love this place so much. The half loves of bread delivered with the cheese weather it be made with scallion and charred broccoli oil or butternut, burnt honey are incredible. I’ve had the rye bread and the red fife baguette and you better believe both times we got a second loaf to soak up the leftover cheese. There’s always several raw fish option and carefully curated vegetarian dishes. Think Grilled Romaine, Broccolini, Peccorino, Bagna Cauda, and Amino Bottarga versus a Charred Cauliflower with Katsuobushi. We even had a grilled avocado dish with nuts and greens that almost looked like there was nothing on the plate. It’s fun to eat a dish where it makes you question what exactly are all of these ingredients and it’s always nice to eat things that you cannot replicate yourself at home. That’s all the fun in going out and paying someone else to do the work.
Have no fear there are several pasta options, but the one that never comes off the menu (because don’t forget the menu is forever changing) is the Cacio e Pepe Spaghetti with Blue Beard Durum, Challerhocker and Black Pepper. However, the dish that I keep thinking about is the Short Rib Carnitas with Hominy Broth and Roti. The buttery Indian flatbread paired with the soft and tender meat almost pays a nod to the taco culture around town. Think about it a second: flavorful, marinated meats eaten with homemade, flaky, delicate circular breads. If you don’t eat meat, don’t worry you can order a side of roti. Desserts are also creative and ever changing. There’s always an ice cream sandwich.
The crowd is much different than you’ll see in the little houses up the street. Chic out of towners, stylish locals, and those looking for a great culinary and wine experience. Not only will I always owe my love of roti to Emmer & Rye but this restaurant turned me onto my favorite orange wine which is a 2014 Yves Leccia Patrimonio. It’s not as earthy as many of the orange’s I’ve had from places like Wildair and a tad sweeter. When you are looking for a nice night out and also somewhere nearby to get rowdy, Emmer & Rye is a solid choice.