Editor’s Note: Red’s Porch closed its Braker Lane location in August 2019 and South Lamar location in October 2019. We’ll miss you, Red’s.
Red’s Porch and I have a history. When my wife and I moved to Austin, our first goal was to find a craft beer joint. After sampling a few spots close to our Westlake apartment, we landed on a two-story bar/grill/hangout with a westerly view into the Greenbelt. The beer list rocked; the grub was downhome Southern comfort, and the vibe was laid-back and chill.
By ticking all our check boxes for what a local hangout should be, Red’s Porch has survived and thrived in the ever-expanding world of Austin eateries. And with a second location on Quarry Lake and a third in the works, Red’s is poised to expand their special brand of ATX good times.
Dreaming of a Place That Feels Like Home
It all started with a ladder.
Over seven years ago, Red’s owner and founder, Davis Tucker, was tossing around the idea of creating a beer and barbecue food trailer. After a few failed attempts to secure a location, a friend told him to look at a building behind the old Citibank on South Lamar. Davis climbed a ladder (that’s still there) and jumped on the roof. When he saw the stunning view, he knew he’d found the place.
This tradition continues at Red’s second location overlooking Quarry Lake in north Austin. The joint’s patio stretches around the exterior and provides lovely views of the quarry below. A giant bar extends the length of the space, providing ample room for watching sports. The interior is dotted with hip art, comfortable wrap-around couch/TV booths, and a mural of Red’s namesake: Davis’ fire red 1964 Lincoln convertible.
Regardless of which location you visit, the overarching theme is the same. You’re in a place where relaxing isn’t just encouraged. It’s required.
Comfort Food Done Right
Red’s menu is pure Southern comfort. Rich, balanced flavors with an emphasis on freshness are the cornerstone of the edible experience. And to top it off, every standard on the menu comes straight from Davis’ personal experience.
“All the food we have at Red’s are basically foods I grew up liking or learned to like as I got older,” Davis shared with me. “An example is our beans. Back in the day, when my roommate and I didn’t have two dimes to rub together, he and I would survive on hot dogs and pinto beans. And my pinto bean recipe is what we serve here today.”
While my wife and I have our favorite dishes (drool over the buttermilk cheddar biscuits), there are very few menu misses. The goat cheese jalapeño poppers dance between a sweet pepper burn and funky cool, while the boudin balls are rich, savory, and delicious.
On the entrée side of the menu, the chicken fried chicken is outstanding. Anything pounded and fried runs the risk of drying out, but Red’s dish maintains texture and tenderness. The housemade bacon gravy complements the chicken with rich, buttery goodness. Tack on a side of bacon mashed potatoes and a handful of roasted balsamic Brussel sprouts, and you have dinner done right.
And then there are the specials. Head culinary wizard of the Quarry location, Scot Loranc, puts his spin on the standard Red’s menu. His biggest hit thus far has been a Cubano sandwich made with ham, house pickles, and pulled pork smoked in a brand new, state-of-the-art smoker. Pure paradise.
Craft Beer and Cocktails at Red’s Porch
Great food aside, my wife and I weren’t looking for a place to eat initially. Beer was our prime directive, and Red’s delivers. Both locations have an impressive collection of local favorites and rare finds. Red’s South Lamar boasts an extensive collection of cellared kegs just waiting to be tapped. The last time I visited, they had 2015 vintages of Real Ale Mysterium Verum and Dogfish 120 Minute IPA on tap.
Up north, Red’s carries several NXNW brews, thanks to Davis’ connections to his other Austin institution. Nothing like knocking back a Green Menace while chomping on a Bird Puller sandwich overlooking Quarry Lake. When talking to Davis, it’s clear beer is of paramount importance.
Not to be outdone by the suds, Red’s also crafts simple–but tasty–cocktails, designed for outdoor lounging. Drinks like The Greenbelt (Waterloo gin, housemade cucumber-mint fresca, ginger beer) and the Texas Tornado (vodka, Paula’s Texas Orange, St. Germain, lemon, soda) beg to be sipped during steamy summer days. Carefully-crafted cocktails served in unpretentious mason jars.
Two Great Locations, Two Great Experiences
Doing two Red’s visits in four days, I noticed differences and similarities between the locations. Red’s South has an organic, natural feel, while Red’s North feels crisper and a touch more refined. The common denominator is the energy. Davis likened the vibe to a Jimmy Buffet concert. You immediately feel good and have no idea why.
“I want people to walk away with an internal smile,” Davis said. “Sometimes, when you’re in a restaurant, when you walk out the door, you don’t know why you enjoyed yourself. You just know you did. In German, it’s gemutlichkeit–a feeling of well-being.”
As Davis and I chatted outside at Red’s South Lamar, a social after work crowd buzzed around the restaurant. Members of the wait staff set up mic stands and speakers for an evening comedy show. A cool breeze blew through the patio.
Usually, interviews take 30 minutes, an hour tops. Over food and beer with beautiful weather at our backs, Davis and I talked for two hours. We chatted about the Austin craft beer scene and property taxes. The restaurant’s history, NXNW, and cheap meals enjoyed during our college days. We laughed a ton.
That is the heart of Red’s Porch. A local place where two people who’ve never met before can comfortably eat, drink, and laugh like they’ve been pals for years. Red’s encourages these interactions with uncomplicated, downhome food, fantastic drinks, and a homey in-your-backyard setting. If you’ve passed by Red’s in favor of the chic and hip on South Lamar, do yourself a favor and turn around. You’ll get a taste of classic ATX and maybe find a few new friends of your own.
Red’s Porch South Lamar is located at 3508 S. Lamar Blvd. and Red’s Porch Quarry is located at 4200 B Braker Lane. For menus, specials, and social media, go to redsporch.com.
Food and drink during my South Lamar visit was provided compliments of the house. All opinions are my own.
@BillTuckerTSP wants to know:
What’s your favorite Red’s Porch memory?