Editor’s Note: Mettle closed permanently in January 2016.
This guest post is by Meagan Vitek.
Located at the east end of 6th street, Mettle is nestled next to one of Austin’s favorite breweries, Hops and Grain.
Upon my first visit, Mettle successfully tickled my taste buds and left me craving more.
Innovative design and modernist architecture transform the shell of Bridget Dunlap’s “East Austin Bistro” (previously a tortilla factory) into a destination of its own. Floor to ceiling windows surround much of the building, illuminating the interior with natural light.
The interior, designed by Bridget Dunlap herself, has an industrial feel with touches of colorful wallpaper, artwork, and a jaw-dropping hanging glass light fixture situated above a high-top table.
Other statement pieces, including an enormous tornado-like iron sculpture in the middle of the bar, create an edgy, yet inviting, dining experience.
On an early afternoon last weekend, my friend and I walked wide-eyed into Mettle with an excited appetite, ready for a new dining adventure.
To whet our tongues, we started with two signature cocktails: the East Side Collins and the Mexican 86. The East Side Collins (with Tanqueray Gin) was delicately sweet, with touches of lemon, lime, cucumber and Topo Chico. This cocktail is perfect for the summer heat, and so refreshing that it’s almost too easy to drink.
Equally as rejuvenating was the Mexican 86, a mixture of Gran Centenario Reposado, grapefruit, and rose champagne. All that’s missing is a swimming pool and lounge chair.
In addition to their Signature Cocktails, Mettle has an extensive wine list, spirits and beer.
Executive Chef, Andrew Francisco (previously of Olivia), brings a mixture of French, American, and Asian cuisine to Mettle’s menu. The Daily Menu has a notable array of unusual dishes, including several inventive and unique twists on well-known classics.
Spaghetti, grilled cheese, and a cheeseburger may seem like traditional meals at first glance. However, let your eyes absorb the additions to these classics, and you’ll immediately realize different is an understatement.
The menu isn’t short of starters and small plates, the two types of dishes I could easily eat on a daily basis. As if my eyes are trained to uncover dishes with fresh goat cheese, they immediately zoomed in on the Beet small plate. Presented as a beet salad by our waiter, the plate was lined with perfectly poached beets and chevre, atop a jalapeno puree.
While this may sound like a typical beet salad, the defining ingredient that changed my perception of beet salads was white chocolate bark. Because why not find a way to add chocolate to a seamlessly chocolate-less dish?
And yes, it sounds crazy. And yes, it was delicious.
The small plate escapade didn’t stop there. To add some savory to the sweet and semi-tartness of the beets, the Hamachi & Chicken Skin Skewers were an obvious choice. Chicken skin on a stick? I think yes.
The long skewers pierced through crisp pieces of Hamachi and chicken skin, allowing for an eatin’ and dippin’ experience.
For a split second, I felt myself sitting on the counter at my childhood home, sneaking bits of chicken skin as my mom prepared her famous fried chicken. The memory alone defined this simple dish.
To satisfy my curiosity (and my exceedingly eager taste buds), I ordered the Spaghetti. Mettle’s version of spaghetti isn’t your ordinary ‘noodles smothered in red sauce’ dish. With more resemblance to a bowl of Ramen, Mettle’s concoction of texture and flavors left me in a state of pure and utter food bliss. Topped with braised pork belly (holy YUM) and a slow cooked egg (slow as in 120-minutes-slow), my view of spaghetti has forever been altered.
Because dessert is the most important part of the meal, I completed my Mettle experience in the best way possible. The dessert menu is skeleton-esque, with a simple list of the main ingredients, challenging a diner to instill trust in the chef’s preparation expertise. While it may be unusual to order with little detail as to how a dish is prepared, it allows you to live on the dining-edge. And trust me, it’s well worth it.
I ordered the “Birch, Sweet Cream, and Hazelnut” dessert, and waited with eager eyes as they prepared the mystery dessert-concoction. Each ingredient was presented as though it was a piece of art, and looked almost too beautiful to eat. With one bite, I was no longer sitting in Mettle. I instead was squeezed in an oversized diner booth, sipping a root beer float. While it may not seem possible to separate and recreate such a classic summer treat, Mettle made it happen.
If Dunlap’s rumored plan “to take on Austin” is true, she has gained one more supporter. The experience, the service and the food have me wanting more, and more and more. Sunday brunch, anyone?
Oh, and tip to the wise – make a trip to the bathroom to check out the wallpaper.
Are you planning a trip to Mettle?
Meagan Vitek is a cupcake eating, wine drinking food lover living in Austin, Texas. You can join her as she nibbles her way through Austin on her blog, Nibb.le!