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Dining Pick | Bullfight

Austin is bursting at the seams. Not just its burgeoning population, but its dining scene, too. New restaurants sprout like toadstools to satisfy the hunger of our growing city. Downtown alone can’t contain Austin’s voracious appetite, so new dining hubs have emerged in some unlikely places like Airport Boulevard. Recently, this formally underdeveloped road wedged between railroad tracks and I-35 has transformed into a buzzing restaurant row. Gone are beloved dives like the Stallion Grill and Tamale House, replaced by choice newcomers like House Pizzeria, Kome Sushi and Sala & Betty. There’s a shiny new In-N- Out Burger, straight from California. Even Burnet Road’s iconic The Omelettry crossed town to relocate here.

Now there’s Bullfight, a Spanish tapas bar by executive chef Ryan Shields and Austin restaurateur Shawn Cirkiel, whose string of hits includes Parkside, The Backspace and Olive & June. With Bullfight, they’ve taken inspiration from Spain and given it a Texas twist.

Like at any good tapas bar, start with a drink. The El Torero is a sultry blend of Bulleit Rye, apple liqueur, vino tinto and lemon. For a lighter libation, white sangria mixes crisp white wine, brandy, apple cider and white peaches. The classic gin and tonic is given special attention with house-crafted tonic and rare Spanish Xoriguer gin from the tiny Spanish island of Minorca. There’s also an extensive sherry selection and a wine list loaded with Spanish gems.

Tapas bars encourage small bites and sharing — and Bullfight is no exception. As we sipped on our drinks, our group noshed on a variety of sharable snacks. Savory jamón croquettes and crispy squid came tucked in paper cones, a nod to the ubiquitous Spanish street vendors. We ordered a tray of hand-sliced Ibérico ham and an assortment of Spanish cheeses including not only the standard Manchego, but also Garrotxa, Ibores, Valdeón, Cana de Oveja and aged Mahón.

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Next we dove into a chilled bowl of classic tomato gazpacho, laced with shaved veggies and toasted almonds. Clams were roasted with creamy white beans and earthy chorizo. Seared, plump scallops came with two sauces: hazelnut romesco and a grilled scallion salsa verde. Green garbanzo beans, shallots and Idiazabal cheese made a fancy toast atop grilled bread.

The showstopper was a tangle of garlic-roasted mushrooms topped with a jamón cured egg, its velvety yolk coating the fungi to create an umami explosion. We also clamored over succulent pork ribs seasoned with peppers and a bitter orange glaze. Just the tip of the iceberg, Bullfight’s menu is extensive, especially its fish options like classic seafood paella. Dessert choices are more limited, but we happily shared the silky Crema Catalana, studded with crunchy honeycomb candy and poached apple slivers.

Architect Michael Hsu designed Bullfight, which features a small but welcoming bar, an open kitchen, and an outdoor courtyard. The minimalist space resonates with the clatter of joyful nibblers and imbibers, filling newly minted Airport Boulevard with the sounds of Austin’s expanding food landscape.

CREDITS

Photographs by Hayden Spears

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